By David Benner
Interest in meditation has introduced many in the West to an extremely valuable spiritual practice – mindfulness. However, there is another closely related practice that I think is at least important but needs more attention and understanding. I call it heartfulness. But don’t confuse this with gushing sentimentality or soft-headedness. The heart I speak of has very little to do with personal affectivity and feelings. It is quite different from the things we associate with Valentines Day and Hallmark cards.
In the wisdom tradition the heart is understood as the fullness of the mind. To be heartful means, therefore, to have brought your mind down into your heart – that is, to have moved beyond a reliance on reason and embraced the subtle, generally unused and underdeveloped, heart faculties of intuition, imagination, listening to our bodies, and attending our moods and shifting ego states and much more. All these play an important role in heartfulness. Together they move us into a realm of wisdom that is pregnant with creative possibilities and that is not less than rational but more than rational.
Heartfulness is living out of this inner place – a place that connects us to the heart of the cosmos and to the very heart of God. Compassion and kindness are intrinsically part of this place and translate naturally into actions when we live out of our deep center.
So, if we don’t live out of our hearts where do we live? The alterative is to live out of our egoic minds. Mindfulness meditation loosens our attachment to our mind but doesn’t necessarily replace it with another center. But what we need is not just softer attachments to our mind but heartfulness, this being the source from which compassion springs.
Heartfulness doesn’t have to be generated. Trying to be heartful simply reinforces the egoic false self. Just release that egoic mind and, with a deep exhalation, sink into your center – a place where the boundaries of your heart and the heart of God are almost impossible to separate, a place where you-in-God and God-in-you cannot be easily teased apart. This is the place to which the practice known as Centering Prayer – one of the great Christian meditative traditions and the one that has been my own core practice for several decades – takes you. It is already within you. The journey is nothing more than learning to access and live out of this sacred place.
Don’t wait to figure out how to get there. Just now, with your next breath, let go and sink into it. Notice the difference – not just in the moment but in how you live your life as you are lead by your heart into your day. Don’t forget to keep returning to your center because if the egoic mind is anything it is resistant to letting go of its usurped position as your center. But this is a battle you win as soon as you surrender. Just let go and return to your center – and be prepared to keep doing this. That is all it takes.
From a book in process provisionally entitled “Human Being and Becoming”, ©Dr. David G. Benner 2014