December 17, 2017
An Enlightened Heart
Kate Isaacs: Good morning everyone. It's wonderful to be together this time of year right before the Christmas holiday, on the cusp of the winter solstice. The rays of the low winter sun are streaming through the window right now. They are warming the heart and soul just as we're approaching the darkest time of the year.
To prepare for our consideration this morning, Joyce and I spoke a few times last week, which was such a joy. There was a theme that emerged around "heart" that I would like to speak to. Joyce put it very well in posing the questions, "What does a pure heart mean?" and "How do we allow our own hearts to be purified?"
The heart is a very sensitive organ, a vibrant tuning fork for sensing and expressing the creativity and dynamism of Life. The French mathematician and Catholic theologian, Blaise Pascal, said, "The heart has reasons that reason cannot know." When we hear a beautiful piece of music such as we just heard online before the call, our hearts resonate and sing with that music. Two days ago, I was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It's a very beautiful, grand building and it was decorated for the holidays. There was a wonderful large Christmas tree in the museum strewn with lights and flags from all of the countries of the world. The tree sits in a two-story atrium, under a domed ceiling painted with a beautiful fresco. The scene was awe-inspiring. Our hearts open when we experience the beauty of which human beings are capable.
Some of you may know that Bill and I have two children together, a three-year-old and a 10-week-old. Our baby has just begun to laugh. This morning about a half hour before our call we were bouncing him gently up and down, and his mouth opened in a huge smile. His eyes filled with joy and he laughed. He's only 10 weeks old! His joy is our joy. There's nothing much better than a little baby laughing. It's amazing how human hearts can commune, even with one so young. We are indeed tuned for joy and the expression of joy.
This holiday season of Christmas and Hanukkah and the approaching solstice is so moving. You can sense the atmosphere of celebration and of generosity, of magic, of connection with others in a collective spiritual moment. The Christmas holiday marks the birth of a focus of spiritual awakening in the human body. And of course, the Christmas celebration that we have on the 25th has deep, ancient connections with the solstice and the crossing of the darkest days of winter. We then look forward to the lengthening days of the year. This is a time of stillness and reflection.
So what about purity of heart? What does that mean and how do we allow our hearts to be purified, to consider Joyce's question. There is a wonderful Buddhist nun, named Pema Chödrön, who is a leader in the modern Buddhist movement in America. She has written many books, and she has a compassionate, loving tone to her writings and teachings. She describes a spiritual teaching she received when she was six years old. Feeling down one day, lonely and unloved, she was walking by a house where there was an old woman sitting on the porch. She was kicking anything she could find because she was angry. The old woman laughed at her and said, "Little girl, don't you go letting life harden your heart."
She goes on to explain the idea of Bodhicitta. In Buddhism, "citta" means mind but it also means heart or attitude. "Bodhi" means awake or enlightened. In Buddhism the open heart and mind of bodhicitta is sometimes called the soft spot; a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated with our ability to love. A Bodhicitta is one who has the courage and commitment to allow and to welcome the full feeling of life. Denying nothing, grasping onto nothing, welcoming it all, embracing it all.
Sometimes what comes into one's field of awareness is heartbreaking in both the best and the hardest sense. We're fully engaged in life when we're willing to receive all of this richness and hold it in our hearts. There are many stories in the Bible of Mary weeping. Jesus wept for Jerusalem, wept for the missed opportunity of the Jewish people to embrace and understand what was being offered to them. Our former president Barack Obama wept openly when he spoke of the Sandy Hook tragedy. He led us in opening ourselves to the humanity, not the politics, of the issue of gun control.
The willingness to open one's heart requires tremendous courage. And yet our job is not to be bowled over or knocked off center by all that we experience through our hearts. It could be easy, given all of the things that are happening in the world—the sadness and tragedies that occur on a daily basis—to be knocked off center. But that's not what we are here for. We are here to offer confident reassurance into our field of awareness.
Bill spoke recently about the experience of confidence, "Confidence actually is a function of identity in a state of Being that is already present." He talked about the experience of confidence; he said, "[it] is a function of the degree to which we allow our own hearts to be purified." The only way to handle the enormous voltage of what we sense with our hearts is through that confidence that all is well. All is always well. That confidence is what lets us stay still in the center of the storm, no matter what our human experience. When we experience a disturbance, we can bring ourselves back to center by feeling, in our inner hearts, the flow of the Life current, in which all is always well, peaceful, and whole.
When we allow ourselves to be in our hearts, we also allow ourselves to feel deeply for others and for the inevitable confusions and discomforts of the human condition. This process can be hastened by our own willingness to take responsibility for "plugging the leaks" of our own wholeness, as Andrew Shier put it a few weeks ago.
We all have various traumas and triggers that are just part of the human state at the moment. One of mine is slow drivers! Something goes off for me when I get behind somebody going under the speed limit. Maybe I've been living in Boston too long. When we get into a reactive state, it's not our pure hearts that are in control but our emotions. An emotionally reactive state is quite different from a pure-hearted stance. When we come out of our reactivity we inevitably create a mess that then has to be cleaned up sooner or later, one way or the other.
It is much better, as Andrew pointed out, to plug our own leaks, to do our own internal housekeeping, and to handle the mess "in here" rather than project it "out there." That is part of our commitment to life and to service. We hold this as our responsibility to do our internal housekeeping. When we are so committed we can find many creative ways to handle our own internal state before we project it out into the world and create a mess. It could be as simple as taking a deep breath when you're behind a slow driver and remembering that you're not in as much of a hurry as you thought. Or you could take a break, attend to your internal garden, and when you're ready to engage in relationship, you do it in the right way, in a way that is creative.
We are endeavoring to teach our older son David this principle. He is an energetic, enthusiastic, passionate little boy and sometimes that energy spills over into hitting things. Like many parents, we often give him a timeout. But we don't do it for a specified, arbitrary length of time. It's only long enough for him to calm down and get himself re-centered. We tell him, "When you're ready to apologize and to be in connection again you can come back." He decides how long it takes for him to settle and re-center himself, to be in relationship in the right way. When he's ready, he comes in and he apologizes and usually kisses and hugs whomever he hit—the dog or me or his daddy. And he's right back in the flow, completely forgiven, no hangover of anything, right back in relationship, in connection, in the truth of oneness.
There is a tremendous capacity of our hearts to forgive. When I am centered in my own still heart and tending my own internal garden, it easy for me to have compassion for the work we all are doing inside ourselves. It is easy to forgive when I or anyone else comes off center for a moment (or maybe longer than a moment!). Whenever one is ready to come back into the truth of oneness, all is forgiven from and by our hearts. There is no problem. All is well. All can be forgiven, large and small, always. The Dalai Lama has such a profound compassion that he refers to the Chinese Communists who are occupying his homeland as, "My friends, the enemy." Talk about compassion! It's our hearts that know that reality of oneness.
There is a great deal bubbling to the surface about rebalancing of the power dynamics between men and women. I read an article recently that it has not been since the Civil War era that so many members of Congress have departed so quickly—this because of the unhealthy imbalance of power between men and women now coming to light, among other reasons. Of course, we may consider this situation with an attitude of compassion and forgiveness, not to excuse anyone's behavior, but simply to understand that we all are responsible for creating the dynamic that is happening now. It is not just men's problem. We women use our sexual power to manipulate men. Boys in our culture are raised in such a way that they deny their heart's intelligence. They are often taught to repress the tender feeling part of themselves, which later comes out as aggression and the kind of issues that we're seeing now. There is a correction happening now, which we may hold with a spirit of forgiveness and curiosity. If these dynamics are rebalanced, how can we move forward together in a spirit of partnership? A partnership where one gender isn't dominant over the other in any way, where one isn't manipulating the other in any way, but where we might join together creatively.
It is our hearts that know the reality of our oneness in which we have the capacity to feel all of the joys and sorrows of our human condition, and remain in the still center where we know that all is truly well. In truth, we are all connected to one another in one spirit, in communion. It is an adventure to discover how we could begin to create together anew in a heartful, joyful place of true communion.
Joyce Krantz: Kate touched upon such beautiful essences of the heart and the capacity of expressing true manhood and womanhood into the world. The function of the heart is to be filled with the character of Being. Now, the human heart has been filled with everything but the true character of Being, but we are about reversing that polarity and filling it with what is real and true. What does a pure heart look like when it is filled with right character? It is kind, compassionate, understanding, peaceful, truthful, noble, and humble with an unwavering trust in that which is higher. We have considered the enlightened heart. It is a heart under the control of truth. Lloyd Meeker, also known as Uranda, once said, "What you feel is not a basis upon which you can determine what to do. It is your intellectual recognition of the truth that must control, not what you feel." We have this tremendous capacity, but as David demonstrated¬—as a typical three-year-old—there may be a lot of feelings coming through the heart without much conscious control yet to direct those feelings. And, it can become pretty chaotic. A lot of the mess in the world is because there hasn't been much development beyond childhood!
We choose what occupies and controls our hearts. Animals generally have pure hearts, but they may be corrupted by human behavior. They are functioning at a subconscious level, attuned with Life's currents. They have feeling centers in their brains just like us but without the same ability to reason and choose. They feel pain but try to avoid it. They are vulnerable. Man, with a consciousness of choice is supposed to be the guardian and caretaker for them. What care and protection and security are we providing for the natural world? How trustworthy are we? How trustworthy am I?
The beautiful thing about life is that once the heart begins to fill with all the wonderful qualities of Being, the unreal things get pushed out of the way by the sheer flow of Life. I liken it to the immune system in the body where there is constant work to maintain wholeness, homeostasis and healing. When things get out of balance, a healthy immune system overcomes or neutralizes those elements that don't belong or are out of place. The body is designed to function in homeostasis. And the heart is designed to be centered, and to be filled with right expression.
In the world the way it is now, it is becoming more and more vital that our focus be in the eye of the storm—the place of stillness. Our hearts should always be filled with thanksgiving upward. This brings an immediate upliftment and sense of connection into the world. Compassion, love and understanding lead to connection and a world of happiness and wholeness. The absence of these qualities creates fear, shame, loneliness, anger, separation and divisiveness. If we feel these things, we can be thankful, for they indicate the need for change.
I would like to share with you an account of Edward R. Murrow's flight into the eye of Hurricane Edna off the coast of Bermuda in 1954 in a modified B-29 bomber plane. Edward Murrow was a renowned American broadcast journalist many years ago. For eight dazzling minutes, he describes ghostly gray light, mountains of clouds, and the ocean in, "long irregular furls like a drunken plowman had been plowing a field of blue velvet and turning up snow." After being buffeted around for many minutes looking for the eye of the storm with little help from their instrumentation he writes:
We were on an even keel but being staggered by short, sharp blows. Then we hit something with a bang that was audible above the roar of the motors. And more than one man flinched. It was a solid sheet of water. Seconds later, brilliant sunlight hit us like a hammer and a little rainbow spun off the starboard outboard prop. And someone shouted, ‘There she is!' And we were in the eye. Calm air, flat calm sea below. A great amphitheater, round as a dollar, with great clouds sloping up to 25,000 or 30,000 feet. The water down below looked like a blue Alpine lake with snow-clad mountains coming right down to the water's edge. It was a great bowl of sunshine...
The eye was 20 miles in diameter. We went down to 1,500 feet and flew back and forth across it, making shallow penetrations of the storm area. The temperature went up 14 degrees. The altimeter said 4,000 feet but we were actually at 1,500. The civilian weather officer aboard looked at Edna with a clinical eye, and said, ‘She's a copybook hurricane. Beautifully formed.' We took her temperature, measured her speed, threw overboard scientific gear, which might help to chart her future movements, while we continued to fly around in the calm at the bottom of that funnel of white cloud.
The eye of the hurricane is an excellent place to reflect upon the puniness of man and his work. If an adequate definition of humility is ever written, it's likely to be done in the eye of a hurricane.
I read that because his portrayal shows the force and power of Mother Nature; it is a metaphor for the world we are in now. There are many forces moving around us, lots of intense currents and changes, but we must find our way through to the "bowl of sunshine" through the clarity of our hearts and stillness, with our focus in the eye, "I."
This season speaks a lot about peace—peace in the world, bringing peace, celebrating peace. In fact, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ who is known as the Prince of Peace. What is peace? Is it not a state of Being—an actual experience, not just a wishful idea? I noticed on Shirley Malin's refrigerator as I arrived here this morning, a poem entitled Peace. It reads: "Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in heart."
When there is peace of heart, as Kate said, there is the knowing that all is well. The forces of nature will reorganize themselves in the world. Who knows how all of this is reshaping? I am finding that more and more people are unplugging themselves from the divisive state and centering in the expression of Being. As we do this, we are in position to lead. Uranda used the analogy of a child who locked himself in the bathroom accidentally and was scared and crying. He cried so loudly that he couldn't hear his parents calling to him from the other side of the door shouting, "Turn the key." When the little boy calmed enough to hear their voices he was able to turn the key, open the door and be reunited with his parents and reconnected to home. What a beautiful metaphor for what we are about now. Telling the world through our own hearts and minds to turn the key, orient to home and be in place to show others the Way. So, in this season of wishing peace in the world, the greatest fulfillment is to be at home ourselves.
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