BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA
When I was in elementary school, we were taught things that made the world seem straightforward: that Communism was was evil, and that capitalism was good. We were taught that competition was important, the way of healthy societies, and we were taught America was all about freedom and equality. For most people, life was simple, and it wasn’t overly complicated even as we grew up to realize that most of what we were taught about the world wasn’t true. From that realization, we could find our way to something that was at least closer to truth.
Today it’s really different. There are millions of points of view, and none of them are trustworthy. I read the news, and I don’t know who to believe. It’s amazing to me that I have to look at every single news piece I see and wonder, “Who’s got what to gain from this particular story?” If we are living in our heads, trying to figure things out for ourselves, and dealing with all of this profound complexity, we’re never going to get anywhere. I think what happens is that we end up completely shutting down, and just burying our heads in the sand and trying to hide from life. We just can’t deal with it.
Between the time I was a sophomore in high school and the end of my college years, there were three assassinations—the two Kennedys and Martin Luther King—and I realized that something was really not right with the story that was told about the world. During that time period, however, I discovered my heart again. I discovered that I could open my heart pretty much anytime I wanted if I tried. I’m not saying it was easy, but I found I could do it if I made the effort. So I did that; I worked at it every day. I focused on opening my heart to myself and to my day, forgiving myself for my own limitations that day, and forgiving my day for whatever limitations it presented me. I went on with the experience of trying to grow my heart and grow the creative flow in my life, not really trying to figure too much out, just letting it teach me instead of me trying to have to impose my will on it. Well, guess what? Really amazing things started to happen.
So I think the best advice to give anyone is this: train yourself to live from your heart. The magnetic field in the middle of your chest is thousands of times stronger than the magnetic field between your ears. Magnetic fields are what absorb information; they absorb and organize energy. If you’re going to have a life that is meaningful to you, a life that has any joy in it, that has any upside to it, a life you can invest in, a life you can harvest in, you have to learn to live from our heart. Because you’re never going to figure this shit out.
There’s a wonderful story I was taught in Catholic school about Saint Paul walking on the beach, thinking about the Trinity. He came up to a kid who had a bucket and a shovel. The kid had dug a hole in the beach, and he was going to the ocean and scooping up water and pouring it in the hole. Saint Paul walks up and asks the kid what he thinks he’s doing. The kid looks up at him and says, “I’m putting the ocean in the hole.” Saint Paul’s taken aback, and says, “You can’t do that!” The kid says, “I’ll put the ocean in the hole before you’ll figure out in your head the meaning of the Trinity.” For me, the message in that story was, don’t rely on my head—rely on my heart.
We all have reasons why we close our hearts to ourselves, and none of those reasons matter…at all! They’re just bullshit excuses to run away from pain. That’s what they are. We don’t want to admit to ourselves that we’re shitheads sometimes, and we don’t want to make the effort to deal with it. So we just close our hearts. We make it somebody else’s problem. After a few years of that, our heart gets pretty hard, and there’s not much sweetness in our lives. The whole point of this experience that we’re sharing, and the work that we do here, every single day, is to begin to melt the tensions around our heart and begin to engage a deeper place within ourselves, so that, whatever our circumstance, we live from a greater experience of connectedness with one another and a deeper of sense of our own creative energy and extraordinary potential.
Living from our hearts, we learn that flow is the most important thing. Flow heals. Flow inside ourselves and among ourselves heals. Healing slowly unwraps us from all of the excuses that we have embraced, or been trained to embrace by our parents or our ancestors, so that we begin to see ourselves and this world in a completely new way. However crazy the world might be, we have enormous strength and beauty within ourselves if we can only connect to it and train ourselves to hold that space constantly. Without that, we’re constantly carpet-bombed from the first grade till we die. If it’s not one thing, it’s something else. It will always be something else. There will be another excuse for our life to be miserable if that’s what we want.
Our presence here is informing us that our life has something else: a choice that we can make. That choice is to begin to invest attention and energy in our own hearts, to make the effort to dissolve the tensions within ourselves and find a deeper experience of flow and sweetness. It will change our entire chemistry, will awaken our brains and allow us to experience ourselves as the fine creative energy that we are, and experience this world as the beauty that underlies its expression.
In the early days of television, which I happen to be old enough to remember, there was a commercial with the heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano. They put him in a big paper bag, a shipping bag that’s about 10 feet tall and he’s punching at it. The message is that this bag is tougher than Rocky Marciano, who cannot punch his way out of it. Well, each of our lives is like that paper bag, and our mind is like Rocky Marciano—pretty tough, not too bright, constantly trying to punch its way through this world. That’s just not going to happen. You can’t punch your way out of this paper bag. The amazing thing is that what you can do is open your heart and float out of it. It’s that simple. Floating out of that paper bag, we see that all the boxes and boundaries that we have built up in our head are nothing, and we see with complete clarity the total temporariness of all of the drama that is this world, and the unbelievable vastness of the intelligence and the creative energy and, ultimately, the love that has created this place in the beginning. Seeing that with clarity, our hearts and minds and our souls are nourished, and we become at peace, and have the capacity, wherever we turn our attention, to bring blessings. And how cool is that?
Get to know your heart, this energy field in the center of your chest. Since you may have been pushing it down for a while, it may take you a little work. I promise you one thing: It is the only work you will ever do that you will pay you more than what you put into it.