We talk about love so much in yoga, but what’s love got to do with it anyway? Why the emphasis and what does it mean?
Let us start at the beginning. When we are forming in the womb, the heart begins to form in the space above the brain. As the spine begins the curve and the body takes the fetal position, the heart descends into the chest cavity and the ribs enclose the heart. The initial position of the heart in this embryonic stage is in the place of the “God” chakra, a divine connection. The heart carries the seed of its origin to its destination. It is called the hrid, meaning the “heart,” which denotes the transcendental Self, the supreme intelligence, also called the hridaya.
By contrast, the heart chakra is the energy of love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and hope. But it becomes constricted, clouded, underactive, and overactive. It is superficial. The hrid is the transcendental Self, the soul, the part of us that is unchanging. Our ego-mind forgets its connection to the Divine Self and over identifies with itself. This is the true suffering – thinking that we are our personality and forgetting that we are eternal.
We can go through process of clearing the chakras, yearning, and striving to undo patterns, or we can do direct to the source. As we awaken to the reality of that our true natures are this love that is enduring, we can release our baggage and allow ourselves to be carried by our Divine essence. My teacher, Rama Jyoti Vernon, said, “the only true perception is love, everything else is false.” To live from the hridaya is to live from your most authentic self without constrictions, or the pain of suffering.
In a world as filled with suffering as this one, how do we live from this place all the time?
Practice. We need to reawaken, remember, our connections to our hridayas. We were born with the connection and knowledge. The course of our lives, filled with the illusion that we are the supreme doers, our desires, and our aversions, lead us to forget. If we take the time to pause and reconnect, we can begin to live from the hrid-ākāsha, “the radiant space of the heart where the transcendental Self can be experienced,” (Georg Feuerstein, The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra).
This does not mean that we retreat into the hrid and forsake our duties as individuals living in a society. Yes, it is possible to be a being of love and hold people accountable for their actions in this world; this is the story of the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna teaches Arjuna that he (Arjuna) must do his duty (dharma) and fight the battle that is before him. This is a battle to hold his cousins accountable for their amoral (adharmic) actions. Arjuna is filled with pain and suffering, he wants to retreat from the world. Krishna tells him, and us, “No! We are merely instruments of Divinity and we must fulfill our dharmas and carry out the Divine Will.”
Practically speaking, our presence in this society means that we have agreed to a specific social contract, which stipulates right and wrong. When wrong is done, consequences ensue. The beliefs of a society change over time. Even when we fight to change those beliefs, we are still held accountable. Civil Rights Activists like Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Rosa Parks, and many more, called it Good Trouble. They knew they would be arrested and held accountable; they protested anyway and changed the beliefs and laws of our society. The people that hold others accountable are acting on behalf of the laws of society. They do so with justice – accountability with compassion.
What are the practices that reawaken our connection?
They all do, and it depends on who we ask. The Bhagavad Gita teaches many pathways: karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and raja yoga. All these paths help us to see the Divine in everyone.
Karma yoga is the yoga of service. We serve others as though we are serving the Divine. This could mean bringing our spouses a glass of water with love and joy, even though they are closer to the kitchen. We could pick up groceries for a neighbor, hold the door for someone, allow a car in traffic in front of us, bringing a meal to the homeless, etc.
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.Martin Luther King Jr.
You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.
You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve….
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. This is mantra and kirtan, chanting the names of the Divine. Chant Om, it is the sound of creation. By chanting Om we invite an awareness of the transcendental Self, which is the Divine, for we are just sparks of the Divine in clay pots.
Jñana yoga is the yoga of study. We read sacred texts. It is fun to get lost in another world, like Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings). We could argue that Tolkien wrote about the Divine, but we will leave that for another post. Jñana yoga is about spending time with scripture, all scriptures, because the paths are many and the destination is one.
Raja yoga is the yoga of Patañjali, the most familiar form of yoga. This form of yoga includes lifestyle guideline (yamas and niyamas), movement (āsana), breathing practices (prāņāyāma) turning inwards (pratayahara), and meditation (dhāraņā, dhyāna, and samadhi).
Western culture emphasizes only one eighth of raja yoga, the postures. But, to realize and live from the hridaya, we need to practice all paths of yoga. If we do not, we are practicing from the ego-mind.
What’s love got to do with it? Everything. How do we live from this place of love? We practice. What do we practice? All four paths of yoga.
Join the Where is the Love workshop with Rose, live Feb 13th, 2021. Or catch the replay.