The Offered Heart

I invite you to close your eyes and imagine that the quiet and sweet darkness you sit in is the cave of your own sacred heart. Let your attention drop into the feel and texture of your heart area, letting it rest about two inches deep inside. Notice the feel, keep your attention there, as though there is a small object about the size of a quarter that are you are focusing on. And imagine the dark cave all around you, a cave whose air is alive with breath and life and energy. Turn away from the external world and the world of the mind and take sweet shelter in your own heart, with the reverence that you would treat any temple, mosque, church, hogan, or zendo. There you sit in the center of your innermost being sanctuary. Precious chalice of the Holy. Simplicity. Quiet. Ground. Breath.

In the quiet, listen to the wordless call of your own heart, the sweet innocence that only wants to find a way to flower in this world, sharing Love, expressing its essence, finding a way for all of the human capacities to grow strong enough to support it and be its worthy servants. Be with its desire to live here on the basis of this sacredness and Love. Stay here as long as you like – breathing, feeling, softening.

Then open your eyes and let the texture and the incredible tenderness of your heart look out. This is a great feat, as this world is not particularly kind to the tender sensitivity of the heart. Thus it is vital to find those sanctuary spaces, whether alone or with others, in silence, where you can remember your heart, sit as your heart, unperturbed, and let it grow fat and strong. Let it grow legs. Let it grow words. We so easily give up on the heart because for many of us, our human capacities haven’t grown strong enough to not be flattened out there in the world. No one showed us how. So in the quiet you can make a vow with your own beloved heart, which is simply “Yes.” Yes, I am this. This is my heart. This is my life. All the other things I layer on top of it to protect it, to feel safe and to get somewhere are not the heart of me. This is the heart of me, no matter how deeply aching, no matter how well I am able to manifest living as it.

There is no life truly worth living besides the life of the heart. Everything that doesn’t have heart in it is a waste.

The places where we are defeated again and again, the places where we’re tired, the places where the heart is hungry or feels wounded, get to rest in the quiet where no one will be saying “buck up,” where no one will be blaming us for our failures. Rest in mercy for the challenges of being a human heart in a harsh world.

With your attention in the felt experience of flesh, breathe the sweetness of your tender heart into every cell of your body, softening, until you are one hundred percent bunny. Let the body notice no harm is coming to you. We have to bring the body along. Body is where fear rises and clench rises and defense comes to protect what’s precious. So it’s really vital to let yourself, in a cellular way, notice and bring home the harmlessness of this moment, especially if the body has been harmed. Notice the quiet, the soft light, the presence. Rest and be gentled in it.

There is a pace that is drenched in being, that is slow and conscious, like breath. We are trained to take our attention off of this vibrating embodied Love affair called “now” and be hypnotized by conceptual thought. The garden of our creature body goes untended, the riches of the moment slip out of our sight, we are left sad and hard. We forget the feast of being, of being together, the preciousness of life, of breath, of the Holy. So in the quiet, fall into the heart, into the quiet, into the felt texture of the moment, so that your heart garden can be watered by the Holy, the creature gentled and soothed by its waters.

When something crosses our path and wakes the heart from its slumber and calls it out of hiding, saying: “Heart, I see you. You’re everything. Don’t give up. Heart, it’s possible to live in this world. It’s a new day. It’s a new life,” we go from sadly trudging to perking up. We have waited all of our lives to hear this clarion call. We may not have even known that our sad walk had anything to do with our heart, but it’s a different world when we start to realize that the heart isn’t our wound, isn’t something to be pathologized or gotten over. This tender heart that aches isn’t a sign that something is wrong with us, but is in fact the center of our beauty as a human being. And we’ve been waiting all our lives to have that reflected.

Your whole life changes then. Then it becomes: how do I wed the Beloved in every moment? How do I turn toward this enough that it takes over my life, my days, my words, my relationships, my work? And for those of us who are bent this way, we’d almost rather not be alive than not live this heart. Oh Heaven! Oh Earth! What I can imagine! And what I can actually do! Oh the pain of that gulf! The human heart breaks at the crossroads of its sweet imaginings and the challenges of walking here on this earth. Oh heart!

The heart needs feeding. The heart needs pausing and sinking, praying and singing and loving. It needs exercise. It needs a place to express itself, whether it’s with the kitties at the Humane Society or strangers in line at the bank. Sometimes it’s nice to start with creatures because they are simple. They don’t get confused when we hand them our hearts. As we exercise the heart, we grow to realize that expressing it is the only reason to be here. What else is there? Everything can become an offering of the heart.

Yes, when we are tender and we offer the heart, it can sting when someone recoils or strikes at us out of fear. If we are going to be here as heart, we have to hurt. There’s no way around it. There’s no end run. The heart is calcified by refusing to hurt because somebody told us it was a sign of not being a proper soldier. But is this who we want to be? Every single time you hold your heart out and you’re disappointed, let yourself hurt. Let it be there. Let it burn off until there is only shining left. The one we’re holding our heart out to is not visible. The one we’re holding our heart out to is the Holy and we hold our heart out as a way to say “This is what I am. This is who I am in You. This is how I love You. This is how I worship You. I stand in this.”

There is a tendency for our attention to go beyond the felt enjoyment of our offering out to see how it went, if it was approved of, if it was liked, if it had an effect. The 23rd Psalm (Bobby McFerrin’s version) says “She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes.” That table that the Holy sets for you is the felt experience and appreciation of your own heart held in an open hand, and the utter open leaning into that offering as your worship of the Holy. Whoever else might benefit or curse it is secondary to this. When we forget the world and turn inward to our offered heart and our Beloved, there is only the feasting at Her table.
When attention stays home in the taste and feel of your own offered heart, you feel the sweet, tender beauty of being raw and open. When you offer your heart, stay there. Stay there drinking your own fountain. It might still sting and hurt when people are funny with you, but keep your attention on your heart’s offering, not out on the report card.

When I was very young, I was part of a theater for kids and there were all these big kids I didn’t know. One of them had some balloons they were selling for a quarter and I had a quarter that was burning a hole in my pocket. I wanted one of those balloons! I wanted to spend my quarter! So I bought a balloon and was very excited to have it. Then one of the older kids said “Oh, you can get those at the corner store for 5 cents.” Here’s the lover, the lover of the balloon, the lover of wanting to give my quarter, and she’s being called a fool because she didn’t wait to get one later for 5 cents instead of 25. I summoned up my best 7-year-old priestess self and said with passion and secrecy, “I have something very special I can do with this balloon.” It made no head sense at all but in that moment I stood for the integrity of the heart.

Heart makes no sense. Everyone will ridicule it. They’ll say “Why didn’t you go get 5 at the corner store?” But in the moment when it wants to exchange, it’s just itself and it’s “just because.” On the ground of the everyday mind, it can be ridiculed every time. But if our ground is the heart, there is a simple in-love-ness with the feel of our own offering. And it grows strong when we drink from that, when we stand in that. It is weakened by our attention going out to the report card, up into the head, out into the world dominated by left-brained accounting. It’s strengthened by its offering of simplicity and in staying home with that. How beautiful! I offered you tenderness. You laughed at me. I offered you tenderness. Stay there. It feels like this.

There’s a way that when the heart takes the life, the heart becomes everything. The heart feeds you. The heart creates ground under your feet. It creates a softness in your voice and it creates a kind of an energetic field whose center is the chest, that moves out from your body. It grows strong like a sun and the tweaks people have with that grow weaker in your eyes until they are inconsequential, burning and dissolving like piece of a rocket re-entering earth’s atmosphere. Grow fat and strong on the atmosphere of your own offered heart. Return again and again to the heart, exercise the heart, bring your attention to and drink the feel of your heart. Strengthen that field for the good of you, the worship of the Holy and the well-being of the whole.
Through our pain where we feel young we see other beings who are in pain as our scary oppressors, not as scared people hurting. The young part of us feels little and sees them as big and somehow keeping us down. Nothing can keep the heart down. Not even death can keep the heart down when the heart is strengthened. We are not little any more and we have come with a gift to give, and we can grow strong enough to give it.
Extend your hand in a gesture of offering, and keep your attention in the feel of your own offering. Let yourself notice how beautifully offered you are and don’t put attention outside or in the head at all, but in your felt experience of this offering gesture. Fall in love with your own worship. I want to invite you when you’re in a public place on a bench where nobody can really notice you, to sit with that internal attitude as people walk by. Taste yourself. Grow fat on your own sweetness. You’ll fall so deeply in love with your own offering, you’ll not care what the other people are doing. And then when it does hurt because you are human, cry your eyes out and do it some more.

Yes. Yes to my heart. Feed the heart because out in the world, especially now, everything is saying: Humans have no hearts. Humans are violent. Humans need to be afraid of each other. Humans are just animals, selfish animals that will take and take. Any many beings are operating out of a deep belief in that. Most humans in our culture are operating to some degree out of a deep separation, that there’s somebody who’s going to get me and I have to get mine first. It’s contagious. But so is Love. Love is the answer. Love is not silly.

Feed the heart. Sit with yourself. Offer yourself to the Holy and notice, drink your direct experience of your own beauty. That can look like Sufi dancing. That can look like prayer. That can look like getting up at dawn and offering some corn pollen. That can look like meditation. We have this valuable capacity to build sanctuary for ourselves in ourselves, in our homes, and to drink and be strengthened by the Holy and it must be intentional. Because we are taught to go to sleep at the wheel and let our patterning buffet us around with the conditioned mindset du jour, which is really quite sad, pitiful, and poverty-stricken. There is something available here, now. Directly available. We have to turn toward it.

The four year old girl who swung on her swingset with her sister singing “I love mommy. I love daddy. I love you” is the same one that’s sitting here right now. The love is no different. And when all of the human capacities grow up around it, go ahead and try to humiliate it. Go ahead and try and chase it to its room. Before Love, the scary are unmasked as scared. Apparent oppressors are shown to be frightened, Love-starved babies. That’s why Love is so powerful and so threatening to some. It unmasks us and takes us back to babyhood to grow up again. It lifts our sophisticated, coping adult strategies off and reveals a big, fat, shiny golden baby and says “Now figure out how to live here as that.” And we can.

The heart hasn’t been glorified, but instead treated like a stupid little girl that should go hide itself and stop making things so troublesome for all the big people who are very happily in their heads, in their tracks, and don’t want the mess of being cracked open. We forget that Love is not just a fond feeling or some sign of immaturity. Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is Love that is singing everything into form and then back out again. Love is an incinerator that burns up everything false. Love removes masks. Love brings the powerful to their knees. Love is all there is and all any of us want. When it’s been demoted by a fear-based yin-hating culture to a stupid thing that little girls do, how better to keep its power from erupting and to condition whole generations of people that there’s nothing there?

So let them run in fear. Let them strike in aversion. They are sad. They are afraid. They are deeply lonely and feel powerless. They’ve lost their way. They look like they’re wearing the crown of power. They’re wearing no crown. Come back to Love. Love what you Love. This heart exists here, but it exists in another realm, and when you turn fully toward the heart, you live in another realm and only appear here. But we have to take our attention off of the mind’s idea of here to enter this eternal, timeless wormhole to the Beloved. You’re not alone. The saints throughout time stand with you, and the Holy funds your heart.