Opening the Heart is one of the most basic ideas in spiritual development. It refers to a major shift in the psyche, a shift that is necessary to allow a transfor-mation from a fear-based ego to a love-based energetic.
Many models of spiritual development recognize this concept, from Joseph Campbell's use of the Chakra system to illustrate spiritual development (see A JOSEPH CAMPBELL COMPANION by Diane K. Osbon), to Ken Wilber's 4-Quadrant model (see A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYTHING).
One begins to open to the possibility of an inner life, of a spiritual reality that transcends and includes physical reality. There seems to be an evolutionary drive toward greater awareness and to transcendence. Barbara Marx Hubbard describes this as the shift from ego to Essence. Campbell describes it as an awakening to one's authentic self as a part of the hero's journey. In any event, it represents a sea change in the life of the individual. I call it a shift from an external to an internal locus of control.
The shift noted by Hubbard and others can be described as a shift from a fear-based intellectually-driven inner motivational energetic to a love-based, heart-centered motivational energetic. At earlier levels of development, we are driven to survive and succeed in the physical world, and our evolutionary development leads us to do this from a fear-based and outer-directed worldview in Chakras 1 - 3.
Chakra 4 represents an awakening to a deeper process or reality, both within the individual and in the world around you. One must go through a process of transition from programmed defense mechanisms that inhibit authenticity and tend to lead one to believe that only the intellect can ensure survival and success. This must become a more emotional/visceral energetic, opening the wisdom of the heart and allowing that wisdom to direct one's experience, making the intellect secondary. I call it learning to live in the mystery.
This awakening may not happen at all. There is always an inner urge toward greater expression, however, and for those who actively seek higher development the process can be one that is joyful if challenging. For those who actively resist this development, inner conflict will result and can lead to a variety of negative experiences, even despair. Still others will consciously desire transformation but deep inner fears will create strong resistance to change and inner conflict will result.
For some, the process of entering the field of awakening (4th Chakra) is a conscious process as part of an established spiritual teaching. This development can be cultivated through spiritual practices. They may have the easiest time of it if they have the proper teacher and have a sincere intention to develop and a minimum of inner fears that create resistance. Others will have a more cathartic experience, ususally involving strong emotional episodes that are out of character. The old defenses begin to crumble as the inner urge for greater self-realization asserts itself. One may fight the energies arising within, and may or may not eventually surrender.
Following the surrender, there is a time when one must reestablish the inner processes of life - how one is motivated, how one processes information, how one sees the world are all in flux (5th Chakra). Joseph Campbell identifies this period as the finding of the authentic self (the Holy Grail) and the time of adjustment needed to accomodate this new reality. As a result of this, all relationships shift - with yourself, with others, with your work, politics, etc.
The heart is now open, uninhibited by old fearful ego patterns, and the authentic self can be revealed. One still must make a living, drive in traffic, relate to family, etc., but now the motivational energies have transformed. You experience the radiance within, and therefore, you see the radiance everywhere. External relationships and tasks become spiritualized - motivated by spiritual intention. This is illustrated in the famous saying, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
This awakening urge often arises during mid-life. Perhaps we are evolutionarily designed to have this spiritual side emerge at that time. One either resists the urge and clings to the existing beliefs and energies of the ego, or one goes through a process of transformation as outlined above. When we do not handle this well, it is termed a "mid-life crisis." When we do, I call it a "mid-life course-correction."
There is a need to discipline the biological appetites and egoic needs during this period - one begins to be motivated by higher purposes and the experience of living is very different, although the actual activities may appear to the the same as before. Again, spiritual practices are an essential element in this part of the process. As Ken Wilber says, "People at different levels of development do not experience the same world differently, they experience different worlds."
6th Chakra awaits those who successfully transform and discipline themselves - the direct experience of Spirit as a constant in one's life. While this level of development is reached by very few, it is clear that it is well within normal human capabilities. Perhaps our next level of universal human development will be to access this level of being in greater numbers and thus transform our collective experience of life.
What do you think?