The heart has holistic needs that should not be ignored.
Heart blockage is a progressive condition where a build up of unwanted debris (think toxic waste) affixes itself to the arterial walls that supply blood to the heart.
The heart is a muscle like any other that is dependent on oxygen supplied by the blood. When this build up reaches a certain critical mass, it narrows the aperture of the vessel, so that physical symptoms begin to manifest (i.e. chest pain and shortness of breath).
These symptoms inform us of an event that has been silently brewing within. In a worst-case scenario, the early warning system has either failed entirely or not been heeded, resulting in a major heart attack and sudden death.
Fortunately, there are frequent warning signs that permit the chance to reconsider life as we know it.
In order to reclaim one’s health and well-being at the deepest level, we must first understand the more subtle nature of heart blockage. Yoga provides us with a lens to look deeply at the “heart” of this very issue.
The first principle suggests we are to connect on a deeper level with our heart as our emotional center.
Our heart center lies in the central position of the seven-tier chakra system—it occupies the fourth chakra, with three above and three below. The chakra paradigm in some ways resembles the central nervous system as it lies along the vertical of the axis of the spine, though the model exists energetically rather than physically.
These energetic vortices align in a sequential manner. Most basic survival functions are controlled at the lowest level.
Development of subsequent levels relies on the foundation of each prior chakra. The chakras become increasingly evolved in the upper region (chakras five through seven), as more esoteric development becomes less predictable as these functions increasingly permit self-evolution and personal growth.
Due to the fourth chakra’s mid-position, the heart is at the gateway of our basic survival experience as we expand outward toward our perceptual and expressive capability. These upper pathways are responsible for inter-relationships and our ability to regulate our experience of life through joy, peace and contentment.
Statements like “it spoke to my heart” when witnessing something of great beauty validate this reality.
We all know that when we love someone, we hold them “close to our heart” or when we hate someone, we act by “hardening our heart”. This use of language may appear metaphoric, however the heart is truly our receptacle of emotion—both positive and negative.
The second principle suggests that since the emotions resound from the heart center, a blockage may well emanate from the emotions themselves.
Let’s say that someone has wronged us. We decide they had no right to treat us so badly. We avow to never forget or forgive. In essence, we decide to never let go. Time goes on, and we move on in life; everyday things divert our attention from this internal assault on our system. The event is long over, but the emotional imprint of the event remains like a physical scar etched upon our emotional heart center.
Emotions do not forget.
They simply go underground, and wait, and build, and rear their heads from time to time when similar events take place and act as triggers.
In reality, future events may be highly dis-similar, but that won’t stop the memory’s retrieval and identification system. Each time a trigger occurs, our reactions become stronger. Each time, we become a little more indignant and more entrenched in the emotional rut.
Significantly, a blockage that starts in the emotional heart center mirrors the physical blockage in many ways, especially as it becomes increasingly menacing to our life over the course of time.
Great potential for reversal of this process lies in acknowledging these blockages (in all their multi-layers) through turning inward for purification of the heart.
Due to the slow and silent nature of dis-ease progression we must be ever-vigilant, knowing that by the time we have awakened to our first warning sign, the event is already well along in its course.
As for any other threat to our system, early detection is key.
At all times, we should remain mindful that our relationship with life (both our own and others’) provides us with endless opportunities for learning to let go, similar to the on-going nature of arterial build-up as we eat our way through life.
In order to protect ourselves wholly, we must remain on alert regarding:
1) how to recognize blockage early on, and
2) how to purify our system to dissolve the blockage and prevent further build up.
First, we need to learn to pay attention to our emotional selves and develop the muscle of “letting go”. Letting go is achieved through acknowledging that those hurting us are acting out of their own life dramas that stem from their own emotionally scarred heart centers. Our role in others’ lives is likely to be peripheral—we are merely supporting cast members—therefore insinuating ourselves into the starring role in the lives of others is quite heady as well as futile.
Second, we must remember to act at all times with kindness and compassion and work from our own heart center with positivity and optimism in order to counteract and crowd out negativity. Mastering either of these processes is beneficial, but the combination is extremely potent.
There is yet another path we may choose that runs deeper: to purify our heart wholly, we must operate at all the levels that the heart operates on.
We may access the wholeness of healing the heart through addressing all of these levels. The physical or most superficial “cleanse” is addressed through healthy and nutritious eating and living a mindful lifestyle that incorporates regular physical exercise.
As we deepen our self-practice of non-harm, we may begin to include how intelligently we are approaching our yoga practice and begin to focus on a heart opening practice. Promoting the ‘inhale’ as a breath tool further opens our heart chakra.
Penetrating deeper inward, one is required to begin to look beyond, all the way down to our emotional hard drive to see what is driving us from the inside-out.
Humans are highly complex beings and the trove of all stored emotional memories, from the beginning of our lives onwards, lies deeply etched within. Much effort and time are required to access and pry loose all our embedded stories from our knuckle-whitening grip.
With this process often comes much pain that we have repressed. Assuredly, this is not an easy path, so this system is not recommended for “the faint of heart”.
The intensive process is often best facilitated through therapeutic guidance and counseling. Recognize the difficulty of this journey: it is the essence of purification of the heart—it comes only at the price of intensive and on-going self-study. Any material that causes blockage can be released; as we have discussed the key lies in its identification.
If the process is to succeed, the non-surgical tools must be equally as sharp and agile the surgeon’s scalpel.
Only then can all toxic waste associated with the emotions be fully dissolved.
Once we have achieved this purification, there is nothing remaining to impede the internal flow of energy that is the pulse of life itself. One can live a life of joy that arises from compassion and loving-kindness with little or no effort. We each have the ability to strive daily to open our heart center to remove any accumulating blockage. In this way, we can attain the goal of living a more pure and beautiful tomorrow.
Think about the heart in this holistic way and purification can be achieved in a heartbeat!
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Ed: Cat Beekmans
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