Sri Yukteswar said, “The first and most essential thing on the spiritual path is to uncover the natural love of the heart; without that one cannot take one step on the spiritual path.” The opening of the heart must be understood as an opening of our nature. It is not something we acquire or impose on our nature. It is something we uncover through our spiritual growth.
Why is it our nature? God holds this universe together by the power of love, and everything is a part of that love. We are held to one another, to life, to everything by the adhesive power of God’s love. The more we develop spiritually, the more we uncover within ourselves the heart’s natural love.
Sri Yukteswar described those obstacles that prevent us from uncovering the heart’s natural love as the “meannesses of the heart.” There are eight such obstacles: hatred, shame, fear, grief, condemnation, race prejudice, pride of pedigree, and a narrow sense of respectability. The meannesses all relate to those things which emphasize and affirm the ego. Once these obstacles are removed, we experience what Sri Yukteswar describes as “magnanimity of the heart” — great love for people, for life, and for God.
Very few people have love.
Unenlightened people think that the world around them is the cause of their problems and that they need to protect themselves by creating a hard shell around the ego. The harder the shell, the less their capacity to love. Very few people have love. They have closed down their feelings for fear of being hurt until, finally, they become incapable of feeling. There are many men who never feel anything at all. They are decent spouses, parents, and co-workers but they don’t have any feeling in their hearts.
The natural love of the heart develops automatically the more we recognize that no matter how different people are from us outwardly, we are all expressions of the same one God; we are all one. This natural love of the heart is not something we can develop by purely human means. We don’t have any capacity for love except to the extent that we derive it from Him. It is only with God’s love that we can love people; it is only with God’s love that we can love Him. But the more we offer ourselves up to Him so that He can fill our hearts, the more His love is able to flow through us. Overcoming the meannesses of the heart and opening your heart to people is thus a very simple subject, understood correctly.
1. First, love God unconditionally: Developing the heart’s natural love is, first of all, to be understood in terms of your relation with God. See it in terms of first loving God. If you first love God unconditionally, you will then find that you love everybody, that they all become your own. If you take God out of the picture and just relate to people as people, inevitably you will like some people and not like others — there will be exclusiveness, disappointments, and disillusionment.
2. Meditate regularly: Meditate and become completely centered in yourself so that you don’t react to things but act always from your inner center. The more you meditate and become centered in your Self, the more you find that you are determining and guiding your own destiny. You realize, for example, that how others feel towards you need not influence how you feel towards them. This is a very liberating thought. You choose to love because it’s much more wonderful to love than not to love. You realize that you are the one who suffers when your heart is closed.
3. Serve God in others: Those men and women who did the right things and became saints have served others. Following their example, it’s important to help other people, to do what you can to serve them, not from a sense of guilt, but with the simple joy of sharing with others whatever strength and energy you have. To be divinely selfish means to help other people because it gives you happiness to help them. This is the motive even of saints, as long as they have any motive at all. Serving others means, above all, serving God in them.
4. Offer your love upward to the Christ center: Once you feel love in meditation, offer the energy of the heart upward to the spiritual eye, the Christ center at the point between the eyebrows. By heart I don’t meant the physical heart but the psychic center in the astral spine just behind the physical heart. Concentrate your feelings there instead of offering them outward in emotion. Then offer that energy upward, from the heart to the Christ center at the point between the eyebrows. The more you do that, the more you will find that your love gradually grows and eventually generates overwhelming feelings of love and joy.
Emotion and love are not the same thing. Emotion is an expression of feeling that goes outward and downward, spilling over without control. But the more concentrate your feelings and offer them inwardly up to Him, the more God’s love will be able to flow through you.
5. Sing and chant inwardly to God: Chanting and singing from the heart helps to awaken love in the heart. Even more than chanting, keeping in mind the thought, “Lord, I am Thine,” for example, or, “Door of my heart, open wide I keep for Thee,” will open the heart.
Paramhansa Yogananda set the example for us. When living in his Master’s ashram, he kept his mind all day long focused at the Christ center, at the point between the eyebrows, mentally talking to Divine Mother. Wherever he went, in his heart there was a never-ending song of divine love. When organizational responsibilities threatened to take his mind from the Divine Mother, he never said, “Well, I will do this work first; it is more important. Later I shall think of God.” Instead, he wrote,“No work is possible without the power to perform it borrowed from Thee.”
Always sing inwardly to God. In India this practice is called japa. And remember, when your love for God becomes a constant, silent yearning of your heart, all other things will melt away like morning mist before the rising sun.
6. Pray for devotion: Devotion is a gift of God and by your very act of prayer you are putting out the magnetism to draw that gift to you. Pray this simple prayer as often as you remember: “Divine Mother, awaken your love in me, and then help me to awaken that love in all.”
7. Tune into a great saint: Tune in to a great saint of love like Paramhansa Yogananda, and try to draw his manifestation of divine love into your life. Even those who aren’t disciples of Yogananda are able to feel his love in their hearts. I’ve certainly done this with St. Francis and I didn’t become a disciple of St. Francis by doing it.
Yogananda brought brought a special dispensation, which means that he brought down to this level of existence a certain expression of divine reality, and all who tune into him will be able to experience that love.
God becomes your beloved
Spiritual development is always gradual, but you are on very safe ground when you follow the example of those men and women who did the right things and became saints. Your spiritual development will be easier perhaps for others to see, but very difficult for you to see on a day to day basis.
When your heart opens, you begin to feel that God is everywhere – that God is your beloved and that your beloved is in everybody. If you see somebody in the streets who is unhappy, your first thought is to pray for him or smile to give that person joy. The more you experience God’s presence inwardly, the more this inner awareness spills over effortlessly into your outward activities. Somebody said that impersonal love is cold but it’s not. It’s the warmest love possible. With that kind of love, you feel love for everybody.
Give love of your own free will because you feel joy when you do so, because it makes you happier to depend more and more on the heart. Man’s power is limited, but God’s is without limitation.