(To read the contemplation on the doorway of attention, click here.)
Opening the doorway of the heart brings us nearer, enables warmth and intimacy. The giving of our heart forces to something or someone enables a much deeper connection than the simple giving of our attention. In English we call the forces of our heart directed towards something else, someone else, ‘compassion’. This word expresses the power we possess to feel into what the other is feeling. The doorway of compassion overcomes the separation between me and the Other in a deeper way than just attention because through it we feel what the other feels.
That is, of course, why we avoid opening the door of heart: we will feel something. It is riskier to open the door of heart because it makes us vulnerable to what we will then experience. What we perceive with the heart will cut closer and deeper into who we are. Being ‘cool’, ‘hard’ or ‘tough’ is all about keeping that door shut. What opens it? What is it that we we must activate within us to risk opening this inner door of the heart? Courageous Trust. When I open this door I must have faith. Whether it is an event in the world, a person I meet, or the divine, it takes awakening the power of faith and trust to open this inner door.
What do we feel when someone opens their heart to us? If we are attentive we can notice that we feel something directly beyond the physical world, something of the soul of the other that is like the warmth of the sun: warm interest and compassionate feeling streams from their heart to ours. It is a profound experience. And as we take in these streaming forces of genuine heart-warmth we feel more human than usual. Its funny, really, but its something like being a stiff wooden stalk that suddenly sprouts and grows beyond itself.
So what happens when we turn these heart-forces towards the highest Reality? What happens when we feel into the sacred rite at the altar with the warm sun-forces of our hearts?
In concentrating my mind and attention on the words of prayer, their meaning and presence enter my awareness. In this activity I am living in something more akin to meditation. How do I let my heart participate? By feeling into the words of the prayer.
For example, in the communion service of The Christian Community known as The Act of Consecration of Man
, we learn that there is a being who leads hearts to peace, who strengthens our will and resolve and who works to unite all mankind. We learn that this being, whom we call ‘Christ’, has his very essence in love itself. We learn this by opening the first door, the doorway of attention. The second door is opened when when we feel
the prayer of the service rising as the prayer of our own heart: may He be in us.
This being of love, this bringer of peace, this unifying spirit of humanity – this is the being our own hearts need and long for. This is the being humanity needs in order to find healing, in order to come together and forge a more human future. We move, as we pass through the doorway of attention to the doorway of the heart, from meditation to prayer
As this door opens the language of the prayers becomes the language of our own heart and we are able to feelingly enter into the depths of the service. Our own heart forces flow towards the altar and the forces of the Heart of the World begin filling our soul. An interchange between us and Him can flow to a much greater degree of intimacy through such ‘heart-felt’ prayer. As we become more and more able to open this doorway of the heart to the reality of the altar the prayers of the service become our own prayers. We experience: the service lives in my heart and I hear my heart speaking at the altar.
Opening the doorway of the heart is riskier, and therefore harder for us to do than opening the doorway of our attention. It leads, however, to whole new depths of experience in our life of prayer.
Patrick Kennedy is a priest in the Christian Community, a world-wide movement for religious renewal. Learn more here: thechristiancommunity.org.