Cultivating Loving Awareness
"Shifting our identification from the ego to the heart-mind is the beginning of individual spiritual work."
~ Ram Dass, Be Love Now
A few years ago, I was blessed to have a private conversation with the yogic sage, Ram Dass, whose work has guided me for years. During our time together, we talked a great deal about the "heart-mind." For him, our spiritual health, as well as the well-being of our planet, are sourced in our ability to live through “the heart-mind.”
In the English language, we use the word "mind" all the time. Yet, in Eastern thought, it is often used to mean the consciousness that pervades everything. It is also used in the field of (Western) body/mind science to explain how consciousness may exist in every cell of the human body.
Of course, we know where the physical heart is, right in the center of our chest. But what if the heart, like the mind, pervaded our entire consciousness—every thought, every cell? And what if we could harness these two perceptions and marry them within our consciousness? What if we could perceive and interact with everything and everyone with our heart-mind?
Oh, my Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
If this could happen, we’d make a quantum leap in awareness. Our inner world would shift if we were able to embrace every experience, every person we encounter, with our heart-mind. Without sounding overly dramatic, everything could become Love.
During our conversation, Ram Dass clearly demonstrated to me how we can step into this experience of Love. He pointed his finger at his head and said, “This is where you are.” Then, in slow motion, he moved his finger down, down, down toward the middle of his chest until he arrived at the heart center. “This is where you need to be.”
Because I wanted to be an apt pupil, I hyper-focused on what he was doing and saying. As I watched him, it felt as if his finger was serving as an elevator operator, guiding my mind to shift location from top floor to ground floor, indeed, to the “Ground of Being”—the heart-mind. As he did this, he kept repeating the phrase, "I am loving awareness," in a normal tone, then in a whisper, then silently, and encouraging me to do it along with him.
“When we are in this place, everything is Love," he said. He went on to explain how he himself experiences this. “When I am in my heart-mind, I love the ceiling. I love this old carpet. I love the walls. I love everything!” And then he laughed, an uproarious, joy-filled laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh right along with him.
He continued to repeat the phrases and slowly looked around the room where he was sitting, perceiving one thing and then the next with soft, loving eyes whispering, “Wow.” He looked at me next, gazed deep into my eyes and said, “Wow.”
“Do you feel that?” he asked.
I did. I felt his loving gaze. I felt his deeply loving heart-mind embrace the totality of me, imperfections included. And when he did, everything became Love, just like he said it would.
Since then, armed with his succinct instructions, I’ve been trying to cultivate my heart-mind more than ever before, anywhere I am; standing in line at the grocery store, sitting on my living room couch, and especially when I am serving as a spiritual companion to someone.
I have nicknamed this practice “the elevator process,” repeating the phrase Ram Dass used, "I am loving awareness.” I set the intention to have my awareness shift from head thoughts to heart thoughts, just as he told me, finally (and hopefully!) taking up residence in a deeper place within me—heart-mind.
I admit, this has not been easy. My practice is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. Oh, the ego is such a trickster, much like the wizard behind the curtain in the land of Oz. But when I am able to see it for what it is and make the shift to heart-mind, everything around me does take on a rosier glow. I feel softer, kinder, more open and loving to everything in my world.
Practice shifting your awareness from your head to your heart by using the “elevator technique.” Bring your attention to your head and notice how your awareness is located there in this moment. Take a few gentle inhales and exhales, settling yourself down. Allow your awareness to begin to change locations, following your breath as your awareness slowly descends—down, down, down—to the center of your chest.
As you are doing this, say, “I am loving awareness.”
Repeat the phrase slowly as your descent continues. “I am loving awareness.”
Take your time. Go as slowly as you need to. Let your voice soften. Whisper the phrase until it becomes silent, an inner mantra of beingness.
Feel gentleness wash over you. Feel peace fill your heart. Feel the love-filled beat of your own heart and, holding your awareness there, look out at the world.
Look at what is right in front of you and say, “I am loving awareness.”
Now, how do you feel?