An excerpt from Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life
by Shiva Rea
The universe began in fire, an explosion so powerful that we are still basking in its radiance. Our very own bodies contain traces of elements that exploded outward to birth our galaxy at the moment of the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. At the center of this magnificent and elegant universe of the body is our very own sun, the heart, with its electromagnetic radiance communicating with every cell of our body and synchronizing with our brainwaves and the heartbeats of others around us.
Our body mirrors our cultural evolution. How we see ourselves limits or liberates our experience. Our experience shapes how we engage in the world. We are engaged in a planetary shift as we re-embody our energetic heart and retrieve the fire from within.
Our bodies and our lives are regulated by the cycles of the Earth and the rhythms of the cosmos. The human body’s core physiological functions are tied to the oscillations of the sun and moon, from the most obvious—sleep cycles—to the pineal gland, which for optimal functioning depends upon the full-spectrum light of the sun.
The great conductor of the body’s rhythms is the pulse of the heart. The heart is the only organ made of specialized cells—cardiac cells—with the unique capacity to create a pulsing electrical charge. This charge, in turn, creates a vast electromagnetic field of energy. As the most powerful “rhythm maker” of the body, the heart has the ability to synchronize all of the body’s other rhythms.
The heart is—yes—a pump, but one of extraordinary power. It moves some 60 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of the circulatory system every hour. The heart also radiates an electrical field that communicates with all other cells of the body through the fluid medium of the blood, which transmits vibration three times faster than air. Its “language” is its oscillating rhythm, ranging from slow and peaceful to hurried and excited.
Throughout our lives, the heart sends more signals to the brain than vice versa. Although we may perceive a split between heart and brain, they love to be in synch. When our brainwaves and heart rhythms come into a state of entrainment, or “heart-brain coherence,” we are at our highest state of energy flow, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
For many people in the West, our natural rhythms have changed to one of 24-7 constant stimulation and high levels of stress, both of which have contributed to the rise in heart disease—the number-one killer in the United States, even though it hardly existed more than a century ago. There is great need for effective ways to deal with the fragmenting effects of life in the 21st century.
As we begin to experience how our heart and brain synchronize naturally, we can begin to feel this coherence as a natural state of yoga. And we can see how ancient meditations and other practices—focused attention, breathing in rhythm, chanting, music, movement—facilitate alignment between the two. This is the science at work when we tend the Heart Fire in meditation. The following meditation is based upon an ancient and simple process of meditation that connecting the outer sun to the sun in our heart. These are meditations that you can experience at any moment in the day to stay connected to power of your energetic heart.
Solar Heart Fire Meditations
When people get around a central fire or when gazing at sunrise or sunset, they enter into a state of reflection and presence—a natural meditation. We have not forgotten. The great fireball in the sky still captures our imagination—the sunrise and sunset still envelop us in awe.
Sun Gazing—Surya Dristi
Gazing at the sun during sunrise or sunset (surya dristi) is an ancestral practice that has the effect of synchronizing our biorhythms with the rhythms of the cosmos, the radiance in our heart with that of the sun. The soft light at these sacred junctures allows our eyes to take in the full spectrum of light frequencies that the pineal gland requires for proper functioning.
The sun is the fire altar of our planetary life. As you gaze at it as it rises or sets, feel the rays reaching you from 93 million miles away and recognize that this is the source that generates and regenerates all life. Sun gazing is a meditation in itself that is practiced within yoga and around the world. As your eyes drink in the beauty of the moment, all other thought waves naturally rest. This is the state of namaskar, or bowing, to the extraordinary source of fire around which our lives literally revolve.
Solar Bhavana—Feeling the Sun
Feel your own radiance, life-giving energy, and generosity, and all of the healing emotions that arise through that embodiment of the sun (the solar bhavana: joy, enthusiasm, connectedness, confidence, creative potency, and sustaining power).
Cosmic Breath—Circulating the Inner Sun
As you’re gazing upon the sun, you can draw solar prana into your heart with the breath. As you inhale, feel that radiance drawing into your body through the corresponding sandhyas, or sacred junctures:
Inhale the solar light from the crown of the head to your third eye.
… from the third eye center to the palate of the mouth.
… from the palate of the mouth to your throat center.
… from your throat center through to your heart center.
Bow your chin toward your heart and pause in kumbhaka (retaining the inhale without straining) and feel the space outside of time. Offer prayers, the simple mantra of Om or the solar mantra Om Hum Suraye Namaha. As you exhale, feel the solar breath return from the heart center back to the crown. Continue to breathe the light of the sun through the cycle of your breath within that space as offerings to the inner Heart Fire, then rest in meditation.
Shiva Rea is an innovator of vinyasa flow yoga, and has been teaching for more than 20 years. Join her at Kripalu.