Heart Attention

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Richard Rohr on learning to inhabit your heart

Heart Attention

Evagrius Ponticus, the Syrian deacon (d. 399) who first wrote about eight of the sins that eventually became the Enneagram, saw them as ways in which our heart-presence is “suffocated.” Enneagram teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) saw each type as a way of “self-forgetting,” how we turn away from True Self. My fellow teacher in the Living School, Robert Sardello, offers a simple practice for attending to heart, which helps us remember True Self and return to full presence and authentic life.

“First, we learn to enter the heart. It is best to initiate this learning when calmness rules. Then, with practice—sometimes taking years to develop, sometimes occurring right away—we can find our way into heart-presence even in the midst of greatest turbulence. It is simple. We enter the Silence by simply going to a quiet place and sitting, eyes closed, until we feel the embrace of the Silence. It is an ‘inner region,’ one to which we have to yield in order to experience. The practice of Silence is also ongoing, nothing to be mastered, for She is endless.

“When we have, at least, entered the Silence, we place our attention at the center of the heart. Heart-attention differs, radically, from thinking about the heart. Try this: look at your foot and pay attention to your foot; it appears to be ‘over there’; you are really thinking about your foot. Then, instead, place your attention within your foot. Notice that this is suddenly something like, ‘Hmmm, the whole world now unfolds from this place of my foot.’ Wherever attention is, there you are.

“What is heart interiority? Become a researcher into your own heart. Just observe, notice, sense the qualities. It is as if you are within a vast, spherical space. Within this space, you cannot find a boundary, an ending. The feeling is one of intimate infinity and infinite intimacy, both at once. There is warmth, all warmth. You feel encompassed, held, embraced; you find that you are within heart rather than heart being ‘inside’ you. It is deep, and when there, you do not want to leave. . . .

“When we find, say, that we have fallen into anger, or any of the other transgressions, particularly when we struggle, over and over, with the recurring occurrence, we approach courage by going into Silence and then entering the heart. From within the center of the heart, the place of inviolability, the ‘not I but Christ in me’ (Galatians 2:20) feels the heart’s ardor, that is the strong, strong, strong love of the heart. When that warmth is felt, we can let it resonate through the body until perfect calm comes. We feel the inherent, always present, blessing return. It never went away; we went away from it.”

Adapted from “Transgression and the Return of the Mystical Heart”
by Robert Sardello, in Oneing, “Transgression”, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 80-81

Gateway to Silence:
I want to see all—my sin and my gift.

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