–por Mark Whitwell (Jun 23, 2017)
The heart is where left merges with right, above with below, front with back, inhale with exhale, outer with inner, female with male, and strength with receptivity; it is where heaven meets earth, the source becomes seen, and spirit takes form. It has a specific location, where all opposites arise and return, and is the source of body and mind; but it is felt only in and as the body’s Life-given relatedness and natural state.
The intelligence and force of life appears in the form of polar opposites in union. Through natural participation in the mutuality of all opposites, any remnants of the mind’s assumed separation from reality dissolve. The mind becomes clear as it links to the whole body, which is pure intelligence. Thus the mind is informed by the native intelligence of Life, and becomes useful as the communication means of Life. Male and female qualities are restored. In this natural state, male and female characteristics are distinctly differentiated both within and without, and are felt to be ecstatic and continuous union as the basic process of Life, uniquely expressed in each individual.
Ancient wisdom cultures identified these polarities and expressed them in concepts as yin-yan or shiva-shakti. However, without the practical means to experience these polarities as the actual conditions of one’s Life, such language tends to create abstractions and falsely encourages a search for their realization, as if they were absent.
The right side, the base and the back of the body carry the male principle, and the left side, the crown and the front carry the female. The exhalation expresses the male force as strength, and the inhalation expresses the female power as receptivity. Strength and receptivity, giving and receiving, are restored as the natural state of mind. When we practice the union of the system’s polarities, each principle increases the other. The intelligence of male-female mutuality is present in every cell of the body-mind and in the social wisdom of a free life.
Life’s union of polarities occurs as male receptivity to the female principle. A most simple enactment of this union is the ability for the strength of the whole body to receive an inhalation. Strength (male) must receive (female) and be received. This is the form of all Life. Strength lies in the base of the spine, and receives from above through the crown and front. Strength is served by exhalation and receptivity is served by inhalation. This is anciently known as hatha yoga, ha (sun or male) and tha (moon or female) in perfect union. Through hathayoga the heart (hridaya) is realized, giving and receiving in perfect union, hr– (to receive) and da– (to give). Female strengths male and vice versa. This reveals the polarity of heaven and earth to be One, the source and seen realities to be the same reality, and is the means by which spirit takes form. Its ultimate expression is the willingness to receive another, and all others, including the mother and all her offspring in the nurturing force which is Life.
Human contentment, wellness, wisdom and realization lie in the power of mutuality between the polar opposites, male and female, whether in the case of same sex or opposite sex intimacy. All people have the same male-female union as the substance or building blocks of reality, as all come through mother and father. The power of this mutuality is the acknowledgement of and participation in the fact that one pole does not exist without the other. This is the realization of the heart or whole. Intimacy with all ordinary conditions, all polarities, becomes the spiritual priority including male-female union and continuity. […]
Spiritual and social elitism has been reduced in our time. The ordinary is now celebrated and valued as extraordinary, not different from the highest. Spiritual transmission does not occur through exclusive agency but only through ordinary and equal individuals, especially between male and female, where heaven surges to earth in the creation of new form. In the ordinary the unseen is known (via the seen). The union of heaven and earth is known in the natural state. To surrender to or to receive all ordinary conditions reveals the infinite. They are not different.
Yoga arose in the great Upanishadic culture at a time before the concept of the holy personality or exclusive God had developed in history. It was a wisdom culture that simply acknowledged that everything is Brahman or God. Sun, moon, male, female, breath, senses, food: everything is God. There was no concept of a special person as God, implying that everyone else was not. This dichotomy was made worse when the idea of the divine person was packaged, distributed and forced into the social mind and behavior as doctrine. This is the cause of human misery, trying to be something we are not rather than enjoying the wonder and power of Life already abundantly given.
It is simply clear that the wonder of Life and its source is our natural condition and already utterly established in us as us. This is perfect faith in, and surrender to Life; whatever Life is altogether in its extreme intelligence and vast interrelatedness. Actual yoga then arises naturally as the movement of Life in body, breath and relationship rather than the manipulation of Life and the qualifying of the living organism with concepts and effort in mind and body. You are the power of the Cosmos appearing as pure intelligence, beauty and function. There is only reality. Nothing else.
— Mark Whitwell. Excerpts from Hridayasutra: The Heart Sutra. [The art above by Colleen Choi]