From Shoulder-to-Shoulder to Heart-to-Heart
Why We Need the “We” – Part One
When you hear the words “spiritual practice,” what do you think of? Perhaps you picture someone meditating. Perhaps you picture a person doing yoga or tai chi. Perhaps you think of a rosary or prayer beads. Whatever it is you imagine, it is highly likely that your image is of a single, solitary figure at practice by himself/herself. If you pictured a group, kudos to you (although the title and picture in this post may have influenced you!).
Even so, the vast majority of our attention is still on the personal. In fact, most of our experiences of group spiritual practice or spiritual community are largely an individual experience. There are just other people around. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder practice.
There is certainly value to this. There is a sense of accountability. A sense of comradery. A side-by-side, working on this together comfort. But there can also be a strong sense of loneliness. An isolation when things aren’t going quite right. An over-orientation on the teacher/authority. A guilt and shame at not living up to the standard assumed by the group. And quite often, a failure to bring about any kind of social transformation.
Of course we need to practice alone. And certainly some spiritual practice must be tailored to our own individual needs and expressions at various points in our lives. But if this is primarily the only form our spiritual practice takes, then we are missing the vital component of shared, heart-to-heart spiritual practice.
Is it really vital? Would we even know if we’ve never experienced it?
Many of us view our spiritual lives as something deeply personal and in some sense private. When we are talking about ultimate reality and life meaning, only you can decide what really matters to you.
And so we follow our own, individual path. This is the vital stage of differentiation and coming into our own. But if we keep going, we can start to discover that other paths are merging with ours. We are on the same path. We can begin to discover a kinship with others who have all taken their own journey, but are now together with us.
We may find them in books. We may find them on the internet. If we’re very fortunate, we can find them in our cities and even in our churches. These people are out there. Whatever your path, you are not alone. Though the crowds thin, the further you go the more convergence you discover.
As you keep going, you also begin to discover it’s not just the paths that are merging. Your consciousness starts to intuit that there is also a deeper convergence. Your heart is awakening to oneness.
We need heart-to-heart spirituality because it leads us to manifest the deeper reality and truth that spirituality (and in some sense science as well) reveal. Our individuality is not our most fundamental reality. We are one. Not just as a nice, fuzzy aphorism. But in actuality. In deep, experienced reality.
If this is true, then we cannot continue to settle for forms of practice and spiritual community that do not embody this reality. They are fine as far as they go. But if oneness is the deeper understanding of reality, then our patterns of practice need to evolve to reflect and lead us toward that experience and lived truth.
And not just in the vast, mystical plane. It must also be practiced in incarnational reality. In the messy, second-person realm of the heart. Oneness with all is not oneness unless it is also oneness with your neighbor.
To the degree that we continue to reinforce our separateness in form and practice, we will be limited in our ability to evolve into greater consciousness and being, and therefore in our ability to bring about collective transformation in the world.
So let’s start small. Let’s start with just one other person.
Picture two people standing side-by-side, each praying to God. Now picture two people sitting, facing one another and praying together. Do you feel a difference in your heart? Perhaps you felt a bit of energy there, and maybe also a twinge of anxiety!
Turning to face someone heart-to-heart can be a little scary!
Let’s definitely say there is also a strong need for discernment. You don’t want to do this with just anyone. We need to be wise about who we choose to open our hearts up to. Teilhard calls them our “specially favoured centres.”
But we must also consider that given our culture and our past experiences, we will almost always choose the safer route without the risk—unless we consciously step out in trust. Not just trust in the other, but trust in ourselves. We trust not that we won’t be hurt—for that is often the way of the heart—but that this type of movement is a spiritual engagement with the deeper reality of life. To deny it is to deny further reality.
It strongly helps if we are coming from a grounding in our divine identity in our gut, then we are more able to engage with one another from a place of courage and solidity. We can be heart-to-heart because we are able to rest secure in our own being, knowing who we are. This is part of our spiritual path. Nonduality is knowing that we are “not two,” but not only one either. We see this in Jesus saying “I and the Father are one.” There is oneness, and there is still distinction.
The Heart to Heart spiritual practice is one of intimacy and closeness. At first, it is best practiced with a deep soul friend, someone you share a strong kinship with on the spiritual journey.
It’s also helpful to establish clear boundaries as spiritual relational energy can sometimes be connected with sexual energy.
1. First, ground yourselves in your own deepest identity. It’s usually best to have a period of meditation at the start where each person can root into their ground of being in their gut. This connection to your own divine identity is vital before you move into your heart space, both as a way of centering into a healthy space from which to move out, and as a recognition of the divinity in the other.
2. Sit facing one another and place your hands on each other’s heart space or upper chest. You can face one another from the start, or move closer at this time. Each person can sit slightly on each other’s right side so that you don’t have to reach too far. You can sit in chairs or on the floor.
3. Allow your heart energy to flow. Try to be aware from your heart. What do you feel? What do you see from your heart? Be present. There is a dynamic energy coming from the other person. How do you sense it? You are also emitting. What are you sending to the other?
4. Love. If you haven’t already, allow your heart to love the other person deeply. Drawing from the deep surge of love that comes from God, that comes from our shared divine identity, that comes from the oneness that is our deepest reality. Feel that with one another. It may feel like your heart is going to burst. Don’t worry. That is just your heart consciousness expanding.
Some people would feel lucky if they have one person in their life who they could do this with. If you don’t, ask yourself how you might try to cultivate soul friendships that could grow into a relationship where this is possible. Where can you go to try to find someone like this? You can also look for kinship in spiritual community online, such as in one of our WeSpace groups. While the physical touch is helpful, it’s not essential. Several of our group members have experienced this type of heart engagement in our groups.
Next week we will explore the need for a greater “We” in our spiritual communities. Make sure you are signed up to our mailing list to catch Part Two!