To keep the mind space open, we need some form of contemplative or meditative practice. This has been the most neglected in recent centuries, substituting the mere reciting and “saying” of prayers, which is not the same as a contemplative mind and often merely confirms us in our superior or fear-based system. One could say that authentic spirituality is invariably a matter of emptying the mind and filling the heart at the same time.
To keep the heart space open, we almost all need some healing in regard to our carried hurts from the past. It also helps to be in right relationship with people, so that other people can love us and touch us at deeper levels, and so we can touch them. In addition, I think the heart space is opened by “right brain” activities such as music, art, dance, nature, fasting, poetry, games, life-affirming sexuality, and, of course, the art of relationship itself. And to be fully honest, I think your heart needs to be broken and broken open at least once to have a heart at all or to have a heart for others.
To keep our bodies less defended, to live in our body right now, to be present to others in a cellular way, is also the work of healing of past hurts and the many memories that seem to store themselves in the body. It is very telling that Jesus often physically touched people when he healed them; he knew where the memory and hurt was lodged, and it was in the body itself. Eckhart Tolle rightly speaks of most people carrying a “pain body.” Sometimes I fear that most of humanity has suffered from some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when you read the history of war, torture, abandonment, and abuse.
It has always deeply disappointed me that the Christian religion was the only one that believed God became a human body, and yet we have had such deficient and frankly negative attitudes toward embodiment, the physical world, sexuality, emotions, animals, wonderful physical practices like yoga, and nature itself. We want to do spirituality all in the head. It often seems to me that Western Christianity has been much more formed by Plato (body and soul are at war) than by Jesus (body and soul are already one). For many of us, the body is more repressed and denied than even the mind or the heart. It makes both presence and healing quite difficult, because the body, not just our mind, holds our memories.
Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps,
Gateway to Silence:
Open me to Presence.