Adapted from “Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life” by Shiva Rea.
Copyright © 2014 by Shiva Rea. To be published by Sounds True in January 2014
Note from the Editor: As a yoga teacher and a student of Shiva Rea, I have turned to her book as reference as well as inspiration for living and teaching yoga.
We are created in rhythm, kept alive in rhythm, and evolve through rhythm.
Tides, breath, and blood flow in rhythm. We are born into a universe of currents, and our heart is the great conductor of the body as it maintains the rhythmic pulse that oscillates to the flow of our lives.
Twenty billion years ago when the universe surged into being, a primordial fireball exploded in a colossal burst of light. Everything in existence today still pulses with original light—including our own bodies.
The Heart Fire within each of us connects us to the beginning of creation, to the rtam or cosmic rhythm generated by the blazing tapas—generating heat—of this original fire. From this original burst of light, Surya (the sun), Chandra (the moon), all the heavens, and the cycles of cosmic time emerged. Your heart’s rhythm embodies the pulse of creation (spanda). In addition, our hearts vibrate as the innermost essence of consciousness (hridaya), the flow of love (rasa), and the light of the true self (jyotir). Each of us carries this enormous source of power and love in our bodies.
To live in ways that honor these natural currents, those within and those without, is to live vinyasa, in touch and in alignment with the flowing rhythms of our world.
If we drop into our feeling sensations of our body, we discern a subtle reverberation of this light in our chests as a deep, penetrating heat that ebbs and flows, expands and recedes, dims and intensifies. While we may not often pause to think about it, this intimate connection and truth in our hearts is reflected in our speech by how we counsel one another: “Listen to your heart.” “Trust your heart.” “Follow your heart.” Our heart feels “heavy,” or we are “lighthearted.” When we affirm the truth, we “swear upon” our heart, instinctively making the universal mudra of connecting hand to heart. When we open to our heart’s deepest knowing, we have a “change of heart.”
While we can think of the heart as the extraordinary circulatory-system pump we learned about in school, we know in our bones that it is so much more than this. All of the world’s spiritual traditions—and now recent scientific discoveries—have revealed the Heart Fire as a radiant field of connection and inner wisdom that transcends time, space, and culture.
Inner Firekeeping – Ayurveda and the Cultivation of Tejas, Ojas, and Prana
Agni represents the fire at our core. Depending upon our constitution, lifestyle, and practices, it can be well balanced to support our evolution or lead to imbalances. When unbalanced, agni can burn us up and dry us out (known as excessive fire), manifest in low energy and lack of inspiration (weak fire), or oscillate in place, leaving us unable to move forward in life (wavering fire).
Ayurveda applies Vedic and tantric teachings on balancing the sun, moon, and fire within to maintain inner vitality.
Agni manifests as tejas—inner illumination—and governs all metabolic processes in the body. Because it involves heat, it is related to the sun’s energy; it keeps body, mind, and emotions radiant. The moon of the Vedas and Tantras is soma or lunar nectar. It supports the cultivation of ojas within our physiology as a vital protective energy, a subtle substance providing luster and immunity to the system. Ojas nourishes the body in a way similar to the moon’s effect on plant life. It soothes the emotions and the mind. The sun as vayu (wind) is prana, the life force, the flow of intelligence, creativity, and the circulation of vital energy. In cultivating your Heart Fire and creating a healthy life, you work to maintain balance between these qualities of tejas (fire), ojas (moon), and prana (sun) that is the core Vedic-tantric metaphor and practice of tending the fire in an altar or in one’s spiritual or worldly life.