The other day I finished reading Richard Rohr's latest book, Immortal Diamond. At the back he included several appendices. The one that has captured my attention is called, "Head into Heart: 'The Sacred Heart.'" In this little appendix Rohr discusses bringing our thoughts into our hearts. He talks about how important this idea was for the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and he links it to the "Sacred Heart" imagery so often found in Catholic art.
I confess, I have never given a thought to the "Sacred Heart." And though I've read the Desert Fathers and Mothers, I've never thought about prayer in exactly this way, bringing my thoughts down into my heart. Rohr says, "Next time a resentment, negativity, or irritation comes into your mind... and you want to play it out or attach to it, move that thought or person literally into your heart space because such commentaries are almost entirely lodged in your head. There, surround it with silence (which is much easier to do in the heart). There, it is surrounded with blood, which will often feel warm like coals." (p. 204) He goes on to suggest that what we do when we pray for someone is to move them into our heart space.
I have never heard this description of prayer before. I'm finding it to be a very powerful practice, though. I know that we can't "literally" move people into our hearts, but imagining moving someone into my heart is a very tender and vulnerable experience. As Rohr suggests, it is in our thoughts that we hold onto resentments, judgments, criticisms, and endless ongoing conversations. In our heart space, there is love. I can't imagine someone in my heart space and continue to be angry, frustrated, unforgiving, etc. That space is warm and accepting and so very gentle. It seems that I am not yet able to put just anyone there. But I'm hoping that with practice, I can learn to move people into that space when I'm ready and when it feels safe to do so.
Being someone who gets endlessly trapped in thinking, I am grateful for a concrete prayer practice that I think will have a powerful influence on my ability to forgive. Myself and others. Though I haven't tried it yet, I am guessing I can use this practice with my self as well as others, especially when I get caught up in the relentless self criticism in my head. Ever so gently I can imagine me in my heart, wrapped in love, just as I imagine that God holds us in God's heart. I'm not sure whether that makes any sense at all, but I will continue to try it and see what I learn.
The other night I watched the movie, E.T., for the first time in many years. E.T.'s heart space looks kind of like what I'm imagining when I put people in mine. Visuals are hard for me, so it helps. Rohr says, "Love lives and thrives in the heart space." I believe that. I'm hoping I can transform the negatives in my life by moving them down into the loving space of my heart. With God's help.