Beliefnet
It's no wonder that we celebrate the power of the heart on Valentine's Day. The heart is truly a mystical gateway, the seat of the soul.

On Valentine's Day we revel in the beauty of romantic love, with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, cards, ruby red roses, and candle-lit dinners for two. Yet mystics and saints tell us that this love is just a taste of the divine love that we can find in our own hearts. A Hindu saint once summed it up: "The heart is the hub of all sacred places," he commanded. "Go there and roam."

In every religion the heart is celebrated as precious and magical, a place of harmony, compassion, love, and healing. In Catholic art, Jesus Christ is often shown with a heart so illuminated it is on fire. In Sanskrit writings, the blazing light of the heart is said to be so great it can burn away all impurities. In the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, the light associated with the heart, tiferet, is at the very center of the tree of life. It is where everything comes into perfect balance.

In the East the heart is considered to be the seat of consciousness. After all, it is when we strip away the chatter of the mind that we can live in the wisdom of the heart. The Tibetan mantra om mani padme hum means, in translation, "The jewel of consciousness is in the heart's lotus." And the Chinese word for heart, xin, means both "heart" and "mind." In acupuncture, the heart is viewed as the seat of the spirit.

Since I first began exploring this mystical terrain, I have been continually awed and inspired by the power of our hearts. I used to think romantic love was the apex of it all. Romantic love is stunning, of course. But the deeper I delved into the heart, the more I learned that love can be transcendent. I found that the love in our hearts can shine the way the sun shines--on everything and everyone and at all times. The love we feel for our beloved and our children and family members can be brought to everything and everyone.

For me, a deeper understanding of the heart began when I started to investigate spiritual healing. I watched as healers laid hands on people and caused profound changes and insights. Naturally, I wanted to know how that could possibly happen. Being a diligent, persistent reporter back then, I asked every healer I interviewed: "How does healing work?" They would often answer. "Through love. It's love that heals."

I always wanted to say: "Yes. Yes. But how does healing really work?" Their answer didn't make too much sense to me. I thought of myself as a loving person. But I knew that if I laid hands on another person, not much would happen. For a long time, I was completely baffled by the healings that I witnessed.

Then I began to have experiences of a more subtle realm than the physical. I discovered that I could shift the rhythm of my heart just by shifting my thoughts and focus. When I did, the whole world changed. At first, this seemed to happen by accident. One of the first times I noticed it happening, I was at a writers' conference. I was in a room, trying to sleep, listening to two people chatting outside, four floors below. The longer they talked, the more enraged I got. Finally I decided to meditate to pass the time.

At some point, I realized I had expanded so much I was present with the people talking outside. I no longer wanted to kill them. I felt only a sense of presence. I was everywhere, radiant. It felt great. I realized that the man doing most of the talking felt lonely. He was just trying to fill himself up. I felt so much love and compassion for him. Our hearts touched. Then he and his friend were saying goodnight. He finally got the connection he needed-from me!

Later I began to experiment more consciously. One of the most vivid experiences occurred in an electronics store, of all places. I went to return an alarm clock and, lucky me, ended up with a very unpleasant sales clerk who seemed intent on giving me a hard time. My first impulse was to be nasty right back. The situation began to escalate. Then I decided to try connecting to my heart center. I didn't know if anything would happen or, at that point, if the energy in my heart was really "real," but immediately, as if by magic, the sales clerk's mood shifted and she became very pleasant and helpful. It was as if I had flipped a light switch. I was amazed to see my inner state reflected so quickly on the outside, and in another person.

You can turn to the energy of your heart just as easily. All you have to do is imagine a radiant white light in your heart. You can even imagine the light in your heart connecting to the light in another person's heart, whether you are in the room with this person or in another part of the country. You will probably see some kind of effect. Don't worry if you don't see the light; just trust that it's there. You can do this to enhance a loving relationship or even to create more harmony and a higher flow in a difficult situation. The more you do it, without pushing or trying for a result, the more harmony and ease you will begin to notice.

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