The average resting heart rate is somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
So, if we imagine an average of 80 beats per minute, your heart will beat 4,800 times per hour.
Today it will beat 115,200 times.
In the course of a year, the heart will beat 42,048,000 times, and, if you live to be 80 years old, your heart will have beaten 3,363,840,000 times.
The heart is a muscle. It opens and closes: it expands; it contracts. 115,200 times today you will open and close the heart. This is where life comes from. It is the exercise of opening and closing.
How many times will we open today? How many times will we close? Will we feel that we move through the day from this space created by the opening? Will we feel that we move through the day from the place of the wall: to harden the arteries…to harden in one's life. Will we move from a place that is hard? Will we move from a place that is flexible?
Open and close. Open and close. Life comes from this space that is created between the openings and closings of the heart.
What makes us open? What makes us close?
Some of you are familiar with the ancient Indian creation story of the creation of the world from an egg. There was once upon a time, in the time before time, a golden egg. It floated on an ocean of waters that existed in this time before time. It moved. It opened. The top became the sky. The bottom became the earth and the space in-between became the atmospheric realm in which we all live.
Life is in the space in-between in this old Indian world. This ocean of the time before time is non-different from the oceans on the earth, or the ocean that is the sky. Of course the sky is an ocean! If the sky were not an ocean, it would not be blue! It is non-different from the ocean that is the atmosphere, the space in between. If the atmosphere were not an ocean, where would rain come from? And there is an ocean of the human heart. The heart is an ocean. Life streams through that space in between.
It is said that the space in-between the Earth and the sky is propped apart. It is propped apart by the sun. It is not the rays of the sun that prop the earth and sky apart like eyes held open by toothpicks. It is rather that the sun travels through the sky – following the pathway of the sun - moving between the heavens and the earth. It is this cyclical process of the movement along the pathway of the sun that props the earth and sky apart. It's like a racetrack: the cyclical oval of a marathon running race track or a motor car race track.
The movement of the sun through the sky: it is said to be to made possible by the Asvins. They are twin gods, horses, who pull the sun in a chariot in its pathway through the sky, propping apart the heavens and the earth to create that space in-between in which we live.
We live because of the space in-between the contractions of the heart, opening and closing. We open and there is a space for the ocean of the heart that its rivers may flow and give us life.
In the old Indian world, the ocean of the human heart is also understood as the place of origin for the hymns and songs of praise that are given as offerings: the offering streams from the heart. These songs of praise, going from the heart of the human, stream to the ocean of the heart of the gods. There is the essence of these songs of praise which says, “Please receive what it is that I have to give. Please allow me to receive what I need to be able to continue to give.” We live in this space in between, a space propped open by the cycle of giving and receiving.
This shape of the old Indian world is the world view that is the place of beginning for Hindu and Buddhist and Jain religious traditions, the religions that will grow from the Indian subcontinent.
It is therefore the basis of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain understanding of the importance of hospitality and generosity. In the Buddhist view, the giver, the receiver and the gift are one, different expressions of a same flow of life.
The ocean of the heart of the human, the ocean of the heart of the gods, the ocean that is the sky, and on the earth, and in the space in-between, the ocean that existed in the time before time: all things flow from this ocean of life and are, in essence, non-different from this ocean that is life itself, as the wave is non-different from the sea.
The rivers of life flow through the ocean of the heart because of its expanding and contracting. The heart is a muscle. What makes it expand and contract is the movement of a muscle. It takes effort. Often it is not conscious effort. Often it comes into our awareness only if, somehow, the rhythm of the openings and the closings is disturbed.
What makes us open? What makes us close? What props us open so the heart can remain open to be able to move from that place where the giver, the receiver and the gift are one? What holds us closed or cut off, separate from a river of life?
I have been asked to speak of forgiveness, and of guilt, and of how to let go. There is so much that is part of the process of the opening. There is so much of the part of the process of opening up again: closing – for as long as we are alive – is only that which permits us to open up again…next time…stronger. The heart is a muscle.
Let us begin by observing that it is the exercise of opening and closing which makes the heart resilient and strong.
We live because of the life essence that moves through our bodies in a way very similar to how the essence of life - that is depicted by water - moves through our world. In our world, this life essence was – in old India - understood to move, to be pumped, by this act of offering at the ritual place of offering - where there would be the act of giving and receiving - as the life essence moves from the ocean of the heart of the humans, to the ocean of the heart of the gods, and from the heart of the gods through this space in between that it might be received again by humans, in order that it could flow again to the gods. The giver, receiver and the gift are one, different and yet a same expression of the flow of life itself.
We give and receive with an open hand. The flow of the giving and receiving is the pump that moves this river of life which is symbolized by the pathway of this sun that flows between the heavens and the earth. It is the flow of giving and receiving which props apart the heavens and the earth in order that we have the space to live, in that space in-between, as opposed to being cut off or closed.
In alternate versions of this creation story, it is the great god Indra who has as his a weapon the thunderbolt that will divide a primordial mountain: the top becomes the sky, the bottom becomes the earth, and this space in-between is that space in which we live.
In other versions of the story that primordial mountain is symbolized by a demon whose name is Vritra. It means “to be enclosed”. The act of the hero is to create the space in which we live and to overcome an instinct for enclosure.
Our life is cut off if we feel closed off or entrapped, if there is hardening of the arteries, closing off of arteries that become congested when there is not enough space in-between.
Before exploring in other conversations how we open or how we close, let us first observe that life is the act of opening and then overcoming the act of closing: it depends on a space created between these two.
We give and receive with an open hand. Offering and receiving are like the openings and closings. Both require the space – and vulnerability – of the open hand. Offering and receiving: it is a muscle that pumps the essence of life itself through the greater world and through our internal worlds.
There are so many ways that we open our heart, and there are so many ways that that openness can be cut off, but life itself comes not from one or the other. It is the openings and closings, and the openings up again that create the space in-between, just like the space in my room is created by the presence of its opposing walls.
It is not that the heart is only always open, although they would understand that there is an essence of that ocean of the heart which existed in the time before time, the time before openings and closings, an essence of the heart which can never be closed.
It is the holy of holies inside the human heart, like the holy of holies in the most sacred spaces in our world: inside the cathedrals of medieval Europe as it is inside the sacred structures of old Egypt, as I expect it is also inside the structures of the Mayans, and as I know it is also inside the structures of the temples of India.
There is the sweetness of a space of the human heart - which is like the ocean of the time before time - which cannot be closed, but the exercise of the human experience is to find that place which is not closeable by means of the exercising of that muscle that opens and closes an average of 80 times a minute, 4,800 times per hour, 115,200 times per day, 42,048,000 times per year, and - if we live to be 80 years old - it would be 3,363,840,000 times in this human life.
We live because of a space in-between expansion and contraction which moves an essence of life itself. We learn to live in the space that cannot be closed by living through the stream that is pumped by expanding and contracting. Living is the exercise of engaging in the openings and the closings.
The heart is a muscle: it expands and contracts.
Copyright © 2018, Adela Sandness