The fourth chakra, called Anahata, is deemed most important in many yoga traditions. It's the center of feeling, the source of caring, the fountain of compassion and the engine of love that drives our spiritual connection to this physical illusion. When it's open and nurtured, we feel connections and empathy towards the world. When it's closed, we feel isolated and alone.
Now, interestingly enough, I don't think too much about this particular chakra but I pay attention to it all the time. For me, it's the center of the system and the gate to processing what the other chakras are radiating. It's like a window into your current spiritual being and if you pause and listen you give yourself a chance to act instead of react. If you have a chest clenching rush of fear, you should be able to pause, sit in the emotion and analyze if your body is actually in physical danger. If you take a hit to the ego and the third chakra wilts away for a moment, you can stop and decide whether or not to take what was said or done personally and allow it to affect you. When Anahata is open, you have time to feel the connections and understand more fully the emotional content of any given situation and act accordingly rather than reacting badly.
But that's a lot of responsibility, isn't it? To consciously act rather than react? It removes the "I just wasn't thinking" excuse from the the table and you must accept that your actions have consequence especially when you act consciously. Reacting is easy and gets easier as Anahata shuts down and you lose those connections and that empathy that links you to the world.
It's those connections that make the world real. Many would argue the point but the way I see it, without Anahata, we exist, but we are not "here". With the first chakra, I can eat, run and survive. With the second chakra I can procreate. With the third chakra I can make my space and protect it. But with the fourth chakra, we connect. We plug in. We empathize and relate our base experience with the experiences of others and suddenly we are "here". We are in this reality and we are together.
So the joys and sorrows that each level of experience can bring manifests in the heart. Imagine the warm fuzzy feeling a full pantry or a full tank of gas brings. That's a first chakra glow that manifests in your chest. How about the blessed ache that the sight of a beautiful woman brings, that little knot of nervous energy that happens right behind your sternum. Second chakra chiming in. How about the chest puffing glow that you get from a compliment that feeds energy straight to the third chakra?
It all happens in the chest, in the flower of Anahata. And being open and connected allows us to be here and now and fully in the moment which is the goal of almost all the spiritual disciplines.
But let's talk about love for just a moment since most sources will take this chakra and the sense of connection, call it "love" and be done with it.
Some would call me a cynic. I think of myself as a realist. I'll answer to either tag so I don't see that it matters. But full disclosure is in order for me to state that the word "love" is over used.
It's a marketing ploy and little else. It's a word that has some crazy generalized associations that is abused by manipulators and greeting card companies to get what they want. The word has so many associations and so many levels and layers that it is very possible that no two people could give you an accurate description, much less a definition.
"But that's what makes it magical," someone will say.
No, that's what makes it useless. Words have definitions. Words have meanings. When one word has so many levels of meanings, it becomes diluted.
If someone uses the word "love", what do they mean? If you let the love flow, what is flowing? Which kind of love are we talking about? Is it the love a man feels for a woman? Well if everyone feels that for everyone, this is going to get kinky quick. How about the love a parent feels for a child? That love is crazy powerful and you don't realize how powerful until you feel it but it is very focused. How about the love for a medium rare steak and bourbon over ice? Hell, I'd marry it. But is it love? I might die for the love of a woman. I will die the love a child. I'm not that worried about a good steak served with alcohol no matter how much I love it.
But cynicism/realism aside, this comes down to a shifting point of reference and everyone stands on a different point when referring to love and that point is formed by life experiences, both past and present.
So is it possible to have a universal point of reference?
I don't know.
But I read a book on lucid dreaming once called The Lucid Dreamer: A Waking Guide for the Traveler Between Worldsand it described mystics who had seen things and understood those things as only mystics can. But when they tried to explain, they could only sit and cry because there were no words to describe just how beautifully connected everything is.
That's a pretty interesting reference point. Love is the moment where words fail.
So I guess it's alright to use the word "love" and acknowledge the degrees and shifting points of reference while realizing that language is not powerful enough to address the possibilities. But I still think "connection" is a more accurate description and the connection can be cultivated in Anahata without confusing it with marketing ploys.
And the more we cultivate, the closer we get to that moment where words cannot explain the oneness of the universe.