February is the time of year when we celebrate love. While Valentine’s Day is commonly focused on the more traditional definition of love- specifically the courting phase of a romantic relationship- all those heart-shaped decorations can serve as a timely reminder about the importance of cultivating heart-based energy. Love is an energy that takes on many different expressions. Just as a prism reveals that white light consists of every color of the rainbow, so the energy of love takes on a multitude of forms. From charitable love to familial love to romantic love to Divine love... it’s all love! It all stems from a common place: the heart center. So, how can we get more of this heart-based energy flowing in our everyday lives?
To begin with, we have to figure out how to love ourselves. For many years I confused the concept of self-love with that of vanity. I thought that loving myself meant that I had to spend time gazing into the mirror, enamored by my own reflection. I’ve since discovered that loving myself really means nurturing myself. Self-love means taking care of my body by eating nourishing food. It means taking the time to stretch and breathe and receive healing bodywork. It means spending time in stillness, to quiet the mind, and spending time in nature, to revitalize the spirit.
Self-love is also about recognizing that ‘love’ is a force of energy that runs through the fabric of all creation. Love is fundamentally who we are at our very core. Ultimately, love is what this whole universe is an expression of. So, to experience the blossoming of love in your heart right now, you simply need to get out of your own way. There’s really no need for fancy temples or long, complicated rituals in order to access this fundamental truth: that your body is the real temple. The Divine experience takes place here and now, in this lifetime, inside this body, radiating through this heart.
The experience of love is an embodied experience because it takes having a body to experience it. The whole point of having a spiritual practice is to fine-tune your body and mind so that you can more easily access the flow of heart-based energy in your being. All you really need to do to experience this flow of love inside is to cease your internal resistance to it. You can do this anytime you like by taking a really big breath in and then completely relaxing any tension and resistance inside your chest as you breathe out.
If it doesn’t work the first time, try it again and again until your heart feels open and your chest feels warm and light. This heart-based energy is always there, ready to flow through you whenever you need it. All you have to do is remember to check in regularly throughout the day and make sure that your central channel is clear and tension free. To keep this channel clear, imagine a hollow tube running up and down your spinal column, connecting the top of your head with the tip of your tailbone. By releasing tension in your heart, you are unclogging this central energy channel, allowing heart-based energy to flow up and down your spine and to gently spread from your chest throughout your whole body.
Once the energy starts flowing, it's up to you where you decide to focus it. It's kind of like when you unkink a garden hose and the water starts flowing out- now you have to figure out where to aim the spray. Don't worry about making the wrong decision when it comes to expressing love. As I said in the beginning, there are infinite ways in which the energy of love can be expressed. As long as you are taking actions with an open heart, you really can’t go wrong.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.