Most of us are familiar with the expression “Light as a feather.” or “Light at heart.” We understand it to mean we aren’t worried about much, are happy and easy going. Nothing weighs us down.
This week at school a little girl said something that got me thinking. At a group time we were taking turns going around sharing answers to the question, “If you could explore anywhere or anything, what would you want to explore?” One little friend offered that he would like to explore Mars because it is dark there and he is not afraid of the dark. One child wanted to explore a tooth. Underwater exploration was popular. Soil and trees were also of interest. Then one little girl raised her hand and announced “I would like to explore love. I’ll have to cut a hole here (over her heart) to get to my heart.” A kerfuffle arose over the fact that cutting a hole in her body was not a good idea. Reminders were made that this was just “pretend”, anything is possible in our imaginations, and the discussion continued.
So, here’s what got me thinking. What is love? Where, if anywhere, does it “reside”, and why is the heart most often considered the dwelling place of love?
I’ve always been interested in the mythology of religions. Religion fascinates me because it offers a lens to look through to understand our history, ancient thought and it’s relationship to current thought and life practices. It helps us understand what mystifies us, what instills fear, as well as hope and compassion in us. It sheds light on our ideas of good and bad. It defines our sense of morality.
Many years ago I became interested in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, also referred to as the Book of Coming Forth By Day. In ancient Egypt, the Afterlife was of great importance, and one had to be certain that steps were followed in life and after death to ensure a peaceful Afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead contained the beliefs and dogma of ancient Egyptian religion in relation to death and Afterlife. The instructions were intended to guide the spirit through the various trials that would be encountered before being allowed to continue on to the Afterlife. Having the correct knowledge of, and being prepared with the appropriate spells and answers was considered essential to achieving entrance to the Afterlife.
Upon death, the soul of the person would travel to the underworld to begin the journey to the Afterlife. One of the most important parts of the journey was the weighing of the heart on the Scales of Maat. (Maat is the goddess associated with cosmic order, justice, wisdom, law, truth, balance, harmony and morality. Maat keeps the stars in movement, changes the seasons and maintains order in Heaven and and on Earth.) Here the person’s heart was weighed against the feather of Maat. The heart represented the person’s conscience; the feather represented Truth, Justice, Morality and Balance. If the scales balanced, the soul continued on to the Afterlife and The Fields of Peace.
The ancient Egyptians placed great importance and symbolism on the heart. It represented Life itself. When a person died they believed the heart had left the body. It was so important that it was the only organ allowed to remain in the body for burial.
“Do not diminish the time of following the heart;
it is abhorred of the soul,
that its time be taken away.”
The Instruction of Ptah-hotep
And so, with the ancient Egyptians upon their death….the doings of the heart were looked at and judged by the Gods. The confessions of the soul were a litany of things the person in Life had NOT done…not stolen anything, not lusted after anyone, not hated, not spoken unkindly of anyone, not killed anyone, etc. The symbolism is that the heart is NOT full of these heavy, burdensome things, but light and free from the weight of transgressions. The heart, although full, is full of light, weightless, good deeds, love and compassion.
“A man’s heart is his own Neter (Afterlife).”
Another religion, Sufism, also places great value on the doings of the heart. Sufism is regarded as the Path of Love. The Sufi is always traveling the way of Love. Always circling back to God through Love. The journey takes place in the heart. It takes place by looking inward.
“You have within you more love than you could ever understand.”
My little friend wants to explore love. Shouldn’t we all? Doesn’t it make sense, now and then, to imagine our hearts being weighed on the Scales of Maat? To see if the scales are in balance? To see if our hearts are heavy and weighted down with anger, hatred, fear, jealousy, or feather light? To check our actions towards others. To pause and journey inward as the Sufi’s do, to the Heart?
Why does love dwell in the heart? Because the heart is what gives us Life. It is the home of compassion, concern, empathy, caring, reaching out and nurturing. As such, we choose the path for the heart to travel. What’s your path? Where is your journey taking you? Is your heart heavy or light as a feather?
“You are love. You come from Love. You are made by Love. You cannot cease to Love.”
The heart, where Love resides. If you traveled inward to your heart to find love and explore it, what would you find? My little friend, I am sure, is going to have a wonderful journey. The “simple” choice to wonder about Love is a place of curiosity children naturally come from. It’s pure. Full of goodness. The ways of the Heart matter. Even the children know this.