The theme of my last article related developing the ability to lightly carry awareness of the suffering of the world, and how the traditional Tantric yogis and Lamas have accomplished this by cultivating the "heart of compassion". I postulated that it isn’t sufficient to develop the upward, ascending current of Kundalini energy; In order to truly open this heart of compassion one must also build an alignment with the descending current until a higher consciousness begins to descend, infuse and inform the heart.
Furthermore, one could say, as many great saints and masters have, that it is also not enough to transcend into the bliss realms, because true alignment with the higher spiritual consciousness will generally compel one to descend with the healing energy of the Light in order to help those who are suffering. This has long been known as a necessary step on the path of spiritual evolution. In fact, the Buddha himself pointed out that one cannot achieve enlightenment without wanting it equally as much for all others as for oneself. Thus, the return to serve is an inherent aspect of a certain advanced stage of the advancement towards enlightenment. The desire to serve others is a natural aspect and consequence of the awakening of the sense of Oneness with all life.
It has been said that there are three stages of the awakening of the heart: the basic "beginning" level of this unfolding consists of the process wherein a person begins to realize and embrace the qualities of courage and enthusiasm. This refers to the courage to be here living this life, to be involved and motivated. Beyond the survival instinct (which the yogis relegate to the first and third chakras), this initial level of heart awakening adds positive, uplifting qualities of inspiration. Like the survival instinct this impulse is essentially self oriented and directed towards the betterment of oneself.
The second stage of the awakening of the heart takes a person beyond their individual aspirations by expanding into a sense of caring and nurturing of others. Typically this caring will be directed towards family, friends, and "teammates". As it develops, the caring and nurturing becomes kindness and takes on an active aspect – in spiritual circles this is referred to as "service". Eventually, it becomes apparent that this kindness and nurturing are meant to be extended towards oneself as well. Various major religions have sought to cultivate this level of heart in their followers; e.g., Catholicism encourages followers to pray the rosary for the well being of others, much like the Buddhist "loving kindness" meditation. Many orders of monks, nuns, priests, brothers, lamas, etc. focus on developing this level. Most people would identify the feeling behind this caring as love – familial, friendship, and inherent in romantic love.
The third stage of the heart’s full opening requires a transcendent experience of Oneness and union with the Divine. Many mystics achieved this by entering into ecstatic states, sometimes seemingly by accident or by grace, or, as in the Tantric and yogic paths, by diligent practice. As mentioned above, the Tantric yogis and masters knew that opening the central channel of the chakras and pulling in spiritual Light into the descending current would compel the heart into an initiation, a radical ascension to the next level. At this level the consciousness of the heart would then include and be guided by the spiritual wisdom of the divine Light descending through the upper chakras. The result of this initiation, regardless of how the awakening transpires, is a heart that is filled with universal love and a sense of compassion. The yogis and lamas knew that compassion was the higher order of love. In addition, what emerges from this initiation is usually universal joy, bliss, and an abiding understanding of trust which results in inner peace.
I have been fascinated to discover that this model of the evolution and awakening of the heart, which typically requires many lifetimes, is very similar to the triunal brain model. This model identifies three distinct sections of the brain, each of which developed sequentially, one after the other as separate brains, as humans evolved. The most primitive brain is the reptilian, which gives humans potent survival instincts and qualities reminiscent of many reptiles. Among these qualities are some problematic impulses, such as tendencies towards aggressive behavior, violence, and conflict, and a basic global orientation towards life that is adversarial. Just as most reptiles are relentless, vicious hunters, people who live primarily from their reptilian brain are also adversarial, territorial, and militaristic.
Unfortunately, throughout modern history, many dominant leaders have been motivated by reptilian urges. The orientation of fascists and fundamentalists, those who believe force and punishment are the answer to challenges and might makes right, is reptilian. They think nothing of destroying anyone or anything that gets in their way, and human life has little value. (Remember that many species of reptiles will eat their young.) Examples are easy to find, from the most crazed like Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, or the Mafia, to the more well dressed versions, like Ken Ley of Enron, most of the inner circle of both Bush administration, and the Bushes themselves. Such righteous, militaristic thinking and war tactics seem to be more prevalent in men and subtler in women. Obviously, reptilian thinking precludes intimacy and compassion, and tends instead towards defensiveness and what Wilhelm Reich called "armoring" (chronic body tension resulting from defensiveness). It precedes the first level of awakening of the heart, and thus reptilian thinkers are seen as "heartless" or cold-hearted.
Sitting above and in front of the reptilian brain lies the mammalian brain, which evolved out of and beyond the aggressiveness. The mammalian brain allows and motivates humans to cooperate and work together. As this brain developed, humans became more tribal and began to gradually awaken the qualities of the first two levels of the heart. Nurturing, caring, kindness, empathy, and cooperation gradually evolved in humans, somewhat counterbalancing the aggressiveness and adversarial nature of the reptilian brain.
The most recent (historically) brain to develop is the cortex, frontal brain, the most advanced brain. Much has been written about how the development of the human cortex separates humans from all other species. It is the part of the brain that is said to facilitate logic, abstract, analytical and self-reflective thinking, planning, imagination, creativity, and intuition. Its nature is to seek cooperative solutions. The cortex evolved subsequent to the mammalian brain as a response to some of the mammalian limitations, just as mammals evolved beyond the primitive reptilian brain. In a human, given the proper resources and environment, each brain will develop in a predictable pattern and set of stages, and eventually all three brains will integrate, coordinate, and co-operate.
What then determines which of these three brains is dominant in a person and how well the three brains are integrated and working smoothly together? The most critical factors are related to how a child is raised, especially the time spent in the womb and the relationship of the fetus to its mother. The energetic, emotional, and psychological input from the infant’s mother can either be supportive and nurture healthy development and integration of the three brains, or her stress, fears, anxiety, and anger can actually cause significant biological damage and negatively affect brain development(!). Furthermore, at the critical stages of child development, when there are bursts of specific growth within one or more of the three brains, each child has certain chemical, physiological, energetic, emotional, and psychological needs, specific to that growth cycle. I’m referring here to the effects of pervasive, repetitive conditioning and education.
Let me add a somber note. We are now able to recognize and measure the effects of the recent decades of the political and economic influence of "heartless," reptilian, fundamentalist, fascist, adversarial, competitive, militaristic thinking among people in power, especially in the government, business, and military. The United States now has the largest prison population of any country, by far the largest military budget, arms exports greater than the next 12 countries combined, and a track record of having invaded 18 countries in the last 25 years. America has become an empire exploiting the resources of poorer countries worldwide, causing enormous suffering. Equally as shocking is the fact that the No. 3 cause of death among children ages 5-17 is suicide. More children died from suicide in the 1980’s than all the American soldiers killed in the 10 years in Vietnam. Never before, in any society in recorded history, has there ever been anything even close to the current level of child suicide now happening in the United States. Nor is there record of the tragic phenomenon of American children committing violence against other fellow children. Something is radically wrong with the education and conditioning of American children. The learning environment created by reptilian thinking and systems causes biological damage to the triunal brain, including an absence of integration and developmental completion. The damage leads to imbalanced brain chemistry, depression, schizophrenic disorders, violence, etc.
Conversely, when the environment of this education and conditioning is loving, positive, and supportive, the result will be the maturing of a healthy, "well-adjusted," creative, kind, contributing adult. In Sweden, since the government has instituted programs to support mothers staying home with their children for the first three years, both crime and the prison population have declined dramatically. The environment that fosters the proper education and conditioning of children emerges from the presence of awakened hearts. When the parents and educators have made progress in awakening the three stages of the heart, they will naturally seek to create such a supportive, healthy environment for each child, and the consequence will be this maturing of a healthy, contributing adult. The key to the full development, integration, and balance of the three brains is the supportive learning and growing environment established and maintained by the adults who are raising the children. The peaceful, harmonious societies of the past have been the ones who emphasized (each in their own way) being inspired by the qualities of the heart – courage and enthusiasm tempered by caring, nurturing, and cooperation, and guided by universal love and compassion. Only with the awakened heart leading the way, can there be hope for the positive evolution of society and humanity in general.