“How do I know what is right?!?” In a world of conflicting messages, this question is very real. We are often told in response, “follow your heart”. This is a legitimate response, in which there is wisdom. It is helpful, however, to articulate what this means in the fullest and deepest sense.
The “heart center”, an expression often used in Yogic circles, is what? Is it my inner world of feelings? Is it my ability to imagine? What exactly is it? I will dare to say that it is neither of these. As human beings, we are, of course, an organic whole, and so everything in us is connected: feelings to imagination to body to mind… But, distinctions do help, so to see more clearly.
St. Thomas Aquinas, +1274 (whom I have been known to quote!), defines love in the following way, and therein articulates what the “heart center” is: “To love someone is nothing else than to will good to that person” (Summa Theologica Ia Q. 20 art. 2 corpus). Our “heart center” is our will, the incredible capacity that we have interiorly to move ourselves, by choice, towards another person, beyond what we feel or imagine. This means, of course, that we can always love. With certain individuals, we may emotionally experience an aversion (an intense movement away—which we traditionally call “hatred”), but we still retain some measure of freedom to “will good to that person”. If we do this, we are on the right track.
Add to this, the work of the Holy Spirit in us, who respectfully and mysteriously inserts Him/Herself at this level (“that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God”—Romans 8:16). The Holy Spirit sustains our “heart center” in ways we know not, enabling us to respond whole-heartedly to St. Paul’s exhortation (today’s second reading: Romans 13): “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.
With you, beseeching the Holy Spirit,