Richard J Marks

Heart Quality

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016). "Guiding Light", 1978. Artwork Courtesy of Rodney Hilton Brown and Bonhams (New York).


Muhammad Ali (1942-2016). “Guiding Light”, 1978. Artwork Courtesy of Rodney Hilton Brown and Bonhams (New York).

My earliest mentor on the spiritual path said “life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” I don’t have any intention of telling anyone “you need to heal.” Instead, especially since the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, a vast desire is rising across the world for our lives to be joyful. And that’s what self-healing is—our growing into higher-centered feelings.

For each and every one of us, developing what Muhammad Ali called the “heart quality” is our first response to awakening cultural change. 

The great Diana Ross discovered what many, if not most, of us did during the global lockdown: we are absolutely capable of delivering higher-centered feelings (joy, serenity and gratitude) from ourselves. The summer of 2022, at age 78, performing a one-night-only sold-out concert at Radio City Music Hall, she told how she sat out on her farm during the long COVID-19 lockdown with ample time to think about the meaning of life. What’s this all about, she wondered, with lots and lots of face moisturizer, and nowhere to go, coming up with just one answer: gratitude. Out of this, she produced her first original material since 1999. The whole world tour, with her featured title song that she wrote herself, is called Thank You. 

What is becoming valuable in everyday life? Being based in the heart. Sharing our divine spark openly and safely, is useful in the world. The words ‘heart quality’ and ‘divine’ are interchangeable. In all societies, faiths, and religions, they are synonymous with people’s direct experience of the ‘divine’ within and around us. That is, by whatever name we use, there are three things we can explore together in developing heart quality. 

First, we are all capable of seeing things differently. Choosing freedom means programming ourselves rather than be programmed by outside forces. This involves saying many goodbyes on the way to love. Second, we need to learn to listen. We aren’t listening enough for things that are holy and good. That third thing is joy. We need to get it moving. By getting to know ourselves and our capabilities, we become healers, one and all. 

We usually are able to unlock our higher centered feelings like joy and gratitude a lot faster when we start taking small actions. At a book talk I gave in New York City, a smart young lady asked: “How do I let go of things I don’t like … when I know I have to pay the rent, do a job, and most of my options are imposed on me?” Do both, I replied. Start writing letters to people every day, including thank-you notes; start moving into circles of people who listen, sing, play and also pause; get started with small actions, and watch things change. She discovered that it’s not true that we can’t change spiritually while feeling trapped in the real world. 

There are so many actions we can take. My spiritual actions, every single day during the pandemic when I couldn’t travel anywhere, meant bagging a lot of food, not just for the homeless, but for educated-looking, well-groomed people who found themselves without enough money to get by; officiating daily prayer – every day, twice a day, on Zoom, morning and night; singing with others, and listening how other people sing; understanding the power of writing important letters to myself, while also sending off handwritten deep apologies, sincere thanks; writing that asks us to think for ourselves helps others explore for themselves the rising change in our culture to something much more joyful.

But there’s something more, something no one sees. 

When I connect with something greater than myself is always the start of a new spiritual life for me.  When I started to work in China in 2008 on sustainability and environment, I hosted The International Earth Forum in Beijing, featured in the international news and good contribution for global greening. When it finished, I decided not to come home – not yet. I got on plane to western China, alone far into the Gobi Desert. Flying as far a distance as it is from New York to Los Angeles, to some of the world’s most sacred painted Buddhist caves begun about 2000 years ago, and then evolved over time. Miraculously, Chairman Mao and The Cultural Revolution didn’t destroy them. The energy out there in the furthest western edge of China is what I would call ‘intact.’ What was created then has not been distorted, corrupted, or plundered. I wrote about this trip in my book on spiritual healing and freedom, Rise to the Sun

The reason this experience our in the Gobi Desert was more important than a high-profile, high-stakes, media-rich event I hosted in a big city? I sought, quite simply, to have my own direct experience, a direct transmission, to find something clean and fresh and intact, by walking towards it myself. Some may call this pilgrimage. Going out to be connected directly with spirit – with the divine, with what is never lost, what lives on forever. When I say “connect with spirit” – I really mean it. Out there, many are praying that the water doesn’t dry up, that the trees will be planted, that young people will be educated to do far more than work in factories.  

Many spiritual leaders say we can turn our suffering into joy, into something useful. But if we go on with our suffering, distrusting so much, we may never get to joy. And that’s not what I want to see happen. 

I invite you to explore and reveal self-healing in yourself, and to support it in others with freedom and self-love. Freedom is taking responsibility for our relationships. Our authentic selves are self-love; we must love ourselves enough to be who we are.

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