This wonderful practice is one of the treasures of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The adept who taught it to me in Ladakh told me: "I wish I could teach it to everyone on the earth! It would save hundreds of millions of lives! As a Tibetan who lived through the fall and destruction of my country and has had to endure exile, my life has been filled with various kinds of ordeal. This practice has never failed to lift my heart and strengthen my will."

My Tibetan friend's enthusiasm delighted and infected me, and I began to do the heart practice very seriously that I now give. I had thought his claims for it exaggerated; when I came to practice it during my own times of ordeal, however, I found that its power to sustain and infuse me with hope was extraordinary." . . .

Begin the practice by imagining yourself in a landscape you associate with peace and joy. The Tibetan who taught me this heart exercise used to stress how important it was to imagine yourself in a place that was already linked in your mind to happiness. . . .

Choose, then , a place where you have felt close to God and your heart's own truest joy, and imagine yourself sitting quietly and peacefully in it. Allow the full beauty of the place to penetrate and inspire your every sense. Recall its scents and colors, its light, the contours of its perfection. Remember as richly and comprehensively as you can exactly how that place you have chosen made you feel when you were actually in it, how full of hope and gratitude. Allow the inner security you once felt in the place to infuse your whole being.

When you are beginning to feel the charm of the place you have chosen start to work deeply upon you, imagine and invoke in a cloudless and brilliant blue sky in front of you that representation of the Divine that most moves you and with whom you feel most identified. This figure could be Jesus or the Buddha, Mary or Kali or Tara. The name and form of the divine being you choose is not as important as your deep love for him or her and your faith in his or her truth, power, goodness, and unconditional love for you. If for some reason you cannot or do not want to imagine any one divine form in this context, don't worry; invoke the Divine as a sun or blazing star or as a cloud of light. Whatever form or image you invoke, make sure that you do so as vividly as possible and that you feel with your inmost being that through whatever form or image you have chosen the Divine is appearing just for you to show you the boundless love it has for you.

I find that it helps considerably at this moment to start to pray tenderly to whatever figure I have chosen. I find the simplest prayers work the best. I usually say something like "Thank you, my Beloved, for coming to me, for appearing to me when I asked you to. I am deeply and finally grateful. Open to me the treasure house of your heart, make me alive in truth and love."

When your heart is completely open to the figure in the sky in front of you, start to speak inwardly to him or her. Speak without shame or fear, as if to your parent or closest friend or brother or sister. Don't edit your words or try to make them startling or eloquent; the divine figure in front of you knows already what is in your heart and wants you only to express yourself as honestly as possible. Speak out of the depths of whatever you are going through at the moment; don’t try to conceal any of the darkness of what you might be enduring. . . . It is essential that you pour out whatever is in you in a sacred atmosphere and before the One who you know loves you with unconditional tenderness and wants only your full growth and healing. . . .

Speak, then, with total sincerity to the figure you have invoked to the sky in front of you about whatever is worrying you and whatever you feel you need help with. Imagine now that as you speak, the image or form you have chosen to represent the Divine begins to emit strongly a stream of radiant white light. Know that this divine light has infinite transforming and healing power and cannot be stopped in its effectiveness by any obstacles whatever. Know this, believe this with profound faith, and pray passionately to this light to enter you and posses you and infuse you and purify you of all blocks, difficulties, karmic obstacles, all illness of soul or body.

As you pray, the form or image in front of you becomes more and more brilliant with light. Now the light enters you through the top of your head, and pours in pulsing, warm, sweet, blissful waves down the full length of your body, Let the divine light wash you completely. Keep calling out for help and guidance for whatever difficulty you wish to resolve or torment you long to heal. The light will go on getting brighter and brighter as you go on trusting it enough to call out to it and soon wll be falling in great cataracts of power through your body. Each time the light pours through you in this vast wave of blessing, offer up to it one more grief or worry or dark impulse for healing and transformation.

As the peace and solace this practice is bringing you deepen, allow yourself to relax as completely as you can into the bliss and protection of the Divine Presence. Allow yourself to feel how deeply and precisely you are loved.

As you feel yourself melting away more and more in the presence of the form or image you have chosen, imagine that you leave the ground where you are sitting and "float up" quietly to where the figure or image you have chosen is standing in the sky. Now embrace the presence or image. If you have chosen Christ or Mary or the Buddha as your divine form, for example, imagine that you rest against his or her breast in a simple and naked embrace, and rest in its peace.

When you feel yourself returning to ordinary consciousness, don't do anything hurriedly. Try to allow whatever you have to do after the practice to be permeated by the ease it has given you. As you begin to go about your life, say a prayer for all suffering beings everywhere and wish them healing and sacred joy and the knowledge that you have been given of the unconditional love and support of God.

In your practice period you should allow the whole exercise to unfold gradually. During the day, however, you can use a shortened version of it to remind yourself constantly of divine help and guidance. The more seriously you practice the "long" version, the easier it will become to transport yourself immediately into this heart exercise's sacred atmosphere. Nowadays I find myself using this exercise all the time — when walking to shopping, or waiting for a telephone call, even during the commercials on TV or in the bath. Through it I try to keep in constant ordinary contact with the Divine, constantly open to the Presence in all activities and states of mind.

Andrew Harvey in The Direct Path