First, two good quotes from Hazrat Inayat Khan, and then some thoughts to build off of those:
“Man mistakes when he begins to cultivate the heart by wanting to sow the seed himself, instead of leaving the sowing to God.”
“The Sufis have learned the lesson of love, of devotion, of sympathy, and have called it the cultivation of the heart. It is known by the word suluk, which means the loving manner. What we call refined manner is only a manner behind which there is no life. When manner is directed by the heart quality then it becomes loving manner, the manner that comes from love, and all such attributes as kindness, gentleness, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy and compassion — they all spring from this loving manner. … One may ask: How to cultivate the heart quality? There is only one way: to become selfless at each step one takes forward on this path, for what prevents one from cultivating the loving quality is the thought of self.”
Now, while we can’t sow the seed of love in our hearts by ourselves, the Perfect Masters do prescribe specific instructions, a specific formula, for how to get everything ready for that. In particular, they give four directives:
- Abstain from eating animal flesh. Eating the flesh of animals hardens the heart. It weakens our ability to love, feel compassion, and be empathetic. It stunts our spiritual growth. (Even scientific studies have now linked vegetarianism to empathy.)
- Abstain from alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs cloud the mind. They cloud understanding of right and wrong. And in doing so, they also block the heart. It does not take great insight to notice this. Observe an alcoholic or pothead or crackhead if you have the opportunity, and consider the above.
- Live a moral life. While we do not necessarily have an open and loving heart even if we live a moral life, if we have an open and loving heart we are sure to live a more moral life. And simply living such a life, even if somewhat forced initially, will help our heart to develop and open, in such a way that one day we will wonder how such a life could have seemed unnatural at the beginning.
- Meditate under the directions of a Perfect Master. I imagine that numerous types of meditation help one to settle their mind, calm down, and focus — and this helps the heart to blossom. But just as not all water is clean (some can even kill) and not all food is pure (again, some can even kill rather than help us to grow), not all meditation is pure and helpful. And there is no meditation that can compare to meditation given to us from a Perfect Master. This is a key ingredient in the formula, but just as the heart cannot be cultivated by our own efforts, this gift is not given to us from our own efforts — it is a Gift of the Lord.