I usually don’t write about things peripheral to awakening, embodiment, maturing, and healing. Mainly because it’s often a distraction. But I’ll make a few exceptions since it could be helpful for a few out there.
In my late teens and early twenties, I had a period where the Christ meditation and heart prayer were my main daily practices.
The Christ meditation is where you envision Christ 2-3 meters in front of your body, behind, on either side, above, below, and in the heart (in all six directions and the center). I usually envision Christ as a light. Rest with this visualization for as long as you want, usually from a few minutes to an hour or two. (I was pretty gung-ho and often did it for 1-2 hours at a time, mainly because it felt profoundly like coming home.)
The heart prayer is where you say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” with the breath and heartbeats. (I have given more details in other articles, and it can also be found in books and other online articles.) This is often done for dedicated periods, and also throughout the day. Over time, it becomes an ongoing prayer and it can even continue – as an intention and energetically – through the night and sleep.
Before this, I had noticed I could see auras and energies. I initially saw it around leaves of trees, and then around everyone and everything. Even nonliving things have an aura, although it’s simpler than for living beings. For people where there is a higher level of awakening, the aura becomes very subtle and extends out indefinitely. These days, I usually use it to see where spiritual teachers are at.
In the periods where I engaged in the Christ meditation and heart prayer, I noticed a light above the crown on my heart. (Yes, surprisingly enough, auras can be seen in the mirror.) And I then realized that this is exactly how the descent of the Holy Spirit is traditionally depicted, as a flame above the head. It was quite astonishing and created even more of a sense of connection with the (alive) Christian tradition and early Christians.
So, at least in my experience, what art historians and others may see as a symbolic representation may actually be meant as a literal depiction of what is going on in the aura of those with a strong connection with Christ, and which can be seen by those able to see energies and auras.
Note: This article on Women at Pentecost has several beautiful depictions of this flame. The mosaic above this article shows the flame a bit higher up than how I experienced it. It’s really touching the top of the head.
Since the paintings depict Pentecost and the disciples, it shows a group of people with this flame. And that reflects how it’s not limited to a few select people but accessible to (I assume) anyone with some sincerity and dedication, and it’s more about a community of people with shared aim and connection than separate individuals.
Note 2: When I mention the “alive Christian tradition” I mean the thread within Christianity that’s alive in a spiritual sense. Christianity as a whole is less alive in that sense but there are many exceptions.