A friend shared a wonderful comic that had a Buddhist sitting in lotus position in front of a Zen Centre. Behind him, on the Zen Centre window, was a sign that said, “Seeking enlightenment? Inquire within.” A person on the street says to the Buddhist, “where is the door?” The Buddhist says, “No door.”
The tag line for this comic, posted by someone on Facebook was, “the way in is through your heart xx.”
I love this. We somehow know that spiritual truth, the truth of Being, is associated with the heart. So why have my first blogs about meditation been so focused on the mind?
People who have had profound experiences of awakened states of consciousness will say it can be better expressed through with the heart (emotional centre) than the mind (intellectual centre).
Our job in meditation is to get our mind out of the way for a little while. This may seem strange since we may never have conceived of ourselves as anything but our body, emotions and mind. However, when we are watching our thoughts during meditation, and we notice a gap between them, we have to admit that although we’re not thinking, some part of us knows we are not thinking. We call it free consciousness. The consciousness, or what we sometimes call our Essence, is our awareness, our spark of life – a spark of the eternal Divine, you might say.
The consciousness, whether free or conditioned, uses the body, the emotions and the mind, to experience life.
During meditation, we will eventually use our free, unconditioned consciousness to perceive our thoughts, our emotions and our body. This is the part that doesn’t judge ourselves no matter whether we’re fidgety, falling asleep, mind chattery, and wanting to do something else, or alternately, glowing with joyful emotions, feeling like no time is going by, or having an epiphany. It just watches – letting all the thoughts exhaust themselves. And with the exhaustion of the thoughts, so too the associated negative emotions, such as worry, resentment, or envy. An end of the parade of “stinkin’ thinkin’, as a dear friend calls it.
When, through persistent regular meditation, we eventually have a moment of non-thinking (no thought pre-occupying us, or pulling us away from the practice of being in the moment), we will feel a sense of serenity. It might feel like joy or perhaps gratitude. It’s a positive emotion that doesn’t have any strings attached. It’s not because of anyone or anything. It’s a joy of life itself. Joie de vie, as they say. We feel this in our heart. It’s not a thought.
Devotional exercises like prayer, singing, mantralising, or chanting; communing with nature; or expressing love, gratitude, compassion or forgiveness, activate the emotional centre, usually in a positive way. Our awareness is focused on the emotional centre. We don’t need words or complex thoughts or analysis to have the emotional experience. This can be highly convenient for mind quieting. We’ll provide some tools for activating the emotional centre in due time. Some may prefer this method to counting the breath.
Whatever method we use to extract our awareness from the trap of habitual, on-going, repetitive, reactionary thoughts and negative emotions, is worthwhile – because it gives way to mental and emotional freedom as well as peace, perspective and clarity. In a free state of Being, we’ll feel joy, bliss, happiness, or whatever you want to call it, in our heart. This state of consciousness allows us to experience a feeling of connectedness and wholeness. Not a bad feeling.
So when someone says, “follow your heart,” they are likely, even if they don’t realise it, referring to this free consciousness that we all have. We call it the Essence. If we follow the Essence we are likely to act from love and wisdom, for ourselves and for others.
To your inner peace,