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The heart of transformation

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The heart of transformation

Kamlesh D Patel and Joshua Pollock’s The Heartfulness Way: Heart-Based Meditations for Spiritual Transformation teaches one to do everyday activities mindfully. An excerpt:

I have found that new aspirants are often nervous about trying meditation,’ I said. ‘They think they will have trouble handling their thoughts.’ ‘Many say that the mind’s nature is to be restless,’ said Daaji. ‘They say that its natural state is one of disturbance. I disagree. In fact, I would like to dispel that notion.’ ‘Why is the idea of difficulty so entrenched?’ I asked him. ‘Many established teachers have espoused this view,’ said Daaji. ‘In my opinion, they perform a disservice to the cause. If you believe the mind to be inherently unstable, it becomes your enemy. And what do you do with enemies?’ ‘You fight them,’ I answered. ‘And so meditation becomes a battle,’ he said. ‘It becomes an exercise in suppressing the mind. But tell me, have your thoughts and emotions ever prevented you from enjoying a good film?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘And why not?’ he pressed.

‘A film draws your attention,’ I said. ‘Then, you don’t notice such things.’

‘Exactly,’ said Daaji. ‘When something draws your attention and holds it there, you become unmindful of unwanted thoughts. You only need to give your mind something to sink its teeth into-something really absorbing. Then you will observe just how naturally it stabilizes, how effortlessly it focuses. You see, we do not suffer from an inability to focus. We focus effortlessly upon our interests. But can we choose our interests? It seems that certain objects simply appeal to us more than others. The reason is the impressions that we carry in our consciousness-but we will explore that topic later. Anyway, when something appeals to you, you become almost enraptured. You are totally focused. It is only when an object does not interest you that you must make efforts to concentrate.

‘For instance, what happens when you read a book on a subject that does not speak to your heart? Your mind wanders every second sentence, right? Eventually, you realize that you have no idea what you have just read. You scan back in the text until things start to look familiar. To finish the book, you really have to concentrate!’

‘Interest succeeds where force does not,’ I said.

‘Right,’ said Daaji. ‘Without interest, any activity becomes a drag. Unless the mind finds an idea attractive, it is averse to stay on that topic. It would rather focus on something else.’

‘Concentration and focus are not the same thing, are they?’ I remarked.

‘True focus is effortless,’ he replied. ‘It happens naturally. It is only when it doesn’t happen on its own that we have to make efforts. That is what concentration is-the attempt to focus.

‘We define meditation as thinking about one thing continuously. Therefore, many people mistake it for concentration. But meditation is not concentration. Concentration is forceful, while meditation is effortless, involving no force at all.

‘In concentration, you have to marshal your mind. You focus on a single idea to the exclusion of all the other ideas that you would prefer to be thinking about! The more deeply you concentrate, the more exclusive your awareness becomes. At its highest pitch, your entire awareness focuses on a single point, excluding all else.

‘This requires effort! It is not easy to arrest the flow of thoughts. The mind has a natural momentum. It wants to go in a certain direction, but you are forcing it to go elsewhere. It is like trying to divert a rushing river. Even if you do manage to wrestle your mind into submission, you then have to hold it there! The moment you relax your efforts, it bounces back, like a tightly coiled spring. How long can you maintain such intensity of effort? And can meditation be relaxing or peaceful when we are applying so much effort to concentrate? So let us forget about concentration. For worldly matters, it may be necessary, but it fails entirely in the spiritual realm.’

‘But we define meditation as a state of focus,’ I said.

‘Effortless focus,’ Daaji corrected. ‘In such a state, your mind naturally settles on one thought. This happens by itself, when an object is able to attract and hold your attention. When your attention is thus harnessed, you are in a state known as absorption. That is another word for the meditative state of mind.

‘So the object of meditation is extremely important,’ I commented.

‘Yes, the object also determines the effect that our meditation will have upon us,’ he said. ‘For instance, whether you drink water or whiskey, the act of drinking is the same. The effect is only different because the object is different. Similarly, no matter which object you meditate upon, the act of meditation is the same. It’s just that different objects lead to different outcomes. A limited object produces a limited effect. What sort of effect would an unlimited object produce? The idea baffles the mind, but it does not baffle the heart. The heart is intuitive. It does not share the mind’s many limitations.’

‘What is the unlimited object?’ I asked.

‘The Source,’ said Daaji. ‘It is Divinity itself-the original wellspring. To seek Divinity with the mind is to seek it externally. Then, it becomes too cerebral, too abstract. If we try to concentrate, we find nothing upon which to concentrate. If we try to grasp it, it eludes us. It is something that must be found within. When its refreshing breeze first reaches us, it comes through feeling.

‘Thinking is narrow, but feeling is broad. It is holistic. It encompasses thinking, but it is beyond thinking. It encompasses all our faculties, but it is beyond them, too. Through feeling, deeper truths are revealed. Divinity cannot be known, you see, but its presence can be felt.

‘And can you feel that presence with your liver or in your heels? Can you feel it with your shoulders or your elbows? The heart is the organ of feeling, and so it is with the heart that we feel it. Therefore, the heart is where we must seek it, and this is why we meditate upon the heart. Here ends our journey in the realm of knowledge, concepts, and forms.’




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