The next step in mastering meditation involves learning to meditate in what is called the spiritual heart centre. Spiritual writings often refer to the chakras or spiritual centres in the human body. Briefly, the life-energy of the universe flows through three principal channels – called ida, pingala and sushumna. In Sanskrit these channels are known as nadis, and they exist inside our subtle physical bodies as channels of prana or life-force, operating down the left and right side of the body and in the middle of the spinal column. The three principal channels meet together at six different places and each meeting place is called a chakra. A seventh chakra exists in the brain. In his book Kundalini: The Mother Power, Sri Chinmoy gives a detailed and fascinating account of the chakras and their extraordinary powers and qualities.
The heart centre is called anahata – it is like a large room in a house where the qualities of our higher nature are found. Inner peace, oneness with others, love and compassion, wisdom, intuition, happiness are also integral qualities of the heart and the more we become a heart centred, rather than a mind centred person, the more these qualities will flow out into our life.
"The spiritual heart houses the Universal Consciousness and is very vast," Sri Chinmoy writes. "We can never touch it's boundaries because the spiritual heart embodies the vast universe that we see and at the same time it is larger and vaster than the universe. Once we go beyond the barrier of the mind and enter into the Universal Consciousness, we see everything as one and inseparable. At that time Reality is singing and dancing within us, and we become the Reality itself."
Where the mind is always busy, the heart is silence and stillness; where the mind analyses and divides, the heart harmonises, unites and feels oneness with everything; and where the mind is hesitant and doubtful, the heart is powerful and confident and knows the right thing to do.
The spiritual heart, too, is the place in our being where our 'inner pilot', our soul, is found. Thus the more silent the mind can become the more we can listen and respond to the promptings and wisdom of our soul, our truest self. The way of the heart is not an irrational jump into blind faith or whim, an abdication of reason, but simply the recognition that we have within us other faculties of knowing and knowledge beyond the mind itself.
Sri Chinmoy compares the different parts of our being – physical body, mind, vital, heart and soul – to sister or brothers in a family. We think of the mind as the elder brother or sister, but no, it is the soul that is the senior member of the family and the mind the restless and less illumined younger sister. In time the younger sister begins to listen to the older sister – the mind becomes more obedient to the heart. The light of the soul operates most powerfully through the heart and from there gradually transforms and illumines the mind as well. Thus meditation enables us to rediscover the power and beauty of the spiritual heart and of the soul in our lives and restores the balance between the mental and spiritual aspects of our being. Heart meditation is the gateway into our inner life where the patient traveller will find a new world of riches – their discovery will fundamentally change the way we live our lives.
In his book Meditation: Man Perfection in God-Satisfaction, Sri Chinmoy writes: "If you stay in the mind-room all the time with the hope of illumining it from within, you will waste your time. If I want to light a candle, I must use a flame that is already burning, already illumined. The heart-room, fortunately, is already illumined."
"The mind needs a superior power to keep it quiet. This superior power is the power of the soul. You have to bring to the fore the light of the soul from inside your heart. When you know what you want and where to find it, the sensible thing is to go to that place. Suppose you have the opportunity to work at two places. At one place you will earn $200 and at the other place $500. If you are wise you will not waste your time at the first place."
"When you meditate on the heart, not only do you get aspiration, but you also get the fulfillment of that aspiration: the soul's infinite peace, light and bliss."
Remember this key principle – the more silent the mind, the more the consciousness of the soul, like the fragance of an inner flower, can be directly felt and experienced. And then everything you do will carry the sincerity, truthfulness, power, sweetness and integrity of your truest and highest Self. Meditation sets you free of all masks and disguises to express the uniqueness of your own true nature in every moment of your life.
Exercise: A Heart Visualisation
Where concentration develops intense focus and one-pointedness of mind, the contraction of all thought down to a single point of attention, meditation is expansion from the finite to the infinite, a sense of vastness. Sri Chinmoy's imagery in describing meditation is filled with references to horizonless skies, the stillness and silence of calm seas. The mind in meditation is a calm sky, the spiritual heart is the infinite ocean.
If you find it difficult to imagine the spiritual heart, begin by imagining a small hole in the centre of your chest – the heart chakra. Imagine the breath flowing directly in and out through this centre. You may with practice begin to feel a warm sensation there.
If your mind is restless and distracting you, feel the quality of purity in your heart, the feeling of having a living shrine in the inmost recesses of your being. 'Purity' is a powerful and pivotal quality in our spiritual life – it connects us to our soul and to the powerful meditation energies of our heart, displacing the mundane things of the mind which otherwise capture our attention. If you invoke purity, or silently repeat the word purity and feel the presence of an inner shrine in your heart, meditation will come more easily.
- Sitting at your special place in meditation try to feel that your whole existence is nothing but heart. Feel that you are not this body, not this mind – you are only the heart. Or as a variant of this, feel that you are only the soul – like a mantra, repeat to yourself, 'I am the soul, I am the soul, I am the soul.' If it helps, imagine the soul inside the heart centre as a simple inspiring image, an ideal – a small point of light, a flower, a beautiful serene child, a small meditating yogi in deep repose. Use your own picture or ideal to feel and imagine your soul.
- Now let the image expand – the light of the soul gradually fills your being; the flower opens until you are entirely the flower and its fragrance, which is the fragrance of the soul, is everywhere; or the serenity and detachment of the yogi-self, untroubled, undisturbed by the senses, mind, wordly distractions, fills your entire being with peace. Imagery and visualizations of this type are helpful in cultivating a feeling for meditation, a sense of the sacred and of the reality of the heart and soul.
- Let's revisit the flower image of the heart and develop this meditation a little. Sri Chinmoy often talks about the heart as a flower garden, and to feel like a child in this oasis of beauty. Visualise a favourite flower deep inside your spiritual heart, one that is only partly opened. You can look at a flower on your shrine for several minutes, seeing it's every detail, then close your eyes to imagine it now inside you. Imagine that petal by petal the flower is opening and blossoming. After several more minutes feel the flower has fully opened – the flower has become your heart, your heart has become a flower.
- Hold the image of the flower-heart for several minutes more and feel that it's fragrance has permeated every part of you. Using the image of a single rose Sri Chinmoy writes: "Your body is no longer here; from your head to your feet you can feel the fragrance of the rose. If you look at your feet, immediately you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your knee, you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your hand, you experience the fragrance of a rose. Everywhere the beauty, fragrance and purity of the rose have permeated your entire body. When you feel from your head to your feet that you have become only the beauty, fragrance, purity and delight of the rose, then you are ready to place yourself at the feet of your Beloved Supreme."
- It is extraordinary to us to read the writings of spiritual masters about the heart centre – how is it that such a vast and powerful reality, a centre of such infinite capacity and consciousness, can be such an unknown to us? Sri Chinmoy refers again and again to the anahata, the heart chakra, as larger than the Universal Consciousness, a place where you can enjoy the deepest bliss of oneness, whose power can master space and time and whose ascendancy will one day bring about an age of harmony and peace on earth. If you meditate more and more in this centre you will begin to slowly experience the beauty of your own heart firsthand. More kindness, more knowledge and insight into everything, more joy in living, more peace, more of a sense that we are all part of each other; and less ego, less anxiety, less loneliness.
- Oneness, happiness, unconditional love, vastness – these are some of the qualities of the spiritual heart. Like the ripples from a stone dropped into a pool, the actions of those who live in the heart spread into the world in which they live, offering only goodwill, sympathy, peace and contentment. This is the key to world harmony – establishing the heart's peace in our own life first then offering this to the world at large. From one to many peace spreads. This is our responsibility – world peace starts with you and me!
- Opening the spiritual heart and listening to its subtle inner voice; meditating to nourish and develop our blossoming inner life; taking inspiration from the company of other seekers; reading about the lives of the great spiritual masters; exercising the physical to give it vitality, life-force and dynamism – these are some of the things we can do to establish the ascendancy of our highest qualities and to make the fastest progress.
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