7 mins read.
I think we could all do with some kind of conversation between our heart-mind and our thinky head.
I remember some years back already knowing exactly what to think and do, Dharma-wise, when undergoing a break up, and even clearly understanding that I was far better off without this person. My head knew all this very well. But still my heart would yearn for him.
The heart wants what the heart wants, so I realized I needed to change at a heart level. To meditate from a deeper level of awareness, if possible, so as to overcome the deluded habit of attachment and develop wisdom wishes at a more sustainable level.
I am sort of carrying on from this article, Aligning with reality.
Head vs heart
Do you ever feel there are two of you – the wise person who sits in meditation and understands what’s really going on, and the crazy monkey-mind person who goes about their busy day getting overwhelmed by everything, sucked into the vast panoply of appearances, unknowingly driven here and there by the invisible habits of countless lives? “Deceived by grasping at things as they appear”, as it says in Essence of Vajrayana.
There can be a struggle between these inner and outer selves. After all, if there is a disconnect between our heart and our head, superficial determinations to change may be drowned out in our habit-driven distracted daily lives and personas. How long did this year’s New Year’s resolutions last, for example?! How long did this morning’s resolutions last in the hurly burly of the day?
One of my favorite quotes is in Meaningful to Behold:
You should not let your habits dominate your behavior or act as if you are sleepwalking.
We are currently controlled by our mental habits and past actions. Our habits are anchored in the mind, engrained by repetition, programming us to act and respond in certain ways, such as automatic irritation when we would much rather be patient, or automatic yearning when we would much rather be content. We probably all sense this, so what can we do about it?
Luckily, lots. There is extraordinary spiritual technology available to us.
The stillness within
Before we launch into contemplative stages of the path (Lamrim) meditations, we need to be sure we’re feeling it. Any of these 3 methods can help get us there.
- Breathing meditation
Even the simplest breathing meditation, designed to let go of scattered thoughts, brings our awareness inward. Eventually we learn to “Leave the object alone”, as my friend Gen Losang puts it.
We are a bit addicted to movement, our monkey mind jumping all over the place. All this going outwards to objects of distraction is dualistic conception – me over here, the world and all its stuff over there. It feels different already just to bring our awareness inwards to examine the mind — already we sense the space around our thoughts, how we are not our thoughts. It is very relaxing just to stay a bit stiller for a while.
The slightest experience of peace indicates that lasting peace is possible, so we identify with that. We can learn to live more and more in our heart, where we know and feel things most deeply, where true happiness is. We are connecting to our Buddha nature, which is in fact unfathomably profound, and we can sense that.
Never meditate in your head. You can’t anyway.
And at those times we can believe we are accessing a subtler or deeper level of mind because, even if we are not yet using it directly, we can still know this mind. It also really helps to recognize that our peaceful mind is mixed with the blessings of all enlightened beings, their minds, because for sure we’ll feel ourselves going deeper if we do that.
- Clarity of mind
An even more powerful method for dissolving away distractions and going deep is meditating on the clarity of the mind.
- Absorption of cessation of gross conceptual thoughts
And then we also have this wonderful meditation on accessing our subtle mind by remaining “unmoving, with a mind as impassive as wood.”
This meditation on turning our mind to wood temporarily shuts down all the deluded habits of ignorance, attachment, and worry etc. going outwards. It stops the projector, so that we can meditate at a deeper level and so change at a deeper more sustainable level. We are using absorption of cessation to stop the projector of the gross mind, which is only projecting mental images that aren’t really out there.
It doesn’t seem to work to superimpose Lamrim thoughts on top of hallucinatory thoughts. We need to scrap this movie or dream altogether and start again. Every day, until it takes.
The heart wants what the heart wants
Since the heart wants what the heart wants, it is best to start each Lamrim meditation in the heart, identified with our boundless Buddha nature, ideally mixed inseparably with the blessings of our Spiritual Guide, Buddha. We can observe self-limiting habits and conditioning in the light and space of our own indestructible potential, letting them fade away like mist in sunshine.
Having dissolved away our gross over-thinky thoughts and ordinary conceptions, we can generate the new ideas and language of Lamrim, the new naming, labelling, and discrimination at a subtler level. This will then show up in our lives, as our lives. In the beginning was the word, and the word was made flesh, as my favorite line in the Bible would have it.
By the way, as mentioned in this article Start where you are, it is effective to tune into an example of whatever object it is you’re going to meditate on, eg, the love you already have inside you for a nephew or a pet. This is because we have the seeds for every single stage of the path, so we are watering these, rather than adding something that is not there.
So we do our Lamrim meditations in our heart, with a peaceful undistracted mind. On this basis we reinvent ourselves – having dissolved everything away into inner empty space, we now have a chance to start from scratch. This is because everything is empty and therefore entirely unfixed, including, and especially, ourselves.
Check out this excellent guest article, The Meditation Game Changer, for more on that.
Moreover, we need to identify deeply with these new understandings and determinations, believing “I am a being of boundless potential who has a precious human life,” to take the first Lamrim meditation as an example. This wisdom discrimination will bring about very different actions and results in our daily life, don’t you think?, than the deluded discrimination that we cannot change, “I am pathetic. I can’t help even the people I want to help, and my life is going nowhere.” We might feel guilty or doomed, like we’re a total loser who is wasting this precious opportunity … instead of inspired, feeling that we are the luckiest person alive.
We don’t use the word “subconscious” in Buddhism, but, if we did, I think this would be what I’d be talking about, changing at a subtler level.
I like to practice Lamrim in this way, in the light of our boundless potential that is part and parcel of our increasingly blissful levels of mind. (You can learn all about how to identify and realize the three levels of mind in Mahamudra Tantra.)
This is part of the union of Sutra and Tantra that is the hallmark of the Kadampa tradition. We are basically going with the deepening heart bliss (taught in Tantra) on the one hand and the infinite possibilities of the wisdom realizing emptiness (taught in Sutra) on the other – thereby rebooting and completely transforming our reality from a samsara of suffering, ordinariness, and fixed existence into a Pure Land of bliss and the endless possibilities of emptiness.
As it says in Request to the Lord of all Lineages:
Through enjoying great bliss and the emptiness of all phenomena I have pacified all ordinary appearances and conceptions,
And thus I have accomplished the real meaning of human life.
We are waking up so that we can wake everyone else up as well.
And, one last thing for Tantric practitioners …
In Highest Yoga Tantra completion stage, just so you know, we are aiming to get the energy winds from the left and right channels into the central channel for a completely blissful non-dual experience of the mind and its objects – that gap between them vanishes because it is an optical illusion of the ignorance that rides upon impure winds. With this manifest very subtle mind mounted on pure wisdom winds, we are finished with the powerlessness of confusion. An explanation of how to do this is given in The Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra.
Over to you. How do you keep your meditation determinations, or practical plans to apply the teachings, alive and well in your busy life?
The most important journey of our life
“… get the energy winds from the left and right channels into the central channel for a completely blissful non-dual experience of the mind and its objects – that gap between them vanishes because it is an optical illusion of the ignorance that rides upon impure winds. With this manifest very subtle mind mounted on pure wisdom winds, we are finished with the powerlessness of confusion.” BAM! Gorgeous explanation of this most profound experience. Makes me want to go there!
Luna you are a treasure.
Hi Luna, thank you for this article. Exactly what I needed ; very inspiring. I will try to engage and practice in this way now. I am trying with my Kadampa spiritual guide and teacher’s beautiful helps to develop both a strong desire to practice and a strong determination which I guess makes the joy and day to day engagement to practice come by in my mind more and more often? Learning little bit by little bit 😉
I’m really happy this is helpful for you 😀