8.5 mins read
Do you ever find yourself attempting to fit all the jigsaw pieces of life together to make a perfect picture, the one they promised on the box, only to discover (yet again) that life is not remotely neat or tidy, much less perfect? Moreover, our outwardly-oriented desires are constantly bringing us into conflict with others, who have different ideas of which pieces should be placed first or go where, or — more often than not — have a different picture on the box!
On the other hand, when we drop from our head into our heart and experience some depth and peace, we can feel our inner energy winds starting to draw inwards, toward our heart, instead of flowing outwards. If we pay attention, we can actually feel some absorption or gathering of winds taking place (a bit like water absorbing into a sponge, or waves gathering or sucking back into the ocean).
Why do we need to know this? Because, bottom line, we could all do with more inner peace.
Check this out for a moment: Where do you feel peaceful? Is it in your head? Where do you feel things most deeply? Is that in your head?
No, it all happens in our heart. Everyone knows this really (even those who insist the mind is the brain); which is why ❤️ is the universally understood symbol for love.
We immediately start to feel less of a gap between “in here and out there” – and more peaceful. There is less of a pull toward sorting out everything and everyone “outside” and a deepening feeling of being sorted out already inside.
How do I do this???
The question on your lips now may be, “Okaaay, I sort of get it, but I am so used to being in my head! Do you have any useful tips for dropping into my heart?!”
Yes, I do, actually. One is feeling that our awareness at our head is like a dense drop of water that falls into a clear ocean-like awareness at our heart. Another is to imagine descending in an elevator.
Spending a few minutes turning the mind to wood, as described in this recent article, is another really good way to be heart-centered.
Mantra recitation and/or focusing on a seed letter at our heart is always very helpful.
And what I probably find most effective is to start all my meditations by dissolving a trusted holy being into my heart. He or she comes to our crown, facing the way we face; and then his body of wisdom light diminishes to the size of a thumb and he enters our crown, gradually sliding down to our heart. (If we want more detail on that, we can imagine that he descends through our central channel — like a drop of dew rolling down a blade of grass). We go with him, feeling this powerful holy being at our heart, and even feeling our mind mixing with his mind like water mixing with water.
Aligning with reality
Abiding in our heart, we come to rely less on the push and the pull of aversion and attachment, resting beyond the fray in the space of our own peaceful mind.
Gradually we come to understand that there is in fact no “out there” or, for that matter, “in here”. Our dualistic appearances subside and we come to experience how everything is the same nature as our mind. There is no gap between subject mind and object things, like a reflection held in a lake is inseparable from it, unextractable. Where the reflecting lake goes, the reflection goes, and vice versa.
Moreover, we can also come to observe and realize that everything is the same nature as not just an ordinary mind but as the bliss and emptiness of enlightened mind. Enlightenment is, after all, reality. Reality is enlightenment.
In Tantra we can learn not only to recognize and experience the infinite bliss and emptiness of enlightenment, but to identify ourselves with it, thinking “This is me”, Buddha Heruka. Even more profoundly, we can learn to impute or label ourselves on the infinite bliss and emptiness of our Spiritual Guide’s enlightenment, Guru Heruka, mixing our mind with his.
The self or ego that we normally perceive, on the other hand, is conflated with a contaminated or inherently existent body and mind, aka a sore meaty body and a deluded mind. For example, when our body is sick, we think “I am sick!” And when our thoughts are irritated, we think “I am irritated!” No wonder we feel bad a lot, but it is pointless because, in fact, we are neither our body nor our mind.
Here is a brilliant quote from Kadam Morten Clausen, when he led a six-week retreat early this year at the new Arizona International Kadampa Retreat Center near the Grand Canyon:
Abiding in correct self-identification in alignment with reality is an essential part of our practice. We need to get to the point where we WANT TO BE Buddha Heruka—shining, instead of hiding and hoping no one notices how much pain we’re in.
Where is my real, limited, painful self?
This self that we normally perceive — that concrete, limited, often painful self — is just the object of an idea, a really stupid idea at that, made up by our self-grasping ignorance. However, relating to it as if it actually exists makes us want stuff for it all the time and to constantly try to push its problems away with aversion.
Our Me or I cannot be found anywhere in the body or the mind – when we go looking for it, it disappears like a mirage, as explained in detail here.
So although we normally perceive it, upon analysis we can never find a self that exists from its own side, concretely, in and of itself.
To give you a bit more sense of what I’m talking about, here’s an example. I was looking at Denver recently from a great distance, being as I was up a big mountain. Someone standing a few feet away from me pointed for their friend, “There’s the city.”
But where exactly? I could see even with my eye awareness that none of the buildings in the distance was a city – each one was not a city, was not Denver, whatever we imagine Denver to be. We cannot find an actual Denver in any one of those buildings; it could never fit.
If we have a clear idea of what we think Denver is, we should then spend some time letting it sink in how each building is NOT Denver, because Denver for a start couldn’t fit in each building and there is far more to Denver than one building.
If we do take the time to let this sink in, then when we look at the collection of buildings we can see clearly that it is just a bunch of things that are not Denver — non-Denvers.
So what is Denver? Just a name or label that we are smearing over those buildings, like mayonnaise or something. Denver is mere name, mere label, mere appearance, as explained more in this forest example. If we try to find something behind that label, we can’t. Denver disappears upon analysis, which means that it’s not really there, which means that it exists entirely in dependence upon thought/conceptual imputation/projection.
And since our thoughts are free and we are able to choose how we impute or think, we are free to impute or think something new and different, such as Heruka’s blissful mandala, and that will function for us. This is called correct imagination.
This is true of EVERYTHING. Nothing exists concretely, findable, from its own side. Everything depends on mere name. Including me. Including you.
Look, even this kitten has figured out that everything is mere name and so there’s no real problem …
Living from our heart
Some of you know all this, so for you (and me) all I’m doing here is encouraging us to be a bit more direct and to go for it. We can stop approaching Dharma from a timid place. We don’t need to keep being intimidated by our ordinary suffering deluded self – instead, whenever it appears to us, it can simply be a reminder that it doesn’t exist!
We can be very happy in the fact that our ordinary suffering limited self doesn’t exist, so nor do any of its neuroses or issues — which is by far and away the best thing about them. This leaves us free to relate to ourselves as a being with boundless potential instead. And I mean from the get-go.
After all, the inherently existent self doesn’t exist so it has no hope of changing or attaining enlightenment, so what is the point of even attempting to meditate from its perspective?
Therefore, before we do anything else by way of meditation practice, we can take a few minutes to dissolve this self away by realizing it cannot be found anywhere. Then we can start by already being who we want to be and who we need to be for our own and others’ sake, meditating from that perspective, bringing that result into the path. And we need to do it today, before ordinary appearances and conceptions close back in again, and because there is (literally) no time like the present.
For those of you who are newer to meditation and Buddhism, I’d just like to encourage you to get into good habits from the start – in particular, before you do anything else, by dropping into your heart to sense some depth and peace, and letting this remind you that you’re actually a being of boundless potential. Be confident in these methods you’re learning because they are not incremental but revolutionary, and can work very fast if you go about them the right way.
Over to you. Feedback and questions welcome.