#2027 - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - Editor: Jerry
- #2027 - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - Editor: Jerry
Finding Balance Within: Purifying the Heart
There is a center in the body where love and spirit are joined, and that center is the heart. It is your heart that aches or swells with love, that feels compassion and trust, that seems empty or full. Within the heart is a subtler center that experiences spirit, but spirit is not felt as an emotion or physical sensation. How, then, can you contact it? According to the masters, spirit is experienced first as the absence of what is not spirit.
In India this is described as Netti, netti, which means, “Not this, not that.”
Spirit is not caused; it is not bound by time and space; it is not a sensation that can be seen, touched, heard, tasted, or smelled. This may seem like a baffling way to define something, but imagine that you had never seen the color white, that the whole world consisted of red, green, blue, and all the other hues. Then one day a master came to you and said, “if you wash this enough times, you will see that it is white.” If you ask to see white before you wash the shirt, what you ask is impossible. Black is the sum of all colors, and only if you wash them all away will light appear. In the same way your present life is one of sensations, not just colors but all of the stimulus that comes through the senses. Some of these sensations may be very pleasurable, but none of them is adequate to tell you what spirit is. Spirit lies beneath the layers of sensations. To experience it you must go to the heart and meditate upon it until everything that obscures spirit is cleansed.
The purpose of the following exercise is to give you the experience of making your heart pure enough to witness spirit. Pure here doesn’t mean good and virtuous; it means free from impurity, with no value judgment intended. In the words of William Blake, we are cleansing the doors of perception.
Meditating on the Heart
Sit comfortably in a quiet room by yourself, choosing a time when you feel settled and unhurried. Early morning is best, since your mind will be alert and fresh; try to avoid late evening, when your awareness is preparing for sleep. Close your eyes and focus your attention on the middle of your chest, where your heart is.
Be aware of your heart as a space. Don’t try to hear your heartbeat or any other sound you think a heart makes as it pumps blood. The heart center you want to find is a point of awareness where feelings enter. In its pure form it is empty, pervaded by weightlessness, absence of care, peace, and a subtle light. This light may appear as white, gold, pale pink, or blue. But again, don’t strain to find light of any kind. You are not trying to sense the purity of the heart center right now; all you need to feel is whatever is there right now.
Letting your attention rest easily there, breathe gently and sense your breath going into your heart center. Here you may want to visualize a soft pastel light or a coolness pervading the chest. Let the breath go in and out, and as it does, ask your heart to speak to you. Don’t phrase this as an order; just have the faint intention that you want your heart to express itself. For the next five or ten minutes, sit and listen. Your heart will begin to release emotions, memories, wishes, fears, and dreams long stored there, and as it does you may immediately get a strong flash of emotion, positive or negative, or your breathing may change. You might gasp or sigh. Let the experience be what it will be. If you daydream or drift off into sleep, don’t worry. Just bring your attention back to your heart center. Whether it speaks to you in sadness or in fear, delight or pleasure, its message is equally beneficial.
Paying attention to your heart is the object of this meditation.
You will notice as you continue this exercise that three components of inner balance naturally come together: meditation, purification, and attention. You are learning to be with your heart in order to heed its spiritual meaning—this is meditation. You are letting repressed material come up to be released—this is purification. You are listening to your heart without judgment or manipulation—this is attention. Because this process is like washing a shirt to reveal its whiteness, be patient as you explore the inner spaces of your heart and seek balance in each moment.
Twice each year, at Seduction of Spirit, I teach the heart sutras -- advanced meditation techniques to help you re-connect with your deepest emotions and begin a healing process. Once you learn these sutras, reaching into your heart to balance yourself can become a part of your daily ritual. Each day, as you open your heart, you will feel its light, love, and guidance.
The problem with high tech is that it tends to impede spiritual growth. No doubt, superhighways facilitate speed. But speed is basically injurious to the spirit. We need time to pray, to meditate. And a mad rush is not likely to yield any spiritual benefit.
Probably the most serious shortcoming of the Net is its divorce from nature, as it means a divorce from the body, which is our primary anchor to reality as also to spiritual energies.
Certainly, many people go to the Net to escape, to abandon themselves to a make-believe world, even a world of Technicolor dreams. The result is that those who are constrained to spend much time in cyberspace will learn to cherish the natural world. After spending hours on end staring at a computer monitor, there is nothing like the scent of a flower or the push of the wind against your face.
People often try out multiple selves in some of the activities and games available on the Net. They deliberately indulge in a sort of consensual hallucination. This allows them to explore their shadow selves, as it were. The projected “me” need not be the real “me”. One thing people do on the Internet is to project their shadow selves into cyberspace and create online characters for role-playing.
Traditionally we posit two kinds of space: the material world in which our bodies exist, and a spiritual world where our souls dwell. We can think of cyberspace as existing somewhere in between: a world that shares some of the qualities of the material world, such as space and time; and some of the qualities of the spiritual world, such as interacting with thousands of souls at thousands of locations at once.
This takes us to the social, as well as to the spiritual, implications of the Internet: The Net offers us an opportunity for a new community life, and it can create in us a new interest in religious pursuits or even open before us hitherto unexplored areas of spiritual awakening. This is the positive aspect of it.
The downside is that the Net can also tempt us to further and further social isolation. As I engage in more and more online activities, I can avoid face-to-face human interaction, except for the select few with whom I really want to be. This leads to a new elitism. But we can never substitute Internet interaction for flesh- and-blood contact because we are corporeal beings, because cyber life will never be the same as looking into one another’s eyes as we share our joys and concerns.
THE CHURCH is not made up of spiritual giants; only broken men can lead others to the Cross.
--David J. Bosch, A Spirituality of the Road
THERE'S SOMETHING wholesome, healthy, and very human about
going to church and pooling your needs and your ignorance
with that of other people who are willing to get out of bed
and put on good clothes and come out to this totally
gratuitous event. Nobody's forcing them to do it, the
rewards are elusive, yet the fact that we do it in a group
is somehow part of the point.
--John Updike in an interview by Philip Yancey in Image
ACCORDING TO the prayer of Jesus as presented by the author
of the Fourth Gospel, the mission of the church and its
fruitfulness in the world depend not so much on what we say
to the world as on our sticking together, our coherence in
the Way (John 17:23).
--Paul M. Van Buren, Discerning the Way