Step 3: Meditating in the Spiritual Heart
In this third step you will:
- Continue your regular, daily meditation practice at your shrine.
- Learn about the paramount importance of your spiritual heart.
- Read Chapter 5-7 of the handout
- Learn techniques to help you enter into your spiritual heart.
Your True Home
During your concentration exercises last week, you discovered a higher awareness which is separate from your mind. We all know where our mental awareness lives—somewhere above and between our shoulders—but where does this higher awareness live?
Your highest awareness lives in the spiritual heart. But what and where is the spiritual heart? Let’s start with where. Close your eyes for a moment (after you finish this paragraph, that is). With your index finger, point to yourself while saying “me.” Do this several times. Where did your finger end up? On your spiritual heart. Now that you know where it is, let’s talk about what it is.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Heart: An inner fountain
In the meditation handout, you will have read about the spiritual heart, or simply “the heart.” As you may have guessed, the spiritual heart has nothing to do with the muscle beating away inside your chest. But it has everything to do with the qualities we need to become happier, more fulfilled human beings.
What are the qualities of the heart? Intuitively, you already know. Take a look at the qualities being expressed in the following phrases: a heart of gold, it absolutely breaks my heart, kind-hearted people.
Kindness, caring, love, sympathy, oneness, compassion, self-giving and gratitude—these are the qualities of the spiritual heart.
While you are practicing these exercises, we recommend you try folding your hands with palms together, fingers straight and facing upward with the base of your thumbs gently touching your heart—as if in prayer. This physical act will remind you of what you are doing spiritually, and will actually intensify both your aspiration and your meditation.
These exercises are taken from Sri Chinmoy's writings.
Exercise 1: Gratitude
The best way to bring new life into each new day is to offer endless gratitude to God the Creator and God the creation early in the morning. When our gratitude-heart blossoms, it immediately covers the length and breadth of the world. The beauty and fragrance of a gratitude-heart will always remain unsurpassable among all the divine qualities that a seeker has. So the answer is gratitude, gratitude, gratitude!
Offer gratitude: that is the best way, the only way. The second you offer gratitude in your thoughts and in your feelings, your oneness will be perfect. If you offer gratitude, you will understand more; your mental vision, psychic vision, everything will become perfect. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude is the only answer. Try to grow the gratitude-flower inside your heart and watch it blossom petal by petal. As it blossoms it is spreading its beauty and fragrance.
You can open your heart of gratitude to God just by repeating the word gratitude as you breathe in and out. - Sri Chinmoy
Exercise 2: The vastness of the sky
Keep your eyes half open and imagine the vast sky. In the beginning try to feel that the sky is in front of you; later try to feel that you are as vast as the sky, or that you are the vast sky itself. After a few minutes please close your eyes and try to see and feel the sky inside your heart. Please feel that you are the universal heart, and that inside you is the sky that you meditated upon and identified yourself with. Your spiritual heart is infinitely vaster than the sky, so you can easily house the sky within yourself. - Sri Chinmoy
Exercise 3: The heart-rose
Kindly imagine a flower inside your heart. Suppose you prefer a rose. Imagine that the rose is not fully blossomed; it is still a bud. After you have meditated for two or three minutes, please try to imagine that petal by petal the flower is blossoming. See and feel the flower blossoming petal by petal inside your heart. Then, after five minutes, try to feel that there is no heart at all; there is only a flower inside you called ‘heart’. You do not have a heart, but only a flower. The flower has become your heart or your heart has become a flower.
After seven or eight minutes, please feel that this flower–heart has covered your whole body. 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 the rose. If you look at your knee, you experience the fragrance of the rose. If you look at your hand, you experience the fragrance of the rose. Everywhere the beauty, fragrance and purity of the rose have permeated your entire body. - Sri Chinmoy
If you completed the above exercise, you will now see exactly why you are meditating on the heart. Your heart—the center of the circle—is an infinite inner fountain from which flows every positive quality you would like to have. If you walk into a dark room and light a candle, what happens? The light illumines the darkness. In exactly the same way, as your heart opens through meditation, the light of your soul will illumine more and more of your being.
We must not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we began
And to know the place
For the first time.
- T.S. Eliot
During this third week, you will have:
- Read Chapters 5-7 of the handout.
- Practiced the recommended meditation exercises for at least ten minutes daily - preferably at the same time each day.
- Logged your practice and your experiences in your journal.
It’s been three weeks since you began. Have you noticed any difference in how smoothly you get through the day? Review the events of the past week. Did situations that used to bother you not affect you as much? Did you generally feel a greater sense of inner peace and poise?
If you have noticed changes in your life, that’s fantastic - especially since you’ve just begun! If you haven’t noticed any changes, don’t worry about it - you’ve just begun! In either case, our advice is the same as always: meditate regularly, meditate sincerely, and have faith that you are making progress.
Do You Want to Change the World?
By now you may have shared your meditation experiences with friends and acquaintances, only to discover that some may not share your enthusiasm. You may even have been told that your desire for self-discovery is “selfish.” Don’t believe it for a second.
If you sincerely want to change the world, you have two choices: you can either try to change everyone else, or you can try to change yourself. Considering that you have far more control and understanding of yourself than you do of others, which approach do you think is the most effective use of your time and energy?
There’s another reason to change yourself first: you can’t give what you don’t have. Even if you try to give what you don’t have, it will have no power. If someone you think is a thief tells you not to steal, will you listen? Probably not. On the other hand, if someone you believe is a saint asks you not to steal, the purity, humility, and love of the saint will enter into your being and inspire you to lead a better life.
Does this mean you have to achieve sainthood before you can try to help others? Definitely not. If that were the case we couldn’t have created this HomeStudy course! But you don’t have to go out and do anything special to change the world. Just aspire to improve yourself, to bring more and more peace into your being, and to silently offer goodwill to others. This is the most important and most powerful thing you can do to help those around you and the world at large.