If this were my last day alive and I was asked what I discovered in a lifetime of searching for Truth, I would have to say that the Beatles were correct, all you need is love.
But life is not that simple, and in fact, if all we need is love, then why is love so elusive? Why do we live in a world where there is so much hatred, bitterness and anger? Why do so many things happen to close our hearts, either deliberate evil actions or sad events causing heartbreak? Why would we be created to need one essential thing to achieve unity that is made so difficult to find and on top of that, live in a system which appears to give us so many reasons to close our heart?
Regardless of how closed or open you perceive yourself, I think we can all admit that our heart is closed to some degree. When we feel we lack love, it is not that we lack, but may unconsciously be stopping it.
The pursuit of a spiritual experience or awakening is a growing trend, and for good reason, it offers the promise of the end of pain and suffering. This pain is usually associated with thoughts, problems, or other causes that each person must endure, but in fact, they are only effects. The cause of the pain is the atrophying of your heart.
New Schools of Thought vs Old Schools
There are many schools of meditation, and many new age teachers who have come up with all sorts of different methods following the path of the 1960’s, love love love. For some people, that may be a bit too hippy like, and is not what I am endorsing, although it looks like fun in the movies!
The older schools are often misunderstood as a path of overcoming the heart, containing or going beyond feelings altogether through mastering the mind and intellect by controlling all emotions. Schools which teach being stoic, free from emotions, or the Buddhist teaching; “As a rock is unmoved by wind or rain, so a wise person is unmoved by praise or blame”, can appear cold and heartless, when the opposite is true.
I have pursued these paths and experienced them beyond the words, but many people are often confused by their interpretation of these teachings to imply that we must shut down all emotions. This serves the same purpose of the events that close our heart, and the goal is not achieved.
Prayer and Meditation
Prayer, done correctly with a pure heart, meaning that you are not asking for anything, is feeling love for God. Pain, as we have said, is caused by a closed heart. Love is the ending of pain through opening the heart. When you pray to God to ease your pain, you are coming to Him with a closed heart, or it would not be in pain. Rather, if you prayed as if you are joining with one you love, your heart would be open, pain would vanish, and there would be nothing to pray for. You purely enjoy the feeling. The problem is that when the pain ends, so do the prayers, then the heart closes up again until the next prayer time.
Meditation is the same. If you meditate for a purpose, you are taking that which prevents you right along with you. Buddha said; “To achieve enlightenment you must give up all desires, including the desire for enlightenment.” Likewise, Zen is a path that is focused on being fully present. The three secrets of Zen to achieve enlightenment are; pay attention, pay attention and pay attention. Meditation is the practice of bringing 100% of your thoughts to the very present moment, and in that moment, which is still being aware rather than not thinking at all, there is nothing to fear.
Fear, pain, guilt or heartbreak is in the imagination which is your memory. You remember the past or fear the future and your heart closes to protect itself. If you are in the present moment without thought of past or future, your heart can open because you do not remember what can hurt you. The idea of stopping your thoughts in meditation is not stopping all thought and being dead, rather it is stopping any thoughts of past or future. I think the better word to use in place of stopping your thoughts, is stopping your imagination.
The path to unity with the divine, bliss, happiness, satori, enlightenment, or any other word you perceive as the way to end pain or separation and reach a state of emotional and mental freedom, is in the open heart. When the heart is open, it feels love. Where there is love, there is no pain, they are the two sides of the same coin.
Why not just fall in Love?
Yes, meeting someone and falling in love is the easiest way to feel love, but that is not in our control. This does not make sense since it reduces us to the level of animals which have no free will and are limited to our current existence. I personally believe, through my own experience, that a human being can raise themselves to being more than just an animal that can use a computer.
No one can make this happen for you, you alone are responsible and capable of feeling pure love which is not dependent on anyone outside of yourself. Falling in love with someone will show you how it feels to love, but you are still dependent on that person to continue your feeling. This is what the mystics have tried to teach us, that we must feel this love independently of anyone else, not that we should not feel the full passion of our emotions and be contained.
Love is felt by releasing the constraint we hold on our heart.
Life is very stressful, and stress causes tension. Our heart is tense and cannot feel. We may also use the word, breath. Our goal as a human being in the process of evolving is to take the next step by opening our heart. Yes you have heard this many times, but I offer you my experience and maybe it will work for you, it really is quite easy for anyone to do.
The method requires you to acknowledge and accept some things before you begin the practice. Each part is essential, as simple as it may sound:
- Feeling love is the answer to all you seek, whatever that is.
- Love does not require having someone to love, it is like air in your lungs, within you at all times and in your control to hold or release, feel deeply or shallow.
- Acknowledge that your heart is tense and closed to some degree and it must be relaxed and opened.
The practice is as simple as breathing:
- There is no special position, sitting, lying down, alone or in a crowd, there are no special requirements of where you are or that you must stand on your head. All you need is to be relaxed physically with as little tension as possible in your body. There are very few rules to this practice, eyes open or closed, what position you are in, it is all up to you to feel what is best for you.
- Being alone in as quiet a place is better in case you will feel an overwhelming rush of emotion. You may not feel comfortable crying if other people can see or hear you, so this just makes it a little easier to relax. The toilet is often the best sanctuary if you are not alone.
- Put your awareness in the centre of your chest, just observing any tension you feel. This is more of the location of your heart rather than it being on your left side. It is in the sternum, the dent in the centre of your chest.
- Take a deep breath in, hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 5 or so times, until you feel it relaxing a bit.
- Now, knowing that love is in your heart as air is in your lungs, continue to breath with the love in your heart, flowing in and out the same way you breath, allowing yourself to relax and feel more and more love with each breath just as each breath gets deeper as you relax.
- Hug a pillow and imagine it to be someone you love, it could be a totally imaginary person, just imagine it to be a person you love, and say out loud, repeatedly, ‘I love you.‘
- By saying, ‘I love you’ out loud, it has a way of relaxing and opening the heart.
- Another level of the exercise is to allow your imagination to see the whole planet from space and feel that love for the whole planet. Imagine hugging the whole planet like you are hugging the pillow and feeling love for everyone in it.
- Allow your mind to accept that you are big enough to hug the whole planet in its real size.
When your heart is closed, your mind will be active. When your heart is open, your mind will relax. Once you achieve this, you will be able to solve the riddle that this implies; which came first, the chicken or the egg?