Today's Daily Tip
Feel Your WayLast summer—as mars hovered close to the earth, power blackouts darkened the Northeast, and car bombers wreaked havoc in Baghdad—everyone I met was talking about how intense their lives were becoming. There seemed to be too much of everything: arguments, explosive feelings, weird dreams, and intrusive thoughts. I received scores of e-mail messages about how to handle the accelerating energies. More meditation and self-inquiry, some advised. Time for political action, others said. Connecting with one another through the heart was the thing to do, according to one Web site; another suggested we gather water supplies and start growing our own vegetables.
In the midst of all of this, I kept remembering a verse from the Vijnana Bhairava, a meditation manual in the Shaivite tradition. The verse says that pure consciousness—the heart-stopping brilliance that composes the core of reality—is especially close to us in moments of emotional intensity, even though those moments might seem like the very opposite of peaceful. The text goes on to give examples: "When you're angry, or overjoyed, or at an impasse reflecting what to do, or running for your life, find within that state the perfect condition of the primordial energy."
This is a deep clue about how to practice in our speeded-up times. It's no secret that strong feelings and experiences carry a lot of energy. Why else would people go to raves, become war correspondents, or provoke their lovers into screaming matches? But there's a big difference between using strong energy to feel more alive or to get high, and consciously using it to move deeper into our own essence. That movement is what the inner life is all about.
And it's the radical truth behind the Vijnana Bhairava verse: If we choose to practice with our strong energies, they can lead us into the very source of our own power. Entering a strong feeling is like splitting an atom, except that the energy released from the core of that feeling is essentially that of brahman, the "vast expanse" itself.
Peeling Away the Layers of the Heart
Linda has been meditating for several years, doing retreats with one of the hard-core Indian teachers of the older generation. Her basic M.O. was always the straight, classical, citta-vritti-eroding yogic approach of stilling the mind.
Recently, however, she went to Mexico on vacation, met a guy, and fell in love. Her heart flung open; detachment melted. There was, as she put it, "big soul-mate energy" between them. They were together for a while, then it was over. She found herself on a plane back home, roiling around in an emotional stewpot of feelings. The pain was extreme. But Linda decided to dive in, to bring her practice-honed attention into the pain itself and look into her own heart space.
She said it was like peeling an onion. Layers of boggy sadness. Layers of hurt pride and bitterness. A big, thick shell of indifference. More sadness. Then she dropped into a huge, open stillness: One minute her heart was an emotional swamp; the next, it was pure spaciousness. She told me that once she had tapped into that spacious heart energy, it stayed available. Ever since, her basic practice has been "sitting" inside her own heart space.