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From Experiences to Qualities: The Guiding Light of the Heart

Would you continue to meditate if you experienced nothing? Take a minute and think about it. Imagine if you were to sit every single day, perhaps multiple times during the day, close your eyes and experience nothing. Even the best yogis and students on the path would give up and run away if they didn’t experience something profound.

I sometimes joke about this with my associates, “Experiences are like the grass shown to the donkey to keep it going!” Jokes apart, when a seeker graduates from the way of beliefs and dogmas and takes up a spiritual path, experiences provide important validations. They are the barometers of progress and play a vital role. That’s perhaps the reason why the books and literature that describe the experiences of saints and mystics are so popular. In a way, they reflect the deep desire for each one of us to experience something similar.

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When you take up a spiritual path,
experiences provide validations.
They are the barometers of progress.

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In the winter of 2015, we started our conversation on the subtle bodies. We first took up the subject of manas (psyche or thinking). In the evolutionary scheme of the four subtle bodies, consciousness (chit) is closest to the soul and radiating outwards are ego (ahankar), intellect (buddhi) and thinking (manas). In meditation, we start with thinking. We think of the Divine Light in our heart and regular practice helps us develop constancy in the process of thinking. With this constancy of thought we contemplate and meditate. Slowly, thinking graduates into feeling. This is a profound milestone.

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In meditation we start with thinking,
and slowly thinking graduates into feeling.
This is a profound milestone,
as in feeling the mind does not interfere.

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In feeling, the mind does not interfere. These are the realms of ‘no mind’. Thinking is unidirectional, contemplation can be 360 degrees and multi-dimensional, but feeling is much more than 360 degrees. Feeling can incorporate things from the past, present and future. Feeling can incorporate something from here and now, and also something from another dimension. So, in feeling we go directly to the essence of something without any effort in analysis and deductions.

As feeling develops, the spectrum of experiences opens for us. Peace, calm, poise, joy and so many more flavours of experience are granted to us. In this spectrum also lie irritation, restlessness, anxiety and other things we may experience during meditation.

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So, the question that comes to mind is: What controls the experiences we have in meditation?

Our overall condition and situation creates the quality of the experience. Suppose the heart is closed, and you are angry and irritated, if you try to meditate in such a state your experience will be limited and superficial. On the other hand, if your heart is open, accepting, surrendered and full of joy, then the experience will have its own beauty. So, the key lesson that we learn very quickly is that the quality of the heart directly amplifies or nullifies the experiences we have. The moment we open more of the heart, experiences become multifold. This is how the heart motivates us to develop the right qualities and attitudes.

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As feeling develops,
the spectrum of experiences opens for us.
It is our overall condition that creates
the quality of the experiences we have,
and this is how the heart motivates us
to develop the right qualities and attitudes.
We ‘become’ by imbibing those qualities within us.

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All the vital qualities of love, compassion and surrender are intrinsic to the heart. So, the feeling we gain through meditation now promotes within us the need to become better by developing the right qualities. So we start focusing on becoming better so that we have better experiences. We ‘become’ by imbibing those qualities within us. The journey started with thinking, which helped us feel, and that made us realize that becoming is the way.

Slowly we work on transcending each negative quality and intensify our spiritual experiences. In the process our focus moves away from experiences to becoming an embodiment of true values and qualities. This in turn helps us to appreciate the most precious quality of being insignificant (abudiyat) that facilitates the experience of Ultimate Bliss. Henceforth, it is no longer about becoming, but allowing the Lord to prevail, and so the journey of unbecoming begins. When this happens, we can rest easy and go on expanding in the realms of Godly kingdom.

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Our focus moves away from experiences to becoming
an embodiment of true values and qualities,
and this in turn helps us to appreciate
the most precious quality of insignificance.
So the journey of unbecoming begins.

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Though the progression of these steps is so clear, the very efforts we make to try to surrender or submit or become insignificant create hurdles. It must happen spontaneously on its own, naturally. We will fail if we forcibly try to open a flower bud and make it bloom, but if we let it open naturally by exposing it to sunlight it simply happens.

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The flowering of the heart is even more fragile than the opening of a flower bud. The ultimate flowering of a human being is when he or she becomes love. Instead of seeking blessings, she becomes the blessing. Instead of seeking grace, he becomes the source of grace. In short, this is the essence of the spiritual life.

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The ultimate flowering of a human being
is when he or she becomes love.
In short, this is the essence of the spiritual life.

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