In Asia, when people practice meditation they are also including the experience of the heart. The word citta is the Pali/Sanskrit word for the mind, but it is actually located in the heart. Awareness is not limited to what we are thinking. There is much more!
When meditation was brought from the East to the West, it very quickly became associated with the mind, while the heart was for the most part left out. Now many are realizing the great heart demonstrated by teachers and devotees in the East is because their heart is included in their thoughts, meditation, and the activities of daily life.
True meditation practice is to be mindful of what is occurring in our heart. Only in modern culture, with the heavy emphasis on intellectual activity, have feelings and awareness of the heart been submerged or not included. To be mindful of the experience of our heart moment to moment is true meditation, or what can be described as heartfulness. To live mindful of our heart moment to moment is to be very much aware, free, open, and intimate with life.
Typically, people practicing meditation are taught to watch their thoughts, follow their breath, or repeat a mantra or sacred words. Sometimes they are asked to keep their eyes closed, focus on an object like a candle, or face a wall. For some people, meditation can be repeating in their minds what is occurring in their thoughts. For example, if their thoughts are about boredom they say inwardly, "I am bored." For others, meditation may mean visualizing or fantasizing a pleasurable event. Historically in the East, these practices worked because these cultures are heart-based and oriented around family and rural communities. When someone is meditating in India, they are watching their breath flow in and out of their gentle heart. In the West, the same meditation is usually watching the breath flowing in and out between thoughts. Meditation practices in the West are typically a mental process, leaving people often trapped in their thoughts. The goal is an inner calmness, but many find only years of unlimited mental activity. Inner peace, the heart realm of deep love, expansiveness, and centeredness are seen from a distance through clouds of thought.
Heartfulness is the direct experience of the heart. There are specific practices that directly bring us to inner peace and the love within us. Every practice of heartfulness strengthens heart awareness while lessening mental activity. Sitting and offering everything we experience in our heart is a good example. Receiving the peace or love we find in our heart is another practice. In meditation our awareness can be like a sponge sitting in and soaking everything good within.
As heart awareness grows, practicing compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others comes more easily. A practice of gratitude or devotion to the people in our life can each be practices of heartfulness. Patience, trust, or finding meaning no matter what the circumstances we are facing can develop more heart awareness. With practice, our awareness can take shelter or refuge in our heart. Meditation can simply be, being with our heart. Inner harmony is present. Slowly, we discover more simplicity and harmony in life in general as a result. Practicing living in the present with our heart instead of letting our thoughts toss back and forth from past to future, one thought after another, is the essence of heartfulness.
Many people say their minds are too strong to feel anything in their heart, no less live with heart awareness moment to moment. Spending time in silent retreat with nature is one of the best ways to lighten our mental world and increase the world of our heart. In heartfulness, the emphasis is not to stop talking but to enjoy the peace and quiet. As our personality is less engaged, the presence of the heart comes forward in our awareness. Silence touches the vast stillness within. Peace and quiet -- the mind surrenders to subtle layers of essence found in the heart. Empty mind, open heart, life's beauty is present. In silent retreat, God or love is unfolding within us.
Nurturing our heart, listening to our heart, and enjoying life are all parts of growing a life of heartfulness. Joy is the seed that grows the most heart no matter where in our life it is present. In heartfulness, we find the greatest source of joy within us. As mental activity dominates our awareness less and less, our heart's lightness of being fills the vacuum. We can see through our heart and hear through our heart. We can taste and touch with our heart. Each day is very different when we feel and be with life directly. Life does not have to be experienced through the filter of our mind, our judgments, expectations, likes and dislikes. With heartfulness, true mindfulness, the heart of life is present. The more present we are, the more presence of heart we uncover. Heartfulness decreases our fears, healing everything that gives us separation. What people call enlightenment is when awareness and decisions in life come from pure awareness. Pure awareness is seated in the heart. In our technological age with all its intellectual demands, a path of heartfulness is more important than ever.
The real revolution in meditation will be the liberation of our heart. This is giving respect, humility, tenderness, service, innocence, restoring sacredness and much more. There are realms in the heart, free of thought, that open to a great vastness, peace, and understanding. These realms are our natural awareness. The communion we have with one another, nature, God are all expanded as the awareness of our heart expands. Heartfulness anchors our awareness in a deep centeredness. Here is our goldenness, eternity, the love that death does not separate us from. In the silence of the heart, our thoughts dissolve in the river of our awareness. As our awareness finds its true home in our heart, we are awakened to life's fullness and we are free. Heart practices are the essence of the revolution taking place with everyone from corporate executives to people sitting in prison. As meditation evolves from mental activity to peacefulness of the heart, true spirituality is being born. Breathing, being directly in our heart -- our mind becomes a servant of love. This love fills our body and extends beyond, extending forever.
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