The health, wellbeing and fitness of each part of our being – body, vital, mind, heart and soul – is crucial for its own sake, as well as for each other part and for our integral wellbeing.
The body needs good diet and exercise; the vital needs dynamic activity; the mind, concentration and focus; the heart, to love and serve.
Each works best when all levels are fully engaged. Physical exercise is most effective when powered by our vital energy, directed by our focused mind and inspired by our heart’s enthusiasm.
As the moon needs the sun to reveal its beauty; as the song needs a voice to be sung, heard and appreciated; each level of our being needs the influence of the others – and needs to offer itself to them – to be its best.
Yet what our body, vital and mind each need above all else is the love, light and guiding presence of our heart.
Our spiritual heart is the mother, mentor and champion of our body, vital and mind. The heart is the centre of harmony and perfection. Wherever the heart goes, harmony, grace, beauty and purity follow.
Meditation brings our heart to the fore – and is therefore the secret and the source, the master key that opens all doors, connects all threads, answers all questions and completes all tasks. Meditate before every activity – prior to physical exercise, musical practise, driving, gardening, cooking, studying, working, playing, sports, self-expression and self-offering of any kind. From meditation, our heart is awakened within the breath of whatever activity we are engaged in. The activity comes alive with beauty, sweetness, wonder, power, significance and fulfilment.
Our heart blossoms in our activity as our activity blossoms in our heart. The infinite embraces, sports and sings in the finite. We are complete.
The health of our various organs – heart, lungs, liver, skin – are all affected by each other, for they are interdependent parts of one whole. This same principle applies to the various sheaths of our consciousness – body, vital, mind, heart and soul ¬– which comprise our whole being. The health, vitality and fulfilment of each are essential for the wellbeing of the others, and of the whole.
Yet our mind imagines itself an independent entity, sovereign over itself and its environment – consigning thus our entire being to suffering.
Through our body, vital, mind, heart and soul we perceive, experience and express ourselves and interact with our environments. Each part of our being is our home, our instrument, our vehicle, our world, our self. Our body, vital, mind, heart and soul are each our living room, bedroom, bathroom, gym, playground, study and temple all at once, and all together as one.
Any weakness, impurity or defect in any realm of our being affects, infects and impedes the operation of all our dimensions. Thus mental tension stymies physical performance, just as physical illness unsettles emotional equilibrium.
So it is essential that we keep each in good condition, as clean, pure, fit and healthy as possible, and that we nourish, nurture and develop each part with all our care, concern and enthusiasm if we are to perceive, aspire, operate and create to our potential.
As a tree grows from the root, as our bloodstream and nervous system energise all of our organs, so the spiritual is the source of all our being. From our meditation, light, love, energy and inspiration flow like the sap of a tree to all our branches, leaves, flowers and fruits: the various levels and expressions of our consciousness and pursuits of our life, mind, vital and body.
“Alas, each human being
Is eager to proclaim
That he is a truth-finder
Without first being a truth-seeker!”
– Sri Chinmoy
Every model of truth, every belief system, every ideology is a wish, a phantasm, a conspiracy hatched by our minds’ uncertainties – desperately seeking the comfort and control of certainty.
Because every mind longs to feel secure in its “truth”, our minds are inclined to promote their present beliefs and disparage other models of reality as false. The more theories and conspiracies proliferate, the more polarisation and conflict spread, the further peace and happiness recede from our outer lives.
Truth is precious rare. Truth is wrapped in layers of protective silence. Words may claim they are true, but only Silence proclaims the Truth. Silence reveals Truth only to those who will eagerly embrace and utterly become silence.
In silence, the competing megaphones of this theory and that conspiracy cannot reach us, cannot affect us.
Silence has and is the Truth. Silence has conspired to reveal the Truth within us. This conspiracy of silence is called meditation.
In meditation-silence, this truth is revealed: we are not being controlled by any worldwide nefarious network, multinational conspiracy, corporation, government agency, media conglomerate, or extragalactic intelligence. We are being controlled by the weaknesses and limitations of our own minds: the fear, doubt, insecurity, jealousy, prejudice and resentment that comprise our precious ignorance.
To escape this control, to conquer these weaknesses, we must rise beyond the realm that nurtures them: our mind. Silence is the absence of thoughts. Starve a fire of oxygen and it expires. Starve the mind of thoughts and the conspiracies of certainty and uncertainty evaporate. Truth reigns as peace, light and bliss supreme.
Only in meditation, a conspiracy of silence, are all conspiracies silenced.
“As one can drink water easily,
Even so the human mind
Can twist truth easily
– Sri Chinmoy
Just as a 30-centimetre ruler can never measure the sky, so the mind, a finite instrument, can never measure or “know” Truth, the infinite Reality.
Yet to remain sane, the mind must have a sense of control, a sense of knowing itself and its world. It therefore creates or selects a model of “truth” and adheres to that worldview with a conviction and tenacity we call certainty – until it “changes its mind” and adopts another perspective.
Until we learn to live in the infinitude of our hearts and souls, we are constrained to define ourselves within our mind’s confines. It is necessary for our minds to believe in something – anything – as a field in which to operate, a house in which to live, a reliable frame of reference. Whether our beliefs are true or false is immaterial to the mind: a car runs as well on poisonous, leaded fuel as it does on lead-free fuel. For centuries our minds operated happily believing the world is flat; now most of us “know” the world is spherical – who knows if this belief might also one day prove to be inadequate?
Our minds are like those deep-sea fish, which live under immense pressure – when brought to the surface, they fall apart, unable to maintain their assumed shape and existence. When their assumed habitat of beliefs is shaken, our minds likewise lose their bearings and fall apart.
We live in “uncertain times” – collectively, our minds are not adhering to agreed beliefs, and there is an ever-widening divergence of perspectives on “the truth”. How then, can we find ourselves amidst this thicket of conflicting theories and conspiracies?
In the spiritual life, there is no standing still. Our consciousness is never static: we are forever rising or falling, ascending on the wings of aspiration or descending into the clutches of desire and attachment, striding towards a better future or lapsing into deplorable habits of our past.
It is up to us to keep the curve of our aspiration ever rising, always looking forwards and upwards. If we lower our gaze and allow our aspiration-curve to flatten, then gravity and inertia will inevitably drag it downwards.
The muscles of the fittest athlete will atrophy if not exercised. Daily-polished woodwork shines: left alone for a week, its sheen surrenders to dust. If we neglect our daily meditation, we can lose all the hard-earned benefits of years of spiritual discipline.
We embody all the forces of the universe: which of these forces guide us, power us and shape our destiny depends on our conscious and continuous choices. At every moment we are choosing positive or negative, light or darkness, action or inertia, expansion or contraction, selfless or selfish, progress or regress. Like an object suspended in space, which will fall if not supported by a force stronger than gravity – unless we consciously make each positive choice, the default course of our human nature will always be to sink back into our known and familiar ways, however painful, depressing and destructive that path may be.
Only when a rocket has shot completely beyond the earth’s atmosphere is it free from the edict of gravity: only once total illumination, liberation and God-realisation are achieved are we safe from crashing back down to the quagmire of our desire-bound, dissatisfied, unfulfilled and unfulfillable lives and selves.
Never flatten your spiritual progress-curve: polish your aspiration always, so it shines and rises ever.
The present global mental virus pandemic has seriously sickened and weakened our entire human race.
Some mental viruses, like a common cold, are relatively harmless, and might almost be considered ‘normal.’ We are fascinated by a false belief, fixated on a fear, swayed by suspicion or duped by doubt for a while: symptoms may include confusion, sadness, resentment, self-assertion, irritability and irrational or even aggressive behaviour… after a time a resurgence of spiritual light in the form of inspiration, love, optimism, compassion, humility or joy overpowers the malady and we regain our natural wellbeing. Such a mental virus might affect us for a few minutes, hours, days or months – or it might weaken and sicken us for all our years, disabling our love, destroying our joy, depleting our potential, deleting our hopes and accelerating our demise.
Fortunately, we do not have to wait for a vaccine to cure these pervading, pernicious diseases, for we have an all-powerful immune system already within us.
Like a physical virus, the mental viruses – untruths, misbeliefs – have no life of their own, relying totally on their hosts to sustain their existence, proliferate and wreak their havoc. Outside of a host body, a virus quite soon ‘dies’ – outside of a receptive ‘host’ mind, the virus of ignorance vanishes.
A virus is most effective in weakening an already-sick or immune-compromised constitution: against a strong immune system it is largely ineffective. Likewise an impure, undisciplined and uncontrolled mind offers a fertile breeding ground for the mental viruses of falsehood, suspicion, fear, doubt, hatred, insecurity, pride and delusion: a mind calmed, focussed, disciplined and illumined by the practise of meditation is our mightiest, unfailing immune system against all the virulent viruses of the mental universe.
Thoughts and desires weigh us down as lead weights. They lure us to the limited, bind us to the finite, ensnare us in the realm of the relative. Thoughtless meditation bathes us in oceans of silence, elevates us on updrafts of ecstasy, projects us beyond skies of light, liberates us from ignorance and ego, releases us into the infinite, reveals us as co-eternal with the sovereign absolute.
As a drop of arsenic ruins a good hot chocolate; a sideways glance topples a tightrope walker; a breath of breeze brings down a house of cards; a muscle twitch betrays the leopard’s stalk; a single smudge besmirches a page of pure white – so a momentary thought can wreck, a flicker of desire can undo a beautiful and fruitful meditation.
During meditation, it is essential to quarantine your spiritual heart and place all thoughts and desires in lockdown. Show no mercy, no compassion.
It is true that some thoughts are inspiring and helpful to us, so the temptation is to keep the door of our mind slightly ajar during meditation, in case these “friendly” thoughts arise. The problem is that the hordes of negative and “junk” thoughts have no manners: they will notice the door ajar and barge right in.
Don’t worry about missing out on inspiring messages of the good and helpful thoughts: if they are your true friends, they will return and revisit you after your meditation, when you have removed the “Do Not Enter” sign from your door.
Just as the only way to prevent the spread of a virus is to restrict the movements of everyone in the population, if we value our meditation, we must enforce a strict embargo on ALL thoughts and ALL desires ALWAYS during meditation.
“When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.”
– Sri Ramakrishna
Spiritual qualities are more contagious than any virus. Peace, light, love and joy are not constricted by social distancing; washing our hands does not remove them; they can spread from one to millions in a heartbeat, they easily span the globe in an instant.
To spread spiritual qualities, we do not have to cough or sneeze or make announcements or broadcasts or do anything at all: we simply have to embody them. “When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.” The flower doesn’t have to advertise itself: bees are programmed to seek out nectar and when a blooming flower appears on their radar, they are drawn to it irresistibly.
As the bee needs and yearns for nectar, so everyone needs and yearns for spiritual sustenance. Like bees, we are all programmed to seek love, peace and happiness, and our inner antennae are always alert for their appearance. That is why we cannot help but smile when we see someone wearing a huge smile on their face; we cannot help but be moved by a cute puppy; we cannot help but be soothed by a sublime sunset. Regardless of where we are and what we are doing, regardless of our mood, state of mind and emotions, spiritual qualities will always attract us as a magnet attracts metal.
To attract bees, the flower simply has to be itself and do what it does naturally – bloom. To be spiritually contagious, to emit and spread peace, light, love and joy we likewise only have to be truly ourselves, for we are nothing other than peace, light, love and joy.
How to be truly ourselves? Meditate. The more sincerely we meditate, the more we naturally bloom, the more spiritually contagious we become.
In our peculiar phraseology, in our upside-down world so enthralled with negativity, it is an apt irony that to “test positive” is a most feared outcome with all manner of negative repercussions, while to “test negative” is positively desirable and cause for celebration.
It is a good practice, from time to time to pause whatever we are doing, and observe our own consciousness.
Imagine you are undergoing a diagnostic test, not for the presence of a drug or pathogen, but for something much, much deeper…
Looking into a mirror, real or imagined, take a scan of your state of being in this moment. Observe – behind and around your physical features – your thoughts, desires, emotions, aspirations, intentions, everything that you have and that you embody in this moment. What do you see? What do you feel?
In your scan, negativity appears as darkness, or shadow, while spiritual qualities glow with various colours. Love, kindness, sweetness, sympathy, purity, concern, goodwill, gratitude, happiness – each has its own inexpressibly beautiful hue and allure. As you observe your scan, the colours come alive: growing, flowing and intermingling in a wondrous vibrant dance of light, bringing an ineffable, all-pervading pure thrill of sweetness, freedom and lightness to your being…
In the time you have been observing your scan, all darkness, all shadow has gone.
A distant star appears as a tiny speck of light in a vast sea of night, yet as we approach this star it grows ever brighter, more enticing. Drawing and enfolding us into its pure radiance, we merge with this star: our self, its heart of light. The very concept of darkness is done.
As light is the cure for darkness, so the only remedy for negativity is positivity.
Scan your consciousness regularly, and always test positive for positivity!
Sri Aurobindo attained God-realisation while in prison.
To spend time alone – to be isolated from the outside world and our usual outer routines – is the ideal prescription for the deepening of our spiritual practice.
From time immemorial, seekers of Truth, of liberation and enlightenment, have sought the solitude of caves and forests, or the relative seclusion of an ashram or monastery, shut off from the incessant myriad temptations and distractions of our habitual outer lives, the better to pursue our ultimate quest.
Our yearning to “get away from it all” can lead us to the far ends of the earth. The same yearning can be fulfilled while remaining exactly where we are – in the ever-widening sky of our silent mind, the ever-deepening ocean of our spiritual heart, the ever-illumining sun of our soul.
Everything depends on our attitude. There are things we can control and things we cannot. We cannot control outer circumstances, but we can control our responses. We can focus on what we are losing, or on what we stand to gain. We can bemoan being forced to stay at home and fret over all the activities we are missing out on – or we can relish the golden opportunity to run faster, dive deeper and fly higher … within.
A spiritual seeker will accept time in partial or complete isolation eagerly and gratefully as an unparalleled blessing.
Every moment counts. At every moment we are either moving forwards or falling behind. Always move forward. Never remain idle. Structure your day around your meditation practise, embracing only activities in harmony with your inner direction.
Next time you are tempted to grumble about the tribulations of isolation, remember this …
Sri Aurobindo attained God-realisation – the highest bliss, profoundest peace, eternal liberation and perfect illumination – while in prison.
Imagination has the power of invocation, lending force to our prayer, arousing and intensifying our will.
Everything that exists, started in the realm of imagination. The words you are reading were imagined, then written down; the chair you are sitting on was imagined, then designed and produced; you imagined yourself eating breakfast this morning, then it happened. Imagination paves the way and sets up reality. So to expedite any of our spiritual goals – from a silent mind, our highest meditation, to our ultimate illumination, liberation and perfection – the simplest, most effective course is to start imagining a silent mind, our highest meditation, start vividly imagining ourselves as illumined, liberated, perfect – here, now.
Unless we actively look for something, we may never see it even though we are right on top of it. Our silent mind, our highest meditation and our ultimate perfection are already within us, hidden largely because we do not seek them. To discover and reveal them we must first believe in them, then imagine them – intensely, fervently and one-pointedly. We then discover that we are not only moving towards illumination – illumination is seeking and beckoning us; indeed is actually running towards us.
While we may start our meditation-journey hoping for some stress-relief or a little inner peace, once we discover that meditation opens the door to the treasure house of ultimate treasures, how and why could we possibly settle for anything less?
As a child eagerly looks forward all year to Christmas, and cannot sleep on Christmas eve for the excitement and anticipation of the moment the presents will be opened around the Christmas tree, so must we imagine, anticipate, invite and invoke our illumination and perfection, the ultimate presents life can bestow.
To become your goal, imagine your goal – eagerly, devotedly, resolutely, constantly.
There once lived a king who loved to entertain and uplift his subjects.
At the heart of his capital city lay the Royal Park, crowning jewel of the kingdom, a beautiful landscaped expanse with playing fields, games areas, a terraced amphitheatre, botanical gardens, a zoo of exotic animals, aviary, herbarium, scented floral walkways, a meditation grove and interconnected ornamental ponds and water features.
At its centre, the king was inspired to create something unique: a glorious white fountain, which would flow from a pond of milk!
Milk was very expensive, so the king brilliantly decreed: since his subjects loved and enjoyed the Royal Park so much, each family would bring one jug of milk to pour into the pond, thus sharing the cost and also the satisfaction and glory of helping create such a masterpiece. A mass public celebration was planned: the pond would be filled throughout the night, and the fountain switched on at dawn to everyone’s collective amazement and delight.
Alas, everyone had the same thought: in the dark, no-one will notice if I bring a jug of water instead of precious milk. In the morning when the ceremonial trumpet sounded, there arose – an insipid plume of plain water.
Instead of festivities and joy, massive disappointment dissipated into sombre reflection.
In our private meditation at home as well as group meditations, it is so easy to feel it will be OK if I offer a token, dilute effort today in lieu of my A-game. No-one will know and no-one will mind…
Yet our own heart always knows, and feels the consequences. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you want the best result, never offer plain water. Whenever you sit to meditate, strive to always bring your best, full-cream milk.
“It is I who create my happiness By virtue of My constant self-giving.” – Sri Chinmoy
Self-giving is the meeting place of meditation and action, where our inner and our outer life converge. Inner and outer self-giving go together, grow together and flow together. Self-giving in meditation is the best training for action: self-giving in action is the best training for meditation.
Self-giving in meditation must be practised. It starts as an attitude. In business, they say, “to make money, you have to spend money.” Thus is it in meditation, as in life. The more we give, the more – ever more – we receive. Self-giving is a magic wand. As long as we feel we are meditating only for our own immediate wants and needs, our practice remains narrow and unclear: the moment we feel we are meditating for a higher purpose or goal, the moment we feel we are offering our meditation rather than taking from it, our heart instantly expands and with it the horizons, promise and possibilities of our meditation.
Likewise, self-giving in action must be practised. No matter what we are doing, in our work, study, leisure, sports, interactions with others, in all our physical, mental and emotional activities, no matter how important or insignificant, practise giving all of ourselves fully, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, being inside the breath of every moment. To live and act “self-givingly” is to never hold anything back, to be always fully in the moment, in the now. In this way, our actions become an extension of our meditation, and vice versa.
Self-giving is the flow of the river of life; the pulse of action; the heartbeat of progress; the first, last and only requirement of being, doing and becoming; the password to God-realisation.
“My self-giving is my God-becoming.”
– Sri Chinmoy