“Peace begins when expectation ends.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Dry spells arise when our experience does not match our expectation.
We can only do what is within our control. Frustratingly, we cannot control our experience, hence our dry spell … but we can control our expectation.
Expectation is a habit of the mind. Like any habit, it can be learned and unlearned, formed and broken. Our minds know that for every action there must be an outcome, and our minds like to foresee a favourable outcome prior to engaging in any action. Yet the mind can only conceive of an outcome that is already within its scope of understanding. Herein lies the paradox, for we meditate precisely to go beyond the confines of the mind’s perception and understanding. So whatever the limited mind expects can never be the unlimited reality we seek…
Expectation and meditation are incompatible. Expectation deals with the known; meditation with the unknown and the unknowable. Expectation is a potentially lethal virus endangering the prospect of real, illumining meditation. Expectation – for all its promise and allure – is a prison cell, denying us spiritual freedom and nullifying our bid for liberation.
Every challenge and every experience that comes to us is an opportunity to grow and learn. A dry spell can teach us one of the most valuable lessons of all: that expectation is not just useless, not just an impediment, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a mortal danger to our spiritual life.
While we harbour even the subtlest expectation, dry spells are inevitable. Accept them as a blessing in disguise, a warning from our soul.
Abandon expectation. Surrender to your meditation. Dive into the sea of the unknown to claim and become what we must: our precious, beautiful, peaceful, soulful, blissful satisfaction-perfection.
Like writer’s block or an athlete’s form slump, these spells arrive without warning, with no apparent cause and no clear remedy. Like the weather, a dry spell might last a day, a week or months on end.
During a dry spell, try as we might, our meditation practise seems to be fruitless, a sheer waste of time. We cannot control thoughts, we cannot feel our hearts, we are not getting any insights or higher experiences.
Frustration mounts, even despair. The temptation is either to just give up, or to try harder to force the issue. Both these responses are counterproductive.
Giving up can never be an option. All the reasons we started to meditate in the first place – our inner unease, restlessness, confusion, stress, tension and anxiety – will remain and only become further entrenched as our default state of being.
Using force also doesn’t work, because the secret of meditation lies not in pushing or pulling but in letting go, in realising it is not ‘we’ who meditate, but rather a higher being within us, our soul, who is not answerable to our dictates.
Worrying and frustration only bring more stress and make matters worse. We simply have to know that just as we cannot force rain in a drought, so we cannot force a deep and satisfying meditation: each will arrive in its own time, and arrive it must. We just need to continue our practise calmly, patiently, resolutely and faithfully.
Such experiences are natural, normal and inevitable.
During a dry spell, explore other ways to find and to be in the heart –smiling, music, magic, games, jokes, innocent fun, adventure, a change of routine.
Our hearts will assure us that every dry spell can only be temporary.
Through meditation we discover, grow into, identify with and become our real self.
Because at present we simply don’t know who or what we are, we tend to identify with whatever is most dominant in our consciousness. For most of us, most of the time, that dominant part is our mind and all that our mind perceives and embodies.
Even though we may know that we are in reality not the mind, it is difficult to escape this long-established and cherished notion.
Silent meditation is the surest way to enlarge our sense of identity beyond the mind’s confines to embrace the limitless realm of the heart. Nevertheless for most of us it is simply not possible to silence the mind utterly at will, so it is very helpful to have some other techniques to assist this gradual realignment of our identity.
The mantra “I am the Heart” is simple, adaptable and supremely powerful. This mantra can be employed during meditation or any other activity, in silence or aloud, anywhere and anytime for any duration.
Try synchronising the mantra with your physical heart-beat – “I am” on one beat and “the heart” on the next – to the exclusion of all other thoughts and phenomena. More and more you will find yourself identifying not as your mind’s thoughts, theories and desires, but as your limitless heart.
Just by repeating this mantra, its truth blossoms within us and we start to feel more and more our heart’s sweetness, love, simplicity, sincerity, gratitude, humility, goodwill, hope, optimism, confidence, joy, determination, faith and courage, without specifically invoking any of these qualities.
To fly even higher to the goal, repeat: “I am the Soul” with utmost soulfulness and conviction, to glimpse the soul’s supreme ever-transcending beauty, light, bliss, power, assurance, promise and perfection.
This story has been told in many forms over the years. Whether or not it ever actually took place, its message is compelling…
A spiritual Master lived in an ashram with his disciples. One disciple, who had been with the Guru for several years, was quite convinced that he was doing very well in his meditation, spiritual discipline and service to the community. He did everything he was supposed to do, when it was supposed to be done. He never missed his meditation, and never put a foot wrong.
Yet despite his exemplary conduct, it bothered him that he still had not attained enlightenment. So when he had the opportunity, he brought his concerns to the Master directly: “I have been doing everything required of me and serving your mission most faithfully. Surely it is high time for you to grant me enlightenment. I am more than ready!” The Master remained silent, and simply smiled.
Weeks passed, with no response from the Master. The disciple was becoming more and more frustrated.
One day the Master and disciples were bathing in the river. Without warning, the Master grasped this disciple, thrust his head under water and held it there. After a while, the disciple started to panic and flounder: he was convinced he would drown then and there.
Eventually the Master released his grip and the disciple came up spluttering and gasping desperately for air. He felt helpless, embarrassed, confounded and furious all at the same time, and had to be helped to the shore. The Master calmly continued bathing.
Later that evening, the Master turned to this disciple and spoke: “Only when your inner cry becomes as intense and all-consuming as your cry for air today – then you will know you are ready and ripe for enlightenment.”
Music is God’s thinnest disguise, inviting us, even luring us into the spiritual realm. When we follow music to its source we discover ourselves in the silence, the undisguised God.
Our minds have the sense that we are separate from music, the music is coming from somewhere or someone else and we are observing it from a distance, as an objective critic. This approach works when music has some element of mental formulation – otherwise the mind has no foothold, no means of understanding; it is all at sea.
Sri Chinmoy’s keyboard improvisations can never be grasped or understood with the mind, because the mind plays no role in their inspiration, conception and performance. They come from realms far beyond the mind, and would lead us thither.
This music is universal in its aspiration and transcendental in its liberation. It points directly and only to its source – within.
When listening, imagine you are the performer. You are the music. You are its source. You are expressing yourself, your own inner consciousness, experiences and realisations. You are not constrained by the formulation of words, melody, harmony or language; you are simply a fountain of light and bliss, pouring yourself forth; you are the beauty and fragrance of the flower; the exhilaration of exploding fireworks; you are the sweetest smile; the thrill of love; the dance of the stars; the earthquake shaking the world; you are the skies expanding beyond the sky – and withal poised, still.
This music cannot be interpreted or described. It can only be welcomed, felt and become. To embrace this music is to discover it as ours, as flowing from – and leading to – our own universal source. That source, owning, releasing and transcending it all – is silence, our own God-silence.
Listen to Sri Chinmoy playing the pipe organ at the Sydney Opera House:
“Silence is the nest and music is the bird. The bird leaves the nest early in the morning and returns to the nest in the evening. Similarly, in the spiritual world, divine music comes from the inmost Soul of Silence. It is Silence that embodies real music, divine music.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
– Aldous Huxley
Music arises out of, and leads back to silence.
Silence is the canvas on which music is painted, the stage on which music is performed, the backdrop against which music poses, the air which music breathes. Silence sends forth music as its emissary, to reveal its secrets – love, sweetness, joy, harmony, perfection. Silence is the sun’s power, music the moon-beauty.
Silence sustains music. Music implies silence. When we meditate on anything, we are naturally drawn to its source, its inner truth. A footprint reveals the truth of the foot, though we do not see the foot; fragrance reveals the presence of a flower, though we may not see the flower; and so music reveals the inner silence, though we do not hear that silence. This inner silence is precisely our goal, the crown of our meditation practice.
When we give ourselves to spiritual music and surrender our thoughts and feelings into its flow, our mental activity is charmed into stillness. It is as though music takes us by the hand and leads us smilingly into meditation, our hearts’ sanctum of inner silence. Meanwhile like a security guard, music itself protects our meditation, evicting thoughts and distractions.
Spiritual music performs a paradoxical miracle for us that after years of practice we might otherwise never achieve or even believe: the opportunity to experience at once outer sound and inner silence.
“If we pay adequate attention to each action, then inside the very depth of that action we are bound to hear music. Unless we hear music inside each action, the action is lifeless.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Music is not just notes, sounds, melodies and rhythms.
Music, like meditation, is feeling, discovering and becoming. Just as real music is meditation, so real meditation is music. And just as meditation – self-discovery – extends beyond sitting in silence and into our every conscious breathing moment, so too does music. When we meditate, we resonate – flowing, uplifting, soaring, liberating. We discover the deeper truth that we not only embody music – we are ourselves music. Each of us is a song: to sing and reveal our song on the world-stage, the simple purpose of our being.
Through music we discover meditation; through meditation we become music.
Music is at once inspiration, creation and completion. Music is the discovery, appreciation and revelation of the beauty, love, sweetness, subtlety and perfection-delight nestled in life’s every breath; the colour, contour and costume of God.
We do not have to play an instrument to be a musician. We have only to live in tune with our inner music, our soul’s purpose, the cadence, melody and harmony of our deeper existence. Only then can our outer life express harmony, sweetness, satisfaction and fulfilment. This cannot be achieved through any outer means, not by possession, accomplishment or victory: only through the inner discovery of meditation and spiritual awakening.
In discovering and exclusively playing our own inner music, we find ourselves in surprising and delightful resonance with the supreme cosmic symphony. In playing our part perfectly, the full score of the universal music is revealed to us to play, to play with, to thrill to – and become.
“There is no difference Between our soulful songs And our fruitful meditation.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Singing occupies a central role in the practise and ritual of most spiritual paths and traditions, for good reason.
Spirituality lies beyond the realm of the rational, of reason, description and even understanding – as does music, and so is music a natural language of spirituality.
Because it involves every level of our being, singing is the most intimate and personal experience of music, and its most natural, immediate and direct means of expression and communication.
Singing soulfully helps our meditation go deeper, faster – but what does it mean to “sing soulfully?”
Our soul is our source, the most subtle, pure, powerful essence of our being. Our soul is within us, around us, pervading our all. Our soul is at once the silent witness and sanctioning force of our consciousness, intentions and actions; our highest ideal and integral fulfilment. To sing “soulfully” is to sing “fully with our soul” and to sing “full of soul”: with all of the soul’s qualities – love, tenderness, intensity, brilliance, power – and with all of the soul’s utilities, with our entire being, body, vital, mind and heart. To sing soulfully is to sing unreservedly, prayerfully, with one-pointed focus, utterly and self-givingly. To sing self-givingly is to offer one’s entire self – all of one’s capacities, skills, prayers, ideals and aspirations – to the song and to the singing of the song, with all of one’s wholehearted enthusiasm, eagerness, sincerity, energy, joy, dedication and commitment. Nothing is held back. There is no separation between singer and song.
Singer and song amplify and beautify each other.
The signature of soulful singing is an immediate sweetest, fragrant, ineffable, indescribable and inescapable psychic thrill.
“Usha bala elo Dhire aji dhire Hridaya gabhire.”
– Bengali song by Sri Chinmoy
“Slowly, very slowly, The virgin dawn appears In the very depths of my aspiration-heart.”
– English translation by Sri Chinmoy
Each of these characters is a different part of our own being. The older child is our mind, actually lost but pretending desperately to project the impression of control.
The small child is our heart: lost in the bewildering storm of the outer world, our heart becomes a mounting aspiration-cry of intense yearning.
The adult is our all-knowing, all-loving soul, ever-ready to offer comfort, protection and illumination. The soul has all the answers and remedies, but does not interfere when it sees our mind has assumed control and taken charge despite its pitiful ignorance. Yet to our heart’s sincere, compelling cry, readily and unreservedly our soul pours forth its protection, concern, love and light.
In terms of spiritual awareness, if we are sincere, we are the small child: we don’t know who we are, where we have come from or where we are heading – we don’t have a clue, and there is absolutely a storm raging; the storm of life. To initiate the dawn of illumination within, we need simply to cry like this child, from the depths of our being with utter sincerity and helplessness, the cry of wholehearted aspiration.
View the score…
Listen to the song:
Now for the song and creative visualisation: while singing, imagine you are the young child lost in the storm. Cry from the depths of your being: with each verse, immerse yourself in the responding unfolding magic of the inner dawn. The storm subsides, the night dissipates and the soul’s light floods our consciousness. All grows into the glorious, radiant day of perfect love, light, oneness, happiness and illumination.
“Usha Bala Elo” is a song by Sri Chinmoy, a meditation on aspiration and illumination.
The dawn is one of nature’s most glorious mysteries and life’s most magical, auspicious moments. The transformation of night into day, darkness into light, despair into hope and promise, one state of being into its polar opposite, is at once exquisitely beautiful, thrillingly wondrous and utterly exhilarating.
Imagine the very first dawn at the beginning of time: all there has ever been is complete pitch darkness and now all of creation is gradually revealed in the fullness of its pristine absolute beauty, radiance and perfection.
Sri Chinmoy’s song sings not of the outer, but of the inner dawn – the dawn of spiritual awakening; and of the power that invokes and initiates this awakening – the inner cry of aspiration. In an evocative word-and-sound picture, this song depicts the process of spiritual illumination and transformation.
For our creative visualisation exercise let us set a stage, with three characters. The scene is a street at night in a wild storm with pelting rain, thunder and lightning.
First to appear is a four-year-old child, alone and lost in the storm. Imagine you are this child: you are hopelessly lost in the raging storm – what will you do? You will cry, sincerely and utterly with absolute helplessness.
Next comes an older child, also lost and secretly afraid but determined not to betray any fear or confusion.
The third character is your adult self, in the same street with overcoat and umbrella on your way home. You see the older child marching confidently along: you don’t interfere.
Now you come across the smaller child, crying piteously. What do you do? You comfort and protect the child, and bring him to his home.
Every spiritual quality can be felt, nurtured, enlarged and intensified by singing: sweetness, tenderness, sympathy, love, aspiration, longing, joy, ecstasy, courage, determination, devotion, valour, vigour, enthusiasm, self-offering – all respond to the right song as a sunflower to the sun.
The key to bringing forth all of these qualities is love: the more we love a song and the more ardently we sing with selfless love, the more the song reveals and enwraps us in the very qualities for which we yearn.
When we long to express feelings that mere words cannot convey – whether in the secular or sacred realms – we turn naturally to song. Hence the most common theme of all songs is the one experience, the one emotion, the one realisation that most directly connects us with our heart and the mystery of the spiritual realm – love.
We sing a love song to express the inexpressible, the sense of oneness and the thrill of inner awakening to a truth beyond ourselves, a truth that transcends reason and understanding, a truth we can never own, only adore.
Yet we also sing a love song to awaken, enjoy and become the feeling and reality of love: a song can at once express, invoke and reveal love, whether love for a person, a flower, a football team, our nation or God.
As colour is light made visible, so song is love made audible.
As we love to sing, so we sing to love. In song, love is a fish in water, a bird in the sky. As bread and flour cannot be separated; as a flower and its fragrance are one; so a love song is not only a song of love, but love as song.
In love, we sing. In song, love we become.
“My own gratitude-heart Is all that matters.”
– Sri Chinmoy
All spiritual qualities reside inside our heart – indeed our heart is comprised of all the spiritual qualities.
To invoke or call forth any of the spiritual qualities is to open our heart. When our heart is open it is much easier to enter into meditation.
Singing is a most powerful and effective way to arouse the spiritual qualities from within. When we sing of love, it is as though we are approaching the door of love and calling forth to her: “Love, are you there?” When we feel our hearts overflowing with love, singing further expands, deepens and intensifies our love.
So it is with gratitude.
The poem by Sri Chinmoy: “My own gratitude-heart / Is all that matters” is on the face of it an improbable statement. How can “my own gratitude-heart” be all that matters? Surely many things matter very much – food, shelter and education, for example…
Yet this simple statement expresses a profound spiritual truth: when my heart is full of gratitude, no negative feeling, thought or emotion can hold sway over me. Gratitude opens my heart like a flower to the sun, to all the good and divine forces within. Gratitude strengthens, sweetens, purifies, clarifies, enlightens, enlarges and enriches my consciousness like no other quality: it is nothing short of a divine miracle. My own gratitude-heart is indeed all that matters, for it embodies all else that I will ever need.
View the score.
Listen to the song:
Sing this simple song with all your heart for as long as you feel like, either as a preliminary to meditation or as your meditation itself – or any time, anywhere. While singing, feel your heart blooming and blossoming with gratitude and your whole being becoming only the fragrance of gratitude.
“God the music My outer life likes. God the song My inner life loves.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Spiritual music is God’s secret agent sent into the world to find and return us to Him.
We are of the same Source as spiritual music. Just as we are expressions and manifestations of love, light, peace, beauty and joy, so is music. We are two diverging trunks of the same tree, rising from the same root and same soil. Our souls have taken physical form; music’s soul the form of sound – if we look beyond our respective outer forms, we uncover an inner affinity, a revelation of oneness.
Springing from the same source, the same parents, spiritual songs are our brothers and sisters, our intimate family, children of the same love, light and joy. They are also our closest friends, playmates, lovers, confidants, tutors, mentors and guides.
There is nothing we cannot learn from spiritual songs, provided we engage with them sincerely, eagerly and wholeheartedly. The more we can hear, play or sing spiritual songs with love and devotion, the more the songs reveal of themselves and simultaneously, of ourselves. Songs are our inner mirrors and echo chambers; the deeper we dive into a song, the deeper we dive into ourselves. The more of ourselves we give to a song, the more of ourselves we discover. We gain, learn and become most from a song when we claim it utterly as our own and offer it our all.
To flood us and our world with love, light and delight, God comes to us as music and as song.
Sometimes more immediately and effectively than meditation, spiritual music reminds us of the real, inspires us, purifies, beautifies, sweetens, energises, enraptures, illumines, liberates, perfects, reveals and fulfils us integrally.