I spent two weeks in India following a meditation guru from town to town. Two days per location.
This was my fourth visit to India but truth to be said, it was the first real one. The other three were too touristic. Two were for lecturing, staying in the best of hotels with warm water and all the excellent services money can buy. The third was for a Maha Kumba Mella, which is a gathering of Hindus on the Ganges every one hundred and forty four years. Sidhus descend from their caves in the Himalayas and it is a freak show, as one of my Indian associates, Sunil, calls it. It was, granted, an interesting experience to see the fakirs but again it was not the day to day India.
This time it was real india. I slept in an ashram, was driven from town to town in terrible traffic, ate with Indians on the floor and meditated with them. At my age (71) it was not an easy experience but the Guru was older, eighty something… and he held on well so who am I to complain…
What did I learn?
The meditation opened my eyes to see and understand things I struggled for years and could not understand.
Here are some.
The meditation I was practicing is called Sahaj Marg which means The Natural Way. The practice is to focus on the heart and listen to the heart and do so by slowing down the mind. No mantra. No focusing on the breath or on a candle or whatever. Just the heart.
I joined this type of practice because I believed I needed it the most. First, being Jewish I spend most of my time in my head and it needed some rest, and second, because of the World War II, seeing my dearest send to death, my heart was closed all these years, so it needed opening.
Now, here is one of the many valuable insights I got from meditation.
How do you know, when you meditate, which thoughts are of the mind and which of the heart?
Thoughts are thoughts. No?
There is a difference. Thoughts of the mind you can argue with, and you toss and turn and argue with yourself. When your heart “speaks” there is no argument. There is no: ”Why?” or “Why not?”; There is no more discussion. The arguments are done and over with. That means that you are done deciding; You are complete, you are at peace with yourself. To the question “why“ the answer is “because“ and that is it.
That brought me to the next insight. If you really listen to the heart when you make a decision and you heart does not “speak “ to you, it means that you are not ready to finalize your decision; the fruit is not ripe yet; Leave it on the branch to ripen. This is the case where it is better not to decide than to decide then and there.
And when you decide with your heart, you can not make mistakes.
Well, what is a mistake? It is always a conclusion you get at after the fact. Right? It is a feeling of remorse and self accusation that you should have decided differently. You know it WAS a mistake only after the fact and you will accuse yourself that your judgment was wrong, that you did not deliberate enough, that you did not listen to advise, that you ignored facts etc, etc.
When you make a decision with your heart you are at peace with yourself. If after the fact you find out that it did not work out as you wanted it to be, you would not feel a remorse because at the time you made the decision you had no doubts as to what to do, so you could not have done better. The fact that it did not work out is now only academically interesting: What can be learnt from what happened? But there is no place for remorse. You were at peace when you decided and that is it.
How does one come to such peace of mind especially if there is a difficult decision to be made? You can do it only by meditating. And that is where the most important insight is. When you meditate you do not get attached to thoughts. You do not follow them. Thus, you do not get into endless arguments with yourself. And the insight as to what is the right thing to do automatically and eventually will emerge.
Let me share with you a story which I hope can demonstrate what I am saying here
One of my early associates, Prof Will McWhinney, told me a story. When he was a student at Yale, they had a competition of the fraternities as to who will have a better choir. Well, his fraternity had the worst voices at the university except for one person who had an evangelical tenor voice. Most beautiful.
So they devised the following performance. They all got on stage and each one of them was signing something else. A total cacophony ensued. Than slowly, one by one, they stopped singing and the beautiful voice of the tenor singer was becoming stronger and stronger till it was all alone, pure and crystal clear and totally enchanting to the audience. They won first prize.
The same happens in meditation. You have many voices in your head and they compete with each other. The more difficult the decision is the more voices you will “hear” and the more stress you will experience because the “noise“ can be over bearing. When you meditate and slowly shut the voices down, one by one, your heart speaks stronger and stronger to you till you get the answer to your question and feel at total peace with your decision.
In yoga they say that the mind is the terrorist. It terrorizes us. I once saw a bumper sticker: ”do not always believe what you think.” Now think about it.
This is profound because Jewish as I am, I not only honor the mind. I worship the mind. And boy oh boy it is time for change...
Why? Because with our Talmudic mind we complicate problems even if they are simple. We over do and over complicate anything to the point that we can not solve the problem. Stop and FEEL before you decide. And meditation on the heart helps to feel.
I am sure that some of you reading these passages, and I even know who you are, the (P)s in the crowd, believe that I lost my mind somewhere. That I am becoming weird.
Meditation is like sex. If you describe it in detail, unless you are a poet, it reads gory and quite disgusting. To be appreciated it needs to be experienced. Only than you know what it is. I invite you all to try it.