On Meditation

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It was an ordinary evening with my family. I was sitting in the living room, comfortably reading a review that included a quote from Carl Jung. It was a simple but utterly potent statement. Jung said that everyone has a secret, and that it is difficult to live without a secret. The words reached into my heart and something woke up, something which I didn’t even understand.

At first, the knowledge that it was actually okay to have a secret, gave me indescribable happiness. Soon after, the need to reveal more of this secret grew. I had no teacher then, just an instinctual knowing that this secret needed to be nourished in silence. During difficult times, I would walk down to the creek near our house, and sit inside a ring of redwood trees. Prayer and silence were my refuge.

After a few years, this was not enough. It seemed too separate from my daily life, this sanctuary by the creek. The divide between the complexity of life and the silence of the redwoods had painfully widened. It was during that time that I went to a lecture given by a Sufi sheikh, who later became my teacher. He described a meditation of the heart that is central to this order of Sufism; it uses the energy of love to still the mind. He spoke quietly, explaining that one just focuses on the heart, and fills the heart with love, drowning the thoughts, one by one, in the ocean of love.

To my distress, when I closed my eyes, my chest was like an empty cave. I could not find my heart. I had always known, before, intuitively, how to be with my heart in times of suffering. But as a conscious practice, to locate the heart suddenly seemed absurdly intangible and out of reach. Over time, I gradually found my way with this meditation. And yet, there was one small point of resistance.

I was deeply afraid of the emptiness, and pretended to myself that I was just too busy with my family life and work. I would snatch quick moments of “meditation time” that barely gave the mind a chance to become quiet. I began to have dreams that hinted I was running away from something, but I didn’t even know what it was I ran from. It was easy to meditate with others in a group, but alone, the resistance grew. This went on for a long time, until one day, I stopped my rushing around, took a deep breath, and refused to collaborate further with this avoidance.

As if one could bargain with the Infinite, I agreed to sit for five minutes, and no more. I closed my eyes, and went into a deep state of meditation without knowing it. Twenty minutes later, as I was coming out of this deeply nourishing state, I heard these words, silently arising out of the emptiness: “We make space for the Beloved to be with Himself.”

Sometimes we are given inward encouragement to continue on the path, a moment of grace that allows us to persevere despite our fears or doubts. I realized, for the first time, that meditation practice was not about me. It was my job to simply make a space for the secret within my heart to make itself known. In meditation, the ego and the mind are stilled so that we can experience a deeper reality, beyond the noise of our conditioning and preoccupations.

It is a profound mystery, the way this secret of our divine essence is unveiled. The heart opens and gradually infuses our everyday life with love, and slowly our natural way of being weaves together the inner and outer worlds. There is a saying that when we want nothing for ourselves, everything is given. This describes a very real process where we offer ourselves, in devotion, both in silence and in life, to what is Real, to the secret that resides in the heart of every human being.

Man is My secret and I am his secret. The inner knowledge of the spiritual essence is a secret of My secrets. Only I put this into the heart of My good servant, and none may know his state other than Me.  
– Hadith

On Meditation
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