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intelligence of the heart

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After meditation (zazen) yesterday, two of us stayed behind, tidying cushions and sipping left-over tea. Do you ever feel truly at ease, you know, a deep-down serenity? Yes. I’ve had moments during meditation, even while walking down the street, when I’ve felt as if everything is perfectly ok; as if there’ s no inside and outside, no “me” separate from the world. 

And then what happens? The instant I sense it, my thinking mind kicks in and everyday stuff floods in … and awareness shifts instantly to that. A momentary taste of pure being … and just as you say, a shift in awareness. I’m beginning to believe that it doesn’t disappear, only gets obscured. 

A while later I returned to an anthology on Sufism, the mystic branch of Islam, to read about the “intelligence of the heart from which all others spring” as the core concept of all religions and spiritual traditions …

… where transcendence meets immanence, where truth resonates, reachable only through the endless stages of self-testing and self-recognition like peeling the layers of an onion. As a popular saying of the Prophet describes the “from the divine to the human” concept: “I was a hidden treasure longing to be known ….” 

source: Baker, R. (1999). Merton, Marco Pallis, and the Traditionalists. In: Merton & Sufism: the untold story. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, p. 202.


7 responses »

  1. Hello, so glad to have come across your blog, thankyou. I am currently reading a wonderful book by Sara Maitland – A Book Of Silence – in which she describes and relates her deep personal exploration and experience of Silence. Last night I read a passage which relates to your experience(s) of oneness/connectedness spoken of above. I reproduce it here for the benefit of all (hopefully I am not doing anything illegal by doing so! Please let me know if I am!) To me, the clue seems to be in her appreciation of the experience as “a gift”. So often I, and others, try to hang on to or recreate the experience and fail miserably! Why do we do that?! Maybe we can just experience it and treasure it as a gift, a moment of grace? Here is the passage…

    “I climbed on up into the steep-sided corrie. It was sheltered there and magnificent – almost vertical mountains on both sides – a mixture of shining rock and loose scree, and below, tiny stands of water that looked like handfuls of coins tossed casually down. I sat on a rock and ate cheese sandwiches – and thought I was perfectly happy. It was so huge. And so wild and so empty and so free.
    And there, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I slipped a gear, or something like that. There was not me and the landscape, but a kind of oneness: a connection as though my skin had been blown off. More than that – as though the molecules and atoms I am made of had reunited themselves with the molecules and atoms that the rest of the world is made of. I felt absolutely connected to everything. It was very brief, but it was a total moment. I cannot remember feeling that extraordinary sense of connectedness since I was a small child…
    …This ‘gift’ is experienced both as integrative – the whole self is engaged and known to itself, to the subject, in quite a new way – and as connecting that self to something larger.”

    From: A Book Of Silence
    Sara Maitland
    Granta Publications
    Copyright – Sara Maitland – 2008

    • Belated reaction from Peter. Thank you for writing Fiona (and Jen as well). Yes, gift –freely given, no strings. And therein lies part of the difficulty (for me, at least), this accepting of gifts fro which nohting is expected in return. It goes to welf-worth and life-long conditioning.

      That’s why they call it “practice.” Again and again, opening the heart …

    • Fiona, re your question to reproduce from a book. My understanding, based on basic copyright law and having published several books and written a dissertation, is that such quoting would be considered “fair use.” You’re not depriving the author of their “intellectual property,” if anything, you’re alerting potential readers to find/purchase the book. As a scholar you’re doing the right thing by giving full details of title, author, publisher, and date. Whenever I quote someone in a blog post (something I do almost every other day) I add the page number so that keen readers can locate the quote in context.

      Please write again. peter

  2. Fiona, what a great way to think of it, as a gift. What Peter described as well as other positive shifts in thinking. Instead of feeling deficient for not being able to hold onto them, I can feel grateful that I’ve been given a glimpse at all. Thank you!

    • Yes, Jen – thank you for articulating the subtle but damaging mindset we fall into – feeling inadequate instead of feeling blessed! We are so hard on ouselves… my ‘prayer’ is to bring more gentleness into my life….loving kindness….for myself as well as others….

      • to which i’d like to add, dear Fiona: such a mindset may not be “damaging” since it’s the best we can bring to the situation at that time. the key is to recognize it (either this time or 10 times from now) and to resolve to be kinder to ourselves (as you so beautifully say). and to be compassionate to ourselves should we turn out to be slow learners. “Love, love, love — love is all there is” (Beatles, I believe :-)).

      • Peter, thanks for your comments about copyright, it puts my mind at rest.

        Yes, “damaging” probably not the best choice of words…I meant it in the sense that it it is harmful to ourselves to feel that we are inadequate instead of blessed. But as you have kindly pointed out, thankyou, the word itself can subtly make me feel I ‘didn’t bring my best to the situation’…thereby reinforcing the feelings of inadequacy!!

        About the difficulty of accepting gifts for which nothing is expected in return… I recognise this very well! I too struggled for many, many years with this, (and still do sometimes!) – but as I have a long term illness (M.E.) I have had to learn how to ask for help (accept gifts) – this has been so hard for someone very independent like me, but good practice! : )
        I told a friend once that I felt awful about receiving so much help from her and not being able to give anything back. She said something which really helped to change my view. It’s stayed with me ever since and I’m forever grateful to her – “You may not be able to give ME anything back, but at some time, you WILL be able to give something to another person to help them, and that is what is important. Someone in the past helped me and I am now passing on that help to you”
        Wise words…given with loving kindness…which I now pass on to you…


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