One of the things I love about the meditation techniques I use (and teach) from Paramhansa Yogananda is their step-by-step methodology. Yogananda gave clear guidance about how to meditate, which laid the foundation for me to have a daily practice I could stick to. There are pre-meditation exercises, and when I sit to meditate after those I have a flow with various techniques I use to enter into a meditative state.
A pitfall to this predictability in practice is the risk of staying stuck in the head, stuck in the process. This was indeed my problem for many months after I embraced the teachings. For me, it was all process-process-process, and I was missing a very key factor to going deeper in meditation: opening and engaging the heart.
The heart is very important in meditation, and in life! In Western society in particular, we really value the brain much more than the heart. We prize results from a lab which depends on rigidity, uniformity, and control. We like to break things down to their parts, study things separately from their ecosystems. This is even mimicked in our healthcare. We have specialists which cover each individual part of the body, but few healthcare practitioners deal with the body as an integrated network of systems which influence each other. But with this piecemeal, analytical slant we've favored in our society we've lost some of the richness of existence which comes from tuning into our feeling nature.
This analytical approach was how I initially worked with meditation. I knew the techniques I wanted to use, the breath counts, the length of time to use the mantra, and so on. It was mostly happening at the intellectual level. And that got me a lot of benefits. But once I learned to engage the heart, putting energy there to open it and lifting that energy up to augment what was happening in the brain I found another level in my practice.
The heart is where our love in generated, as well as our compassion, empathy, and connection. Focusing in the heart center helps us cultivate these attributes, as well as increasing our connection with the divine. Tuning into the heart helps develop our intuition and grow our feeling nature.
There are certain techniques which can be used in meditation to engage the heart, which I go into in my classes. But it also requires a fair amount of sensitivity, listening, and feeling that just needs to be explored and experimented with to gain a greater sense of awareness. There are also things which can be done outside of meditation to help increase the flow of energy in the heart, such as selfless service. Serving others helps us forget about our ego, or little selves, and helps us focus on others and the bigger pictures. We can also be conscious of our influences, keeping the media we let into our moments (not only news but music, television, movies, magazines) as enriching to our spirit as possible.
So, if your meditation is happening 100% in your headspace, I encourage you to spend some of your meditation time working on the energy in your heart. See if you notice a shift.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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