“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom” – Victor Frankl
Over the years I’ve been practising Heartfulness, I’ve experienced countless positive changes in myself which others also have noticed and commented on. I’ve gone from being fearful and depressed, to generally happy and relaxed. From feeling lost and muddled with poor self-esteem, I’ve developed confidence and clarity. A life which felt rather lonely and pointless now feels filled with love and purpose. The amazing thing is that I don’t seem to have done very much to enjoy these benefits.
There is a popular belief that in order to change yourself and clear negative traits or behavioural patterns, you need to roll up your sleeves and work hard, devoting time, analysis and will power. It’s almost as though you are a sculptor dissatisfied with your work and you have to chip and carve away at yourself to smooth off rough corners and reshape certain unattractive parts of yourself. It takes effort, sweat and tears.
With Heartfulness, it is different. As we practise the simple components of meditation, cleaning and connecting with the Heart, old patterns and unhelpful behaviours simply dissolve and fall away – at times without us even noticing. Aside from these, all that is really required is our attention and willingness to look at ourselves honestly.
Taking a few moments each night to review my day from a calm and heart-centred place, I see that moments of discomfort or failure generally spring from one simple cause: that of reacting with ego, rather than responding from my heart. Something happens: I react with like/dislike or fear, which often prompts me to take misguided action, or my ego feels threatened by some criticism or comment, and I try resist the truth of that by arguing and making a case to show myself in a better light.
Either way, the cure is simple: Pause. Connect with my heart. Allow what is, just to be – including any discomfort I may feel about it. Instead of action, do nothing…and notice what is unfolding inside me.
I was deeply inspired when I heard a story about Chariji, our third Heartfulness Guide. On one occasion his family members were annoyed with him about something and were criticising him. Rather than reacting angrily or trying to put his case across, Chariji sat quietly, listening carefully to the criticism.
The magic of pausing and accepting instead of reacting has made the most dramatic and profound change to my personal relationships and family life. Others relax and become more receptive. There is more connection and more love. Arguments are avoided. My teenage daughter tells me something. I feel like reacting with a lecture, with fear, with defensiveness. I pause. Love flows into the space I’ve allowed. She feels it. She listens to what comes from that place of acceptance and love in a way she never listened to “Mum nagging”.
I find doing this both harder than I expected and incredibly liberating. When we receive criticism instead of going on the defensive, or allow something to be as it is without demanding it be different, it can be surprisingly painful as we confront the gap beween what we wish for with what actually is. We are trying to avoid feeling this pain when we attempt to change others, or to hide aspects of ourselves. However, allowing ourselves to experience it opens up a walled off, “stuck” old part of ourselves. Another layer of ‘baggage’ comes up and is cleaned away, and there is inner progress. Instead of having to work at changing myself, it is as though I am in the hands of a master sculptor. The more I stop resisting and trying to change things myself, the more effortlessly I am remoulded into something more beautiful and useful.
Our desire to be comfortable and have things a certain way, denying reality, takes an investment of energy and action. It’s a relief to stop this futile effort. To replace this fruitless “doing” with a restful “nothing”, and to get such rich results from it, seems nothing short of amazing.
I believe that therapeutic intervention can be wonderfully helpful at times to unravel and clear specific emotional issues, in the same way that using particular herbs or foods can combat health issues. However, the simple Heartfulness practices hold a secret key to extraordinary personal transformation, no matter how ordinary, flawed, or lacking in will power we think we are. All we need is the willingness and interest to try them out.
by SARAH NAYLOR Stow, Scottish Borders