Lorin Roche, Ph.D. on the naturally meditative moments we experience in the most ordinary situations in life, that we can choose to cultivate and grow.
This article first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit, issue 43.
There are moments in life that take our breath away. We gasp with pleasure and delight, and involuntarily say, ‘Oh!’ or ‘Ah!’ The exciting incident could be anything we love – a surprising and delicious taste on the tongue, a marvelous vista of nature, an astonishing movement in music, looking into the eyes of someone we adore. James Joyce termed this ‘aesthetic arrest’. The mind goes silent in awe as our senses come alive.
These are naturally occurring meditative moments, and if we choose, we can cultivate them and learn their ways. This is the idea of a meditation ‘practice’. We build our approach to meditation around the ways we pay attention when we are being with what we love.
The senses declare an outrageous world —
Sounds and scents, ravishing colors and shapes,
Ever-changing skies, iridescent reflections —
All these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.
Every perception is an invitation into revelation.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Ways of knowing creation,
Transmissions of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.
Encircled by splendor,
In the center of the sphere,
Meditate where the body thrills
To currents of intimate communion.
Follow your senses to the end and beyond —
Into the heart of space.
śikhipakṣaiś citrarūpair maṇḍalaiḥ śūnyapañcakam |
dhyāyato’nuttare śūnye praveśo hṛdaye bhavet || 32 ||
Sikhipaksais – the feathers of a peacock, cherished because of their iridescent beauty and gorgeous patterns. Sikhi is ‘peacock. A name of Indra. The god of love’.[span4]These are naturally occurring meditative moments, and if we choose, we can cultivate them and learn their ways.[/span4]
Citra – excellent, bright, clear, extraordinary, wonderful, variety of color, picture, sketch; punning in the form of question and answer
Rupa – outward appearance, color, shape, figure, dreamy shapes, loveliness, grace, beauty, splendor, nature, character, peculiarity, reflection, manner; a show, play, drama, a remark made under particular circumstances when the action is at its height.
Mandala – circular, round, the path or orbit of a heavenly body, a halo around the sun or moon.
Sunya – empty, void, deserted, vacant, vacuum, space, heaven, atmosphere.
Pancha – five, in this case the five senses: smell, taste, vision, touch, hearing.
Dhyana – meditation, thought, reflection.
Anuttare – follow to the end, the Supreme, the Highest Reality, both transcendental and immanent.
Pravesha – entering, a place of entrance, a door, entrance on the stage, entrance of the sun into a sign of the zodiac, employment, intentness on an object, engaging closely in a pursuit or purpose, manner, method.
Hrdaya – (herd-aya) the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations), soul, mind (as the center of mental operations); the heart or interior of the body, the heart or center or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything. True or divine knowledge. Science.
Bhava is ‘becoming, being, turning or transition into, reality, temperament, any state of mind or body, sentiment, intention, love, affection, attachment; the seat of the feelings or affections, heart, soul, mind; wanton sport, dalliance’.
The above is thirty-two syllables of Sanskrit, about fourteen seconds of chanting. There is a saying, ‘Poetry is what gets lost in translation’. The definitions are taken directly from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, published in Oxford in 1899, and it is immediately apparent that each word of the Sanskrit is actually a poem unto itself. It is a betrayal of the richness of Sanskrit to attempt to reduce it to one corresponding word of English.
The full definition of each word is much longer, and when you string them together you see all kinds of puns and sexual innuendo. The first word of the verse, sikhi, is a name of Indra. In yoga terminology, the senses are called “indriyas,” or “the companions of Indra.” Indra is the king of the gods, thus the senses are honored as being intrinsically divine. Indriya also means power, bodily power, virile power, and semen.[span4]Even the most ordinary situation in life can be perceived as beautiful, if you are paying exquisite attention. In meditation, call up the memory of any time when you have experienced rapture, delight, or wonder, or have been ravished by something amazing. [/span4]
There are innumerable techniques here. Explore each and every one of your senses — hearing, touch, taste, smell, vision — individually and in combination. Find the hrdya, ‘that which captivates your heart’, in each sense. Select as an object of meditation that which thrills you, calls you, amazes and delights you, and then let that carry you away. Learn to follow each sense through all its layers and dimensions, into shunya, the spaciousness it emerges from.
Even the most ordinary situation in life can be perceived as beautiful, if you are paying exquisite attention. In meditation, call up the memory of any time when you have experienced rapture, delight, or wonder, or have been ravished by something amazing. Let this experience be your guide in meditation, and learn from it again and again. Follow your sensuous experience into the beyond, and be at home in the Heart of Space.
Hrdya is also the name of ‘an intoxicating drink made from honey or the blossoms of Bassia Latifolia’, (an Indian tropical tree). This refers to the nourishing, delicious quality that arises in us as we practice gratefulness. The nectar of gratitude sustains us on our journey. There is also a blessing and a warning: hrdya is a divine drunken quality that comes from living in the heart, a sober intoxication that emerges from seeing eternity shining through this fleeting moment. This sutra is saying, the divine is always here, inside your moment-by-moment experience, inviting you to receive the transmission of spiritual electricity that awakens you to live in your essence.
About the author: Lorin Roche has practiced and taught meditation for more than 40 years. He has developed an approach he calls Instinctive Meditation, which works with each person’s uniqueness from the inside out. He holds a PhD from the University of California for his research on the language of meditative experience and is the author of Meditation Made Easy and Meditation Secrets for Women, written with his wife Camille Maurine. He lives in Los Angeles and bodysurfs daily.