I had decided to attend the three week course in October 2014 run by Lee Majewski at Kaivalydham in India South East of Mumbai as I was recovering from some severe arthritis following a period of feeling really unwell after food poisoning in Sri Lanka. Well, that was one demonstrable symptom but perhaps also, just getting older was another, having passed my seventy second birthday and deeply conscious that for the last lap of this race we all run, I needed to pay closer attention to my body and to my mind. I had at that stage not really thought about my heart.
The course was a daily programme of very gentle yoga postures, pranayama breath routines, awareness, study and chanting, not to mention lovely simple food day after day. A nice cocktail !! The first week is of course always the hardest and I duly struggled while at the same time noting an almost immediate increase in general vitality which I ascribed to pranayama. Looking back on the experience I now see just how deeply significant and necessary this practice of breath work really is. I had for years tried to meditate but it was not really until I started working with the breath that I realised that to watch the breath is to meditate. The gentle repetition day after day of these practices is the thing that does the trick and which is so difficult to do in UK with all its dear distractions.
The second week seems to be the week when “the stuff rises” so to speak and in my case this was most certainly the case. It took the form of finding myself almost uncontrollably angry at our course Leader ..poor Lee. This exploded one day and I attacked her verbally, an assault in the face of which she stood calmly firm and looked at me with increased attention. We subsequently had a chat about it and I realised I was projecting an old hatred born of fear onto her, and having seen it, as is the way with these things ..it collapsed and I was free of it, important in what was to happen next.
Kindly, I think partly as a result of this, Lee started in our meditation sessions, to direct us to working on the heart centre (heart chakra as it’s called in the Indian Tradition). This for me was the crowning experience of my whole visit and I came to realise just how helpful the whole chakra system really is in helping us to unblock old wounds. I suppose I have here to own that, on reflection, in spite of many attempts to be otherwise, my heart still remained closed. This is a terrible condition and one I suspect very common in the west, for if the heart is closed, then “loving” is not really possible. We may seek “love” as hard as we like but “loving”, loving life, loving people, loving all experience, eludes us. A most painful condition that arises I suspect from very early birth or childhood traumatic experience in which the heart closes in order to survive. And when the heart closes out of these traumatic contacts with the world it builds around itself a hard casing like an old walnut that has sat beside the fire all winter. Hard and very difficult to crack open.
Working with the heart centre for us meant repeatedly bringing our attention to bear on the heart, imaginally breathing in and out of the heart, evoking in the heart positive emotions such as gratefulness, kindness, appreciation, mercy, and finally perhaps love itself. When I commenced this I have to say I was a bit suspicious. Was this just a new age dream ? Did in actually do anything ? It did !!
In one session quietly concentrating on my heart it suddenly burst into flame. I could not believe it; I suddenly had a veritable bonfire going in the area of the heart. Small to begin with it began to flower until my whole interior horizon was ablaze. The session finished and I was left dumb with wondering, weepy, slightly shaken, unsure of what had happened but realising something big really had happened .We dispersed for lunch and I wandered off on my own towards the kitchens. As I entered the courtyard a clear intuition came over me that I had not quite finished this piece of work and so, seeking out a chair under a tree, I re-entered my interior world and brought my attention back to the fire in my heart. Almost immediately I saw the fire glowing deep down inside me and my attention was taken by one small specific coal that seemed to glow more brightly than the others. In my imagination I picked this glowing coal up in my fingers and stared at it deeply. In a flash I immediately vanished deep deep inside myself, deeper than in any meditation I had ever done before and I swam around inside myself like this for some minutes, head “deep under water” so to speak. I suddenly popped out again and went and had lunch !!
This experience has stayed with me when I returned to the UK and it’s as if a whole new dimension has arisen in my experience of being alive. I find it the most potent antidote to negative feelings and emotions. Should these crowd in upon me (as they are wont to do in grey old January London!!?) I simply bring my attention to the heart and circle around it with positive affirmations of emotions such as joy, loving gratefulness for what I have rather than what I do not have and lo and behold my negative feelings evaporate. As I usually do this in the early morning I come down to breakfast and my wife says “Why are you so damn cheerful”.
Also I think once we re-open this centre in ourselves a compulsion seems to arise, and it certainly did in me, to be more honest with ourselves and more straightforward and honest with others. I found myself being much more critical of myself in terms of relationships, wanting things straightforward, nothing concealed, a higher integrity as if the heart could not stand anything not quite right not straight and authentic. Finally it seemed to me as if one other essential faculty was restored to me through this heart centre work and that was that my gratefulness heart meditations turned into what I can only describe as praise . This did not seem to be praise to a specific God, or even an idea like it, but to something out and beyond my small self, something altogether larger and more powerful than myself to which the only right attitude seemed to be praise. This has given my life a new sense of direction in this respect and it is a joyful thing
So having completed this course and having been able to keep my practice going on my return to England my advice would be, chuck the anti-depressants away, stop rushing around trying to distract yourself with ever finer distractions, breath, meditate and bring your attention to the heart again and again until it fills you up. You may be surprised !
Thank you Lee, thank you Kaivalydham, I salute all your efforts to bring sanity to this crazy lovely planet of ours.