Two aspects of meditation – quiet mind, open heart

Good meditation involves quietening the mind and opening the heart. mind-negativity-rainbow-beauty

Usually our mind is constantly engaged in thoughts and can only experience a limited sense of peace. The first aspect of meditation is trying to quieten and ultimately still the mind.

The complement to silencing the mind is ‘opening the heart.’ As we begin to reduce our thoughts and desires, it enables our inner heart to come to the fore. The spiritual heart is the part of our being which encompasses inner silence and our inner joy. It is the heart that is the seat of the soul – our inner being – the connecting link with God.

When we feel an awakening in the heart, this helps very much to quieten the mind. The heart has its own power and intensity. If we get joy from the heart, it becomes increasingly easier to feel detached from the mind and our thought processes. If stopping our thoughts seems an impossible task – don’t worry, concentrate on strengthening the awareness of the heart instead.

quiten-mind-open-heartTwo aspects of meditation that reinforce each other.

A beginner may start meditation and think – stopping my thoughts is very challenging. And, in many ways it is! We cannot expect to stop all thoughts over night – even after a few years of practise, it is not easy. But, as long as we take our first steps to quietening the mind, we also enable the journey of the heart to begin. Some seekers will make more progress through concentrating on the heart – rather than fighting the unruly mind. Focusing on the heart will make our task increasingly easy.

Even if our mind is not perfectly still, we can still start to have a good meditation by bringing the heart to the fore. In the heart, we will feel an inner cry and a sensation of peace. Continue Reading →


Spiritual significance of Christmas

Christmas is a significant date because of the birth of Jesus Christ – who offered a message of peace, forgiveness and divine love. Christmas is a special opportunity to put aside the material world and focus on the spiritual aspirations of peace and happiness.


“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

[Words of the Christ, Matthew 5:9]


When I was a child I used to look forward to Christmas like anything. No school, lots of food, tv – but best of all lots of presents! But, I also remember often being disappointed. Opening presents went by so quick and, by the afternoon, Christmas hadn’t lived up to my very high expectations. As the years go by, I learnt to have no expectations over presents.

What I do like about Christmas is the extra sense of peace and quiet. At least for one day, the world seems to take a day away from business. People seem happier being with friends and family. When asked about the meaning of Christmas, Sri Chinmoy mentioned the importance of happiness

“Christmas? Happiness, happiness, happiness. The Saviour came, two thousand years ago, to bless us and we shall try to be worthy of his blessings. That is to say we must pray and pray for Him to guide us. So my message is only happiness. This happiness only we can get from our prayers and our meditation. If you are happy, the whole world is happy. If you are miserable, the whole world is miserable. For me the Christmas message is happiness. ”

Although, I do not follow the Christian religion, at Christmas time I return home to my parent’s village. In the afternoon, I like to walk up to the empty church and sit in silence in the fading afternoon light – just before sunset and the church door is closed. I really appreciate the fact they keep the church open. When I go (usually just before 4pm) it is getting dark in the church and there is just a single candle light, which I use as object of meditation. Inwardly, I try to keep my mind calm and quiet and focus on the spiritual heart. It is a simple meditation. The church is empty of people, but inwardly there is a sense of something to assuage our human tribulations. Continue Reading →


How science can help spirituality

He says that science
Has made life too easy.
Human beings have become
Lazy and lethargic.

I say that science
Is offering to humanity
More leisure time
To pray and meditate.
It is up to the individual
To avail himself
Of that golden opportunity.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

Sri Chinmoy often talks about how technology can be inimical to spiritual progress. In a nutshell, the spiritual life is about living in the heart. But absorption in the computer-world takes us into a dry, mental world – which can limit a seekers aspiration.


So it is interesting to see the other side of the coin. How science can give us more time for spiritual practice – as long as we are willing to take the opportunity. Continue Reading →


The power of appreciating beauty

appreciate beauty

“Appreciate beauty to become beauty itself” – Sri Chinmoy

I was struck by this aphorism. Simple yet full of significance. To appreciate goodness and beauty is to make it part of ourself.

There is much beauty in the world, but we can lose sight of this – becoming instead caught by the problems, darkness and fears of the world. But, the existence of difficult times makes it even more important to celebrate the good and beautiful.

To a large extent, the cynic and critic fall to a similar level as those who they are criticising. However, if we spend our time in valuing the beautiful and illumining, our focus and concentration will help make it part of ourselves.

The concept of appreciating beauty can easily be extended to other similar qualities. In particular, recognizing the good qualities of others will help us to strengthen these qualities in ourself.

For example, if we meet someone who has excellent capacities, we can react in two ways. We can become secretly jealous and try to put them down. Or we can appreciate their good qualities. When we value their good qualities, like a magnet, we draw these qualities into ourself.

Appreciation doesn’t have to be outer; it may often not be appropriate. But, to recognise the good qualities of others requires a sincere humility and openness; and it remains a powerful way to help to transform our nature.

What we focus on, we make part of ourselves.


Making friends with an old adversary

The hazel tree is an old adversary. Sitting at the corner of the garden, it casts a long shadow over the garden. The tree is no respecter of boundaries; it’s sprawling trunk cuts into four different properties. Though the tree might counter, ‘I was here long before your man made fences’.

Poor Hazel tree hacked by me.

But, as a keen gardener, I have aspirations to bend nature to my will – beautiful flowers need sun not shade.

Over the years, I’ve hacked away at branches to create more light. But for every branch that comes down – the tree continues its remorseless journey towards the sky.

For all the hours of sawing from the top of a ladder, and a big bundle of decapitated branches – the length of shadow has remained broadly the same.

The gardener in me fears the tree growing out of reach, forever plunging the garden into shade. If the tree was one hundred percent in my garden, it would be dead already, but it has been reprieved by its fortuitous placement within the no man’s land of uncertain border regions.

Late summer plants – part in shade

I knew something wasn’t quite right when before going out to meditation, I would look wistfully towards the tree – eyeing up another branch to cull. Continue Reading →


The person on the end of the phone

There are some irritants of modern life – call centres, canvassers, getting a parking tickets e.t.c. But, before we take it out on the person at the end of the line, we should try and put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. Given different circumstances, it could easily be us.


It is easy to get frustrated when we have a valid complaint but are put on hold for a long time. However, before we speak in anger, we should try and bear in mind a few things.

Anger hurts ourselves. When we get angry, we lose our peace of mind and later we will feel a form of regret. Like a boomerang, anger comes back to haunt us.

Secondly, the person who receives our anger and frustration most likely doesn’t deserve it. They are doing a job; they are the front person for problems elsewhere. If we were in a job dealing with complaints, we would definitely appreciate people who are thoughtful and calm. Continue Reading →


Economics and spirituality

As an economist and someone who practises spirituality, I haven’t often contemplated this combination of unlikely bedfellows – economics and spirituality

Economics or ‘the dismal science’ is a subject primarily limited to materialism and the wealth of nations; and so is rarely considered from any metaphysical perspective.

Self-interest theory

A compelling idea in economics is that of self-interest theory. Economists assume individuals seek to maximise their utility (happiness). This utility is primarily measured by consumption of goods, services and ‘leisure time’. The argument of classical economics is that by pursuing our self-interest, the invisible hand of the market helps create an efficient allocation of resources.

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

– Adam Smith,(1776) Wealth of Nations, Chapter II, p. 19.

Adam Smith wasn’t quite the free market evangelist, he was later made out to be. He was a moral philosopher who hoped people would aspire to more than self-interest but gain happiness from altruism and thinking of others. He valued the golden rule of religious teachings.

“As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.”

– Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Section I, Chap. V. (1759)

However, his observation that self-interest could be mutually beneficial has become a powerful feature of economic theory. It is quite convenient for those who wish to justify their own pursuit of material self-interest. Continue Reading →


The spirituality of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a remarkable man. A man of both science and art, who matched a ceaseless creativity with a passion and devotion for discovering the wonders and beauty of life.

In art, Da Vinci left humanity the immortal Mona Lisa, which offered a glimpse of the Transcendent in the human-form. Da Vinci was also a pioneering and original thinker, who transcended his lifetime and even the Renaissance – to leave ideas which are both timeless and illumining. These are a few selected quotes which reveal the inner spirituality of a man who was unconcerned with any outer display of piety.

Quotes of Leonardo

“Here forms, here colours, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing … Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles…”

– Leonardo da Vinci

“Love shows itself more in adversity than in prosperity; as light does, which shines most where the place is darkest.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Like unto this is the love of virtue. It never looks at any vile or base thing, but rather clings always to pure and virtuous things and takes up its abode in a noble heart; as the birds do in green woods on flowery branches.

Continue Reading →


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