Flame above crown of head

 

I usually don’t write about things peripheral to awakening, embodiment, maturing, and healing. Mainly because it’s often a distraction. But I’ll make a few exceptions since it could be helpful for a few out there.

In my late teens and early twenties, I had a period where the Christ meditation and heart prayer were my main daily practices.

The Christ meditation is where you envision Christ 2-3 meters in front of your body, behind, on either side, above, below, and in the heart (in all six directions and the center). I usually envision Christ as a light. Rest with this visualization for as long as you want, usually from a few minutes to an hour or two. (I was pretty gung-ho and often did it for 1-2 hours at a time, mainly because it felt profoundly like coming home.)

The heart prayer is where you say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” with the breath and heartbeats. (I have given more details in other articles, and it can also be found in books and other online articles.) This is often done for dedicated periods, and also throughout the day. Over time, it becomes an ongoing prayer and it can even continue – as an intention and energetically – through the night and sleep.

Before this, I had noticed I could see auras and energies. I initially saw it around leaves of trees, and then around everyone and everything. Even nonliving things have an aura, although it’s simpler than for living beings. For people where there is a higher level of awakening, the aura becomes very subtle and extends out indefinitely. These days, I usually use it to see where spiritual teachers are at.

In the periods where I engaged in the Christ meditation and heart prayer, I noticed a light above the crown on my heart. (Yes, surprisingly enough, auras can be seen in the mirror.) And I then realized that this is exactly how the descent of the Holy Spirit is traditionally depicted, as a flame above the head. It was quite astonishing and created even more of a sense of connection with the (alive) Christian tradition and early Christians.

So, at least in my experience, what art historians and others may see as a symbolic representation may actually be meant as a literal depiction of what is going on in the aura of those with a strong connection with Christ, and which can be seen by those able to see energies and auras.

Note: This article on Women at Pentecost has several beautiful depictions of this flame. The mosaic above this article shows the flame a bit higher up than how I experienced it. It’s really touching the top of the head.

Since the paintings depict Pentecost and the disciples, it shows a group of people with this flame. And that reflects how it’s not limited to a few select people but accessible to (I assume) anyone with some sincerity and dedication, and it’s more about a community of people with shared aim and connection than separate individuals.

Note 2: When I mention the “alive Christian tradition” I mean the thread within Christianity that’s alive in a spiritual sense. Christianity as a whole is less alive in that sense but there are many exceptions.

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Basic forms of meditation: attention, notice, insights, heart, body

 

Here are a few basic forms of meditation. All of them are reasonably universal and they are – in their essential form – found in several different traditions. As with any skill, it’s helpful to be guided by someone who are experienced, and our own skills and understanding will develop with experience.

Training a more stable attention. This is helpful for just about anything in life, whether it’s work, studying, hobbies, relationships, or any inner or spiritual practice. It helps us bring our attention to something in a more stable way and for as long as we wish. It makes our attention a more useful and pliable tool for us. As a bonus, a more stable attention tends to bring in a sense of well being and grounding.

The easiest way of training this is to bring attention to the sensations of the breath (chest, nose, tip of nose), notice when it goes to something else, and then gently bring it back to the sensations. We can also use other objects: sounds, imagined or visual imagery etc.

This practice also gives us some insights into how the mind works. We notice that attention tends to go somewhere else, almost always to thoughts that have a charge, and it seems to go there on its own. We can also notice which thoughts attention tends to go to, notice the charge and that there may be something unresolved around it, and then explore it through inquiry or a healing approach, perhaps allowing it to resolve and the charge goes out of it. In a small way, this may give a greater sense of well being, allow us to function better in life, and make it easier for attention to stably rest on whatever we intend.

Notice and allow. The basic form is to notice and allow. Notice what’s here in the sense fields (sight, sound, sensations, smell, taste, thoughts). Allow it to be as it is.

Again, this can give us some simple insights. We may notice that what’s here is already allowed – by life, mind, space – to be here as is, and that it’s more restful to notice this. As before, we may notice attention going to thoughts with a charge. We can also explore noticing the space it all happens within and as.

We may notice the effects of this noticing and allowing. We may notice that it creates a sense of space around whatever happens. Attention may not be immediately caught up and drawn into thoughts with a charge. And that this becomes easier and more of a habit the more we do it.

As with training a more stable attention, we may also find that this noticing and allowing helps us in everyday life and that it brings with it a sense of well-being and grounding. (When attention is less caught up in charged thoughts, there is often a sense of well being and grounding.)

Insights. Insights can come as a byproduct of any of these explorations. When we over time notice how we function, insights are almost inevitable. Insights can also come through inquiry, and especially through more structured forms of inquiry such as The Work, Living Inquiries, or just noticing what’s happening in the sense fields (including thoughts).

These structured forms of inquiry are like training wheels, and although we may never outgrow them (or wish to do so), becoming familiar with them tends to lead to more spontaneous helpful noticing and simple forms on inquiry in everyday situations.

The main insights we may get from these inquiries is how thoughts combine with sensations, so sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. This is how thoughts get a charge, and how beliefs, identifications, reactivity, compulsions, and more are created.

Heart-centered. Heart-centered practices help us change our relationship to ourselves, others, the world, life, situations, and parts of ourselves. They help us shift from seeing (some of) them as a problem, mistake, or something that needs to go away, to genuinely befriending them. As with the explorations above, this tends to bring in a greater sense of well-being, ease, and grounding. And as my old Zen teacher used to say, we tend to become less of a nuisance to others….!

Some of my favorites here are tonglen (from Tibetan Buddhism), ho’oponopono (Hawaii), and all-inclusive gratitude practices. (See other articles for more on these.)

Continuous prayer. I’ll add this since it’s found in many traditions and can be a powerful and transformative practice. Say a brief prayer along with the in- and out-breath and the heart beats. Do it as often as you remember, and set aside time to do this exclusively. Over time, this will become a continuous prayer. You will even have a sense of it happening while you sleep.

The Christian version is the Jesus prayer or heart prayer: Lord Jesus Christ (on in-breath), have mercy on me (on outbreath). And synchronize the words with the heart beat (for instance, one heart beat for the three first words, then another, then one on “have mercy”, another for “on”, and then one on “me”).

Body-centered. These are the familiar ones, including yoga, chi gong, tai chi, Breema, and many others. Ordinary forms of physical activity can also be included here, if we bring our noticing and allowing to the sensations and movements of the body.

I won’t say too much about these since they are reasonably well known in our society today. We bring our noticing to the sensations and movements of the body, and what’s described above under training attention and noticing applies here too. And these explorations too tend to bring in a deeper sense of well-being and grounding, and we may also experience ourselves – at a human level – more as a whole.

These are all practical approaches to exploring ourselves and our relationship with ourselves and the world. They tend to bring in a sense of well being, ease, and grounding, perhaps first as we engage in these and then more stably in our life in general. They tend to invite in healing and a noticing of what we really are.

An important aspect of any spiritual practice is what it may bring up in us that needs meeting, clarity, or healing.

At times, these practices may rub up against our beliefs, identifications, and habits. So we notice these, and can take them to inquiry, heart practices, or whatever healing work we are doing. This is an important aspect of any spiritual practice, at least if we wish to be thorough.

Healing work in general is an important complement to any of these practices. We will, inevitably, encounter parts of us that needs healing, so it’s helpful we are are familiar with effective forms of healing work, or can go to someone who are.

These practices may also bring up old wounds and trauma. Any good guide or coach will inform about this in advance, keep an eye on our practice to minimize the chances of it happening in a traumatic way, and offer guidance through it should it happen.

The last part is, unfortunately, often overlooked or not mentioned by people offering these practices to the public. I assume there will be a greater understanding of and transparency about it with time as it is an aspect of spiritual practice it’s important to be aware of.

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Why do these approaches work on so many issues?

 

When I talk about the approaches I use to healing and awakening, I am often aware that it sometimes can sound too good to be true. They seem to work on a wide range of issues and work pretty well – at least if used with skill and over some time.

So why do they work on such a wide range of issues? The simple answer is that they tend to address underlying issues and dynamics. They go below the surface, so they work on a wide range of surface manifestations.

And are they too good to be true? Yes and no. As mentioned above, they tend to work well if used with skill and over time. But it does take work. And if an issue is entrenched, it can take time to clear it.

Here are some examples:

TRE – Tension & Trauma Release Exercises. Therapeutic trembling releases tension out of the body and mind, and that has a wide range of effects. It tends to reduce anxiety, depression, and compulsions. It improves sleep. It can give us a different and more healthy experience of ourselves and the world, and improve our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world.

Inquiry. In inquiry, we examine our beliefs and identifications. Since we often have a layer of beliefs and identifications on top of how we perceive ourselves, others, and life, we can address just about any issue with inquiry. Inquiry can help us release whatever charge is there in our experience of anything. And that means that this too can reduce anxiety, depression, compulsions, and more, especially in relation to something specific.

Vortex Healing. Any issue has a consciousness and energy side. Inquiry tends to approach something from the consciousness side and has an effect on the energy side. Vortex Healing approaches it from the energy side and has an effect on the consciousness side. Vortex Healing can work on emotional or physical issues, relationships, and situations. The deeper reason is that Vortex Healing is divine energy guided by divine consciousness, and since everything is already the divine, only the divine can allow for a deep and thorough healing and clearing of something.

Heart approaches. Ho’oponopono, tonglen, heart prayer, and all-inclusive gratitude practices tend to change our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world. This can be deeply healing and also aligns us with awakening.

My inclination is to seek out approaches that are effective and multi-purpose. Approaches that can be used to work on a wide range of issues, and also invite in healing, awakening, and embodiment. The ones I have mentioned above are among the most powerful I have found so far. (TRE tends to work mostly on healing, although it’s an excellent way to support embodiment of whatever awakening is here.)

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All inclusive gratitude, prayer, inquiry

 

I notice how helpful I find all-inclusive practices.

An all-inclusive gratitude practice helps me shift out of a split perception. I write or say I am grateful for….. [anything in my life, what I initially like and don’t like]. It helps me open up for the grace in it all. It invites me to gently and quietly question my assumptions about what went right and wrong, what’s good and bad fortune. It invites me to find the gold in whatever is here.

An all-inclusive prayer helps me find love for my enemies, whether these are things I at first don’t like in myself or the wider world. I pray for the health and well-being of myself, suffering parts of me, others, all beings in the three times, and the Earth, and especially those I have closed down my heart to. This helps me open my heart to all of me and all of life. It helps me open my heart to my whole field of experience, finding love for it. Loving kindness (metta), tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, placing myself and others in the heart flame, and other practices can also be very helpful here.

An all-inclusive inquiry practice helps me leave no stone unturned. I examine even my most basic and cherished assumptions about myself, the world, life and reality. I can use The Work to question any stressful story in my life. I can use the Living Inquiries to question anything that seems real and solid to me. And there are many other forms of inquiry as well.

The reason these practices can be helpful and powerful is that they reflect reality. Reality is one. It’s Spirit. It’s love. It’s aliveness. It’s life. And all-inclusive practices, such as these, invite this seamless whole that we are to recognize itself more fully. It helps shed assumptions about reality, especially about separation, and notice what’s already here and what we already are.

Note: Whatever these practices brings up of wounds, fear, apparent resistance etc. can be brought into the practice. If a wound or fear comes up during the gratitude practice, include it. If it comes up during prayer, pray for that too. If it comes up during inquiry, look at what it is.

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Love is the universal healer

 

Love is the universal healer.

If it doesn’t heal the situation (an illness, circumstances), it heals our relationship to it. And that’s the healing we all deeply crave.

Love can be a feeling, and this can be found through practices such as prayer, loving kindness, tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, Christ meditation, heart flame visualization, and more.

Love can also be independent of feeling, through a falling away of delusion, and Spirit recognizing itself as all there is. This love is a lived love, independent of fleeting feelings.

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Inviting my soul, Christ and Spirit to work on me

 

In my teens and twenties, before my Zen days, one of my main practices was to invite and allow my soul and the divine to work on me. I gave myself – my human self – over to my soul and the divine. And I often did this through the Heart Prayer and the Christ meditation.

Looking back, I see that leaving myself started – in some ways – as I decided to let go of much of what really worked for me so I could be a “good Zen student”. So now, it feels like it’s time to return to what worked back then, in my days of “innocence” and before I tried to fit into a tradition.

How is it to invite and allow my soul, Christ and Spirit to work on me?

Christ Meditation

 

In my teens and early twenties (before my Zen days), I used especially two Christian practices daily.

One was the Jesus or Heart Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, with the heart beats and breath. (Inbreath: “*Lord *Jesus *Christ”. Gentle pause: *. Outbreath: “Have* Mercy* On* Me*” Gentle pause: *. The * are heart beats.) It’s very powerful. And it’s purpose is to open to Christ, allow Christ to work on me, and give my life over to Christ.

I didn’t use the Heart Prayer so much after I moved to the Zen center, since I wanted to do Zen completely and see its effects on me.

Now, I feel drawn to more Christ centered practices again. The Heart Prayer feels a bit too much for me now. It’s very “fiery” and tends to open me further, increase the energy, and bring the energy up. It also activates the crown chakra very strongly. Neither of those feel right for me now, as I am still in a “spiritual emergency” of sorts.

The other practice was the Christ Meditation. (It may have another name.)

Visualize Christ at the seven points: In the heart, above the head, below the feet, in front and back of the heart, and either side of the heart. Christ can be visualized in different ways. For me, it’s often a golden light. Visualize Christ in the heart, and about 1 meter outside the body at the six other points. This is a silent meditation. A silent opening to Christ, a silent allowing of Christ to work on me, and a silent giving of my life (my body, mind, actions) to Christ. This one feels more right for me now, and I may do it and see what happens.

With both of these, I notice that they become “automatic” after a while. I may sit and do it intentionally and formally once or twice a day, or whenever it comes to me. (In bed, on the bus or train, while walking in nature, etc.) And I notice that it tends to keep going on its own in between these more formal sessions. It lives it’s own life, as I live my daily life. It keeps working on me.

Note: I learned about these practices from reading Wilfred Stinissen, and also The Way of the Pilgrim (Heart Prayer) and other Orthodox books.

Note II: These practices tend to bring up material for inquiry. That’s one of the reasons practices are helpful. For instance, if not much happens, what does it say about me? If something happens -such as all revealing itself as consciousness & love & light, heart opening, seeing a “flame” on top of the head and more – what does that say about me? What deficient selves are triggered, or compensated for, or filled up, through what’s happening? What’s the worst that can happen if the practices don’t work? What’s the best that can happen through these practices? What do I find when I take this to inquiry?

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Asking and prayer

 

In addition to others explorations, I often ask and pray.

Most often, I ask for guidance, to be shown what’s next, to be shown what I am not seeing about something, and for deep resolution at all levels (which includes finding peace with and loving what is).

It sometimes repeat thank you as a mantra and prayer, as an invitation for myself for a shift into gratitude, recognizing the gratitude that’s here, an expression of gratitude, and an exploration to see what happens when I include everything in my life – and especially what I tend to not feel grateful for – in this gratitude.

At times in my life, I have explored the Heart Prayer, saying Lord* Jesus* Christ** (in breath), have* mercy* upon me** (out breath) with the breath and heart beats (*).

I sometimes pray for the well-being of others, either individuals or groups including all humans, the world as a whole, and past and future generations. (Yes, also past.)

A year and a half ago, I asked – sincerely and deeply – to be shown what’s left, no matter how it would look. (As they say, be careful what you pray for – you may get it. I got plunged into primal terror and dread for weeks and months afterwards.)

And sometimes, I ask for something else. For many years, I asked for a life of service, benefiting myself and others, and I sometimes still do. A few days ago, I asked for my health to improve and for a good life (in a conventional sense), while also continuing clarifying and exploring new layers. At this point, it feels compassionate to ask for a good life in a conventional sense, along with a continuing maturing and clarifying.

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Christ as what comes & goes, or is always here

 

Two ways to approach Spirit is (a) as a state, as what comes and goes, and (b) as what’s always here, and both have their place.

Especially in the beginning of the process, it seems common – and perhaps helpful – to explore Spirit as a state, as an experience, as something that comes and goes. It gives a glimpse of the reality of all as Spirit, it provides inspiration for further exploration, it gives trust that reality is perhaps quite different from how it appears when filtered through our beliefs.

At some point, this approach may get a bit old. Experiences come and go, and it’s clear that Spirit is reality itself, it’s what doesn’t come and go. So can I find Spirit right here, in the midst of and as any experience – as the person I am with, as the experience that’s here?

Christ can be seen as equivalent to Spirit, the Divine, Buddha Mind, Big Mind/Heart, Brahman, life and reality, and that’s true in my experience. Christ consciousness is life recognizing itself, releasing identification out of the story of I. And Christ does also have a particular quality, a fiery, heart centered and action oriented quality, at least in my experience.

When I explore Christ through the Heart Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy Upon Me said with the breath and heart beat so it eventually is continuous day and night, or the Christ Meditation – visualizing Christ in my heart, above and below me, at both sides of me, and in front and back of me, I initially explore Christ as what comes and goes. There is a strong presence of Christ, my aura brightens up, there is a fiery quality in my heart and on top of the head, and there is a “flame” that appears in my aura on top of the head. This can in itself be important for transforming my human self and inspiring trust and faith, and it can also shift into recognizing Christ as what’s always here – independent of any particular states or experiences.

And this exploration – of Christ as what’s always here – can be continued through asking myself how is it to meet the person I am with, and the experience that’s here, as Christ? And perhaps, is it true this person, this experience, is not Christ?