When we think of heart, we think of our emotions. In the context of this article, however, heart means the summation of all that we are; our emotions, our thoughts, our bodies, and our minds - and the affairs of life that we all share.
Affairs of the heart always begin with a solitary thought; a single thought blossoming somewhere in a corner of our minds. And before you know it, a drama of biblical proportions develops, with one thought following another, until a crescendo of thoughts and emotions topple us!
It all happens first in the mind, followed by the subservient body that can only obeys its master. Therefore, if we study our minds, we can find the underlying cause of our dramas as well as discover which affairs of life truly make us happy, and which affairs of life only promise happiness, but deliver nothing but problems.
In Plato's cave, the people born there never see the outside world; they only see shadows of the outside world. In the same way, when we are fooled by our minds, we never see the truth of anything, we only see the illusions that we mistakenly believe to be the truth. And we become prisoners of our minds. We live in our little caves, having no idea what lies beyond this prison that we have made for ourselves.
As a prisoner of mind, we follow the mind when it says that pleasure will make us happy. “Go here, go there; this will make you happy!" And we go after this and that, sometimes quite ambitiously, only to be disappointed time and again. And we never seem to learn. As soon as we pick ourselves up from one disappointment, we launch into the next promise, never alert to the possibility that our karma, our habit patterns, remain the same. So how can we ever expect different results?
Maybe it's a new relationship, after many failed ones. But we think that this new relationship is different - until our old problems, and our partner's old problems, creep back into the equation. Problems such as our constant grasping at things, our aversion toward other things, and our delusions of life.
Comparing one person with another, judging, criticizing, forming strong opinions, thinking that if it was only our way we could have heaven on earth. These are symptoms of how incarcerated we truly are. And we can find no way out. Even when we become aware of how trapped we are, where do we go for an escape plan? We don't know where to go. We remain as lost as ever, and this is how we die; confused about life.
But if one is ever fortunate enough to discover that one is trapped in a prison, that this is not a normal existence, then one will try to escape. When one experiences that precious occurrence when for just a moment, they see past their prisons, then he or she will study the walls of their prison, the exits, the guards; and make plans for their escape. Through trial and error, they will get to know which escape routes don't work, and finally come up with a plan that will insure them total freedom. The key is in realizing that one is truly trapped with little hope of a way out. Then an urgency develops, and from that urgency comes intelligence and passion, and from these come eventual release.
As far as a foolproof plan is concerned, one is available, but few will follow it. Few will go there because the plan itself goes against everything that the mind has tricked us into believing; having us foolishly accept that the next adventure will truly be our deliverance. And we keep allowing the mind to fool us. It can do so because it's promises are there instantaneously for us, unlike the plan, which takes time.
But the instantaneous results of happiness promised by the mind are fleeting, requiring constant stimulation of our senses. The old tunes that were new just yesterday soon become boring, and we must constantly buy new MP3s to keep up the happiness. And even music, in time, becomes only so much, and we find ourselves once again tricked by the mind, sitting in our little prison as we face old age and wonder what happened to a fleeting lifetime that passed as quickly as a flash of lightening.
So maybe we try the new plan, we begin to look into the mind, and for the first time in our lives, we discover how the mind tricks us every moment, 24/7 through our six senses. Our mind says, “Go, look at that, taste that, feel that, hear that, think about that, and you will be happy. But this time we say; “No thanks!" This time we go against what the mind says and we simply sit in meditation, thumbing our noses at the temptations, reminding ourselves that, “fool me once, or a million times, shame on you; trick me two million times, shame on me!
And we sit there; we sit there until we begin to get an inkling of the unbelievable freedom that lies just outside of our self-made cave, our prison of the mind. The freedom to exist without external stimulation as our basis for living; the freedom to touch a reality that we never knew existed, that is without thought, without sense stimulation, without all the false promises of the mind that has caused us so much turmoil.
Now we are beginning to see in a new way, understand things that we never understood before, and within all of this is a small spot in our hearts that begins to grow, a spot that we know will never disappoint us as things have disappointed us in the past, a spot that does not rely on things outside of ourselves that are never trustworthy, things that upon a whim can leave us stranded and distraught.
True, deep happiness is now developing, and it is light years from what we thought happiness was. Our past happiness, or what we thought was happiness, is now seen as a most terrible hoax, a joke that we have pulled on ourselves, the little tricks of life that has kept us either separate from others, as we hide behind our imaginary walls, or desperately clinging to others because we are so afraid, yet still hide behind our walls . . . of self.
But the mind is a chameleon as well, and it can change colors to suite its master. Then, when the master begins to unravel the colors of the mind, the purples, the reds, and the yellows, and when they all disappear, when the illusion of self is seen through by studying the mind, then the mind itself becomes a stunning, pure white vessel that even transcends itself. Now, we break out of our prison and are free, This is the freedom that the sages whisper about, the liberation that knows no bounds, the pinnacle of perfection of a human being, and the total ending of sorrow.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com