A student asks:
At first, I found the practice of saying ‘I open my heart to the Buddha…’ really very helpful and I felt that it worked. However, during a period of ‘backlash‘, I seem to find it heavy and an imposition. What have I felt a connection to, how did it feel as though it worked?
I find this interesting. I think it is a very common experience. There is an intuitive sense that it means something to open the heart to the Divine, to God, to Buddha. Then doubt steps in.
What is it we are intuiting? Actually it is about wanting to know more about that experience of opening. Often what happens is that the second or third time we try to open by saying the words that originally inspired us, they have died.
It’s as if we expect the words to work like magic and sometimes they do. After a lot of practice they do. But in between they can just sound like meaningless repetitions, just dry without content as if the heart cannot connect to those words again.
You need to use this as a trigger of awareness to link back into your Heart Wish(1). You need to find that wish in your heart, that longing is still there. That is why it is rejecting the dry uninspired feeling. It knows there is something else and it knows that it has lost alignment with it.
As for why the Buddha? It is a matter of familiarising yourself more with the life of the Buddha – just reading it and re-reading it until somehow when you say Buddha, the presence of the Buddha just lives in the word.
The word is the presence and the presence is the word – they come together as a complete experience and the most natural expression of what the Buddha is in essence somehow.
It is also good to just find your own words for what your Heart Wish longs to connect to. Maybe your word is God, or Truth, or Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity, or love, or the divine, or the Beloved. It’s good to find your own word that resonates for you.
Lama Shenpen Hookham
(1) Heart Wish refers to the drive that comes from the Indestructible Heart Essence. It’s also known as chitta – it is the seat of our deepest longings and sense of truth. Heart Wish is one of the themes of Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training.