What is it that brings us back to the present in meditation? Is it the ‘Heart Wish’?

A student writes:

You asked me to explore what it is that brings me back to the present when I’m meditating. I’m sure there isn’t a precise answer to this but when I can catch it, it feels like a movement in the heart centre. I wonder if it is the ‘Heart Wish’*? I want to say the movement of my Heart Wish brings me back to the present moment during meditation. Am I on track with this?

Lama Shenpen replies:

Yes you are right when you link what brings you back to the present to the ‘Heart Wish’. It is a completely intuitive movement, isn’t it? You find you can do it and you find it feels good and right and satisfies your heart somehow.

Your heart knows this is the right direction – it wants to stay there but at the same time gets distracted away. It’s almost as if in our confusion we don’t know how to stay there – but as soon as we have slid off it, we feel ill at ease. We know there is something wrong somehow and that is Dukkha – suffering.

The suffering is still the Heart Wish knowing it’s lost its sense of direction and trying to make up for that, trying to find a solution – struggling, making mistakes, grasping at strategies that increase the discomfort and getting more and more confused.

Instead of this, it could get much more simple and direct; it could come back to what is actually happening in the present moment, as in meditation. This is the only direction that is going to fulfill that vague but deep yearning. It is the direction that ultimately leads to Awakening as the final and complete satisfaction of the heart.

So yes – coming back into the moment is a movement of the Heart Wish. When we say Heart Wish, this is what we are talking about – it is not any particular thing we are wishing for, it is the faculty we have to wish and long for the cessation of suffering – in other words, a longing for happiness.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

The Heart Wish [find out more about what we mean by Heart Wish here] is one of the core themes of the Living the Awakened Heart Training – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at www.ahs.org.uk/training