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Open Heart and Open Mind
Jes Bertelsen May 2005
Spiritual intelligence is the potential for realizing our own innermost nature. The innermost nature is hidden and out of reach of the ego. We will never ﬁnd ultimate satisfaction if we are solely concerned with our ego, our personality, our experiences and whatever else life offers us. This is not the way to ﬁnd our innermost nature, so most people never ﬁnd it.
What I call spiritual intelligence is the ability to recognize the light of the innermost heart, the innermost mind. Behind the personality and ego that is blocking the light. The body blocks the light. Every thought, every feeling, every sensation blocks the light. Everything we will ever be able to experience as content of consciousness will block the light of the innermost nature. So the question is: how do we ﬁnd it?
There are two main paths to follow. Two paths that all the great spiritual traditions on the planet have been engaged in. And we have to use both simultaneously. One path is the path of the heart. The other is the path of the waking state. To be awake, aware. If we use both paths correctly and simultaneously, we will embark on a journey that might lead us to ﬁnd that which is deep inside.
The heart has two basic modes. It is able to focus on being met and loved and accepted by other human beings. A natural and necessary mode. However, in my experience we will never ﬁnd true meaning by focusing on the love that ﬂows towards us from others – no matter how deeply we are being loved by any number of people – no matter how sincerely we are being admired. This path will never make us realize what life is really about.
This is a dilemma. We spend all this time and energy in order to be accepted and afﬁrmed. And this is the wrong way to go. Wrong com-pared to where ultimate fulﬁlment is to be found. So we spend our time and energy on getting sidetracked from the ultimate objective: genuine happiness.
Fortunately, the heart has other potentials that do not conﬂict with the longing for the ultimate meaning of life. Compassion is the path through the heart to the innermost meaning. The problem is that our human nature seduces us into attaching great importance to the need to be appropriately respected and properly loved. This maneuver closes the door to the meaning that is found through compassion towards other human beings. This is the dilemma, this is the problem. Basically we are using the wrong strategies to ﬁnd what we are looking for. Unnecessary re-sources are being wasted on whether or not we are being loved. And not enough energy is being used on the potential for compassion towards our fellow beings. Not only towards parents, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers, but to-wards people in general. Our potential for compassion keeps us from seeing others as merely strangers, enemies, unimportant and irrelevant. Other people become present and important to us. This potential for compassion is one of the main entrances to the core of human spirituality.
You have to learn how to distinguish between the need to be loved and the ability to love others. This is a way to reorient the mode of operating from the heart. This will let us open the door in another direction.
Once I talked to a woman, who told me a very interesting story. When she was 6 or 7 years old, she had a complicated relationship with her mother, who one day had promised her that they would spend an evening together. She was obviously the kind of mother who was not able to keep her promises to her daughter. For the little girl the most important thing in the world was that her mother keeps her promise, but of course her mother did not. And then she told me that something strange happened. At ﬁrst, of course, she was angry and sad. Her mother had failed for the umpteenth time. But then it felt as if everything changed. She realized that she cared for her mother anyway. This sentiment changed her life and she began to get a sense of what spirituality is. She avoided the trauma of abandonment. She found a secret, namely to attach greater importance to the love you feel for other people than to the love you receive. This is a way to train the heart. It is a strategy to reﬁne the empathic feelings of the heart: love, gratitude, compassion, conﬁdence. In time, the reﬁnement of these feelings can lead to something behind the ego, the body, the mind, and the identity. It can lead to a place where meaning and fullﬁlment and a completely different view of existence begin to evolve. A place that allows a different and far more intense contact with other people. A different quality of awareness and presence.
The other path is the waking state as such. It is a fact that we are awake and aware, at this very moment. This is a statement of immense depth. But usually we only scratch the surface of things and prefer to think that this is all there is. Right now, in this room, the sun is shining through the windows, the ﬂoor is chequered, the ceiling made of wood, and people are having thoughts and feelings and pains and aches. However, this is only a tiny part of what is hidden behind the fact that we are awake at this very moment. It has a much deeper meaning. And this is what we try to explore through meditation and spiritual practice. The leading principle of all spiritual practice is to deal with exactly that which presents itself in this very moment. Right now. Not to focus on the past or the future. Not to focus on ideas, hopes or longings, nor on past traumas or biography. The idea is not to look for what we do not have, but for something that is already there.
Always. We deal with the quality of awareness in the present moment. That is what it means to be aware and awake right now. To be in the space of pristine awareness.
Basically, our mind has two ways of functioning. One is to be ﬁlled with content: thoughts, feelings, sensations and judgements. This tendency to be ﬁlled with content is the ﬁrst way of the mind. The second is to direct awareness to the waking state itself. To allow awareness to watch itself momentarily and beyond language.
So, there are two basic principles in spiritual training. The ﬁrst is that of the heart, which has two paths: love towards oneself and love to-wards others. Emphasize the love extended to-wards others and train it in life – and learn to reﬁne your feelings. The second is that of the mind, which also has two paths: it can deal with contents as it does all the time. Or it can focus on itself, it can be pure and open. This is the path of spiritual practice. These two aspects, compassion and open awareness, have to be combined in order to ﬁnd our true nature. We cannot ﬁnd it by training the heart exclusively, or the mind exclusively. We have to synchronize and balance heart and mind. This is the path of enlightenment. It is about creating coherence between the brain and the heart.