Our limited egos transform through sustained
contact with our limitless heart.
Occasionally, I’m asked to distinguish spontaneous meditation from other spiritual practices. Below are dialogues with several seekers posing questions on various topics.
Questioner: You entered the spontaneous stage of spiritual life through a dramatic awakening but I haven’t had a similar life-changing event. How do I know whether or not I’m ready to begin this kind of spiritual journey?
Tria: When the current of awareness that flows from our true nature is strong enough to become the focus of meditation, a seeker is ready for a spontaneous practice.
Questioner: Then I don’t think I’m ready for spontaneous meditation.
Tria: Do you experience your true nature?
Tria: Tell me what happens.
Questioner: I feel that I’m in a vast space that is both alive and peaceful. But this experience of my true self is not regular or predictable. Sometimes the experience is so subtle I’m not sure what’s going on.
Tria: Since you’ve glimpsed your true nature, we could try a meditation session together and see what happens. Remember: I’ll be with you, feeling the divine current at work within me. Students tell me that my ability to feel God’s inner river often amplifies the divine sensations awakening within them. My presence helps them to rest in their own heart’s silence.
Questioner: Are you a guru, then?
Tria: No, a “guru” is enlightened—someone who rests continuously in divine consciousness—and who assumes full responsibility for the welfare of disciples. I simply offer companionship to spiritual seekers whose paths include spontaneity.
Although I don’t experience my true nature without interruption, I do have a spiritual gift: I’m able to make visible and audible the processes through which the river of love is making me whole.
Questioner: I feel drawn to stop using all the structured meditation techniques given by my spiritual teacher, but I’m not sure this is the right time.
Tria: What happens when you meditate?
Questioner: I see a light in my chest. Does that mean I’m ready for a spontaneous practice?
Tria: Tell me more about the light.
Questioner: I imagine a flame glowing in my heart.
Tria: If, through imagination, you place a light in your heart, that is not a spontaneous practice. That is a process initiated by your mind.
For now, I’d stay with the structured exercises. Over time, you may begin experiencing a divine current or presence within you. Once you feel this current or presence regularly and reliably, you can make it the primary focus of your meditation. At that point, you would be practicing spontaneous meditation.
Questioner: You call spontaneous meditation a “practice,” but what are you practicing?
Tria: During meditation, I practice feeling my true self, no matter what internal thoughts or emotions demand my exclusive attention. In a small group, where other meditators are singing, weeping or laughing, my task is to stay focused on heart, no matter what external sounds arise.
Questioner: So you put up a mental wall to other meditators?
Tria: No, during meditation, I open to myself and others. While I’m immersed in this quiet openness, my heart sometimes prompts me to interact with other meditators, but it is heart that initiates and directs these interactions, not my personality.
Questioner: During your demonstration of spontaneous movements, you spun to the right. My spiritual teacher says we should only spin to the left. According to her, you’re making a grave mistake.
Tria: In a spontaneous practice, we follow the promptings of our divine nature. Sometimes heart prompts me to spin to the left, sometimes to the right. I trust the inner current to give me what I need in each moment. In other words, the experiences I receive during meditation are tailor-made for me.
Questioner: So spontaneous meditators are undisciplined?
Tria: No, keeping my focus on heart, no matter what is going on internally or externally, requires discipline.
Questioner: When I rest in the silence, I don’t feel any impulses to move. Am I still doing spontaneous meditation?
Tria: Yes. What’s important is to experience the silent love of your being. Physical movements may or may not arise while resting in heart.
Questioner: In the poem, Spontaneous Meditation is a Way, you promise a lot. I’m interested in seeing whether or not you can live up to those promises.
Tria: In that poem, I describe what has happened—or what might happen—during a spontaneous meditation session; I don’t guarantee any particular result. Remember: we enter spontaneous meditation by releasing expectations. Set aside the images you hold of meditation—both of the process and of the outcome. Enter the session with a beginner’s mind and see what arises.
Questioner: You often say that you give to your heart, but this is dualistic thinking—not the oneness language of mature spirituality.
Tria: In most dualistic practices, devotees worship an external object. My devotion is to the reservoir of divine love that dwells within me, not just outside me.
In addition, spontaneous meditation is a non-dual practice. Rather than going to heart through the mind, we go to heart, through heart; our means and our goal are one.
Questioner: Will you help me write an affirmation? I want to bring more money into my life.
Tria: In the early 1980’s, I also wanted more income. When I told my divine essence what I needed, this phrase arose in the silence: “All will flow to you when you are with me.” That statement, I realized, resembled Jesus’ advice to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven—the God that dwells within.
When I seek first to join with heart, I still take action in the world (I apply for jobs, seek career training, etc.) but my primary spiritual action is to offer myself to my true nature. I trust that what I truly need will come to me through devotion to this sacred, interior relationship.
There are two ways that affirmations might become part of our sessions. Occasionally, affirmations arise spontaneously during meditation. In addition, we—you and I—could write an affirmation designed to bring more heart into your life.
Questioner: Is spontaneous meditation “yoga”?
Tria: In India, “yoga” refers to spiritual practices that unite the ego (the conditioned personality) with the true nature (our unconditioned heart-self). Perhaps you’re asking about the practice known as “hatha yoga”?
Tria: In hatha yoga, individuals usually begin with structured movements; these planned poses sometimes lead them into mental stillness. In spontaneous meditation, we begin with silence; our mental quiet sometimes leads us into movements and sounds.
Questioner: When I google “spontaneous meditation,” several websites come up—mostly of gurus from the Far East. Do you belong to any of their organizations?
Tria: No, I’m not affiliated with any particular tradition. In my essay, Meditation’s Other Face, you’ll see that what I call “spontaneous meditation” has elements in common with several spiritual practices, but I don’t belong to the groups that sponsor them.
Questioner: Sometimes I feel the presence of Mary—the mother of Jesus—when I meditate. Suppose that happens during a session with you? Would you welcome her presence?
Tria: I welcome enlightened historical figures like Mary, if these saints or self-realized beings help you to rest in the silence of your heart.
Questioner: I’ve been told there’s a spirit guide—an ancient Chinese teacher—nearby who has information for me. Can you help me communicate with him?
Tria: No. In spontaneous meditation, our focus is exclusively on joining with our divine nature. If you want to contact spirit guides, you might want to find someone trained as a medium.
Questioner: You call your spiritual practice a “meditation,” but what you describe is different from the meditations I’ve experienced.
Tria: All meditations, including spontaneous ones, cultivate a quiet mind. Beyond this common characteristic, approaches to meditation vary.
Most methods—probably the ones you’ve encountered—are structured by tradition. Some also instruct seekers to ignore both their bodies and other meditators.
In contrast, the spontaneous meditation I teach is unpremeditated, embodied and relational.
By “unpremeditated,” I mean that, although we follow common-sense guidelines that ensure mutual respect and safety, spontaneous meditation is not structured around rules that govern behavior. By “embodied” and “relational,” I mean that we attend to promptings that arise from our physical and spiritual bodies while allowing (or even welcoming) interactions with other meditators.
Questioner: Are you opposed to tradition, then?
Tria: No, I’m for direct experience of the divine power that lies behind respected traditions. Remember that some of my own spontaneous movements and sounds resemble traditional practices.
Tradition and spontaneity exist in a reciprocal relationship. Spontaneous experiences of the God within sometimes produce forms (songs, sounds, movements, poses, prayers) that become part of religious traditions. Conversely, performances of traditional exercises sometimes lead seekers into spontaneous, direct experiences of heart.
If we think that spirituality is only about perfecting mind-based exercises, we miss out on the wondrous, spontaneous, silent half of spiritual life.