Affairs of the Heart

“There’s always one member of the relationship who is in, if even only slightly, a more capable consciousness state than the other. Perhaps not in every area, but in the spiritual area of life and living, always one of the two is in a slightly more capable consciousness state than the other.”

Thom Knoles

It’s time for another Ask Me Anything episode, with this one focused on affairs of the heart.

Thom answers a listener’s question about the desirability of a ‘heart awakening’ and explains why being ‘grounded in the unbounded’ is a more preferable state to aim for.

He takes on the question of whether partners in a relationship should ‘be on the same path’ or not, and how to manage the dynamic when they aren’t.

And he gives sage advice for a listener asking about the importance of following through on commitments when our heart is no longer committed to them.

As always, another round of practical suggestions for everyday situations that we find ourselves in.

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Episode Highlights


Q – Should I be Hoping for a Heart Awakening?



A – Experiencing Empathy



Empathy Can Be an Overshadowing Feeling



Spontaneous Ideal Interaction



A Completely Useless State to Be In



Grounded in the Unbounded



Q – Can a Relationship Flourish if We Are On Different Paths?



A – Why We’re in a Relationship



Who is Suffering in a Relationship?



What is Suffering?



Sharing the Load



Be a Shining Example



Q – How do We Honor Commitments that No Longer Feel Relevant?



A – Commitments Become Unsustainable with Time



The Problem of Severability



Forgiveness of a Promise



The Five Fundamentals of Progress



Time is a Great Healer


Jai Guru Deva


Affairs of the Heart

[00:45] Q – Should I be Hoping for a Heart Awakening?

Thom, I read about people having heart awakenings when sudden transformations are felt that changed people in a hugely dramatic way. Is this something that I should hope for?

[00:58] A – Experiencing Empathy

See, the thing is, hugely dramatic for one person may not be hugely dramatic for another person. You sound to me as though someone who’s, even by use of the terminology you’re using, already have a very sweet, loving heart. It’s already there otherwise you wouldn’t be asking me this question.

And is it going to be dramatic when you discover that you can experience empathy? You know what empathy means? I’ll tell you. Empathy means the capability to experience from within another.

Except in the sound of it, it has no relationship to the word sympathy. Sympathy means, “Hey, I kind of get what you’re talking about. I can sympathize. I can sympathize with you.” Sympathize.

Empathy means, “I’m experiencing from inside you, and so I’m having a direct experience of what you’re experiencing.” Empathy.

As we continue our practice of Vedic Meditation, it is natural for our sensory acuity, that means the acuteness with which we can experience sensory objects, our ability to experience very, very subtle things with our senses of touch and smell and taste and sound and sight, to be able to experience far beyond the level of subtlety that has been conceived to be average for humans.

[02:37] Empathy Can Be an Overshadowing Feeling

Our capacity in that area grows dramatically, and one of the things that this gifts us with is the ability effortlessly, spontaneously, without trying, to be able to feel what it feels like to be another person.

And not just a person, what about a little mouse? What about a little flea? What about a tree? What about a bird that fell out of its nest?

We can feel it. We can feel it. For you, the shift from 85% full heartfulness to 100% full heartfulness may be a 15% shift, and you may not consider it to be dramatic. For somebody else who shifts from 15% awakened capacity to empathize, to 100% capacity to empathize, for them, it will be a big contrast, and that’s what we call dramatic, pivotal, something big.

So I don’t want to give you inaccurate expectations that you’re going to experience some big drama. I don’t think you are. I think you’re just going to graduate and graduate and graduate gradually from where you are to 100% capacity to experience from within another.

And now we want to add one thing to that. The Knower, the Self, that’s doing the empathizing. If the Knower stays small, small self, “I’m little Susie from Kansas,” or whatever I am, ” That’s all I am. And I’m feeling from inside others, what they’re experiencing,” it can be overshadowing.”

[04:39] Spontaneous Ideal Interaction

We must needs be grounded in the experience of Being, the transcendence, the unbounded awareness, which grounds us, gives us that infinite stability. And then, when we experience pure empathy, we don’t get overshadowed by it.

We’re not going to be overshadowed by what someone else is experiencing. We’re simply going to be made capable of meeting the need of the time.

We feel what they’re feeling, and we will know whether that love requires of us that we be disciplined with them, or whether that love requires of us that we be good silent listener, or whether that love that we feel for them through our empathy requires us to be very active and counseling, or whether that love that we’re experiencing through empathy requires of us to be like a super person, whisk them away from the danger that they’re in.

To what extent are you called into action? What is it that’s going to be the action, which, when done by you, will be exactly the correct response to the need of the time?

Underreacting overreacting, under and over, no good. We want ‘the’ reaction. Spontaneous ideal interaction with somebody else, based on the capacity to empathize. Not over, not under, right on target.

[06:37] A Completely Useless State to Be In

And so empathy does not always require of us just one behavior. Empathy and the love that it reveals because the self is now experiencing the Self, when we are grounded in Being and we have that unboundedness, we’re not overshadowed by what somebody else is experiencing. We’re simply informed.

And because we’re informed, we’re able to draw upon the entire range of human behaviors to come up with the behavior that’s appropriate for the moment, but we can only know what that appropriate behavior is if we have that fine-tuned sensory perception, and that groundedness in Being. Otherwise, we overreact or underreact, or we make it all about us.

I’ve had people come to me saying, “Oh Thom, I’m an empath.” A fancy new cutting word that says, “I’m better than most people. I’m an empath. I can’t stand being around people who suffer because it makes me suffer.”

And I think, well, that’s a completely useless state to be in. What’s the value of that? One person was suffering; now, two are suffering. Let’s get out of that mentality.

Being able to experience with subtlety what somebody else is experiencing is not enough. Knowledge of the Knower, not just the Known. The Known is whatever the other person’s experiencing.

[08:05] Grounded in the Unbounded

Who is the Knower? Who is the experiencer? What is the status of you and your consciousness? If you are grounded in the unbounded field of Being, then you’ll have every capability within your potential, within the range of your potentials, to rise up and meet the demand of that moment effectively, rather than adding one more suffering person to the already existing thousands of suffering people around.

Empathy is not about you winning the suffering competition. When people say, “Oh, I’m an empath,” usually, what that is, to me, what I’m hearing is, they’re making every situation about them. It’s a form of narcissism. “I’m an empath.” People should stop saying that. It’s embarrassing.

If you’re having empathy, who’s the Knower? From where are you experiencing that? What are you capable of doing in response? You see, all knowledge is for action. Knowledge is for action. And if action doesn’t come from that knowledge that comes to you through empathy, then the empathy itself is a waste of time.

It’s useless. It’s just making more suffering people. It needs to give us capability. And for that to happen, regular twice-daily practice of Vedic Meditation and becoming grounded in the unbounded Unified Field consciousness, and then we’re capable and empathetic.

Jai Guru Deva.

[10:00] Q – Can a Relationship Flourish if We Are On Different Paths?

Thom, in a relationship, when one person is meditating and pursuing a spiritual path and the other is not, do you still grow together with your partner, or does the meditator grow out of the relationship?

[10:15] A – Why We’re in a Relationship

I think both things can happen. Either of the two things can happen. And they can go back and forth a little bit.

Certainly, if one is growing, expanding, and developing then because a relationship is all about shared experience—that’s why we’re in relationship, we want the joy of shared experience—there is a tendency for the meditator to draw the non-meditating party along with them.

And you’re drawing someone along with you. You’re like the locomotive of a train. When you watch how a train operates, there’s a big locomotive at the front and it’s pulling all these cars or carriages, as we say in the Commonwealth, who themselves are not doing anything in aid of the forward momentum. The engine’s doing it all, but certainly, the rest of the train’s coming, it’s coming.

And so sometimes we are the locomotive, and also we have to recognize that as the locomotive, we might be getting dragged back a little by the slowness of that which we’re dragging.

If we’re dragging someone along and they’re coming relatively willingly into higher and higher understanding of how the laws of Nature work, the interactivity between human and the laws of Nature, and how best to live a life, minimize inadvertent design of suffering, maximize intentional design of happiness.

All of those things are going along beautifully, then the non-meditating person is coming along for a free ride, being pulled by the spiritual locomotive. And that’s all fine. That’s all fine.

[12:12] Who is Suffering in a Relationship?

Would it be better if the partner was to wise up and make a worthy inquiry and learn Vedic Meditation as well? It will certainly lessen the load of the one who’s doing the primary pulling.

It’s also true that in any relationship, there’s always one of the two members of the relationship who is in, if even only slightly, but who is in a more capable consciousness state than the other. Perhaps not in every area of life and living, but in the spiritual area of life and living, always one of the two is in a slightly more capable consciousness state than the other.

How do we know who is whom in this? Suffering.

Someone once who felt a little challenged by what they’d heard about me and really, I think really they heard all kinds of exaggerated things, said to me, “Do you think you’re better than me?” This is someone who didn’t know me, that just met me one minute ago.

“Do you think you’re better than me?” She said to me angrily.

And I said, “I think I suffer less than you. And if you’d like to learn how to suffer less, I think I could show you. Let me know if you want to learn that. Better, I don’t know what better means, but I, I seem to suffer less than you.” And that’s the crux of it.

[14:00] What is Suffering?

Who is in the more capable consciousness state? The one who evinces the symptoms of suffering less. The one who suffers less. The one who suffers less is the one who, spiritually, is in the more capable consciousness state.

And suffering less doesn’t mean, “Oh, let’s look at who has what kinds of pains in their body and all of that.”

You could be somebody who was on your deathbed racked with all kinds of sensations and yet be suffering less than all the people who were surrounding your deathbed, grieving with worried and anxious looks on their faces.

You’re the spiritual leader in that group; even though their bodies are perfectly fine, they can take off on their bicycle anytime. There you are, lying around on your deathbed. You could be spiritually more advanced than all of those who are worried about you.

So when we say suffering, let’s not get into the, “Oh, but I have a hangnail, and I have this, and I have arthritis in my left toe, and I have gout in my finger, and I have some kind of chronic boogie in my nose or something, and so I must be suffering more than you.

We’re not getting into doing a forensic accounting of body sensations. What we’re talking about is overall capability, not to consider situations to be worthy of suffering over.

[15:42] Sharing the Load

So one of the two always is in a, if at the very least, slightly higher consciousness state, in some cases much higher, consciousness state, than the other partner. And so it’s natural for one to be a bit more of the spiritual locomotive. But it would be good if those who are being drawn by the locomotive were to be able to be locomotives themselves.

Here in my little town where I live up here in the high mountains, there’s a major train line that comes right through the center of town. I mean, right through the very center of town. And children love watching the big long trains that come, that four or five locomotives pulling 130 carriages and more.

And occasionally, on one of these very long trains, you’ll notice something very interesting. There are the locomotives at the front drawing all the load along, and then there’s one in the middle. And it’s pushing the train along as well. And then behind it, a whole lot of carriages. And then, at the very end, maybe a locomotive or two at the end, also pushing the whole thing. So it’s not just up to whoever’s in front.

[17:10] Be a Shining Example

If there are people in our lives who could also make their contribution to a group process of evolving everyone, that would be helpful. It would be helpful. But we can’t make anyone do this. We can’t make it.

All we can do, the best we can do, is to be a shining example of what meditation has done for us. Not by lording it over anybody, not by blabbing about it, just on the level of Being.

On the level of Being, we radiate life for all to enjoy. And this will inspire worthy inquiry and bring others along. So it’s going to be up to us to just be like that. And that’s what we can do.

Jai Guru Deva.

[18:02] Q – How do We Honor Commitments that No Longer Feel Relevant?

Thom, how do we honor commitments that we’ve made that no longer feel aligned or resonant with us? When we feel like we’re letting others down, but we also feel like we don’t want to continue with our commitment. How can we remain present during these times?

[18:21] A – Commitments Become Unsustainable with Time

See, the thing is that sometimes you make a commitment, and life evolves, and the commitment that you made turns out to have been something that was unsustainable. It was unsustainable for you to say forever and ever, and ever and ever this, that, that, and this, and so on.

Commitments are made from a certain consciousness state and certainly, it would be our goal, if we have made a promise of some kind, to honor the promise.

But sometimes, a commitment or a promise that encompasses a large number of years may not have been able to take into account, when you made it, all of the change and evolution that could occur in that period of time in all the parties to your commitment, all the parties to your promise.

And this is a great problem in society. We make a commitment in one state of consciousness, and then our state of consciousness grows, and the Knower inside now is drawn into fascination with other higher and more effective means of making their contribution to the world. And so then, what do we do?

We have to find ways of either reinterpreting our commitment and refreshing the mission, and see how many people we can draw into that, and our hope would be that all the original players, the initial players who are part of it, might also be able to expand their role and refresh their mission.

[20:27] The Problem of Severability

But I don’t believe that it is blameworthy that someone in one consciousness state making a promise or a commitment, finds themselves sometime later in a completely different consciousness state, and finds themselves incapable of honoring the commitment. In legal terms, this is referred to as the problem of severability.

How do you sever a contract? How do you change expectations? How do you bring about a recognition that everyone has changed and it will be better for the whole, for us to play different roles to the ones we promised we were going to play back when we had more juvenile consciousness? How do we do that?

It needs to be, as much as possible, a group phenomenon. That’s our first approach.

Anyone whose life is a stakeholder in the promises and commitments that you’ve made, the expectations that you’ve given, and who, as stakeholders, might legitimately consider you to be, it’s important for you to continue playing the role that you agreed to in that less conscious state. We have to do our best to see to what extent everyone can review their own role in the play and enhance the mission, refresh it.

[22:04] Forgiveness of a Promise

But if we find ourself an individual who has to move ahead and nobody else seems to want to, then we have, in the most humble way, in the most graceful way, to find the words and the means whereby we can ask for our earlier commitment, which we are not going to manage to continue to serve, we have to ask for that forgiveness of that commitment.

We ask for forgiveness because we ask for people to understand how change can occur over a period of time. We ask for them to understand that time has gone by, and with time change comes, and change must be progressive and evolutionary.

And so the whole of social life is about expectations given, expectations that are enshrined in promises. And then expectations, whether met or not met, go through change.

And we have, in every society, mechanisms whereby we can, if, under the right circumstances, we can achieve forgiveness of a promise that we made once, which we feel no longer can be served by us.

[23:48] The Five Fundamentals of Progress

And so we have to begin that process in the gentleness most empathetic, and there’s that word again, empathy, feeling from within others, the most generous and most empathetic way.

On the other hand, if we feel that the only problem is that I don’t have enough stability, enough adaptability, enough integrative power, enough purification of useless stuff, enough willingness to grow, if I don’t feel I have those five fundamentals of progress, stability, adaptability, integration, purification, and growth, to move forward and continue, then let me simply increase that.

Rather than having to change everything and say, “I’m not going to be the locomotive of this train anymore. You’ll have to find another locomotive,” perhaps all that’s needed is for us to discover what our real potential is, which in fact, is infinite.

[24:51] Time is a Great Healer

So can we look at the problem in a different way? Let’s just get more creative, more intelligent, more energy, more capability, more knowledge, more staying power. But if we’ve examined all that, and yet we find that the mission has to change, and that means there has to be forgiveness of a promise we made, then we have to set about that process.

And it’s a process with which every social structure is familiar, family, cities, countries, nations, and globally. There has been ways of allowing metamorphosis to occur. The relationship between United States, Japan, and Germany, in 1940 was absolutely dreadful. Sworn enemies.

The relationship between Germany, Japan and the United States in 2010 was mutual trading partners, generous allies, and a shared mission for the world.

You see, change can occur. And, nations that had even made a promise to do nothing but destroy each other and take over each other’s resources can go through a change, and can arrive at mutual benefit, a cycle of mutual enrichment, instead of a cycle of destruction, a mutually destructive cycle.

So what we see at the macroscopic, at the big level, this can also happen at the small level. Time is a great healer. Time is a great healer. With time everything ends up being all right actually, everything.

Jai Guru Deva

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