Saturday, December 03, 2005
Nothing is new. Everything has been said before. Why do we find it so hard to figure it out ourselves? I wanted to share what seems to be a breakthrough for me, or rather, a realization of truth that was always there -- is always there -- but is lost in the commotion of the work-a-day world.
This also relates to an earlier post by Grasshopper on the Hi-Seekers blog, entitled "Who Are We in Between our Thinking?"
Here is the insight. To truly experience life, avoid pain and suffering, see beauty in everything around us, we must live in the present moment (aka, the Now).
OK, I've heard that before -- what the heck does it mean? What are the implications? Must I constantly meditate, or perhaps retreat to a mountain cave? Living in the Now is your natural state. News flash: that's the ONLY place life exists. The past is just one person's historical trajectory. The future is just one person's imagination of what might come next. Life lives, breathes, creates, in the present moment, and only there.
So what does it mean to live in the Now? Well first, it means you have to gain control of your Mind. Huh? Your mind is what causes you to focus on the past and on the future. To see the current moment as nothing but a means to an end -- maybe solving the next problem, getting to a clean house, earning more money so that someday in the future you can live happily ever after. Another news flash: you can never live happily ever after in the future, for two reasons: 1) you can't live in the future; and 2) once your current "lack" is satisfied, there will be more "want"; there always is.
So what? So getting control of your mind means recognizing your thoughts for just what they are: something created by your ego, and not by your true Self. They are there to create and live out your life's drama, as a separate entity, alone and cut off from God, Being, All There Is, Oneness, whatever you want to call it. And it is the source of your suffering, or if you feel that you aren't suffering, it is preventing you from realizing true joy, inner peace, and profound bliss.
What the heck are you talking about? Try this exercise. Close your eyes and concentrate; be totally aware. Quiet your mind. Watch for the next thought to materialize out of no where. Keep waiting for it, and just observe it when it comes. What did you notice? When I tried this, I found it took a while before that first thought appeared. And that is the key. You were the observer watching your mind create a thought.
How can that be? You are not your mind, and you are not your thoughts. This is the key to awareness, to presence, to living in the Now. It is what Buddhists call mindfulness -- being fully present in whatever activity you are performing, giving it your full attention, so that your Mind is not running off planning the next activity, or worrying about what you'll make for dinner tonight. Once you realize this, it is rather straightforward to quiet your mind.
Are you saying that my mind is the problem? Because I rather fancy it. Once again, you have identified the essential point. It is not that your mind is a "problem", it just "is". Your mind is a tool. You use it to get along in the work-a-day world. The question is, who is in charge? Do you (your essential Self) use your mind when you need it, and then "turn it off" (i.e., become present, aware) or does your Mind run amok? Thinking whatever thoughts just "pop" into your head, whether you want them there or not? Does your mind dredge up some past history and create pain? Does it worry about whether you'll get the next promotion, and bring you anxiety? If so, your Mind has taken control, and you need to realize it.
But this is how everyone lives, isn't it? Save for a few monks and sages, this is my reality, our reality, isn't it? It doesn't have to be. Did you try that experiment? You can take control back any time you earnestly want to. And with practice, the mind will become a noble servant, but a servant nonetheless. For you scientists and engineers who so depend upon your minds, consider this quote: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." -- Albert Einstein We're all talking about the same thing.
How shall I practice this, and refine this insight? For me, that's the beauty of my epiphany. I imagined much study, meditation, seclusion, retreats, needing gurus, and the like. But just turn your full attention on any activity you are doing. Full attention in the same way you were monitoring your mind for arising thoughts. Once again be fully present and aware. Observe, without judgment, what it is you are doing -- what you see, what you feel, smell, hear, taste -- everything. Leave no room for extraneous thoughts. It isn't 'good' and it isn't 'bad', it just 'is'. It is not a means to an end, it is your life in this moment. And when you give it your full attention, and quiet your mind (keep it under control, or in the toolbox as it were), I assure you that you will see beauty in what you are doing. It will gain new meaning. You will be at peace and feel bliss.
But why is that so? How can doing the dishes make me feel bliss? Because there can be no "problems" in the now. Nothing to "worry" about, since that implies a future concern, and you are not thinking about the future (you have quieted the mind). But what if there is a problem "in the now"? What if I cut my hand while washing the dishes? Well, first of all, it is less likely to happen when you are giving your full attention to the dishes, right? But if it were to happen, it is just a situation to be dealt with -- it just "is". You know what to do, right? So you deal with it. That's the beauty of the Now. You can cope with every situation that presents itself to you in the Now. And you don't build up anxiety, worry, dread, or other fear-based emotions. Because you have quieted the mind.
Sounds intriguing -- how do I know this is so? Why should I believe you? You shouldn't. It would do you no good whatsoever. You should only try to experience it. Only then will you really know what I'm trying to express. But I encourage you to do so. For continuing on the way so many do -- effectively asleep to this reality -- is the cause of great suffering, to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters, and to the world. Certainly you can see that when you pause and consider. As posted earlier, in the immortal words of the Eagles, "It's waiting for you to awaken."
If you wish to read more about this topic, I would recommend Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1999