Underneath our thoughts
We live among a sea of crackle, noise, and stream of past history.
But, imagine a world where we weren’t controlled by our thoughts.
A quiet mind.
This isn’t to conflate the idea of no mind with being out of control or a lack of consciousness. Far from it.
Being in the moment and not controlled by our mind is everything.
Of course we need our mind, but, too readily, we allow ourselves to be controlled by the (controlling) mind.
Meditation, mindfulness and presence: all of these are precursors to going beyond our mind, seeing behind the thoughts and being (totally) in the moment. But to arrive at a place of peace, everything has to be dropped.
“Be. Drop becoming.”
If this is the ‘awakening’, then it wasn’t something I understood until recently. In my early days of personal development, I thought that positive thinking was what was required. If I could (re)programme my mind to only see the good in everything, and push through to my goals, then, over time, I would be a (financial) success.
I read many books (Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill being high up on my list of most read books), listened to a few tapes and attended a number of seminars. For a while, it worked, or so I thought. But, in hindsight, all I was doing was channeling my immense energy into work, and ignoring the most critical component of all; namely working out who I was, and what would bring me to full self-expression.
This pattern repeated itself through to my early 40’s. However, I should have known that the seeker within would never rest until he/it had worked out what it meant to be alive, and to live a life of higher purpose.
I decided to look outside of the self-help movement and explore Zen buddhism and meditation. It was here that I first ran into the idea of ‘no mind’. As a concept, it seemed alien to me. Why would anyone want to empty their mind or, at the very least, quiet their mind?
But the more I went into the space, the more I understood that as soon as I could quiet my mind, and not be overwhelmed by emotion and the broken-record-syndrome that comes with the internal chattter, the more at rest I was with my circumstances. It sounds too ephemeral to say I was ‘happy’ but that is the emotion that you would recognise most.
The thing is we all strive endlessly. We think we can make our lives better by having more things, better relationships or pursuing a higher purpose (God?), but when it comes down to it there is only this moment. (If we could only let go of our biographical past, a desire to change the future or constant stream of ‘having’ thoughts, then our lives would be transformed.)
I don’t know what englightenment means. I do know though that it’s not about trying to be someone. It’s about being present, dropping our personality-driven facade, being at peace and understanding what it means to love.
Most people will say that this is not attainable. But how many of them have ever stopped to consider a life of no mind, or a way to witness our thoughts and not be emotionally charged by their import?
Q. Have you ever thought where your thoughts come from?
I think that we are looking in the wrong direction for contentment. It certainly isn’t out there, even though the capitalists would have you believe that economic well-being is the way to personal growth and development. And neither is it directly inside via the unconscious self.
Somehow you have to manifest the insight to recognise that what you seek doesn’t have a label. It’s right here. In this moment, however it presents itself.
“Unless your within becomes as your without, you can never be at rest because your periphery will continuously be in conflict with your center. The problem is that the periphery cannot win. Ultimately, only the center can win.”
I recognise that to many people the whole concept of no mind will seem confused, confusing and unhelpful when we are being bombarded with messages that to improve our (personal) circumstances, we have to improve. But as someone who has been there, understood the tension and frustration that that sets up, all I can say is that to be at peace with who you are, the only way to achieve that is to accept the idea of presence and allowing things to be.
I’ve seen it said that we are all asleep (see Gurdjieff); and I think on one level that’s true. Our past programming and conditioning has stopped us seeing through the ideology that we have set up. But the idea of presence, allowing things to be means being totally awake in the moment, and not being blown off course by the internal and external.
Wherever you are with ordering your life – to live it in a way that fulfills your potential – all I know is that we owe it to ourselves to live our lives in a way that is congruent between the inner and outer. If what manifests is not something that brings you peace, then striving for more may not be your salvation.
I’m not on some new age mission to persuade anyone to my cause (I don’t have one!) but the concept of awakening the genius isn’t about doing lots of things, acquiring wealth as a means of achieveing happiness or pursuing a myriad of goals. It’s about awakening to the promise that this life has to offer, which is to be found in living fully in this moment.
When I look back on my blogging and creative output there’s a great deal of angst. Either I’m exhorting change or trying to shine a light on one success formula over another. That’s not to say I’m ashamed of my efforts. If I hadn’t gone through the process – the thinking and the doing – then I know I wouldn’t have arrived at this point.
For me the future lies in allowing things to distill in the now. Not in looking for a better life.
The journey is only just beginning.
I have much to unlearn. And, I intend to embrace this new freedom, one where my mind is at rest with who I am and not constantly chasing another bright star.