Liberating the Mind.
Hopefully you have read the previous three articles in this series. If you have not, you may well find some of the statements in this article bewildering. So my advice is to go back and read those articles, and this one will probably make much more sense.
Most of our thinking is dedicated to our survival. This may not seem particularly obvious, but you only have to look at where you put most of your effort to see that this is true. So, you get an education, some training, get a job, buy a house, find a breeding mate, do yoga or go to the gym, and a thousand other things simply so you might continue to exist. Along with all of these things is a great deal of planning and thinking. For many people their thinking does not go beyond these things, and there are others who are so heavily driven by the will-to-life that they might accumulate great wealth, position and power.
If our thinking was wholly dedicated to these things there would be very little confusion. However, some people start to think about other things, such as the meaning of life, why there is suffering, why they feel miserable, and more generally what the hell this whole thing called existence is all about. So they not only end up thinking about all the stuff they need to make sure their existence continues, they now have whole a universe of ideas and concepts that are used to form judgments about life. Unfortunately many of these people will be attracted to New Age gurus, self-help gurus, religions and anything else that might provide answers to the endless questions they have. And here is a strange twist in all of this. People who go seeking are often more confused than those who busy themselves exclusively with everyday affairs. Not only this, but the beliefs they acquire through religion, spiritual traditions, or any other organization they hook up with, may actually be dangerous and harmful. Most of these things are full of should and shouldn’t. We shouldn’t be angry, we should be loving, we shouldn’t eat meat, we should eat raw vegetables, and so on. If you read the previous articles you will know we are driven almost exclusively by the will-to-life, and this will always gain the upper hand.
The key to unraveling all of this mess is very simple. Never believe that anything you think has the right to say “I”. For most of us our days are full of voices in our heads that claim to be “I”, and each of them claims to be king if only for a few minutes. Many of these imposters will be saying should and shouldn’t, with no real regard to how we actually feel. I can probably count the authors who have understood this on one hand. All other authors eventually end up saying should and shouldn’t.
The reason we need to understand our emotions is that we need to know what is really going on inside us, instead of some fantasy that we have constructed from reading our latest self-help book, or spiritual treatise. Unless we are in touch with how we really feel, all our efforts to achieve some level of inner peace will be futile. If we have achieved some genuine and intelligent understanding of our emotions, then they will tend to bother us much less. We don’t offer them resistance, and as you may know, what we resist tends to persist. This inner letting go sounds easy, but it isn’t. It may take many years and devastating self honesty to be able to accept how we feel in many situations. I wrote about liberation from emotions first because that is where we have to start. But here is a simple exercise to help us gain a little distance from all the voices in our heads that would claim “I”:
Sit comfortably while maintaining a straight back. Relax the shoulders particularly. and the muscles in the face. Close your eyes and simply try to observe the thoughts passing through your mind as they occur. This is easier said than done. Most people who try this, report that when they start to observe their thoughts, the thoughts stop. And indeed, this is likely to happen. Simply persist with this exercise and eventually you will be able to observe the thoughts trickling through your mind almost as an outside observer. Until this time, if observing your thoughts causes them to stop then at least you get a respite from the constant noise in your head. Do this for at least five minutes, and preferably for 20 minutes or more. You will inevitably daydream at various points in this process. Simply go back to observing the thoughts, and absolutely do not criticize yourself in any way for having lost concentration.
You may eventually reach the state where the separation between thought and your internal observer takes on some kind of permanence. This allows a person to go through life with a certain equanimity. Again, it may take many years to achieve this, but the ability to see how thought obscures something within us that is thoughtless, is a priceless gift.
The motto of the article is very simple. Never believe any story that your mind is telling you, even the story you have just read in this article.