George Clark, 18 July 2008
I used to be a Scottish Presbyterian workaholic and busy-ness freak. There was no time to lose as the devil finds work for idle hands to do. These days I remain Scottish but I am more relaxed. I made time to stand and stare. I found ways to be still and know how my mind works and about who 'I' am. So how was this managed? In two words just sit.
The process began by reading spiritual books and listening to dharma talks and this led to developing a meditation practice. This meant having regular 20 minute time slots to just sit. This quickly led to experiencing the major psychological revelations which are reported by the great spiritual traditions.
The first revelation was that the mind has a mind of its own. While I was sitting thoughts and emotions would arrive, hang around for a while and then disappear again. Some were pleasurable, some painful and many were neutral. And 'I' had virtually no control over the process. The causes and conditions of the various thought trains were a mystery. 'I' was not in control; it was not 'my' mind!
Quite soon there was a realisation that 'I' could 'witness' the thought stream. It was as if I was watching a television which had been programmed to randomly channel hop. But the witness point of view opened up a mental space which created distance between me and the thought trains. I was no longer my thoughts. They no longer had the power to totally capture my attention. It was possible to be free of attachment to them. And, more significantly, it became obvious that the viewpoints in the thought trains had very little to do with real reality. It was therefore OK to let them go. I was freed from my obsessions and from a whole string of messy mental habits. Goodbye John Knox!
So the first step was to be free from the busy mental chatter but what was this freedom for? It took a while to figure this out. It was as if the chatter was stirring up mud in the mind. Once it was gone the mud settled and there was clarity. The chatter is like the tip of an iceberg and it was now possible to identify with the enormous underwater bit. This is where still waters run deep. This is where the link to the unconscious is evidenced.
Here we approach the second revelation and what seems amazingly like freedom, authenticity and the fearless peace that passes all understanding. Here we are in touch with our essential human nature and we know that it is good. While sitting there is an egoless state which is outside of space and time the word bliss comes to mind.
And, back in the everyday world, when the unconscious is uninterruptedly in the driver's seat, three things are possible (a) you can view things numinously, (b) you can work in flow and (c) you appreciate the interconnectedness of the Oneness.
The sitting meditation is necessary to retune your brain but you can carry the new atunement back into everyday life. The trick is to stay awake and aware and thus to avoid being driven by automatic causes and conditions. There can then be effortless action performed with grace rather than with a grudge. You are free and flexible a raw force of nature. No longer culturally programmed.
SO cancel the endless chatter and take effortless action. Shake free from workaholism and compulsive busy-ness. Why not pluck the inevitable fruits of thrilling stilling?
There is a BUT. The above story covers over some awkward bits.
There are times when the chatter will not stop and the mud will not settle. It can be tough remembering to adopt the witness position and to be a neutral observer of the mind state. This can be depressing and cause panic.
I am not yet in a position to call up effortless action at will. I desire to avoid grudge work and to perform only with grace this means the dishes can pile up for several days before being washed. This can be a source of guilt and shame unless awareness kicks in to put it in perspective.
But, in either case, the answer lies in thrilling stilling!