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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Make the dream sweet - or wake up

There has been a lot of stuff going through my mind lately. Thankfully I’ve learned not to take all of it seriously or give undue importance to the joys of what I’ve unceremoniously labelled ‘mindcrap’. Much of it is complete baloney, and yet unfortunately most people - myself included at times - treat it with the utmost seriousness. Some people even end up worshipping their mindcrap. What’s your religion? Why it’s the thoughts and beliefs in my head. Uh huh. But It’s really not funny. It’s the cause of so much misery on this planet.


I was listening to an interview with Zen/Advaita teacher Adyashanti, who spoke very eloquently of what 'enlightenment' or 'awakening' truly is. Basically, the way he defined it was simply as seeing things as they really are...as opposed to seeing things as we THINK they are. Most people live their lives with a mental commentary running in their heads. Every single experience, individual, occurence and situation is thereby filtered through a screen of mind; processed through a filter of our thoughts, beliefs and prejudices. Every experience of ‘reality’ is in fact quickly and neatly packaged into a story in our minds. We so rarely experience ‘reality’ as it is; instead we’re stuck in our interpretation, our story of what we THINK reality is.


The example he gave was if someone says something that we don’t like; our reality becomes “that person shouldn’t have said that”. We take THAT to be reality; when in fact, that’s simply a story we’ve spun in our minds. The reality was, simply (and it always is so much more simple than we make it) - that the person said such-and-such. Doesn’t really matter whether or not we liked what they had to say; that’s merely subjective interpretation. What is, I guess, IS. We have an in-built spin doctor living in a portion of our brain that is perpetually taking our experience and turning it into little stories and narratives and what’s ‘good’, what’s ‘bad’, what ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be happening...and we tend to utterly fall for that and see it as ‘reality’ when in fact it’s merely a phantasm, an illusion of mind that filters our perception of reality.


Is there then some truth in the ancient notion that everything we believe to be 'reality', is in fact just a dream? From what I hear, some quantum physicists actually purport that 'reality' is entirely dependent upon our perception of it; in other words, if we're not there to perceive it, then it no longer exists...that without our brain processing the information in a certain way, then it's all basically just quantum soup - patterns of energy and information with no inherent realness of its own. A possible implication is that with our minds, we create the world as we perceive it, in much the same way as dreams exists. It seems real to us while we're perceiving it, but ultimately we come to realise that it's simply just a dream.


Do you want to take the red pill or the blue pill?!


Now, I don’t suppose it matters a great deal if it's a positive, happy dream - and it will be if your mind-stories (the narrative and beliefs which drive your experience or reality) are of a positive and healthy nature. No one wants to be woken from a pleasant dream. If it works for you and you are happy, then that's wonderful. Positive people are much better to be around than negative people (unless, of course you’re a negative person in which case you probably find it mightily uncomfortable to be around people that don’t share your negative outlook).


If it’s an unhappy dream you're experiencing, then maybe you do want to wake up (unless of course, you’re addicted to the unhappiness, as many people unconsciously are - but that's another story altogether). That’s when you start looking at your mind-stories (“life is terrible and everybody hates me”) and question them. Dissect them. Tear it apart and see if this belief - this religion around which you base your entire experience of life - actually has ANY inherent truth in it. At first you’ll be convinced it does. As Byron Katie said, and I think this is as apt a desciption I’ve ever heard of mind:


“The mind’s job is to validate what it believes.”


You can see that anywhere; if someone really believes something then they’ll filter every aspect of their experience in order to validate those beliefs. When our outer experience doesn’t match up with our inner ‘map’ of reality, the result is psychological stress or what I believe is termed ‘cognitive dissonance’. It’s uncomfortable so we choose to tune out any experience that contradicts our deeply held ‘schema’ (or mental map of reality). Like the person who is convinced that everyone hates him - he might get ten compliments in a day, but he’ll filter those out and use the one negative comment he gets to validate and justify his belief that people hate him. That person isn’t going to change his experience of reality until he questions his underlying belief system. If the operating system has bugs or faulty programming in it, everything's going to be affected!


Waking up to reality is realising that the screen of beliefs and mind-stories with which we interpret, understand and relate to reality are illusory, fabricated and possess none of the inherent solidity or ‘realness’ we assume them to have. None!


I’m guessing most people aren’t ready to completely ditch all their belief structures. I’ve had a taste of that lately - and its disorienting, disillusioning, sometimes painful but at the same time very liberating. It’s not for the faint of heart.


For those that aren’t really committed to this thing called ‘awakening’, then it’s probably best simply to dream better. By that I mean, if your dream of reality (your beliefs, filters and mental maps) is negative and is causing you or others to suffer, then for goodness sake switch it to something more positive. It can be done - and it can be done quite easily. This is a revolutionary concept to many, who erroneously believe that what they believe is static and unchangeable, and that they are in essence a victim to this.


In reality, the mind is fluidic; and our thoughts and beliefs, no matter how solid and ‘real’ they seem to us are merely like clouds passing across the open expanse of sky that is mind. The problem comes when we forget that we are the sky and instead identify with the clouds; which is fine when the clouds are light and fluffy but not so good when they are dark, dense, stormy and violent. If you’re stuck with stormy clouds, then switch them to lighter, fluffier clouds; ones that don’t obscure the sunlight. And if you’re really really eager to get to the truth of reality, then ditch your identification with clouds altogether; realise that you are the essence, not the content. Clouds will still appear, just like shadows will always trail you on a sunny day. Clouds and shadows aren’t the problem; identifying your sense of ‘self’ with them is.


Long long story short: even when you no longer ‘fall’ for the content of mind (the mind-crap, stories and erroneous beliefs), mind has a certain momentum and will still continue to regurgitate all the old conditioned crap for, well, as long as it does. Imagine an experience of reality totally free of mental interference, with no labels such as ‘sky’, ‘tree’, ‘sun’, ‘grass’ to distance yourself from pure experience of what is. That’s something I really strive for. Its not so much about getting rid of mind - mind serves some very useful functions, clearly - as it is simply getting back in touch with the experience of BEING. Getting out of relating to life in conceptual ways, and simply being free to purely, intimately experience the totality of what is, now. Or as a definition of Zen simply, beautifully states; all life is about is - JUST THIS, NOW.


My mantra. It completely gets me out of mindcrap and back in touch with what is....


JUST THIS, NOW!


I hope those pointers mean something to you. Equally, they might be meaningless - but that kind of proves a point; something is only as meaningful to the extent that the mind and your mind-stories and mental map of reality make it meaningful. Remember - the mind’s job is to validate what it believes. Basically, my entire point is this - if your beliefs are good for you, that’s fine. If they’re bad, change them. And if you’re really, really curious, ditch all of them altogether. It’s scary but wondrous when you start to believe nothing, least of all your own thoughts...........

2 comments:

Weston Elliott said...

I love the mantra! Boy, that is just the thing for those times my mind goes about a thousand RPMs!

Rory said...

It really does work. It makes you realise that life is actually a lot simpler than it seems in the mind. In spite of all the things you think you have to do there's only ever one; Just this, now! :)