Returning to innocence, but this time, with wisdom

The mind of any adult is usually full of thoughts, coming and going and coming … without end.

Do you remember what was your mental state in your childhood? What thoughts filled your mind?

Probably they were simple impulses, desires, direct perceptions … now and then no thoughts, only be there.

As more you going further back in your childhood, less thoughts you find; such state of mind is named innocence. And is a nice, happy, clear state.

Nowadays meditation is a trending topic in West, and one of their aims is to reduce the number of involuntary thoughts.

 

Meditate is like a return to such peaceful state of mind similar to our childhood: simply be here and now, awake, observing, perceiving.

But is not the same old state: a child reacts to perceptions, acts driven by desires, is moved by his emotions as a drifting boat is moved by the wind and waves; instead, an experimented meditator not reacts automatically, and is not driven by desires nor emotions, his mind is stable, even-tempered, and in the deep center of such mind an observer contemplates all the scene, the world running and spinning.

From such deep center the observer is not affected itself by nothing. He always acts, never reacts. Such state of mind is named wisdom, is a state of wide vision, free of prejudices, but possessing knowledge, life experience, that he can use if necessary.

So through meditation we can return to the nice innocence, but this time with knowledge, with wisdom. Have knowledge not means to be thinking continuously, on the contrary, thoughts are reduced to the minimum, involuntary thoughts are no longer there.

We progressively become an innocent wise subject.

Eknath Easwaran, an old meditation teacher, good example of healthy, peaceful, innocent but wise mind

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The very source of suffering

The Buddha, 2500 years ago, after long years of meditation, saw that the source of suffer was desire, but not any desire, only unhealthy desire produces suffering; for example, the desire of liberation of suffering is a healthy one, while any craving, addiction, produces lack of freedom, also can easily turn into frustration and anger: suffering.

Buddhism also describes aspiration: “soft” desire that has an openness to a possibility that we see as good, but without a need for anything to happen, so without any expectation nor grasping. Also, Buddhism relates unhealthy desires to the discursive world of planning, thinking, and fantasy, while aspiration is related with inner stillness, with mental calm; that’s why meditation is needed for first calm the mind, and then calm the unhealthy desires.

Here, 2500 years after Buddha, we are going try to show a deeper vision of the very origin of suffering, thanks to our modern knowledge. First, let us define suffer in a very simply, wide way:

 Suffer is the tension produced by opposed forces.

Any object subject to opposed forces experiences tension; if tension is enough strong, eventually break such object. Let us give some examples:

1. I want to have a nice family, but I have not; disputes, anger, lack of kindness are instead the habitual. What are the forces here? One force is: want to have a nice family, that is directly derived from survival instinct expressed as want to live in a cozy environment, to feel being protected; note we don’t label it as desire or aspiration is only a natural force, and is good of course. On the other side there are personal conflicts between individuals, with causes that are usually diverse: different opinions, old unresolved quarrels, etc etc; such conflicts are the visible results of the same force,  survival instinct, manifested as negative emotions and behaviors, a reacting against things that are seen as ‘bad’. So the first force is constructive, and the second one is destructive, and their confluence causes suffering. Indeed, both forces are in fact one and the same: survival, protection of the individual against the environment, but it expresses in opposed forms.

2. Think now about a person getting old; she is trying to overcome the degeneration of her body, taking care of her health, trying to stay active, etc but as we know time does not stop, it is irreversible, so the degeneration and the chronic diseases also don’t stop; there are pain, and such person needs a very healthy mind for don’t fall in suffering. Again, there are two opposed natural forces acting:  survival of the individual and destructing of the individual for renewal of life on earth.

As Buddhism says us, when the person mindfully accepts the situation suffering vanishes; but the forces are still there one against the other, what happens? Suffering is produced by the mind, because all our actions and reactions are made by the mind; when we fully accept the situation, the mind are not reacting, she let things happen, let the natural forces acts one against other and observe the scenery wisely, recognizing the forces that act there, she knows that in a deep sense that forces are intrinsically positive, even externally, from a personal, partial point of view, seems negative. 

What about desire in our framework?

Desire is an automatic, so unconscious, mental reaction driven by the force of survival.

Our personal mind, complex, multifaceted, express the force of survival, of welfare, in a multiple ways, from desire to simply eat or have sex up to desire for luxury. We need a clear awareness of what is happen moment by moment, what forces are acting within us and out there, this awareness is beyond thinking, and also beyond  automatic unconscious desires. Indeed, we are saying the same that Buddhism: mindfulness meditation show us how  the mind is constantly under the sway of craving, chasing after its own thoughts; but we introduce the new element “forces of Nature” as the very source of desires and suffering. We think take into account such forces enrich our knowledge, making easier achieve and stabilize a mindful state of mind: we know what is the source and also why is there, and is good, because such forces are the ones that make everything exist. Such forces are the forces of the creation.

Realizing our true “I” through constant meditation

What is meditation? Yes, we know it, the action or practice of meditating, so what is meditate?

Focus one’s mind for a period of time for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. Think deeply about (something). Also: contemplate, think about, reflect, engage in contemplation, be in a thoughtful state, debate with oneself,

Meditate for spiritual purposes (concerned with the soul, with the creation as a whole, etc, beyond material or physical things) is more related with contemplate, deep reflection, than simply think about, but thinking is not excluded of meditation. What’s the problem with thinking? Thinking produces thoughts, ideas, mental frames, judgements … but the reality is beyond all mental frame, so thinking too much can close us to spiritual reality. Though we need thinking as a kind of crutches for come closer and closer to reality, we need ask us questions, remain opened to answers beyond the scope of our previous mental frames, opened to intuition, and when it comes, try to integrate it with our mental frame, try to understand. We need be able to drop the crutches when the time comes.

Who we are? Complicated question, isn’t it? Well, is complicated when we try to answer from our rational mind, who depends on concepts, thoughts, logic, and also emotions and other unconscious stuff. When we relax our grasping to all this stuff, then the answer comes, but in a subtle intuitive form, non-rational, so difficult to integrate with our mental schemes. Time is required, dedication, patient, for integrate the answer, for understand it. While we identify with our conscious mind, we are ignoring our subconscious, but he are not ignoring us, on the contrary, the subconscious handles much of our doing in the world. How can it be? We are ignoring something that are so important for us? Again, our identification with our thoughts close our understanding, our vision, to the whole reality of who we are.

What are I? Many spiritual traditions say us, and years of daily meditation drive us to realize it, that “I” is a sense of be somebody beyond any concept, word, or description. Our true nature is beyond mind, but we need the mind for realize it, because the world exists thanks to the Mind; we now talk about the Universal Mind, some posts have been written in this site about it, for example, a mind inside a Mind.  With patient work, meditating, reflecting, our conscious mind slowly accept the strange idea: a) our mind, the one with whom we identified, is only a process controlled by the Mind, like the unconscious mind also is, and  b) emerges another deep sense of “I” beyond any concept, and we learn to identify ourselves with him.

Unlimited being, is the new sense that comes. When we are not any thought, we are not limited by any mental framework, because any thought is an approximation to reality, a partial view, not complete. Only when we are not grasped with any personal interpretation is when we are free for perceive the totality as it is. We still can use the mind for planning, thinking, etc but without grasping: we are able for stop judgement and simply be full aware. Is impossible to describe such high state of being, only is possible point to it with words, like peace of mind, mindfulness, equanimity, perfect empathy, etc etc but as we said before any word is only a crutch to help us move forward in understanding, but also an obstacle to walking freely. There are only one way for really understand what we are: practice meditation daily, constantly, asking ourselves the right questions, with a clear will for obtain the right answers; with such constant work, the answers always comes, sooner or later.

 

 

 

No words

Words represent concepts, actions, and relationships between them, they help us to get an idea of reality, and to transmit it to others.

But the reality is too big, too complex, to be enclosed, represented by ideas, concepts and words. The simple direct experience of what is happening, moment by moment, is beyond any conceptual description. The same life is itself indefinable. The most important things in our life are almost impossible to describe, and if we do, we reduce them, we are not able to explain them as they really are.

What do you experience looking at that?

Think of some important situation in your life; if we have to reproduce it in words, we can only mention partial aspects of the life experience we had, even if we are very good at relating events, our inner experience will resist being conceptualized, reduced to words.

We live all that we are aware of, and only what we are conscious of, but our own consciousness itself is beyond any exact description, we can only describe partial aspects of it. Therefore, our contents of conscience also resist being fully explained, reduced to words. Frequently we live states that we are not able to describe accurately.

We have been educated to conceptualize everything, we spend our lives thinking almost compulsively, but life itself is not a concept, nor any set of concepts, is much more than that. There are no words to describe life, as there are no words to describe what we are, the totality that we are. And yet, we can discover what life is and who we are, but for that we must open our minds to the non-conceptual experience, it is necessary to directly experience life with curiosity, with attention, without judging, without wanting to reduce everything to concepts , simply perceive and understand. And what we understand, we can not represent it with words, because we will be left speechless. At most we can only give approximations, indicate clues for understand, but do not go further, you have to experience it in the first person, it can not be full explained.

Soul in action

IMG_331074902130976What is a soul? Here, we named soul the ultimate subject within us, beyond thoughts. Is not mind nor body, some people have the intuition of their existence, other people have gotten some direct contact, means their mind have perceived the soul, impressing in the mind a sense of stable identity beyond the world, and a wonderful peace impossible of forget.

Contact with the soul, meaning perceive it with the mind at some degree, transforms our point of view about everything. At a starting level one, If you do it only for a few minutes a day, while your daily meditation, the soft and sweet impression received lasts almost all the day, subtle, but real. If you often put your attention in such subtle and sweet sensation, searching it, it slowly expands in you, in your mind, and you’re in a second level of contact. As a result, peace of mind comes to you, starting to love silence, to love calm, and to be contemplative. You often looks for daily moments of solitude, of silence, and rest in contemplation of yourself and the world, as a whole.

With time, the initial duality between “you”  as a thinker, and you as a soul, leans slowly towards the soul, towards a deep sense of identity, and you become progressively more and more independent of the external world, in the sense of be calm, peaceful and happy in every situation. You don’t need nothing, or only need basic things. You don’t desire nothing, no more artificial needs. You are starting to live a spiritual life without effort, without follow any religion or tradition, naturally. We can named it the third level of contact with your soul.

prince-of-egypt2

I think only few people go beyond the third level. What are there? Our mind perceive clearly the qualities of the soul: perfect loving-kindness, permanent and indestructible stability, a sense of higher awareness and an unlimited inner energy. The soul has such qualities in their highest degree, such high that our mind is not able to accept that we are that. We perceive it but can’t accept we are that, our mind says to us “is impossible I am that, I know I’m very very limited, while the qualities I’m perceiving seems unlimited!” And is right: the mind is very limited, the soul not, and while we remain identified with our mind, we also will be  very limited. A patient work of relax our ideas about ourselves is needed, patient and slow, because the progress must be slow, because there are a danger in the way: to believe we are unlimited, resulting an inflated ego. The key word is believe, a mental position. The real progress drive us to directly live more  and more the qualities of the soul, and here the key word is live: direct experience, no believe, imaginations. In this advanced fourth level we learn to express such unlimited qualities in the world through our mind and body, that acts as instruments of action for the soul. I can’t explain exactly the experience of be the soul (even in some very imperfect degree) acting on the world, because is beyond the words. Is Yoga, meaning “union with the higher self”. Is self-realization, because the soul is our higher self.

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The reduced eightfold path: dual path

A high-sounding title, yes, I know it. But is my feeling, the feeling that comes to me after my daily meditation, after I was reflecting about suffering, a central concept in the Buddha’s teachings.

“Oh Bhikshus, there are four noble truths. They are the noble truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering.”

Here suffering does not mean grave pain, but rather the mental suffering; Buddhist teach that our tendency to desire pleasure clashes with the fleeting nature of life and our experiences become unsatisfactory and ungovernable, causing us suffering.

This morning, after my short session of Hatha Yoga and Pranayama, sit down in my meditation room, soon in the morning, all in peace, out me and also within me, I put in front of my attention the question “why we suffer?”, and surprisingly for me the answer comes almost instantly:

All the suffering is product of mind, she create suffering and maintain it.

And then, the consequence come to my contemplative mind:

Pure awareness is not mind, is beyond mind, so is beyond suffering. Dwelling on pure awareness is to live free of suffering.

So simple! No mention about desires, clinging, grasping, hunger, and other possible sources of suffering that Buddhism explain and study. No attachment that we must overcome by years of practice. Is more simple. Is a matter of awareness, is to realize the substantial difference between thinking and be present without thinking, and learn to simply stay present, moving our sense of “I” from thoughts to pure awareness (or “the observer”). Then, all the obstacles pointed by Buddhism, like attachment,  desires, etc, are overcome without effort, they simply vanishes, because they are created and sustained by the mind, and when the mind stops their thinking, when we disidentify or our thoughts, becoming only awareness, such sources of suffering lost their bearer, and vanishes.

Maybe, I don’t know, is only an idea,  in times of Buddha the concept of become pure awareness beyond mind was too exotic, so the more secure way recommended by him was more complicated, was the eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (samadhi: meditative absorption or union, a concept very similar to the union of Yoga tradition). I think in our modern times, humankind has a enough powerful consciousness, product of centuries of rational thinking, for reduce the eightfold path to a simpler dual path:  right mindfulness, and right samadhi; here, samadhi means reflective meditation, a kind of meditation about we wrote something time ago in this blog. Of course, humans beings exists in a wide range of mental developing, so still there are people for the classic eightfold path is still the recommendable, but not for all the people were the best way. The dual path can be much more quick; we must be aware that almost nobody of the millions of Buddhist practitioners achieve samadhi in their lives, is a slow way.

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concepts, intuitions, experiences, and knowledge

We are mental beings, because we see the world through our mind; any experience, any object, produces automatically thoughts, reactions, memories, and concepts about the world. Even we make concepts about ourselves: I’m tall, I’m clever, I’m an engineer, etc etc. Our concepts model our world, and also determine our actions.

Some concepts presented to us by others, like the ones the reader are reading here and now, may produce in us a sort of resonance, they “sound as true“: something within us recognize the true in them, but they not are fully integrated in our mind because are foreign thoughts, like theoretical concepts that we are not fully realized. We can say we have the intuition that such foreign thoughts may be true, because they produce in us the feeling they must be true. So, there are our own concepts about the world that we fully accept (even when such concepts are inexact o totally wrong!), integrated with our mind at deep level, and there are other concepts that arrives to us from other minds that we also accept but are not deep accepted, integrated. Two different ways of model the world. Both of them can be more or less exact, real knowledge, and also can be more or less false, but accepted (of course, false accepted concepts is more ignorance than knowledge).

 

There is a third way of knowledge about the world: direct experience; here, no concepts are made, instead, we fully live a situation, we perceive it fully awake, fully present and with full awareness, so such experiences are evident, undeniable for us. Sometimes, we don’t fully understand such experiences, in the sense of to be able to relate it with our previous concepts, or make a conceptual framework for model the experience; but even without intellectual understanding, we can’t deny the reality of the experience because, simply, we live it. For example, we can be astonished looking at a sunrise, the mind simply stops their thinking, and we simply are there, living the moment, being one with the scene; no need for model the experience, for thinking about the colors of the sky, or about the rotation of Earth around the Sun that ultimately produces the sunrise, such thoughts are not necessary, even they can produce the lost of the feeling, the disconnection of the feeling, so better don’t think and simply enjoy the experience.

Reflecting about experiences

All of the three ways of knowledge are valuable, and every one can reinforce the others. In reflective meditation, we look deeply at something with the aim of fully understand and realize it. For example, we can meditate about the feelings lived in the sunrise, not thinking about but look at the feeling, searching their source, with a deep look and the solid will of discover, looking for answers. Maybe is not a way for everybody, but only for those who have the urgent need to really understand themselves and the world around them: the big questions, the “why?” about life.  Is the way of Vidya Yoga, the Yoga of wisdom, truth and knowledge; remember “yoga” means “union“, and “vidya” means “knowledge” (by the way avidya means ignorance, the normal state of humankind), so Vidya Yoga means union with knowledge, and this is a precise definition: by practice patient and constant reflection about our experiences, with time, our mind progressively “touch” the knowledge, and then “melts” with them. We and full knowledge become one. Here, “full knowledge” means we have the experience and also the understanding of the experience.