Contemplative attitude

Beautiful-Sky-710x533

Short contemplation

You are walking in the countryside, thinking of your things, paying little attention to surroundings; then, distractedly, you look away and watch a wonderful landscape, it was there for a long, but you didn’t notice it yet. In this moment, your mind stop, no thoughts, no worries, you only contemplate the panorama, and for a short time, you experience a silent and peace mind, a  mind only observing without any intellectual motion. However such state is not lasting, your mind is not trained for to keep silent, and after a moment the thoughts return. But for a moment, you was contemplating.

Escaping

Sometimes our mind exhaust us with tones of worries, remembers, pending tasks, and other stuff. in that times we want to escape to another place, hoping the distance from our habitual environment also be a distance from our habitual thoughts; sometimes it works, up to a point, sometimes not, because we took our mind with us wherever we go. Anyway, for a lot of people the only way to rest from their own mind is escaping to another physical place, or doing something distracting, like watch a movie, talk with friends, etc. All of this escaping ways are short, they are short relieves.

Lasting contemplation

At the beginning of the Christmas holidays I felt the need of escaping: after months of hard, continuous work, days of shopping, endless queues, family meals … come near. I really desired be calm, not all of these Christmas stuff, but, how can tell it to my family? It was impossible. Suddenly the idea came into my mind: wait a second …

you are looking for the state of contemplation, through escaping far away, to a calm and peaceful place, but you can adopt the contemplative attitude right here and now, no need to physically escape, instead, escape from your thoughts now!   

An attitude is a mental disposition, also a mental state related to such disposition. A trained mind can be directed to a mental disposition at will. So, then, I put my attention behind, behind my thoughts, in the center of the mind, an action to which every experienced meditator is accustomed, having done it daily for years: centering the attention in the middle of the  field of consciousness. I wrote about this meditation ability time ago in this blog: Centeredness of attention

The result was I found myself contemplating all my field of consciousness, thoughts included, also external things. The dis-identification of my own thoughts, a natural result produced by the centering of attention, brought me the peace I was looking for.

Ant it really works well … I was able to pass throughout all the “holidays” very peacefully, like I was alone in a far mountains watching a spectacular sunset. Have been the best Christmas I remember in many years. Obviously, the next challenge is keep such state even at work; hope I’ll be successful.

The canvas of the mind

Canvas and figures

Imagine we have in front of us a white canvas and a marker pen, and we feel the need, the impulse of drawing …hello1

If we are, or with training, we become a good experienced drawers, we have no limits in our artist expression … from simple forms up to complex ones:

canvas

Our mind tends to attend preferentially to the draws, the objects on the canvas, not on the canvas itself; but clearly all the figures need a canvas, a base, for be drawn, for exist: without the canvas base nothing can be drawn, this is clear. Are the figures more “real” than the canvas? Of course not, because canvas also exists, and furthermore, is a prerequisite for the existence of any drawing, so in some way, canvas seems more real than the figures. Because canvas have no form, our mind tends to ignore it.

Canvas of the mind and thoughts

Similarly, any thought arising in the mind can be seen as a figure, an object, created on a canvas. What is such canvas of the mind? We can notice it paying attention, and meditation is an excellent tool for train our inner attention. I only can recommend what I’ve tried for myself, but is not the only way: doing mantra meditation, that is, repeating slowly a word or a short phrase, at least twenty minutes every day … when we are able to pay full attention to the mantra, then we can try the next level of the training, paying  attention to the silence between words, expanding it (so we need to repeat more slowly the mantra), since the pause between the words be so vivid and clear than the words itself; that mental silence is the canvas of the mind.

As a paper, the canvas of the mind contains infinite possibilities, all kind of thoughts can arise from it. Paying more and more attention to the canvas it acquires more reality for us; eventually, with enough time, the feeling of a quiet ground will be noticed even without any mantra or meditation technique, it will be felt between the daily routine, giving us a feel of solid peace beyond any life circumstance. Why? because attention focused on anything get the thing into our consciousness, so putting together our  consciousness and a stable, non limited inner mental space gives us a expanded new perspective  of ourselves and about the external world. Is not difficult achieve such state, is enough with some weeks of daily training for be able to notice it, and some months for stabilize it. The benefits are important: we carry with us an imperturbable inner peace, with no limits, with no conditions, and in this crazy world such peace is inestimable.

 

“They say they think with their heads”

There is a story according to which C.G. Jung, the well-known psychiatrist, met while their journey to Mexico with an Indian named Ochwiä Biano (mountain lake), this one comment:

The whites always want something, are uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think they’re crazy.

When Jung asked him why he believed that all white men were crazy, the Indian replied:

They say they think with their heads.

Jung, surprised, said: “of course, don’t you do so way?”, and the Indian, pointing to his heart, said: “We think here.”

Actually now a days there are a revival of the role played for the body in decision making, strange as it can seem for our intellectualized society; there are IQ, intelligence quotient, but also EQ, emotional quotient, and emotions born both from body and mind, and even SQ, spiritual intelligence quotient. The body reacts to the environment independently of the intellect, and with training we can feel their instinctive messages. If Jung was true with their theory of collective unconscious, our body, thought the individual unconscious, is able to connect with the collective one and get information beyond the scope of our intellect.

Maybe the ancient tribes was true, and the excessive use of intellect in the developed societies is the source of most of our troubles, maybe is time to recover our body intelligence, our connection with the Nature and the whole.

 

 

Meditation on individuality and self-realization

Individuality

The evolution of species has endowed us, the human species, the quality of developing a sense of individuality, the quality feeling ourselves as someone separated from the rest of our environment. At physiological level this ability is related to brain region called the neocortex, which also have all mammals, but in our species is especially developed.

From birth we have a potential for individualization, to be “someone” separated from the outside world. As the person physically developing from childhood, adolescence, reaching adulthood, personality is formed, that is, a psychological “construct“. Then the innate potential of individualization uses personality  to create the illusion of the existence of a separate, autonomous individual, an individual separated from the external environment.

We say illusion because personality is a more or less unstable web of ideas and memories: the person is not really their personality, but has a personality. Clear here there is a certain contradiction in terms: “person” comes from the Greek próposon, and referred to the mask worn by actors in Greek drama theater; clearly this mask shapes how the actor is shown, the person is the mask, personality, his performance, but the actor is not any mask.

mascares_gregues

Ancient Greek dramatic masks

But what really makes us individuals is not any personality, but the ability to be individuals; we are individuals as we have the ability to be, the personality is built, and is renewed day by day as an expression of that innate ability.

Meditation on the ability of individuality

The mind has, among its many wonderful qualities, a particularly curious one: it is able to observe itself, as in a mirror, using the functionality we call attention, the ability to focus the mind on an object, whether physical either mental. Attention is usually either serving our thoughts or abroad if we are doing an activity that requires it. But we can train to serve one’s mind, delving beyond personality, reaching the bottom of the mind.

Level 1: relaxing body and mind

For a “standard” person, that is, a very busy one with an endless list of occupations, concerns, problems, etc., to divert attention from the thoughts can be difficult. That is why the first step must be to calm the mind, let her relax, but without losing the attention; thus we freed from his bonds attention. There are many useful methods to achieve this first stage, we will not talk about them here, just mention one of the oldest and most effective, besides simple: abdominal conscious breathing, which focus attention on the breathing process, to be be slow and relaxing.

Level 2: mindfulness

If we get some ability to stop the mind and yet maintain the active attention, without falling into drowsiness, we are ready to start the next most advanced stage: draw attention to the back of the mind, seeking to connect with our potential for individualization, trying to “see” with our attention without intermediaries. It is a process that can take months or years, but for us we have that possibility exists, and has been reported by numerous testimonies.

Even without fully complete attention-deep, the practice produces remarkable effects. When training such attention, we have the ability to direct or stop direct the focus at will, regardless of thoughts or external events. When we are able to direct attention at will, we can be aware of anything inside or outside, without thinking about it: is a state called mindfulness. There are currently a lot of literature about mindfulness, and mindfulness meditation, but indeed mindfulness is a state of the attention, not a meditation: you can reach the state of mindfulness through any meditation technique, once it has worked enough. We will not discuss here the benefits of such a state, because as we have already mentioned there a lot of literature. Mindfulness has also been described as an end, as a goal, but in fact it is merely an intermediate step in the process of self-knowledge and self-realization, a state that must be achieved before accessing deeper levels of self-knowledge.

Level 3: connecting with our deep self, self-realization

If the person really has a compelling need to know, to know himself until the very end, then he can continue working, deepening attention, looking for the source of the individual, seeking to live, feel, just the sheer ability to be someone, beyond any intellectual content. It is a very interesting process, because as we discussed is the mind itself that directs its focus beyond any object, whether physical or mental. A priori it seems a contradiction, that the mind is able to know a primary potential that is not related to anything, but with training and perseverance the goal can be achieved, and have done so many truth seekers of different traditions.

That ability to be someone is in itself a potential self, but a self do not leaning on anything, is a “self creator”, that from the experiences of life is surrounded by a personality through which it is expressed. But the inner self is not any expression, is no expression, is pure “selfhood”.

Effects of self-realization

When the mind connects with the pure potential of individuality we gradually realize we are somebody regardless of external circumstances, need not identify with anything outside to be somebody. In fact, absolutely everything that exists becomes external to the self: the person focuses on the deep I, and from there she “see” both inside world and outside world. As a result, absolute freedom of thought and action is experienced, because by not identify with anything regardless of all is achieved. Also, you are somebody, and that somebody is indestructible, no matter what happens: an  unusual mental and emotional stability  is achieved. The mind is always calm, not only during daily minutes of meditation; as a result the emotions are soft and positive, negative emotions do not fit in a calm mind and a trained attention. Fears also disappear because the person knows she is indestructible, being someone beyond body and mind.

Spiritual Psychology

Classical Indian mysticism compares the mind to a lake, there are strong winds called emotions blowing on the surface; as a result, the water is moving constantly, sometimes slightly, sometimes making a storm. There are two paths for overcome such storms: one is calming the mind, which become peaceful like a high mountain lake; the other is learning to dive into the depths of mind. The former can be achieved through meditation and also through other disciplines, like emotional management, positive psychology, relaxation, and others. The last, a more direct approach, as far as I know can only be achieved through meditation; what we will find under the surface of mind? The description we will give here could be named the one of  a “Spiritual Psychology”.

Just below the surface there are a small level named individual consciousness; being so near to the surface, such level is still easily stirred by the winds of emotions and sense impressions. In this level we live the duality: we identify us with our thoughts, and we believe we are separated from the world.

Underlying this level we can find the depths of collective unconscious, named “alaya-vijnana” for the Buddha. This level is non-dual: there are only one alaya-vijnana, when we reach it, our consciousness expands embracing the whole. If we learn to dive into such deep level of mind, we become free from the influence of any storm at the surface; there are no need to calm the winds, simply we are not affected by them. Is easy to find people training themselves for achieve very difficult aims,  like run a Marathon, climb the Himalayas, swim kilometers in the sea, … but of what real use is all of it? With similar amount of effort we learn to dive in our deep mind, achieving the peace which overcome any description, named “Shanti” in the Hindu tradition, or “the peace of the Lord” in the Christian one.

There are a lot of disciplines and methods that study the mind from the same point of view  also used for study the physical environment; being the mind so subtil, seems clear that such methods are too rude for really dive deep in the nature of mind. Moreover, being ourselves identified with our mind, we become unable for to be objective, living only in the surface of the mind. When we dive the mind through meditation, we discover our identity is beyond our individual mind; in such peaceful state we experience the bliss of the unified life; in such moments we live as, we are the soul, or the higher self, or the Atman, there are many names for label it, but names are not important, is a lived experience, we must live it for ourselves.

Nature evolution has given us with a so sophisticated nervous system that it be able to connect, through appropriate training and tuning, with subtil, higher orders of existence, beyond the physical world. Ancient sages of India and also of Egypt was, maybe, the first divers of the mind, about two or three thousand years ago; now a days there are hundreds of thousand of meditators, following any of the many self development disciplines. Knowing the first human beings appeared on the Earth about two millions years ago, the time between the first meditators and us seems very short:

temps humanitat

Using a scale of 100.000 years, the time between us and the first known meditators appears as a point (in the figure, the red point) in the last section of human being existence on Earth. 

From this point of view, seems we are the first of a new human species, the meditators one, and we live in a transition epoch, at the doors of a new gold age:

Tao evolución

The next step of human evolution? Image from the book “Buddha’s Nature – Wes Nisker

This post was inspired by the book “Conquest of Mind” by Eknath Easwaran, and also is based on personal experiences.

Evolution of our identity: from little ego up to the Self

Human being has two dimensions. In one dimension, as a part of the whole, he is Nature, he is Universe, their personality is a creation of the Universe, and is in constant interchange, intercommunication with their environment; their body is matter, and their individual mind is also a product of the evolution, a product of the Nature. But besides that, human being also has an identity, an individuality; even with the constant interchange with all their environment, even continuously changing, something in him keeps him self-aware. The evolution of the identity of human being involves both dimensions, both directions: connecting with the environment and also developing the sense of be somebody beyond the environment.

Expansion of the identity: non duality

The former aspect is the phenomenological, the existencial one; the person lives it as if it were two different things: the objective world, outside them, and the subjective world, within them. Indeed, both things are subjective, because the person only can experience the contents of their individual consciousness; their mind divide their field of consciousness into separated zones, one zone is labelled as “I and my“, other zone is labelled as “not I, not mine“, but indeed all the stuff is in the same field, their own field of consciousness. We are not claiming here “there are not an objective external reality”, we are only saying that people only knows the objects into their consciousness, and such objects are made of all of their experiences and knowledge, but very often people don’t realize this fact, thinking about their own consciousness objects like they were external ones.

There are a possible evolution here: expanding the field of individual consciousness, integrating all their objects, searching relationships between them, and realizing the unity in the diversity of objects: all of them are contents of one unique field. This manifests itself as a progressive control of the outside world, as well as the need to organize that knowledge of the world within itself. Science is one of the ways of do it, trying to learn the way of being and working of things. We, as a human specie, are involved in such evolution.

In the same way, but going beyond, when the individual mind relax their classification of the objects of consciousness in categories “external” and “internal”, then all the objects of knowledge are seen in one unique field without added separations; as a result, the identity of the person, so far it identified with some of these consciousness objects (like my thoughts, ideas, body, etc.) experiences an expansion: the person now feels he is, in some way, all their objects of consciousness, without exclusions, he is in all, and all is in him. Indeed, in such state, the person identifies with their consciousness as a whole, not with any particular object; is a non-dual state of being: the subject and the object are the same.

Contraction of the identity: the ultimate self

There comes a time when the person realize he, as an identity, is not any thing, but a pure subject beyond any object or name. He is not their ideas, even he’s not their personality. Their ultimate identity is nothing, but a “nothing” that is pure power, potential energy. In their field of consciousness their ultimate identity appears like a non dimension point. Living from this deep point he feel the sensorial world as very far.

When the person develops such punctual awareness, realizing the ultimate subject, all the things become external to him, all are external objects, except himself who is subject. At the same time he realizes all he experiences is part of their own consciousness, so in some way, all the “external” objects are himself. So there are a motion: an expansion in which he recognises himself being all, and a contraction in which he lets go all and simply he is, no more. Usually the person lives in some point between such two extremes; the reality covers all, from one point to the whole. The personal reality, or field of personal consciousness, is like a flat Galaxy: there are a lot of matter, of things; we can live and even identify with some of them, or with other of them. In the middle of the field there are the nucleus of the Galaxy, our true identity. From this center we have perspective of all the field.

galaxia plana

Consciousness as a flat Galaxy, in the center there are our true ultimate identity

 

Higher dimensions of identity

Numerous testimonies from various places, traditions and times, testify is possible to expand our identity/awareness in other dimension, we can say a “vertical” dimension, in contrast to the “horizontal” one, of which we have spoken before. When the person is used to live as a “self” independently of the environment, including their emotions and thoughts, which now are lived like “external” to him, may spontaneously open to the Universal Self  which is inside of all. He himself is like a little Universe, a Galaxy, surrounded by the whole Universe. And this Universe also has two facets: the objects and the subject; who is the ultimate subject? the Self, who is unique, existing in all, and at the same time transcending all. Then, he discover there are only one Self, expressing in some way as many.

camp galáctic

Galaxies field, all conforming an Universe