Is your own mind your greatest ally? Or your most insidious foe?
From Zen Buddhism to modern mindfulness practice humanity has a long and deep history of techniques designed to help release some of the grip and attachment to the on-going, rolling story and stressful melodrama created by the thought waves of the mind.
The human mind is capable of an exquisite range of perceptions and inner dialog spanning the full gamut—from blissfully inspired to bitterly maniacal.
What a great blessing and heavy burden it can be.
To sit and observe one’s thoughts can be such a fascinating and utterly boring phenomena. It is one of the greatest non-active activities that can have the most profound effect on your life.
It’s a practice that may prove to be one of your most worthy endeavors. If for no other reason, then to get to know yourself and your inner workings better.
It’s the main way you will start to know whether your mind is actually flowing in a friendly, life-affirming and positive direction or if it’s conjuring up a repetitive sludge of discursive, delimiting or straight-up negative thinking.
You’ve got to watch your thoughts! They’re sneaky little bastards and may try to bring you down when you least expect it.
Do not let your mind get the best of you, or anyone else in this lifetime!
You’ve got to get your mind on your side.
In the practice of contemplation or meditation there’s really nothing to do—other than to stay present with the flow of thoughts as they dance and drift and churn across the expanse of your open mind.
Watch the effervescent, unending, technicolor variety show. The ongoing emission of fragments of imagination, and wittiness, the wisps of inner holographic meanderings…and the steady stream of constant monologue and even the occasional dialog and bickering of your inner round table committee. Stay diligent to the inner diatribe of what some days might seem to be your own personal, in-house, dastardly and downright snarky enemy.
No you’re not crazy.
This is the state of the normally functioning human mind, when left to its own devises.
The yogis say: 1,000 thoughts per blink of the eye. That’s a whole lot of content scrolling by and it sure doesn’t leave much time or space to try to slip between two thoughts, but it’s still a really cool thing to try to do anyway.
It’s weird isn’t it, this ability we have to watch our own thoughts?
Which always begs the greater question. Who’s watching?
Most every contemplative tradition has its own name for that One. The One that is watching—The Witness, Pure Presence, Unified Awareness, Undifferentiated Consciousness, Shivo Hum…
Oh, the glorious, illustrious, industrious, amazing human mind.
There is no off button and for that we can be most grateful, though it is a great relief to give it a rest and to dive into the spacious expanse of Limitless Consciousness.
Some days it’s nothing but love and light-hearted humor at the earnest diligence with which my mind tries to solve the world’s problems, figure out my future, catalog all my upcoming appointments, dwell on my past failures and mull over why that person looked at me that way…all within the manner of a few seconds. Other days my mind’s just a total drag and if I’m lucky, I might remember to simply follow my breath and observe the rest.
Sit back, relax and bask…as The Witness.
Life becomes one beautifully flowing moving meditation. You can pause along the way, throughout your day and delve into the experience of Infinite Awareness and Vast Quiescent Presence.
These are just words, clunky semantics for the ineffable, indescribable state of Pure Consciousness. The part of you that’s always there—unchanging, never born and never dying. The pulsing, infinite Still Point from which everything emerges and once again returns.
From this Greater Vantage Point you can then decide, will you engage every latest, greatest thought tangent and flush it out to its fullest conclusion for better or for worse for yourself and the rest of humanity? Or will you let a few of those thought rambles just roll on by with respectful disengagement because in that moment you might rather be Present to the tangible surroundings and inner workings of—
The sights and sounds and sensations
Of nature and culture
The present moment
The full sensorial spectrum available
To the Ever Present and Awake Human Being.
Author: Krista Holland
Editor: Travis May
Photo: courtesy of the author