“They say that as you grow older, you gradually lose your mind. What they don’t tell you is that you probably won’t miss it very much.” – – unknown
Last week as I was leaving my doctor’s office he noticed that I was reading a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of Now” while I was in the waiting room. He offered another author that he liked and I quickly advised him that I had been “modalitied up the kazoo,” and that my issue was sticking with any one particular method of practicing peacefulness. I pointed to the book and said “Like this one – – it just seems too easy and too good to be true.” Indeed. When I pick up a book like this, or A Course In Miracles, or The Four Agreements, it reminds me pretty instantly how identified I am with the spooky world inside my head. My saving grace, though it offers little comfort, is that we’re all in the same boat. Millionaires, poor folks, call center reps, even some “spiritual teachers” are all at various levels of unease. The mind, I often forget (thanks to the tricky workings of my mind) would like me to identify with it and see problems everywhere, rather than do something as simple as take nice deep breaths and stop thinking here and there. Thought, time, resistance, the mind . . . they’re all the same thing. And none of them are me.
I got off the “mindfulness” boat long ago. I grew weary of the term early in the new age boom of the 80’s and 90’s, and really feel fortunate to be able to look at that word and question what exactly my mind is “full” of. Usually poop. No matter what I train my mind to do, it usually has it’s way with me. I’m certainly not advocating walking around zombie-like and never ever engaging in a single thought: what I’m trying to write about here is not only taking periodic, brief breaks from the endless cycles of thought, but also keeping attention on and/or in my body. Feeling the presence in me rather than thinking about it. Bible verse and other spiritual modalities make reference to God being “closer than hands and feet” and “closer than breathing.” Boy, that’s pretty close. To know that re-connecting with such a Source is that simple is just plain mind-blowing. Literally. And scary. Without all of my thoughts and my mind, what’s left of me
For those of atheistic, or agnostic bend, Tolle offers another option of referring to the remarkably accessible presence as just that, “presence,” or “the now.” For it’s opponent (he goes to great lengths to say in so many words that “presence” offers no opposition – – it just “is.”) he makes reference to “the pain body.” Don Miguel Ruiz calls it “the parasite.” A Course In Miracles states it quite plainly as “the ego.” That accessing a peaceful, indeed, quite magical Self that is my true identity does often seem too good to be true, is no surprise. I’m so much more conditioned to complaining, blaming everyone around me, and feeling like a helpless victim of circumstances that it’s a deeply grooved response mode I’m quite familiar with. Too familiar. All three of the modalities I’m mentioned talk in different terms about the ego being absolutely terrified of dying, and mounting a huge resurgence as soon as even so much as a moment’s enlightenment seems possible. And the fact is, enlightenment is available not in the past, not in the future, but right here, right now. All I have to do is keep at least some of my attention directed in my body while I engage in every day activities? Seriously? Yeppers. It works.
I once heard Tolle say that going about our day complaining about all of our surroundings, our workplace, other people, blaming, shaming, gossiping, is much like looking in the mirror and then attacking the mirror. Doing such a thing would be insanity. And attacking a mirror is exactly what I’m doing when I’m performing everything mentioned prior to the mirror analogy.
I remember years ago seeing a Dennis The Menace cartoon in which he asked what he could do for the day and his mom said “don’t play in the mud,” then “don’t jump in any puddles,” then “don’t let Ruff out of the yard,” to which Dennis replied “that’s not doing, that’s dont’ing.” No matter what the modality, practicing being present isn’t not complaining, not being unhappy at work, not blaming, it’s keeping my attention inside, not thinking about the Presence inside, but just letting my thoughts be there and becoming aware of and feeling that beautiful Presence that makes me the same as everyone else. When I practice this even for a few seconds, it’s pretty impossible to look at another person or situation and judge it. It’s just there. And underneath the person or situation is what’s real about it: it too, contains Presence.
At work this past Friday I had a conversation with a co-worker that embarrassed me when I thought back to it today. In fact, it, and my entire work situation started to eat me alive (parasite). I began paying attention to the presence inside, would have a huge resurgence of ego saying, “but look at what she’s doing at work, and man, the way she rips everybody and gossips to keep her mind off herself and, and, and, and . . .” as my predictable ego would sense me going beyond duality, beyond being happy/unhappy, content/discontent, at ease/diseased. And suddenly I was awakened from a bad dream again. Until the next time I decide to sleep walk with my ego in charge. I like the “Presence” way better.
A few months ago I lost a book called “The Infinite Way” that I’ve enjoyed immensely since the early 90’s, and I still had my original copy. It was in early May, I believe when we went our separate ways. I used to refer to it as “my little gold book” not only because of the gold cover, but also because of it’s content. A couple of weeks ago while coming to from a brief meditation session, I had an image of my book bag that I use during the school year. I hadn’t touched it since spring classes ended. On a whim I went to check it out, and of course, there was my little gold book. Someone up there (um, . . . in here) likes me. From there I went to several other publications that I really like and soon was practicing being here now like good ol’ Ram Dass preached years ago. I believe I’m back on track albeit ego-fits preclude me being my true self 24/7 lately, on occasion that is to say, I’m prone to a blast of gossip and slamming other people, much like attacking a mirror. In fact it’s not like attacking a mirror, the actions are one and the same. In fact such an insane episode I can even take as a good sign that my ego is terrified of receding into the background more than it’s used to. Just for today, I’m not concerned with becoming an “enlightened being” or “whole,” I’ve wasted too much time looking for something I could have found sitting in a chair by myself. It was and is here always. I just need to focus my attention inside, no matter what I’m thinking. I am not my mind. A Course In Miracles states in so many words that everything exists in the mind. There is no “out there.” Ok. Then I’ll be joyfully content with whatever form comes to me of a suggestion that was made to me years ago: “in order to find God, you need to lose your mind.” Working on it.