Beyond words

Well. I was about to say that I don’t have any more words to share today, but that’s probably not true. I have some words to say about…words! Earlier I mused that for some people words can be more hindrance than help. The mind was developed as a survival tool, enabling us to function in the world and we can see this rudimentary intelligence in animals. Somewhere along the line we humans developed language. We stepped from a non-verbal world into a verbal world. This had the great advantage of enabling us to communicate with each other; our wants, needs, desires, affections, dreams and hopes. It was necessary in enabling us to begin to create nation states and achieve the level of cultural and technological sophistication we now possess.

However, here’s something to consider: how much have we lost by entering this verbal world; a world in which everything becomes an abstract concept in the mind. We no longer relate to life, to things or people or nature directly anymore – we relate to them through the concepts we have of them in our heads, concepts rooted in language and the symbols we call ‘words’. We slap labels on things and then think we know those things. We call a tree a ‘tree’ and whenever we see a tree, we only tend to see the label we have of it (“oh that’s a pine tree”). We never really LOOK anymore, we never take things in or appreciate them for what they are. All we tend to see is a world of abstract concepts and labels. As a result we’re stuck in our heads. Eckhart Tolle sums up the human race in three simple words: “LOST IN THOUGHT”.

Now I’m not saying that thinking or language is bad. I wouldn’t be here writing this without it and you wouldn’t be reading it. But, the essence of spiritual awakening is actually learning to stop identifying with your mind and its concepts and to come into awareness of life around you and within you. To really see things, to feel and touch and taste and to be aware of the spark of life which animates all, beneath and below the surface. Getting stuck in the mind, forever trapped in a world of abstract concepts and ruminations, relating to others and life only on a superficial mind-level is a dreadful affliction and one that surely strips life of all joy, aliveness and wonder.

Try living in a non-verbal world, at least for five minutes today.

Forget your name and whatever stuff is sailing through the sky of mind (if you ever stop to observe your thoughts, and I do recommend that you do, you’ll notice that they drift across your mind like clouds in the sky: some fast and filled with bluster, others lighter and more transient. But you come to realise that you are not your thoughts. How could you be if you are able to watch them? You are not the clouds, but are the sky in which they form. But don’t take my word for that, or anything else that I write – try it for yourself!).

Walk about your house or garden and be aware of every perception, every sight, sound and texture and don’t label anything. Don’t impose words or names or judgements of anything. Just witness, being open and alive and fresh with wonder. Instead of seeing trees and clouds and sky; just observe shapes, colours, textures and don’t name any of it.

This is a wonderful practise. But again, don’t take my word for it…try it! You might just recapture some of the freshness, openness, joy and innocence that we all possessed as children…before we were taught to compartmentalise and cut up the world into chunks, using words. Just because you know the word for something does not mean you know that thing. Quite the opposite. I’m coming to see more and more that words actually come between us and a direct experience of life, as it is. Just be alive, be open to sights and sounds – and even people! – without having to plaster and strangle them with words. Words have their place…but when you are only living in a reality of words and abstractions, then I suggest that you are actually out of touch with the true essence of life, which is beyond words, beyond mental conceptions – and ultimately beyond form itself!


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