I’ve been finding I have much less to say. A while back I began embarking on a process of questioning everything – every thought and belief and assumption I’ve ever held about life and about myself. It’s an ongoing process, but the more I question the more profoundly I’m struck by the arbitrariness of the components we make up with our mind to represent what we so blindly think of as ‘reality’.
I’ve come to see that no thought, and certainly no belief, is true…because it’s really just a second-hand representation of reality. When I think about something, or someone, it’s perhaps rarely if ever the actual ‘thing’ itself I’m thinking about, it’s my mental representation of it, like an icon on a computer screen.
Is it possible to have a direct experience of reality without it being filtered through the net of mindstuff and assorted beliefs, interpretations, judgements and memories? Yes, I believe so. But such an experience, free of mental filtering, happens in an open state of awareness, when the mind is still and the tendency to slap labels, words, concepts and judgements onto things is avoided. Then and only then are we really in touch with life and with others – and with ourselves.
There’s an expansive level of freedom in that state of openness, and it tends to come with a natural state of embracing, of non-discrimination and acceptance. The moment mind kicks in and starts analysing, dissecting and interpreting, that openness is lost and our energy tends to contract. We shrink back into ‘ourselves’, or the little ego persona we’ve crafted so diligently and which is sustained by our compulsive thought activity and all manner of labelling, judging, conceptualising and comparing.
As you try to loosen yourself from this compulsive noise machine in your head, you naturally begin to question things. You begin to lose your certainty about things you’d previously believed to be true with absolute certainty. Your whole world begins to fall away – and you along with it. This is not a particularly fun or pleasant process (to say the least) but it does feel tremendously liberating.
This repeated conceptual suicide is something I’ve been engaging in and it’s a grisly, painful and unsettling affair. I don’t know who I am anymore, because I look within and see nothing but an expanse of emptiness. I don’t really know what to believe anymore, because each time I look at a belief it tends to slip through my fingers like grains of sand.
My mind and ego do not like this at all. They’re quick to rise up and, based upon the filters of old experiences, conditioning and past belief systems, try to pick up new beliefs, arguments and positions. But even when that happens, the centre doesn’t hold for very long, because no matter what position I adopt on any given subject, I’m increasingly seeing that there are several counter-positions that are perhaps equally valid. So arguing about anything seems like an infantile waste of time.
And yet, this state could easily be mistaken for apathy or nihilism and that doesn’t sit well with me. When your belief system gets eroded, how do you inform your behaviour and actions? What constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’? The way I see it at present is that whatever brings suffering to oneself, the world, or others, is by its nature ‘bad’. Pain is a messenger that something is wrong and that appropriate action is needed. Things which bring harmony and peace are by their nature ‘good’ and can therefore be fostered and encouraged. I guess that’s a belief system in itself…but at least it’s a stripped down, uncomplicated one – and one that I can validate by direct experience. But even that is open to exceptions, of course. There are no hard and fast rules — I simply see it as a helpful base-line. Follow what your heart prompts you to do, or not do. Let love lead the way.
When you begin to truly realise the interconnectedness of all beings and can see yourself in all creatures, I think a natural empathy spontaneously arises. Their suffering is your suffering — and you are not only the one suffering, but are also the one perpetrating the suffering. With this realisation, action can arise from the heart. In the past I’ve fallen into the trap of reactivity. I’ve long felt passionate about many things and I don’t view that as a bad thing, but it can be blinding. I can see the many ways I’ve been reactive, arrogant, judgemental, short-sighted and just plain ignorant. It’s a sobering realisation, but that’s alright too.
In the future, perhaps I will manage to take action when I feel in my heart action is necessary, while avoiding the pitfalls of reactivity, which usually come from buying into certain entrenched thoughts, viewpoints and beliefs. Or I might fail miserably. I’m open to that as well. We’ll see what happens.
I like this quote from Adyashanti (which I have rearranged slightly for clarity) which I found in his ‘Emptiness Dancing’ book, because I think it highlights what I’m talking about with regards to taking action from heart and not head – and by heart I mean the heart of life, as it expressing through us.
“Human beings come from separation, not unity, in 99% of the activities they do, whether they think they’re doing good or bad. When you come from separation, that’s all you’re transmitting. When you come from unity there’s no conflict motivating you anymore. The world doesn’t need you or your message or anything you do, but you are just moving or being moved to do what you do. You’re moving from the unity. Mysteriously, this movement doesn’t happen for a reason. It’s just the way life happens to move through you. […] Activity flowing from Truth has such potential. Every other motivation for movement, for action, is violent.”