Filed under: Photos, Random Reflections, The Chatterbox Club | Tags: equiwolf
Moment to moment, the mind whispers, speaks firmly, shouts—asking questions, advising, cajoling yet another constant stream of thought into existence. A brief span of silence, recognized and appreciated by the witness, is immediately interrupted by some song heard hours ago, and just now replayed when the mind saw that the Pause button seemed to be stuck in the “ON” position. “Oh no, can’t have that silent present shit,” it says to itself.
“They are so much work, these horses,” the mind complains, “you really should sell them. You don’t even have enough time to work and ride them these days. You can’t really afford them. And what good is it to own them when all you do is buy food to feed them, pick up the manure they produce from feeding them, and pay an occasional vet bill when one of them needs doctoring you’re unqualified to give them?”
“But they contribute to my sanity,” the mind whines, as it begins counting the steps taken between piles of manure being picked up. “They are so beautiful—inside and out. They help me to be present when I am with them.”
Hearing the last sentence, the mind stops counting, stops whining, stops completely. The ground shifts, the manure is transformed into a prop on a vast, open stage—other props stand sentinel: the fence posts, individual blades of grass blurring into one, the trees on the periphery…. And then the mind leaps in, “And besides, who would buy horses these days when the economy has gone down the tubes? Even though they are worth a lot of money to you because you have put so much effort into training them to be gentle, safe and reliable saddle horses, you’d have to give them away now! But of course there is no one you know who would care for them as well as you do, and so even if you give them away, you risk setting them up for suffering.”
“Oh nonsense!” the mind retorts. “Plenty of people know how to take good care of animals. There are probably hundreds of people who would take better care of them than you do! Besides, you want to start a whole new career, remember? You want to become a Personal Trainer and work with senior citizens, to help them regain lost strength and live longer, healthier lives. There is so much more validity to that profession than working with horses—which you don’t do much of these days anyway. Geez, why can’t you just make up your mind and do something? Something worthwhile. You’ve been slacking for quite awhile now… using the excuse that you’re just trying to awaken. Trying to “get in touch with your inner guide” or some such nonsense. Give me a break. What a load of crap. How do you think you’re going to know it’s your ‘inner guide’ speaking to you anyway, and not just your chatterbox mind?”
Suddenly there is a shift, and words are heard—it is the same voice, but clearly a different speaker. “Presence. Remember presence. Can you just bring yourself present with what is here, now?”
The witness notices it all, including the call to presence, the shift, the silence. The mind’s dialog continues—as if the “PLAY” button were now stuck in the “ON” position—and the silent witness hears the thoughts as they arise. Even as the mind rebels against the gentle command it gives itself to “just stop,” the witness watches the thoughts being projected across the screen of past memory and future imaginings. The witness notices the body breathing shallower, the heart beginning to race, the muscles constricting, the tears overflowing the eyelids. The witness feels the anxiety and tension building throughout the form, as the thoughts continue to tumble and collide with each other—the mind taking first one side of the argument, and then the other, ceaselessly playing the victim, the whiner, the rational one, the Devil’s Advocate.
The witness sees that there is no end to the roles the mind is willing to take on. Observing—no joy, no sorrow, no judgment, no concern—the witness just notices in complete and utter silence, that which unfolds moment to moment, in the moment.
Filed under: Quotes, Random Reflections, The Chatterbox Club | Tags: Adyashanti
I recently listened to a talk on the Eckhart Tolle TV web site. Tolle described “waking up from the dream” (as in “awakening”) in a way that made so much sense to me. He has such a great way with words–he can describe things simplistically enough for the mind to grasp (though of course words are just pointers, as he so often reminds us).
In any case, what he said is that consciousness likes creating (forms), which it does “in the dream state” — just as we (humans) create in our dreams, when we sleep at night. Sometimes we like the dreams and when we wake up from a really ‘good’ dream, we might do so reluctantly. We might prefer to go back to sleep and see what happens with the characters we have created. Nightmares and bad dreams make us want to wake up from the dream, which is what suffering serves to do in our daily lives–it causes us to want to wake up from this dream–the story that we (as unconscious beings) have created.
Hearing him describe it that way, I was reminded of the first time I ever saw someone struggling to wake up. I was babysitting a young girl–I was just a youngster myself–and I happened to sneak a peek into the room where she was napping just as her eyes fluttered open. They closed immediately, and I stood quietly watching her, completely entranced with the process she was going through. She seemd to want to wake up, but also appeared unable to pull herself into complete awakeness. It took her several minutes, during which time she would sometimes open her eyes completely and look at me, only to go back to sleep again for a few moments. I don’t think she actually even saw me those first few gazes. But when she finally did–when my presence registered, somehow–then I saw that she truly WOKE UP from her nap.
This is what I feel like I am going through these days. It feels like a huge struggle to wake up and stay awake. I fall ‘asleep’ many times, for long periods or only moments, caught up in thoughts and unconscious activity. I will sort of catch myself and realize I’ve been lost–that the “Now” has been lost to me–and I will bring my focus back into the present moment. The chatterbox club is challenged to not offer criticisms of my unconsiousness.
Enlightened spiritual teachers suggest that ‘awakening’ is not something one can force. That spark of recognition that throws you for a real loop is offered only through grace, not effort. After receiving it, you may fall back to sleep, or not. I did. And now I am like that little girl trying to awaken … my eyes open and I see, but not really… not enough to keep me fully awake. Yet.
Adyashanti also describes this process beautifully in many ways. I particularly enjoy his talk titled, “An Inner Revolution.” I am including the text of it below, or you can click the link above to read it on his web site.
What is this inner revolution? To begin with, revolution is not static; it is alive, ongoing, and continuous. It cannot be grasped or made to fit into any conceptual model. Nor is there any path to this inner revolution, for it is neither predictable nor controllable and has a life all its own. This revolution is a breaking away from the old, repetitive, dead structures of thought and perception that humanity finds itself trapped in. Realization of the ultimate reality is a direct and sudden existential awakening to one’s true nature that opens the door to the possibility of an inner revolution. Such a revolution requires an ongoing emptying out of the old structures of consciousness and the birth of a living and fluid intelligence. This intelligence restructures your entire being—body, mind, and perception. This intelligence cuts the mind free of its old structures that are rooted within the totality of human consciousness. If one cannot become free of the old conditioned structures of human consciousness, then one is still in a prison.
Having an awakening to one’s true nature does not necessarily mean that there will be an ongoing revolution in the way one perceives, acts, and responds to life. The moment of awakening shows us what is ultimately true and real as well as revealing a deeper possibility in the way that life can be lived from an undivided and unconditioned state of being. But the moment of awakening does not guarantee this deeper possibility, as many who have experienced spiritual awakening can attest to. Awakening opens a door inside to a deep inner revolution, but in no way guarantees that it will take place. Whether it takes place or not depends on many factors, but none more important and vital than an earnest and unambiguous intention for truth above and beyond all else. This earnest intention toward truth is what all spiritual growth ultimately depends upon, especially when it transcends all personal preferences, agendas, and goals.
This inner revolution is the awakening of an intelligence not born of the mind but of an inner silence of mind, which alone has the ability to uproot all of the old structures of one’s consciousness. Unless these structures are uprooted, there will be no creative thought, action, or response. Unless there is an inner revolution, nothing new and fresh can flower. Only the old, the repetitious, the conditioned will flower in the absence of this revolution. But our potential lies beyond the known, beyond the structures of the past, beyond anything that humanity has established. Our potential is something that can flower only when we are no longer caught within the influence and limitations of the known. Beyond the realm of the mind, beyond the limitations of humanity’s conditioned consciousness, lies that which can be called the sacred. And it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that wipes away the old and brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being. Such an expression is neither personal nor impersonal, neither spiritual nor worldly, but rather the flow and flowering of existence beyond all notions of self.
So let us understand that reality transcends all of our notions about reality. Reality is neither Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Advaita Vedanta, nor Buddhist. It is neither dualistic nor nondualistic, neither spiritual nor nonspiritual. We should come to know that there is more reality and sacredness in a blade of grass than in all of our thoughts and ideas about reality. When we perceive from an undivided consciousness, we will find the sacred in every expression of life. We will find it in our teacup, in the fall breeze, in the brushing of our teeth, in each and every moment of living and dying. Therefore we must leave the entire collection of conditioned thought behind and let ourselves be led by the inner thread of silence into the unknown, beyond where all paths end, to that place where we go innocently or not at all—not once but continually.
One must be willing to stand alone—in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s conditioning. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self—not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.
My mind seems to latch onto songs and lyrics. This hasn’t bothered me much in the past, and in fact I think it was actually something that helped me learn how to meditate. I easily slip into repeating a mantra; my mind is delighted to oblige. Repeat it long enough though, and my mind finally gives up. Then I glimpse and experience the peacefulness of the present moment… for a moment.
But when my mind grabs hold of the lyrics of a song and just runs with it, ad nauseum, I feel like I have no control. I feel like I am being controlled by my mind. To what end? Singing a song over and over again in my head seems like one of the most useless activities I could participate in… unless I were trying to memorize the lyrics, of course.
But the fact is, I don’t memorize lyrics. I just hum a tune and pointlessly repeat the lyrics that I do know, over and over again. I find myself doing this when I wake up in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, while I brush my teeth, shower, make breakfast, do the dishes, feed horses, muck the paddock of horse poop, shop, work, exercise… it doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing, my mind can be off in its own little world, singing some song. Sigh…
The latest tune has been–no surprise here–I Dreamed a Dream, from Les Miserables, sung by Susan Boyle and watched by millions (like me) on youtube. Like many others, I was very moved by her singing, but being moved doesn’t mean I have to be possessed…enough is enough!
The bright side of becoming aware of this affliction is just that: I can become aware of it. And the moment I become conscious of it, I am able to step outside of it and experience a gap of no thought (NO SONG). At least for a second, and sometimes even several seconds. The contrast between the constant chatterbox of pointless singing and the steady peace of blissful silence is astounding.
I have yet to experience great joy in this silence, but along with the present moment, I am also making patience my friend.
When I woke up this morning, I walked to the bedroom window and opened the blinds, as I usually do. I looked out and saw that my horses weren’t in their big pasture. I went to the side window and looked in the paddock, but couldn’t see them there. The piles of hay I put out late last night, in the dark, were untouched. I thought, “Hmm…” perhaps they are on the west side. And at that moment I envisioned the west side and gasped with the heart-stopping realization that I had left the gate open yesterday. I ran to the closet to put on sweats and a jacket, pulled on a hat and my boots and ran out the door. After a quick inspection of the property my heart sank with the knowledge that my horses were no where to be seen.
It is amazing how quickly the chatterbox, er, mind can work, and how wild the thoughts can become. Anxiety welled in me as I prepared to drive around the neighborhood looking for my horses. My mind quickly painted grisly scenes of my horses injured by the side of the road, laying in a rich, lush pasture colicking from too much grass or wandering down one of the busier streets miles away. But before I had even made it out the driveway, I had a sort of epiphany and was able to push aside my fears with the awareness that everything was as it should be and that all would be well. No matter what happened.
As I turned onto the road and started scanning the land all around, a sense of calm started to come over me. Moments later as I approached a corner, I looked ahead and could just make out a black shape in some tall grass/weeds in the pasture to my right, near a small barn where a gal keeps her two older horses. I drove straight ahead and as I got closer I could see it was Etta, aka The Black Buddha. My other horse was dozing comfortably next to her, his legs tucked up under him and his eyes at half mast… he actually looked so relaxed that had he been a cow I would have expected to see him chewing his cud. I caught up both horses, let Lucy out of the van and we all walked home.
Then I biked down the road to pick up the van, and as I drove into the driveway and saw the horses in the pasture I breathed deeply. But peace had settled into my bones earlier. Indeed, all was well.
There are times when I find it very challenging to stay in the present moment. Times when I have a lot of trouble accepting what IS (to say nothing of enjoying or feeling enthusiastic about it). But I am starting to see how futile it is to fight or resist life. I’m not yet to the point where I can easily accept all that life has to throw at, er, offer me. I don’t seem to easily hang out and appreciate the warmth of the sun, as Etta so readily does.
I rarely feel confident that some kind of spontaneous ‘right action’ will spring forth when I accept what IS, when action is most necessary; I don’t trust that I can and will make the right decision as to how to act or what to do. But I’m hopeful that I’ll come to that place eventually, where I will trust that my actions will be right (appropriate and the best choice I could make at the time) and that they will come from that place of power. The power of now.
In the meantime I’ll keep hanging on for more wild rides, as my thoughts race here and there, turning first one way and then another, taking me where they will. I’ll probably continue to partake in pointless activities, make some bad decisions, pass judgment… be my normal unconscious self, wrapped up in my [very important] thoughts, my history, my goals and plans for the future, absorbed by the content of my life … losing sight of it as it IS. Now. Being oh so human.
As my friend Lori recently quipped, “Welcome to my world!”
Have you ever seen a homeless person standing on a street corner and listened to him or her verbally castigate unseen foes? Have you ever been cornered by someone at a party who would just not stop talking to you, despite all the subtle and not-so-subtle cues you put out that you’d heard enough, thank you very much? Have you ever found yourself humming an inane tune you’d listened to hours before? Have you wasted minutes, hours, days, weeks and even years thinking the same thoughts?
Welcome to what I call The Chatterbox Club. It’s a club with billions of members, but most people don’t even know they are a part of it. I have been an upstanding member since my mind started forming thoughts and creating visual images in my head. My membership was elevated to a higher status when thoughts became words and those words poured forth in a constant stream of, well, chatter. For more than half a century I have been at the mercy of my mind’s continuous creation, digestion and excretion of some very important thoughts. At least my mind has assigned them as very important, whether anyone else would agree or not.
So, I’m announcing here that I’ve submitted my resignation, because I no longer want to be a member of The Chatterbox Club. However, I suspect it might be a slow process to disentangle myself. And I expect to receive plenty of flak from my mind. No doubt I will be inspired to share some of that with you all from time to time. Like how I can’t seem to stop thinking about something—anything—almost all of my waking hours. I find myself yelling to myself, “Shut up already!” Of course that yelling is all in my mind. My mind yelling at my mind. Sigh… sound familiar?
True silence is bliss. Try it some time.