Energy

I am sure you are all familiar with the slump of energy during the day, when nothing seems to make sense, when the whole purpose of meditation and awareness seems utterly pointless.

I am beginning to feel these are very valuable and interesting moments.

I used to meet these times with a greater resolve, a stiffened spine, returning to some old passage or book to find a new inspiration to “move ahead.” But now I realise the rather simple truth: these ebbs and flows of energy are the nature of a rather mechanical thought-emotion-body network. Meeting them with “resolve” is merely another mechanical conditioned response.

Nothing needs to be done about these psychological moments. All we need to do is to remain aware of their transitory nature as a part of the complex webs woven by the mind. Sooner or later, the “high,” that other conditioned mechanical response, will re-emerge and the game will go on.

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Migraine

Yesterday I had a migraine, for almost 24 hours. Ramana suggests that, when we are ill, we should meditate on the feeling “Who is ill?” I valiantly try to do this when I am in the throes of the malaise, but it is next to impossible. Therefore, I feebly wait for the waves of pain to pass before attempting any enquiry of the “Who am I” variety 🙂

But the overall point is well taken. We need to relentlessly and non-verbally ask the question, who is the centre of all experience? And, what is the relationship between the experiencer and the experience? Probably, this is our best chance of dissolving the habitual dualistic vision of ourselves in the world.

And eventually, this might work during migraines as well. Who knows.

Solidity

There are days when meditation escapes me, and the world is so very solid and real, and the emotions of love and sorrow and desire are so etched upon my mind and body that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do but to live them out in their intensity.

These days are precious, because in that solidity, in the pain and joy of all-encompassing existence, reality is still manifesting itself. How can it be otherwise?

 

Time, again

How do we sense the passage of time in daily living? One way of course is to know the physical sense of time: the sun rises and sets, we fall asleep and wake, our fingernails grow longer, we become hungry and full and hungry again.

If we were only left with this physical sense of the passage of time, we would have not many problems in life. But apart from this purely physical sense of time, we have a mental time, or what Krishnamurti would call psychological time.

Psychological time involves yesterday and tomorrow. It involves a sense of me smeared across past, present and future. And because of this, it involves emotions such as fear and regret. Time and emotion both seem to construct each other. I am afraid because I project a future. I feel guilt and regret because I look back at the past.

Time, thought and emotion are all deeply interwoven.

But because the present moment is the only reality we have (and the present moment lacks the dimension of a smeared out time), time itself may be a distortion of reality. Also, if the ego is in a sense out of touch with reality, and the ego is bound up with time-emotion, again this suggests that time is a distortion of reality.

In a logical sense we may see this, but how do we understand deeply the role and limitation of mental time in daily living?

Watching the flow of time and the way the ego is caught in its clutches. Perhaps the sense of watching itself is timeless. This awareness is what we deepen in ourselves.

Bus journey

So I’m sitting in a bus, watching the traffic pass by and noticing the patterns of shade thrown by the trees on the road. It’s sunny but there are big fat clouds in the sky, blocking the sunlight when they drift across and cooling everything right down. A little boy is sitting right opposite me. Big grin, gaps in his teeth. I’m feeling peaceful and happy watching him play his video game and occasionally stop and gaze out at the world floating by him at the pace of a crawling bus. Happier still at the play of light and shade and cloud and sun, a thermos of coffee in my hand.

Then I notice this guy get on the bus, with a kind of angry energy around him. He is almost clean shaven, with a red mark on his forehead. He locks his gaze with mine from the moment he gets in. My brain patterns instantly change. I can sense my body tensing and my mind throwing up angry defensive thoughts. He walks very slowly down the aisle and then sits opposite me. Stares at me, challenging, and stares away again.

In an minute, for no obvious reason, he switches seats and sits right beside me. I can smell the alcohol on him. He presses into me and I press back , fighting for control over seat space. All my self-possessed peaceful energy of a few minutes ago has evaporated. We are silently pushing at each other, mentally and physically, and for no reason at all I’m suddenly exhausted.

He stops trying to dominate the space. I sneak a glance over at him. He’s fallen asleep and looks curiously defenceless. A doubt enters my mind: was he pushing me or was I imagining it? His head lolls over to my shoulder. I feel spasms of irritation and compassion flood my system. I want to get off the bus as fast as possible.

Whole universes rising and falling within our minds and bodies in the space of minutes.

Relentless awareness. The dissolving of all the boundaries and the tricks of the self.

Narratives

I look at my sagging bookshelves, overflowing with well-thumbed volumes, many of them great works of fiction. Their power lies in their narrative force, their easy ability to beguile us into their worlds.

It strikes me that we too, living in the “real” world, base our lives upon the power of narratives. These narratives tell us who we are, who others are, what should happen to us, how we are to be fulfilled. When these inner stories come up and clash against the world, we feel pain, anger, guilt, sorrow. When the stories are confirmed by the world, we feel fulfilment and momentary peace: until the inner stories begin again.

Why do these inner stories have such power?

The answer, I think, lies in their ability to locate us in an uncertain world.

But this location is problematic. No narrative seems to define me satisfactorily. The very attempt at self definition is fraught with sorrow and painful effort and all the social emotions that we know so well.

The attempt at self-definition is also the root of violence, for when I define myself, I define you, necessarily, as other than me. The stronger my inner narrative, the more alien you and others are. When I see you as alien , I lash out at you.

Meditation, living in the present: these are words for the ability, however transient, to live in peace without an inner story. To attend to each moment on its own terms. To see the beauty and fragility of the universe without hungering for the anchor of permanence.

Can we share with each other, in this limited online world, both our narratives and our urge towards freedom?

 

Opinions

I have come to the understanding that almost any conceivable opinion that the human mind can come up with has been thought up already. What’s more, especially in our information-rich digital era, there are experts who will give and spread “evidence” and support for any and all of these opinions.

Consider:

Aliens have visited the earth

The universe is made up of just matter and energy, nothing more

The universe consists of aspects and dimensions far more than “mere” matter and energy

Science can/cannot account for or explain the world

There is free will

Free will is an illusion

Causality rules the universe

Chance rules the universe

Humanity will or will not reach the stars

Global warming is a myth / is the only problem worth thinking about as it might destroy us all

Nuclear energy will take care of our energy needs/ will throw up unforseen genetic dangers

Capitalism/ socialism: the best forms of arranging society and the economy

I could go on, indefinitely. It is interesting that each of these perceptions comes with seemingly solid lines of evidence (well, almost all of them!), finely argued. Even the grey areas between these ideas are finely argued and contested.

I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to find the “right” set of opinions and convincing other people of their intrinsic value.

I don’t do this now. Instead, I realise that we are all attached to our opinions and back them up with vast reserves of emotion. Challenging opinions and trying to prove myself “right” merely brings up anger, divisiveness and an atmosphere of violence.

Rather, I now try to explore the attachment I have to opinions and the emotions they bring about. The same movement of attachment and emotion is manifesting in the person I am arguing with. This is the common ground of our humanity that we must touch in order to understand each other, rather than proving ourselves “right.”

This is not to say that all opinions are equal. They are not. Some perceptions are stronger, more logical and more creative than others. However, the mind that creates opinions and tries to defend them is essentially the same in all humans. Through meditation, we must understand this commonality very deeply, for in this understanding lies true compassion.