One thought at a time

As a meditative exercise, I wonder if it is possible to pay attention to a single thought, watch it arise along with all the symphony of the emotions that it arouses and that arouse it, and then watch it fall away into silence.

What usually happens is that there is a core me that adds fuel to the fire and propels thoughts this way and that according to what I find gratifying or painful. This me invites certain strings of memories and tries to project coherent scenarios of the future.

These spinnings of the thought-emotion complex are like a stick with a spark of flame at its end whirled around rapidly. The illusion of continuity is thus born.

Let’s try to observe the blossoming and fading of each thought and emotion, uncaused and empty in the world.

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.

Time

It was a cloudless morning, so early and time seemed to have stopped. It was four-thirty but time seemed to have lost its entire meaning. It was as though there was no yesterday or tomorrow or the next moment. Time stood still and life without a shadow went on; life without thought and feeling went on. The body was there on the terrace, the high tower with its flashing warning light was there and the countless chimneys; the brain saw all these but it went no further. Time as measure, and time as thought and feeling had stopped. There was no time; every movement had stopped but there was nothing static. On the contrary there was an extraordinary intensity and sensitivity, a fire that was burning, without heat and colour. Overhead were the Pleiades and lower down towards the east was Orion and the morning star was over the top of the roofs. And with this fire there was joy, bliss. It wasn’t that one was joyous but there was ecstasy. There was no identification with it, there couldn’t be for time had ceased. That fire could not identify itself with anything nor be in relationship with anything. It was there for time had stopped. And dawn was coming and Orion and the Pleiades faded away and presently the morning star too went its way.  Krishnamurti’s Notebook

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.

 

Pleasures

I’m seeking pleasure, most of the time. From my morning coffee to sitting in a warm patch of sunlight to listening to the rain to sex and sexual thoughts and romance to food to books to friendship to music: the move to pleasure motivates this organism tremendously.

It is very important to understand that pleasure is not morally “wrong.” If we label feelings as right or wrong, we are in effect moving away from them and not watching them and learning from them.

So: pleasure that is not harmful is not the problem. The problem seems to be that having had pleasure, the organism seeks it again and again. And the world does not allow pleasure to be automatically fulfilled. Therefore: frustration. Cunning ways of finding pleasure. A massive inner determination not to be thwarted in pleasure.

This powerful drive, though it is fun and provides “meaning,” also distorts my life in serious ways. I cannot be really deeply quiet if I am seeking pleasure. Nor can I be deeply compassionate. I cannot figure out what might be right action. Also: pleasure is just one dimension in the whole hologram of life. So by focussing on pleasure, I miss subtle and beautiful aspects of living. Perhaps I miss the “point” of life.

Pleasure emphasizes the me and makes it rigid and intent upon its own fulfilment.

What can I do about this?

Again, my intention is not to be moralistic about pleasure. So in no way should this be read as a holier-than-thou rant.

Awareness of the ways in which pleasure hardens the self and gives rise to deep sorrow and frustration is the key. As always, this awareness is not just a verbal recognition but a deeply and viscerally felt attention to the movements of body, mind and the self-construct.

In this recognition and awareness, perhaps the organism finds the space to move into a wider field of life than just the pleasure field. Pleasure then loses its grip on us, and we can lead more spacious and flexible and compassionate lives.

Quiet

 

A vital question: how can I have a quiet, peaceful mind?

Mystics across the ages have insisted that it is only when the inventions of the mind and ego stop that reality (if it exists) can be found.

I don’t know about the deeply peaceful mind, but I do know about my repetitive and incessant stream of thoughts and emotions.

The immediate impulse is to reach for a method that will make my mind silent. Chanting, breathing techniques, yogic postures: all help to some extent. But take away the tool and the mind becomes wild again.

The further problem is that the techniques become tied in with my ego, with my sense of who I am, what is right or wrong. This only perpetuates the inner noise. I am the kind of person who follows the yogic style. When challenged about my beliefs, my identity, the mental narrative springs again to life.

Can I be simply, naturally quiet? Krishnamurti suggests that when there is attention without a technique, the inner noise quietens down and the observer, the inner ego, the meta-narrator, dissolves.

Attention without method and without seeking a result, attention that just wishes to see the inner reality and learn about it, may be the key to the deeply quiet and peaceful mind.

 

 

Repetition

 

Our thinking processes are in one sense creative: we can compose music, understand math and solve daily problems. But in another sense, our thought patterns are extraordinarily repetitive.

Patterns of pleasure seeking, or of anger or pain, can and often do persist for decades. Emotional thoughts and feelings about particular individuals or life situations haunt us for years. Indeed our thoughts about ourselves—or abilities, our looks, our status—are often the most repetitive of all.

If thinking is our way of representing the world, we seem stuck in some pretty awful dead ends.

I cannot apply a new method to change myself, for this method itself becomes part of the inner machine, and I’m back to where I started.

The only way “out” seems to be to ask ourselves inwardly, with the greatest possible intensity, why mechanical habits of thinking and feeling persist. Through the lens of this non-verbal question, looking at ourselves as the days go by, perhaps we can learn about our thought processes and what sustains them as well as quietens them.

Without this commitment, we are stuck with a broken instrument that endlessly repeats the same messages.