Monthly Archives: March 2012
Have you ever had one of those moments where time seems to slow down and your mind is completely and totally focussed on the task at hand with no value judgements, complaints, comparisons or other mind chatter? Sometimes this state is called being “in the zone” and it may happen in moments of abject terror. It is this feeling that adrenalin junkies chase, not so much the adrenalin but the feeling “at one” with something. It is also this promise that Spiritual Materialists (SM) chase (more of SMs in later posts)
I can recall a couple of times where this state of being “in the zone” was brought on by a clear and impending threat to my “self” with the resultant super-heightened state of awareness. One was whilst skydiving and the “toggle/handle” for the main parachute had managed to be tucked up inside the parachute casing and was therefore hidden from site. Being at around 1000 feet above sea level and plummeting towards the earth at terminal velocity was not the time to be going into denial about my situation. Now was the time to work on the problem with no thoughts for “how dare this happen to me” or, more correctly, “who was the idiot that packed my parachute?” (it was me by the way). Now was the time to eliminate all extraneous thoughts and focus on the task at hand. And, yes, time did appear to slow down, and I did successfully deploy the reserve parachute. Another time was whilst playing sport and all thoughts except for the here and now were eliminated and a level of heightened awareness was attained.
This state of awareness is also called being “mindful”. In some ways it is mis-named as it is really about being “ego-less” as much as it is about being “mind-full” . As we have seen in earlier posts the ego is the one that concentrates on the impression of self and applies all the value judgements to situations in an attempt to elevate its own status, usually at the expense of others (including the Consciousness/Spirit/Soul . It is interesting that when the source of the ego, the body, is threatened that the Ego goes into hiding and we are able to attain a state of mindfulness, in other words the ego is a COWARD.
The good news is that being mindful doesn’t require having the bejeebers scared out of you and we can bring this level of heightened awareness into everyday situations. This level of mindfulness is attained by establishing a practice that thrives on Soul Food as mentioned in previous postings and results in the Ego Hound being hounded into submission. Simply it involves the practice of being in the here and now. This is one of the purposes of meditation, in all its formed, as it trains the mind to be able to ignore the ego and, as a result, we can bring our mind to bear on our choice of subject.
The advantages of being mindful include:
- We see situations as they are,
- We are not swayed by the concept of self or self aggrandizement,
- We can be more analytical and less swayed by negative emotions,
- We can establish and attain a state of happiness,
- We are able to identify the true source and path of happiness.
For this reason practices that encourage waking, and every day, mindfulness include the awareness that the self as a self sustaining and existing entity is a myth and that by focussing on the well being of others we are able to realise happiness. Ahhh the joy of contradictions, by focussing on others we can benefit our own state of being. However if our motivation in doing good works is based on self reward I am sure that this would be feeding the Ego Hound. Motivation Matters!
Next time you are in traffic (walking, driving, riding) and somebody does something that annoys you, be mindful, and compassionate, towards them and, “A’ha” you will find that you are not drawn into the aggressive state. If you can maintain this you will find that your emotion will elevate until you actually feel a sustained level of happiness. This is equally applicable to our work colleagues, our loved ones, our children or total strangers. Be mindful, compassionate, and be happy.
“Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog, all of the time.” When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied “The one I feed the most.”
The problem I had was the definition of evil and the definition of good. Both of which are subjective in that what is evil to one person might be good to another. One persons Robin Hood is another persons Criminal, so to speak. How about if we move some terms around? To be evil can mean: Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, or transgression against a moral code. These are sometimes called sins. Originally the word Sin meant to “miss the mark” as in archery. Therefore to be evil means to miss the mark or to act in way which does not have a positive result. Bear with me, we are getting somewhere. Not necessarily negative results but “not positive”. Sort of similar to the expression that darkness is not an entity in itself but an absence of light. So if you are not doing something positive you are doing something “not-positive”.
Therefore one dog inside us is preoccupied with activities, behaviours and development of characteristics that “miss the mark” or are “not positive”. Most of these behaviours are premised on the belief that the “Self” is the pre-eminent character in the play of life. And given that the perception of Self is absent of any actual basis and is thereby based on the concept of a physical “self” I could see that the first dog was the Ego.
The other dog is called the “Good” dog. This would mean that this dog was the opposite of Evil (aka Ego). It would also mean that the other dog was the opposite of “Not-Positive” which would make it the “Positive” motivator. And, being the counter to Ego it must be related to the Consciousness or Soul. So inside us we have two drivers, one for the Ego and one for the Consciousness/Spirit/Soul.
So what do we feed each of these dogs to sustain them and to ensure their victory in the fight? Ego food and Soul Food, of course. No not THAT kind of Soul Food.
Food for the Ego
Food for the Ego would be anything that is “Not Positive” this would mean that it would include the absence of acting positively and may include (in no set order):
– Traditional Mainstream Old Testament type Transgressions including: Murder, Stealing, Lying, coveting thy neighbours ass, gossip (tabloid journalism?)
– Wasting of time that could be used for positive things: Video Games, reality shows, soap operas, gossip, wanton focus on accumulation of wealth and property, chatting, texting, social media, smoking cats, talking dogs, etc (thoughts?)
In this day and age of technology the number of avenues to feed the ego are many and varied and the common ego mantra is “I am bored” and therefore the endless craving for stimulation either mental or physical that is encouraged through the media that seems intent on convincing us that we are less than complete without the addition of some externally impressive addition, or subtraction (for body image issues). All of these result in the nourishing of the Ego with the resultant malnutrition of the Soul.
Food for the Soul/Spirit
If the Ego menu consists of self indulgent sustenance then logically Soul Food would be the diet of contribution outside of the constraints of the physical body. The fare on offer may include activities with a positive motivation:
– Prayer/meditation where the thoughts are for others
– Working to improve the lot of others
– Donations without thoughts of return or benefit
– Thought and effort to create a positive outcome with positive motivation
– Non-Attachment to physical elements
– Research, study, activities with a positive motivation
All of these have that two main elements, they have a positive motivation and they have effort, in this way the Spirit and the Body work together where the body is subjugated to the positive motivation of the Spirit.
Even when we are indulging in Soul Food the Ego continues to try to attract our attention. There you are in prayer or meditation and the mind skips from topic to topic like a mental stock market ticker, or that annoying strip at the bottom of daily talk shows: “I really want that new bag, looks like he has put on some weight, wonder if my boss noticed the mistake in my report, I am bored, wonder if everyone else is bored” OOOOPS focus focus focus.
It is amazing how the ego doesn’t like it when we focus on the external but, eventually, it too sees the futility as it is deprived of nourishment and realises that it doesn’t have the strength to fight against the continued consumption of Soul Food. And when the Ego gives up the ghost we can then see things as they are and bring our pure thoughts to focus through the practice of “Mindfulness”.
One day while sitting and standing and walking and pondering the question/concept of impermanence and no-self I had the vague understanding that this was going to be hard to get my head around. Of course there is a self, what is all this about, I have a name and a body and people walk up to me in the street and, most of the time, get my name right. So I must have a self. And, of course, this self must be very delicate because we must protect it, right? It would make sense, we are taught that we must be respected, that is, this “self” must be respected and we must even “self respect”. Sort of like the cult of “Self”, in a selfish sort of way.
One day I tried an experiment, can I identify where this “self” exists? “How to do this?”, this self thinks to myself in a selfish way. “How about a visualisation meditation?” OK, sit calmly, single point meditation, shoo the monkeys out of the mind, lets go. “ Self”, I thinks to my self, “stand calmly and slowly rise. Come on, up you go” I prompt. This self image was rooted to the ground in a sincere effort on being land based until self was reassured that this was a visualisation and therefore no harm would come to ones self.
Try again. Visualise this aggregate self to rise slowly into the air. “Well done, we have levitation”, I think to my self. “OK, lets try something a bit different and find where this self is located.” While rising my foot falls off, “WHAT?” Cries my self. Its ok, its just a visualisation. OK, lets keep it going. Now that I am levitating minus my left foot am I still my “self”? Well of course I am! Me thinks to my self, my friends would still associate this self with me and the correct name would still be used. Lets see what happens next. Continue to rise as the right foot falls off, its ok, we are levitating (and it is a visualisation after all. Now that we are footless is this still my self, yes it is. I guess we haven’t located the source of this “self” just yet. It certainly wasn’t in my feet.
Keep rising as my left leg detaches and plummets. Am I still my self? Yes I am, so we have determined it wasn’t in my leg. This continues as my right leg goes the same way as the left. Shortly followed by the pelvic region, left arm, right arm, and chest. All that remains is my head. OK, this is starting to sound kind of spooky but it is just an exercise. “So, head”, I say to myself, “are you still me.” “ Yes I am my self answers”, so none of the meaty bits that have since removed themselves from this exercise in “self” exploration are, in fact, my “self”.
Nothing else left to do, except, lose the head. Yes, piece by piece the head dissolves and fades away until just the brain is left. Hmmm, so now that I can see my brain, and I can observe my thoughts. And I know that my brain produces my thoughts, I am guessing that my brain is not actually my “self”. Away with you then.
A’ha – So what was I left with? I was left with the realisation that nowhere in the physical, bag of bones and meat is my “self” that I spend so much time protecting. In fact, this physical aggregate is nothing more than a temporary means of transportation for the thing that was conscious all through this exercise. So what do we call this bit that was conscious of all of this? I choose to call it my “consciousness”. Others might call it soul, eternal self, the absolute truth, or psyche. So this physical aggregate might be called a Consciousness Taxi!
This exercise prompted more searching and research into the body. Apparently it was made from dust and a deity blew life into the nostrils, or so goes one belief system. I also learned that we are not all one age. Our brain is as old as we are, the gut lining is about 5 days old, our muscles about 15 years old, and our skin cells are about 14 days old. No wonder the house gets dusty with all those cells flicking everywhere. And, apparently, there is a Body Control Room – sort of like a command centre – for the body. I think we call it – “ego”.