How do we live IN the world without being rocked, shocked or knocked BY the world? How can we live IN the world and give TO the world with generosity and gratitude and not become agitated when it doesn’t return the same? How can we walk gracefully through our life IN this world and remain free of all resentment or animosity towards anyone or anything that we may encounter on our way?
There are no easy answers to such questions because it seems we have all learned to make the same mistake. We give the status of ‘primary reality’ to the world itself and ‘secondary reality’ to the universe of our own consciousness, which is our ‘self’. As a consequence we allow ourselves to be easily over powered BY the world. We become consumers OF the world and addicted TO the world. As a result we become almost totally dependent ON the world. Within the ‘reality’ of our consciousness that means we are no longer ‘free spirits’. It is as if we have been captured BY the world! And that’s why we are so often not so happy within our self, why we become grumpy with each other and why our ‘joie de vivre’ is somewhat diminished! This is often called ‘suffering’.
The solution offered by the sages and the saints, by the wisest elders and the most enlightened masters down through the ages has been simple. In a universal chorus across history almost all have recommended that we realise and remember one thing: you are IN this world but you are not OF this world! It’s an insight that indicates a way of correcting our relationship WITH the world. Easy words but not so easy to realise and implement here…in this world!
Another way to articulate that insight might be: realise that you are a non-material being with a non-material identity, inhabiting a material form and living life in a material world. Realise that you are a being of consciousness first, with no worldly identity, and that you occupy a form comprised of the same physical elements as those of the physical world around you. Realise that you are ‘the dweller’ and your form is just a dwelling!
Our habit of making the world and things in the world more real and more important than our self is deep. So we find it hard to let go of the tendency to make the world our ‘only’ source of security and happiness. We have forgotten the real meaning of ‘be your self’ as we use the world to build many identities. We find it difficult to ‘switch off’ our craving FOR the world and things OF the world. So it becomes difficult to restore an accurate awareness of the ‘primary reality’.
In order to restore our true sense of reality and thereby take back the mastery of our own inner universe of thought and feeling, of our vision and attitude, here are some insights and practices, some meditations and contemplations, that may help.
1 – A Day Without Desires
The most frequent thought form that we tend to create each day is probably ‘desire’. It’s those moments that we want something FROM the world. It sounds like, “I want more time.. . I want a good job… I want a nice partner… I want a sunny holiday… I want this to be over … I want to be perfect”! Desire always has an object. It is the grasping for the object at the mental level that keeps our consciousness agitated and anchored IN the world, and therefore vulnerable TO the world. It is ‘desire’ that keeps our minds in a peaceless state and ‘ever busy’ with images and ideas OF the world. This causes us to lose our ability to focus for any length of time and eventually seems to drain our power.
Built into every desire is the fear that we will not achieve or acquire the object of our desire. And fear is stress. Desire is how we delay our happiness as we expect something IN the world will ‘make’ us happy at some time in the future. As you practice a day without desire you will begin to notice just how many times and in how many ways ‘desiring something’ occurs within your consciousness. And yet, each time a desire arises, it is a opportunity to let it pass and choose to be the master creator of your contentment in the moment NOW! And when you do let it pass, it’s like an exam, you pass! The pupil is on their way to mastery!
2 – The Art of Detached Involvement
Any form of attachment to anything IN the world must also bring fear. Fear of loss. Every interaction and every relationship is an opportunity to practice the art of being detached but remaining involved. In so many of our conversations we hear the ‘others story’ about what happened to them. We absorb their judgments and their feelings. As we listen we allow our selves to be ‘sucked in’ to their story, identifying with their story, and recreating their emotions and feelings within our self. This keeps our consciousness agitated. We become busy fluctuating between our imagination of the scenes and circumstances of ‘their’ experiences in their world. As we become lost in a jungle of thoughts and feelings based on their story it feels like we have no control over our own ‘insperience’.
The art of ‘detached involvement’ sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. It is an art that allows us to hear the other, be present for the other, empathise with the other, but not waste our mental energy recreating the thoughts and feelings of the other. It means that while we acknowledge and understand the others story, and perhaps their suffering, we do not ‘re-live it’ within our self. This does not mean we don’t care about the other. In fact it enhances our ability to be caring. The less ‘emotionally’ involved we are the less busy we become with our own feelings, so the more we are available and able to be sensitive to their needs and meet their need to be compassionately heard in that moment.
3 – Stillness in Motion
It has long been known that at the heart of the consciousness of every human being there is a place, an ‘inner space’, that never ever changes. It is this inner space that gives us our stability, our internal reference point, regardless of the chaos that may be happening around us. It is ultimately ‘what’ we are! But it’s as if we lose our connection to it, our awareness of it. Being the ‘still point’ is vital to our ability to remain stable while the world around us, near and far, can appear to be in chaos. Being the ‘still point’ is a practice that helps us to see the transience, the fleetingness, the impermanence, of everything in life, except our self. Viewing life from the ‘still point’ allows you to see life more as a process or flow, rather than a static set of circumstances in which you believe you are stuck.
Everything is energy and energy is always changing its form, often flowing like a river into a completely different state. As you watch all levels of change in the world you can ‘allow’ the river of life to flow. Just watching means you cease trying to stop it, block it, fix it or control it. As you ‘let go’ and watch the flow, you are like a rock in a river, strong and stable. The rock never interferes with the river, it worries not how the river has ‘been’ flowing or ‘will’ flow. Yes it’s true, rocks don’t act in the world and YOU do. So can YOU be still while moving, can YOU be still while acting, can YOU be still while thoughts are arising, can YOU be still while everything that is not you, including your thoughts and feelings, are in constant motion? That is the practice of mastery!
4 – Observe From Above
Sometimes this is called ‘helicoptering out’. It’s that moment when you rise above the scene in front of you, ‘as if’ you are leaving your body ‘down there’ in the scene. But you, the being of consciousness, rise up and away. And as you rise ‘above it all’, your perspective changes. The scene you were involved in shrinks, not only in perspective, but also in significance, as you see a ‘bigger picture’. And eventually, as you continue rising, even the bigger picture also becomes small and much less important. The difficult circumstances that felt like mountains really do start to appear as molehills.
And if you can rise above it all and pull your perspective far enough away, like astronauts on a journey away from the physical world, you will see that ‘the all’ and ‘the everything’ are merged in one tiny point in the distance. The insignificance of…everything, becomes apparent. Events and circumstance lose their effect upon you. You easily remain cool! You may even see and realise that every scene that appears in front of you is just a fleeting image in the larger drama, one small frame in the reel of the movie called life. From this perspective of the ever changing events and circumstances of the world, it becomes easier to diminish and be free of your cravings for the world to appear exactly in the way that you want, exactly when you want, and give you what you want. The master is always free of wanting.
5 – Vision of Oneness
The idea of interconnectedness is not new. Intellectually we can grasp how everything in the world is connected and therefore related. But it’s not an easy vision or awareness to hold on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis. One of our deepest mental habits is to separate and fragment, compartmentalise and label. This keeps us stuck in the ‘details’ of the world. It keeps our nose up against the picture believing that the fragment that we see is quite separate from everything else, and that it is the only this fragment that matters. A vision of oneness happens when your consciousness ‘clicks’ into an awareness that in both contexts of space and time, even in this corporeal world, everything is interconnected, whole, complete . . . one.
Can you see one world, can you perceive one family, can you sense just one (his) story and that we are ALL in it together? This vision allows you to see everything that appears to be happening anywhere, at any time, like waves in the ocean. Close or far, the many events and ever changing circumstances in the world are wavelike. They rise and fall, ebbe and flow, and then merge back into the ocean of life’s unending drama. The master is not disturbed by the sound, nor by the sight, nor by the effect of any wave!
6 – Listen to the Silence
Behind all creativity and prior to all creation is silence. The artist begins with a blank canvas… silence. Between the notes of a symphony is nothing but… silence. Between and behind your thoughts is the power of your being … your silence. From the silence of the self comes all creation.
As long as you remain busy WITH the world, and occupied by all that appears to be happening IN the world, you will not see, hear or know the silent canvas on which all creation sits and from which all creation emerges. As long as we remain busy with thoughts and ideas, memories and speculations, we will only live on the ever moving, thrashing, chaotic surface of life. We miss the deep peace of that stillness, the immense beauty of the silence that is not of this world. As long as we are busy with the ‘noise of change’, as long as we stay busy being bewitched, often beguiled and sometimes bewildered, by the secondary reality of the world, we may never know the power and richness of our silent, inner state.
Take a moment to be other-worldly. Listen to the symphony of silence at the core of your being. It’s not an escape, it’s not a denial, nor an avoidance of the world. It is to bring your power and the beauty of your being, your creative genius, into the world. This is why the pastime of most masters is meditation. Meditation takes you past the awareness of time and into the reality of silent being where time does not exist.
7 – Imitate a Seed
Hold the seed of any plant in the palm of your hand and it seems so small and insignificant, so inert and static. And yet the complete blueprint of the future growth of its form, colour and fragrance are merged within. It is the perfect metaphor for the ‘light of consciousness’, for the self that ‘I am’, that ‘you are’. Real rest and renewal happens when we can bring our consciousness into a seed like state. When the ‘I’ that says ‘I am’ is in its ‘seed state’ input from the senses is temporarily suspended. There is no sensual stimulation. The energy of the self is at rest. The mind is completely still without thought, the intellect is silent without evaluation or judgment. All the tendencies and traits of your personality have temporarily dissolved back into the light of you, so there are no cravings or impulses towards action. The conscience is still and the memory bank has been temporarily shut down. There is a complete and natural detachment from the material world. In this state there is not even an awareness of self, no sense of I, simply complete and utter stillness. You are like the seed before it enters the soil and starts to germinate, grow and express. In that state you ‘know’ one thing, you are IN the world but not OF the world. You don’t ‘think it’. You just ‘know it’. But you don’t live in this state while in the world. That’s not the aim. But to occasionally taste this ‘reality’ is to restore your awareness of the primary reality of your self, and regain your mastery of your inner world.
From that comes a very different way of living in this ‘secondary reality’ or what we tend to call … the world!
Question: On a scale of one to ten (one is low and ten is high) to what extent do you think you are shaped by, dominated by, enslaved to, the world.
Reflection: Why do you thing we allow the world to have such an instant powerful influence in the shaping of our thinking, our feeling and our behaviours.
Action: Take one of the above each day this coming week and explore what it means to you and what effect it could have on you.
by Mike George