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#4139- Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - Editor: Jerry Katz
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Restless Mind No Problem
by Colin Drake
Many people complain of a restless mind when they sit down to meditate, contemplate or just relax into pure awareness. Their thoughts almost seem to speed up and a host of worldly worries crowd in that seem to make meditation, contemplation, or relaxation appear impossible. If one attempts to suppress these thoughts, or replace them with other thoughts, this often exacerbates the problem turning the river into a veritable torrent! Now this may be a problem if one is attempting one-pointed concentration on a mantra, the breath or a symbol as in meditation. It may also seem to make contemplation, or investigation, impossible as it disturbs the flow of thoughts, dedicated to one subject, that this requires.
However, for just relaxing into pure awareness the torrent of thoughts of the monkey mind or worry wart is no problem at all; for in this relaxation there truly is nothing to find, achieve or acquire as awareness is already (and always) present. All that is required is to recognize this fact, which isnt exactly rocket science as one would not even know that there was a problem without being aware of it, which proves that awareness is already present. One just needs to see (recognize) that there is awareness of this stream of thoughts/worries. This seeing (recognition) has the potential to break the habit of the mind to follow these thoughts, and then they just come and go in awareness, leaving it unaffected in the same way that clouds scud across the sky, or waves appear in the ocean. Once this occurs one can then revert to contemplation/investigation if one wishes, or just remain relaxing into awareness itself.
Even if this does not occur, and the restless mind continues with its incessant chatter, this is no problem for awareness itself which just witnesses this, whilst remaining totally unconcerned. The seeing of this in turn leads to the mind letting go of all its expectations of what is required for the relaxation to deepen (i.e. that the mind should become quiet), resulting in this deepening naturally occurring. Paradoxically this can then result in the flow of discursive thoughts lessening, leading to even deeper relaxation But if this does not happen its no problem!
This is where the technique of recognizing the presence of awareness, and relaxing into that, differs from other techniques that require concentration. For this seeing (recognition) has the power to diffuse thoughts (and sensations) as their ephemeral nature becomes apparent, thus making the mind less likely to scamper after them. The mind is a far more amenable servant when it can truly understand what is required of it and can see the point of this. The recognition of pure awareness leads to perfect peace, for awareness itself is always absolutely still and totally silent (being the witness to movement and thoughts/sounds) and this is perfect peace.
Whereas, meditation on an object which requires one-pointed concentration is a somewhat artificial activity, with which the mind struggles as it fails to truly see the point. It is true that if this is perfected it can lead to the same state of perfect peace, but this is not the beginners experience. Because the mind finds it difficult to truly engage with this practice, this lack of engagement leaves the mind as restless as it was before the activity was embarked upon. In fact any attempt to artificially yoke the mind to an activity which it is unused to, and does not enjoy, often leads to the restlessness becoming more intense.
Therefore this style of meditation can become counter-productive leading to frustration and a feeling of failure. Which is a great shame for the peace of pure awareness is always present behind this intense activity and this can be readily recognized with the relevant shifting of attention. The attempt to stifle the mind to reveal this peace is often a long and arduous process which many meditators fail to achieve. Even those that do succeed often fail to see that this peace is ever-present and think that it can only be achieved by prolonged sitting. In which case this does not lead to true freedom as this peace is not recognized as being present when one is not meditating.
The other problem with sitting meditation is that, for most westerners, it is not a truly comfortable occupation unaccustomed as we are to sitting cross-legged. It is true that most traditions allow beginners to sit in a chair but the implication tends to be that this is a concession and that to do the thing properly we need to learn to sit, with a straight spine, on the floor. This discomfort makes concentration even more difficult to achieve, as if the activity was not tricky enough already! Whereas relaxing into pure awareness can be done in any position and is best done where there is no discomfort whatsoever.
In my case I spent over 20 years involved in this style of meditation performed in twice daily sittings of 30-60 minutes. Whilst this lead to many beautiful experiences, trance states (and sore knees!) it never lead to total freedom. For it always left me feeling that there was more to achieve which would occur through even greater effort. It was only when I was told to STOP, give up all effort, and simply ask Who am I? that the penny dropped and I realized that I, as a separate entity, do not exist (Anatta)! All that was there was the ever-present awareness of the thoughts/sensations.
Some amazing experiences also followed but this discovery that I do not exist is the key and is repeated every time I look to see Who am I? Further than this is the recognition of pure awareness itself in which thoughts/sensations arise, exist, are seen and subside. This has left me completely free from all existential angst, with a feeling of being totally at home in the universe and experiencing a simple ease of being. None of this was true during all my years of rigorous rigid mantra/breath/visualization meditations. I now know that in fact there is nothing to achieve, find or get, for awareness is always present. All that is required is just being moment to moment identified as this awareness of thoughts and sensations. Then if deeper experiences come, beautiful, and if not no problem. Truly each moment is enough!
It is interesting to note that, after all I have said about mantra, I sometimes use mantra to aid me relaxing into this pure awareness; which I do for the joy of it, rather than to achieve, find, or get anything. The mantra I use is Om Namah Sivaya which means salutations to pure awareness (or consciousness) which is the Absolute Totality of Being. As this is repeated it points directly to this pure awareness by its meaning and the experiential fact of awareness of the repetition. It is this attention on the awareness itself that is the key, for this awareness is always absolutely still and totally silent, which is perfect peace. This meaning and the noticing of awareness has the power to diffuse the restless mind, especially after some practice where the value of relaxing into awareness itself has been experienced. Mantra repetition also reveals the nothingness relative to which all things can be recognized. For the thought is known (there is awareness of it) relative to the no-thought in which it appears.
This is the nothingness which can be revealed by repeating the mantra with intense concentration, thus blocking out all other things from the mind. However this nothingness may be immediately realized by seeing that every thing appears in nothingness, exists in nothingness, is known relative to this nothingness and disappears back into nothingness. Without this background of nothingness there would not be awareness of any thing. As the only things in our direct experience are thoughts (including all mental images) and sensations, awareness of which is only possible due to contrast with the nothingness in which they appear, then this nothingness is absolutely vital for awareness of any thing; and is in fact a property of awareness itself. Consciousness at rest (awareness) implies the subjective field which is conscious (aware) and still, that is nothingness as all things are forms of cosmic energy, and thus in motion.
So if one repeats the mantra (or any mantra) noticing the awareness of the repetition and the nothingness (no thought) in which it arises, exists and subsides, then the mantra has done its job in revealing the nature of reality. In fact every single thing in manifestation points directly to this aware nothingness, or formless awareness, in exactly the same way. For it is in contrast to the nothingness that any thing is perceived, and awareness is that which underlies perception, in that one is effortlessly and choicelessly aware of sense (and mind) perceptions. However, mantra repetition has the added advantage of pointing to this directly by its form and meaning, for every mantra extols different aspects of this Absolute Reality. This aware nothingness, or formless awareness, is: Jehovah, God the Father, Allah, Brahman, Siva, The Void ( Theravadan Buddhism), Rigpa ( Tibetan Buddhism), Big Mind ( Zen), and The Tao. Mystics of all persuasions who follow the negative path have come to this same realization of the Absolute Reality, although they give it different names.
~ ~ ~
Colin Drake is the author of Beyond the Separate Self: The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering, an e-book which may be purchased and read at once. For details, excerpts, and to read the table of contents and the index, please visit http://nonduality.com/btss.htm
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