Collected contemplations from 2006 by Jarek Czechowicz
- Incomplete Happiness
- Birth and Death
- Difficult People, Difficult Self
- What Do You Mean?
- Are You Experienced?
- Peace and Empowerment
- Decisions, Sponteneity and Freedom
- Passive and Active Meditation
- Don't Blame The Baby
Nothing is ever complete. The very idea of completion is incomplete. This is so because we use a limited method of interpreting reality that often requires numerous re-interpretations before things 'make sense' or make us happy.
We try to convert natural and spontaneous phenomena into static and abstract concepts in order to create stepping stones toward understanding. This process of breaking down and reconstituting reality leads to many opposing and entertaining beliefs. For example: the idea that consciousness grows out of unconsciousness, or that the one is separate from the other.
It's more efficient, and enlightening, to bypass this intellectual side-show and move directly through insight into understanding. We can understand 'things' more clearly when we are aware of their 'arising' and 'becoming' rather than focusing exclusively on their relation to other things.
We like to believe that information is fixed but it's more like water. Water adapts to the shape of its container and information adapts to the 'shape' of a particular mind, or mental condition.
When we don't understand something it isn't necessarily because we need more information but because we lack insight. Insight is the light of understanding. Information is simply an interpretation of the landscape.
Great comedy exploits the weakness in our system of thinking to transport us beyond it, if only for a moment. Seriousness is often the companion of ignorance because it takes a stand on a fixed position. The cosmic comic knows that every fixed position in the universe is resting on a banana peel.
Every piece of information represents a particular and often biased view. When we think predominantly within the categories of 'this and that', 'true and false', or any other discrete system, we limit our capacity to notice valuable transient possibilities and transcendent Truth.
Being aware that everything is transforming we can more easily appreciate and accept the limitless options that the universe is constantly offering. We can see how one thing is dependent on another, even when they seem to be in opposition for no apparent reason.
We tend to claim happiness when all the pieces seem to fit, when there is no opposition, when there is a sense of completion, until it all becomes unstable again.
Being incomplete is the natural condition of things. Incompleteness is a prerequisite of being something, or someone. Our feelings of separation and incompleteness are quite natural to the extent that they reveal our need for deeper spiritual experience.
When we learn to be comfortable with our incompleteness then we paradoxically begin to feel complete. Knowing through insight that inner peace is always available, we can smile at the idea of pursuing happiness. And we can really enjoy the game, even though we will never finish it
Birth and Death
The death of a loved one can bless us with the deep insight that life is a process of receiving and letting go. Receiving is easy for many people, but letting go can be a challenge. When both receiving and letting go are in effortless balance, then the ongoing transformation from birth to death becomes a spiritual resurrection into awakening consciousness.
Christ said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you". As such, each person has direct access to heaven's estate. There are those who would have you dependent on them for admission, but no one can stand between you and that which is within you. You cannot be denied access, at any time, other than through your own ignorance.
Zen Master Suzuki Roshi once said, "The most important thing in life is to discover what is the most important thing". In a universe where infinity seems to be the rule, where an endless parade of forms and ideas dazzle your senses, you can be forgiven if distraction delays discovery.
The simplicity of some profound insights belies their subtlety. You may well think: "What is this most important thing, and how does one discover it? Is it an object? Is it an idea? Is it a person? What has heaven to do with Zen?"
Like a kitten entangled in an unraveling ball of string, the mind becomes entangled in its own thoughts.
Don't get drawn blindly into endless complexity, try instead to quietly observe the obvious - the peaceful awareness that permeates whatever you are experiencing. To do this you must first fully accept your experience. Acceptance opens the door to higher intelligence, to spontaneous and appropriate action, and to inner peace.
Through your own observation and through science you can learn that, at a cellular level, parts of you are dying and reborn at each moment. The skin you have today is not the same skin of thirty days ago. By this process you are transformed from cradle to grave. Your death and resurrection is happening right now.
There is something peaceful in all of this, something effortless, something that is free of fear. You can experience it now and during your everyday activities. If you can't experience it through inner stillness then experience it through gratitude.
Enjoy everyone and everything that comes into your life but know that they are not yours. This is the beginning of the mystical art of dying before death. It has nothing to do with self-inflicted suffering, and everything to do with experiencing life to the fullest, and the sharing of peace and happiness through your being, and your work. In this moment you are born again, and again
Peaceful presence is a unifying experience whereas thinking is by nature divisive. Being fully present to others reveals a significance much greater than their words.
Thinking deals with things, units of measure dividing creation, just as inches or centimeters divide a ruler. Without division there is no difference, nothing to think, and no 'thing' to express.
As soon as we name a thing we divide it from the whole.
Thinking is spontaneous despite its rational reputation. It is the thinking about thought that conceals its nature.
The mind is in constant flux. All things are transient and this includes all perceptions and all points of view.
We hear it said in some circles that music calms the mind whereas words agitate. In other circles it is said that music agitates the mind. To adhere to either view is to miss the deeper experience.
We can hear music in any sounds, be they sounds of nature, or noise, or words. The experience is invariably accompanied by the cessation of judgement. Hearing our favourite melody we don't think: "There's a high note, there's a low note, a short note and a long note." Letting go of our analysis allows us to appreciate the music.
We don't wait impatiently for the last note before enjoying the song. The joy of the music is in the moment, in resonating with it as it arises. So it is, or can be, in other areas of life. The song of life is playing constantly. We can enjoy this transient dissonance, or this imperfect cadence, once we let go of our constant descriptions and judgements.
The mind divides creation into countless measures and patterns but there is no dichotomy between heart and head other than the one we choose to create. We have the capacity to bring a peaceful presence to our mind, and in doing so we learn to let go.
Difficult People, Difficult Self
Difficult, challenging and annoying situations are like the walls of a dark winding corridor. Every time we bump into them we can know the clear path is nearby.
The same can be said for negative qualities that arise in our own mind. Instead of reacting negatively to them we can regard them as a reminder, or a pointer, that is directing us toward the clear path of our inner peace.
Consider negative people, situations and thoughts as though they were an alarm bell. If an alarm bell warns us of danger we should be grateful for its loud and disturbing tones as we move to a secure and strong position. Any arising negativity, be it an undesireable situation, a difficult person, or a disturbing thought can be viewed as a reminder to return to the safe harbour of inner peace.
All too often we react negatively to negativity. Circumstances might dictate that we oppose a negative force. This does not mean that we should in anyway take pleasure in the process of forceful opposition. To do so would be to be lost in deep unconsciousness.
From the position of inner peace we can recognise the most appropriate action. It might be to abandon the situation, to ignore it, to accept it, to challenge it, or to engage it, knowing that things will change anyway. Without inner peace the mind is lost in confusion, stumbling from one undesirable situation to the next, or from one dysfunctional relationship to another.
As loving beings we can Love all things, including difficult people. As wise beings there are times when we stay away from some situations and some people. With awareness we can learn to stay away from certain thoughts. Ajahn Chah, a Theravadan Bhuddist teacher who lived in the forests of Thailand once said: "Love the tiger, but at a distance".
Reacting negatively to negative people leads to hatred. Reacting negatively to our own thoughts leads to self-hatred. Hate can be overcome by Love because real Love has no personal preferences. Love does not oppose hate. Love is deep inner peace and all negativity and differences dissolve with the experience of it.
What Do You Mean?
What more do we need to understand? There is always something more that we think we need to know. Something that will explain this thing, or that thing, or everything, once and for all. Can we leave this type of inquiry alone long enough to see deeply into the nature of the inquiry itself?
The word 'why' embodies the mind's voracious and unending appetite for knowledge and explanation. The letter 'Y' is a perfect counterpart to the word 'why'. It could easily symbolise the way the mind divides the one, into the two, and into the many.
All symbolism is course compared to the reality moving through your awareness. So rather than becoming lost in another theory of anything and everything, let's become aware of it arising, like a far away sound, coming closer and closer.
If you heard in the distance a passing car, your mind might barely register the sound of its motor. However, if you suddenly found yourself magically transported into the car then your awareness of it would be transformed into endless detail about the vehicle and it's journey.
So it is with any passing thought. As a passing thought takes your attention, your awareness becomes filled with experiences flowing forth from the pregnant potential of that contact. It's as though you are being endlessly drawn out of your peaceful nature and placed into these thoughts and experiences.
On your temporal journey you notice all kinds of things coming into your everyday life. Each of which takes your attention. Yet you seldom notice that your thoughts are arising, just like everything else.
When you experience your thinking as a subtle arising quality of consciousness rather than expecting it to deliver any conclusive meaning or result, then you experience yourself as the Stillness and not the seeker. In your ordinary life you are moving in relation to the rest of creation. In your extraordinary life you are perfectly still, and all of creation is moving.
The search for meaning is endless and restless, the experience of Love is timeless and peaceful. If anything then Love and Peace is what all of this means. You are arising out of the very Source of creation right now, as are your thoughts, as is everything else. Every temporal moment is arising out of this timeless state of being.
Are You Experienced?
Most people think about their experiences but never notice that thought itself is an experience. Thought has a tendency to refer back upon itself to form beliefs. This creates some very strange loops that eventually knot and tether people to confusion, delusion and a less fulfilling experience of life.
When we experience something for the first time the experience is immediately translated into a thought, and, with repeated exposure to similar experiences, into a belief, a generalisation or a theory. As our experience moves through thought into the realm of belief we increasingly ignore much of what is arising in the moment.
A belief might help to quickly categorise an experience but in doing so it omits a richness of detail that could otherwise have a great and unique value.
Being too dependent on thinking we become ignorant because we ignore the obvious. To master the obvious one needs only to know the obvious, that which is arising. Yet to know the obvious we must be fully present to it, without being entangled in thoughts about it.
Having formed set beliefs we respond to a given situation in mechanical and predictable ways. Being aware of what is arising we respond in harmony with a given situation as it is.
Ignore what you believe and acknowledge what you're experiencing. Then you can know your thoughts as an experience. Become aware that there is knowing beyond thinking. You don't need anyone's authority to confirm this other than your own direct experience of those moments when thinking subsides.
Peace and Empowerment
A spiritual teaching empowers the individual and an empowered individual will by nature act to enrich the community according to his or her abilities.
Contrary to popular belief the spiritual teacher does not actually do anything to empower the individual in a hierarchical manner nor by way of cause and effect. The one spontaneously compliments the other in the process of spiritual unfolding. Just as the hand brings nourishment to the heart, the heart brings power to the hand.
Even negative people are not alienated from the process, although they seem to alienate themselves from the very thing they seek, which is lasting happiness. Such people are best viewed as spiritually immature. They are like a child's growing pains, but often a pain to others as well as themselves.
Reacting from a position of fear, they are invariably absorbed in hurried and competitive behaviors, rushing to purchase a low quality of civility through the mutual but temporary gratification of endless desires.
This is simply a level of consciousness that anyone can experience. And those experiencing it are regularly unhappy with the way things are, even when surrounded by obvious wealth. While in that state of consciousness a person has no interest in a text of this kind. There doesn't seem to be much sense or advantage in it.
Yet there are quite a few practical benefits to knowing inner peace. One can act quickly when necessary without feeling disturbed. One can adapt to changing conditions without being annoyed, deal with agitated people without becoming angry, create new resources instead of competing for old ones, and one can enjoy the moment now rather than in some imagined future.
The importance of this text is not so much to convey an intellectual theory or to achieve a material goal, but to point to the experience of 'observing' thought itself - like a child watches in wonder as clouds float across the sky.
The more one enters the state of observing one's thoughts - without fully absorbing the attention in any of them - the less self-conscious, and the more self-aware, one becomes. From the intellectual perspective one seems to be separating from one's identity and from worldly things. Yet from the spiritual perspective one feels more than ever a part of it all.
One cannot know this intellectually, it can only be experienced directly. And with such an experience all compulsive and chattering thinking subsides - or at least becomes less dominant. This is not to say that the intellect loses power, it can be powerful when engaged. But engaging the intellect moves one into time, without sufficient insight this can be at the expense of spontaneity and inner peace.
The word peace is often heard but seldom understood. Generally the word is used in conjunction with some form of agitation for or against one thing or another. Even in meditation many people agitate against arising thoughts.
Existing in a state of agitation one loses the real peace of being oneself - "One Self" - and the inherent spontaneous creative power that expresses itself through each individual goes unrecognised.
The stillness that is spoken of in meditation practice is a metaphor for the experience of meditation. It is often confused with restraint of physical motion and restraint of thought.
Many people who 'practice meditation' try to sit still and try to control their thoughts. There's nothing unnatural about sitting comfortably or not thinking, it's the attempt to be controlling that causes many to miss the mark. A mind exerting self-control to achieve stillness is like one hand trying to control the other hand - in the process both are incapacitated or at best dysfunctional.
Let's examine a few things about stillness and activity that we consider to be true through direct experience or through scientific knowledge. Things in your immediate environment might seem stationary but they are revolving around the Earth's axis at 1671.7 kilometers per hour, and then revolving around the sun at 66600 kilometers per hour.
When sitting still, there is as much activity in your body at the cellular level as in a bustling city. At a molecular level there is so much activity in your body and your environment that some quantum physicists declare the not-so-obvious notion that certain particles seem to be moving through time.
Now, before these ideas carry you away on unrelated scientific or philosophical tangents, just notice that your thoughts are also very active. The mind is constantly presenting ideas, opinions, theories, judgments, chatter, images, sounds, emotions, dreams, and so on. So where is this stillness?
The stillness of meditation has little to do with the relativities of physical or mental inactivity - yet once experienced it can be recognised in all conditions. The metaphors and techniques used in meditation practice might be well-intentioned but they are not the experience. Techniques like slowing the heart rate, controlling the breath, holding certain postures, acquiring knowledge, belong to all temporary and changing conditions. As such they are not the stillness of meditation, yet it can be experienced within them if one has the capacity to be naturally attentive, and to let go.
Meditation is the state of the natural mind which is graceful, creative, easy, free, productive and spontaneous - sometimes thinking, sometimes free of thought, sometimes active, sometimes in repose.
The stillness of meditation is that upon which all change seems to register in your awareness. It is your 'field of awareness', your 'ground of being', your 'presence', your 'here and now'. It's so simple, so ever-present, so obvious, yet so elusive that very few people experience it directly - even though it is with everyone all the time.
Decisions, Sponteneity and Freedom
A decisive person is one who takes very little time to decide. The more decisive the person, the less time they require to decide. By that standard the person who takes no time to decide is the most decisive. Such a one is spontaneous.
Spontaneity is the condition of 'being' fully in the moment with little or no resistance. In a word, it is 'freedom'. It could be described as being fully open to, and accepting of, and a part of, whatever arises. This is accompanied by a psychological sense of lightness and ease.
Decisions are only ever required when obstacles are perceived. Sooner or later they are accompanied by an increasing sense of seriousness, burden and anxiety. So a decision-maker is not really free, even though 'free-will' is ascribed to such a person.
Free-will only exists in relation to potential or perceived obstacles. There is an untenable but widespread belief that the right application of 'free-will' and special techniques will lead to lasting happiness. This is like believing that a person immersed in water can become dry by learning a secret swimming technique. It's obvious to us that the only way to be dry is to get out of the water. But getting out of thinking is not so obvious.
Thinking techniques or spiritual techniques might seem helpful or useful in dealing with obstacles, but they are ultimately irrelevant when it comes to freedom. One only becomes free by stepping out of thinking and then re-entering thought from the new perspective of a consciousness unburdened by thought. Then one can immerse oneself in the metaphorical water without getting wet, that is to say without becoming overwhelmed and lost in endless streams of unconscious thought.
That which differs from you defines you.
Your connection with the rest of creation is most clearly defined wherever something or someone differs from that which you consider to be yourself. The perceived asymetry of creation gives you the impression of being an individual.
The more something differs from you or opposes you the more self-conscious you become, and as you begin to transcend those differences you become more 'Aware'.
Difference extends to opposition. Opposition intends to unity.
Instead of being seen as negative, opposition can be understood as a degree of difference. As such it is an expression of diversity, a creative, transformative and balancing aspect of the universe.
The breath provides a good example. When you inhale a breath the force of nature at some point makes you exhale the breath. The lungs expand by degrees until what seems to be an opposing force begins the contraction of the lungs. The inhalation is not better than the exhalation. The exhalation is just as positive a function as the inhalation. Both are necessary for you to exist in your present form.
Every form exists within an infinite field of diversity.
Opposing and differing opinions give shape to a mental reality just as opposing and differing surfaces give form to a building.
Whenever you develop and express an idea then someone, somewhere, at some time, will misunderstand, disagree with, or oppose that idea. This is fundamentally no different from the natural principles that balance inhalation and exhalation.
There is no absolute or steady state of concord or discord within the universe. Infinite variations in degrees of similarity and dissimilarity arise and fall like waves of harmony and dissonance.
In whatever can be defined, there is the mind.
Your sense of individuality arises from the mind's overarching tendency to experience reality through its division rather than its union. Meditation, contemplation and self-inquiry reveal the nature and tendencies of the mind.
When you experience transcendence of the mind and its myriad forms then the peace that is always with you begins to unveil itself. This is the "peace that passeth all understanding".*
*... And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus Philippians 4:7
Passive and Active Meditation
A passive meditator tends toward physical and mental repose while not wanting anything for personal gain. An active meditator tends toward physical and mental activity while not wanting anything for personal gain.
A person who expects personal gain from meditation is less likely to experience meditation. Desire becomes its own obstacle. Consequently, the prerequisite for either passive or active meditation is selflessness or renunciation.
The Buddha described the first level of meditation as 'the bliss of renunciation'. In the Hindu and Yoga traditions its equivalent is 'detachment from the fruits of ones work'. Renunciation is often accompanied by an intention for the highest good and the highest good includes one's own benefit.
In passive meditation the highest good is served when the passive meditator allows all thoughts, feelings, people and conditions to simply be as they are, without engaging them during the period of passive meditation.
In active meditation the highest good is served when the meditator embraces creative ways to work with existing thoughts, existing feelings, existing people and existing conditions rather than opposing them.
Every person experiences at different times more or less mental activity. The meditator is no different however the awareness of the meditator is not lost in the arising forms. The light of consciousness shines independently upon action, or inaction, just as the light of the sun shines upon all aspects of the day.
Don't Blame The Baby
As a baby learns to walk it often falls over, sometimes hurting itself and sometimes damaging things around it. The important thing is that the baby is encouraged to walk and not punished for falling.
With encouragement and guidance the baby progresses from an unskilful to a skilful state. If we could understand all our actions as being either unskilful or skilful we would be a more enlightened and prosperous society. Unfortunately we often hinder our own development through misguided punishment and blame.
Parents recognise instinctively that a baby simply lacks skill. It would seem absurd to blame or punish a baby for falling over. Yet for some reason many people believe that beyond a certain age unskilful actions should attract blame rather than guidance and encouragement.
As a result some individuals experience constant anxiety, no matter what they try to do. In spiritual endeavours this unproductive attitude keeps them trapped in constant dissatisfaction with their practice and their progress.
Offering encouragement and understanding strengthens and enriches individuals and society. The prevailing custom of attributing punishment and blame produces a society that functions at levels far below its potential.
When guided by an understanding of skilful and unskilful actions we embark on a uplifting path toward prosperity for all. In material terms individual performance gradually improves through the joy of being and of action, rather than through fear of failure or humiliation. The joy of success is a much more powerful motivator than the fear of failure.
The next time you are tempted to blame or punish someone consider whether they are simply acting unskilfully. Perhaps they deserve guidance more than punishment.