Collected contemplations from 2007 by Jarek Czechowicz
- What's New?
- Symbols & Sanity
- Clear View
- Incomplete Happiness
You can't see something until you see it, you can't notice something until you notice it, even if it's right before your eyes.
When most people say that something is new they actually mean that it's very familiar but with enough difference to pique their interest. The mind learns and understands new things first by noticing them and then associating them with known things. This is why gaining knowledge becomes progressively easier as more knowledge is gained. The downside is that it can make it more difficult to notice obvious things that are truly different, new and original.
In everyday situations your mind narrows your field of attention to it's strongest and immediate interests, thereby filtering out many things that could be beneficial. For example, if a pick-pocket meets a sage, the pick-pocket looks only to see if the sage has pockets. Likewise your mind looks for what it thinks it wants, and not what could provide you with the greatest benefit.
The mind is committed to meeting its desires which are well known to it, and well established. Anything that is truly new is unknown, unfamiliar and threatening to the mind. It is often avoided or quickly filtered out if it does not fulfil expected criteria. This remains so until firm pathways are developed between what is new and what is both known and desired. Unfortunately this sets up a cycle of spiritual ignorance in favour of short-term and short-sighted benefits.
Even something that is rotting or decaying is in reality new at every moment. To see beyond the mind's categories of "old and new" requires a shift in consciousness through meditation or awakening, by intuitive leap, by de-focusing, relaxing and letting go of words and other symbols, until every mundane thing shines with a timeless freshness unknown in common hours.
Newness is the mark of the universe. A deep appreciation of the new is nothing less than a returning to origins, to the unmanifested, and a witnessing of how things materialise. The mind cannot readily comprehend this because it is obsessed with understanding, grasping and controlling transient forms and circumstances as though they were stable and unchanging, yet they are more like ripples and waves flowing through each other to express endless variations.
Our understanding is limited by our mind's natural tendency to judge things according to its desires which require a framework of space, time and most importantly thought. You might ask how we could function if we did not think. In fact much of what we experience is already functioning quite successfully without thinking - everything from the formation of galaxies to cell duplication and your capacity to breathe. The atoms and cells in your body don't need committee meetings to achieve the most complex things.
When you realise that thought is arising spontaneously then you can begin to experience thinking in a new way. Until then you will try to arrive at your own enlightenment through thought. Enlightenment is not an individual experience. By approaching this understanding through thought, which deals in symbols, you will not notice the reality beneath those symbols - that everything is always new and original and constantly arising out of the source of creation.
Symbols & Sanity
Each of these words you are now reading symbolise an aspect of creation and is a legacy of someone's experience of reality. The same applies to mathematical, algebraic, logical, technical and musical notations. It also applies to art, photography, sound recording and film which take symbolism to a new level of subtlety. Yet none of these are the reality that they represent.
Each of these ways of expressing, considering, and communicating reality are valuable to the extent that one is not fooled into beleiving that they are the reality.
To be useful a symbol must be stripped of as much reality as possible to make it communiable and manageable. The number 1 does this perfectly as it can be applied to anything. The word chair can only be applied to certain things whereas photo of your face can only symbolise you.
None of this is particularly obvious when one is caught up in thinking and relying purely on symbols to resolve problems or gain understanding, particularly when such thinking is fuelled by emotion. The trap in relying on symbols is that they have the inherent trait of becoming self-referential. Consequently the mind becomes unwittingly drawn into and trapped in a self-referencial system that forms endless strange loops.
Through this unskillful use of the mind one begins to inhabit a world of symbols rather than reality.
When you are in spiritual balance then there is nothing to achieve, there is simply an inspired flow of creation. It is only when you are out of balance that you are driven to act out of desire.
Becoming more aware of your connection with the source of creation you see results beyond the ordinary and you recognise the real cause of your past frustrations.
"When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power." Tranxu, a Chinese sage (Source: Come Home to Yourself, Anthony de Mello)
With your attention speeding toward a future goal you loose your footing in the present moment causing you to stumble and miss the goal.
What is your goal? Is it made of things? Or is it the sense of peace and contentment from certain achievements. Perhaps it has nothing to do with things or achievements. If you knew you would get your material goals with a guarantee of accompanying misery then you would reject them. So what is the real reward?
The real reward is inner peace. It cannot be conditional upon achieving a transient goal because inner peace is always present, but seldom noticed. True achievement is a by-product of inner peace, gratitude and action. If expected results don't materialise then you can still enjoy your inner peace.
Too often inner peace is confused with inaction. In fact you can be very active and more productive because you are no longer wasting energy stumbling into the future over distractions and psychological obstacles.
As you return to spiritual balance you inhabit the present moment so fully that every moment brings unexpected achievement.
Would you travel by car if you couldn't see through the dirt and grime on the windows? If all the other vehicles were in similar condition there would be ongoing collisions. Each journey would be dangerous and fearful. Would you be courageous or ignorant to travel in this manner?
There is a simile here for our journey through life. Dirt and grime is the metaphor for spiritual ignorance. Unfortunately many people can't see, nor wipe away, their own ignorance. It's as though they are driving blind.
Ignorance is generally understood to mean a lack of knowledge. Intelligent people genuinely believe that they are overcoming ignorance by acquiring knowledge, which is in itself a never ending quest. The lack of insight into this constitutes a part of spiritual ignorance.
Many people, including the kind an generous ones, develop toughness to survive their ongoing inter-personal collisions. They speed into the infinite variety of human experience, never really seeing what is right in front of them.
When faced with their own reflection some animals become aggressive, some flee, while others return again and again, without ever realising that they are seeing themselves. Yet there are animals that recognise their own reflection.
Similarly there are some humans who do not recognise their own reflection in the universe. So they react out of anger or fear, or, like intellectuals seeking knowledge, they return again and again out of curiosity, never realising that they are seeing their own reflections.
Spiritual ignorance prevents them from seeing through the illusions and appearances that arise in their mind, which they then reflect back into the world, and the world in turn reflects back at them, with the most engaging and intriguing variations.
It is often said that the veil of ignorance is cleared through certain spiritual practices. This is not so. Spiritual practices are the blossoming of awakening into form. You will not awaken spiritually because you do spiritual practices. You do spiritual practices because you are beginning to experience glimpses of awakening. When seen with a clear view then practice ceases to be a goal-orientated ritual or technique.
True spiritual practice is enlightened action arising from inner peace, wiping away ignorance, to reveal that we are not the traveller, we are the timeless stillness in which the universe unfolds.
In our work there are no deadlines, only lifelines. When we work to deadlines we work out of an underlying sense of fear and pressure. When we create lifelines we work out of fearlessness and inspiration.
Meeting deadlines we feel we have to complete a task on time before we can relax. When we work with lifelines we create more than expected, more than imagined, and we are relaxed in the process.
This is not the relaxation that follows completion of an unpleasant task, but that of enjoying what you do, being in the zone, in the flow. People who say they can't relax have forgotten how relaxed they were as children, when lost in play, in the high state of 'being natural'.
Losing this natural state is not a prerequisite of becoming skilled or knowledgeable. It is only lost through the onset of ignorance, when we begin to ignore our own experience in favour of beliefs.
There is an odd idea in contemporary society that everything should go according to schedule. We conveniently overlook the fact that things rarely go to schedule, certainly not as planned, and sometimes things don't go at all. Yet life goes on.
Deadlines imply that you or those in your care might somehow suffer, because others will cause harm if the deadline is not met. This represents an impoverished social arrangement. A healthy and wealth-creating attitude is one where you want to help most people, and most people want to help you. A deeper way to understand it is that you are serving all things and all things are serving you. To see this you must lose a good deal of fear.
There is no guarantee that things will go as you plan if you subscribe to the idea of lifelines. But there will be less fear and stress, which is a good start. It will draw your attention to doing more of what suits your natural talent, more of what you enjoy, more of what benefits society. The lifelines you create will serve others, and the lifelines others create will serve you.
If there is a sustainable approach to work it is this: Work out of inspiration rather than desperation.
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