What To Do


The movement of thought is a natural flow of creation, just like the wind or the ocean. Yet it might not seem that way when you are caught in the midst of problems. You have probably heard people say that they feel as though they are drowning when talking about their worries. Its a significant metaphor. When you go swimming you know whether you are wet in the water or dry on the land. However you might not have realised, that your attention is similarly immersed in an ocean of thought. You can get out of it and rest on the shore of freedom to watch the flow of thought. But the busy mind asks: "Who will get things done? What about my problems? What can I do?"

Realise that whatever you are looking at is changing before your very eyes. When you look at something you think you know it. You look away from it, and back again, and there it is just as it was. This perception is incorrect because in reality the thing has changed, albeit imperceptibly. Eventually it will change so much that the form you thought you knew will become unrecognisable. And notice that you are changing as well.

A concept is a way of mentally holding onto, or grasping, a reality that is constantly changing.

The customary way of seeing things is in terms of creation and destruction. However this does not reflect the subtlety of what is really happening. Looking beyond conditioned concepts you will see one form flowing into another.

Sometimes this happens suddenly as in a natural disaster, yet often it happens very gradually and imperceptibly. For example some of the water molecules in your body evaporate into the air and become a part of anothers body through inhalation. Some of the dead skin tissue from anothers body falls to the ground and becomes part of the dust under your feet. These are just two examples of what happens at many levels.

Once you notice these transformations in what appears as the outside world then you can more easily turn your attention to the flow of your own thoughts. Be aware that you can get caught in the trap of thinking about thinking. This can be very enticing and difficult to escape. It was overlooked by centuries of philosophers and it prevents you from knowing yourself to be free.

Look with a relaxed focus beyond concepts, into the inner space that holds your thoughts. This is somewhat like looking into the physical space between objects, where there is really nothing on which to focus. With this relaxed focus your attention is not snagged by any particular thought or form. Here your thoughts and actions are seen as part of the arising and flow of consciousness. This is the beginning of freedom.

Unfortunately any desire to be free prevents you from experiencing freedom because your attention becomes snagged by the desire. If the snag dissolves and you think, "I'm free", then you become snagged again, this time by the idea of being free. The idea of freedom is not freedom just as the idea of a tree is not a tree. When you think Oh theres a tree then you miss its magnificent presence. Yet this happens so often with so many things that it is considered normal. See how often you forfeit the experience of reality for the experience of concepts.

Im not proposing that you abandon thinking, to never think again. It is a different experience of thought, a different experience of life. Before awakening you take your thoughts seriously, and they can make you suffer.

Stop mental suffering by questioning your thoughts. Recognise the habitual reactive patterns that define you as a limited and local entity. Every challenging experience is an opportunity to observe your own conditioned responses. From time to time pay more attention to your thinking than to the perceived problem, and feel the space that holds your thoughts. The way you think about a problem is an integral part of the problem.

You are greater than you think. To be in the world is to be conceived, to become a concept. Thats why its called conception. To be in the world but not of the world is to transcend the limiting conceptual state of consciousness. The first concept is that there is an 'I'. Then there is something other than I, another object, another creature, or another person. This initial sense of 'I' is the beginning of the proliferation of thoughts. In other words, the mind perceives increasing numbers of things that are 'not I'. Then it wishes to understand them, to know the relationship between them, and its place within those relationships. This can only be done through fixed concepts. Consequently things are seen in very limited terms of whether they can help you, or harm you, or neither, or both.

The mind tries to grasp whatever arises, whereas the heart flows with whatever arises. The mind sees everything as being outside of itself. The heart sees everything as being within itself. Once you realise all things are parts of yourself then you know how to treat them, and you know what to do.


Back to Contemplations Cover Page