Updated: Nov 12, 2020
A new breath comes; a new moment touches you. A new breath, a new moment; new choices, new possibilities.
Observing, without judgment, the thoughts and emotions that arise moment by moment in formal meditation practice shines a light on the workings of the ego, the apparent self we identify as "I." What we call ego is merely identification with thought. Thoughts are epiphenomena of mind. Sitting in meditation, we learn to stay open, seeing thoughts as thoughts.
The thinking process can be creative when thinking is required. As I type, for example, I'm dressing ideas with words and arranging the ideas in a somewhat logic order. As you read, your thinking mind translates the symbols into words and gives them meaning. This powerful and creative faculty is a blessing. It can be a curse, however, when that same power of imagination induces a state of panic as it conjures up frightful scenarios that never come to pass or imagines past grievances that arouse anger, hatred, or ill will thus disturbing your peace.
With practice, we can rewire the mind, training to let go or to be with. There are many moments throughout the day to celebrate simply being, or to be fully present and engaged in the moment regardless of what one is doing. Gradually, (although sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly) the intensity of the thoughts subsides, the seemingly solid ego begins to dissolve, fading into the Self as we return to a more natural state of being.
As you took form in your mother's womb, there was no ego. When you were born, there was no identification with thought. While you sleep, the ego is dormant. As you dissolve back into formlessness, the ego, again, comes undone. From birth to death, you may have glimpses of the egoless state. Getting in touch with your life essence, while conscious, requires the intensity of full presence- the present moment being the entryway to peace. You can feel this life energy dancing in you now.
But even when we are disconnected, even when we suffer, we can learn to sit with it, to embrace the suck, to be as we are. Meditation is not always a pleasant experience.
One past participant explained it this way:
The meditation practices are bringing up so much uncomfortable "stuff," I'm noticing how much I want to escape/deny/fantasize or resist, but how my resistance is making "whatever" more painful.
I celebrate this insight. Awareness is there; it sits prior to the resistance and the uncomfortable "stuff." It's like sitting in a theater, in stillness, watching a sometimes frightening, sometimes disturbing drama unfold on the screen of mind. But the YOU that witnesses is not the illusion that plays out on the screen. The YOU that witnesses the play remains unharmed, untouched, and safe- aware that the images on the screen are nothing more than the entertaining make-believe of a creative mind. Abiding in awareness, is the Self quietly witnessing. Behind the apparent self, the ego- the spinner of yarns about who we think we are- is the silent watcher.
By being conscious and awake to what is alive within you now, by shining the light of awareness on the darkest, most unexplored recesses of the mind, we can begin to transform ourselves breath by breath, moment by moment.
Note: we are not warring with the "negative" aspects of ourselves. Rather, we are seeking to develop greater insight into our conditioned, habitual ways of reacting, of relating, of engaging with ourselves and the world.
Observe your mind. The images, memories, thoughts, and feelings that come and go are transient and illusory- formed out of wisps of nothingness. Just observe. You see forms no one else can see and engage in conversations no one else can hear. Your imagination is peopled with characters that are not present. Misty pictures of the past or vague forms of an imagined future arise and pass away. We regard them as are one and the same, regardless of their form or content- thoughts. We observe and let go. Our willingness to let go is the practice.
Watch your mind throughout the day moment by moment. This is mindfulness. Whenever you feel your confidence wane, when a disturbing thought upsets the balance of your mind, practice letting go or simply sitting with it.
We treat emotions much the same way- with compassion and respect, but, matter-of-factly- with detachment. If the mind is cloudy, it is cloudy. If it is clear, it is clear.
For today's mindfulness practice, carve out quiet moments to observe your own mind at the level of thought.