All, or maybe most of our problems come from wanting to place things in the Universe where they are not or wanting to remove them from where they landed. If we can sort or at least understand this problem, then the chaos in our thinking ‘softens’ and ‘thought’ becomes easier to manage. It is our ‘hardness’, rigidness, tightness that is stifling and leads to pain.
Thinking Scattered Across the Room
Someday’s it’s as if our thoughts have been put in a blender or I could offer an even better description. Remember when you were a kid and someone said, “Do you want to play a card game?” and you go “Yep” and they say, “Let’s play fifty-two pick-up” and you go “OK”, then your world suddenly goes temporarily out of order as you watch them throw the cards in the air and they land everywhere. That’s what thought is like, there is a similarity to the cards on the floor and the disorder in our thinking. We have a rough idea about the ‘elements of thought’ in the same way that we know there are hearts clubs, spades and diamonds on the cards but the lack of order is where the struggle seems to be. We humans are constantly wanting resolve, to bring order into the world, to align things in an effort for our minds to be at peace. The great teacher of life Lao Tzu hinted at this when he said, “The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth, the named is the mother of myriad things”; it may not seem obvious at first but in this text from the Tao Te Ching there is something there that is worthwhile for us to unpack, everything is always waiting for our wisdom to kick in.
The Naming of Things
We live in a world of descriptions or better said, we apply descriptions to the world we experience and move in. This ‘naming’ allows us to place things where we like them and then we can go about the business of everyday life; when we are ‘uncomfortable’, it may be because our thinking can’t file something in the right place. When my oldest boy suicided some years ago, like every parent who has been to this precipice, I struggled, it was like having raw chili rubbed into every molecule of my being, when I thought of his death it was unbearable, debilitating. But then magic happened, something that I am exceptional at is ‘magic’ (I would describe it as the art of deceiving the observer). As the observer of my own life, I managed to reshuffle my ‘naming of things’ and said to myself ‘he passed over’, this masterpiece of thinking, ‘wisdom-magic’ allowed my son to jump to another part of the Universe. Regardless whether my beautiful son now moves in a new form or is in deep rest within the glorious Emptiness of Being is not so important here; freedom came about by a tiny adjustment in my ‘thinking’, without this, if I had stuck with an old worldview my vision of my universe, it would totally disempower and destroy what I sometimes refer to as ‘me’.
Renaming the World
When we fall in and out of this ‘love’ thing people speak of, we bring to it a story. In the society we live in now, it has become more complex, there are now numerous descriptions on how we relate to each other. Even children have labels for friends ‘my besty’ and then suddenly the child’s besty does something, whether it be knowingly or unknowingly there will be a version of heartbreak. No longer is the ‘besty’ fitting the model that sits in the thinking of the child. What normally happens is we as big children have some type of ‘subconscious order’ of how people fit into our lives. Our besty stuffs us over and then it’s, “ok, alright, I never saw that coming” and there’s a game changer; depending on our smarts and ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (that mysterious-wisdom-thing we have built up through our lives and sometimes does a runner when we most need it), we ride the waves of change and settle on new descriptions such as ‘ex-besty’, ‘they who cannot be mentioned’, ‘dickhead’, ‘ouch, do not say that name’, or ‘gee i miss that person’.
Wait a Minute
I think of all the skills things that are required to navigate life, it would be ‘patience’ and I do not mean the patience of inaction. There is an Indian word called thamas, it implies dull or inactive; no I don’t mean that type of waiting, there is another word from the Indian dictionary that is better to align ourselves with, it is called sattva. Although there would be many descriptions, I will simply say it implies harmony or balance, not being over-excited nor dull. From my experience and also from watching everyone else get more deeply entangled in chaos, confusion and sink deeper into the quicksand of life, this skill of ‘waiting’ is the one most needed to be nurtured (non-rocket science moment here). When we don’t wait, what happens is our story of the world, our understanding of how we imagine things to be gets in the way and we act on impulse. If we are not cautious and we lack patience we end up placing things in our universe at locations where they don’t really exist, we make decisions that lead to pain for ourselves and others.
Un-designing the Universe
If we want relief from unnecessary suffering, what we need to consider doing is to readjust our thinking, to expand outside ‘our known’, to allow things to emerge on the screen of life that we have never considered, seen or experienced before. And this is where freedom lies, it comes about by gradually disintegrating our ‘story’ of the world, by disempowering our limited view of the way we believe things to be, or expect them to be. Emotional pain can gradually dissolve without a fuss if we start to get rid of the labels that divide us, those ones that imprison us, that disappoint us when we find out that what’s in the packet is not what we assumed was there and just let things be as they are without ‘our story’, without putting our desires and outcomes on things and situations that are totally out of our control, things that are placed ‘elsewhere in the cosmos’ and not at the address we assumed them to be; what comes about is a natural detachment and thoughts that may trouble us will fall into Emptiness.
Love Knocking at the Door
One of my super-heroes, the sage Jiddu Krishnamurti, once said,”Only the free mind knows what love is“. Love is a little frisky, when we try and hold it, it runs; when we try and define it, even the great mystic poets Kabir, Shams, Rumi and Hafiz are lacking in words, they point to the beauty of the moon and it’s up to us to go there. But when we soften our thinking, something extraordinary happens, it, love comes through our door and lies with us, comforts us, touches our being, wraps its arms around us and holds us until we fall into a divine forgetfulness once again and wander through the corridors of space-time in wonder and awe.
Tilopa 2.0 (13th April 2016)