Cultivating Stillness

Most thoughts are not worth having. They are repetitious. Exhausting. Anxiety driven. They come over and over again. Like water dripping from a leaky faucet.

I observe this in myself. There are some basic thought patterns that occur again and again. When I wake up. When I am in traffic. When I am eating. When I am brushing my teeth. These thoughts are a constant companion. The exact same thoughts don’t repeat, but they are variations on a limited set of themes – broadly themes of concern regarding myself, and the people and the world around me.

These thoughts appear, as it were, with signs: “Pay attention! This is very important! Need to think about this now!” They suggest that if they are not heeded to, something bad will happen. “Protect yourself! Protect the people and things you care about! Ignore me at your peril!”

They feel like you are approaching a railroad crossing, unaware that a train is coming. The thoughts present themselves as the flashing stop sign.

But really, the thoughts are not linked to any impending danger or concern. They are a flashing stop sign disconnected from any broader mechanism. They are like if you took the railroad stop sign, brought it home and put it on the wall. All the time it flashes “Stop”, referring to nothing.

If there is a real danger, thoughts don’t just present themselves, passively. They themselves impel action. They don’t simply advocate vigilence. They move the person in vigilence.

Most thoughts feel vigilant, as if rooted in a need of the now. But they are really stuck in the past, a recurring leftover.

Nor are these thoughts part of intellectual activity, or practical, instrumental thought. Seeking to understand, learn, comprehend, explore. That is thought which propels one in excitement, enthusiasm, interest, passion. Or atleast curiosity and not hobbled by anxiety or fear.

Most thoughts are not like this. They are passive, stale, like a day’s old food left on the table. They present themselves not because they inspire, but just because they are there.

And one thinks them not because one wants to, but more because one doesn’t know how to stop them. They are thoughts entertained passively. Like being unable to stop eating ice cream until the container is empty.

In my life, I estimate atleast 50% of my thoughts are like this. Maybe more. Maybe 70%. Am I underestimating? Is it really more like 90%? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. And I imagine in this I am similar to most other people.

If these thoughts go from 70% to even 40%, that would be a significant change. A transformation in consciousness. That much mental energy freed up. That much mental garbage removed from the system.

Enlightenment is simply the ideal of having these negative, draining thoughts at 0%. One doesn’t have to reach 0%. Decreasing from 70% to 60%, or in general the direction being towards decreasing these thoughts is enough. More than enough.

How to reduce these thoughts? Not by accepting or even denying them. Accepting them only makes them repeat again and again. Denying them does the same, only now with more pain and self censure.

The best way is to simply be aware of the thoughts. Let them hang in the air, in the mind, without affirming or denying them, without identifying with them or dismissing them.

Observe them as just thoughts floating through the mind. Not as your thoughts that you generated that you need to act on. You didn’t generate them and they are not yours. They are just flowing through your consciousness.

Identification with the thoughts is the energy which keeps them going. Disidentify with them. Observe them as just objects floating through your field of awareness, and the thoughts lose their potency.

They will still float by, as debris floats through empty space. It passes you by, disconnected from who you are.

Then the mind, being less cluttered, just is. Neither thrilled by the passing thoughts nor depressed by them. In equinimity, consciousness resides in stillness. Like a body free of toxins, consciousness, free of toxin thoughts, revels in itself.

Formless

I am the formless, the eternal, the never ending, the one without a second.

I manifest in this form and that form, as this person and that person, as this object and that object. The forms clash and fight at times, move in harmony and peace at other times, moving this way and that. But I am untouched by the fighting and the peace, as the ocean is untouched by the waves crashing into each other or the waves gently rolling together.

I am the unmanifest, beyond form. Emotions, thoughts, joys and pains bind only to forms, but they do not bind to me. I am not bound by the forms, nor bound to them. I am the ground of the forms – of persons, bodies, minds, things, shapes, colors. I am perfect stillness, the silence in the vastness of space, the infinite ungraspable by thought.

I am without becoming and without fading. I am ever present, an infinite ocean of infinite waves, the one behind the plurality.

Illusion of Thought

Perception is perspectival. It is from here, now, from this angle. This is obvious.

Thought is also perspectival. Only unlike perception, thought appears absolute. As if it hovers free of the here and now, seeing the world from above.

Science as a practice is a method for safe guarding against this illusion implicit in thinking. The scientific method and the method of peer review acknowledges that no thought about any scientific matter in fact has reached a non-perspectival stance. Which is not to say all claims are on a par. But the scientific method is a guard against the illusion of objectivity.

Most everyday thought is not scientific. It is mundane, about oneself and others. About who did what to whom, who is right and who is wrong, about fears and hopes, anxieties and dreams.

This mundane thought no less carries the illusion of objectivity. As thought, it feels like it simply is capturing the truth, stating just how things are beyond perspective.

To fall for this illusion of thought is maya. It is to live in sin. Sin is not fundamentally a moral claim. It is a claim of knowledge, or more specifically, the lack of knowledge. Of not knowing what one does not know. Of thinking one knows when one doesn’t. To live in sin is to be caught in maya. To live in dukha – suffering.

The safeguard against maya is not maya-free thought. For the assumption of perspective-less thought, of maya-free thought, is itself maya.

The safeguard against maya is simply awareness of thought. Simply awareness of the contours of thought without judgment. Without bringing more thought to thoughts. Letting the thoughts buzz without identifying them. Without falling for the illusion implicit in the thoughts that they are free of bias and perspective, that they transcend the here and now, the local and the limited. That while others are limited by their perspective, my thoughts are really most thought-like, really capture the world as it is.

Cosmic awareness is awareness of the limitedness of all of one’s thoughts. An awareness which is not fooled by thoughts’ appearance of objectivity.

It is a stillness among the buzzing of thoughts. Untouched by them. Free of illusion.