Changing of the guard. Going from the past to the present.
Mind is a place of change, which can happen instantaneously, or it may take a lifetime. The mind is an integral part of our lives, and since it is continually evolving, this suggests there are aspects of human life that are not predetermined. In every moment, there is complete freedom given to us to turn our mind in any direction we choose. How quickly we can reorient the mind is dependent on the amount of mental baggage we carry in the form of memories, desires, habits and so on. A large cargo ship needs a lot of space in open water to turn around. A small sailboat needs very little space to maneuver. Similarly, when the mind is full of thoughts of the past, present, and future, the willpower which functions like a wheelhouse on a ship isn’t strong enough to effect change. The inertia of accumulated mental baggage will determine the course the mind takes as time goes on. If the mind is relatively empty, light and supple, it makes life more beautiful and enjoyable. Without accumulated thoughts and conditioning, the mind has no inertia of its own to carry it forward. With such a mind, a gentle nudge through the force of will can maneuver the mind in a manner that we may feel is the best use for it at that moment.
We think of the mind as a difficult place when life does not go the way we may want it to proceed. The present moment plays host to the external reality, and it clashes with our imagination of how that moment should turn out. The external reality is dependent on innumerable factors, many if not most of them are not in our direct control. The reality of which we are a tiny part is immense. Just as the currents in an ocean cannot change according to our needs, we cannot change the flow of life around us. However, we can stop the struggle by choosing to flow with life.
When we flow with life, the mind gets a rest. No one ever thinks about the hammering and abuse it takes from the constant demands we place on the mind. Everyone has a unique relationship with the mind. The best relationship we can have with it is that of a close friend. We expect much from the mind, and for the most part, it delivers. In every aspect of our life, the mind is involved. Even in sleep, it has an influence. If the mind does not recede and become nonexistent, we cannot enter the depths of sleep which we find very refreshing. The mind works on our behalf, and if we give it even a little bit of a rest, it becomes sharp and more effective. We take the mind for granted. When it gives us what we want we are indifferent and not grateful. When it does not give us what we want, we start to dislike its presence.
The mind can only return what we feed it through our identification with thoughts and experiences. Just as every tree in a forest has an origin in a seed, every thought we encounter in the present comes from a seed we’ve planted in the mind at some point in the past. Thoughts do not necessarily manufacture new information. They can only change and reorganize information already stored in the mind. We cannot easily control the flow of thoughts, but through concentration, we can “ask” them to bring us the information we may need. Deeper our focus during conscious recall from memory, greater may be the accuracy of information recalled.
The mind is like a utility belt a workman uses. Such a belt can safely carry all types of tools even if they are sharp. Similarly, the mind has many beneficial attributes we can call upon to make our lives and the lives of those around us pleasant. We don’t train tools on how to work. We teach the operators who wield tools on how best to use them safely and effectively. Similarly, when we look upon the mind as a tool in our hands, the willpower becomes the operator of the mind, and if we train and strengthen willpower, the mind can become a highly productive asset. Just as a utility belt carries only the required tools, a productive mind carries only the essentials.
The present is unsympathetic to the past and agnostic to the future. Every moment is a separate entity unto itself. When the mind is full of impressions of the past, it cannot approach the present. It is only in and through the present can we bring about effective change. Change does not happen in the future. It is a present phenomenon. The future paints a picture of any change that has already happened.
When we bring the mind as close as possible to the present, it becomes easier to bring about positive changes in our lives. A knife in the hands of a surgeon cannot incise the skin unless the blade is brought near the surface of the skin. Similarly, when we bring the mind in close contact with the present, we can use the mind as a tool to enter the present. Like a knife, the mind has to be razor sharp to come close to and catch the present moment. Less the accumulations of the past, more pointed is the mind. Just as a surgeon may keep the blade aside once it has created an opening in the skin, once we enter the present, we can set the mind aside. One may ask why to use the mind to enter the present? It is because a large part of our awareness is within the mind. Rather than the mind traveling behind awareness, our awareness moves behind the mind. To bring awareness into the present, the mind may have to come along for a specific time and distance.
Once a portion of our awareness enters the present, it creates an opening and a passage for the rest that is within the mind. Where our awareness is at any given point in time determines whether we remain within the mind and hence the past or we are in the freedom of the present. The present is like a glass wall. Awareness continuously cleans and polishes that glass wall so whatever is perceived is an unadulterated experience. The information the mind provides is highly contaminated with the past, which explains the split between what is going on in the present and that within the mind. We generally choose to go with the mind’s version, and consequently, each one’s experience of any given moment is very different from another’s.
Rather than the mind guiding us, if we let the moment guide us, we will always be spontaneous and fresh. Flowers bloom in the present, not the past or the future. Awareness is the flower we all carry. It cannot thrive in the mind which is chiefly concerned with the past or the future. When awareness is in full bloom, we are led by the present and not by the past.