Mastery over the mind - Dissolving boundaries
It is hard to imagine life and freedom without any boundaries. The body, mind, thoughts and for that matter, every facet of our lives has finite limits. Even time is a boundary, one that we can travel along but we cannot cross over either into the future or back into the past. Within these limitations, we seek to stuff as much as possible of everything we consider as valuable, from physical possessions to the accumulation in the mind of desires and experiences. On the physical and the mental planes, we enjoy as long as we are respectful of the limitations set by Nature. Such limitations are not imposed by Nature on awareness, which is free to expand into the limitless should we choose to set the notion of the mind aside for a moment. We can do this by not indulging in thoughts of the past, present or future, modifying any thoughts or creating a new experience.
By setting aside the mind we are also released in that instant from body consciousness, which is life centered around the body as the main reference point. The body is a medium of enjoyment of the living energy which is present in all forms of life. When the body is at the center of everything, awareness lurks on the fringes. However, when awareness is unbound from our thoughts and takes center stage, we easily enter a witnessing state of existence, in which the boundaries of the mind and the body are transcended. This state cannot be approached through the mind or thoughts or through any physical means. A witnessing state is a great leveler, all our attainments that are directly linked to our person-hood will have to be set aside to experience the wellspring of joy that it is connected to. This joy is fresh and full of innocence, unlike the joy that comes when desires are fulfilled. In the moments following satiation of any desire, the associated joy starts to become old and stale.
In a body-centric life, desire is the crucial element which creates a perimeter around the union of our awareness and our possessions (physical objects, thoughts, and experiences) we have identified with. Desire is the positive pole and possessions form the negative pole. Desires and our possessions are linked by the presence of awareness which forms the neutral pole. Just as a flow of negatively or positively ions creates electricity when there is a flow of awareness from desires to possessions and back, an energy is accumulated within. This energy, which we call ego, ties us to our physical body, our most essential and fundamental possession.
Ego is a form of awareness, a condensation of energy limited to one unique living entity. It cannot be transferred, and it persists with us throughout life. We create a form out of this energy which then becomes our person-hood, a mental construct that grows out of the sum of our negative and positive propensities. We move our possessions (thoughts and experiences we identify with) “within” and into the field of the ego, making them personal and very meaningful. The energy associated with the ego-form is everywhere within the perimeter of our mental being.
There cannot be an ego-free space within the mind, just as pockets of vacuum cannot exist under the protective umbrella of the earth’s atmosphere. Like workers in a high-voltage power plant who are given adequate protection from electrical hazards, the ego is also shielded from the potentially destructive force of desire. Unfulfilled, desires create internal heat and friction which can result in explosive and destructive emotions which may in extreme cases, “blow up the mind” and destroy everything. Strangely in this powerful “internal explosion", the ego is spared. This shows that the energy associated with the ego cannot be destroyed. From individual experience, we know that we are not the creators of mental energy. We are simply consumers of energy that is always there. Mental sharpness and intellect are determined by how skillful we are at moving mental energy among thoughts without wasting it. There is significant wastage of energy in recollection of the past, projection, and imagination of the future and analysis of the present. Just as a resource-poor country will always be dependent on energy-rich countries a mind depleted of energy cannot remain independent of the world. Like oil pipelines, the senses are then tapped to supply the energy of happiness from the world.
Since the ego is the key interface into which all aspects of the mind are linked, the death of the ego should imply the death of the mind. The concept of mental death is best understood in a positive light which is the removal of boundaries around awareness. This happens when there is a cessation of the flow of awareness from desires to possessions and back. Desires will continue to remain as will our accumulated thoughts, experiences, and other possessions, but the link between the two is permanently severed. No longer will there be an urge for desires to materialize as possessions and possessions will no longer fuel further desires. The energy of desire when uncoupled from individual thoughts coalesces into one generic desire, that for happiness. When this desire for happiness is turned inwards and we ask the question, “who is the one who is desiring happiness”? the ego starts to lose its foundation. When the desire to know the answer to this question burns constantly, it provides light for the inner search which has mostly stalled in our modern day civilization.
Living with the question of who we really are is akin to living a nomadic life. The answer is not found in one place, thought or with any another person. We all want unbridled nomadic freedom within but are afraid of giving up the comforts of living in the warm confines of prefabricated mental concepts. Anyone can live within the four walls of a thought, but to do so in the open exposed to the “elements” of the unknown to takes an explorer’s mindset. What is the worst that may happen? We fall back into the familiar confines of the mind. A nomadic culture by nature has minimal impact on the land as the constant movement of people and animals gives the land an opportunity to regenerate itself. Similarly, when we stop digging in various parts of the mind using the tools of habit and conditioning, the mind will be restored and free of the scars of the past or the markings where we seek dig for a desired future. Just as fresh and pure air is associated with a sparsely populated countryside, awareness is will richer, clearer and more powerful whenever the mental footprint is limited. Through a limited mind we may not be able to experience unlimited awareness but in spite of the mind’s limitations, we can experience the joy that comes with freedom of awareness.
Expansion of awareness is a natural instinct. When we stop blowing into a balloon called the mind, this expansion will have no limits. We will then “touch” everything not through the mind but from a much deeper presence within. This presence will remain as it has always been, unchanged by any thought or idea. Silence is the best way to connect with this constant presence. True silence is not the absence of sound but the cessation of interaction with the ever-changing waves of thought. The essence of awareness may be experienced when forms dissolve just as the sweetness of sugar is experienced when a sugar crystal dissolves on the tongue. Thoughts, irrespective of our prior identification with many of them may be thought of sugar crystals. When such thoughts dissolve not on the long tongue of our desire, but in the vacuum of a pure witnessing state, the sweet essence of the limitless expanse of joy may be experienced.