The mind is a cheat. And it will cheat, if it is left to its own devices. It will suck you into a spiral of thoughts, trick you into believing their baseless ‘knowledge’ and completely hijack your attention to act on their ‘plans and desires’.
How are habits of thinking formed? How are memories reinforced and strengthened? What lies beyond this mind with its memories and desires and fears? Why is it that one feels imprisoned and bound in that which gives one the greatest feeling of safety and security? Which one of us hasn’t felt confined within and limited by our own minds? Why does a freedom beyond our safe and secure prisons beckon us?
The substance of all that is the mind (memories et al) is accumulated knowledge- a medley of remembered experiences, reinforced by our continuous expression of it through language. The mind remembers everything that seems significant and meaningful to the ego- that part of our selves that is interested in stringing together a story about itself or in ‘arriving’ somewhere. Our knowledge of language with its words and their commonly understood meanings is very often a handicap rather than an advantage. Having reduced language to a mere code whose meanings can be sought in a dictionary, we end up with a corrupted and stereotyped understanding of the one thing that shapes and structures our mind-and that is our unique experiences. Knowledge can be so impressive and seductive that we find ourselves unable and unwilling to feel anything other than what our knowledge of words and their meanings allows us to feel. ‘A mere verbal understanding of something’, noted J Krishnamurti, ‘is no understanding at all.’
Instead of communicating that which our senses perceive and feel, we’ve used language to educate our senses. We try to fashion our senses by overstating or embellishing what we truly feel. Without knowledge, without the means to name and identify, we seem to be diminished in our eloquence and consequently in our ability to impress another with our story. We draw sustenance and nourishment from being acknowledged by others and we’ll end up doing anything for such nourishment- including impressing others with more than what we actually feel.
Riding secure in our knowledge of words and what they generally mean, we may draw great comfort from their common, shared perceptions, but we’re also prone to feel great disappointment when our ‘reality’ does not conform to the general interpretations of it. For example, you may be in a relationship with another, but it may not at all live up to the ‘standards’ of a typical relationship. Your ideas (shaped and structured by language), of love and trust may often create conflicting states in your relationship. If you enter a relationship with ideas of how it should be (being completely blind and disinclined to appreciate how it is), chances are before you know it, conflicts will begin to gnaw your mind.
Words and their community- language- have given us a false sense of knowledge and understanding. For most, knowing the language basically is enough. We don’t acutely feel the need to transcend it, when in fact we must. Language and words after all, are merely symbols of feeling and insight. We’ve grabbed the words and discarded the ability to feel deeply. In watching out for how we feel, in trusting the intelligence of our senses, we summon up and gather all our attention to simply being present to the ‘now’ and watching. It’s in the silent watching and in the vigilant application of our attention, that understanding comes to us. The noise and clamor of ideas is absent and the prison gates of the mind are thrown open, becoming that window of understanding we’re all so graciously and divinely blessed with. Knowing that such a window exists is the first step in throwing your mental space open to a breath of fresh air that can drive out the stale air of recycled knowledge. That window must be a window by which you can wait, watch and listen.