Our level of thinking is directly related to our authentic self. The more we think, the less authentic we are and the less thinking, the more authentic we become. It’s a conundrum. How do we lessen our thoughts without overthinking it? Some people are masters at switching off and allowing their flow of thoughts to gently drip at a slower pace. Others find that the more they try to turn off the thinking tap, the more gushing and muddied the waters become. Meditation is generally cited as the best approach to quietening the mind. However, it is not a quiet hat to pull over your thinking cap to silence all your thoughts. It takes continuity of practice.
The road to authenticity begins at the point when we can no longer live with our conditioned self, the self bound by tradition, beliefs and expectation. We may come to this point through a personal crisis, or perhaps we might come in contact with an authentic person who ignites the flame of the authentic self within us. In my case, it was a combination of both. If we do not undertake this journey, we will continue to struggle and blame others for our shortcomings and frustrations. Worse still, we will project our dissatisfied self onto the people around us. Life is a mirror, it will reflect and attract the many facets of our character. Everyone is living a life created by their thoughts and these thoughts are generally caused by early conditioning, limited beliefs and expected achievements.
We must allow the emergence of our authentic self, we must encourage it, water it with conscious exercises such as breathing. Read the words of spiritual masters. Practice mindfulness, not only through meditation but in mundane tasks also. Become present to whatever it is you are doing in this moment. Otherwise, we will become misanthropes, at odds with ourselves and our fellow man because we cannot bear to see our limitations reflected to us through their thoughts, words and actions. Every political leader, celebrity or friend will become a mirror which we will want to crack from top to bottom because of the feeling it evokes in us.
Authenticity is a kind of inner rebellion. The true self struggles to outgrow the tight bud of ego, and to bloom in all its glory. After all, it is a seed of the cosmos. No less a star than those spilling forth from any cosmic nebula, straining to make their mark in the galaxy. We are star seeds, planted by the governing principle of the cosmos. To bloom, we must allow our conditioned self to wither, and watch as our authentic self flowers and brightens up our corner of the universe.
There is an allure in dreaming of personal glory, to believe that perfection exists in some distant landscape known only to our future self. Whether it be a perfect job, relationship or a house on acres of grounds, the dream sustains us in the unfulfilled present. Our brains are wired toward future fortunes. It is a struggle to keep retraining our mind to observe the present, for the timeless present is the seed of what we have yet to become.
Then there is nostalgia; the desire for what might have been, regret over missed opportunities and a wistful feeling that your best days have are gone, only to be relived in the songs that form the soundtrack of your glory years. The present is seen as a place that pulls you away from youthful possibilities, forcing you to take responsibility for your circumstances. It is a karmic landscape from which there is no escape – except to an impossible future. It is impossible only because it is based on denial and non acceptance of the present moment. The present moment is the culmination of your life history to date. It is the account of all your thoughts, words and actions.The karmic law is simple – you reap what you sow.
The shades of the past set the tone for our future. The darker the shade, the deeper our dissatisfaction with the world. These shades on our soul consciousness create a painful present, therefore we seek to escape to the more colourful future where we are happy and content. But as days, months and years advance, the sun still sets on the same dull landscape.
Nothing changes unless we see to it. Wishing, hoping or dreaming does not create the foundations for reality. Reality is based on our thoughts, words and actions. These three building blocks are held in place by emotions. Feelings are the mortar that keeps us caught in the rigid structure of our conditioned lives. Feelings frozen in time set hard, trapping a portion of our consciousness with them. Our soul consciousness, which in its natural state is expansive and fluid, sets like a sculpture to represent our painful experience, a memorial to every cut and wound, every heartache and every unshed tear. But we cannot remain in a mausoleum to the past, we must keep moving forward. To do this, we have to break every frozen statue to release the essence of soul consciousness trapped inside. Feelings set in stone must be melted down for our real journey through life as a whole integrated being to continue.
The feelings that sting most are those that remain longest in the psyche, every other cut bleeds from this wound. It is these emotions that pull us back, time after time in various ways, to relive our unresolved pain. We are conditioned to quell the uprising of emotions and hold fast to reason and logic. However, reason and logic can only be built on a foundation of clear expression, a direct link to the present moment. By releasing historic emotions in the current of now, the long shadow cast over our future can be lifted and we can live a fulfilled life here and now. To quote Joseph Campbell ‘We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us’.
I recall events from my twenties, with a kind of abstract vision, as if the memories were somehow implanted in my brain without emotion. It seems like the decade of my twenties came and went with a numb participation. I began the decade working in central London, and the party lifestyle that goes along with been a young twenty-year old with disposable income. By the time I reached thirty, I was restless, bored, unhappy and looking at a way out of my marriage of three years. The intervening years were a fog, it was like an unknown tenant took over my mind and I fell into a coma. My thirties and forties were all about evicting that tenant.
I was thirty-three when I had my first real break through moment. I was travelling for work when I pulled over by the river to eat my lunch. I was reading a passage from a book a friend gave me after my divorce, a spiritual book which at the time, passed over my head. I sat looking absently at the water when I felt my chest open, my heart seemed to be expanding. At first, I was frightened, thinking it was cardiac arrest. I pulled my mobile phone out of my bag but there was no signal. I heard ‘Just Breathe’. Where did that come from I wondered? I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable heart attack and I heard it again ‘Just breathe’. And so, I focused on breathing, in and out, in and out, rapidly at first, then I fell into a slow pattern of breathing and I relaxed. My mind fell completely silent for the first time ever and something wholly pure and still emerged from that silence; it was the ‘I’ that had been asleep for all those years, while the tenant wrecked the joint, leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake.
The doctor checked me over and told me I had a panic-attack. He recommended I see a counsellor to unravel the past. The tenant moved back in and said ‘no way’ and off ‘I’ fell asleep again… but not for long. I realised I had to face the mess made by the tenant, after all I opened the door of my house (mind) when she knocked with a suitcase full of my karma. She was going nowhere until the suitcase was unpacked. For much of my thirties, I lived with the tenant (ego), only now I was aware of her. I knew there was no getting rid of her until I unpacked my karma. That, as they say, is easier said than done. I tried to avoid particularly painful memories stored in the karmic suitcase, which had the effect of giving the tenant the upper hand. The old ‘me’ would return with gusto feeding off the karmic resistance and so, I had a parallel existence, one of meditation, healing and reading spiritual and self-books, while the other one fed off her friends’ dramas, work dramas and taking no responsibility for any wrong-doing. My house (mind) was full of clutter moved from one pile to another pile awaiting a proper clear-out.
About five years after my initial awakening by the river, I had another breakthrough. After a brief relationship, I noticed that the mental turmoil was more acute that the emotional fallout. I realised I hadn’t cried over a relationship, or any other ending for several years. Instead of crying, my mind went into overdrive with nonsensical thoughts, obsessing over trivial matters. As I lay in bed at 3 am with no sign of sleep, I began to rant at the universe, or whoever was ‘out there’. Having nothing to lose, I figured if it worked for Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) it might work for me. Once again, my chest started to expand, only this time I wasn’t afraid, I recognised the sensation. My heart was releasing pure emotion, that is, feeling that was not attached to thought, just pure sensation. Afterwards, I fell into a deep sleep and had one of those dreams where you are soaring above the earth. It was an incredible feeling of freedom until just before waking, I landed knee deep in cow dung outside the cowshed on the farm where I grew up. A clear message from the universe where to clean-up first.
I realised that Neale Donald Walsch was on to something, and so I began journaling, a journey into my subconscious, writing down my frustrations, fears and anxieties as a way to unravel the unfelt emotions within me. For the next couple of years, I went through half a dozen A4 pads and countless boxes of tissues as I wrote, and felt, my way out of the past. I unpacked my karma item by item, sometimes it was too much and I had to wait until I felt stronger to face it. Little by little, I unravelled the secret of karma, the universal Law of Cause and Effect. By feeling the effect of my past actions (Cause) I was able to regain consciousness, to see, hear, feel the world around me with new clarity. It wasn’t easy, there were many painful endings as I had to let go of relationships and friendships made by the tenant, and leave a job that made me unhappy to face an uncertain future.
If I were to give any advice to my younger self, I would tell her to take responsibility for her actions, to honour her emotions, that the brave thing is to cry, and to be kind to others. I would tell her selfishness is a poison, as is jealousy and gossip. I hope she’d listen, more importantly I’d hope she’d act and steer her course towards empathy and compassion. But alas, I can’t go back, but if my twenties thought me anything, it is this; you can’t live your life without consequence, if you ignore the cause of your actions on yourself and others, your ability to express emotion and think clearly becomes impaired, leaving you continually anxious and devoid of empathy. This is karma. You will find a stranger in the mirror, someone who replaces your true self. This tenant remains until every last impact of karma is felt, until humility replaces arrogance and joy replaces guilt.
It’s a work in progress, but I am the sole occupier of my mind, and one day when this body becomes ash, I will take to the sky and tell a broken, lonely soul sitting in a car by the river, or standing on the ledge of the abyss, to ‘Just Breathe’.