(Part one of a two parter. Part two can be found here.)
I’m reminded of the stone statues of faces on Easter Island – all of them looking rather grim and all of them many, many years old. Can the human heart last so long in such a grim state?
Many years ago, I was a data-entry person at a steel firm in Sheffield. The job was so boring that I regularly used to fall asleep whilst entering this data. Literally. My head would drop and I would be away. I would awake some time later staring at a little pool of drool a few inches away from where my fingers were still resting lightly on the keyboard.
It wasn’t just my lack of interest in the job that sent me drifting away into sleep, it was the fact that scant hours earlier I had been enjoying myself at the local nightclub. And not just that night, but several night per week. In short, I was staying awake as long as I could in order to enjoy myself. I was living the dream. My dream.
Nowadays I do much the same. I try to stay up at night for as long as possible and then go to bed where, after a night’s sleep that always seems to be way too short, I wake up in the early morning hours to grope my way through the darkened house into the kitchen in order to make a nice cup of tea to wake me up.
This may seem like the same behaviour as before, but it’s a little different now. This time around I’m not partying into the early morning hours, I’m working on bettering myself.
I have a lifelong love of learning and I adore newness. Whether it’s facts or techniques it’s all the same to me – I pick them up like shiny pennies from the pavement. And it doesn’t matter which subject comes up – I love them all.
My absolute favourite subject, though, is me. I have never been so fascinated with anything than my own sweet self. I find that there is so very much to learn about the way I am set up inside. My attitudes, perceptions, awareness and the very fact of my consciousness are all of immense interest to me and they earn my scrutiny every single minute of the day.
There’s so very much of me that, sometimes, I get lost in my own immensity. I can often latch onto a single thought and then follow it for leagues across my inner landscape. Behind my eyes flicker images and scenes that enthral me with their complexity and attractiveness. I pass from one idea to the next with bewildering speed until I am as far away from my starting point as my body is away from the far end of the universe.
And then I wake up and find that a small puddle of drool has formed beneath my open mouth. Ah, some things don’t ever change.
Because I know that I have the tendency to follow thoughts into the depths of myself and this turns into physical sleep, I try to take steps to avoid this. No, I don’t take the obvious step of getting to bed earlier; life is much too interesting for that. Instead I try to clear my mind.
When I think about what I just said, I wonder how this would help me to get to know myself better. Why would clearing away the thoughts in my mind enable to to know more about myself. Surely I am my thoughts, right?
Turns out that I’m not. I’m the thinker rather than the thoughts. What I’ve learned is that the more I can go beyond the thoughts that come automatically into my mind on the basis of what I see, hear or remember, the more power I have to generate my own thoughts. And when I do this, I can create wonders.
Imagine that you could decorate the rooms of your home at the click of your fingers. Now realise that your mind is your real home. You have the power to change the wallpaper in your mind as fast as your thoughts can travel from one neuron to another. Bam – your internal walls are fluorescent-green. Wham – they are powder-blue.
And it’s not just the colour scheme that’s under your control, it’s your emotions too. Emotions happen as a result of what you think. Put a kind thought in your mind and you feel happy. Place a cruel thought there and you will feel sad. But here’s the thing: it takes a little practice to get things set up the way you want them to be.
This is why I meditate. This is why I sit and practice clearing my mind. Because, the clearer my mind is, the fewer thoughts I have to compete with when I want to create those of my own choice. And the fewer thoughts I allow to enter my mind randomly and without my choice, the less I get dragged away by them into small pools of drool.
I can get very still inside. I can rest easily there and float serenely in a place that’s beyond worry and apprehension. And I can remain still even when disturbances come knocking. I can do this because I know that any reaction I have to external events is only a thought. It’s just another thought that I can choose to follow, or wave to as it floats past me and away leaving me still still.
But it’s not like being a zombie. There’s emotion and action and living and enjoyment and dancing through the streets of my life, but it’s all set to my own music and according to the script that I have written for myself – one of love, purity, happiness and beauty.
And the more I meditate; the more I go within my mind and practice creating my own, beautiful thought, the better I get at writing my own script and the music to accompany it.
Those stone statues of faces on Easter Island are alive in a way that few realise. They are testament to a life lived away from the distraction of things. They represent the many faces of love. Not love of the things of life, but the love of the beauty of life itself.
Because the thing is – they’re not grim at all, they’re at peace. They have found that the surest way to a long life is to step away from the hurly-burly of everyday living and move to a higher level of existence. They have found that a heart filled, not with love of possessions and things, but with a peaceful coexistence with themselves and the world is the very acme of a contented life.
And that’s what I’m trying to achieve for myself. This lifelong education I’m giving myself is not only about the things I find in books and on the internet, it’s about what I find in the crystal-clear depths of my mind and heart. And it’s not just about the thoughts and feelings I find when I dive within, it’s about what I find when I clear these things away and see what’s behind them. It’s not about the objects on the altar but it’s about the clean, pure lines of the temple when everything has been swept, cleaned and cleared away. It’s about what I discover within myself when my heart is clean. I find love in its purest form. Not a love of doing but a love for being.
(Part one of a two parter. Part two can be found here.)