• April 20, 2017

    My issue in this work is that my thinking takes over and dominates. Not thinking that has any real purpose or value but just endless chatter. It’s like a voice in my head that never stops. I don’t even know what it’s saying most of the time.

    This is the basic challenge in any spiritual training. Our head brain has become the ‘thinking’ center. We identify with the little voice in our head, allowing it to assume the role of ‘I’ when it is far too small to carry such a burden and responsibility. Isolated from sensation and feeling, operating on low-wattage mechanical energy, this I rattles on associatively, one thought triggering another. Its compulsive quality comes from its isolation from the wider range of possible experience.

    The first step in dealing with this phenomenon is to bring it to the surface. It is not random. The constant commentary has some thematic continuity…perhaps self-judgment, criticism of others, physical or emotional discomfort and so on. If we catch glimpses of our mental content over time, we should not be surprised to find that it actually forms repeating loops.

    Can you capture enough of what this voice says to enable you to write it down? Putting the ‘vocalizations’ in front of you and making them visual objectifies them, allowing you to break your identification with the voice. The voice has more power to continue if it is hidden in the background. Can you expose it?

    In addition to the content, note the mood. There are likely to be several repeating loops…more than one voice… each depending on a particular mood. The loop and the mood reinforce each other. These loops may even include snatches of music…a specific song that we habitually associate with the mood and the thought-loop.

    What do you mean by mood?

    A mood is an ongoing, sustained sensation/emotion…anxiety, guilt, self-pity, anger…that has been repressed and therefore does not fully discharge. A mood is sustained by circular thinking and posture. Posture is important because it locks breathing into a particular pattern. As we have discussed before, breathing has an enormous impact on emotion and thought. So, what we have is a tightly wound self-perpetuating pattern of thinking, sensing, posture and breath which is difficult to unravel. We cannot simply decide to change our thinking because it is tied in to other factors which also need to shift. To put it simply, our thinking cannot change our thinking.

    You have talked about the importance of the rhythm of breath.

    Yes, but there are many different settings of the breath. It is not simply a right way or a wrong way of breathing. The rhythm of breath should be free to adapt to our engagements. When it cannot shift because of a locked posture and mood, you can impose an artificial rhythm temporarily until the lock is broken. Then allow the breath to assume the pattern that is needed to respond to the needs of the moment. This is one way of dealing with ceaseless head brain chatter. One method would be to breathe in to a count of four, hold to a count of four and breathe out to the same count. Do this four times. Counting is a deliberate redirection of attention. This may free the breath and that will help to break a fixated mood. Singing and chanting are also effective.

    Voluntarily attending to sensations is another way of breaking the chain of circular head brain thinking. Attention is a major power source for thinking, sensing and feeling. Involuntary attention is dragged into sustaining mood and associative thinking. Voluntarizing attention and attaching it to sensation, at least temporarily, can pull the power cord on head brain thinking.

    You can also change your posture in order to unlock and relax head brain thinking. Walking, dancing, tai chi, yoga and other such activities can help to free up fixated thinking by breaking locked postures and shifting the rhythm of the breath.

    These suggestions are mostly what I would call antidotes. They are effective but they operate at the same level as the difficulties they address. They are not transformative. At another time, we can inquire into homeopathic remedies which rely on the law of similar to shift fixations.

    There is another path that may enable you to gain control of thinking. This is the path that leads to the place of no thought. Where is this place to be found? Where attention attends to itself, presence cognizes its own presentness, seeing perceives that it sees and emptiness realizes its innate clarity. Capacity transcends content. We will explore this path at another time.

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  • October 16, 2015

    So you are really proposing a kind of hierarchy of possible states, from sleep to presence to awakening.

    Yes. Actually, it starts with voluntary attention, which establishes a separation in sleep between the machine and something not of the machine. This separation is very important. Voluntary attention, which we might call mindfulness, already introduces a restless quality to the sleep state. The machine still operates on automatic but it is observed.

    If the attention is impartial, meaning not directed by the head brain, that is another step, which is only a hair’s breadth from presence, the source of voluntary, impartial attention. Presence completes the process of dis-identification with something added…a sense of existing as something unidentifiable, ineffable, unboundaried, another kind of ‘I’.

    In presence, movement into voluntary states of invocation becomes possible, but these states are easily interrupted by the momentum of sleep in the machine. Nonetheless, these transitory engagements weaken the conditioning of the machine over time.

    Finally, we come to the awakened state. The machine is sufficiently energized by voluntary efforts of attention and presence that the heart awakens, providing the additional energy and assistance required to unite all the provinces of human nature into one kingdom, subject to one ‘I’. The awakened human is now a human being, occupying its intended place at the nexus between higher and lower, where matter becomes spirit and spirit becomes matter. This is where the Work begins.

    Now, I have made this seem a logical progression because our simple minds like to operate in this way. But the relationship between these states is often non-sequential and may involve help from unusual sources. The steps are a dance which covers the same ground in many different ways. Do not assume you can accomplish this path through your own efforts. Great humility is required. You will likely need a motive outside of your own enhancement.

    Perhaps I will regret this simplification which could encourage you to look ahead and fantasize about your status. However, Vajrayana teachers I have known occasionally introduced their students to the ‘view’ as they called it, and they did not seem to regret it.
    To Be Continued…

    Related Posts:

    Awake (2) – Oct 10, 2015

    Awake – Oct 7, 2015

    Illusion of ‘I’ – Sept 19, 2015

    Invocation – June 10, 2015

    Mastery (1) – May 15, 2015

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  • October 7, 2015

    How do I know when I am present?

    You don’t. Presence does. The ‘I’ that asks this question is not operational when presence is present in the present. In a state of presence, the thought of being present may or may not arise but it is always well after the fact of presence cognizing itself. This cognition is immediate, not only in the sense of having no passage of time but also in the sense of not being mediated. There is nothing between presence and itself, no other entity to see or comment on the presence of presence other than presence itself.  It is perfectly ontological…self-arising as the Karmapa would say.

    Then how can I remain present?

    You cannot. But presence may continue to be present once it has learned to recognize the process by which it becomes identified with the machine and falls out of the present and into sleep. Let us be clear. Presence is a state of dis-identification which frees attention from the domination of the head brain. But what we call the machine…the physical apparatus and ordinary mind…likely continues to harbor the momentum of sleep…the tendency to react in habitual ways to external stimuli. The sleep state is always just a hair’s-breadth away. The process of re-identification is fast, but observable in a state of presence. Presence can remain in the present by seeing and interrupting the process of identifying.

    Also, consider why you wish to be present all the time. Is it some sort of warped ambition from one of your identities? What is important is that presence is called to be present when its presence is required, when there is work to be done. Attention can be at work more continuously, but presence not so much.

    A gentle snooze, easily aroused, may actually be suitable for family visits or reunions with old school chums who are more comfortable with your customary reactive self. Of course, if you can voluntarize your sleep state on these occasions, you go to the head of the class.
    To Be Continued…

    Related Posts:

    Invocation of Presence – Aug 10, 2015

    Being Present – May 28, 2015

    Self-Remembering – Feb 24, 2015

    From Touchstones:

    Things To Do


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