As another year draws to a close it’s hard not to let the mind and the thoughts turn inwards; to reflect on what the year has brought us and what the future might hold.
So what about your journey? Are you planning to make some New Year’s resolutions? Here are a few tips if you are.
We all know that there’s a difference between the symptom and the cause. That in order to change we need to find the cause not just berate ourselves for the outer form it takes. We might hear people say that they have an ‘addictive personality’, meaning that they become easily attached to things. But we all share in this tendency to a certain extent. If we give up one thing we can often find ourelves replacing it with something else. A classic example is the reformed smoker who straight away starts to put on weight.
So what is it within us that forms these attachments and how we can we change that?
Give yourself some time to silently reflect on this. Get used to going within and observing without judgement what you feel inside. Innate to the sense of personal self is desire, at our very heart. Perhaps to explain this it’s easiest to imagine the centre of the personal self as a gravitational centre – and I don’t want this to sound to negative but, it’s a bit like having a black hole or singularity within our hearts.
It can never be fully satisfied or filled. Our tendencies, habits, pet thoughts, beliefs, the outer forms of our desires all helplessly orbit this gravitational centre. It’s a busy space for most of us and our consciousness focusses through this centre. On the one hand this gives us our sense of separateness, on the other it gives us a distorted view of everything we perceive. (I can remember hating it when anyone made that second point, I was always mildy offended at the notion that I didn’t perceive the world clearly, but please don’t take offence, it only means that you see all the apparent forms around you as separate things, whilst to one with no sense of personal self, all forms are one thing in different guises or modes of expression.)
So here’s my simple suggestion. Whether you think you can meditate or not, set aside some time to tune into how you feel in your heart. Find a quiet place for an hour that you can go and not be disturbed. And don’t disturb yourself, the journey within can throw up some strong emotions that can surprise us at first with their intensity. But be brave and just watch them and carry on. Set your sights on finding and exploring everything you feel within, without judging anything you find.
Now the trick is not to find and uncover the root of all desire and try to get rid of that. You might think tht’s the goal but it’s not, your desire will vanish when your sense of personal self vanishes. Your goal here is to remember the path. The value of this is to become familiar with the route that takes you within and to make this journey often.
You’ll find with practice you can walk this inner path easily and quickly and see your inner landscape in detail each time. What about the weeds that grow in this inner garden? Well the trick to remember is that they, like the gravitational centre of the personal self itself are really nothing. Fuelled only by the energy of our attention, there’s nothing real there – no thing. And these outer desires, well, it’s enough to see them for what they are, to recognise that they’re weeds and won’t bring happiness.
Here’s how it works in practice – I had a friend once who had a daughter, a most precocious child. As she was leaving one day she called her daughter over to put on her coart and shoes. Her daughter complained – she didn’t want to leave, she wouldn’t put on her shoes, she didn’t want her coat! My friend carried on her conversation with me, ignoring the child completely, taking one arm at atime, gently but firmly putting on the coat, then the shoes and then with friendly goodbyes leading the child out. You see the child’s protests were only as real as the attention her mother gave to them, and by ignoring them she knew they would come to nothing. How many of our noisy desires are only as real as this! So don’t shout back at them, don’t stuff them away and don’t give into them. Let them witter on and simply carry on doing what wisdom tells you is right.
You don’t need to go on a campaign to oust them; the energy you put into that will in time fuel their re-growth. Instead, learn to accept, to be at peace and to act wisely. There’s nothing wrong with having that nagging voice that urges us to give in to desire. Wisdom is knowing not to act on that voice. This is the wisdom that brings about change.