… regardless of how well we plan. Not sure? Well ask yourself this, when was the last time your ‘to do’ list actually got done, exactly when and how you intended when you wrote it. That was on Thursday 12th Never, right?
So why doesn’t life go to plan? To answer properly we need to start somewhere else. We need to look inwards at ourselves and look at how perception works. Perception is our most basic function of mind, it takes raw sense data, sees patterns within that data, and from that creates (in thought) the world we believe we live in.
Perception works for everyday objects and forms but it works in two other ways as well. It can also spot patterns of behaviour or action in another and from that write up a fully developed character, created as ever in thought. Secondly it can note a wider field of actions and events in the moment and from that plus recent memory infer what might happen in the future.
It’s that last aspect of perception we’re interested in. Whilst this is a useful function at times, it’s not a very reliable one. It works well for the next ten seconds or so but after that becomes increasingly unreliable. Not that we ever seem to notice. We’re addicted to it. The fact that things never turn out quite as we imagine, partly because when the future becomes the present, we’re not the same as we were when we thought about it, doesn’t deter us in the least. We’re victim to endlessly cycling future thoughts ranging from the monotonously dull to the freakishly outlandish, as all the while the present unfolds, all but unnoticed.
Perhaps it’s just too hard for us to grasp that the future is simply a thought; that the present moment is the endless, changing now; that there is no time, only change. Why can’t we see the mechanics of seeing? Why don’t we turn attention to the processes and nature of perception, of mind, of our conceptions and connections? Perhaps on some deeper level we’re afraid that we’ll discover there is no genie in the bottle. We’ll finally realise the awful, scary truth that there is no pilot, no controller, no self; just constantly evolving processes and patterns through which the principle of awareness arises and flows, as it does in varying degrees through all that arises.
So why do some apparently awakened or enlightened beings have such an aura of calm and certainty? Because there is absolute certainty. This moment is exactly this way. It is certain. The next moment is an illusion in thought which they no longer seriously indulge. The past is an illusion in memory which has surprising limited value. This is just this. Absolutely, certainly, this. Freeing isn’t it?
It’s not like it’s a big secret. Scour the pages and writings of any awakened being and you’ll find this one existential truth on almost every page, said in every conceivable way. Most people simply fail to notice it because they’re looking for something else. They’re seeking ‘Truth’. But what is truth? If it isn’t this, right here, right now, then what is it? Which part of the universe is not right here in this moment? So what is there to find?
There’s nothing to seek, nothing to know. And the answer is this: simply be, present and aware in this moment, without an agenda, a plan or a mission, just be this as it is right now. In the universal solvent of absolute presence the sense of self is absent. Through attaining mindful or aware presence, awareness blossoms in the moment and reaches fruition. At some point the illusion of self-view, the ‘I’ thought, the tag of ‘me’ is dispelled. We don’t do this consciously or by seeking it, it’s a corollary of seeing how it is, of being present with just this.
No guide is a teacher, there’s nothing to teach. How can you teach Now? But if there was one lesson I wish I could impart, it’s the realisation that thought is simply a commentary, never the truth. We have no re-hab clinics for those addicted to thought even though the suffering it causes is all around for us to see. Perhaps in the future we will, and the Nowists of our era will be viewed as early pioneers in the science of the real, talking about awakening to a bunch of sleep walkers addicted to living in their heads. Who knows?
Rehab or retreat, thoughts rumble on.
Thoughts do rumble on, but they’re just another activity happening against a backdrop of peace. It’s a bit like this: when we’re in a room, most of that room is space. But we don’t pay attention to the space, we only see the objects in the room. Most of the room is space but we don’t see it. Thoughts arise and pass away against a backdrop of stillness, but until we value the stillness more than the thoughts, it’s rarely noticed. But the peace, the stillness is always there. It’s the backdrop, and we’ve never lost it, we just forget how to notice it. We forget we are it.