Hide and Seek: The Power of Awareness
The greatest practices, the highest techniques, the most significant austerities are to calm the mind. Why is peace of mind critical? When we find peace of mind, we become open to stillness. In stillness the true Self is revealed.
In the absence of awareness of our essential nature, our perception of reality becomes skewed, and our understanding becomes limited. Consequently, our lives disconnect from the wellspring of intelligence and power – akin to a wave severed from the stability of the vast ocean. When this happens, the mind searches for stability, for surety, for grounding. It grasps for satisfaction through the creation of endless desires in the only place it is trained to look – the world. It is all too easy to be swayed by limitless distractions. From this vantage point, we often find ourselves clutching at what we desire and repelling what we abhor. The discord between grasping aspiration and disappointment with reality can lead to agitation, leaving our minds in a state of perpetual resistance and unrest, much like a restless monkey.
An ever-active mind is the result of the constant search for satisfaction. While we spend all of our time seeking permanent satisfaction in the outer world, we are searching in a place where it doesn’t exist. Our mind will never rest and will always go from one place to another endlessly, until it finds that perfect, lasting contentment.
A monkey mind isn’t pacified on the level of thinking or intellect. Learning about and fighting the darkness will not create light. We can’t find mental peace by thinking, “Be quiet.” The mind finds peace, tranquility and repose when the fluctuations of the mind have been stilled, only when the mind finds its satisfaction.
Creating the Monkey:
Consciousness innately possesses creative power. An impulse of the creative intelligence of consciousness manifests as thoughts. However, when thoughts populate the mind, they veil the source of those very thoughts, much like waves obscuring the serene ocean beneath. When powerful or excessive thoughts emerge, they hide our pure consciousness, shrouding our genuine Selves – pure awareness.
In our natural state of unity, we perceive ourselves as pure awareness, effortlessly observing, witnessing our waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states. As creative intelligence manifests into letters, words, and thoughts, distinctions between object and subject arise. ‘Otherness’ infiltrates our perception, ushering in duality that births core fear. We forget who we are. Estranged from our authentic nature and perceiving differentiation, we succumb to bondage, erroneously identifying with our physical bodies and thoughts. Consequently, we engage in both virtuous and dissonant actions, becoming entrapped by the consequences of our deeds. We lose our peace.
We assume that external elements can ignite happiness within us. We tether our happiness to specific outcomes, clinging to expectations. Such protective and grasping tendencies set our minds into overdrive, fervently seeking solace. The consequence is a ceaseless stream of desires, all fastened to particular outcomes. We blur the line between pleasure and happiness, approval and love, inclusion and sufficiency, possession and fulfillment. Our minds crave outcomes and feverishly attempt to rectify our conditions and circumstances. The mind becomes chaotic chasing endless desires. We try to fix the thing outside hoping for relief inside.
One might expect that thoughts stemming from pure creative intelligence would inherently be life-supporting, loving, and virtuous. After all, creative intelligence equates to consciousness. Yet, the pulsations of pure consciousness filter through the myriad impressions ingrained within our subtle nervous system, the memories and energies of our past thoughts, words, and deeds. The creative impulses move through a mind consumed with ego, fear and grasping. The general environment of our mind influences every impulse of creative intelligence that issues forth. Thus, a thought born as pure vibration becomes influenced by the multitude of pre-existing inner conditions, some dissonant, some resonant. Our inner state, often rooted in resistance, molds our thoughts.
Calming the Monkey:
Thoughts flow incessantly, serving as a natural necessity for our existence. Some thoughts guide us toward greater awareness, intelligence, and power, while others lead us in the opposite direction. We can either employ thoughts to breed countless more thoughts, stories, and fantasies or employ them to attain a thought-free state. Absent direction and control, the mind perpetually spawns grasping thoughts. Properly guided and kept under control, the mind can be cultivated to create thoughts only when necessary, maintaining stillness and silence when thoughts are not required. Understanding the roots of our monkey mind provides us with a path, yet the ultimate resolution lies in cultivating a new inner experience – one marked by heightened realization, peace and an alleviation of resistance.
Achieving peace of mind involves four fundamental measures, but they can all be encapsulated in a single, deceptively simple phrase:
“Make peace of mind our constant measure.”
While this concept may appear straightforward, its execution is far from easy. It usually will not involve the extreme moral dilemmas of murder or bank robbery but rather everyday situations that challenge us in subtle ways.
To make peace of mind a constant measure, it demands unwavering dedication from us. We must carry this imperative with us 24 hours a day, as it continuously tests our choices and actions. Throughout our daily lives, countless questions will arise, each presenting an opportunity to put this principle into practice. Should I watch that violent movie? Is it better to speak a harsh truth or remain silent? Should I engage in that intimate relationship? How should I react when someone cuts me off in traffic? What’s the best approach to dealing with my child’s defiance? Will I choose to meditate or indulge in a few drinks after work? Do I find myself overly attached to faster service at the coffee shop and prone to complain? Will I gossip about my colleagues?
In each of these scenarios, the answer is engrained in the question: “Does this decision contribute to my peace of mind?” By consistently asking ourselves this question, we pave the path towards lasting tranquility and mindfulness in our daily lives.
The extended version of the core question translates into the four fundamental principles for calming the restless “monkey mind.”
Discipline: Embrace the equilibrium of the middle path, fostering mindful behavior and leading a life of simplicity.
Compassion: Shift the focus from self to others. Nurture kindness. Live with a generous heart.
Meditation: Concentrate on the highest. Nurture virtues. Engage in regular meditation practices.
Equanimity: Develop the capacity for acceptance and letting go, empowering ourselves to act purposefully without attachment to the outcomes of our actions.