How to clear your thought processes, otherwise known as — The Bliss of an Empty Mind
Although it sort of seems like I’m giving away the farm, 99.5% of the work I do as a counsellor is exactly the same. And, this work matches my personal experience as I explore and ‘work on’ myself. I’m about to reveal this secret to you, and the odd part is that I know that
- most of you will agree, and
- most of you will quickly come up with reasons not to change anything, despite your agreement
Rather than jump right in, let me quote a client.
“Some of this is my learning to take a situation and follow it through from start to end (the middle is a muddle in my experience — I can start and see the end, but then something goes on regarding the middle parts.)”
Now, you’ll notice that I did not reveal the issue my client was asking about, and that’s for a good reason—the reason is irrelevant!
For reference, the “beginning” is the issue, and the “end” is the resolution. The middle is where the problem lies. In the middle, the muddle is how much time we waste on our internal dialogs – the bitching, moaning and complaining – what I call The Drama. The middle, while not optional, is certainly not important.
It’s NEVER About What You Think It’s About
Picking up from our last article, let me remind you of a key point. Our cultures and tribes have provided us with a structure through which to view our reality. From a biological perspective, all there is is sensory data. Vibrations of some sort (light, sound, tactile, etc.) ‘hit’ us constantly.
Here’s an illustration from my book, This Endless Moment, p 85–86
This section helps us to see that ‘stuff’ is coming at us all the time, and we are only aware of a fraction of it. In other words, ‘things’ become real only when we notice them.
It’s All a Figment of Your Imagination
We resist the notion that nothing is real until we ‘see’ it. It’s one of those Zen mind games, like, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” I made that one into a tee shirt:
You can buy the tee shirt by clicking on the image!
Or, the ever popular question, “If a man speaks in a forest, and there is no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?” Couldn’t resist…
In Buddhism, there is a differentiation between apparent reality and ultimate reality. It is also framed it as the contrast between the authentic and the actual self. In Buddhist thought, ignorance rather than ‘sin’ (right /wrong, good / bad) is the issue to be dealt with.
Ultimate reality is best described as “is-ness.”
In Taoism, they say, “The way it is, is the way it is.”
The ultimate reality is: while everything exists, it lacks meaning.
Try this: point up. Now, is someone on the other side of the globe pointing the same way? Of course not! There is no “ultimate up”—there is just the direction that is “up” for you.
Apparent reality is “what is,” with your opinions and judgements attached. In other words, the direction that is ‘up’ for you is declared to be the right direction, and everyone else is wrong! Apparent reality is sticky, and it’s where we spend our time when we’re in our heads, judging, plotting, and scheming.
This is the key issue for any personal development schema. When I first became acquainted with ’emptiness,’ it was in the context of Existentialism—the nihilistic “angst,“or fear of death —hooked to the concept of meaninglessness. Later philosophers, like Maturana, suggested “Life is a Purposeless Drift.” Buddhist ‘emptiness’ has nothing to do with any of this.
Zen is about observation of “what is.” Now, the ‘what is’ is the ‘what is’ below your filters and assumptions. In other words, the goal and point of Zen is to watch your mind as it meaning-makes, while not attaching to either the process or your assumptions. In this way, the mind sort of slides to the side, and you peer past the mind-games to the essential ’emptiness’ of everything.
Hey Wayne, Enough With the Philosophy Lesson! Gimme Some Practicalities
Example 1: This past weekend, Darbella and I attended the UpTown Waterloo Jazz Festival. First set was a band, and the first 5 minutes was an improv of a particularly jarring kind. Dar and love this. A 20-something couple sat down near us. After 5 minutes, they marched out. I judged that they hated the music.
Now, here are my judgements.
- One is, we stayed, they left, so I assumed they didn’t like the music.
- Secondly, many would argue that jazz is an acquired taste. Beneath it all, in the ’emptiness,’ jazz is vibration we call music, and it is devoid of any meaning. Whether I ‘like it’ or not is all about me, and has nothing to do with the jazz.
Example 2: Have a look at this picture. Who is this woman? Tell yourself a story, based only upon the picture.
Now, can you fathom that your story has absolutely nothing to do with the woman in the picture? The story you told yourself is totally and completely about you!
Learning to ‘Let it Be’
Back to the client I quoted at the beginning. Here is my edited reply:
Next Article, we’ll look at the four principles for dealing with the issues that arise — Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Identification (R.A.I.N.)