Retraining the Mind

I know that I am awareness.

And yet, I’m not okay. That is what I think. I think I’m not okay because I’m anxious. I think I’m not okay because I’m depressed. I think I’m not okay because I’ve been devoting myself to spiritual practice for many years and even decades, and there is no end to the “not okayness” of me. What is wrong?

What is wrong is that I am allowing my mind to be lazy. I am allowing my mind to revert back to its ingrained patterns of thinking, which tell me that the world is real and I am a person interacting with that world.

Is that true?

No. I know from my Vedanta study that it is indeed not true. I know that the world is not real, but only appears. I know that I am not this small one with a sense of doom crushing in around her.

What do I know? I know that I am that pure, limitless consciousness in which this world and this mind and body are known. I know I am the light by which all emotional states appear. As this pure consciousness, there is no interaction, no overlap, no transaction at all with the unreal world that appears. It is free to appear, and I am untouched by it. I am the One Self, already free.

But the ignorance is aggressive, it is dynamic. It will relentlessly hijack the thoughts and return them again and again to repetitively telling me that I am small, I am alone, all these objects in the world are real, and they are against me.

This will happen even after the knowledge “I am awareness” is firm!

So it seems that, although the knowledge “I am awareness” takes care of everything, something else needs to be done by the apparent person – the mind needs to be retrained to return to the Self.

I will include here some excerpted transcription of
James Swartz from a 2011 Atma Darshan:

“Expecting the world to be real is a habit.

“No experience is going to change your thinking patterns. (James is referring here to the samadhis and epiphanies that seem they will change our thinking forever – clearly he is saying that they don’t.)

“You have to pull back and get your thinking going in the right direction again. Otherwise the mind just keeps thinking the old stuff!

“So I’ve got to monitor my thinking, that’s the point.

“You’ve been taught to think properly. How? Scripture! It encompasses the apparent contradiction between your limited nature and your unlimited nature. But that’s not easy. It takes a long time to get your understanding purified. Once that happens then you can apply that understanding on a moment to moment basis.

“Ignorance is dynamic. It’s persistent. It’s very intelligent. It’s hard-wired. It’s not gonna let up. So the greatest qualification is determination. You need continuous devotion. Total determination and patience. It’s an uphill battle. The doer is taken to be real.

“Mind goes out to objects. Mind has to be arrested and turned back to here, to the Self. Not to the objects.

“That takes a tremendous amount of persistence, because all the thoughts keep running out to objects. They’re not rushing back to the Self.

“It’s a long hard slog.

“[Eventually] The thought patterns change. Once that gets going, then it’s easy. But you’ve got to work at it.

“Reconditioning myself. Reading scripture. Slowly I could see the mind coming around. I could see little by little the thought patterns changing. Once that’s there, it’s a straight shot. But to get it going you have to work at it.”

I’m including all this because it’s not talked about much.
Christian Leeby addresses the issue of mind training really beautifully, but James doesn’t address it all that much. And it seems by what James says here that training your thoughts to stop going out to objects is a key factor, even after the knowledge is in place. We want the mind to turn to the Self, but it will not do that on its own. It will not do that just because you have the intellectual understanding that you are awareness.

So take your quest for knowledge, at whatever stage of that you are currently, and then add to that an intentional practice of re-training your mind.

Christian Leeby offers some good techniques for this.

I promise this will be very helpful to you.

When is the Search Over?

When do we stop searching? When is it over? Is there some definitive sign? Is there some kind of dramatic shift or change in perception to let us know? Is there a subtle but unmistakable “click,” as we sometimes read about? It’s certainly an appealing notion, and it keeps us striving for that finality, but I don’t think it holds water, and does us harm in the end.

Is there a final door through which we walk, which when we turn around to see where we came from, we see that there was never a door to begin with? In my experience, there were dozens of those doors. Every door felt like the final door, but there was always another door. Why? Because it is the nature of the mind to look for doors, to look for mysteries and try to solve them.

When does it end? I found that it ended when I stopped looking for doors. Of course, this took a lot of preparation, but I believe that if you are reading this website, you yourself have already had years, perhaps decades, of preparation. It may be that for you, the only thing standing between you and the end of seeking is simply not knowing you can stop.

The act of stopping is an important one. Stopping is letting go of resistance to what is, right now. Resistance is painful, and yet we hang on to it, in the belief that there is more, there is better – some final, perfect, permanent knowledge or state, and we will find it, if only we keep looking. And we feel we are close – oh so close!

But “close” is the epitome of the pain of separation. Just out of my reach. “Close” says “I am not that.”

It’s important to stop feeding this painful misconception. Stopping is an act of faith. It’s stepping off the edge of the cliff, and seeing if our wings will carry us. It may be that this is not even a choice that we make ourselves. We might get pushed.

It’s funny that when we jump off this cliff, we’re actually jumping back into the world. What we are is evidenced here in the world. The holy Presence that is our true nature is here, in the infinite variety of expression, and we are privileged to enjoy the fullness of this expression in every moment. It is in this fullness that our true nature is known, when the resistance to it is abandoned. Our wings are fully extended, are proving themselves to be strong and trustworthy, and are carrying us to new heights indeed.

There is an irony to this, and a sense of coming full circle – what we wanted so badly to transcend in the first place becomes the heaven we were looking for all along.