I have recently gotten some questions that inform me it is time to remind people of some key things. Let’s start with what mindfulness is, and why would it help someone.
We see hints in the fact that the people doing yoga are spending so much time in each pose. And like them, why do people describe jogging as being something that ‘clears their mind?’ Why can going to the gym be like meditating? What is meditating?
These are all fair and excellent questions. And when faced with deep philosophical questions, it will be the five year old that will often think to ask the super-simple questions that Zen monks ask as well.
That fact was helpful to me when I woke up 50 years ago to a nurse who asked me where people were when they were dead. Her question lead to two important realizations that shaped the rest of my life.
First off, if I really had been dead, then life must be potentially very temporary. It meant that all of the living done by all of the older staff at the hospital might not be available to me.
The impact of that was that I immediately realized that reality demanded that I spend my life-time well. We all know how valuable something is after we almost lose it. A lot of recovered cancer patients know this feeling well.
Secondly, I quickly realized that it is possible to be alive but unconscious, so the important part about life wasn’t just the biological part. Coma patients have that. That had no value unless we are engaged in the act of consciously having experiences.
That meant that consciousness is much like a teapot, and ‘we’ are the tea we make with our thoughts, both the ones we like and the ones we don’t.
It is those tea-bags of thought, placed into our consciousness and brains, that we experience as our feelings about life. This means that every life includes many possibilities, with ours being created by the choices we make within our consciousness.
This is a very understandable intellectual idea that does clearly express how straightforward our mental health can be. At the same time, I cannot stress enough, that these facts are not translatable from the wrong state of mind.
Even I can’t access this wisdom if I am in a state of ego. My big advantage is ego and not-ego feel extremely distinct to me. It’s like light and dark. I would never teach from the dark. I can’t. My state of mind is critical to me giving the right answers to the often very difficult questions I’m asked.
This is equally true for anyone working in mental health, or even just a friend. Anyone can help if that help comes from this very specific state of mind. But all the university degrees or mindfulness training in the world won’t help if we’re not in that state of mind, and it is an extremely rare thing for people to live this way.
I have a lot of readers and clients from the religious clergy, and mental health field, including counsellors, therapists and psychologists. If even the best of them read these blogs or parroted these ideas it would not help any religious person or patient of theirs any more than a degree in psychology can help if we can’t figure out how to apply the knowledge.
It only takes me a short time to convey the facts about the operation of our brain or the use of our consciousness. But the training process itself cannot happen unless the trainer is actually in the appropriate state of mind.
I don’t really know how to describe the strange simplicity that arises when we shift our consciousness in this way. It’s like everything humans do becomes a set of universal vectors that seem immensely understandable and far less intimidating.
I’ve noted it before –remember that scene in The Matrix where Neo suddenly sees the agents for what they are? Where he sees them as simply computer code –figments of the Matrix itself? That’s the closest analogy I can draw. It’s like everything slows down and things take on an innocent, neutral, changeable quality.
Emotional experiences feel less like ‘me’ having a ‘feeling’ and more like ‘currents’ or ‘directions of flow,’ through a larger shared reality. It makes very simple things beautiful. But it requires a special kind of presence we all knew as children, but that adults find very difficult to achieve.
When I am working with a client, the reason we need time for the process to unfold is that each time I meet with them, I am assessing how clearly they are ‘seeing’ reality. I then look for the flaw in their ‘vision’ of what they are doing. And then, from this particular headspace, I can instantly customize some personalized exercise that will expose the flaw and clear that portion of their vision.
If people agree to engage earnestly with it, it will work for virtually any non-physical emotional issue because this is fundamentally what is to be a conscious human being. This is the same tool we are using to hurt ourselves, we just learn to turn it around the other way.
In the end, all of the psychology, neurology, biology, religious knowledge, or even these very lessons about mindfulness, are all simply vocabularies or directions of approach. What matters most is our State of Mind.
Once I get a student firmly into this state of mind, they no longer need me or anyone else. Unlike doctors or therapists that can see people for years, that makes little sense from this perspective. Once you know, you know. Like me, people can temporarily slip into ego, but by then they know how to get out.
If I’ve done my job, students won’t need me anymore. The only people I see again are people who want to philosophically dive even deeper into that mystery, which I enjoy tremendously. But they aren’t coming as struggling people, they are coming to have more fun.
So please remember this as you read this: these are all good and valid ideas. But an intellectual knowledge of these ideas will never be any more helpful than a psychology degree or a religious authority, without the ability to see reality for what it truly is. So don’t just read the words. Really focus on turning them into verbs in your life.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.
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