Beyond the suffering mind lies love

In the last post, I quoted the following, “I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments” (From The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer). It can be scary, those empty moments. We can fill the day with all sorts of distractions, but it is often in the empty moments, like after sleeping or on awakening in the middle of the night, or in a walk by oneself, or while waiting, or at countless other moments, when a small voice inside almost like one’s conscience reminds us of that which troubles us. At the moment, for many, it is things around the threat from pandemic illness, but it might be something else. We might, despite all we know and all our best efforts, find ourselves descending into the familiar pit of our suffering. We might scramble to get out, but the sides keep falling in and there we are, stuck with our pain. That can be when one despairs.

These times come to test us. They can keep coming until we find a way to manage them. For some it can offer a way through to greater peace, but for others it just keeps coming. There can be many reasons. It might be our own personal process that we are working through but it might also be circumstances outside of us. In troubled times in the world we may also feel the pain of others and it can seem as if it is our own pain, when in fact we’re taking on others’ suffering. Now can be such a time.

Using awareness of suffering

This is where self awareness is important, to be able to enquire within as to what it’s about, and to be able to discriminate between our own pain and that of others.

I’ve suggested before that these “dark nights of the soul” can be very scary, but they can also be instructive. It can depend whether we are willing to embrace the situation and see it through to the important understanding that it can offer.

It is also be useful to be able to have ways to release ourselves from that which is troubling us, and each might find their own way to learn what the pain is about and how to release ourselves.

Understanding the mind

The Buddha said that Pain is certain. Suffering is optional. Humans suffer, unless or until they gain a mastery over it. Then they can be the observer of pain but not caught up in it. This is where understanding the mind is important.

Left to its own devices, the mind can take us all over the place. It’s very powerful. We can go to the heights of elation and the depths of despair. We can make up all sorts of things, about other people, ourselves, what’s going on. You name it. If we let it.

The mind is very creative. What we we think, we are. What we focus on, we draw to us. It’s the law of attraction, like a magnet. So, if you or I keep focusing on something, it’s more likely to happen. If we let it. Hence we have choice. It’s an option.

Use mindfulness to manage the mind

So, it’s important to stop. Use the skills of mindfulness

  1. So notice what you are paying attention to. Become mindful of it. Notice you are thinking a certain thing. Become aware of it.
  2. Step back from it. Put distance between the thought and you. This is where the will is important.
  3. Notice it, like you are now the observer of it. As we say, witness it. Be the witness of your ego at work, but not caught up in it.

You are not your thoughts. You, and I, are so much more than our thoughts, the “sweaty ego”.

When we step back and witness our thoughts, we have true power.

The other side of fear is love. That’s who we are, in whatever understanding you have of that.

When we step back and become the observer, we let can love in.

This is why these dark nights of the soul are so important, to know the space beyond suffering.

Then rest in the witness. Rest in the awareness that you are love.

Being the watcher of your self

So much of the time, we’re busy, hectic, rushing, no time for anything, madly dashing to get somewhere, moving on to the next thing, busy, busy, busy. So, this time, as you are about to plunge into your next day or moment of busyness, just pause a moment and give yourself, your self, some space.

Just pause, breathe deeply, let go, and be aware. And rest in that awareness a few moments. Take it in, within you.

We’re often so busy that we don’t have the mental space to pause and just be aware of our selves. It’s habitual, this busyness, particularly the mental bit.

It can that when we pause like this, we get to see what’s really going on, including what we’re doing and thinking that isn’t serving us. This is the beauty of self awareness.

One use of meditation is that it can act like a microcosm of our lives. When we meditate, we potentially get to see what we do in life, and see what our minds do. This is one reason why it is such an excellent self-development tool. So, to pause and meditate a bit, you can detach from your busyness and just observe it.

It is said that meditation is what happens when people sit with the intention to meditate. All our ways of being can be present and we can get to see all our patterns. For example we expect meditation to be a certain way and get disappointed when it doesn’t work out that way. A bit like life.

Being the watcher of your mind, as the witness

Most people comment that they keep getting all these thoughts. So, what can you do when you get these thoughts? Well, there is the practice of attending to the breath as a focus, or using a mantra, which is a sacred phrase or vibration. However, another very useful technique is to be the watcher of your thoughts, as the silent witness. You sit and observe your thoughts, in a non-judgemental way. You just notice them, while attending to your breathing. You don’t try to resist the thoughts, or get involved in the thinking, but just notice them. They say that a watched mind becomes still.

The part of us that watches the mind, the self aware part, we call the “witness”.

The witness is not an inner critic, which is another part of the ego. It is a still, silent, mindful, non-judgemental, observing state, an awareness. It has a great inner peace about it.

You just allow yourself to be the witness.

You can apply the technique in the rest of your life. Just notice what you’re doing, being aware of it, rather than let’s say caught up in a pattern that doesn’t serve you. This way you carry your calm state with you as you go about your life. When you find yourself caught up again in mental busyness, remember the witness, breathe and allow yourself to just notice. Witness it