Our world is interesting and exciting in many ways, but it is also very distracting and confusing. How can we cultivate and keep a mind that knows simplicity, a mind that can be calm and peaceful in the midst of everything?
We like it if interesting things are going on. We like it if work and life are not boring. We like surprises, spontaneous trips, and beautiful movies. But we also long for peace and simplicity. Many of us experience this strange conflict of being overwhelmed by longing for activity and peace at the same time. Fundamentally, we want so many things and yet actually, we can only do one thing at a time. The acronym FOMO, the fear of missing out, is relevant here.
Often below the layer of interest we have a slightly hidden layer of not liking something, maybe even a kind of gray feeling, a pool of worries, or worse. Our craving for fun can be some kind of attempt to not be with what is right here. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but, although fun often helps in the moment, it doesn’t necessarily help in the long run. We might develop some avoidance patterns, especially the ability to split and escape. Our minds are very powerful. We can diffract ourselves into many sides, some hiding from others. But all of these opposing energies keep a tension in the mind that might especially show up as disturbing when we want to connect, relax, and enjoy.
So how can we find clarity and make good choices in this context?
Rather than follow the interest in activity, we can consciously turn towards the longing for peace and the freedom to just be. But the adventure is just beginning then. If we find an opportunity to experience peace and freedom we might notice that we just can’t. It’s nearly like we are procrastinating. There is some busyness inside and it can seem very difficult to just have a simple mind about it. We want freedom but we are procrastinating before we welcome it. It seems somewhere close but there in the foreground of our mind is something to do, and we sense the next things waiting in the wings and so we procrastinate. And simple being eludes us. Years, even decades can fly by and nothing changes.
However, if we just stop wherever we are, we notice a space in which everything is happening: Thoughts and emotions changing constantly, stories being created and moving into the background. For a moment it might even seem very interesting but then … nothing is happening, and this might become terribly boring or even frightening for some reason that’s hard to pinpoint. And so awareness jumps and fogginess veils what we can see with our mind’s eye. Later we might enjoy the moment we come home from work or the Sunday morning when nothing needs to be done, and suddenly that moment is interesting and fresh and not boring at all … but those times pass very quickly. Later in the evening even though we are exhausted, we might find ourselves staying busy, busy, busy, just so that we don’t fall into the scary void of natural openness, the completely familiar place in which it’s strangely not easy to be.
How can we learn to just remain open and clear in these gaps in our life? Do we want to?
Maybe we’re not sure yet if we want to let our mind be simple. But if we want to experiment, we can learn to just notice. We can notice where and how we are standing, sitting, walking, breathing, touching the ground. We can notice what we are thinking, feeling, telling ourselves and others. We can notice how we are reacting, how we are drinking and eating, laughing and observing. We can “listen” to all of this with a simple mind. Just doing this really isn’t very scary or boring. The show of our life is really happening.
We can witness what is and stay with that. We can just be with whatever we notice, we can wait for the next “information” to come and we can witness how it moves inside: We can feel the food in our body, we can notice tiredness, excitement, nervousness, opinions, and curiosity. We can just be with all of these observations and let them be as they are. No need to think, react, no need to do anything. We can just let our mind be as it is.
Perhaps there is constant tension, busyness, and thinking going on. We may be so used to it that we normally don’t notice it, but if we just observe all of it as if we don’t know anything, as if we are sitting on the bank of a river and are watching the stream taking wood and leaves and other curious things with it, then, almost as if we fall asleep and wake up in a different mood, we will notice changes happening that we did not plan or intend.
Everything is just moving on by. The more deeply we know this, the more our feelings will change about everything, regardless of what we think or how we are used to being. A new habit of presence will develop. Our default of reacting and engaging immediately will have encountered a countervailing stream of consciousness and in that mixing a new response can form and grow: the wise response of a simple mind that is just witnessing, and clearly seeing.
Have a beautiful Spring week, and maybe in between sometimes you might notice your mind simply touching what is and letting it go.