Disturbing The Peace

What disturbs our peace the whole time is the I-Concept. This isn’t our usual way of seeing things of course – we never think of the I-Concept as being the culprit. On the contrary, we always see things its way and the I-Concept – when it is functioning in its default way – never blames itself for anything. On the contrary, it takes itself for granted, and this automatically means that the fault will be found elsewhere. There is variant on this displacement business and that is when the I-Concept loses its ‘robustness’ and starts blaming itself instead – it starts ‘internalizing the blame’, in other words. This disturbs our peace of mind as well of course and so it’s still the I-Concept that causing the disturbance – either way, it is the very narrow idea that we have of who we are that is the root cause of the agitation.

 

No matter which way it is working, the I-Concept is incapable of seeing any point of view other than its own. This is its ‘fundamental limitation’, we might say. If it could see things another way, it would no longer be the I-Concept. If it could examine itself (which is of course not the same as blaming itself) it would no longer be the I-Concept. For this reason therefore, its slightest whim immediately becomes law. Self-righteous indignation, resentment, blame and anger automatically follows if this ‘law’ is not respected (which is to say, if things go against us).

 

Because we can’t question whatever it is that the self-construct wants then naturally the ‘fault’ always seems to lie elsewhere. The universe is refusing to play ball with us and that – from our POV – is quite unacceptable. If we could ‘switch perspectives’, even for just a moment, would see that this attitude of ours is quite preposterous, but the I-Concept can’t look at things any other way, and that’s the whole point. If I am not the way I think I ought to be then it is the same inflexibility that is coming into play here – if I am being self-blaming instead of ‘other blaming’ then it is this very same rigidity that lies behind my ‘toxic or violent attitude’.

 

The I-Concept represents an ‘unfree way of seeing the world’ therefore – the concrete self can never turn around and laugh at itself for being so ridiculous and this imbues it with a clown-like quality, as Wei Wu Wei says. It’s as if it is always suspecting itself to be the butt of every joke going, both real and imagined, and this makes it inherently touchy, inherently defensive. This makes it inherently aggressive because we’ve always got to be ready to throw the shit right back any time it lands on us. We’ve got to be very quick to ‘deflect the blame’. We’ve got be fast on the draw with some kind of snappy comeback! ‘I’m not the idiot, you’re the idiot’, I say…

 

This outwardly directed aggression is one way in which the peace gets to be disturbed therefore; put a bunch of I-Concepts together and they will squabble like hell because each one of them wants to blame all the others for anything and everything that goes wrong! Each one of them is determined to shift the blame, without actually focusing on the fact that this is what it is doing. Mutual understanding is an impossibility. Naturally mutual understanding is an impossibility since – when we are identified with the I-Concept – we can’t understand ourselves. We can’t understand ourselves and so how can we hope to understand someone else? Instead of ‘understanding ourselves’ what we do instead is to make up convenient stories and then believe them. We spin narratives, in other words, and then we orientate ourselves to these narratives as if they were constitute the fundamental baseline of ‘what reality is’.

 

With regard to those around us, we can’t (when we are in the identified state) have any genuine mutual understanding and so what we do instead is to agree to follow a particular shared narrative. This way we are all coming from a common basis, a common point of view, and so this feels like ‘togetherness’. It isn’t really togetherness (or ‘connectedness’) however because it’s on a false basis. I’m pretending to be someone that I’m not (without acknowledging that I’m doing this) and the same is true for you. How then can there be any connectedness? When we relate to others in the world on the basis of the mind-created narrative that is always going to be the case; it’s always going to be the case for the simple reason that narratives are never true. There is no narrative that can define (or explain) who or what we are, either historically or in the present moment. The I-concept and the ‘personal narrative’ are the same thing – without the mind-created narrative there could be no concrete sense of self. The self is the product of the narrative.

 

So we could say that what ‘disturbs our peace’ (and goes on and on disturbing our peace) is the narrative or story that we have of ourselves and this would also be true. Or we could say what fragments our peace is our thinking, the very nature of thought being that it fragments reality, as David Bohm says. We can therefore talk equivalently about the I-Concept, the personal narrative, and thought itself. We usually (almost always) take it that we are the I-Concept, that the personal narrative is my story, and that thought is my tool to do with as I please, but actually this is the reverse of what’s going on – I’m not the I-Concept, the personal narrative is not the true story of what’s going on, and I am the tool of thought rather than vice versa! The I-Concept is an extension of thought, a construct of thought, so just as long as I am identified with the I-Concept then I am ‘the tool of thought’ – it can’t be otherwise.

 

Identification means rigidity, as we have said, and rigidity means that there can never be any peace, or any true ‘ease’. Rigidity means ongoing agitation, ongoing strife. We are glued to a limited (and therefore brittle) viewpoint and we are condemned, on this account, to make our way through life on this dreadfully awkward basis. The only freedom we seem to have is the freedom to get things to be the way we want to be – if we can correctly exercise this freedom then – we imagine – we will feel blessed relief from the lack of ease that is driving us. The ‘lack of ease’ and the brittleness of our position are the same thing – if we weren’t so brittle then we wouldn’t be so agitated; the ‘brittleness’ (or lack of ease) is what drives our controlling, in other words.

 

We will never find relief from our uncomfortable or tormenting brittleness however – the ‘answer’ to our brittleness isn’t to learn to control more effectively, as we think, because when we do this with simply importing this brittleness (which is the self-construct) into every new situation. We are perpetuating the need to go on controlling. The ‘answer’ is much more simple than this – the problem is my brittle idea of myself, not the world’s obstinate refusal to play ball with this idea. Our freedom doesn’t lie in control therefore (control being the way the I-Concept has of extending itself), our freedom lies in not having to control. When I don’t have to control then I am free – when I realise that I don’t have to control then I am free from the I-Concept, free from the personal narrative, and free from thought all in the one go…

 

So far, it could be said, we doing little more than going around in circles by saying the same thing in various different ways. This understanding can’t be rushed however; it can’t be rushed because it goes so very much against the grain of our ordinary thinking. Once we have a clear understanding of what identification is then we have the possibility of working meaning meaningfully with it – we can’t see identification, but we can see its consequences. The brittleness itself is invisible to us – it’s invisible to us because we mistake it for our own will, our own volition. We don’t experience the brittleness as brittleness (i.e. I don’t feel the pain where it belongs) but rather we perceive it as ‘things not being right on the outside world’. We deflect the pain outwards, in other words so that our inherent rigidity or brittleness is transformed into ‘an external problem that needs to be fixed’.

 

The very first place for consciousness to come in is therefore exactly here, in the upsets and irritations we experience on an ongoing basis. Every single thing that comes along and niggles or annoys us can be seen in two mutually exclusive ways – either I identify with the reaction in question and perceive it as being the ‘my righteous or rightful response to something that isn’t right’ or I perceive the reactivity to be a function of the rigidity or inflexibility of the I-Concept. When I fall into the trap of identifying with the mechanical reaction then the I-Concept (as it actually is) becomes 100% invisible to me and when I don’t fall into this trap then it straightaway becomes visible for what it is, which is to say – it becomes visible as ‘a mere thing’, ‘a mere mechanism’.

 

This is a very fascinating thing therefore – the fascinating thing is that when we are living life on the basis of the I-Concept then we have turned ourselves into a thing! We are ‘a thing’ but we can’t see ourselves to be ‘a thing’; we are ‘a thing’ but we perceive everyone out everything else (even other human beings, sometimes) as been things, not us. We’ve got it the wrong way around in other words – we have thingified the world around us when actually it is us that is the thing the whole time! We’re projecting our ‘thingness’ on everything else and making ourselves blind to it in ourselves, and this allows us to become violent in the way that we are. Ultimately, this is what allows us to become psychopaths or narcissists! This is what the state of identification is all about – becoming some ‘rigid reactive thing’ and being doomed to be continuously validating our stubborn rigidity and reactivity so that we never have to actually look at it in ourselves. We inflict it on everyone else instead.

 

Another way of putting this is to say that when we are living on the basis of the I-Concept then we are ‘clownish without knowing that we are’, as we said earlier. We are foolish, but we don’t know it. We are foolish, but all the same we are liable to go around thinking that we’re the ‘bees knees’; either that or we go around being down on ourselves and feeling that we are unworthy or weak or actually bad. Both of these perceptions – the euphoric and the dysphoric – are equally deluded however. Being great is a delusion just as being crappy is. The truth of the matter is that the I-Concept can never be either good or bad – it’s just ‘a mechanical thing’ and so what is helpful is for us to do it the respect of seeing it for what it is instead of oscillating up and down the whole time with regard to our conditioned self-regard. The ego wants to redeem itself (we might say) by being ‘good’ but it is never anything other than the mechanical ego, which is neither good nor bad but just a mechanism.

 

Seeing that the I-Concept is the I-Concept isn’t an inherently painful or disturbing thing unless we happen to be identified with it, which of course we are! The pain of seeing the truth about ourselves (or rather, the truth of who we think we are) means that we are always looking in the opposite direction from this truth, which is why we are always deflecting. The truth isn’t recognised as the truth but rather as an insult that we will either protest strongly against or internalise and ‘take to heart’, depending on our inclination. The very fact that there is pain there means that we can use it to draw attention to what is going on, however. In this case the painful sting that I am feeling – be it slight or more than slight – can act as a prompt to enable me to see where the pain is rather than allowing my attention to be deflected safely somewhere else.

 

When we are not paying attention – which is the usual way – then we automatically resent the pain that we’re feeling and so all our energy goes into reacting. We don’t particularly notice the reacting when we do this but what the reacting is against – we put all up all our attention on what the mind-created narrative says is happening and this reinforces that narrative, increasing its hold over us. The reacting is like a pointing finger and we so obediently look at where the finger is pointing. We find someone (or some situation) to blame for our pain. The I-Concept is thus validated and reinforced by the action of blaming or judging. Turning this around and blaming or judging the self-construct doesn’t help us however because this also solidifies the idea that we have of ourselves – we’re every bit as trapped if we blame ourselves as when we blame someone or something else. ‘Blaming’ means in essence that ‘you should be different to the way you are but you aren’t’ – this is utterly  ludicrous however because the I-Concept can never be anything other than what it is! How could it – it is simply a reflex or mechanism that can never be anything different from what it is. Why do we even want it to be ‘other then what it is’, seeing as how it isn’t who we are anyway?

The External Commentator

By commentating on reality, we create the ego. What advantage is there then, we might ask, in creating this ego? What are we gaining by this exercise? The answer here of course is that there is no advantage, except for that self-same ego. ‘The ego gains itself’, which is a doubtful advantage, even at the best of times. It’s only the ego that cares about itself, after all.

 

What we gain, when we gain the separate viewpoint which is the ego, is the possibility of commentating on reality from the outside without really knowing what we are commentating about. What we are actually commenting on is ‘what reality looks like from the perspective of this hypothetical external viewpoint’, which doesn’t really exist). Certainly it doesn’t exist independently of this viewpoint. Any value that the comments in question might have exist strictly in relation to this hypothetical viewpoint, which itself doesn’t exist, as we have just said. The type of value that we talking about here is therefore very ‘provisional’ (which is to say, our comments are meaningful only insofar as the point of view that were taken for granted is a ‘necessary’ kind of thing, which it isn’t at all).

 

Why doesn’t the ‘external separate viewpoint’ exist? This really is the sticking point in the argument – the point beyond which we find it so hard to move. We find it impossibly hard to move beyond it because it feels so much as if there really is an external, separate viewpoint operating. That abstracted viewpoint is ‘me’ – it is the experience that I’m working with (or perhaps working through) every single day of my life. It’s my constant preoccupation! Being a separate self is such an intimate and consistent experience – it is pretty much the only experience which we will ever have and since it is pretty much ‘the only experience which we will ever have’ we find it practically impossible to challenge it. How can anyone come up and say that the ‘me’ isn’t real? It’s the key feature of my existence!

 

The ‘me’ isn’t real because it’s a purely arbitrary point of view – if something is an arbitrary point of view (i.e. if we could just as well look at things in a totally different way) then how on earth can we say that it is ‘real’? It is a misuse of the word. We can say that is ‘familiar’ or ‘persuasive’ (or that is the only thing we know) but we can’t it is real. That – as we have just said – is a blatant misuse of the word. If something’s true it’s true whether I want it to be or not; it’s not a function of my preference.

 

We know that the ‘me’ is only an arbitrary point of view because we can completely drop it in an instant (in meditation for example) and when we do this we discover that we aren’t at all separate from or external to the world. People have been discovering this for tens of thousands of years. As the Buddha says,

In the sky, there is no distinction between East and West, people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

The very notion of a distinct self or ego is absurd. The question ‘why doesn’t the external separate viewpoint exist’ is ridiculous: how can anything be ‘separate from’ or ‘external to’ reality? If we are ‘outside reality’ (‘outside reality looking in’, as it were) then clearly we’re not real. We have created an unreal or abstract POV and all the comments we make on this basis of this unreal or abstract POV are equally unreal. It’s a closed circuit of illusion. My comments (i.e. my thoughts) are only ‘real with respect where I am coming from’, which is in itself an unreal place.

 

If we wanted to say that something genuinely is real (as opposed to the thinking mind, as opposed to the mind-created self) then we could say that consciousness is real. Consciousness is real because it’s not arbitrary, because it’s not an engineered or constructed thing. If no one set it up, arranged for it to be there, arranged for it to be the way that it is, then that’s got to make it real! It’s ‘real all by itself’, not ‘real just because that we say it is’. Before we say anything, do anything, think anything, we are conscious. Before we commentate we are conscious. That’s where everything comes from therefore. If we wanted to be unconscious, then we’d have to arrange that for ourselves. The ‘conditioned mode of existence’ is a special case – it needs to be set up, it needs to programmed, it needs to be engineered in some way.

 

We are likely to dispute to dispute this, of course. ‘If I do nothing’, I say, ‘then nothing happens – I just carry on just the same as I always do, I carry on being asleep. I carry on in my conditioned mode of existence. I carry on perceiving myself to be a separate ego observer’. ‘That’s a fact’, I say, ‘if I’m unconscious and I do nothing about it then I’m going stay unconscious. Isn’t this what we all do all the time anyway – ‘doing nothing’. This way of thinking would have us ‘straining to be conscious’, as if consciousness were the ‘special state’ or ‘special case’ that has to be brought about in some way.

 

The truth is however that we are ‘doing something’ the whole time – we just don’t notice ourselves doing it. What we’re doing is ‘commentating on reality’ – from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we fall asleep at night we are commentating on reality and ‘commentating on reality’ (as we started off this discussion by saying) is how we create the ego. If we took the trouble to notice our own mental activity we’d see this – we’d see that we’re expressing opinions about reality the whole time, we’d see that we’re making judgements about the way things are, and saying that they are ‘good or bad’. There’s nothing that can happen, that we’re aware of, without us making some sort of comment or judgement about it and the reason for this ceaseless activity is simply to maintain the illusion of a ‘separate viewpoint’ that is so important to us…

 

It’s not really important that we maintain the illusion of the separate viewpoint though, as we have said. That’s only ‘important’ to the illusion of the separate viewpoint – the illusion is hanging onto itself, for no good reason at all! The commentator is commentating in order that the perception that there is a commentator can carry on being there. A tautology is feeding upon itself – the whole thing is just a ‘closed circuit of illusion’, going around and around and around forever….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundamental Impatience

The more ‘psychologically unconscious’ we are, the more impatient we are, generally speaking. This is the infallible ‘rule-of-thumb’! We are impatient – very obviously – because we think someone (or something) is standing in the way of ‘the good thing happening’. We are ‘psychologically unconscious,’ therefore, because we are living entirely within the territory of the thinking mind. We are living entirely within the territory of the thinking mind because we think that ‘the good thing’ is somewhere in the future, rather than now.

 

It is of course true that ‘now’ could be a very painful and unwelcome time but it still ‘the good thing’ – so speak – because it’s the only thing that’s real. It’s the only place anything can ever be, so it has to be ‘the good thing’! There’s nowhere else it could be.The future isn’t real, it’s only an idea and if we are ‘waiting for our idea to become real’ then we will be waiting forever. We’ll be waiting forever because ideas never do become real, no matter what we might think to the contrary. If we start off playing ‘the waiting game’ – i.e. waiting for ‘the good thing’ to happen in the future because we don’t think that it’s in the present – then we will be playing this game forever. We can’t pick and choose when it comes to being open to reality – if we are going to be open then we are going to have to be open to everything. When we play the waiting game then in effect we’re ‘waiting for life to happen’ and that’s an exercise in self-deception; we always have to ‘start now’ – there is no other time to start. “The present may not always be beautiful but it is always beautiful to be present.” says Robert Earl Burton.

 

‘Living entirely within the territory of the thinking mind’ is like jumping onto a moving walkway or travelator. We jump on because we want to get where we’re going quicker (obviously enough) and this is exactly what the thinking mind always tells us – it tells us that if we want to ‘get where we going’ (i.e. ‘achieve our goal’) then we better ‘jump on board’ the travelator. If we want to achieve our goal then we need its help, in other words! The invisible problem here however is that we’ve been suckered without knowing it – we’ve been suckered into ‘waiting for life to happen when the conditions are right’. This sort of ‘conditionality’ is a very big problem because (as we know) conditions are never right! They are never ‘right’ as far as the thinking mind is concerned, anyway…

 

The root of the problem (as we keep saying) is that we are living entirely within the territory of the thinking mind– the thinking mind is a very useful tool for very many things but when we let it ‘take over completely’ then it replaces life with its idea of it, its model of it, its theory of it. Instead of relating to the world as it actually is we relate to our concept of it, our mental representation of it. This might sound rather far-fetched and hard to swallow but it is – nevertheless – what almost always happens. It’s ‘a given’ that this will happen. We are in no position to notice the ‘replacement of the real by the image of the real’ because we are so very used to it. We have listened to thought’s story of ‘what reality is’ for so long that we no longer know that it is only a story. We eat the menu every day of our lives thinking that it is the meal.

 

We started off this discussion by saying that the more ‘psychologically unconscious’ we are, the more impatient we are. Unconsciousness manifests itself in terms of impatience, in other words. We can expand on this statement however and say that impatience comes in a number of ‘different forms’. It could come in a pleasurable form, for example – impatience could be (in a manner of speaking) when we ‘can’t wait’ for the good thing to happen but the anticipation (in this case) is enjoyable rather than frustrating. We definitely know that we’re going to get the good thing so although we are in a great hurry to skip ahead in time and get to where we’re going, this is still an enjoyable type of ‘not being able to wait’.

 

The ‘mirror image’ of enjoyable anticipation is fearful or anxious anticipation. Either we are anticipating a bad outcome and we are living in dread of it, or we are fearful that the good outcome that we want to happen isn’t going to happen, so we living in dread of that outcome. We have a ‘relationship’ with our own mental projection of what we think is going to happen and in this case this ‘relationship’ is causing us to experience dysphoria rather than euphoria. When we are ‘living entirely within the territory of the thinking mind’ then we are always going to be either facing into ‘the right outcome’ or facing into ‘the wrong outcome’. Only those two possibilities exist in the territory of the thinking mind and so this means that we are always going to be experiencing either ‘the unrelenting pressure to obtain the right outcome’, or the equally unrelenting pressure to avoid the wrong one. We’re ‘under pressure’ no matter what…

 

This ‘poverty of possibilities’ is the very thing that gives rise to ‘the fundamental impatience’ that we have been talking about; the pressure to obtain the right outcome and avoid the wrong one is a very impatient, very intolerant kind of thing – there’s no slack to be had here! What we are looking at here is a rule and rules are characterised by the fact that they have no space in them. No possibility is tolerated in other words other than the possibility of ‘achieving the specified outcome’. No other possibility is valued and that single-mindedness is what makes the rule into a rule. What’s more, if we place ourselves somewhere on the timeline that exists between ‘where I am now’ and the specified endpoint which is ‘where I want to be’ (or rather, ‘where the rule tells me that I have to be’) then we can very easily see that the rule doesn’t value ‘me as I am right now’, but will only value me when I get to be the way that the rule says I should be.

 

My only possible ‘validation’ therefore (when I am living within the territory of the thinking mind) occurs when I am successfully moving towards the specified endpoint. That’s the only way I can get to feel good about myself, in other words. The one thing I can never get to feel good about (when I’m listening to the thinking mind, that is!) is me being ‘where I am’ (or ‘how I am’) when that has nothing to do with the goal, when that has nothing to do with the ‘final outcome’. As we have already said, the rule doesn’t value anything apart from its own specified objective; it doesn’t allow any space for anything other than its own specified objective. Nothing else exists as far as the thinking mind is concerned – nothing else has any value (or any interest). Anything else is merely ‘an error that needs to be eliminated’ and that automatically includes us if we aren’t the way the thinking mind says we should be (or if we aren’t excused by the fact that we are progressing successfully in the direction that it wants us to go in).

 

Everything we’ve been talking about is of course deeply familiar within the context of everyday human life! We all know what it feels like to be intolerant and impatient within the context of our day-to-day lives and we all know what it feels like to be subjected to this type of ‘heartless or mechanical intolerance’ either from ourselves, or from other people. We all know what it’s like to be completely invalidated either by our own minds or by the minds of other people! When we come across intolerance and judgementalism then what we are encountering is this default state of being that we have called ‘psychological unconsciousness’ and psychological unconsciousness is – as we have said – the inevitable result of being entirely subsumed within the territory of the thinking mind.

 

When we have been subsumed entirely within the territory of the TM then as we have said we don’t know that we have. We don’t know that we have because we have nothing else to go on! Thought has replaced reality with its own version of it, its own picture or image of it, and we have no way of detecting the substitution because thought doesn’t provide us with a way, and what thought doesn’t provide us with we just don’t have! We have checked into the Hotel California and we can’t check out; we don’t even try to check out most of the time because we don’t know we’re in it. Or to put this another way, we don’t know that we are in the Hotel California because for us it is the whole world! We don’t see it for what it is at all…

 

We do have one way of knowing what’s happening to us however and that is by paying attention to our own impatience, our own hurry ‘to be somewhere else’. Our true nature isn’t impatient or intolerant or judgemental and so if we notice ourselves being this way (and don’t automatically make excuses for ourselves about it) then we have a very clear way of seeing that we are being ‘operated by the system of thought’ rather than the situation being the other way round. We can straightway see that ‘the tail is wagging the dog’, so to speak. What we have here is a very straightforward way of seeing when we being ‘untrue to ourselves’, in other words, and this type of ‘honesty with ourselves’ is how we ‘do something’ about our situation. That’s ‘our work’.

 

We could also say that the ‘work’ here is to ‘establish a relationship with the truth of what’s going on’, rather than ‘only ever relating to our own mental projections’). This isn’t a controlling thing – we don’t have to judge or blame ourselves for being false or inauthentic, and neither do we have to come up with some clever ‘plan’ or ‘method’ for fixing ourselves. When we do notice that we are judging or blaming ourselves (or trying to fix ourselves) then straightaway we know that we are being driven or controlled by the thinking mind (which should be a servant rather than our boss) and so this is a helpful thing. We’re being ‘tipped off’! Straightaway we see that the tail is wagging the dog and seeing this is how we start to redress the ‘balance of power’, so to speak. ‘The seeing is the doing’, as Krishnamurti says. When we do notice ourselves judging or blaming or trying to fix or correct  ourselves then this is actually a good thing not a bad thing, therefore – we are being tipped off as to our true situation and this is something we need to know about. Our own self-judging, self-blaming, and self-recrimination thus becomes ‘a blessing rather than a curse’, and seeing this softens our attitude to it….

 

 

 

 

Accepting Our Own Non-Acceptance

One of the biggest delusions that we are up against when we start practicing mindfulness (and there are many) is the delusion that we can (and indeed ought to) ‘accept ourselves’. This erroneous belief translates into a lot of frustration, a lot of suffering. It is therefore crucially important to realize – before we move on to anything else – that accepting ourselves is not something that we can ever do on purpose.

 

The very idea that we can or ought to be able to accept ourselves (or accept anything else for that matter) is self-contradictory – if I am trying to accept myself then clearly the reason for this is that I am not accepting of myself and so what I’m actually doing here – as Alan Watts says – is that I am ‘rejecting my own non-acceptance of myself’. So what I’m actually doing isn’t acceptance at all – ‘its non-acceptance flying under the flag of acceptance’. The way that I actually am is not-accepting and rather than accepting this non-acceptance of mine and seeing it in an impartial or unbiased way I am rejecting it – I’m rejecting it because I’m trying to change it. What I am really doing here is ‘rejecting myself as I actually am’ and this is – of course – exactly what I normally do anyway. Nothing has changed therefore – I’m at my old tricks again (as usual) and yet I’m hoping that things will somehow work out differently this time.

 

Acceptance can never happen as a result of a deliberate action or strategy on our part. Deliberate or purposeful action always comes out of our thinking and anything that happens as a result of thinking always comes about as a result of our non-acceptance of the way things actually are. Thought can never accept and acceptance isn’t a thought! We only think when we are interested in changing the way things are – if we were happy with things being the way that they are then where’s the need to think, where’s the need to control? If we don’t want to change anything then where’s the need for a method or strategy? Leaving things as they already are doesn’t require any strategizing, after all. There’s no problem and so there’s no need to intervene. Things can be ‘left as they are’ and so where’s the need for striving? Thought isn’t acceptance. Thought is resistance and resistance is thought, and this is all we ever know, generally speaking. We are all ‘addicted to control’ and if there are problems we automatically assume that this is because we’re not controlling effectively enough…

 

‘Acceptance’ has nothing to do with control – the one is the antithesis of the other. We can of course try to control ourselves to accept – we can try to control ourselves to accept until we’re blue in the face but it won’t do us any good! It won’t do us any good because we’re caught up in a self-contradicting struggle; we’re in a loop – we’re trying to control ourselves to stop controlling. So what can we do then? How do we free ourselves from the self-contradiction of trying to ‘accept on purpose’? The key to this apparently impossible dilemma is simply to notice the way things are, and getting better at leaving a gap between us ‘noticing the way things are’ and our automatic reacting, our automatic attempt to ‘do something about the situation that we have just noticed’. We’re can’t create a gap on purpose because control (or purposefulness) always ‘closes the gap’ – purposefulness is all about closing the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be. What we can do however is to take an interesting in noticing the process that is taking place when we ‘automatically react’. Normally we don’t ‘notice ourselves reacting’, we just react and that is it. All of our energy, all of our ‘interest’ goes into the reacting and there is none left over to notice anything!

 

There is always a gap there between the awareness of what is going on and our automatic reacting to it (which is our thinking) and so just as soon as we do take an interest in the proceedings we will sooner or later notice it. The noticing itself is the gap, when it comes down to it – whenever we are aware of something there must always be a gap because without a gap between the noticing and the reacting there actually isn’t any noticing! This means that we aren’t creating a gap but rather we are just taking the time to get in touch with our own awareness, the awareness that was there all the time. Our awareness is never not there – it is just hidden beneath all the thinking, beneath all the reacting, all the compulsive goal-orientated activity. Another way of making this point is to say that the ‘key to everything’ is simply to be open to the truth. We simply have to notice the truth of what is going on without needing to worry about either accepting or not accepting it. So instead me of trying to ‘accept myself’ I just see the truth of the matter, which is that I do not accept myself. I own up to the fact that I am not at all accepting of myself and so there is no contradiction here. There is no contradiction and there is no needed for any sort of straining or striving. ‘The seeing is the doing’, says Krishnamurti.

 

What is really happening here is that we are taking back our freedom not to have to be scheming and calculating all the time. Only we’re not ‘taking it back’ because we had never really lost it in the first place. We’re just reconnecting with it. Somehow what happens to us is that we get ‘taken over by our own cleverness’ (so to speak) and as a result of being ‘taken over’ in this way by the rational faculty we think that cleverness (or rationality) is the answer to everything. We don’t have anything else but our cleverness – it’s as if we are our cleverness, it’s as if we are the rational intellect, whilst the truth of the matter is that we are much, much more than this. We are far more than just our rational-computational faculty – what we really are is this ‘capacity to unconditional accept’ that we have been talking about. The rational mind is pure and simply a system of limitations, it is the ‘incapacity to unconditionally accept’, whilst who we are in our essence is unlimited. It could be said that the thinking mind is a structure, whilst who we are in our essence isn’t any kind of ‘structure’ at all but the space within which all structures exist. We are this ‘all-accepting, all-facilitating space’, not the events that happen within it…

 

It sounds peculiarly passive (and therefore irresponsible) to say that we are our true nature ‘accepts everything’ – that sounds to us like being a doormat, as the expression has it. But awareness doesn’t accept in the sense of ‘passively going along with things’, it accepts in the sense of not being afraid of anything. Whatever is there it sees unflinchingly, in other words; it has no ‘preference’ about what it sees. When we put it like this therefore we can see that being ‘all-accepting’ isn’t a sign of weakness at all but rather it is an indication of tremendous strength. Our true or inherent nature is this tremendous strength therefore – it is the quality of strength that doesn’t need to ‘do something about it’. It is our false ‘cleverness’ that always needs to be ‘doing something about our situation’, that always has to have tactics and strategies ready at hand; it is our cleverness or trickiness that is weak and which, because of its weakness, always has to ‘go along with things’. It goes along with its own need to control, its own need to ‘prop itself up’. The thinking mind accuses unconditioned consciousness of being weak when in reality it is completely the other way around! Thought is always resisting because it always has a position to defend; awareness on the other hand has no need to resist because it is not tied to any precarious position that it needs to protect.

 

If we think that we ‘have to accept ourselves’ then this impression or belief is coming out of weakness rather than strength. If I feel that I need to ‘do something about my situation’ then this feeling comes out of my weakness not my strength. It is coming from my false idea of who I am, not who I actually am! Resistance (and also fear) always comes out of a false idea of who I am! ‘How then do I overcome my weakness?’ I might ask. I most probably will ask this. But the glitch here is clear – as soon as I feel that I have to do something about my situation and try to act on the basis of this impression then I am acting on the basis of weakness. Trying to remedy my weakness is a manifestation of weakness just as trying to overcome my fear is a manifestation of fear. We’re only going around in circles here. I’m not making things better no matter what I do; I am making problems no matter what tack I take. I am compounding weakness with yet more weakness, I am trying to overcome fear with more fear and this is just not going to help me…

 

When we see this glitch everything tends to seem utterly hopeless. How can I possibly get out of this? Every time I try to do something about my situation I am acting out of weakness and if I try to do something about that then I am still acting out of weakness. And yet at the same time I can’t not react; I am powerless – it seems – not to try to ‘do something about it’. I am compelled to try to fix or correct my situation. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cope here therefore. There doesn’t seem to be any scope – the situation shows every indication of being a dead loss! What’s ‘hopeless’ however isn’t the situation but our distorted understanding of it; what’s ‘hopeless’ is our proposed ability to purposefully get things to be the way we want them to be. That’s a ‘no go’ for sure but nothing else is. Everything else is working just fine, just as it always did, just as it always will do. The insurmountable problems only exist in our rational/purposeful understanding, in other words.

 

Who we are in reality isn’t the idea that we have of ourselves; who we really are isn’t the limited and brittle concept we have of ourselves and so it doesn’t really matter that resolving the problem in the way that the mind-created image of ourselves would like to see it resolved is a ‘no go’. That doesn’t matter at all. It seems to matter an awful lot when we are identified with the mind-created image of who we are but because the impression that the mind-created self has of the situation is entirely illusory, entirely without substance, the fact that we think that there is an insurmountable problem isn’t a genuine obstacle! It’s just the illusory appearance of an obstacle – it’s the illusory appearance of a problem that is taken very serious by the imagined idea of who we think we are. The view that the self-concept has of the situation is illusory (just as that imagined self is) and this brings us to the crux of the matter. The concept of ourselves which is who we think we are can’t accept anything unconditionally – it simply doesn’t have the capacity to do so since it itself is a ‘conditional’ entity. But this doesn’t matter because it was never up to this fragile sense of self to do the ‘accepting’ – only consciousness, which is who we really are, can unconditionally accept.

 

As we cease to believe so much that we are this narrow and brittle little ‘idea of ourselves’ our capacity to accept (or be present with) our situation increases. This ‘capacity’ increases because we’re not relying upon an illusion to do the accepting, because we’re not relying on an illusion to be present! Unconditioned awareness accepts everything because it is its nature to do so not because we are requiring it to do so, or because we are instructing it to do so, and this shows the essential difference between the self and awareness:

 

The self operates on the basis of being told (or instructed) what to do and its nature is to resist (or judge), whilst awareness does what is in its nature to do (without the need to be directed or controlled) and its nature is to be impartial to everything, just as the sun shines impartially on everything or just as the rain falls impartially on everything.

 

Awareness and the conditioned self ‘run on two very different principles’, so to speak.We often hear the definition of mindfulness or being mindful as ‘being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judging what is happening’ and this is fine – the only thing about this is that the self can never refrain from judging, any more than the rational mind can refrain from analyzing or classifying things. To ask the self not to judge (i.e. to require the self to ‘unconditionally accept’) is to ask for the impossible. But we can clearly see that the conditioned self can never ‘not judge’, and this is a basic psychological insight. This is something that we can ‘get’. When we do see this then it could be said that we are ‘accepting ourselves as we are’, or that we are ‘accepting ourselves for what we are’. But the point about this is that the self is not unconditionally accepting the self here (that could never happen, as we have said), but rather we are being aware of the self and its nature (without judging it for having the nature that it does have), which is a very different thing.