“I think therefore I am”. Rene Descartes wrote in 1637
There are a number of possible misdirections on this journey, some of which may well be true for some people, but they certainly haven’t been part of my experience so far. A Big Bang Enlightenment, the achievement of a life of bliss and harmony and finally the silent mind and I wanted to tackle this latter subject because if I found it confusing others may have too.
My early days were attached to a path based on mediation, as I have already told you. Mediation is all about stilling the modifications of the mind and it was always my belief that in order to reach any sort of final conclusion to the journey a totally still mind was an integral component to the tick-a-box pre-conditions. My mother wrote about the state of silent mind she experienced, a once-off early on and then an expanded reality later in her journey, which supported my view of a silent mind pre-requisite:
It was a week or so later that I woke suddenly in the night and found that my mind was held in a state where thought was impossible. There was just a state of “no-thought”. I lay in bed looking up into the darkness unable to formulate any concepts as to what had happened to my mind. At last, feeling that doing something might help, I got up and went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea. Evidently thought was not necessary for action. There was an undercurrent of fear, but without the ability to think and to analyse, there was just what was: a state of emptiness. Amy
Let’s look at some words extracted from Bernadette’s “The Silent Mind”, a chapter that I found to be useful. It provides a great introduction to an alternative background to the type of silent mind that I experience, at this stage of the journey anyway:
- The state of no-self is the breaking up of a self-conscious system whereby the mind can no longer see itself as an object; and at the same time, it loses the ability to find any other object to take its place because when there is no self there is also no other.
- Where before, thought has been a product of a reflecting introspection, objectifying mechanism – ever coloured with personal feelings and biases – now thought arises spontaneously off the top of the head, and what is more, it arises in the now-moment which is concerned with the immediate present, making it invariably practical.
- What this means is that thinking goes right on even when there is no self, no thinker, and no self-consciousness; thus, there is no such thing as a totally silent mind.
- One way to look at this journey is to see it as a process of acclimation to an unself-conscious mind, or as a transition from a relative to a non-relative way of knowing.
- This means that the silent aspect of the mind is actually the absence of self, or as I prefer to call it – the silence of no-self.
- It takes a while to adjust to a new way of life wherein it eventually discovers that the basic structure of the mind and its facilities remain intact and perfectly functional, but functional in a new way.
- Once the mind can no longer reflect on itself, all energy or movement of the self is gone; the feelings and emotions are in silence; the memory has been so denuded that the past is lifeless with no continuum at all.
- A silent mind is not a blank mind – the thinking goes right on, but now it passes the synaptic self that continually colours incoming data before sending it out again. The thoughts that now come to the mind do not arise from within but originate “off the top”, so to speak, and then, only when dealing with the obvious data on hand at any given time.
- In this way, the mind is always clear, but not clear of thought per se, only clear of thought that had been clouded and infected by the waters of self.
Until more recent times I was expecting that at some point the mind would stop thinking completely, which would open the gate to a new level of experience. This is more along the lines that Amy talks about in her book.
This state of inner stillness or “fasting” of the mind, as Maharaj sometimes called it, makes living very focused in the present moment, but there is still the duality of ‘me’ experiencing the void. a witness to this state of Emptiness, and so there is still more to lose in the way of self-consciousness.
However, a permanent inner state of “fasting” hasn’t happened (yet) and I am not sure whether it is necessary to achieve a total silence to reach the final destination. For those of you who believe that you need to think to exist it isn’t quite like that. Reactions to life and thinking in a no-self state is similar to the natural instincts involved in riding a bike. No active recall of memory or learned skills or concentration is required to jump on a bike a ride away (as long as you do know how to ride!) The engagement in that moment does not require the conscious involvement of the mind. It is action without thought – a no-self doing.
Like everything on this path, there is little point in discussing the maybes. A silent mind will either happen or not. I have had no control over the steps of this process so far and am not expecting that state of affairs to change!
So, the awakening is simply the awakening out of the dream of thought; out of being totally immersed in that dream. Not that thought does not arise, it still can arise and does arise and yet you dwell beyond thought. In the state of presence, stillness, alert awake stillness in which nothing is known and yet everything is known. Tolle
What I can report on is what has actually happened to me so far and my thinking is not as it was. It isn’t that thoughts in themselves are a problem in everyday life but it is the control they have once they absorb energy from conscious or sub-conscious memories and associated emotions. It is where that quote from Descartes applies “I think therefore I am”, although he may have had other ideas about its meaning. Thinking ice cream for example is just a play of images but as soon as memories are incorporated and desire arises then that benign image is given the energy to become “I want some ice cream” and a trip to the supermarket results 😊
In contrast, I find I still have thoughts but they play across a basically silent landscape, much like the floating clouds analogy I used earlier. These are largely “powerless” thoughts or in Bernadette’s words they are free of being “infected by the waters of the self”.
For much of the time if there is no need for active thinking my mind is pretty well blank. It is what makes writing this document challenging because I have no idea if there is anything there to be said. If I stop typing there is nothing there. These words don’t involve any process of thought and I only gauge their relevance by some sort of inner tick of approval. I start with a general topic but the content is as new to me as it will be to you. When I read the words in this book they remain fresh and new because I have no recollection of having written them and no connection to the person that did! This concept of disengagement sounds uncontrolled and haphazard yet the whole book has been constructed in this fashion so it seems to work.
My everyday thinking state is much like deep meditation in the “old” days except instead of having to go through a routine to achieve a silent or thought-lessened outcome it now happens by default and without any focused action. I drop into silence anytime and it makes no difference if my eyes are open or closed.
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