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Watch Thought As a Single Stream

It’s near dusk,‭ ‬and the parkland seems to be full of Cooper’s hawks.‭ ‬At one point on the path,‭ ‬a large,‭ ‬brown,‭ ‬stipple-winged hawk takes off from the path ahead of me with some small animal in its mouth.

meditation on mountainAnother hawk,‭ ‬perched on a branch overhanging the park road,‭ ‬drops from the limb and screeches incessantly as it glides in straight,‭ ‬level flight above the closed park road.‭ ‬A few minutes later,‭ ‬a couple walking ahead of me stop and turn around to watch a raptor alight high in a sycamore tree,‭ ‬and we exchange a few friendly words.

A hundred meters up the path I pass two college-age couples talking non-stop as they imbibe at a picnic site adjacent to the footbridge.‭ ‬In the time it takes me to go by,‭ ‬one of the young women changes subjects three times,‭ ‬without appearing to take a breath.

For‭ ‬20‭ ‬minutes during a sitting by the stream,‭ ‬a gray squirrel chatters away in a tree behind me.‭ ‬Consciousness is like that squirrel prattling on.

Inclusive,‭ ‬undirected attention quiets the mind,‭ ‬not any form of concentration.‭ ‬Meditation cannot truly begin until the mind/brain lets go of its attachment to thoughts and the idea of a separate self.‭ ‬No trick or technique can make it do so.‭ ‬Only undivided observation loosens the shackles and ends the grooves of thought.

Why is it so difficult to let go‭? ‬What is it about the human mind that keeps us attached to beliefs,‭ ‬people and problems‭? ‬It appears as though the brain,‭ ‬using thought,‭ ‬is almost wired to attach itself to things.‭ ‬Clearly,‭ ‬attachment in the nature of thought itself.

Attachment is also a function of the self.‭ ‬As long as there is the emotionally held idea of‭ ‘‬me,‭’ ‬there will be attachment with all the suffering it engenders.

There is no separate entity that stands apart from anything,‭ ‬yet the self remains the most important thing.‭ ‬We live as though there is a seemingly separate self that experiences things as happening to it,‭ ‬rather than a stream of events,‭ ‬reactions and responses that are simply happening.

The‭ ‘‬me‭’ ‬seems to have tremendous validity.‭ ‬The brain,‭ ‬using thought,‭ ‬fabricates a separate self,‭ ‬and holds onto it for dear life,‭ ‬though the self doesn’t actually exist as a separate thing.‭ ‬The ancient habit of separation extends to‭ ‘‬my country‭’ ‬and‭ ‘‬my group,‭’ ‬producing incalculable death and destruction.‭ ‬The separate self is a tremendous mystery,‭ ‬one that can and must be resolved,‭ ‬but neuroscience is not even asking these questions.‭ ‬Indeed,‭ ‬science venerates the self.

Why does the‭ ‘‬me‭’ ‬continue to have so much power‭? ‬Why isn’t experience perceived as an unbroken flow of inner and meditationouter movement,‭ ‬without division,‭ ‬but seen instead in terms a center that’s fixed‭? ‬Is an illusorily separate self that interprets and judges an unchangeable part of being human‭? ‬I’m sure it isn’t.

The expression,‭ ‘‬my thoughts‭’ ‬is not merely redundant–it is existentially and neurologically nonexistent.‭ ‬When there is no sense of self,‭ ‬there is no basis for attachment.‭ ‬Therefore attachment,‭ ‬and all the suffering it engenders,‭ ‬is a function of the‭ ‘‬me,‭’ ‬the ego,‭ ‬the self at the center of experience.

Is it that the brain records experiences,‭ ‬and an operating system called‭ ‘‬me‭’ ‬evolved to subconsciously run the computer of thought‭? ‬Is it that in the absence of self-knowing,‭ ‬attention,‭ ‬and insight into the nature of thought,‭ ‬the program of a separate self brings some semblance of order and stability to the chaos of thought‭? ‬

Another possibility is that as humans evolved conscious thought,‭ ‬the survival instinct became deeply linked to concepts of identity.‭ ‬Instead of realizing that‭ ‘‬I am my thoughts,‭’ ‬and‭ ‘‬we‭’ ‬aren’t separate from‭ ‘‬them,‭’ ‬there was and continues to be the subconscious and emotionally held idea that‭ ‘‬I’m not my thoughts,‭ ‬but a separate entity,‭’ ‬as well as‭ ‘‬us vs.‭ ‬them.‭’‬

From this psychological basis,‭ ‬the idea of permanence,‭ ‬and the fear of death,‭ ‬are inevitable.‭ ‬Separate selfhood,‭ ‬the survival instinct,‭ ‬attachment,‭ ‬permanence,‭ ‬and fear of death therefore all go together,‭ ‬and form the psychological basis of our dubious humanness.

Since thought-dominated consciousness has become utterly dysfunctional however,‭ ‬both individually and collectively,‭ ‬consciousness has to have a different meaning and foundation for the human being to emerge and humanity to develop.

Authentic meditation awakens this other kind of consciousness altogether.‭ ‬And to ignite meditation,‭ ‬one has to begin with division in observation.‭ ‬That is,‭ ‬by watching the watcher,‭ ‬unwilled attention halts the habit of psychological separation,‭ ‬if only for a few essential minutes a day.

Thought is a single stream,‭ ‬which,‭ ‬being an adaptation of separation,‭ ‬habitually separates itself from nature,‭ ‬the world,‭ ‬and itself with inattention.‭ ‬But when,‭ ‬through passive observation and attention,‭ ‬the habit and sense of separateness ends,‭ ‬thought falls silent and separation ends.‭ ‬Then there is‭ “‬the peace that passes all understanding.‭”

Martin LeFevre

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