It’s near dusk, and the parkland is teeming with Cooper’s hawks. One of the large, brown, stipple-winged raptors takes off from the path ahead of me with some small animal in its mouth.
Another, perched on a branch overhanging the park road, drops from the limb and screeches incessantly as it glides in a straight, level flight path down the road. A few minutes later, a couple walking ahead of me stop and turn around to watch a hawk alight high in a sycamore tree.
For the last 20 minutes of a sitting by the stream, a gray squirrel chatters away in a tree behind me. Thought-based consciousness is like that squirrel prattling on, obstructing the silent awareness of being.
Four small boys on bikes go by, two of them still with training wheels. They shout and make meaningless verbal noises without pause, and seemingly without point, the way little boys often do. Their non-stop sound effects serve a purpose. To their minds, silence breaks the bond between them. Can they be shown, by the example of parents and teachers, that it’s actually just the opposite—relationship flows from since, not verbiage?
Being creatures of thought, we fear any break in thought, because thought is the basis of consciousness, as we know it. That is not only a baseless fear however; it’s an increasingly ruinous one.
Meditation, and meditative dialogue, cannot truly begin until the mind/brain lets go of its attachment to ideas and images. No trick or technique can cause it to do so. Undivided observation alone, and questioning without ego together, loosens the bonds and erases the ruts 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.
Obviously attachment is a function of the self. As long as there is the emotionally held idea of a separate self, there will be attachment with all its problems.
At bottom, there is a seemingly separate self that experiences things as happening to it. Experience isn’t perceived as an unbroken flow of inner and outer movement. Rather, we experience events from a center that’s more or less fixed, a center that interprets, judges, evaluates and then acts. But in actuality, is there a separate entity that stands apart from anything?
If there is no feeling of a separate self, there is no basis for attachment. Therefore attachment is a function of the ‘me,’ the ego at the center of our experience.
The expression, ‘my thoughts’ is not merely redundant; it is existentially and neurologically erroneous. And yet the ‘me’ seems to have tremendous validity, even to neuroscientists.
Why does the brain, using thought, fabricate a separate self, and hold onto it for dear life, when a separate self doesn’t actually exist?
There are at least two possibilities. One is that in the absence of insight into the nature of thought, the mechanism of a separate self brings some semblance of order and stability to the chaos of thought. In other words, the brain stores experience, and an operating program called ‘me,’ makes sense of all the information.
Another possibility is that as humans evolved conscious thought, the survival mechanism became emotionally linked to concepts of identity. Instead of realizing that ‘I am my thought,’ there was the subconscious and emotionally held idea that ‘I am not my thought, but a separate entity.’ Descartes got it backwards; Thought is, and therefore I think.
From this psychological basis, the need for permanence, and the fear of death, are inevitable. Separate selfhood, survival, attachment, permanence and fear of death got mixed up together, and formed the psychological basis of our being.
Thought-dominated consciousness has become utterly dysfunctional however, both individually and collectively. Methodless meditation awakens another type of consciousness altogether.
To awaken meditation, one has to begin with division in observation. That is, with an insight into the illusory observer or watcher. If one doesn’t think in terms of the observer (which originates and reinforces division in observation) the brain is simply observing the movement of thought as it is —a single movement of memories, imaginings and associations.
Thought is a single stream, which habitually separates itself from nature and the world. Sitting quietly and still, ask oneself, ‘Is the observer operating?’
In doing so, and passively watching how the mind
divides itself into subject and object internally, one brings attention to the infinite regression of psychological separation, and it effortlessly ceases. When the ancient habit of separateness ends, thought naturally falls silent. That’s meditation.