Quiet Mind; Open Heart.
Living in a place of deep, inner wholeness.
Have you ever had the experience of feeling completely ‘enlightened’ and clear about who you are and what life is all about, only to find yourself searching for more or different explanations or answers?
I think that anyone who has – anyone on a journey of self-inquiry – will relate to the ebb and flow sense of this endless pursuit for understanding and clarity. There is good news for us… this is normal! Better news still… it does not need to be confusing or fluctuating. We do not need to feel stuck between states of clarity or of confusion; we do not need to permit circumstance (or happenstance) to toss us about like boats without sails or rudders on stormy seas.
Best news… we can harbour a sense of peace and joy despite the daily happenings within and around us. We can rest in a place of deep stillness, wholeness and equanimity despite our past trauma, grief or loss and in the face of our current fears or misgivings about what the future might hold. This is also true in the context of life’s successes, adrenalin rushes and accomplishments. This inner sense, or state, of peace and stillness, can be present despite our moments of highs and lows, losses and gains, sorrow and joy. There is no manual that perfectly directs how to understand and navigate life. This is life – there is no panacea; we will not find the perfect path. But, we can find balance, even with all that life throws at us.
So how do we find that ability to balance the myriad experiences of reality? It is really quite simple. It is about learning to live with a quiet mind and an open heart. It is about living heart-centred; not about being dragged around or controlled by an (over-) thinking mind or the ego-centric, psychological concepts of self. But to do this, we need clarity with respect to how our mind-body works. With that, we can (and will) live in present-moment awareness; we can (and will) recognize when and how we have the tendency to fall back into identifying with the thoughts, emotions and feelings we experience. And when we do, we can learn how to support our moment-to-moment ability to rest in heart-centred, present-moment conscious awareness.
HOW THE MIND AND BODY WORKS
“The brain is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” – Robin S. Sharma
When we understand the purpose and function of the mind and body, we can utilize each to our betterment. The brain is a complex and miraculous thing, designed to do so many things! As I noted in one of my earlier articles, we know that there are six structures within the brain that control what and who we are, including our physical functions and the mental-emotional aspects of our lives: our autonomy and conscious processes (our six senses), and our intellect and analytical abilities. Findings from recent studies conclude that there are also specific areas in our brains which govern our ability to engage in higher-consciousness activities: our moral and ethical values.
Our brain, and how our body interprets its activities through feelings and emotional responses, is what enables us to function in the physical world. It creates concepts, or lenses, like time and spatial awareness, making it possible for us to interpret and navigate our human experiences on a planet in the middle of a vast galaxy, spinning into the infinite cosmos. Miraculous, right?
But… the rub. Our ability to be self-aware (our conscious self-awareness) tends to identify with our experiences; our experiences become our egoic sense-of-self. We come to see ourselves as manifestations of the thoughts, feelings and emotions that we experience moment-to-moment, day-to-day in our physical bodies. And, over time, we become so attached to these thoughts, ideas, concepts, memories and experiences of the mind-body, that they become our persona (self-image/ego). When our experiences are negative – when we experience trauma, grief or loss – the impact on our self-image becomes negative; when our experiences are positive, exciting or exhilarating, the impact on our self-image becomes positive. But… experiences are fleeting. As a result, we tend to resort to grasping at the pleasurable ones or pushing the negative ones away; a natural, functional response of the primal, thinking and analytical parts of our brain.
And, our body responds through the vast network of neurons which interpret those thoughts as feelings and emotions. Fear, anxiety, depression, sorrow, elation, excitement… these are all experienced physically.
Our over-identification with the thinking-mind, and the feeling-body, leads us down a road of constant suffering, confusion and delusion; leading us to push away, suppress, or grasp on to what is going on in the mind-body.
THE OTHER PART OF OUR SELF
Have you ever just sat, perhaps on the edge of an ocean, to become completely lost in the smells, the sensations of the ocean’s waves, the sounds of the seagulls, the warmth of the sun? Have you ever completely lost your personal sense of self while remaining (very) aware of your present-moment experience? What happened when your sense of self, your egoic self-identification suddenly disappeared? Did you cease to exist? Who, or what, was aware in that Zen-like moment?
This is often-called our conscious self-awareness, our intuitive heart, or, perhaps in religious terms, our spirit or soul. It is in this place, or state, that we are at peace; where we experience deep stillness and gain insight, wisdom and a new or fresh perspective of our self/Self. It’s ‘impersonal’ and we begin to see ourselves as more than our experiences, thoughts, beliefs and concepts of life and our self. This ‘state’ is referred to as our true nature, or Buddha nature; the awakened state. It is the awareness of all that we experience, but without attaching our sense of self to them; a new lens through which we experience, interpret and engage in and with life.
It is this underlying or background awareness that is who we truly are – unchanging, always aware and observing. But this should not be construed as yet another object or construct. The mind loves to do that – another paradigm to try and interpret our human internal and external experiences. It is really more about the awareness of awareness – the experience of presence – the ‘right now-right here’ energy of now – of simply being. It really cannot be described, qualified or quantified. It just is!
SO HOW DO WE STAY HEART-CENTRED?
Life, despite how it may appear, is not linear. It is a spiral of never-ending self-discovery which allows us to go deeper-and-deeper into a better understanding of reality, and of our relationship to this amazing and complex experience. We are experiencing conscious energy in human form. When we simply allow life to unfold – to ‘let be and let go’ of our need to understand, interpret and control life – we find true freedom.
In my article, The Wisdom of O.W.L.S., I wrote that once we become aware of the reality that we are not our thoughts or experiences, our perspective begins to shift; we begin to see that life is a ‘happening’. What our mind thinks and our body feels is the result of what is happening in our experience as a human being, just like a wave happens as a result of the forces which affect the movement of the ocean. We are not what is happening or what we are experiencing. The true self is the ever-present awareness of what is happening. By simply observing what is happening, we are the awareness. Stay with this awareness, moment-to-moment; this is where peace, deep stillness and equanimity are always, already present. This is who we really are!
LIBERATION FROM SUFFERING IS AN ACT OF OUR TRUE SELF.
Liberation is taking our intention and desire to be happy, healthy and fully alive to a point where we make the choice to move beyond our suffering. It is an act of surrendering the ego; letting go of our identification with experiences, and resultant thoughts and physical sensations, as who we are. When we decide to free our self, we make a conscious choice to end our suffering and to liberate our self from that which causes our pain.
And, we begin to learn to forgive but not forget the lessons. By forgiving, both ourselves and others, we are free from pain and suffering, and we to move into, and rest in, the warm light of healing, growth and maturity. We also become more aware of, and grateful for, all that is in our lives – the good, bad and indifferent. Each moment presents its own miracle of life.
And as we embrace this new perspective, we can begin to live more-and-more in heart-centred present-moment awareness – the place of deep inner wholeness.
Breathing in, I accept all that comes and goes in my life.
Breathing out, I let go and let be the mind’s attachments, resistance and fears.
Breathing in, I rest in the present with a quiet mind and open heart.
Breathing out, I embrace the peace and joy that is always, already present.
Edited by Jeff Potts,
Author Bio – A devoted meditator, Paul believes in the integration of mind, body and spirit as necessary for healing and bringing about physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness. Through meditation, he believes anyone can develop the ability to be heart-centred and live in gratitude, joy and peace, despite past or current trauma and life struggles.
You can read more articles by Paul here.