Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot Be Grasped (II) — Mind like the Sky

The mind likes to make and tell stories. But what I've begun to sense as I've gotten further into the Shobogenzo is that the thoughts and stories that underlie behavior and mind-state from moment to moment, including the story of a permanent self, are like clouds drifting through the sky — the sky of awareness.

The more I sit the more it seems like it's not the story of 'self' or any other story that's permanent, rather it's this awareness, or our awareness of this, that we sometimes tap into while sitting that's the constant presence. We are this awareness more than any specific story. Moreover, I think our ability to be content and happy depends on our ability to be present within this awareness.

Nonetheless making and telling stories is one of the functions of the brain. The brain takes what it perceives in each sensory system and tries to organize the different types of information into a unified picture that serves as the basis for a plan of action. Some of stories are necessary for our survival. The extent to which that's true, however, appears to me to be only a fraction of what our mind would like us to believe.

I get the sense that the more tightly we grasp onto or after stories, the more separation we create and this separation leads to suffering. Stories are typically self-centered and limited by our tendency to selectively attend to those bits of reality that, according to our stories, are most important to us. The resulting disconnect between the stories and reality creates an almost continual sense of dissatisfaction with things as they are. That sense of dissatisfaction functions a bit like a negative feedback loop that provides the motivation or drive for corrective adjustments (or the setting of goals) that aim to bring things in line — in line with our stories about self.

It not that 'self' doesn't exist. We have bodies and minds to prove it. And it's not that stories should be, or even can be, eliminated. I think our stories are part of what makes the experience of being human beautiful. Rather with zazen I think it's possible to relax our tendency to grasp as we begin to trust the constancy of awareness. The sense that I get is that trusting in awareness allows 'self' to be more flexible by being more present and in tune with our immediate reality. Trusting in awareness allows us to see more of the whole sky.

I admit I still have my stories. Right now, all things considered, my trust in this awareness feels like the most important one.

No comments: