Well, if it’s so deep you don’t think that you can speak about it, don’t ever think that you can’t change the past and the future. You might not think so now, but just you wait and see — someone will come to help you. – Kate Bush
There is a gap between action and reaction. An infinitesimal interval, a flash between off and on, too fleeting for the conscious mind to perceive. As far as we’re concerned, this pause does not exist. But it is, in the truest sense, the most crucial moment of everything we’ve ever experienced, said or done. In fact, it’s the moment of creation. What is created in this unregistered blip on our internal radar screens is the essence of all that will follow.
Someone cuts me off in traffic. Later on, I relate the story with bravado, “As soon as that asshole pulled in front of me, I laid on the horn and flipped him off.” Wrong. As soon as ‘that asshole’ pulled in front of me, my subconscious scanned my entire history of memories, conflicts, opinions, prejudices, humiliations, fears, perceived victories and perceived failures. It searched ego’s stock of masks, roles and images. Regardless of its final choice, still it imperceptibly looked at the level of importance I attached right at that moment to the virtuous notions of empathy, understanding and forgiveness. Finally, it decided that understanding the possible motives of a total stranger at rush hour was not worth the effort, then – and only then – did it instruct my conscious mind to pummel my horn and extend the obscene gesture. That’s an awful lot of activity occurring in less than a nanosecond, but still I made the regrettable choice in this hypothetical traffic confrontation.
Some might ask why it was the regrettable choice. That driver cut you off, right? That’s dangerous! Fuck him! And of course, it was a pretty mild road rage event that I just described and thus probably wouldn’t really have had all that significant of an effect on the recipient of my ire. Within minutes, all involved would most likely have forgotten all about it. Except that we never forget. Everything we do, everything we feel, everything we say creates the perpetually new paradigm called “You at this moment”. That’s the only “you” there is (and even that you’s existence is debatable, but one convoluted topic at a time, right?).
We can learn to gradually access that gap through meditation. The type of meditation to which I’m referring is not a matter of meditating about anything. It’s the practice of non-conceptual awareness. And it’s a bitch. I’m not trying to say that the act of sitting still is a bitch. Sometimes I can sit still for hours on end and I assure you, it’s easy as pie (again, contemplating ‘just how easy is pie?’ would require a blog post unto itself). What is exceedingly difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, is achieving the willingness to let go of yourself completely. Many people who are keen to embrace a new-agey lifestyle filled with yoga and mantras and meditation tend to define letting go of themselves as something whose progress they can mark by how many minutes or hours they dedicate to self-conscious breathing techniques and how good of a write-up their “guru” received in the Shambhala Tricycle. This kind of “spirituality” is futile. Ego runs rampant through such endeavors and all one can reasonably learn from years of this kind of spiritual materialism (thank you, Trungpa Rinpoche) is what flavor of incense they prefer to have smoldering in the yoga studio.
To lose oneself completely means to forget who you are – to stop the flow of thoughts that seem to come at you from the past and the future. This only sounds frightening to those who haven’t tried it. But in fact, every single one of us enters a realm of no-self every single night in dreamless sleep. You, quite literally, die every time you drift into unconsciousness. When you wake up, everything looks as it did when last you were conscious and this makes you assume that you have been alive in an uninterrupted time stream whose duration is always increasing. Yes, your vital functions continued as you slept. Your body did not die, obviously. But is your body “you”? If you define yourself by your physical form, then you are a completely different person every seven years as every cell died and was replaced according to your DNA blueprint.
Your mind isn’t “you”, either, but it is capable of crystalline awareness unfettered by notions of self. This type of awareness isn’t thought. It does not express itself in language or symbols. When a bird swoops from a tree in a graceful arc in front of eyes seeing without self, without concepts, it is seen – and more clearly than usual, because the experience isn’t polluted with the concepts of “bird” or “tree”.
Why is it so important for us to learn how to access this Mind, this Self that is by its very nature unconcerned with self? Because it only exists in the gap, the moment of creation. Without this Mind that lives in the gap, the Universe would not have materialized and there would be no life. This Mind belongs to no one because the apparent existence of separate personalities with individual destinies is an illusion. A man-made fiction. The gap that I previously described as infinitesimal is also eternal. And we have always been abiding there as one. Before we were “we”, We created the Universe, and We continue to create it moment to moment, but non-linearly, always now.
The imaginary man in the car who cut me off was me. He was you. My split-second decision to express my anger actually resulted in a middle finger extended directly at my own face. This is pure folly. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. The only way to do this is to love everyone with perfect equanimity. Every single person you meet is a mirror. I look at you looking at me looking at you and down the rabbit hole we go! Our bodies and minds become insubstantial, leaving only the Love that plays a never ending game of hide and seek in and with our temporary selves. If you can’t enjoy this game, it’s not worth playing. So play on and enjoy every moment, my beautiful friends.