Fresh Clear Eyes
In Buddhist meditation there is a lot of formal practice, often tedious and frequently painful. In the same way an athlete will excercise so too does a Buddhist spend time on their cushion each day. The athlete trains so that at the time of their event they can perform well. I trained so that I could be aware of the process of the mind creating opinions, judgements, stories.
Why did I spend six years training to be aware of the process of the mind? So I could be free of the unhelpful habits of my mind that (according to Buddha) are the cause of all misery.
I’ve moved away from formal Buddhist meditation but the training is still there. And every now and then it kicks in spontaneously. I will be fuming with anger about someone and then I suddenly realise I am furious not because of them but because of an opinion I was holding onto about them. In the absence of that opinion I don’t have a problem. By seeing the process one can step outside it – if that’s what you choose. Not everyone wishes to.
Even the old decaying concrete walls and piles of rubbish looked fresh and new. I suppose that’s what happens when I have fresh, clear eyes.
So I was in Rishikesh, India, and having a moment by the Ganga River. There was water, sunlight, buildings, rocks. There was no script, no story. Just the river and sunshine and my breathing. And I was aware of this moment and accepting of it.
I’d stepped out of the usual mental process for a moment. The next step is to not be sucked back into that usual mental process by automatically filling that space. And a part of me wanted to fill the space, fill it by fixating on something – sensations, memories or plans, it almost doesn’t matter what. Possibilities arose – I could dwell on the mundane (my bum is sore, i should get up and walk); to the sensory (i could eat those mangoes in my bag, they’d taste delicious right now); to the sensual (I wonder if she’d go to bed with me?); to the transcendental (it would be so cool to be enlightened!).
And the automatic response is to choose an option and become immersed in the drama! To go with a thought and weave a whole vivid and compelling story about this imagined future! One story might be “If I walk where will I go? What will I do?”. Or how about some minor pride over my purchase of mangoes, encouraging myself what a seasoned traveller I am? Erotic daydreams are another great way to avoid investigating the mental process that I find so difficult to step out of. And of course speculating on enlightenment is an ancient method for avoiding the cost of attaining enlightenment.
But in that moment the busy chatter of the mind became another part of the moment, just like the river and the sunlight. All those hours of meditation sent practicing a habit coming to blossom in a moment of spontaneous letting go.
This was a moment when i observed the habit arising in the mind and i side stepped it – let it go. There was a vivid sense of something bustling and writhing, looking to feed itself, looking to grow. Like a virus, wanting to hijack my energy, control me.
In that moment it was possible to stop the mental-virus before it gained momentum. And the resulting space in the mind was open to having an experience: the sound of the river; the pattern of leaves against the sky; the feeling of warm, rough concrete against my back.
There was no need for words. There was no need to do anything. It was enough to experience without comment, without judgement, without reaction. The Ganga’s waters made patterns of green and white as the rafters bobbed over the rapids, falling up and down with crazy turbulence as the river roared on, vast and inhuman. I actually saw the river: it was pure energy expressing itself as water. The buildings on the opposite shore amidst the trees and bushes looked as if they had popped into existence in that moment. Everything looked as if it had just appeared. Even the old decaying concrete walls and piles of rubbish looked fresh and new. I suppose that’s what happens when I have fresh, clear eyes.
Space. When I made that decision to not go with the habit of the busy mind there was a lot of space – in the absence of mental clutter the mind has an openness that can welcome and enjoy anything.
I look up and hear Rishikesh. Vividly. See it, smell it. Scooters dodging cow shit and holy men dozing by the side of the road, their beards and dreadlocks intricate patterns of follicles. There are children playing on the river sands, their bright red and green clothes flash like parrots in flight as the kids cry out and chase each other, with the adults walking slowly along after them, barefoot and benign.