Its official I’m seeing things. I’ve been home in the Byron Shire for 10 days and every day I wake up to a perfect sunrise. From my home high up in the hills I watch black cockatoos, magpies and butcher birds while listening to the sound of the wind whipping through the gum trees. I even spotted a wallaby on my driveway.
Something my partner John always emphasises in his classes is that nothing unusual ever happens in the creation. “Ask you parents, your grandparents and their parents. Has anyone ever seen anything out of the ordinary? Does the sun come up in the wrong direction? Does your neighbour’s house suddenly disappear?”
So when I saw a silver flash shimmering way out on the ocean, I thought, “Is that a whale?” It flashed again somewhere nearby, I was sure that was a spout of water. Yes, it must be a pod of whales; the silver must be the splash of water. I don’t usually wear my glasses in the morning, but they did seem to make things very clear. Then I saw something unusual, circular balls like balloons dropping from a cloudless sky towards the hills just near the ocean? They were dropping fast and there must have been 4 or 5 of them. At first I thought they were planes or maybe birds, or perhaps hot air balloons or skydivers. In fact as the phenomenon continued so did my mind throwing up all sorts of imaginative answers until I came to the conclusion that I was seeing UFO’s and that the silver flashes were signals coming from the mother ship, which had crash landed in the ocean.
Bare with me, I’m sharing this story for a reason. Being passionate about observing my reactions to my thoughts I decided to see the whole incident as the perfect opportunity to understand how the mind works and why I make mountains out of molehills.
In Yoga the mind is seen as having four aspects or functions. These four functions work together to give us an experience of something. The first part of the mind is like a recording device. It takes in the information but it doesn’t KNOW what it’s seeing. It’s like pressing record on your camera when you’re not in the room. So who or what interprets what’s being seen? The intellect. It says “ that’s a wallaby.” But the intellect can only function when it works in tandem with memory. If the object hasn’t been named and filed in the memory, the intellect can’t make sense of and it will keep going into the memory to find something that looks like what it thinks it’s seeing. Then the fourth part of the mind the “I” thought takes ownership of what it sees. “ I’m seeing a wallaby.” No matter what it sees the “I” thought’s job is to take ownership of it. Even when the mind is unsure and the intelligence is rummaging through the memory banks the “I” will own up to every single thing the mind throws up.
What happened next was very interesting. Rather than relaxing, because I had an answer to my question, I freaked out. Why? Because my conditioning through movies, television and stories had told me that Aliens are bad, scary or that their appearance meant something scary was going to happen. Something unusual was about to happen in the creation and it was time to run.
This is what all of us do every day in one form or another.
In our experiences and interactions we are in a feedback loop, seeing only what we think is true based on our conditioning. It is very rare to look out at something and see it for what it is. No matter how spiritual our outlook it’s still an “ outlook” based on a conditioning that we have either been given or chosen to adopt.
So what’s the answer? How do we trump the loop?
The next time you look at something and you don’t know what it is and you feel yourself scrambling for an answer, STOP, take a breath and watch the mechanism at work. Ask “In whose presence is all this taking place? Who is illuminating each part of the process? Who is asking? Asking your self “WHO” is more important than trying to define the experience.
This past week was Guru Purnima. A guru is someone who takes away your ignorance. It could be anything it doesn’t have to be of a spiritual nature. It could be your ignorance of swimming or driving a stick shift. Everything we have ever learned comes through a teacher, our mother being our first one. I feel so grateful to have had many wonderful teachers in my life and I feel even more grateful that I have such a passion for teaching and sharing.
Now that John and I are back in Australia we look forward to reconnecting with dear friends and students and meeting new ones. We have a few full months ahead of workshops and teacher training. It would be awesome to meet you either on our home turf or on the road….