“If you work on your mind with your mind, how can you not be confused?”
A very common problem with the students I teach. They know that they are stuck, they know that they are suffering as a result. It’s all very well telling them to ‘think outside the box’ or to find the ‘infinite stillness within’ or as Bruce Lee would say “don’t think, feel” but if thinking is the tool that you’ve always used to problem solve, you’re stuck. You can only work on your mind with your mind up to a point.
And the mind is arrogant, particularly if you see yourself as a thinker and more intelligent than most, that thing that’s made you what you are is now your worst enemy. When you think that you have been meditating and think that you’re good at it, you know all the philosophy behind it and can quote all the great masters, when you’re giving great ‘re-quoted’ advice to others, you’re only digging yourself a deeper hole.
You don’t understand why you’re still suffering. Why you still feel that deep discomfort. Why you can’t just ‘do’ a good technique, why you never look natural. You constantly strive to follow your own advice and yet it still doesn’t work. You’re still scared, scared of sickness and death, scared of not having enough money, scared of not being well though of by others, your ego will hold on like grim death and the more you think….. the worse it gets.
Knowing ‘about’ something is not the same as ‘knowing’ it. Thinking about it is not the same as ‘feeling’ it. It’s simple, but simple is not always easy. This is why we have to find stillness, why we have to work on good posture, deep breathing, mental awareness, focus, sensitivity and intensity. We have to learn to focus on one thing and every time the mind goes dull or wanders, dispassionately bring it back until that focus can be sustained.
When focus can be sustained the mind will spontaneously become ‘absorbed’ and still, this is when true insight and wisdom can be accessed, a direct experience that is felt rather than thought, the ego has come to a standstill and the true infinite can be directly experienced. Completely different to what you thought it was.
I have many ‘friendly’ arguments with students that think that they have it but are still working on the mind with the mind and despite thinking in circles cannot accept what I’m trying to tell them, often they will blame me because they think they are doing everything they can. It’s there for the taking but the arrogance of the ego and false humility will constantly block them until they go through this process and find it for themselves.
It’s no coincidence that a ‘proper’ Tai Chi form takes 20 minutes to complete in good posture, good breathing and focused, soft continuous spiralling, it’s by design that some moves are repeated several times in the form so you have to be aware of exactly where you are to know which sequence comes next. “Short Forms’ are for the impatient and those that want a quick fix.
The intellectual arrogance of the ‘thinker’ knows no bounds – but the ‘way’ is simple and requires no thought.
By Steve Rowe