August 16, 2013 § 1 Comment
Surrendering to the August sun, I place my book aside and walk down to the beach. There’s a special place I like to sit after entering the water, a glacier flattened rock that lies just below the waterline when the tide is in. In spite of the heat my body rebels against the cooler water as I enter the ocean. Wading in I find my rock and sit.
In the distance a speedboat races to nowhere in particular. Beyond it are a couple of sailboats taking the wind. My mind wanders. I think I must have passed False Creek over three thousand times in the last fifteen years before realizing that anchored boats always mark the direction of the tide. An incoming tide turns a boat to open waters, while the out-going tide turns it’s bow to the shore. Interesting how the daily motions of the sea could go unnoticed for so long.
The waves kicked up by the speedboat reach me and bring me back to the moment. One by one they bump and slightly lift me off the rock. When a wave of anxiety hits I focus my attention as I’ve been taught. Holding the feeling in my awareness I gently assert it is just a product of the brain. It is just neurons firing away in some habitual manner from some long passed trauma, an automatic reaction to a false threat that has no existence outside my brain and therefore no real existence at all.
In the past my belief in the reality of the threat caused me much dread and apprehension. One day, however, I saw that the threat wasn’t true. This realization lasted only a moment but having once seen the truth I began to work on it. I began to see how my fears “leaked” into my perceptions taking on an appearance of reality that properly belonged only to the sights and sounds gathered in by my senses. But it wasn’t just my fears that tainted my perceptions. Everything I thought and felt bled out into the world. I was caught up in some waking dream, acting and reacting to what was predominantly only in my head. I had found illusion. I had found Māyā.
Māyā of the Vedantists is the physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled. Māyā is held to be an illusion, a veiling of the true Self. But having recognized it in my own mind I found it possible to dispel the illusion, although a bit at a time and with much work still to come.
Every day waves of thought arise and fall, flowing out into the world where they take on a false sense of reality. When pleasant, it’s easy to rest in their dreamy consciousness and many people do spend much of their lives in this type of consciousness. But more often than naught fear contaminates perception and the world begins to take on a nightmarish quality. Anxiety, depression or a host of other emotional troubles arise for which we can find no solution. The solution eludes us because we seek it in a world where there is only illusion. We must stop seeking solutions in Māyā because in Māyā there is no truth.
Disentangling from Māyā takes time as habits and patterns built up over years are not easily brought down. It also takes courage because we must look directly at our greatest fears. It can be quite emotionally distressing to hold our fear and anxiety in consciousness but it is quite necessary if we wish to realize their falseness and unreality.
It is said that we must embrace our fears but little is said on how this is done. To me, embracing means holding a thought or feeling in the awareness, as you would hold a butterfly in your hand. You would not hold the butterfly to too tightly lest you injure it, nor would you hold it too loosely lest it fly away before you could examine it. Fear, or any other feeling toned thought for that matter, must be held in the awareness in the same way without obsession or repression. It is essentially a meditative practice like any other except that the object of the meditation is an anxiety, fear, depression or some other emotion.
I found it very useful when so holding a fear to gently assert that it exists only as neurons firing in the brain. This strips the emotion of the false belief that it exists in the outer world. Now it may take time for the full effect of this process to reach fruition, and I must advise that at times I felt pretty miserable doing this. But each time I did, it made the next time that much easier. And as you progress you’ll note that your fears and other emotions are gradually being withdrawn from the world around you back to where they actually exist, in your brain alone.
When you begin to see that all thought and emotion exist in the brain and not in the outer world then one more thing happens. You begin to see that your self, or ego, also exists only in the brain. It, too, is false and not the real you. In seeing this, Māyā dissolves and you realize your true Self is that ocean of pure Consciousness you’ve been sitting in all along.