In Buddhism, as well as some forms of modern psychology, there is the idea that the vastness of the human mind shares some level of connection to the memory of geological time and that this ancient relationship, between humanity and the archetypes of nature, quietly bleeds into our interaction with life, on a moment-to-moment basis.
It is within these depths, where the blending of dreams, fear, joy, human civilization and wilderness interact with the scope of our evolution and the trials and tribulations that come with searching the plains for the hardened footprints of mammoths, that we begin to discover the immensity of the internal regions we experience.
Closing our eyes and turning the light of our awareness inward, means running head on into the source of our humanity, as well as the epicenter of what drives us, while we walk brightly lit city streets and bite into precooked, half pound hamburgers.
Whether or not we tread into the notion of there being more than what meets the thoughts and mental boundaries of our thinking mind, the sheer size and mystery of the interconnected energy, within the present moment alone, is enough to slice through our sturdiest walls.
Zen practice is stepping into the immediacy of the unknown and the infinite scope of existence that looms large over what is here; it could be interesting to sit and breath with a mountain or stare into the heart of a blooming flower without our preconceived mental structures. What might that do to your mind?
But, within nature and the depths of the mind, is darkness and the unknown.
The unknown quality is frightening, uncanny and prone to incite our aversion, yet the descent into the mind on the inner journey forges no other route than the slow and patient fall into spaciousness—and this means an eventual collision into what we have always been keen on avoiding.
Heading diligently towards the unknown provides us with a growing acceptance of the inconceivable rules that govern the vastness of the territory that we move through—and the myriad of possibilities that we encounter along the way.
Turning the light of our awareness inward and remaining present with what meets us, implies learning to be at ease with the beasts of our human experience—the ancient and imbedded prospect of venturing out beyond the fringe of the firelight, into the darkness that hides the silhouettes of hungry Asian and African big cats is the same fundamental landscape of the mind that holds crushing grief, depression, hell and the cessation of the ‘who’ that we so fervently believe we are.
To avoid the predators of the night, we are programmed to stay in the known—to remain with the clan and feel the warmth of the firelight against our outstretched palms.
In this sense, if we feel fear, then we build a fire—and if we are lonely, then we call a friend or eat a bowl (or three) of chocolate ice cream. It is this kind of ancient response to the unknown—running to a mentally created, comfortable known—which runs through our human mind, that we carefully examine in meditation.
Rather than being tossed about by the push and pull of reaction, we remain still, going directly toward the source of our deepest stirrings.
What we find can be intriguing; something that completely alters our interaction with the present moment. Following a chord deep into the mind, we might find a regal looking version of our ancestors or bump into a sense of spaciousness that would surround the larger celestial bodies of the universe and permeate through the stillness of a northern boreal forest.
If the mind is as deep as time, then the profound sense of vastness behind our reactions and impulses might literally be able to blow our smaller selves apart in an instant. What ensues is the innate depth and wisdom buried within the complexity of the human mind—one that only makes itself known to us through touching the base layer of manifestation.
Descending into the mind goes hand-in-hand with the fear of darkness—where our senses and weapons are no match for the mythological creatures stirring beyond what little we perceive.
Stepping into the unknown conjures its own imaginations of being left to our own devices, to fend for ourselves in the backdrop of an unforgiving environment where the predators of the savanna might come to devour our bodies. In Auden’s “September 1, 1939,” the author commented on the driving engine of fear in the collective modern mind of humanity when he wrote:
“Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.”
Personally, I find this stanza alone to be one of the most insightful pieces of writing in the entire canon of modern literature.
When we descend into the mind and find the fear of darkness—the ancient prospect of fending against the beasts of the unknown—it opens a few eyes and ignites the flame of awareness. Learning how to not listen to our created ‘knowns’ might unlock something interesting.
To reach a sense of oneness and sit with the current of life, we must journey back through the mind to face the prospect of being alone—to taste the lowest of lows as a way of appreciating the profundity of even the most trivial of human experiences. The process is not any different than falling to touch the base connection of life.
Passing through the most evolutionarily advanced consciousness on earth, we must go right through, against what we tell ourselves is easier and safe, to wade into the darkness and claim the wholeness of the life that is here—the depth of the human consciousness spanning through the eons of time.
Meditating and even venturing out for a night or two into the wilderness might change your life.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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