The Inner, the Outer and Five Steps to Freedom. (Part Two)
We live in a society that emphasizes the surface.
Focusing on the apparent foreground of our lives, we become fairly oblivious and numb to the infinite background that is always present—the vast wilderness within the mind as well as the universe that gave us life holding us moment after moment. A collective lack of reverence and recognition of the ultimate reality behind the undulations of what is before us is an essential faux pas within modern culture.
This series offers a cultural paradigm shift: experience life, but first, make it a priority to deeply examine your inner self, diving below the waves to become the master of your inner realms.
Becoming Aware of the Trap: Small Mind
Small mind, subjective, common, self-interested mind—the stream of thoughts, judgments, worries, opinions, feelings and reactions—clouds and fogs the clear sky of the background. When the internal dialogue within our heads ensnares us, when we believe the little narratives we tell ourselves, when we run away from ourselves through external outlets, and fall into moodiness, small mind has taken over.
It’s easy to live within the delusion or prison of small mind, unaware of the vast consciousness of space beyond—the deep medium through which the individual thoughts, emotions and subjective waves cover. Void of right and wrong, light and dark, directionless, immovable and uncontrollable, this space—the one—is what remains at our core.
Our consciousness gives us the opportunity to see into, to see through and to become the reflection of this ultimate reality. To reach this threshold, to become human beings and to transcend our existence as “human doings,” one must be willing to pierce through the mirage: the prison of small mind and the culture it has created.
An old master once explained what it is like to live through the ego and why we go about this way:
When students in this modern world fail to make progress, what’s the problem? The problem is they don’t have faith in themselves. If you don’t have faith in yourself then you will be forever in a hurry trying to keep up with everything around you. You’ll be twisted and turned in whatever environment you are in… But if you can just stop this mind that goes rushing around moment-by-moment looking for something, then you’ll be no different than the ancestors and Buddhas. Would you like to get to know the ancestors and Buddhas? They are none other than you, the people in front of me, listening to this lecture on the Dharma.
~ Master Linji
We are abandoning ourselves—the stillness below the ego that accepts the world as it comes—when we lose touch with the inner. Reacting and “rushing about” leads to a loss of connection to the core of existence: the clarity inherent within the present moment.
The mind as a whole is beautiful. It has given us art, poetry, love, connection, religious experience and expression.
But the mind is also an entity that has hijacked humanity’s being and given it the illusion of power and control over impermanence: life, evolution, emotion and death. Jumping headlong into the illusion and acting within it constitutes the deepest form of abandonment. We have left our inner core as well as the ultimate reality that comes with it to act out dreams stemming from our own “egoic” narrative.
The suppression of reality and our ability to create and believe in subjective and fabricated “truths” that are only fitting to our contemporary understanding of things as they appear, removes us from an intricate web within life that is constantly in flux and, as stated before, beyond the confines of logical interpretation. The result is a loss of intimacy with what is: the overarching freedom within the personal, direct experience of now.
The fundamental issue of subjective, small mind is its inability to recognize, remain aware of, and accept the universal truth of change. When we abandon the stillness of our inner core, small mind takes over. Small mind wants to fight, resist, react, manage, conceptualize, judge, tame, know and control change. But this, of course, leads to suffering and further entrenchment of small mind. The cycle has begun and the icy fortress walls thicken. Meanwhile, we remain within a minaret, putting up and taking down various opinionated decorations, forever unaware of the equanimity lying patiently within the darkness of the unknown inner wilderness.
Everything changes, nothing remains without change
In this very instant, we—through cellular death and regeneration, and everything around us, the earth and the universe—are shifting, all part of an inconceivable kaleidoscope. In terms of geological time, continents fly across the planet, species exist and then die off, deserts appear, transform into forests, and then soar to heights beyond the clouds only to be found at a later date, lying on the sea floor. Change is in this sentence.
The brain immediately confronts us with its great complexity. The human brain weighs only three to four pounds but contains about 100 billion neurons. Although that extraordinary number is of the same order of magnitude as the number of stars in the Milky Way, it cannot account for the complexity of the brain. [ii]
Read the rest of the series:
Part One: See This World as a Stage
Part Three: Greeting Our Demons Through Meditation
Part Four: Taking Space
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger