Friday, June 10, 2011

Unminded


We live in a dense sea of what are essentially philosophical propositions about the nature of Being.

Everything that we examine is from within this mind. We are actually all but incapable of perceiving or understanding the irony of our position: the conviction that we can somehow understand what we are from within this mind, this moment, this condition, is 100%. Consequently, we are given to analyze, instead of live.

What disturbs me the most is that I perpetually sit within rooms and encounter conditions where this takes place under the pretense that it isn't taking place. As a recovering alcoholic (I will be 30 years sober this year) I know a good bit more about denial than most people, and I see it at work here, powerfully, and in all of its ordinary glory. Yes... we all live this way... I within my own life, you within yours.

In order to discover what Being is, it is necessary to become unminded.

That is an unfamiliar term–isn't it? We must become unminded. I use an unfamiliar term, because we seek an unfamiliar state. The state is more different than day is from night; day and night are in a dualistic relationship, a rightful and natural arrangement, but they are beholden one unto another. An unminded state is not beholden to anything but itself.

Undoubtedly, there are those who will read this and ask themselves on what authority I make these statements. After all, if I, too, live within this ordinary mind, how can I know anything about any other state? The general agreement is that we will only admit to one another–and perhaps even ourselves–that we have at best seen a snapshot or two, a very brief glimpse, of something other than this ordinary mind.

We are not to report that we have seen water run uphill.

These reports that we read about how a real manifestation of Being is (or can be) experienced are just reports; like sheets of paper that purport to tell you what a volcanic eruption is like. In this instance, a cataclysm is reduced to a flimsy object with a few marks on it, and all the pundits--that's us-- soberly nod their heads in agreement that this is, in fact, much like a volcanic eruption. The next thing you know, we pundits are reporting that these records in fact tell us how to replicate a volcanic eruption, that we can make one happen–or at least call one in with enough effort. We do this humbly, while bowing our heads, speaking in especially sincere low voices, and bogusly asserting that we believe we know nothing.

These activities would be amusing if it wasn't for how far off the mark they are. Something very different is called for. It is more than a snake shedding its skin; it is not new feathers on an old bird. We are all cowards in this enterprise, because we profess to seek revolution while we carefully support the regime. There is an inner politics underway in which every transaction is corrupted by the powers that be. If Gurdjieff's doctrine of multiple"I's" points to anything, it is this politics of being that attempts to trade off one part of what we are for another, and pass it off as meaningful change.

Ah, well. Enough of the condemnation. What is the search? Is anything actually possible?

Nothing can be gone at directly. When I point my camera at a bird, it flies away. To become unminded might require being forever prepared to be unminded, while being aware at all times that I am not so. There is a quality of unmindedness that hovers just beyond this quality of unmindfulness I inhabit. It is like a wise animal that lives out there on the edge of the woods I live in, watching me.

I can't practice mindfulness; the idea is wonderful, but it is a theoretical and philosophical proposition. If I am able to practice anything, I am able to practice a seeing of the fact that I am unmindful. Or, perhaps we could say, I am very mindful indeed, but it is the wrong kind of mind. I am 100% mindful in a way that is not at all helpful.

How could anyone suspect it? The ultimate aim of a practice of mindfulness is to become unminded. It transcends the dualistic understanding of either state. It represents a step into a new piece of territory.

Browsing through Meister Eckhart this morning–struck once again by the extraordinarily Buddhist nature of much of what he says, and its similarity to Jeanne de Salzmann's remarks in The Reality of Being–I came across the following passage in sermon number two, which is edited in order to create a more concise snapshot:

"It is a certain truth that time by its nature can touch neither God nor the soul. ... all time must fall away from that place where God is to be born in the soul, or she must have fallen away from time through her intentions and desires. ... This is the Now of eternity in which the soul knows all things new and fresh and present in God with the same delight which I have in those things that are present to me now. I recently read in a book (who can fathom this?) that God is creating the world even now as he did on the first day when he created the world. Here God is rich, and here is God's kingdom. The soul which is to be born in God must fall away from time as time must fall away from her." (Meister Eckhart–Selected Writings, translated by Oliver Davies, Penguin Classics 1994.)

May our prayers be heard.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, and to become "unminded" may take more courage than anyone can currently imagine. Who can do it? Who has the guts?

    And this may not be the running-into-a-burning-building-to-rescue-someone-and then receive-all-the- adulation-and-medals type of courage. Nobody will know you have taken this gigantic risk to become "unminded". I'm told the Sufis call this "throwing oneself onto the fire". And it is not fair to leave my tippy-toe on the shore. I have to push away out into the terrifying unknown. And again, who can do it?

    The first group I belonged to after joining the Gurdjieff Work, the Gurdjieff Community, was in the South Suburbs of Chicago. It was made up primarily with a few exceptions of recovering alcoholics who had met each other at their AA meetings. Each of them had gone thru hell I'm sure to get to AA and then to engage in a work so unknown and for all of us terrifying like the Gurdjieff program was really stepping off into the unknown. It was magical then and it remains the same to this day, although in a different way, at least on the outside (but not on the inside). It has been a slow process of becoming "unminded", first with the meetings and then the movements and then with the music and then with All and Everything and then Armonk and then with the NY Groups and then with Silver Lake.

    And now sitting here in my office in Wethersfield, I can listen to the sounds of the town, I can taste the breath going in and out, I can taste certain parts of my frame. My self takes a back seat. For a moment at least "I AM".

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