There are many spiritual paths and many philosophical studies to help us find wellbeing and happiness. At the beginning of each new year, many of us pledge and set new resolutions to change our habits and behaviors to move in a new direction. Billions of dollars are spent each year by people seeking help and self improvement. At the heart of success or failure is “self control” and “self discipline”. Will power is a lofty word implying that we can employ power by simply willing it. Yet why do so many of these ambitious beginnings fail and why is happiness and fulfillment so illusive?
The first step along the path of transformation is self honesty. We must take ownership of where we are and how our own choices and decisions created the life we are experiencing in the present. It may not seem like much of a choice, yet choice is available to us in each and every moment.
You may feel like you are a victim of circumstances. There may be some truth to that and we all have situations happen to us that we cannot control. The first insight is to realize that while we cannot control what happens to us all of the time, we can learn how to control how we react to the things we experience. Reaction is what happens at the moment an experience is beginning. It is in that very first perception of “what is” that we can implement choice. Reaction is simply having your buttons pushed and responding in accordance with your life-long conditioning. Typically reaction is automatic and we are not even aware of the reactive element until we suffer the consequences. After we have repeated the reaction enough times it just become our customary behavior, what we do when things cause an emotional trigger.
Therefore to prevent the reactive aspect of the mind from following its usual routine some other part of the self must intervene. This other aspect is called the higher self or the wisdom mind. This aspect of the mind is usually in the background, and its wise advice usually ignored. The reactive mind, ego is usually in charge the aspect of self that gets us into to trouble. We must learn to pay attention to what the mind is experiencing and how it is reacting. To “pay attention”, we must be aware of how we are identifying or being. Which aspectof the self is in charge. Identifying as the higher self, or the true self is the aspect of your conscious being that is awake and aware. Distraction is being lost in emotional thought that is driven by ego and a prisoner to reaction.
So how do we awaken from distraction, focus the mind long enough to become one with our true self? The answer is meditation.
In meditation we practice holding our attention where the intention is set by the true self. In many traditions such as Qigong, the breath is the focal point. We train our organic brain mind to pay attention for sustained periods so that it can unify with the spiritual mind, the true self. This may sound easy, but many find it difficult. It becomes a matter of patience and practice. The ego mind is bored easy and always always seeking stimulation. The ego wants something “to do”. If life is too problematic it will seek distraction from the reality of life and find something sensual to become lost in. That is the reaction. Life is problems and painful so lets tune out. Another term would be coping. The person grounded in ego is always coping with various forms of distraction and sensation seeking.
So at first , meditation seems very hard to do as our higher self begins to take charge of the mind. The harder it is to be still and quiet is an indicator of how energetic the ego mind is. The mind gets stimulated by activity. Sometimes it is just cognitive stuff required for doing work, or solving a problem. Other times it is artificially stimulated by engaging in emotional activities. In our modern culture Television and video games have become big culprits in over stimulating the mind for reasons of distraction. Busy days at work, work related stress and drama, make it very hard to “unwind” at the end of the day. Yet this is the very thing we must do in order to relieve stress.
The more stimulated the mind is, the more you need meditation and stillness. Yet the more stimulated the mind is the harder is to do. It is paradox that is only solved by sitting in stillness untill the mind finally runs out of energy. Then we must refrain from over stimulating and return to stillness over and over until we have trained our mind and the true self is securely in control. This is true self control.
We the true self is in control, those moment by moment decisions that create our life are made with patience and wisdom. When ego is in control, we cope with life with distraction. Being is experiencing life through consciousness. This spiritual aspect of you is your true self. We get lost from it after years of neglect and cannot find our way back. Meditation is the unifying of our physical aspect of self with our spiritual aspect of self. We then have the self control, the self discipline and willpower to create a life of well being and longevity.
So no matter which spiritual path you take up, one must first awaken and return to being. This awaken is the unifying of the two domains or the two selves. The spiritual and the physical becoming as one. Then, grounded in being, awake and aware we realize there are no ordinary moments. Awake and aware we realize that all we ever have is right now, and that the present moment holds eternity.
I follow and recommend the ancient path of the Tao. To follow the path of this ancient wisdom we must become self aware through meditation. That is a truth you can take to the bank. There are numerous meditation techniques and methods for returning to stillness and realizing the spiritual self. To transform your life you must find and practice the one that works. It takes faithful practice, and the reward is wonderful.
So here is a moment of truth for you. Will you slide back into ego? Will you seek the awakening of the true self and the wisdom that is available?