When you are caught in feelings, thoughts, frustration and trying to figure out what to do, thoughts may arise like: What can I do? How can I be more spiritual? How can I be more surrendered?
This is the mind just doing what it does—angling for advantage. The key here is to stop being the mind. Stop asking: What should I do here? How can I rise above this? (Or whatever the mind is suggesting as a strategy.) Instead, become the whole of your experience—again and again.
Become the whole of your experience and notice certain things arising in that experience, such as “frustrated mind,” “wondering what to do,” or any uncomfortable emotions. Through this approach, you are dropping back into what the nondual Tantrik tradition sometimes calls: “the posture of Divine Mother.” That is to say, She who is Consciousness holding space for all Her children—holding space for whatever is arising and subsiding because, ultimately, all that arises is Consciousness in its full variety of expressions.
Once you are able to hold this space, you will realize: “Oh, when I was in the mind space, I was perceiving x, y, z as a problem. But that was only from the perspective of the conditioned mind.” You don’t try to solve or fix it. You just melt yourself into the whole of your experience and just be with the arising and subsiding of all that arises and subsides.
And, this is the key: You aren’t trying to get yourself into some “inner state.” You are just noticing that Consciousness Itself—very quietly, but infinitely—loves everything that is arising and subsiding. It loves the arising and it loves the subsiding. Because that is its nature.
What is this love that loves, that enjoys, the arising and subsiding of all things? If we were to compare it to our usual hormonal or physical kinds of love, it’s different than that—it’s a profoundly quiet love that is very powerful, like the ocean at rest. Quiet, but powerful. We are not trying to actualize this state but, rather, we are feeling into it and noticing it more and more. It’s always there, waiting to be noticed.
Sure, there are strategies you can use to make the mind happier. But, ultimately, it’s fruitless because the mind will never get what it wants, which is to be happy all the time. That’s never going to happen. But, here’s the key: A realization can occur in which you understand that what the mind actually wants is to stop wanting. Because that’s the “peace that passeth all understanding.” And so the mind imagines, Okay, here’s how we are going stop wanting. Let’s make sure that everything I want to happen happens, and then I’ll stop wanting, and that’s happiness!
When you realize that’s what the mind is trying to do, then you can open up to another other possibility. You no longer need to figure out how to stop the mind from wanting. You just melt into the whole of your experience and then the mind sorts itself out. Because the mind’s movements are anxious until it figures out that it’s checkmated; that its efforts are futile. It will never get everything it wants and even if it did, that wouldn’t make it happy. So that wouldn’t make you happy.
So, at this point there’s a spiritual ripening, like a fruit on the tree that is finally ready to fall. When this ripening occurs, the mind is then able to realize: Ah, I’ll never get what I want and even if I did, I wouldn’t be happy. Then, it feels checkmated and it just surrenders. It becomes still for moment. So it stops pulling your attention so much. Because even though you are not your mind, your mind keeps pulling at awareness. It keeps pulling to get your attention, almost like having a mental spasm, and every day the mind has to have a spasm! This happens because Consciousness becomes intrigued and curious about anything that is spasming or pulsing; and it can become wrapped up in that movement. And, when Consciousness gets intrigued by the movement, it then imagines Itself to be that mind in spasm. There’s what we call identification.
Thankfully, Consciousness isn’t static. There is a spanda, an oscillation in Consciousness. It can realize, Oh, I got wrapped up in it and now I’m going to relax out of it and hold space for it. (This realization can happen without words, of course.) When you relax out of the mind-space, it’s not difficult to enter into quiet presence again. The key is to relax, recognizing: I got caught up in it and now I’m going to relax back into full conscious presence while holding space for it and letting it finish its spasm.
Otherwise, the mind has at best just paused, and that spasm will come back in one form or another. Just let it finish its little thing that it’s doing and then you are the one holding space for the mind as opposed to you being the mind. In doing so, you are not making the mind an object you have to get rid of. And you are not perceiving Consciousness as something separate from you. You are the conscious presence within which the mind is doing whatever it’s doing.
If you miss this understanding, what can happen is a subtle spiritual form of dissociation that people often call “Witness Consciousness.” If you don’t understand what “witnessing” actually means—and when it is spiritually skillful—it can become just a subtle form of spiritual dissociation.
At a certain phase in your spiritual practice, witnessing, or distancing, is an effective and even necessary practice. This is especially true if you are very entangled by certain thoughts, senses, desires that arise again and again. You may need some distance to gain a different perspective. That’s fine and can be helpful, for a time.
Ultimately, as you progress on the spiritual path, you will recognize that distancing, dissociation, and witnessing can work for a little while; but the more full, ripened version of practice is when you melt yourself into the whole of your experience and become intimately present with it without needing to tell any stories about it. Then what you are (your essence-nature) permeates everything. It’s just being the fullness of what you are: Consciousness. Being it includes everything that is happening within it. It’s holding everything, it’s just that you don’t have to limit it by identifying with the different parts of it. You are the whole of your experience. Consciousness is who you are and it includes everything.
What you are aiming for, then, is to be able to drop into the fullness of Consciousness. In order to experience the whole, you relax into Consciousness, being intimately present with whatever arises, free from story—even in the most painful moments. Consciousness doesn’t need to distance itself. Your difficult emotion is not any more yours than any other feature of your experience. For example: If you come across a dying animal, you may have a poignant moment with it, but you are not going to make it a big deal in your life because you don’t think it is “yours.” It’s the mental construct of “mine” that turns things into a big deal.
You can stop making these assignations: “my” issue, “my” problem, “my” emotion. What if you regarded any difficult emotion that arises in the same way you regard a hurting child in your path? You regard it with love, compassion, and care. To do that, you need to realize this whole “me/not me,” “mine/not mine” thing is just made up; it’s deeply, deeply conditioned, but it’s also fabricated.
You realize that what you thought was a problem is not really a problem because this difficult emotion that is arising in the space of Consciousness doesn’t deserve to be glorified or dismissed—just like a hurting child doesn’t deserve to be dismissed and doesn’t need to be glorified. You can hold a loving and compassionate space for the feeling and allow it to resolve itself. And it will. That I can promise you.
About the Author:
Christopher Wallis, also known as Hareesh, is a scholar-practitioner with thirty years of experience, having been initiated into the practice of yogic meditation at sixteen, and fifteen years of formal education. His degrees include a B.A. in Religion and Classics from the University of Rochester, an M.A. in Sanskrit from U.C. Berkeley, an M.Phil. in Classical Indian Religions from Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Sanskrit from U.C. Berkeley. Additionally, he received traditional education at Yoga āshrams, training in meditation, mantra-science, kīrtan, Karma-Yoga, and pedagogy. He currently teaches meditation, Yoga darśana (practical philosophy), Nondual Saiva Yoga philosophy, Sanskrit, and mantra-science. Hareesh is the author of Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition and The Recognition Sutras: Illuminating a 1,000-year-old Spiritual Masterpiece. He is the Founder and Head Faculty of TantraIlluminated.org