Posted by Alex Klokkaris, Wednesday 21st October, 2015
Looking up directly above your head, can you make out a little grey cloud that seems to follow you around like a shadow?
Maybe it’s bubble-shaped, filled with current concerns, endless things to do, a background discomfort or low-level anxieties. How determined are you to keep your cloud at all costs?
Are you resigned to the fact that ‘Where-I-go-my-cloud-goes’ or do you sometimes entertain the idea of finding or uncovering another way of being with yourself and in the world?
The underlying cause of so much of our everyday and deeper angst lies in the impossibility of wanting to control not only our present but our future too. Most of the incessant ‘head noise’ that consumes us, concerns either the past or future, and somehow we keep losing track of the now: The only moment that is truly ours. So what happens? We miss out the enjoyment of being alive, on daily inspiration and the very experience of everyday miracles unfolding before us; all because, on some level, we are in love with our problems.
Sometimes I wonder if time is really accelerating, or if it is truly all in the mind! Most of us seem to have a sense of urgency, responding with reflex-like reactions and emotions to demands, with a string of pressures and personal blocks to work through… and so little time! This anxiety is accentuated by our ever chattering mind with real or perceived demands. On top of that, stuff happens, more of less constantly.
Just for a moment, imagine what it would be like to be free of it.
Deep down we know what we need to do or adjust. Change and the need for realignment beckon and the call gets louder until it begins to manifest in different forms, including physical symptoms, depression or a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Persistently refusing to pay attention to the signs, often causes more prominent indications that something needs addressing. Ultimately ignoring these, leads to a more serious predicament, sometimes in the guise of an external event which we feel we don’t have any control over, in one or more areas of our lives. It is at this point that we are often forced to re-evaluate and consider required changes.
Why wait for the crisis? Is it only possible to grow through pain, discomfort and hues of suffering of some sort or other? In my younger days of scribbling manically on the back of tickets and envelopes on the London Underground in a state of existential angst, I was convinced that good writing, poetry and art could only emerge through suffering. How could you possibly be cool and be happy at the same time? How can you find expression to profound truths and be upbeat and positive? Truth surely could only surface through pain.
There is a certain romance and a seductive quality to pain, which can also become addictive. When pain comes up, in the form of anger, depression or a general malaise and restlessness, few are brave enough to allow themselves, to pause, take a look and to feel the source of whatever is bothering them, beneath layers of resistance. With the aid of a rich menu of distractions we have at our disposal – internet, retail therapy, mind-numbing TV, food, the list goes on, all in varying degrees, we’ll do anything but sit and feel the anguish.
Pain can be old, new or recent but it all joins together in a body of pain, which impedes our progress towards leading our best lives. Like the compacted form of an onion, there is layer upon layer of past hurt that we carry around at any given time. We muddle through life as best as we can, until we hit something that triggers off a layer and a cosmic ‘ouch’ occurs!
The choice then is to supress or deal with it. In reality it is a gift in disguise and a trigger for growth on our developmental spiral. Once processed and the gift of insight or lesson is unravelled, we can then carry on until events and circumstances conspire to trigger another layer. Each time we have the opportunity to release, heal and create space for new versions of ourselves and get closer to the core of our true nature.
The practice of mindfulness can play a key role in encouraging healing and transformation through surrendering to the moment with compassion, gentle curiosity and a degree of detachment, freeing ourselves from the soup of thoughts we are immersed in much of our day.
Paradoxically, the act of surrender is a dynamic process which allows us to fully inhabit the present. It involves release from self-generated thought-forms which largely rule our minds, and a connection to a multiplicity of higher energies.
So what are thought-forms? They are repeated thoughts or patterns of thinking which gather energy and almost become entities in themselves. Like all entities, they look for more thought-food as, by their very nature, their aim it to survive! These thoughts are part of the ego, which is under the illusion that it is protecting you. With its clichéd motto ‘better the devil you know’, at least you know where you stand! The prospect of annihilation of the constant stream of thoughts of worry, anxiety and sense of incompleteness could mean loss of a sense of identity. What more frightening thing could there be? No wonder the ego clings so tightly!
The act of surrender is not to be confused with ‘giving up’; on the contrary, it is an active and powerful state with heightened alertness and perception. Mind confusion and the normal filters of perception are suspended and one is able to at least glimpse the true nature of reality and who we are. It is an act of Trust; it can be dramatic or gentle, but either way it requires of us to let go.
This relinquishing of control, seemingly simple as a concept, can also be one of the most difficult things to do and can be reached through a state that involves simply being. Notice the way children fully experience the now. A saucepan lid can lead to hours of fun and a miniscule ant can be a source of great fascination! When immersed in an activity or hobby you love and time flies, your awareness is tuned into the present moment; as is watching a beautiful sunset and just for a few moments, connecting to something bigger and more beautiful that feels like Truth. In those moments do you ever wonder, which is the dream and which is the reality?
Mindfulness is a state of being fully in the now and being attentive to the moment. It is like opening a window and letting in a breeze that reminds you of who you really are, experiencing life without the normal constraints of filters of perception. The conditioned mind and thought-forms are recognised for what they are and the release brings with it new freedom, a joy of being alive and feelings of gratitude, love, peace. Through this state you connect to your unlimited self, sense perceptions are heightened, unity is experienced and an ‘unknowing knowing’ i.e. it’s ok not to know, gives a sense of liberation!
Some years ago, at my lowest point ever, I was fortunate and blessed to have had a life transforming experience, which showed me what is possible and has comprised my guiding light since; it happened when I was alone and in a state of just being, beyond feeling or thinking, such was the pain. It was in this gap of non-thinking that the shift happened: An immersion into a state of inner peace, sense of connection, a knowing that everything is perfect just as it is, a feeling of vitality, acceptance, joy and so much else that words cannot describe. While unable to contain this state of exhilaration and pure joy beyond a few days, a window had opened with a newfound clarity, amongst others, that we are not limited beings, imprisoned in our mindscapes and our stories, at the mercy of our thoughts and our past conditioning; the truth could not be further.
The cultivation of awareness often emerges in a gentle, subtle form, like whispers in the wind. Through meditation and regular practice, you can learn to listen, learn to trust and allow them to grow. The ego and thought-forms will do their best to randomly disrupt the process, especially in the early stages. This too is what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls ‘part of the curriculum’ and is doing its best to ‘protect’ you, so be gentle with your thoughts, do not resist them as they come up. An internal nod of acknowledgment will do as you become aware that a thought has crept up, then focus back on the breath, just observing, without judging or ‘trying’ to make anything happen.
Enter the sacredness of the moment. Go inside, connect with the breath, fully sense, but do not judge, the physical environment both outwardly and inwardly. Attend to the inhale and exhale of your breath as the anchor. Be there. Keep returning to the breath and immerse yourself in the moment. Notice the gap. See what it brings you.
© 2013 Alex Klokkaris