Speculative notes: Ruminations & Illuminations
"The Tao seeks not merit nor reward"
'It is what IT is'
All people, animals, objects, phenomena are an absurd expression of 'it'
The Tao/The Cosmos/Nature/Higher Power etc.
[Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident in one's being of aliveness. The Tao is "eternally nameless" (Tao Te Ching-32. Laozi) and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.]
If we observe without judgement, assumption, superficial description or magnified categorisation, we can temporarily 'rest our case' without vain attempts, gravitating towards our predetermined agendas of reaching a conclusion to provide our egos with superiority, accolade, impermanent satisfaction of conquering a difficult mental challenge.
There's nothing wrong with wondering but if we expect a definitive final conclusion we put ourselves at odds with life and in prime position to be frustrated. Also, as with any endeavour, we should address the motive for our investigation.
Is it for fun, mental exercise, to enjoy the absurdity of infinite natural variety?
Or is it to aggrandise ourselves, to build superiority of our intellect?
Our 'operations/doings/efforts' should be attempted with kind intention and without seeking reward. Benevolence avoids conflicts of 'transacted fairness.'
We shouldn't expect something in return.
"Wu Wei" describes cooperating with the natural motion our our environments with the objective to preserve or optimise our personal locomotive energy. For example when swimming against a current, walking against the direction of a crowd or manipulating wood contrary to its grain.
All are possible, for so long, if (you'll excuse the term) absolutely needed but eventually nature will exhaust our stamina.
Nobody 'forces' us to to resist natural forces, we volunteer until exasperation demonstrates that our exertions to prove a point were futile and self deprecating, if not at all informative in a positive way.
We often feel an urge or 'drive' to improve. Who tells us we need this improvement?
Is it ourselves or the negative influences in our memory?
Blame is not the point of these questions.
We could more importantly ask who really wants the answer! More on this later.
Those who accuse us of being below their adopted standards, do we really agree?
Do we trust their authority on the subject?
Do their assumptions about our inner workings match with our hidden intents? That is, what we intended to express not what we did express accurately.
If not then why do we continue to subscribe to their accusations (as memories.)
If we don't value their suppositions, or agree, then why do we perpetually rely on this reflex to compare our current state with these discouraging judgments?
Whether judgments encourage or damage our self esteem is not the point. The point is that memories are not a reliable prediction of present or future truths.
Truth is an opinion unfounded yet based on convenient or unproductive popular speculations.
Is 'Truth' realistic or valuable?
Can it harm or protect us from the outside environment?
We are the authority which intuitively 'decides' or selects which particular authority appeals or dictates to us.
We mistake our logical descriptions of things for their reality.
Something's name is only a name, assigned to it for practical convenience.
For example, a "tree" is not really a tree because "Tree" is just a word but not the tree itself.
A tree could just as easily be referred to as a "Camera" if we all agreed upon it.
Alan Watts illustrates this with the phrase "Mistaking the menu for the food."
Furthermore the meaning of certain words are not designated equally across languages, despite being the same word.
So we can mishandle their specific position within another person's vocabulary.
Anything we can lay eyes, or imaginations, on can be analysed and deconstructed into smaller parts.
By a similar notion anything can be related to other things regardless of how tenuous.
This is a mental exercise but has no final conclusion. Just like swimming need not have any fixed destination unless we assign a chosen place or length of time.
Again these are measures for convenience in order to reduce our area of observation or activity without being overwhelmed.
Bear in mind that names, words, measurements, are a human construct but don't affect the nature of an object.
They are useful within reasonable parameters but never 'The be all & end all' of any-thing.
Language can often prove to be more of an obstacle depending on how carefully we apply it.
Now onto the tricky part. Who are we!?
Not our names, social details and so on but inside our own heads.
Who are we and what are we made up of?
Beyond constructed institutional descriptions and metaphorical means of mutual communication.
We can distinguish our personality and physical traits from others but behind, above, beyond and so forth what is our mind doing all day?
Not a brain as the organ- biologically functioning, mechanically tasking but a mind.
We're our egos.
What constitutes our personal ego except superficial distinctions and junk such as repetitive phrases?
When our thoughts are pleasant we are happy and if our bodies are comfortable too we are content.
We don't notice our self image unless it is challenged.
This creates conflict by separating our calm state into a present lacking and an ideal of how we would prefer to be.
This can be observed.
Notice that we can identify with the 'lack of' or 'want for'
However- We are aware of that conflict as if apart from it still!
Which part of our mind is observing these conflicting thoughts yet not participating?
This 'observer' is not involved or invested in the struggle it simply reports.
When we try to identify this part of our thought process which observes passively we cannot.
We create an echo or visualisation ripple starting with our initial thought, then the realisation that we were thinking, then the third layer questioning where we observed and inquired as to all these thoughts from.
By this time we may have accidentally silenced our ego's conflicting chatter.
Is it merely mental acrobatics or more?
We can 'see, hear, think, visualise' or comprehend the character of our ego/personality but why can't we probe the form/essence pertaining to this distinctly other notion
-Another part of our mind which witnesses our inner soap operas?
We cannot calm our minds by force.
Telling ourself to stop chattering only adds to the feedback.
Like a classroom telling each other to Shhh! only perpetuates the racket.
To put it another way, if you tried to calm bathwater by further splashing it into submission it would never end.
All the while the non-entity of awareness is silently watching from beyond without interfering or placing bets.
(Do classrooms tell each other things or do classes, did you notice the language obstacle or did your subconscious kindly take care of it for you?)
Likewise if we want our egoic thoughts to settle we must be patient without disciplining or forcing it.
This is a tangle when you consider who you think is actively encouraging 'you' to cease your undesired activity.
It's possible to step out of the ring, relinquish your adopted role as either side or even referee.
Let thoughts pass without jumping to defend or correct yourself (see how silly it sounds?)
We needn't snatch onto the brain's automatic displays.
If we notice we've snatched in spite of ourselves,
this will also pass along with the trail of thoughts and so on.
We could consider them as screen savers or on-hold music for what's underlying the commotion.
They are memories and predictions, however dramatic, which serve our intuition.
Meanwhile our awareness is ever present and unchanging.
How could it change if we don't know what it started out like!
We've established that 'it' doesn't possess distinguishing qualities. If we try to identify it further 'we' are evaded by 'IT.'
Whilst considering our thought patterns in this way are we able to estimate confidently how much time has just passed without checking a clock?
We can't trust ourselves to count accurately in our heads for a length of time because awareness doesn't account for elapsed or anticipated time. It doesn't do any accounting whatsoever. It is impermeable and immune to conscious deliberations yet is the source from which all deliberate calculation materialises.
In this way our intuition suddenly or eventually plucks a decision from the turmoil or the ether.
Despite looking outwards for conceptually defined assurances.
Awareness in its un-meddled with state/non-state seems unfathomable unless we're tricked by our egos into projecting conceptual images onto/into it like form, colour etc.
In pure awareness there are no negative feelings.
Only within our ego but this just consists of insecurities, memories, doubts, speculations, assumptions, useless overactivity and devious plots to flatter or sabotage itself or others.
We cannot add or subtract from awareness, cannot measure it, our rambling egos cannot damage it.
'Awareness, Consciousness, The Void' etc. is completely independent of our ego's personifications.
It doesn't judge.
Like a light which shines on many things good & bad but has no traits of its own.
Neutral, content, spacious. No claustrophobia or striving.
Why can't we define this Void?
First of all, what would be the point in defining it?
Secondly, who wants to explain it and why?
Does our ego suggest impressing someone or helping them by sharing the discovery?
Will we expect something in return?
What benefit could we possibly gain from sharing the sanctuary of unpolluted awareness.
So can we articulate consciousness as a concept?
Can light exist without dark. Wake without sleep. On without off and so on.
Perpetual existence of a phenomena without a characteristic opposing counterpart.
When we don't allow ourselves into mental conflict we operate in harmony.
Without splitting ourselves and others by distinctions.
Without pain our bodies work unsupervised and we're numb to it.
We only 'see' our eyes when there is an unwanted object in them. A problem.
It's said that 'A knife can cut many things but not itself.'
This is the elementary principle of our awareness-
But don't take 'my' 'word' for 'it'....
Words: Ben Palmer
Photography: Ben Palmer