The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Just yesterday I was writing a new blog entry and after looking it over, I decided not to post it.  Someone had asked me if I enjoy traveling, so I wrote a whole post talking about my experiences traveling, what I liked, didn’t like, and the rest of it.

The main argument I laid out was that very few things I experience in this world stimulate me on many different levels at once.  I sort of got sidetracked, examining my own life experiences, across many different domains, and whether or not they managed to stimulate me emotionally, challenge me mentally, physically, and emotionally, make me think, allow me to be creatively engaged, whether or not I’m bonding and connecting with others around me in the process, whether I’m becoming more connected with the environment, whether there is interesting sensual and bodily engagement, are things aesthetically pleasing, etc., and concluded that such “deep” multi-dimensional experiences are few and far between. Within that framework, I concluded that traveling rarely engaged me and I found it unsatisfying.

Before long I was talking about my university life, and used this framework to examine why I didn’t particularly enjoy being a student.  Then I talked about my business pursuits, and examined them in this same framework, and why I didn’t enjoy being an entrepreneur.  I even talked a little about dating, and examined that within this framework.

Here’s the thing.  All of that sounded very thoughtful and even intelligent.  There was highly thought out reasons behind everything I was saying, there was logic, there was analysis, there was this framework that everything fit within, and it all sounded like I was making some solid arguments for why some experiences are interesting and exciting, and others are boring.   But in reality, I wasn’t.

Before posting that entry to this site, I looked over everything I had written and said to myself, “This is all nonsense.”  You want to know the problem with all of that?  Instead of just letting an experience speak for itself, I was instead putting every experience through this strange mental blender before I experienced it.  Once I’d highly modified the experience with my own mental judgments, comparisons, chopping everything up, infusing my own emotions and feelings into everything, I would then witness my own deviant creations and say, “This experience is no good.”

The most powerful lesson I learned from Ramana Maharshi was that I am the problem.  Happiness and contentment is my very nature, but we so easily sabotage it with our own stupidity.  Our own delusions.  It’s like I was saying the other day.  If I had a button I could press on the side of your head which just turned all this crap off, all these filters, all these judgments, all these stories you’re telling yourself, and you could just get back to raw reality, 95% of your problems would just fall away in an instant.  As I got into meditation and practiced mental silence, I realized this is the case.

I’ll give you an example.  I wake up in the morning and I’m just sitting there in bed.  If you were to analyze this experience in terms of that complex mental framework I had established earlier, just sitting in bed is boring.  I wasn’t being stimulated emotionally, physically, and mentally.  I wasn’t challenged.  I wasn’t feeling further connected to the world around me!  I needed to get up out of bed, rush out there, and make something of the day!  It’s time to chase that exciting experience that will make me feel alive!  And that’s what that mental framework will do to you.  It will take control of you, and then push you to go chasing after your own delusions.  If you refuse to do so, it will punish you with depression, and make you feel that you’re not living up to the best “you” you could be.  What are you doing wasting time!

Now let’s just hit the mental silence button.  You sit up in bed and there are no judgments.  Therefore nothing pulls your attention away from that moment.  Now you’re just lying in bed, the covers are warm, the bed is soft, the hum of the air conditioning is pleasant, the rays of the sun are coming in through the window, you notice the shadows, your cat hops up on the bed with you, you hear her purr, and you quietly and peacefully rub your cat, with no worries, no anxiety, and no self-hatred.  That is Rigpa, that is reality.  True reality.  As for that complex mental framework and all your delusions, they’re illusory nonsense.  You have essentially filtered out this beautiful moment of waking up in the morning and have transformed it into misery, and it’s all your own doing!

But that’s the thing.  Before I learned all of this stuff, I thought I couldn’t enjoy an experience unless it met some huge list of complicated conditions and specifications, and I was always searching and revising those conditions because I was continually disappointed!  I’d think things like, I can’t enjoy being with a person unless they think this way, believe this set of ideas, and look and act this way.  I can’t enjoy working in an environment unless I’m challenged in this way, and the room I work in looks like this, and the people I’m around act like that.  I can’t enjoy this or that activity unless it all lines up with my sense of self-identity.  After all, I’m a nerd, not a meathead.  I’m from the city, I’m not a country person.  I’m a Democrat, not a Republican.  Wrong!  What a lie.  What a delusion.  What nonsense.  People erect all these complicated mental blenders, these filters, these lenses through which they see the world, and they don’t experience reality as it is.  They experience their own distorted illusion and blame “reality”.

This spiritual stuff is the most powerful material I’ve ever came across.  You discover Christ-consciousness, or what Tibetan Buddhists call Emptiness, or what someone like Ramana Maharshi would call the Self, and you abide in this unchanging peace, and I wish I could give it to you.  It’s so simple.  There’s nothing to it, yet somehow it eludes almost everyone.

Like the other day, I went with my little brother to see the new John Wick movie.  I had no interest in it, but he wanted to see it.  It was a long drive to the movie theater, around 45 minutes, and I rode with him.  I sat in the passenger seat, at total peace, not bored, not excited, not anything.  I was just watching the forms of the road, admiring the trees, listening to the hum of his truck engine, and the rest of it.  We got there, and the most violent imagery I’d ever seen was on the screen.  I sat there, unaffected.  It’s just forms, colors, sounds.  I’m just staying in this Ground and these things are manifesting.  I then gaze around the movie theater. I’m admiring the lights they have mounted on the walls and rub my hands on the chair.  What a nice texture!  I’m aware of the John Wick movie and its entire plot, but it has no effect on me.  I remain unmoved.  I’m not for it, not against it.  It’s there within my conscious space, within my awareness, and I just witness it.  And it passes.  The movie ends, I’m in the parking lot, and I’m noticing details of the asphalt parking lot, things I never used to notice.  I kick a small rock and am amused as it bounces.  I feel my own bodily weight on the soles of my shoes.  I move my toes.  I’m hyper-aware of everything, without effort.

I’m not in a totally thoughtless space.  My brother would talk to me, then words would spontaneously arise from within me, by the exact same “power” which is manifesting all the forms making up reality at that moment.  It’s all happening without any effort on my part, and I would respond to him without problems.  I’m holding conversations, but not having to try.  There’s no deliberate effort.  Everything is spontaneous.  I’m not like a blank zombie or something.  I could discuss theoretical physics with you in this state.  I’m actually more aware than ever, fully present, and fully engaged with you, without distraction.  There’s no spacing out.  No daydreaming.  No drifting off into my own world.  No analyzing what just happened, or putting the movie in some complex framework, analyzing whether it’s a good movie or a bad movie.  There’s no judging my brother for wanting to see the movie.  Just peace and quiet awareness.

But to bring us back to the original question, do I enjoy traveling?  Sure, why not.  I can sit in one spot, for hours, doing nothing in meditation.  It’s no different sitting in a car, watching the road go by, for hours and hours, on a “boring” interstate.  I’m not bored.  I’m just there in this quiet peace.  Then we refill at a gas station, I grab some candy.  I nibble on my M&M chocolates, I stare at the cars, the trees, the clouds.  Watch the forms pass by.  I spontaneously converse with you.  There’s no problem.  We arrive at the destination, we do some activity.  To me, it’s just more forms, sounds, colors, all manifesting from within this Ground which contains infinite possibilities, which has always been and always will be, all accessible within myself.  I’m the “space” and this stuff is manifesting within “me”.  It comes, it goes.  Ok.  I’m supposed to witness all this?  Alright.  I’ll witness it.  We then go back to the motel room, I go sit in the hot-tub.  People are exhausted, they’re talking about their experience.  As far my inner world is concerned, I’m at the exact same place I’ve been the entire time.  When you talk to me, or bring me along on your trip, you’re talking to whatever force or power generates this reality.  I’m just witnessing it.  I can go on a trip, I can stay home, I can work.  What’s the difference when you abide in this unchanging place?  None, none at all.

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