Developing Clarity of Mind

Developing Clarity of Mind
by Art Ticknor

                     
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A raindrop sheds its limitations when it merges into the ocean. The human being similarly loses its limitations, becoming whole and complete, when it merges into the sanctuary of its oceanic being.

raindrop hitting the ocean
The formation of each human raindrop and its journey back to its source is a story that takes place in the holograph-like projection of space-time.[1] Merging back into its source is a recognition that the projection of separation, with all its rewards and stresses, is an elaborate seeming.

What is it that prevents most humans from seeing the truth of what they are as they're experiencing the pangs of separation and plunging to their demise? During their formation and return home, they've accumulated a personal story complete with many faulty beliefs about what they are. Strangely enough, human raindrops also have the capability to question those delusions.

What obscures a clear view? Forgetfulness. When we're engrossed in what we're viewing, we forget that we're what's viewing, not the view.

This forgetfulness is abetted by seeking distraction. Francis Thompson described it cogently when he wrote that we're running away from what feels like a devouring predator but turns out to be the "hound of heaven."[2] Self-consciousness is disturbing because it's like a mirror reflecting no image. When we glimpse what's looking out, we see nothing … no movement, no sound "back there." Those are the symptoms of what we consider death. So we turn our attention away from that view and its implications.

Seeking distraction from glimpsing the supposed threat that's constantly behind us generates a host of obsessive compulsions that cloud the mind. We may think about, and possibly indulge in, food or sex obsessively – for pleasure, for distraction, emotional satisfaction, tension release, and so on. We may indulge in daydreaming or reverie along other lines as well, such as acquisition, self-enhancement, payback, worry, and so forth. If we have experimented with fasting, we may have gotten surprises about our unexamined food habits. If we have experimented with chastity – i.e., intentional abstention from sex-action – we probably have gained great insight about how the sex-drive affects our psychology. Unless we learn how to turn our attention away from daydreaming, we will sleepwalk through life.

Questioning and waking up from the sleep of self-delusion is a battle against the forces maintaining the status quo. It's as if two programs were competing for dominance, with the ego-enhancement program (the champ, the defender of the status quo) having a death grip on the win-at-any-price program (the upstart, the challenger). "Just acquiesce," says the champ. "It won't be all that bad. But fight me, and you'll suffer more."

If you move to an unfamiliar city, you may find yourself tense and alert while trying to find your way around … for a few weeks or months. But before long you revert to the comfort of following familiar routes.

Sleepwalking along familiar paths is the default mode of living. To awaken, something needs to disrupt those sleep-inducing patterns. Life may provide the shocks needed to do so, but if that's not occurring then we can create artificial tension – an intentional spiritual path.

The mind is structured to want to "trade up." We don't give up the comfort of a habit until the mind conceives of a bigger potential benefit. This can come in a variety of forms. For example, some people can break a smoking habit by scares on the health front, trading the comforts of smoking for the lowered possibility of health discomforts. In my case, I gave up smoking when I became disgusted with my fear of running out of cigarettes. I also replaced the physical habit, unintentionally, with eating peanuts rather nonstop for a little more than a year, until I felt a switch flip in my head and knew that I was free of nicotine addiction. I tested that conviction not long afterward and found that it was accurate. If you want to find a trustworthy "voice" within, you have to test it to validate its accuracy.

Breaking a habit of reverie, for example, might be accomplished with the aid of mental japa, a Sanskrit word meaning repetition. Whenever we catch our mind wandering off into reverie, we can repeat a phrase, or a saying, or a prayer, etc., that we've selected for the purpose. Eventually we will learn to "turn our head" away from the reverie without the use of japa, by employing the procrastination technique we're all so familiar with using when there's some task we don't want to do. Breaking a pattern of habitual worrying before being able to fall asleep may work using a japa method, or by having rigorous exercise before bedtime, or by a variety of other substitutes that can be found by experimentation.

When we're having trouble breaking a habit, we need to go into "get honest" mode. We scan the mind for our reservations until we find them – and then determine our honest priority rather than continuing to kid ourselves. For example, if we see a "yes, but I don't want to give up the associated pleasure" (of sexual reverie or pornography that leads to sex-action, for example, if we're attempting a period of abstention), which do we honestly want more: the fleeting tickle that never fully satisfies or the freedom from a habit that prevents us from standing tall in our own eyes?

holographic universe
Developing mental clarity results from seeing with the inner eye of intuition. We have to see through or beyond the clouds of hypnotic forgetfulness, distraction seeking, and the sleepwalking of habitual behavior. We learn to observe without being hypnotized by movement, mesmerized by the flickering images of the "movie" (that we call our life) that we're viewing. The assault typically begins with a practice of solitary contemplation, which eventually spills over into other times in our daily life. We first develop some detachment when viewing our thoughtless drooling over imagined acquisitions – wealth, fame, sexual conquests, and so on. Next comes a measure of being able to observe thinking without becoming lost in conceptual narcissism, such as falling in love with our analytical skills. Observing real-time emotions is tougher, so contemplating past emotional scenes without getting caught up in them is a way to learn how. Becoming able to watch mental processes such as decision-making and introspection brings more advanced degrees of mental clarity, which leads to the observation of individuality itself.

The final challenge of observing the observer – a logical impossibility – nevertheless results in solving the mystery of awareness and the horrendous opposition of life and death.

Developing mental clarity merely requires looking until we know what's looking.



[1] For some scientific speculation on the topic, see The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, who popularized the independently developed holographic theories of the universe by physicist David Bohm and neurophysiologist Karl Pribram.

[2] "The Hound of Heaven" autobiographical poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907) is widely available on the Internet.


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