There’s something I’ve been trying to sort out for years. You see, I used to believe all sorts of things. For the first half of my life, I went from religion to religion, fully believing in each one while I was in it, and trying to learn whatever I could from it. Eventually, I would realize there was either something missing or something there that didn’t add up, and I’d go to the next religion or belief system. I was stripping away more and more of it and eventually coasted for years in a miasma of bits and pieces of religions, belief systems, New Age woo, and a basic esoteric cornucopia of belief.
Eventually, after being exhausted of finding so many things thoroughly debunked or that the platitudes I’d hear and recite were not fitting into reality, I abandoned all of it.
Yet, all these recent years, I still felt that there was something there that was right and made sense and was valid. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was, and I certainly couldn’t bring myself back to believing in souls, spirits, or other disembodied fauna. The platitudes still didn’t fit reality. But there was something there…not something sentient like a higher self or a guide or a god or anything like that…just some kind of understanding. Some state of being that was experiential and not delusional, yet not measurable or quantifiable. There were still experiences that neither fit fully into woo or science, but I’d still had them.
I believe I’ve finally narrowed it down.
Imagine you’re driving a bus. That bus is a religion or belief system, whether it’s organized religion or new age philosophy of some kind, the situation is the same. The bus is full of people (ideas) and they’re all trying to tell you how to and where navigate. Some of them have some decent ideas and some of them have very bad, even dangerous ideas.
One of them actually makes sense. However, they’re all talking at the same time and you can’t really focus or figure out which one actually makes good sense. They contradict each other while claiming that they don’t and they generally have you playing mental ping pong as you’re trying to drive the bus.
Eventually, you may kick a few people off the bus, and you may get to a point where you just kick everyone out, including the one who made sense. Instead, you install a GPS system which does its job extremely well and can get you from point A to point B and rarely leads you astray.
However, it doesn’t tell you anything about the attractions, the hidden gems, the rare experiences that are still out there. While you can still see some amazing stuff through the windshield and experience awe and wonder, there’s something off that road to experience, and while some of the previous passengers alluded to it, they gave a rather dogmatic, skewed interpretation and tried to claim it as their own.
Then, you discover a hitch-hiker. He turns out to be the one who actually made sense. He doesn’t tell you where to drive, he tells you to be quiet, breathe, open your eyes to your surroundings, and just drive. Simple mindfulness. Not meditating on anything or visualizing anything or chanting or anything else. Just being here now and experiencing the moment with no beliefs about it or examination or debates or anything at all. Just silent experience.
Then something happens. You begin to notice details that you were too distracted to notice before. The varied plants and trees. The way the sun glistens off the rocks and the road. The scent of the air. You stop the bus and get out and start walking, barefoot. No longer relying on beliefs or the GPS, but just taking a walk and feeling the grass under your feet. Tasting the water. Feeling the wind brushing through the little hairs on your arms. Feeling the sunlight and breeze together, the warmth and coolness, each separate, yet working together.
You stop and you sit for a while and you see little worms and insects. Discover little patches of moss and fungus. Smell the faint vanilla of tree bark. Hear the crunch of leaves and pine needles. Hear the drop of a pine cone.
By simple mindfulness, you finally start to experience life as it is, not as you think it is or should be. You have nothing to believe in or fight against. You can choose when to drive and when to walk, and are far, far more cautious about the passengers you let in. And all of them are temporary.
None of this requires a belief in anything at all. You simply stop, breathe, observe and experience, without judgment or analysis. You just take it in and you start to feel a glow of warmth, even love. Compassion, understanding and calm replace worry, anger, and fear. They don’t come “from” anyone or any place or any thing. They simply become an experience that gradually unfolds. Of course, the worry and anger and fear still arise, but when they do, you breathe them out. Repeatedly, and as often as you must. But eventually their voices get gradually quieter.
I believe that our main problem is the misuse of our minds. Trying to constantly fill them rather than taking the time to clear them. Think of it as defragging your hard drive. You don’t do it all the time, but when you do, things seem to work better and with less impediment, for a while. The more clutter you accumulate, the more often you defrag. And, sometimes you just sit and do a kind of disk check.
Life will still have its input. Some good, some bad. Some ecstatic and some horrific. But, when we can, we breathe it out and come back to center. No dogma, no woo, no snark, no bullshit.
I think it would serve all of humanity to take time, often, to abandon belief and opinion and instead simply look, listen, observe, and breathe. Not every waking moment, obviously. But often. Perhaps in this way we can look past beliefs, opinions, stances, etc. and observe together. By doing so, we might actually create a world worth living in. We may finally figure out that whether or not there is a “why” to life, at least we can do “how” much better.
© 2015 William Suphan
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