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The Endless To-Do List in the Mind

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(This blog post has been translated into Portuguese here.)

The mind has a tendency to label everything as bad or a problem. If we wake up stiff in the morning, the mind calls that bad and then worries about getting older. If we find out we are being let go at our job, the mind immediately assumes the worst and again worries about the future. Even if something good happens, the mind then sees the possible downside or worries about losing what it has just gained.

The mind sees its job as rejecting the now in order to bring about a better future. Its logic is that if we are happy now, then we won't do anything to make things better. So, we need to find out what is wrong with now so that we can figure out what to do to fix or improve it. This keeps the mind very busy and leaves us with an ongoing sense of incompleteness and lack. There is always something in the now that can be labeled as bad, and then there is more to figure out and do something about. As a result, we have an ever-expanding "to-do" list in our minds. With this tendency to find something wrong with the mind's picture of the now, we are constantly creating more to do. We may feel the need to improve our diet, our appearance, our finances, our health, our relationships, our career, and even more immediately, we may feel the need to change how we feel emotionally or physically whenever a strong feeling or sensation occurs.

Even spiritually, we continue this tendency to find fault with our present moment experience and then try to figure out what to do about it. We are not aware or awake enough. We are too judgmental. We have not experienced the deepest truth yet. And all of that just adds to our spiritual "to-do" list. Spiritual teachings are mostly descriptions of what is already true about our deepest nature, and yet spiritual seekers want to turn them into prescriptions for what they can do to achieve a deeper, better reality. We often aren't looking for the truth as much as we want a better and more spiritual "to-do" list. Even if we are told that awareness is all there is, and life is already loving and perfect, we immediately want a list of steps to take so that we will feel that way more often in the future...

Sea of Sensation

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Without looking to the mind for an answer, can you just notice what is here right now? Does the sea of sensation and energy and presence that is here right now really make up some thing called a body or a person? Or does it make up a sea of sensation, energy, and presence? We are used to letting the mind tell us what is so, just as we get used to having the news on television tell us what is happening. And yet when it comes to our own experience, we can go directly to the source.

What is the sensation in your arms right now? Can you even really put it into words or is it something beyond words? And what about the space around your arms? Does your sensing really stop where the skin stops, or is there some kind of impression of the whole area around your physical arms in awareness right now? Where is the awareness that senses your arms located? Is it in your head, or is it in your head and your arms?

Questions like these are not meant to lead you anywhere but right where you are already. There is no particular need for a profound experience of bliss or cosmic light, when every experience including the most ordinary is so mysterious. And if you happen to have an experience of bliss, then you can check it out also. But for now, why not check out what is here already?

The wonderful thing about this simple form of inquiry is that you are never done. There is always a new sea of sensation, energy, and presence unfolding into each moment's experience. Even thoughts and feelings are just a flow of internal sensations: voices, pictures, and emotional energies that ebb and flow. How do you know what you are sensing right now? How do you know what you are thinking or feeling right now? What is it that registers all of the movement, color, sound, pressure, texture, language, contrast, and space that is happening right now as you read these words?

There is a wonderful relief in asking the questions and not having to formulate an answer in your mind. The questions are like an invitation to fully taste and savor the exquisite flavors of all of these qualities. Life doesn't need a conclusion to be alive.







The True Nature of Pain and Suffering

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(This blog post is translated into Portuguese here.)

Being alive in a human form is often an experience filled with difficulties. We struggle and suffer and rarely just feel all right with the world and ourselves. What is the source of this sense of difficulty? Is it pain? What is pain and discomfort? How do we know we are experiencing the difficulty of pain or a lack of ease? Is pain a particular sensation or can a whole range of sensations be painful? What does it mean to suffer?

Every moment is full of a symphony of sensations, thoughts, feelings. Take a moment just to experience how much is happening right now, sounds, sights, tactile sensations, smells, internal sensations, thoughts, feelings, pressure, desire or longing. It is impossible to even compile a list of everything you are experiencing in this very moment because there is so much. And all of it is constantly changing into a new set of sensations, thoughts and feelings.

Along with the raw sensations and random thoughts filling the moment, there is often an internal reaction to the experience we are having. Most of the time we are internally busy with a rejection of or attempt to manage the experience we are having. This internal activity is effortful and requires a tensing and pushing, either literally against something that is present, or internally against a subtle experience. And it is this internal efforting that is the true source of all of our pain and suffering.

This is good news as it means that no sensation by itself can cause us to suffer. We have to resist or struggle with it for it to become painful. And if we simply allow awareness of the sensation we are having to be here fully, the suffering or pain is gone.

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