I was woken last Saturday at 06:30 by a phone call from a good friend on the other side of the world. We caught up on the recent events of our respective lives, re-connecting with a familiar ease and appreciation. As our conversation drew to a close he told me to have a great day, adding the simplest of instructions: ‘No past, no future, just today.‘ His words reminded me of the book I am reading; a book I was prompted to pick up again after another recent contact with a different friend.
‘Freedom From The Known‘ (J. Krishnamurti, 1969) talks about how we have lost the ability to be simple. Not in an ascetic way – a simple life with few possessions – but in a way which allows us to see who we truly are. We claim to be the product of our experiences, thoughts and feelings, but that only signifies attachment to those things, made obvious by our desire for new and better ones. What of experiencing the self? How many of us actually do that on a regular basis? Not many, I suspect. Certainly not enough of us.
I have been told by some people that, whilst they enjoy my posts, there are times when they do not want to read them because they are too confrontational. In that moment, those people don’t want to look at themselves. They choose instead to pursue one of the many delights the world has to offer. And why not? It’s easily done and perfectly understandable. Why dive deep when there is so much fun to be had on the surface?
With my friend’s words on my mind, I made a commitment to view my world through brand new eyes, shunning familiarity and conditioning in an attempt to perceive everything anew. It turns out it’s more difficult than it seems to shed the past and stall the future. There were times, for instance, when my mind distracted me with thoughts from my recent past, transforming them effortlessly into doubts about my future. Moreover, I noticed how those thoughts affected my mood, creating dissatisfaction and making me judgmental of the people around me. It took a conscious effort to unhook myself from their weight, but the relief was only temporary because they came in waves.
As I write, I realise that when we are distracted by painful thoughts and feelings, we seek further diversions to distract us from the original ones, all the time moving away from who we really are. What we need to do is to be with the pain because, in that moment, that’s who we are. Be with it, but not attached to it.
It’s the same with meditation: so many disturbances intruding on the stillness of being. The solution is to become aware of what is happening, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings and let them go. Eventually, with practice and discipline, attachment to thought and feeling ceases and what remains is the purity of self, unburdened and free.
Surely that is more worthy of pursuit than anything else, because from that position we can love more deeply, live more freely and exist in greater harmony than we ever considered possible. Past, present or future.