What we fail to understand is the true provenance of happiness. The world has convinced us that it exists outside of ourselves, that it is something that needs to be attained. Financial security, a higher education, the perfect body, that new car. The list is endless. If only we get that thing, arrive at that place, then we’ll be complete, then we’ll finally have the life that we want. What this tells us is that we are in need, that we are somehow hollow, and that if only we fill ourselves with knowledge, things, situations… we will become the person that we always imagined, the thing that we’ve always wanted to be: happy.
Yet there is a different teaching, one born of the eastern mind, ancient in its origins, sound in its wisdom. What it tells us is that the mind is the source of seeking, and seeking itself is an illusion. You cannot seek something that you already have, and you cannot ‘have’ something that you already, inherently are. While the goal of the western world is to fill, attain, conquer, arrive, the eastern model tells us to divest, release, forgive, surrender.
While the western model tells us the highest attainment is that of ‘mind’, the eastern model shows us that it is that of ‘no-mind’. This is what is known as the transpersonal state: extending beyond the personal, releasing the ‘little self’ and all of its earthly vulnerability to the chaos and beauty of the infinite. And in this act of letting go, we open the doorway to the truth of ourselves as conduits, not only for the greater whole of humanity, but that of the universe itself. As with all great truths, it is essentially a paradox. In the act of emptying ourselves completely, we find that we are, in fact, overflowing with abundance.
Learning the art of letting go will indeed change our world. For each one of us that manages to ‘achieve’ even the slightest glimmer of surrender, we will affect any number of people, simply by their coming into contact with us. Transmitting this energy, becoming ‘transparent’, in a sense, is the only true source of power, in that it naturally releases the hold of power the world has over us. It is a brilliant and beautiful state – a return to our authentic nature – and these five steps, if returned to regularly, can potentially slowly assist you in attaining it.
1. REALIZE THAT YOU CAN NEVER NOT BE ‘NOW’
There is no escaping the moment. This is the first and most easily acceptable teaching, because it is so obvious. We will never not be now. Each breath we take is essentially our only one. The past is reflection, the future projection. And, while we need these states in order to properly integrate our personal experiences and thus apply them, we spend far too much unproductive and harmful time in them. We lament the past, thinking often of how much better it was in so many ways, conveniently forgetting how most of it was just the same ‘unsatisfying’ present we are always in, and, as was pointed out in detail at the beginning of this article, we idealize the future, relinquishing our happiness to it. Either that or we do the opposite, projecting endless ‘what if’ scenarios onto it in a stream of runaway thinking that is almost always negative. All this does is create unnecessary stress and worry, along with the corresponding destructive bodily changes that accompany them, ultimately removing us from the purest and only moment we will ever have – this one. Learning to return to the present, while indeed exceptionally challenging, is one of the most powerful steps towards awakening any of us can take. One of the very best methods for doing so is simply returning to your breath, wherever you are, whenever you can remember. Notice it. Is it too quick? Or is it suspended? What thoughts were you just having that caused it to be so? What actions? Once you start doing this you will be amazed at how often your breath is either out of synch or bated altogether. Once you do, it is as simple as taking one, deep, conscious cycle of air into your lungs and regaining awareness of it as it passes through you, surrendering yourself fully to it. Be the breath as it fills you up. It only takes a second or two to do so, yet out of this will come a moment of silence. A single, solitary moment of peace. It is possible – no matter where you are or what’s happening around you. How quickly you then slip back into the stream of time-based thinking/doing will vary depending on the situation, but it doesn’t matter. Every time you come back to your breath you are returning to the moment, essentially delivering yourself back into presence, time and again. Practice this, and you will eventually find yourself moving slowly into mindfulness –the state of thinking, doing and remaining present all at the same time.
2. LEARN TO RECOGNIZE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WANT AND A NEED
The human condition as we are experiencing it at this time in history is rife with need. There is no denying this. The world we have created is not a friendly one. Even in the so-called ‘civilized’ countries of the first world we are heavily encumbered with it. Yet how much of it is an authentic need and how much is manmade? An authentic need is most likely one of the body. The body is shackled with needs – food, water, sleep. These things generally cannot be denied if one wishes to live a healthy life. The mind is a different matter. Though it is exceptionally needy, it has been trained to be so. We don’t honestly need a fraction of the things it tells us we do. The mind doesn’t realize its own inherent power, or its propensity for the creation of great beauty, yet it leads all of us in our daily lives. It holds the reins. It’s no wonder we’ve run amok.
In order to gain the power back it is necessary to step away and observe it. This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in. Once you learn to watch your thoughts you will begin to see just how unconscious, negative and dysfunctional the majority of them are. The more you can do this, the more you will begin to wake up to the realization that it is, in actuality, those thoughts that are responsible for colouring your experience of the world, and not the situation. Once you make this connection, the difference between wants and needs will begin to climb from the woodwork all around you. When you separate yourself from the thinker, you begin to sense your truer essence – that of your body, but even further beyond that, your being. You will then begin shedding wants as does an animal its fur. Many things will become clear. You will realize that you don’t need to overeat, you just want to, and in that realization you will have already begun to lessen the power of the compulsion. You will see that you don’t need to retaliate when someone is verbally attacking you, you just want to, and in knowing this, your response is sure to be more mindful.
Over time, you will come to realize that you are indeed already quite whole and wonderful, regardless of what you are or are not getting from the world, or what it may be telling you you should do. The mind has been trained to come at the world from a place of lack, which is a denial of your highest nature. Get out of your mind, learn to simply BE and watch it, and you will begin to find a great peace in who you are.
3. RECOGNIZE THE WORLD FOR WHAT IT IS: A CATALYST FOR KINDNESS
Aside from the mind, the world as we’ve created it is also an intense purveyor of negativity. Often times, even if you have started out with a positive attitude, it seems bent on infecting you in one manner or another. That’s okay. That is, in fact, how it should be. One of the most important lessons the world has to teach us is that we need not be affected by it, that our power resides inside, and nowhere else. It does this by continually putting us in situations that seem to demand the relinquishment of that power, such forcing us to deal with someone intensely negative, or by having things break down at the worst possible time. The list goes on. Yet every time these situations take place, confronting us with something that draws our own negativity forward, it is, in reality, the world presenting us with a fork in the road: one path is anger, resistance and resentment. The other is understanding, surrender and kindess. You can, instead of getting nippy with the difficult person you’re dealing with and escalating the situation, learn to dismantle it through understanding. You can, instead of lashing out at the piece of machinery that’s not working right, learn to take a moment and think rationally. The situation is what it is. Your reaction is an entirely different matter.
Even if it doesn’t seem possible in the moment, knowing that you have a choice will help you retain the ability to observe what you’re doing as you go about reacting and releasing your negative emotions. This at least is something.
It should also be said that kindness is not synonymous with weakness. Quite the opposite actually. True kindness comes out of a clarity of mind that recognizes correct action. It is completely possible to firmly stand your ground without aggression and negativity. Learning to recognize the fork in the road when it arises helps you do this, as it is a clear reminder that the situation is indeed separate from you – no matter your reaction. Practice it regularly and you will indeed find kindness gradually rising up as the only true and proper reaction time and again. It is, in actuality, the doorway to the highest form of the heart’s intuition – states of being such as compassion, forgiveness and unconditional love.
4. EMBRACE IMPERMANENCE
One of the deepest understandings that we are capable of grasping as humans is the non-linearity of time. Not only is time not linear, as the illusion of it would have us suppose it is, it is in fact cyclical, and resides only inside of ourselves. It is not time that is moving, it is us. Time stands still, we move through it. It is our very motion – and the motion of everything in existence – that creates time. You can tune into this through becoming aware of the smaller and larger cycles we are constantly moving through in our lives. Think back on your own. There have been times of great growth and joy, there have been times of entropy and loss, and there have been times when it seemed as though nothing was happening at all. Now see if you can imagine life without those cycles. It is impossible. The wheel of time dictates the constancy of change – the good times, just like the bad, are always passing away. On its spokes we find life itself. Change. Without it, we could not live. The impermanent nature of all things is an integral catalyst for spurning the whole process forward, for continuously moving us into the unknown and reminding us that yes, we are frighteningly, brilliantly, radiantly alive…
Realizing this – and training ourselves to continually come back to it time and again – is one of the most powerful agents we can employ in service of the path to the transpersonal. Not only does getting ‘okay’ with the inevitability of change empower us to go with the flow of life as it happens, but it grants us the power to engender it somewhat as it does. You become a much better fisherman when you swim with the current as opposed to against it. Yet, at the deepest level, embracing impermanence frees you from attachment. In this way you find much more enjoyment in the things you do attain – as you will not be continuously worried about their loss – but you will also be free of wanting what you don’t have. This is the true definition of freedom. So give in. You will be glad that you did.
This step is, of course, the mother of them all. You could omit the first four points and practice this one alone and it would eventually bring you to the same place. (The meditative state, however, is much less useful when left on the mat, so it is highly recommended that you practice all the points in this article.) Simply put, meditation is proof. It is not a religion or a philosophy. It is something you do. Anyone who has ever achieved a state of ‘no-mind’ knows its power, and that it is, in a sense, a very real place. And yet, it is not a place. It has no true provenance – no beginning, no end. It just is, always. When you find yourself within it, you know that it is home. To say that this is invigorating is a massive understatement. Jerry Seinfeld, a practitioner of transcendental meditation for forty years, refers to it as a ‘charger’ for the body and mind, just as your cell phone has a charger. And, while there are many different forms that one can practise, the end result is the same – a powerful state of peace.
Doing so is not as hard as it is often made out to be. You simply sit, and allow the mind to be. Let the thoughts pass. Do not engage them, do not follow them, just watch them as they rise and fall away. Focus on the breath. In. Out. Each breath, the only one. So too is there only one moment –the one you’re experiencing now. Hold this state long enough and you will find the thoughts beginning to slow, the breath beginning to deepen. You will find yourself then moving more fully into your body, truly feeling it. From there, it is possible to slip even further, into a space of transcendent bliss that cannot ever be aptly described with words.
This is the meditative state. The more you practice the more you will notice, as you go about your daily life, a deepening sense of gratitude. Quieting the mind grants access to the wisdom of the body, and the body is forever grateful for its existence here on this earth. The voice of that gratitude has simply been buried beneath the constant din of static the mind is forever producing. Parting the clouds of the mind, even for a short time, and allowing the body’s natural state of grace to shine through is an exceptionally potent key to unlocking our natural state of thankfulness.
Something else you may notice is a slow but unmistakable rise in synchronicity. Things will get easier. What is happening is that the mind is being taught to ‘heel’, in a sense. It will still spend the majority of its time off the leash, at first, but the more you meditate, the calmer it will get, eventually returning to the path on its own more and more frequently. As it does this, losing its incessant need to follow every thought, every urge and every impulse it comes across down the rabbit hole, it is learning that it can’t create its own path that way – it will just get lost, as it always has. It is learning that its owner – you, your ‘beingness’, your soul – knows the true path, and that, on this path, things are far more orderly and synchronous.
So there you have it. A five step guide to potentially attaining the transpersonal state. As you move forward with these tools, learning to apply them with ever increasing adeptness, you will indeed come to understand what it means to be ‘transparent’. Honestly committing yourself to the path of enlightenment, you will find, results in just that – getting lighter. You will feel emotionally lighter. Baggage will begin to be dropped, and the ‘heaviness’ of life will slowly start to lift. Things won’t be so terribly serious all the time. From there, that light will begin to shine. Everyone you come into contact with will feel it, however slight. How could they not? You will be in a genuinely good mood, authentically kind-hearted. This is the true meaning of spirituality. As Ghandi once said “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
Practice is everything. There is no doctrine, no philosophy, no religion you need to follow, yet every moment can likewise be your church, your school, your greatest learning experience. You have the ability – we all do. All we need to do is decide, time and again.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Tennet Semmes is a spiritual teacher, writer and blogger from Ontario, Canada. You can find all of his latest musings on the blog Metanoïa at www.tennetsemmes.com You can also catch him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/tennetsemmesmetanoia?ref=hl and follow him on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TennetSemmes
You can also contact him directly via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org