Julian Summerhayes

“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.”

– Thomas Merton

What do we really know?

“So we keep finding our way, in the midst of not knowing. There is endless discovery without knowing, an experience of continuous revelation with the contraction into believing. A real, living vitality arises from the willingness to be available to that which is perpetually changing.”

Jon Bernie, Ordinary Freedom

We have so many beliefs.

It’s this.

It’s that.

In addition, we’re constantly looking for validation.

But what if you adopted a true beginner’s mind? (“I know nothing.”)

It seems absurd in a Google world, surely?

However, the abundance of information isn’t the problem. No, it’s our thinking mind. It’s addicted to knowing the answer, any answer, particularly one that chimes with our past experience.

If you think the answer is to quiet your mind completely by dint of some mantra of meditative practice, you’re deluded. As Sri Ramana said, our thinking mind is no different to our shadow. But it’s not the thoughts that are the issue but how ‘we’ treat them. It’s a combination of our beliefs and energy that give them real-world(?) credence. Absent that, what are they?

When I was growing up, I read all manner of books in the personal development field. Their premise was simple; namely, that if we changed the way we thought from negative to positive and worked in the direction of our positive thoughts then everything would change for the better. (This is of course a very crude summary but even the title Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill would suggest that I’m not that far off the mark.) 

Fine as it goes. However, I never recall any of the esteemed cohort of writers talking about self-inquiry i.e. Who am I? Perhaps they didn’t think it relevant but I wonder how many people were apt to ask the question, “who is it that does the thinking?” or “who is it that’s trying to control the thinking?” Prima facie, it appears preposterous to invite a response but of course that’s only because unless we’re drawn to living a spiritual way of life, we’re content to allow our egoic self to run the show.

But what if you were willing to adopt a different posture? Rather than look at everything with a knowing mind – he’s this; she’s that; it’s this or that – you just observed. Trust me, it’s much harder than you think. As I’ve said, you can’t suspend your thinking mind, but practiced enough, you will, after a while, notice gaps appearing where you don’t judge and accept things as they are. In time the gaps grow bigger so that everything becomes as is.

Now, I know what some of you will be thinking. This sounds all very airy fairy, New Agey. What possible relevance can it have to my life? Well quite a lot actually. For a start, you may find that everything looks fresh, new and you’re unlikely to be as judgmental or cynical. In addition, you may naturally begin to feel a state of consciousness or aliveness that’s been missing, at least in the sense that things aren’t such a struggle. As the saying goes, where the energy flows so the attention goes. Just imagine if you kept all that energy from leaking away into thoughts upon upon thoughts. If nothing else, you may not feel so drained in having to follow and keep up with every thought. From there you may just sense a freshness to life that has eluded you for quite some time. The easiest way to equate this is to consider when you enter into nature and your mind stops judging. At least that’s how it’s been for me, particularly in exploring the wild terrain of Dartmoor.

As Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s there are few.” If only we were prepared to live our lives fully as a beginner. Children do, and look how much fun and joy they have.

“A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live”

– Thomas Merton

Awakening to our true self

Are we living true to who we are?

How would we even know?

So many unanswered questions…

In my case it took a sudden whack to the head to wake me up from my narcissistic torpor. Up to that point it was all fit and fury in pursuit of more.

More things.

More money.

More prestige.

But not more of me in the sense of coming alive to my true self.

I wrote yesterday on my blog about my current trajectory. For the first time in a long while I felt comfortable in sharing my inner experience. It wasn’t a case of “so what” but rather to demonstrate that in awakening to my true self, it doesn’t mean to live a life out there, remote from my family, friends and other interests (you can still be spiritual and enjoy cycling).

My awakening hasn’t just split asunder the separateness that I lived with for so many years but it’s also shone a light (again) on my creative beingness. Fundamentally, I believe that when you strip away all the career et. al. conditioning that we are all creative beings. And when I say creative, I’m not limiting it in any way. It means to connect with that part of you that loves to play, experiment and do without an end goal or material accretion.

I hope that I can be forgiven for unbundling some of my thoughts but I feel it my duty to provide encouragement and support to those people who continue to wrestle with the dilemma of being true to who they are and living in a material world. I’m not in the business of proselytising a message for the sake of it but if I can give one piece of advice it’s not to resist the pull you feel that you’re meant for something else. And I don’t mean a different career or job. I’m talking about something far more fundamental.

The sooner you can let go the sooner you will find true peace. If you don’t then I fear that by the time the situation is just right, it will be too late to enjoy what’s left of your life.