Our thoughts and conditioning are the culprits!

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

For us to truly understand ourselves, we need to be aware of the mental images our ego creates. But from the many examples of negative mental habits share in our previous articles, we can see how the images we have of ourselves, and our beliefs and conditioning make us cling to suffering. Joey’s belief of ‘no pain, no gain’ causes her to work long hours and suffer a lot of stress. Johnny’s limiting beliefs and refusal to learn from people of other religions has placed a ceiling on his spiritual growth. Mandy’s image of being a ‘rich upper-class woman’ caused her to be very tough on herself and limits her circle of friends.

A belief is a thought. So are our perceptions and conditioning. They arise from our intellect, which are thoughts. If we recognise that they are not beneficial, we can let go of
them; just like any other habits we have gotten rid of in the past.

When circumstances affecting our lives change, so will our dominating negative mental habits to accommodate the new circumstance. Our ego can easily find problems with everything. Our ego is very creative! When we are able to watch our thoughts impersonally like a movie, we can understand our own conditioning and habits. When we understand our conditioning and habits, we are no longer affected by them. It is as if we are peeling off the habits and conditioning layer by layer until we reach a point where we no longer identify with our body, mind, feelings, perceptions and thoughts. Everything arises and passes away without affecting us.

photo of rocks piled on top of each other

In the book ‘Beyond the Himalayas’ authored by M McDonald-Bayne, a Spiritual Master mentioned that a seeker first realize that his thoughts are filled with anger, hatred, jealousy and other negative thoughts. He sees that these images and mental formations have no power of their own EXCEPT THAT WHICH HE GIVES THEM. He also realizes that
these thoughts are not him and he learns to observe them impersonally.

After that, the seeker is on his own to progress further and realize that there is only one reality and that God exist in everything and everything is God. There is no separation. He develops one-pointed concentration and is not overwhelmed by his mental formations. He sees reality. He is able to control the functions of his body, the beating of his heart and his blood circulation. His mind and body responds easily to his instructions. BUT THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE WAY AND HE MUST FIND THE REST OF THE WAY HIMSELF AND BY HIMSELF; FOR NO ONE CAN SHOW IT TO HIM.

Negative emotions are based on time, that is, if you remain aware of the present moment, the negative emotions cannot arise. For example, worry is based on an imaginary future negative event, anger is based on the memory of a past event, and craving is based on an imagined future happiness arising from the items craved for and so on. If I ask you to get angry now without thinking of the past or the future, you will not be able to do so. That is because we have taken away the necessary conditions for suffering, which is (1) thinking or being ‘unconscious’ and (2) time (not being present).

To free ourselves from mental suffering, we must train ourselves to remain present and if our mind jumps to the past or the future, we gently disassociate ourselves from these thoughts and bring ourselves home to the present moment. I received this wonderful passage from a friend but I am not sure of its source: “Too many spiritual people try to avoid negative emotions, transcend them, or deny them. They want to leap straight to love and peace when they feel a negative emotion. I call it the “spiritual bypass”.Interestingly their spiritual development is stunted until they dive into the very human realm of emotions. Enlightenment requires fully embracing the whole human experience, not rising above it or escaping it.”

This is telling us not to be adverse to negative emotions. Boredom and disappointment has proven to aid meditation, based on my own experience. We can actually enjoy boredom and disappointments too if we appreciate that the feeling of bliss do not come from external circumstances but from within us. With the right internal conditions, we can easily have bliss and inner peace. We just need to relax and enjoy ourselves during our meditation.

True happiness comes when we are not bound by negative emotions – worry, anger, craving etc. When these negative emotions are absent, there is a neutral feeling which is very relaxing and peaceful. We can truly rest in this state and let go of the need to control external circumstances. We will never be able find enough leather to cover the earth to protect our feet but we can easily find sufficient leather to cover our feet. This is one of the famous teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. It teaches us to work on ourselves rather than try to control external circumstances.

The first time I attended the Level 1 Kriya initiation back in 2002, we concluded with the technique for communicating with Babaji. We were told to ask Babaji a question and wait for the answer. My question was that of ‘ego’ or ‘non-self’ as Buddhism defines it. We had been sitting on the floor crossed-legged for two whole days and my legs were aching. As soon as I asked the question, the pain in my leg disappeared. I knew that it was the answer to the question but I could not understand it. Later, I read a book that questioned, “Do you think your body belongs to you? When you are having a stomach ache, can you tell your body to stop the pain? No you cannot because the body does not belong to you. You are just borrowing it for a while and eventually, you have to return it.” Only after reading this book, which I believe Babaji arranged for me, could I understand the significance of the message or blessing that Babaji presented to me on that day. For a few days after the initiation, whenever I closed my eyes to meditate, I could see the outline of Babaji in my third eye. This was an additional sign of encouragement which Babaji blessed me with.

This is an extract from my Spiritual Diary. I did not edit it because I want to portray my feelings when I penned it down: ‘I know that the thoughts are not me and I do not control them. They arise and pass away. I know they are impermanent and yet, I am tormented by them. Why is that so? Because you have not realized what is the truth and what is not. You still cling on to separation because it reinforces something you cannot let go, something that is dear to you but yet is the cause of all your suffering – your ego. It clouds you from inner peace and ease; the one true goal worth striving for. Other goals are like poisoned honey, once achieved, they bring worry, anxiety and anger. You may say that the anticipation of it brings joy. No, it brings distractions from your suffering temporarily. But it also brings anger when you meet with obstacles, which slow you down from achieving your precious ‘goal’. Distraction is not what you want; inner peace is what you want.’

I mentioned “precious goal”. I was wrong on that part. Inner peace cannot be a goal because it can only be experienced in the present and not in some imaginary future time. Everything that we perceive as right or wrong in our daily lives is made up in our mind. When we judge something as right or wrong, know that it is merely our perceptions. We then observe and use these judgements to understand our own perceptions.

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