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Q36: Why is it advised that we should live in the Present?
Answer: It is a common experience that we unconsciously (i.e. without our knowing) live in the past or in the future because of the nature of those thoughts to which we give attention. As such, there is unconscious resistance to the Present. We dwell in the past and in compulsive projection into the future. We forget the dictum: past is history and future is mystery. Present means awareness, whereas we tend to divert awareness to thoughts of past or future. Lack of awareness gives rise to different forms of negativity: anger, jealousy, anxiety, tension, worry, guilt, regret, resentment, grievance, etc. They are manifestations of ego which is the other name for the memories and experiences of the past and the hopes and fears for the future. In our day to day life, the extent to which we are aware (call it normal awareness) is such that most of the time we are not aware of our deep rooted emotions etc.
As we focus on the Present, and the time-zone shrinks, we are drawn to the equilibrium state of Present and it is easier to accept the essence and primacy of “this moment”. The unconscious resistance appears in the field of awareness. We acknowledge the resistance thereby making it is easier to accept the Present.
Q37: What is the relationship between the Present and the ego?
Answer: Life has an abiding relationship with the Present in the sense that any action takes place in the present. If this relationship is skewed, it is also manifested in every situation. As discussed earlier, ego is the manifestation of our prejudices and is therefore another name for our skewed relationship with the present moment. It is for us to decide what type of relationship we want to have with the Present. If we make the present moment our friend and constant companion, it is the death knell for the ego. A similar thing happens with regard to unhappiness. In ‘The Power of Now’, Eckhart Tolle writes, “Unhappiness has different manifestations: irritation, impatience, anger, rage, depression. Catch it the moment it awakens from its dormant state. This will bring you in the Present. And the intensity will gradually diminish. This is the power of Present (Now).”
Q38: If we accept the present then how can we improve our lives?
Answer: What has happened in the present cannot be changed. So the best way is to accept it: letting go of mental-emotional resistance to what is [Ref: Eckhart Tolle in Power of Now]. Accepting will help us save our energy which would have been otherwise wasted. However accepting the present does not mean resignation. In fact, the energy saved will enable us to assess the present in a more objective manner so that we take actions appropriate to the situation. Let us understand it from a practical example. A student has prepared hard for examinations. However, the results are below her expectation. As she cannot change the results, she need not waste her energy on unproductive thoughts: the examiner was biased; the examination system is faulty and so on. Instead, she should divert her energy to more productive things like better preparation for future examination etc.
Q39: How can we mentally remain in the Present?
Answer: Though everything is seemingly subject to time, yet they all happen in the present. This is the paradox. But nothing can satisfy the ego for long. When thoughts re-present themselves from memory, we see them in the present moment. We should guard against being caught up with them and carried away into day dreaming, worrying or discursive thinking. If we stay grounded in the present, the thoughts will be seen to be of no value and will gradually vanish. Without the power given to them by identification, they have no existence of any significance.
Q40: Is there a difference between being in the Present and what happens in the present?
Answer: Yes, there is a subtle difference. To be in the Present is to be like the canvas on which paintings are drawn, i.e., happenings take place.
Q41: Why is the mind so mysterious?
Answer: Mind is a puzzle. The mind is so close to us yet we are very often not aware of its existence, not to talk of its behaviour. If we consciously try to observe the movements of the mind, surprises are sprung. It will be revealed that the mind behaves in a very haphazard manner. A series of unconnected and unrelated thoughts could cross the mind in a short time. There is a thick jungle of thoughts which do not follow any pattern. It will be even discovered that without our knowledge the mind has travelled far and wide. A study has shown that while driving, the mind is not on the steering for more than half of the driving time; forgetting to take the correct turn is very common. We mostly drive by reflex action, not being fully awake and aware. In other words, we are not aware of activities of the mind. The mind is no less than a madhouse. We sleep seven hours in the night during which the conscious mind is asleep. We are supposed to be awake during the remaining seventeen hours. The truth is that most of the time the mind is not awake, we are not aware what thought has passed through the mind.
Q42: What is the relationship between thinking and consciousness?
Answer: Most of the time our awareness is directed towards thinking. In the course of evolution we have become compulsive thinkers and excessive thinking has given rise to miseries. Most of us think that we are thinking though, as rightly put by William James, we are merely rearranging our prejudices. There is noise-pollution, so to say, in the mind. It is no less than a compulsive disorder. The problem is that no amount of thinking and reasoning can take us beyond the mind. Even in moments of silence, any observation will be from the standpoint of the mind. The other problem is that we do not want to accept that thinking is a tiny aspect of the totality of consciousness, the totality of who we are. In order to overcome the disorder, a shift from thinking to awareness is needed. The bottom line is that more is the awareness, less is the thinking (read miseries).
Q43: Do we think?
Answer: There are two types of thoughts. Original or creative ideas are the first type, for example, Einstein`s theory of relativity. Strictly speaking, mind or even intellect has no role in original ideas, for such ideas are not influenced by ego. These are akin to what Paul Brunton in his classic book, ‘The Secret Path’ calls intuition. The other type of thoughts is that which we encounter in our daily life. For centuries, the influence of mind on humanity has been profound. However, correctly speaking, we don't think. Thinking happens to us. Thoughts arise because of our conditioning, and the ego (read ‘I’) takes the ownership of the thoughts.
Q44: What is relationship between the mind and intellect (buddhi)?
Answer: Mind`s function is to pass information gathered by our senses from the outside world to the intellect, the discriminative faculty. The Mind has two sections, namely, manas and buddhi performing respectively two functions, namely, transmitting information and analyzing the information. The manas passes the information; the buddhi analyses and makes decisions which are then sent back via manas to the hands, feet etc. to act upon. Ideally, the information should be presented to the buddhi as it is. But the manas usurps an additional role and retrieves related data from the memory (chitta); adds extraneous considerations and creates a hotch-potch. By the time buddhi gets a chance to ponder, it is trapped in the mess and it is too late to recover. It is no surprise that often our decisions lack clarity and purpose.
Q45: If we do not have control over thoughts, why should we hold ourselves responsible for them?
Answer: That we have no control over the arising of thoughts is not a problem in itself. In theory we can coolly observe them and let them go. The problem is identification with the thought. When we see some object, thoughts such as “it is nice” may come. If we are not alert this will lead to another thought: “can I get it?”, which is the beginning of attachment and can escalate into intense desire, frustration, and envy and so on.
Q46: How does self-awareness help us deal with our thoughts?
Answer: Q24 briefly deals with self-awareness. In day-to-day life we tend not to acknowledge negative or repulsive thoughts. We may name it escapism at thought level. But escapism is no solution. If we have developed self-awareness, our thought process would stand exposed. We will recognize the thoughts, treat them as transitory and will remain unaffected. The mind will also remain calm and composed.
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