Descartes said “I think, therefore I am”. If we reflect on this statement, what he is saying is because I think, I know I exist. That begs the question – Is thought the best of what we can be? Does thought make us who are. Admittedly, we are what we think. But is that the ultimate reality of who we are? Are there other dimensions to who we are besides our body and thought patterns? Now let’s introduce another dimension of ourselves called – “Awareness”. The question that naturally comes to mind is that – Are thought and awareness one and the same?
We experience our thoughts on a moment to moment basis. If we really observe the thoughts, we can see patterns. The external impetus sets off the patterns and we behave the way we do. How so? These patterns start forming right from the time of birth, gathered from our parents, friends, teachers, and other areas of exposure such as social media in the current times.
These patterns are gathered unconsciously – meaning we are not picking and choosing what we want to think. Rather it is imposed – through external environment – as impressions into our makeup. What this points to is whatever the type of exposure or ambience we are surrounded by, so is the type of thought and therefore action that stems from it. Yes, part of who we are is also the set of inherent qualities we are born with. However it is the external ambiance that fosters these qualities to express themselves, or not, as the case may be. We truly begin to believe that this accumulation of thought patterns in our mind is our inherent nature, one that governs our behavior, choices and therefore our life. Most people live their entire life in this illusion, being driven from pillar to post by their compulsive thought patterns.
But intrinsically somewhere within us there is always a nagging feeling or knowledge that there is more to us than what we have been fed. This feeling is so faint that it is drowned by the constant humming of our thoughts. There are a few brave souls that paid attention to this subtle calling within and followed all the way through, breaking through the repetitive patterns.
They discovered a quality or dimension that exists within that which cannot be described in words, but can only be experienced. An existential quality of “Awareness”. To put this in perspective, it is experienced at times by those in deep states of creativity, or during an intense game. This state is also called being ‘in the zone”, a state of thoughtless and one of pure awareness. In most cases these are transient experiences that recedes when the activity is complete where thoughts start to flood in, and the mental noise is back.
What is that quality of “Awareness”? It is something that is undeniably lucid. The measure of how much awareness is the only question. The more we get caught up in the mental noise, the less awareness we become. To reiterate it is the external ambiance and the actions we choose to take that makes a difference in our awareness levels. For example, if we choose to spend a weekend in a silent retreat program, we come back more balanced, refreshed and alive. Why so? Because most of these retreats are set in the thick of nature and engage us in activities that rejuvenate the body and calm the mind. So these activities in the backdrop of that ambiance quieten the mind and stimulate awareness. Once we experience that quality, we will surely want to spend more time being in awareness and less being dictated by thought patterns that forever seem to have a hold over us. Essentially the quality of awareness allows us to break out of the thought patterns (good and bad), and empowers us with the choice to think consciously. That gives us the power to create our life the way we want it.
So “Awareness is Power” – not over anything or anyone, but over our own mind and body.
How can we harness and nurture this intrinsic quality of who we are? Yoga and meditation practices are designed primarily for just this. Practicing yoga and meditation daily brings the body, mind, emotion and energy in harmony to enhance our “Awareness”. To achieve this harmony, the mind has to quieten down significantly. It is only because of the “monkey mind” phenomenon that the tuning and harmony of body, emotion, and energy go out of whack. Majority of health issues are due to stress – a condition of the mind – that causes the body to be in a persistent cortisol-high state. High cortisol levels also block the energy pathways within our system complicating health issues further. The first thing to take care of is the “monkey-ness” of the mind and everything else falls into place by itself. That is done by Yoga and Meditation. These practices are geared to calm the mind, improve physical flexibility, strengthen organs due to increased blood flow, unblock and channel the flow of energy through established pathways to experience heightened “Awareness”.
In addition, spending quiet time by oneself at the end of every day to take stock of all the times in the day where the “monkey-mind” dominated our actions also helps break out of the pattern one layer at a time. Taking a walk in nature and looking at the trees, bird, and insects cajoles us into silence which is when our “Presence” or “Awareness” shines through. Doing these simple things on a daily basis takes us from a compulsive thought state to a more conscious “Awareness” state.
This is the essence of the journey that spirituality is all about. So Descartes’ statement of “I think, Therefore I am” is moot. Perhaps he should have said ” I AM and therefore I think”. While we cannot change his statement, we know we have an in-build capability to transform ourselves from “I think” to “I AM”
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