When embarking on a spiritual path, I have found great benefit in having a clear intention about why I am doing what I am doing. Without this, my meditation practice can become kind of another support for the play of ego.
We are full of deeply conditioned ways of meeting our world and reacting to the events of our lives. Often, we are running on auto-pilot, in an almost robotic manner operating on the program that we have. Patterns of thinking create our speech and actions and there can be little in the way of real, self-directed choice in how we are, how we live, and where we find ourselves.
We justify outcomes through our stories, in which we are the central actor, usually the good guy…regardless of available evidence. Forgetting the infinite inter-connectedness of all things, we pull threads of evidence, selectively remember events, cast characters as good and bad, and create justifications for our lives, our behavior and why things are the way they are.
We often take credit for all the wonderful goodness and the amazing achievements of our lives and seek to cast blame on those around us for all of our problems. This could be described as the play of ego - our neurotic script writing and story reporting about the life we find ourselves living.
This may be especially true when embarking on a spiritual path, in which the idea of spirituality, of being involved in something we see as wholesome or pure, becomes a justification for the same old programmatic way of existence. The same old habits and behaviors are in full play, even when we are “on the path.” This happens even when we are sincerely touched and inspired by our teachers, their example and their incredible kindness.
This is why we study Buddhist philosophy, practice meditation, reflect on our experience and learn to develop a sincere motivation and intention for our lives. We try to shift ourselves towards a more engaged, a more present, a more enlightened manner of being and away from a pre-programmed, unthinking manner of existence. We are learning to wake up to our lives, to intentionally be present.
This is a great aspiration, but can be challenging because as we are often asleep or unconscious, operating on the program of karma. We think we know what waking up means, but our view is still thickly veiled. We take a Buddhist phrase or quote like “being present” and bandy it around – operating from the intellectual world of ideas – never truly present, but unknowingly pretending that this is so.
Then comes an elephant.
Of course, we know about elephants. Intellectually. Take a moment and consider the word “elephant.” A flood of thoughts, ideas and feelings will come.
Floppy ears, trunks, umbrella stands, Far Side cartoons, mice, peanuts, Dumbo, blind men telling their stories, Ringling Brothers, Tarzan, India, tusks, mahouts, trekking, jungles, chains…. We might even boot up the computer, surf over to Wikipedia and read about elephants then on to youTube for some elephant video. And all of this is unconscious and unintentional – it is the program.
And then, you find yourself face to face with an elephant, as I did recently in Phuket.
As a bit of meditation training “being present” kicks in, I remember to breathe, to try to remain present, to watch thoughts come and go and to observe reactions. I see myself want to posses, to pigeonhole, to fit this crazy thing, this amazing creature, into the script of my mind – to find a way of relating this moment to all my experience… and the intellect cannot hold the experience. The bare-naked experience of the elephant is too much.
So, I cannot report the experience of the elephant, and offer only this: elephants are amazing.
Come practice some “being present,” and then go see one. It might be a flower, some spicy food, a dip in the ocean, a yoga pose, a kind smile from a stranger… amazing experiences - elephants - are everywhere. To encounter one, with as much presence as you can muster, is something you must do for yourself.
Set the intention to begin to wake up and be present. Start your journey, or take another step on your path. Find out for yourself what being present really means. We have just the place for you at Karuna in Phuket, Thailand.
Join us at your earliest convenience, set an intention to wake up to your life, and find the elephant in every present moment of your world.
See you soon!