by Guy Finley
Question: I want to know true peace of mind, but how do I step out of my frantic world long enough to realize it? Can you give me some practical suggestions for staying in the present moment and observing myself?
Answer: When you want to enjoy the sunshine directly, you must go outdoors. You understand you have to take yourself physically to a place where the warming rays of the sun can fall upon you without interference. Likewise, when you want to know the powers that circulate through a quiet mind, you must take yourself to that place where this Silent Strength can make itself known to you. To go quiet, you must go within.
When Christ told his disciples to seek the Kingdom of Heaven within, his words of Wisdom were not the religion they’ve become today. They were alive with secret but ever-so-practical instructions on how a person could discover and realize a secret part of himself or herself that was not a part of what was then — and of what still remains — a conflict-torn and weary world. This master instruction still holds true. If we want to know that stillness, that silent strength, a peace that passes all understanding, we must go within. We must go quiet. Now, here’s how:
The best time to practice going quiet is when the world around you is more or less already in a natural state of silence. Early morning, upon arising, and just before you go to sleep are the most likely times to yield the best results. But as you’ll no doubt come to discover for yourself, anytime is the right time to go quiet.
Find a place to sit where your back can be supported and held straight. Let your hands rest, open or closed, in any position that won’t cause tension to themselves, your arms, or shoulders. Remain seated for the duration of your practice. Twenty to thirty minutes twice a day is a suggested minimum time to sit quietly, but do the best you can. There are no laws that govern inner silence. Besides, the day may come when you’d like to sit for longer durations, so you be the judge. Let the length of this time for inner quiet be whatever it wants to be.
Allow your legs to assume whatever position is most naturally relaxed for them. It’s better if you don’t cross your legs one over the other as this posture interferes with your circulation and the ensuing discomfort will become a distraction.
Once your body is situated and in relative ease, close your eyes and let your awareness sweep over the whole of your body. Adjust your limbs again, if necessary, so that no individual part of your physical self is calling out for your attention.
Now, with your eyes still gently closed, let your shoulders take the full weight of your head. You should actually be able to feel the physical transfer of this weight take place.
Then give the weight of your shoulders and your arms to the armrests of your chair, or to whatever part of your body is beneath them. If you’re doing this properly, you’ll be surprised how much of your own bodily weight you were unnecessarily supporting without knowing it!
Finally, give all of this collective weight — head, shoulders, arms, upper body, buttocks, and legs — to the chair or sofa you’re sitting upon. Consciously transfer the weight. Let it go. Then let yourself sink into the feeling that comes with releasing all this unconscious physical stress and tension.
The next step is to continue expanding this relaxed and increased awareness of your body to include within it the awareness of your thoughts and feelings. In other words, bring into your enhanced physical awareness the further awareness of what your mind and emotions are doing in the moment. You watch yourself.
This form of self-observation is as interesting as it is challenging. To ensure your success in this phase of going within and going quiet, consider yourself as being a naturalist of the mind. A good wildlife naturalist casually observes the diverse ways of birds or bunnies without interfering. In order to study and learn, he or she just watches. And that’s what you must learn to do as you journey within. You’re to be an impartial witness to the life of your own thoughts and feelings. Let them fly and hop around within you without the slightest concern for their direction or character. Neither resist, nor let yourself be drawn into any of their attention-stealing antics.
Again, all you want to do is watch. Detached self-observation is your aim. Each time you realize that you’re no longer watching, but rather that you’ve been captured by a thought or feeling and are being carried along by it, just quietly withdraw yourself from that temporary psychic wave. Come back to the awareness of yourself in the present moment. This part of your practice is the heart and soul of going — and knowing — quiet. You must experience it for yourself. As you sit, let go, give up, go within, and watch. And over and over again, bring your awareness of yourself back into the awareness of the present moment.
One special way to help "ground" yourself in the Now is to use your awareness of each out-breath as a reminder to give all of your weight back to the chair. Each time you breathe out, let yourself go completely. Stay watchful and consciously drop the heaviness of your body, mind, and emotions. Let something else be responsible for their weight.
Pay no attention to what your own thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you the whole time you’re sitting, which is namely this: "You should give up this worthless, unproductive practice!" Learn to watch and drop these dark inner voices. They don’t want you to succeed and there's a good reason why. They can’t dwell in that silent world you wish to enter and that wishes to enter you.
So persist! You will prevail. For even as you struggle to stay aware of yourself in the present moment, that moment itself changes. And as it does, so do you. Slowly, subtly at first, but eventually even beyond your mind’s protests, the distinction between your sense of self and your awareness of the present moment melts away. And as it does, a new, deeper sense of silence floods into you, filling your awareness with itself and, at the same time, with yet another awareness that the source of this supreme stillness is arising out of your own being. It washes everything out of its way. And so arrives a quiet mind. (Excerpted from Design Your Destiny)
Question: Why do some people seem to exude peace of mind while I struggle to be calm. What is the source of composure, and how can I work to develop it within myself?
Answer: For better or worse, the quality and content of your life experience is determined by what you are connected to.
The next time you feel yourself becoming agitated, simply notice to what idea you are connected. See how simple this is, if you’ll do it…
Here you are driving down the street and you start to notice that you’re feeling depressed. Or maybe you’re feeling anxious. That’s the first step: to see yourself, to be awake to what’s going on within you. Ordinarily, the nature that feels negative, the self that embraces that stressed state, looks to itself to explain to itself why it feels like that, which does nothing but forward the process. Now you have some new information. The reason that you’re in the condition you’re in is because you’re connected to what you’re connected to. Period. And what you’re connected to in that moment is nothing but some self-limiting idea you have of yourself -- an idea that’s telling you who you are, defining you based upon its incomplete perception of life. For instance, in unheard whispers it claims: "Unless so and so approves of my actions they’re worthless, which means I am too." Or, "If I lose that account, or relationship, all will be lost"… mistaken ideas delivering wrong conclusions, unconscious conclusions which become your tragedies.
Your spiritual work, step, by step, by step, is to begin the deliberate process of bringing into these present ideas you have of yourself those New Ideas that actually show you the limitations and suffering inherent in that self-same idea you’re unconsciously living from.
You don’t have to look to anyone else for your sense of "I, " nor in the world’s opinion of you, nor in any other place you’ve ever mistakenly looked for it. In fact, you need to start realizing the need to stop looking for what is your Self in the world, and in others, and in changing conditions. Why? Because when you’re connected to that "I," to that idea, you hurt!
The first objective is to work at waking up to what you are connected to; and then from within your newly awakened awareness to see that any painful idea defining you is an illusion, a shadow of yourself cast from yet other conspiring mistaken ideas.
I urge you to take time, at least twice a day, preferably as many times as you can possibly do it, to simply, deliberately become aware of what you are connected to, and then drop it in favor of your wish to have God’s Life.
Repeatedly bring yourself back to yourself and then, from within this present self-awareness, realize that instead of being connected to that "you" which is always struggling to get something, hoping to become someone, trying to resolve things — surrender yourself to the understanding that the whole issue of who you are is already resolved. Let go and know that Life is complete, timeless, and so are you. Do not go into imagination. The self you imagine will be a secret extension of the self you wish to escape. Everything you need to wake up, to be New, to realize peace of mind is right there with you without having to "create" it. But our ideas don’t report that to us. Our ideas report that we have to do something to "get there." The illumined author Vernon Howard stressed to his students the new idea that to succeed spiritually, "there’s nothing to do, only something to see." This is the truth. So see in those moments that the way you perceive life is what is punishing you… and then let what you start seeing change the ideas you have about yourself. (Excerpted from The Lost Secrets of Prayer)
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