The 2 Profound Keys of Personal Development
I don’t write in order to enlighten anyone. I am not a guru or a wise man that has knowledge of how everything works in the universe. I know that every moment has something to teach me, make me wiser and maybe change the way I approach something. Thus I keep always in my mind that the ideas I have can differentiate, I actually want to embrace that because it will be bringing me closer to the truth. To my own truth or to the one truth, we will see.
No Model Can Be Fully Accurate
I try to approach different subjects and it is impressive how many times contradictory arguments from what I believe seem also valid. Maybe it is my lack of knowledge in this particular topic, maybe it’s the presentation skills that impress me, maybe a lot of these opposing ideas to mine are better and I have to reconsider, maybe I can make a synthesis of my existing ones with the new ones.
No model can be accurate because the reality always changes although the model remains the same. We don’t recognize it but everywhere we look there is death. Every moment in the physical world is a new manifestation understood in a specific way by our senses and all the previous ones are gone forever the way we experience time. What we only have is now and every memory of the past or also projection about the future is only happening now, at that moment distinctively.
The Huge Industry of Methods
The more I look into myself and the world the more I realize the vastness of both. Know thyself and you will know the universe and the Gods the ancient Greeks were saying. But how can you handle all this vastness? I think the belief that you can just control so much vastness is a vain characteristic of modern societies whose indeed amazing technology influences us to make overstatements.
The way I see it, from that belief arises the popularity of so many techniques to change ourselves and develop. All these very specific systems on how to start a hobby, how to start your day and so on. Of course, many of that staff can be very useful tools but as tools can only be treated and not as holy grails. The specificity and simplicity of them are impressive however, I sense that there is a need for something deeper than this to boost the real personal development that will then make us able to choose wisely which of the tools of others can be adapted to our individual path. Because even if somehow with another’s method you manage to achieve the expected results externally, it’s not certain that this process is so much fulfilling to you to maintain in the long term, which is something I assume you want.
Up to this moment, I have recognized two let’s say elements that can be found everywhere with different wording among several philosophical schools, organized religions, psychological sectors, and mystics. As expected, the way they sound at first seem like broad categories but the discussion about them is unending and has incredible implications. In my humble view, they present the basis for any personal evolution process and are enough by themselves to be guiding us for very long.
Observing the Thoughts
First is the observation of the thoughts. For the most time we are lost in thoughts but sometimes we “wake up” and become present. At that moment we can understand what these thoughts meant for us, why they appeared, what did they mean, how we feel because of them, why they influence us and how much. Just a few people can keep their focus in just one thought for more than a few seconds, this is expected. But by having a deep sincere will to be in the present moment as well a focus on the times this happens puts the roots of the times that we are in the now to be increasing. The more we build that, not only we recognize patterns in our thoughts and learn who we really are, but as well we can start recognizing the new thoughts from the moment that they are arising. We avoid to be dragged and wake up sometime later or else the times between the hypnosis of thoughts increase.
Definitely, much of today’s unstable behavior, psychological problems, relationship problems, boredom, fear to try something you never tried, fear to listen to an idea that contradicts your worldview, anxiety for the possibility to remain alone and many others are a result of an unstoppable waterfall of thoughts in people’s minds dragging them hypnotized from here and there towards extreme emotions and actions. But we can’t also stop the mind from thinking and we shouldn’t. We can, therefore, flow with it by accepting the existence of the thoughts themselves and so learning to believe them less and less. Experiencing more and more the deep disbelief about all these random thoughts and feeling the unattachment from them. The latter can be understood when you see your emotions about certain topics become less extreme. But again this can happen only when you are mindful and instead of having a predisposition against the thoughts, just accept them and be taught. That doesn’t mean you don’t act, it means you don’t react. Your actions are a result of sensibility and clarity, not a random outburst that comes as a result of a “button” of yours that was pushed.
The Naked Observer
Behind these innumerable thoughts that create models and serve our egos is something that is formless but can be felt. A naked observer with an unknown history, mysterious, entirely alone with no description, very light and transparent. It is always there even when we are asleep and at any moment we can invoke it. When we invoke it, as we get to know it better, we realize the difference in nature between this and all the models, thoughts and ideas that roam around with no actual validity. This obviously boosts the process of disbelief about the latter and makes us more unattached in result.
It’s no coincidence that the most well-known meditation technique is the mindfulness of breathing. One reason for this, as I have understood it through the years, is that by having the most obvious anchor, the breath, you can make the distinction of the times that you were lost in thoughts and the times that you were in the now, which means to be doing what you have consciously decided. That’s why you shouldn’t be angry when during a session you lose your focus many times. Still, the many times that you wake up are teaching you what is the experience of Now and how unreal are the thoughts and ideas compared to it. In later stages when you will have understood the now better, you won’t need a specific anchor but the now itself becomes the anchor not only during practice but generally during your day.
The Tremendous Value of Observation
I don’t know if the process of observing the thoughts sounds useless or impractical or vague or that it doesn’t affect real life. In my experience, constantly observing my thought process when I am not in flow is a teacher because I learn what tendencies exist in my mind. It’s also a healer because it gradually takes away the emotions that make me weaker. By realizing that any attachment to the thoughts that arose is just unreal, it becomes a habit to be less influenced. Then I can act more, I can express my real self with less fear, I can consider for the future whatever I want because the potentiality is unlimited when the thoughts aren’t there to put borders. As well, it’s a mentor because I can see the thoughts more clearly and potentially disregard them compared to what I receive from the actual experience. Thus I can make a more reliable judgment.
You don’t need to be able to put in words the reality of your experience and if you try maybe words can’t be enough. As in the Tao te Ching says, the name that can be named is not the eternal name. And the totality of experience I am afraid can’t be put under the labels, which words necessarily represent. I’m saying this because I notice that we constantly try to form a judgment, find a way to describe something, show that we have now got it and so on. However, in my view, this mostly happens when we have a reason to make a specific judgment about the experience. If it’s cool to show enthusiasm maybe this is what we’ll put into words. If it’s acceptable to show anger we may try to project this in our words even if it doesn’t get close to the actual experience.
Love due to Connection
The second element is love. This may sound banal and I wouldn’t like that. I can’t know specifically what ideas everyone has in their minds about it or with what other emotions it is connected in their subconscious. I have seen a variety of contradictory behaviors around that were coming as a result of “love” and it’s obviously a very discussed issue. Don’t they exist? One way of approaching would be the following:
We don’t need plenty of scientific knowledge to know that there is no empty space around us. Next to our bodies are several molecules of air, of perfume, other smells, microorganisms, maybe insects etc. The fact that we don’t see these molecules doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. From this, you can understand that the idea that our bodies are something separate from the rest of the world can’t be true. Therefore the molecules of our bodies are connected with the molecules of the environment which are next to them which consequently are connected with everything else.
From the above arises that not caring, for example, about the environment or other people is mostly a misunderstanding. Because when someone acknowledges their connection with something, that they are a part of it, they obviously can’t avoid wanting for it to flourish and not be unhealthy. How can you not want your hand or your leg to operate normally? However, we assume that there is a physical border between our skin and the environment.
So maybe one way of experiencing love is when we sincerely care about the good of everything in the universe. This way everyone can understand when is operating according to the needs of their ego or according to the needs of the harmony. Thus when we cultivate positive emotions about other people, about animals, about plants we are also growing our harmonious connection with everything around us which seems to be our nature anyway.
Metta Bhavana a.k.a Loving Kindness
As with the working on the thoughts, in the east (mainly in Buddhism) the second most important meditation technique is the Metta Bhavana or else Loving-Kindness. It’s out of topic to try to explain it here thoroughly in case you haven’t already heard it. Generally speaking in this method you internally make statements about the good of you, of someone close to you, about someone irrelevant to you and about someone that has caused you negative emotions.
During this process in the long term, you learn to cultivate your heart to be going closer to the rest of the whole. And even if it looks that you are looking externally, in fact, you are simultaneously working internally. You are becoming more familiar to emotions that make you stronger, more optimistic and more compassionate. You start calming down and wait before you judge or oppose someone. Because you feel closer to them so you want to hear from where they are coming from and what they need.
Cultivation of Higher Emotions
I have learned through all of this that as time is passing that the confusion of the mind can automatically be resolved by the heart. When you are lost in thoughts remember to focus on your heart. She is much much more powerful and will put things into place.
So when you are used to experiencing the beauty in your heart with all the high emotions attached to, you tend towards her because you enjoy serving her. You start preferring it more and more than the division and the judgment that was coming when you hadn’t felt her so deeply. As well, your need for the good of the others and the compassion that results from it teaches you better their needs. Thus it’s more possible to understand how to do what is good for them.
Effects of the Mix of the 2 Elements
Consequently, with the mix of these 2 aforementioned elements, we can be learning from life unstoppably at any given moment and about any issue that we are troubled. In a relationship with a partner, for example, we can be observing what thoughts and feelings s/he creates to us every moment. Is there a pattern? Was it happening with someone else before? And why would among infinite you have these specific thoughts? Does s/he indeed make a mistake when you think so or you are just hypnotized by your thoughts which are so much justifying your behavior? Is s/he to blame or s/he accidentally pressed a wrong button of yours? Are you with the other person because s/he creates you positive emotions, fulfills you and helps you be a better person or because of the ideas you have about them (that they are famous, rich, beautiful or whatever). Simultaneously you can also be observing if what you are doing is to serve your ego or the relationship.
With the heart you maintain your motivating flame to manifest beauty everywhere. With thinking you transform the impressions that otherwise would have limited you to not serve her. Your enthusiasm will unfold to you your proclivity. The observation of the thoughts will be guarding your way towards it.