Lost and Found? No Mind, No Worries
Have you ever paused to ponder how absurd this life is? We are born as helpless babies with the only certainty that we will age and then die, perhaps with differing levels of indignity. Everything that we have earned or gained in this life will be lost – relationships, friends and material possessions. The more attached we become to these things the more we suffer in the losing of them. Even King Solomon in the Bible who had more wealth than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zukerberg combined and probably slept with more women than Julio Iglesias, suffered anguish at the essential meaninglessness of this existence.
What is the best we can hope for? Is it to pro-create and pass on our genes to our offspring, invest our time and money in experiences or create great works of art that can’t be taken away from us? Even these will be lost by us at the time of our death. Before you think that this just another writer drowning in his own existential angst, follow the thread.
What is this self we talk about anyway? Is it the sum of our opinions, experiences, personality tics? Is it our bodies? All of these so-called aspects of our self are constantly changing. When you ask someone to talk about themselves they will invariably reference other objects or subjects. Even our names have usually been given to us by someone else. What I am writing here is obviously nothing new and has been uttered by sages and various philosophic schools down the centuries, perhaps most notably in the Buddhist traditions that talk about impermanence. Simplicity, however is essential to our inquiry. While it can sometimes be useful to have some knowledge about these philosophies, some solitude is key.
So if everything we gain in this life, we will eventually lose, what happens when we subtract? Most people recognise that in grieving for relationships or other stuff we have lost in the passage of life, amidst the suffering, the most personal growth has been achieved and insights about our true nature have been gained. In my own experience, losing my 15 year relationship and the job that had almost defined me, was probably, in hindsight, the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Most of our suffering is actually rooted in and created by our own thoughts and perspectives. So what happens when we loosen the grip that our thoughts have on us? The benefits of meditation, in particular mindfulness are finally gaining credence in the secular and scientific communities as a way to relieve anxiety and depression and promote wellbeing. By becoming more mindful, we gain greater control of our minds. The spiritual master Osho once said, “Mind. A beautiful servant, dangerous master.”
Meditation is just too hard, is often our response. I remember stumbling upon a witty piece of graffiti in Ubud, Bali, that simply said “Yoga hurts and meditation is boring.” Yet countless people spend hours in the office, honing their bodies to physical perfection and adorning ourselves with the latest expensive fashions. We have become conditioned to constant stimulation and find it difficult to find a moment of silence and watch the madness of our thoughts dancing across our brains. If we were to invest a fraction of the time we spend on the internet or watching TV in meditation, the results will be startling. Science is now catching up with the benefits of this age old practice and whole departments are opening at universities to study this (see the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford, as an example – www.oxfordmindfulness.org). Meditation and enlightenment are free, there is no need to spend thousands of dollars chasing a guru across India, unless living in an ashram is really for you.
The benefits of meditation do not stop at promoting wellbeing and can give us far deeper insights into our true self (or no self). Start dedicating some serious time into looking in the “Lost Property” section of your life and you may find that the treasures you retrieve are truly mind blowing. Can subtracting be the new adding?
Marcus Gomm is a travel writer and Editor-in-Chief of Feet Up Magazine. Check his ‘zine out here feetupmagazine.com