THE LAKE OF THE MIND
It was during an afternoon's meditation session midway through a ten day retreat. By that time I was in a state of peace and openness, each breath was complete satiation. For the moment, everything in my life seemed right. And being there was just what I wanted to be doing.
After settling down on my cushion and doing preparatory breathwork, my awareness was gratefully taken into a higher, expansive Knowing. All the contents of my mind were dissolved and completely cleansed out. The resulting immense, potent Nothingness, then gathered into forms, forms of the subtle worlds.
From a great height, through Knowing's view, I saw a vast, lush forest and heard birds chanting and creatures calling and moving about amidst the woods. At its center was a Lake, a shore of variegated stones and moss enclosing it with supreme artistry. The Lake mirrored the encircling shore and green cliff of trees and the deep sky I floated in, like a twin. Its placid emerald waters were clear, yet I couldn't see through to the bottom. For a joyful eternity, I floated over this exalted scene. Its majesty reflected my soul. It was my soul. I was entranced. Fulfilled. At One.
Knowing's view was drawn down towards the Lake's surface where I noted a bubble leisurely rising up through its lucent depths. And, as the bubble burst the Lake's unruffled stillness into the open air, an image broke into my awareness, a minute sun, a wordless revelation. It sent out spreading ripples of related thoughts, feelings, fantasies and memories across the Lake's surface, and my perception , in a shimmering spectrum.
I was startled. The bubble's contents, the glimpse of sun and the associations it called up, meant nothing to me. Another bubble rose and shattered. Another sudden image appeared in my awareness, spreading its brightly hued wavelets. I was intrigued, amused and mystified at how this happened. But not quite sure whether to be in awe or to be suspicious.
My view was then guided to focus just above and below the Lake's surface -an amphibian's perspective. Now I could see that the bubbles were rising right up from the Lake's depths. Although I could see them from afar, only when they dispersed at the surface did I have awareness of their contents.
Wonder and curiosity drew my Knowing down to the bubbles' source, down to the Lake's floor. A rich spongy loam, the compost of eons of sediment was fermenting there. It emanated a random, diffuse effervescence that gathered into the bubbles as it rose. Swirled about in gentle undercurrents, these rose and broke the surface overhead, innocent of any intent or manipulation my Knowing could perceive.
Wisdom confirmed what Knowing had hinted. "This is your view of the Lake of the Mind. All that you see and experience is what it reflects of the universe you project."
This is the true nature of my human mind, I realized. Thought happens according to the unknowable fermenting processes in its dark depths of primal instincts, the debris of my personal past and the powerful undercurrents of my unconscious motives and images. Not intentionally created, nor willfully controlled. Seeing this revealed the whole realm of my spontaneous, conditioned thought, feeling and imagery and their spontaneous effects, as absolutely primordial and impersonal.
Knowing's perspective expanded again, now to encompass the Lake from its profoundest levels to its uppermost surface. All the realms of my psyche were revealed; conscious and unconscious, light and shadow, my outer most persona and my innermost essence, all equally clear. All my parts, together. The totality of the workings of the Lake of Mind was evident before me. Enraptured, I beheld that wholeness as never before.
Then, unexpectedly, just after each bubble broke into outer consciousness, I heard a far-off voice calling out, "My thought... My memory... My feeling,.." I was shocked at the presumption to claim what was clearly beyond anyone's possessing. "My thought..." Indeed!
My awareness focused into a beam to seek out this pretender. I soon found him, there on the Lake's far shore. He appeared a young boy, 8 or 10 years old, idly playing in the sand and calling out his declarations. It was a me ! Not the inner, Knowing me, but the outer, childlike, personality-bound me.
He seemed as ephemeral as a ghost, a figment of my psyche's creation. I recognized that he was my subjective aspect that takes everything personally , desperate to convince himself that he is the doer . I! Me! Mine !
Although ignorant, immature and primitive, his naive helplessness touched me. Still but a half-formed child, an innocent, in childish uncertainty seeking for some sense of identity and control. Desperate need was the impulse behind his claims as each bubble shattered. Recognizing that in him, I realized that I followed that same impulse when I claimed the Lake of The Mind as a mirror for my soul.
Yes, I understood. I recognized other roles he played in my psyche. He connected me with the fleeting and finite outer world. He sought happiness through the physical senses, vanity and delusion. But I had never realized this aspect as one of his roles: I am the doer.
He sought every opportunity to claim an independent selfhood to let him feel empowered and safe. So I witnessed his attempts to credit himself with some control over these bewildering bubbles that arose to fill our minds. I'd watched him strive with these futilities by attempting to restrict my life's meaning to only what he could grasp. Now I realized too, that I often blamed him for not having the life-guiding capacities I sought of him, although they were beyond his furthest imaginings. I felt compassion for him then, perhaps mixed with pity.
Knowing's awareness, broad and open enough to perceive and accept all these facets, at first was amused, even touched with my child-self's waif like eagerness to claim ownership in this fathomless process of Mind. It recognized that innocent self's desire for significance was the seed form of my true "I-sayer", an impetus for seeking and claiming my true Selfhood.
That small figure on the shore somehow sensed my presence. He was suddenly still, head stiffly bowed, silently attentive as the bubbles continued to burst into awareness. Then he bound to the Lake's edge and crouched, angrily swirling his hand around in the water. The splashes amplified the intensity of the images, emotions and thoughts that spilled out of the of the bubbles' shattering into consciousness.
"No, I don't care what you think! It is about me !" he yelled skyward as he vigorously whipped up waves. "It is my thought!. My feeling!.. My Dream!.. "
The Lake's surface became choppy, jagged. Still entranced with it, my awareness lost contact with Knowing's clarity and discernment. The tones of feeling, thought and image merged and muddied through each other. As the child "me" thrashed and screamed more loudly and desperately, I became confused. Unexpectedly, even as I watched myself, I became more taken up with the waters' swirling confusion, the churned up impressions and colors reflecting off its surface. I grew so taken with it, I felt it all as if it were real and mattered.
And the more absorbed I became in that flurry, the more the immature "me" settled down. His mood grew less grew agitated, his churning the water more steady, just enough to keep the Lake turbulent and mucked. And, beyond my comprehension, that was enough to keep my awareness immersed in it. Transfixed. Knowing itself was lost to me as though it was absorbed in the Lake's chaotic surface, which was incapable of reflecting either Knowing or the landscape about it.
Then, as by grace, a large radiant golden bubble broke the surface. "Who are you?" it called to me. This wasn't the voice of the Lake's primal fermentation. It was a Message. I startled me awake. Again, I Remembered that I was the Looker, not what I looked at: the Consciousness, not the contents.
Once released from the grasp of that nightmarish state, with the ease of gravity, I flowed back to merge with Knowing. My child-self sensed this immediately and jerked to a halt from his splashing and cries.
As instantly as waking from a grotesque dream, Remembering had profound effects. Everything took its rightful place and meaning. It was a birthing. With that golden bubble of Light's guidance, I made a choice of self birthing. Remembering opened a spaciousness, a blissful detachment and ease. I again knew the freedom and potential I'd experienced in the Nothingness before anything had form: the splendid sovereignty of pure Consciousness.
The Lake's tumult quickly calmed. It stilled and grew translucent, a turquoise crystal resting in the forest's green embrace. Once again the water's surface reflected the beauty all about and flawlessly reflected, permeated with the reflection of the Knower. Unity Consciousness held and contained all, yet self-awareness remained apart just enough to let me experience, "I am this Splendor."
My child me remained silent, but he wasn't morose or quarrelsome. His perspective had shifted too. He recognized, just as I did, the newness in this awakening. Perhaps he too could flourish in this redemption.
"What are you going to do with me now?" he asked uneasily, without even raising his head. I couldn't answer. How was I to treat that innocent aspect of my being now, now that I was awake to who I truly am. Even merged with Knowing's compassion, how could I explain our truth to him who only knew a world perceived and fragmented through his physical senses, the laws and limitations of his being.
Especially as I'd realized and owned my own distorting projections on both him and the Lake, I felt forgiving of him for confusing the world with his fantasy of it.
"Just because I'm only part of this temporal scenery, that doesn't mean I'm disposable," he softly grumbled. "As long as you're in a body in the material world you have need of the things I have access to, and you don't. And neither does Knowing. You need me to connect in my realm as much as you need It to connect with those subtle realms. Yes, there is a difference now. You can awaken yourself. And now maybe you can see me for who I am. Maybe now you will no longer burden me with those mysteries and impossible ambitions of yours that nothing on earth can fulfill. I am gratefully relieved."
And my real need for him, I began to grasp, was that I couldn't grasp and manifest Knowing's wisdom in that psycho physical world without that precious child-self.
* * *
The gentle gong rang to end the session. In less than a breath, I was back on my cushion and bowing to honor the experience. All this stayed with me over the rest of the retreat, and over the many years since to ponder.
My strongest sense of that childlike, in-the-world self remained his vulnerability and innocence, his readiness to accept whatever nurtures his aliveness. I accept that, like a child, when he feels recognized and cared for, he is confident and can thrive. But when he feels ignored or wounded, he reacts with a desperate child's venomous tactics. How can I explain Knowing's truth to him, that neither he nor I control what happens in the Lake of the Mind, beyond how we receive and understand it.
He is not a superfluous, disposable self, even though he is transitory. His capacities and needs do matter. But, for our relationship to take its rightful arrangement, renunciation is called for. For him it involves discernment, giving up identification with his conditioned personality and its beliefs and expectations. This will gradually release him from enslavement to a world view wrought of his uncertainties and fearfulness. It will reveal his real needs and capabilities.
As I honor and let him find his own fullness of being, I free myself from identifying with the turbulent waves of images and feelings, stirred up by his crude, conditioned mind and senses, his realm of deluded beliefs and images. It opens me to a acknowledge and hand over my decisions and intentions to Consciousness, my true guide.
I must renounce looking to the externals of my life for fulfillment. That's how I entrap him in needs he's unable to fulfill or ever understand. That frees me to recognize that my path is in knowing that I Know. My bliss is when the Lake's smooth, reflecting waters and Knowing merge.
Usually, that abiding image of the Lake of Mind is just beyond the edge of my awareness. But I do sense it there. I know when it is placid and reflects the divine splendor all around. And, when it is choppy and stirred up in the frenzy of my outer self's overwhelming need or fear, do I recognize the turbulence reflects his helpless confusion, his calling out for help?
Do I remember to Remember?
Copyright Nathaniel Schwartz 2003 www.WisdomVisions.com