The Artwork of Michael Divine

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The Incessant Quality of Mind

May 22nd, 2008

All thru’ the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All thru’ the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Ev’ryone’s weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All thru’ the day I me mine.
“I, Me, Mine” – The Beatles

What is it I spend all my time thinking about? I am pretty sure I’m thinking all the time. The only time I am not thinking is when I am full engaged in what I am doing (excluding things that require thinking; concentrated thinking is different than distracted thinking) watching a movie, listening to someone speak, painting, walking along the beach. There are these actions- all sorts of them. And I listen, I engage, each of them- eating, walking, yoga, painting, and there are moments of illumination, like a fish cresting a wave, jumping in the sun. These times arise when I am fully present. They arise when I am in the flow of life. Even if it is just sitting and I stop trying. I stop stopping. I stop.

Then there is all the time thinking. When I am in the midst of it, I forget about it. That may seem very zen but really it’s rather ignorant of the process. I’m just caught up in it- thinking about wedding planning or he said I said she said or what I should have for dinner or a thousand and one plausible scenarios of life and how I might respond or what I might say or what I did say or <i>whatever</i>. I will be honest- I was thinking earlier of what I would write right now. When I am able to take a step back and objectively look at this thing called thought process I notice a few key elements. Thought is in no way a bad thing and is natural as the clouds in the sky or the currents of the ocean. In fact, the ability to think things through is a positive aspect of any rational human being. The problem lies in the place where the rational part stops and the irrationality of rethinking and rethinking and keep on thinking like a skipping record whose needle is the “I” itself. Once ought to be enough! But why do we think and rethink – if it is not to aggrandize ourselves or someone else, at least in our own minds, or to belittle ourselves or someone else, if not in our own minds, to strengthen attachment or defend an aversion. If not that, then what?

One thing I have noticed is that sometimes my incessant thought stream is simply hell bent on figuring it out. Whatever “it” may be. “Figuring it out” is actually all of it. It sifts through the issues, the variables, the problems, the items on the list, then it does it again, wash rinse repeat – this mind reviews everything, as if it is indexing a hard drive or leafing through folders on my desk containing stories, points of great import, and irrelevant but possibly relevant and important enough that we haven’t forgotten them details that might be crucial to the current issue at hand.

It does this while I am trying to go to sleep. I catch it- sorting, organizing, planning, seeing if there is a diamond, a seed, something missed, caught/lost in the shuffle. A-HA! It proposes it will say- I’VE GOT IT! As if all of a sudden the eureka, the grand idea will unfold from the map of minutiae it has laid out.

I catch it on my way into yoga class. Let it go, I suggest, just let it go. Downward dog, upward dog – it loses track and has to start all over again. The process feels terribly fruitless. I must press on. Move forward. Maybe some inspiration awaits around the next corner. You’ll see, it tells me, I’ll earn my keep.

In truth, it does not want to find the answer it is looking for. While it might be good at figuring things out and, granted, occasionally comes up with a good idea or two, this mind doesn’t really want to absorb the key point- the cornerstone, the idea that keeps it all locked in- and that is the fact of basic self-existence (or the lack thereof)- that nothing is completely independent of itself- even the self, even this mind. When I ceases to exist, so do all the concepts, thoughts, illusions. When I am…

When “I” is no longer telling stories about what “I” did or did not do, what was done or not done to “I”… when “I” is no longer trying to find excuses, reasons or bottom lines… then what is it to do? What is left when the walls of stuff- of thoughts and concepts, dreams and anchors dissolve?

Words of description only offer approximations. Expansiveness has no yardstick.

It is a feeling that has been alluded to, touched upon in countless places and, sometimes and on rare occasions, manifested in concrete, in paint, in music. Songs tend to suggest feelings and intimations but as soon as words enter in, there is something tangible to latch onto and define. An image is good at creating an initial rush – a quickly swallowed pill – but as soon as there is something to criticize or identify with we tend to categorize and thus once again fall prey to the very slippery movements of the “I”.

It has gone on forever- bottomless mind. All-seeing Eye.

I am hungry. I must pay rent. I must make that phone call. I must make a list. I won’t make a list so I can keep thinking I must make a list (a deeper thought in the bottomless mind). I must live up to my expectations. I must fail at that living up to the expectations. If I break the habit then I break the chain and if I break the chain then what do I have to think about and dwell upon. If I am always late, and I start to be on time then what? Then what?
Do I have new expectations to live up to? Only if I allow myself to set them. There is a difference between living up to expectations and living the Truth.

The key to life is learning to separate your “self” from the “I”. There is a being here, that is for certain. It is as much a being and as vital to the workings of the universe as a gear in a clock. Remove the gear and the clock ceases to work. Such is death. I would never propose thoughtlessness. Instead- I propose conscious thought, focused action, doing things right the first time, movement coupled with awareness.

It is in the moments of moving with the flow and cresting the wave, swimming in that Big Sky Mind that we experience illumination. Through illumination we shed light upon the motions of our minds.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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