What remains when the mind becomes still?
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All spiritual traditions have taught that inquiry is the path to enlightenment. Reality, it turns out, is not some kind of known, solid state, but an emerging process of discovery, something fluid and variable.
Our last blog introduced uncertainty about our experienced reality. We wrote: “Is this reality real or is it a figment of my perceiving apparatus, the mechanism of my individual consciousness? If so, is what I perceive to be real actually an illusion? Hmn, maybe I should begin to question a whole range of my personal beliefs. Is this real, is that true, what about this other?”
Author presenter Byron Katie poses four questions:
Question 1: Is it true? …
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true? …
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? …
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?
These four questions can be very useful in our exploration of reality. First, in relationship to something, anything in our lives: is it true? At first glance, it might seem ridiculous to challenge “facts.” For instance, “I just got fired.” Or, “I just got a promotion.” Or, “My wife just left me.” Or, “My fiancée just said ‘Yes!”
These seem to be factual. Are they? In each case, it’s easy to consider the surface appearance of what’s happened and agree that it’s true. But what about under the surface? What’s going on there? This explains why inquiry is so vital, it helps us dive deeper, to discern other, contributing causative factors.
For instance, if you lost your job, why? You may have underperformed. Maybe the boss had it in for you. Perhaps the company was bought out and you were down sized. In other words, there’s history. Getting fired is a seemingly singular result but it actually has many causes. And saying “I got fired!” may not be absolutely true on it’s own, without taking these many contributing factors into account.
Byron Katie uses inquiry to explore the feeling attached to what’s happening, which we also accept as fact. So, “I got fired” can also mean “I’m a failure,” or, “The boss is a jerk.” What about these “facts?” Are they true? No, because they are generalized judgments that likewise fail to acknowledge background factors.
There’s always more to discover when we commit to the path of inquiry. Her second question is, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” This is an easy one to answer. No! Can you know that it is absolutely true that you are a failure… or a success? No. Never. Because life moves on. Failure today could turn into success tomorrow. It’s raining now so we might say, “The weather here is terrible,” and then the sun comes out and the weather is great. Which is absolutely true, that the weather is terrible or that the weather is great? Obviously, neither.
Her third question is fascinating: “How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?” So, let’s try a different thought: “I am separate from God.” Is this true, can we prove it’s absolutely true, and what happens when we believe this thought? It becomes our reality, not because it’s true but because we’ve chosen to believe it. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe it or not, you’re right.”
The fourth question takes us back to the beginning of this blog. Her question is, “Who would you be without the thought?” We asked, “What remains when the mind becomes still?”
What remains is you, the reality of you. You are the one, the One, behind those thoughts, hiding in the busyness of daily life and/or the search for truth. Either way, distracted by details or trying to find God, we have deceived ourselves into believing that we must do this or that, go here or there, understand something, change behaviors, etc. before we are truly one with God.
This is the primary illusion we suffer in but it dissolves with a single choice, to accept a new definition of reality and establish this as the foundation for our daily living experience. Here’s a declaration we might employ: “I am one with all life.” Then, using these four questions, we could use inquiry to deepen our present time experience, starting from the place we once hoped to eventually reach. Then we just deepen our experience of this “truth” over time, because we surrender the false belief that reality is an answer and enjoy the process of inquiry, which never ends.
The path to enlightenment is not long, it’s deep.