What is the famous line from 2001: A Space Odyssey? That “space is the final frontier.” Or maybe that was from the opening lines of Star Trek…
Anyway, that small phrase popped into my head this morning while I was waiting on the dogs to take care of their business. The warm spring breeze blew gently; the songbirds were in full voice and I just…
Took a breath.
Nothing spectacular, certainly not unusual, but in the brief moment between breathing in all of the goodness around me, and exhaling all that I did not need, I realized something. Nothing spectacular, not earth shaking (philosophers have discussed this idea for centuries), but for me it was an “aha” moment.
The space between things is actually where all meaning is.
As soon as that thought surfaced in my head, my mind stood up and started protesting. “Wait a minute,” it shouted. “You mean to tell me that buying a new iPad 2 or those cute hot pink Yellow Box flip flops won’t give my life meaning?”
I sighed, because I knew this mind chatter was exactly what I had stepped away from when I had my “aha” realization. And then I made another connection. Most of the insightful thoughts I have ever had about life have all occurred when my mind chatter was temporarily suspended and silent. For example, I have had several epiphanies while standing in the shower or performing a mundane task like washing the dishes.
It seems that silence is the key to understanding our life and our world.
As the famous writer, Carlos Castaneda said so poetically, “Silent knowledge is something that all of us have. Something that has complete mastery, complete knowledge of everything. But it cannot think, therefore it cannot speak of what it knows…Man has given up silent knowledge for the world of reason. The more he clings to the world of reason, the more ephemeral intent becomes.”
To me, the “world of reason” is the mind chatter I suffered during my brief visit to the world of “silent knowledge” early this morning. The mind chatter I hear always sounds reasonable and truthful, but it paints a false reality.
My mind is constantly evaluating, judging, critiquing and opining on everything that I focus on. The voice I hear as I step on the scale and see that I just gained three pounds is my mind, and what it has to say is not pretty. “You’ll never be able to fit into your bathing suit, now!” it taunts as I cringe in horror at the numbers that never lie. When I receive an email that could be read two different ways, my mind will whisper that I have just been slighted. Unless I stop and take a deep breath, I might respond in writing to an insult that did not really exist.
When I think back on the times I have reacted too harshly or been too judgmental, it usually started with listening to my mind chatter. Much too often, following that seductive voice caused hurt feelings, anger and pain that was totally unnecessary if I had just stopped, took a breath and really listened to the other person.
It is so deceptively simple. Step away from the mind chatter and just breathe.
When I follow my own advice and return from my nanosecond visit to the space of “silent knowledge,” I always discover that I was reacting to something that just was not there. My mind creates false objects, while my silent knowledge waits patiently for me to be still and listen. To step into the space between my thoughts.
I know that I am not alone when I describe the difference between the kind of life lived from my mind chatter and a peaceful life lived from something greater than myself. As Buckminster Fuller so eloquently put it, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.” Return to your essence – the “silent knowledge” that you were born with, and see what happens.
Try it out for yourself and see if it makes a difference in your mood and outlook. When you are faced with a situation that usually triggers a negative emotion, ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or be happy?” Take a deep breath and listen to the response. It does not take long to realize that your mind was leading you down a false path. You now have a choice to make – to follow the path of judgment, criticism or unkindness, or take a step in another direction. It is your choice alone, made in that split second after you exhale and listen to the silence. By stepping away from your mind for a heartbeat, miracles can happen.
I guess Gene Rodenberry was right when he proclaimed, “Space is the final frontier.” Although he might have meant outer space, the truth also applies to our inner space. Stop, breath, pause and listen and you become the daring astronaut set on a journey to discover the final frontier – a life well lived.