The Simple Game – Making Awakening Easy & Enjoyable
At a certain point in your spiritual progress, you will likely bump into an important realization:
“All problems, suffering or lacking only exist in my mind.”
This is Truth. Outside of our minds and their judgments, fears, worries, desires & beliefs, there can never be any problems, suffering or lacking. There can only be what is, and what is, is never a problem or suffering until I attach a judgment to it that “this is bad” or “this hurts” or “this isn’t going the way I want it to.” And the only place that judgment takes place is in our minds.
Here’s clear examples:
– “I don’t have enough money, and that’s a problem.” No, not having enough money is just what is. It can only be a problem if your mind judges it as such. It doesn’t matter if you think you have “good reason” to attach that judgment – uncertain future, inability to live well, past experience of what happens to people when they’re broke, etc. – it’s still a judgment we’re attaching to something that simply is the way it is.
– “I have a serious illness and I’m both in pain and scared of the final outcome, which may be death, and that’s causing me two kinds of suffering.” No, everyone has pain in their bodies at sometime or another, and everyone dies. Your pain may be stronger and longer than others’, and it’s still just the way it is. Suffering only happens when we judge that certain “is-es” feel good and we think they should continue, and certain”is-es” feel bad and we want them to end. It’s not wrong to want your pain to end, or your life to not end, and if that’s what’s happening in your life right now, the pain is real and the dying is real, but the part you call suffering is your mental judgment (that this is bad,) fear, and any beliefs you have around what it means to have serious bodily pain and to die. Remove those, and you may still feel the pain and oncoming physical death, but you will cease feeling you are suffering.
– “My life isn’t turning out the way I wanted it to. I’m not getting the right career, relationship, family, etc. and so I’m always feeling lacking.” No, whatever is happening in your life is just what’s happening, and from a spiritual perspective, there may be valuable growth & awakenings in store for you from it going this way, instead of the way you wanted it to. The only place lacking is felt is inside your mind, because you are attaching a judgment that not getting what you desire is bad and getting what you desire makes you feel fulfilled.
Here’s my clearest example. When I sit to meditate, my mind may be filled with ninety-nine kinds of judgments, fears and worries. In the 40+ years I’ve been sitting for meditation, I’ve definitely had extended periods where I was low on dough and didn’t know how to get enough to pay my bills, and that’s the “problem” my mind fixated on while I tried to meditate. Or where I was ill and unable to get well, with possible death looming, and that the “suffering” my mind fixated on in my meditation. And of course, a lifelong period of not getting what I desired most, which was to “become enlightened,” which was the most ironic one; here I am meditating to awaken, and all I can think about is how I’ll never do this right and reach enlightenment! That kind of meditating definitely won’t get you enlightened!
The good news is, all of that, all the worrying, feeling fear, judging that some thing is wrong or bad or lacking, is all in our minds. I know, because the moment I stop identifying with that inner judging voice, all that mental chatter, I…have…no…problem! None. Zilch! All that’s left is what is. And since I’m just being present with what is, just noticing it dispassionately without allowing my mind to attach it’s usual tirade of judgments and fears, all that’s left is what is, and me noticing it. No problem, no suffering, no lacking.
You ask, “Got it, so how can I stop listening to and identifying with that nagging judging voice so I can just be present with what is without judgment?” More good news. I’ve discovered just how simple that can be.
You see, we all know that place where life just feels perfect just as it is, irrespective of conditions. We’ve all dropped into that place for at least a few moments, where we see things with the BIG perspective and everything in our life, even the messy, painful, unfulfilling parts, are all part of a complete whole that just is the way it is, and it’s fine. If you tell me you’ve never felt that inner peace, that righteousness of life, even in tough conditions, for at least a moment here or there, you are lying.
And one of the problems with doing meditation and any kind of spiritual practice is that we think we need to totally still the mind, permanently snap the identification with those nagging thoughts, and live in that dispassionate Witness Awareness 24/7/365. We take it all so seriously, like it’s this BIG DEAL.
But what if, instead of it being a big, serious deal, it was a game. Like any game you truly enjoy. Video games, poker, tennis, hell, even bowling! In all those games, sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes “he shoots, he scores!” and sometimes “he shoots…and misses by a mile.” Unless you’re needing to be the world’s best pro at any game, ’cause you need to keep the money & sponsorships rolling in, you just laugh and try again. No big deal.
Right now, and forevermore, make awakening an easy, enjoyable game. When you sit for meditation, when you’re eating or working, when you’re walking or driving down the street, just notice if you are simply present with what is, or up in your head thinking you are that voice that’s judging the hell out of your life. If you notice you’re in your head, come out. Come back to being present NOW with what is NOW, not what may happen in the future due to whatever conditions are current “plaguing” your life’s situations. Leave your mind. Leave it, and all that noise, behind. Don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you get back, to help you know how to drive or balance your checkbook. Just drop into that place where everything is perfect just AS IT IS.
And the game part. Simple. Every time you successfully drop into the present and leave your mental judgments behind, you win! When you don’t, when you are “stuck” in your mind for a few minutes, or even if you notice you’ve been there for days, you don’t lose! Like playing the aforementioned games, you just go “Oops!,” laugh and come back to presence, and win again. And there’s no “ultimate” winning, where you stay in presence permanently, never falling back into your old habit of believing the judging mind. Because that would mean you are making at least 2 mistakes: First, that there’s a “time” when you’ll actually “arrive” at a permanent state of awakening. But when you get totally present in this moment, time disappears. There is no future or past in the present moment. So believing or coveting a “later” when you can be in that state permanently must be pure nonsense. You’re already “there,” as awakened as you’ll ever be. The second mistake is that you think arriving “there” permanently would be better that having to keep playing the game of going back and forth between being in your head and being present. Better is a judgment, and where do all judgments happen? In the mind. Any wish you have to get there permanently would just be an indication that you’re back in your mind again, that it re-entered through the back door. Just get present again. Now. And keep doing it, like a fun game, whenever you notice you crept back into your head. Just keep doing it for the rest of your “time” here on Earth. Why not? It’s not serious. And seriously, do you have anything better to do? It’s the greatest game of all!