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  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
 
     
     
 
FREEDOM TAMES THE MIND - Secret #6

DO YOU LOVE YOUR MIND? I’ve never met anyone who did. People with beautiful bodies or faces frequently love their gift from nature (although the opposite can be true—the most beautiful people physically can also shun themselves out of insecurity or fear of being seen as vain). The mind is the hardest part of ourselves to love because we feel trapped inside it—not all the time but in those moments when trouble breaks in. Fear has a way of roaming the mind at will. Depression darkens the mind; anger makes it erupt in uncontrollable turmoil.
Ancient cultures tend to echo the notion that the mind is restless and unreliable. In India, the most common metaphor compares the mind to a wild elephant, and calming the mind is said to be like tying the elephant to a stake. In Buddhism, the mind is likened to a monkey peering out at the world through the five senses. Monkeys are notoriously impulsive and fickle, liable to do anything without notice. Buddhist psychology doesn’t aim to tame the monkey so much as to learn its ways, accept them, and then transcend to a higher awareness that is beyond the fickleness of the mind.
Metaphors won’t get you to a place where you can love the mind; you have to find the actual experience of peace and calmness on your own. The secret for doing that is to free the mind. When it is free, the mind settles down. It gives up its restlessness and becomes a channel for peace. This is a counterintuitive solution because nobody would say that a wild elephant or a monkey can be tamed by setting it free.
They’d say that the freed animal would only run wilder, yet this secret is based on actual experience: The mind is “wild” because we try to confine and control it. At a deeper level lies complete orderliness. Here, thoughts and impulses flow in harmony with what is right and best for each person.
How, then, can you set your mind free? You need to understand how it became trapped in the first place. Freedom isn’t a condition you can simply step into by unlocking a door or breaking a set of shackles. The mind is its own shackle, as the poet William Blake knew when he contemplated people on the streets of London:

  • In every cry of every man
  • In every infant’s cry of fear
  • In every voice, in every ban
  • The mind-forged manacles I hear.

When they tried to understand how the mind traps itself, the ancient Indian sages devised the key concept ofsamskara (from two Sanskrit word roots that mean “to flow together”). A samskara is a groove in the mind that makes thoughts flow in the same direction. Buddhist psychology makes sophisticated use of the concept by speaking of samskaras as imprints in the mind that have a life of their own. Your personal samskaras, built up from memories of the past, force you to react in the same limited way over and over, robbing you of free choice (i.e., choosing as if for the first time).
Most people build up an identity on the basis of samskara without knowing that they chose to do this.
But the clues are inescapable. Consider someone prone to attacks of rage. For these so-called rageaholics, the anger impulse is like an “it,” a thing that controls them from some secret place of power.
Uncontrollable outbreaks unfold in stages. First, there is usually some physical symptom—compression in the chest, the onset of a headache, rapid heartbeat, tight breathing. From there an impulse rises. The person can feel anger building up as if it were water behind a dike. The pressure is both physical and emotional; the body wants to throw off its discomfort, and the mind wants to release pent-up feelings. At this point, the person generally looks for an excuse to trigger a full-blown attack. The excuse can be found in some slight infraction—a task not performed by the children, a slow waiter, a less than courteous store clerk.
Finally, the eruption of rage occurs, and only after it settles down does the person realize the damage he has caused—the cycle ends in remorse and a promise never to erupt again. Shame and guilt enter, vowing to damp down the impulse for the future, and the mind reflects rationally on the pointlessness and risks of venting one’s rage.

For any rageaholic, the element of choice is hard to reclaim. When the impulse starts to build up steam, the pressure has to find release. Often, however, there is collusion—a tacit agreement to let the rage have its way. At some time in their pasts, raging people decided to adopt anger as a coping mechanism. They saw rage at work in their family or at school. They linked power to intimidation, perhaps they had no other access to power. They typically feel unable to express themselves verbally, and striking out in anger becomes a substitute for words and thoughts. Once in the habit of raging, they stopped seeking other avenues of release. The rage they struggle to end is bound to them by need and desire—they don’t know how to get what they want without it.
This is the anatomy of samskara in all its varieties. You can substitute other experiences forrage, such as anxiety, depression, sexual addiction, substance abuse, obsessive compulsion; all will testify to how samskaras rob people of free choice. Unable to escape their toxic memories, people adapt to them, adding one layer after another of impressions. The bottom layers, laid down in childhood, keep sending out their messages, which is why adults often look in the mirror and feel like impulsive, frightened children. The past has not been worked through sufficiently; samskaras rule the psyche through a jumble of old, outworn experiences.
Stored memories are like microchips programmed to keep sending out the same message over and over.
When you find yourself having a fixed reaction, the message has already been sent: It does no good to try to change the message. Yet this is exactly how the vast majority of people try to tame the mind. They receive a message they don’t like, and their reaction is one of three things:

  • Manipulation
  • Control
  • Denial

If you look at them closely, it becomes clear that all three of these behaviors come after the fact—they deal with the mind’s disorder as the cause of the distress rather than as a symptom. These supposed solutions have tremendous negative effects.
Manipulationis getting what you want by ignoring or harming the desires of others. Manipulators use charm, persuasion, coaxing, trickery, and misdirection. The underlying idea is “I have to fool people to make them give me what I want.” When they are really caught up in their ploys, manipulators even imagine that they are doing their victims a favor—after all, who wouldn’t feel good helping out a guy who’s so entertaining? You can catch yourself falling into this behavior when you aren’t listening to other people, when you ignore what they want, and when you pretend that your desires cost nobody else a price. There are also external signs. The presence of a manipulator brings tension, strain, complaints, and conflict to a situation. Some people use passive manipulations—they come up with “poor me” scenarios to coax sympathy and pity out of others. Or they lay subtle guilt trips with the aim of making others think that what they want is wrong. Manipulation comes to an end when you stop assuming that your desires are all-important. Then you can reconnect with others and begin to trust that their desires might be aligned with yours. When there is no manipulation, people feel that what they want counts. They trust that you are on their side; you aren’t seen as a performer or salesperson. No one feels that he or she is being fooled.
Controlis forcing events and people into your way of doing things. Control is the great mask of insecurity. People who use this behavior are deathly afraid of letting others be who they are, so the controller is constantly making demands that keep others off balance. The underlying idea is “If they keep paying attention to me, they won’t run away.” When you find yourself making excuses for yourself and blaming others, or when you feel inside that no one is showing you enough gratitude or appreciation, the fault is not with them—you are exhibiting a need to control. The external signs of this behavior come from those you are trying to control: They are tense and resistant; they complain of not being listened to; they call you a perfectionist or a demanding boss. Control begins to end when you admit that your way isn’t automatically the right way. You can tune in to your need for control by catching yourself complaining, blaming, or insisting that no one is right but you, and coming up with one excuse after another to prove that you are without blame yourself. Once you stop controlling them, the people around you begin to breathe easy. They relax and laugh. They feel free to be who they are without looking to you for approval.
Denialis looking past the problem instead of facing it. Psychologists consider denial the most childish of the three behaviors because it is so intimately linked to vulnerability. The person in denial feels helpless to
solve problems, the way a young child feels. Fear is linked to denial, and so is a childlike need for love in the face of insecurity. The underlying idea is “I don’t have to notice what I can’t change in the first place.”
You can catch yourself going into denial when you experience lack of focus, forgetfulness, procrastination, refusing to confront those who hurt you, wishful thinking, false hope, and confusion. The main external sign is that others don’t depend on you or turn to you when a solution is needed. By pulling your attention out of focus, denial defends with blindness. How can you be accused of failing at something you don’t even see? You get past denial by facing up to painful truths. Honestly expressing how you feel is the first step. For someone in deep denial, any feeling that makes you think you are unsafe is generally one you have to face. Denial begins to end when you feel focused, alert, and ready to participate despite your fears.
Each of these behaviors tries to prove an impossibility. Manipulation tries to prove that anyone can be made to do what you want. Control tries to prove that no one can reject you unless you say so. Denial tries to prove that bad things will go away if you don’t look at them. The truth is that other people can refuse to do what you want, can walk out on you for no good reason, and can cause trouble whether you face it or not. There is no predicting how long any of us will stubbornly try to prove the opposite, but only when we admit the truth does the behavior completely end.
The next thing to know about samskaras is that they are not silent. These deep impressions in the mind have a voice; we hear their repeated messages as words in our heads. Is it possible to figure out which voices are true and which are false? This is an important question because it isn’t possible to think without hearing some words in your head.
Early in the nineteenth century, an obscure pastor in Denmark known as Magister Adler was fired from his church. He was convicted of disobeying church authorities by claiming that he had received direct revelation from God. While preaching from the pulpit, he began claiming that when he spoke in a high, squeaky voice he was speaking from revelation, whereas when he spoke with his own normal, low voice he was speaking only as himself.
This bizarre behavior led his congregation to think their pastor must be crazy, so they had no alternative but to fire him. As it happened, news of the case reached the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who asked the really crucial question: Is itever possible to prove that someone has heard the voice of God? What behavior or other outward sign would allow anyone to tell true revelation from false? The disgraced clergyman would probably be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic if he showed up with the same symptoms today. Kierkegaard concluded that Adler wasn’t speaking in God’s voice, but he also observed that none of us knows where our inner voices come from. We simply accept them, as well as the stream of words that fill our heads.
A deeply religious person might even claim that every inner voice is some version of the voice of God.
One thing is certain, however: We all hear the inner voices of a clamoring chorus. They nag, praise, cajole, judge, warn, suspect, disbelieve, trust, complain, hope, love, and fear—in no special order. It’s too simplistic to say that we each have a good side and a bad side—we have thousands of aspects formed out of past experiences. It’s impossible to sort out how many voices I am actually listening to. I sense that some are buried from childhood; they sound like orphans of my earliest experiences begging me to take them in. Other voices are adultlike and harsh—in them, I hear people from my past who judged or punished me. Each voice believes that it deserves my whole attention, heedless of the others that believe the same thing. There is no central self who rises above the din to quell this riot of opinions, demands, and needs. At any given moment, whatever voice I pay the most attention to becomesmy voice, only to be crowded offstage when my attention shifts. The unruliness that pulls me this way and that is living proof of how fragmented I have become.
How can this clamoring chorus be tamed? How can I retrieve a sense of self that fits one reality? The answer once again is freedom, yet in a most peculiar way.You must free yourself from decisions. The voice in your head will die down once you stop making choices. A samskara is a choice you remember from the past. Each choice changed you by a tiny fraction. The process began at birth and continues to this day. Instead of fighting it, we all believe we should keep on making choices; as a result, we keep adding new samskaras and reinforcing the old ones. (In Buddhism, this is called thewheel of samskara because the same old reactions keep coming around again and again. In a cosmic sense, the wheel of samskara is what drives a soul from one lifetime to the next—old imprints impel us to face the same problems time and again, even beyond death.) Kierkegaard wrote that the person who has found God has freed himself from choices. But what does it feel like to have God make your decisions for you? I think you would have to be deeply connected to God to even come close to answering that question.
Yet in a state of simple awareness, the most evolutionary choices seem to come spontaneously. While the ego agonizes over every detail of a situation, a deeper part of your awareness knows what to do already, and its choices emerge with amazing finesse and perfect timing. Hasn’t everyone experienced flashes of clarity in which they suddenly know just what to do?Choicelessawareness is another name for free awareness. By freeing up the choice-maker inside, you reclaim your right to live without boundaries, acting on the will of God with complete trust.
Have we become trapped simply by the act of choosing? This is a surprising idea because it runs counter to a lifelong behavior. For all of us, life has been lived one choice at a time. The external world is like a huge bazaar offering a dazzling array of possibilities, and everyone shops the bazaar, cannily seizing what is best for me and mine. Most people know themselves by what came home in their shopping bag—a house, job, spouse, car, children, money. But every time you choose A over B, you are forced to leave some part of the one reality behind. You are defining yourself by selective (and completely arbitrary) preferences.
The alternative is to stop concentrating on the results and look to the cause. Who is this choice-maker inside you? This voice is a relic of the past, the accumulation of old decisions carrying over beyond their time. Right now you are living under the burden of your past self, who is no longer alive. You must protect the thousands of choices that make up this dead self. Yet the choice-maker could live a much freer life. If choices occurred in the present and were fully appreciated right now, there would be nothing left to hold on to, and then the past couldn’t accumulate into a crushing burden.
Choice should be a flow. Your body already suggests that this is the natural way to exist. As we saw earlier, each cell maintains only enough reserve of food and oxygen to survive for a few seconds. Cells don’t store up energy because they never know what’s coming next. Flexible responses are much more important to survival than hoarding. From one viewpoint, this makes your cells look entirely vulnerable and undefended, yet as fragile as a cell may appear, two billion years of evolution can’t be denied.
Everyone knows how to choose; few know how to let go. But it’s only by letting go of each experience that you make room for the next. The skill of letting go can be learned; once learned, you will enjoy living much more spontaneously.

LETTING GO

 

  • How to Choose Without Getting Trapped
  • Make the most of every experience.
  • Don’t obsess over right and wrong decisions.
  • Stop defending your self-image.
  • Go beyond risks.
  • Make no decision when in doubt.
  • See the possibilities in whatever happens.
  • Find the stream of joy.

Making the most of an experience: Living fully is extolled everywhere in popular culture. I have only to turn on the television at random to be assailed with the following messages: “It’s the best a man can get.” “It’s like having an angel by your side.” “Every move is smooth, every word is cool. I never want to lose that feeling.” “You look, they smile. You win, they go home.” What is being sold here? A fantasy of total sensory pleasure, social status, sexual attraction, and the self-image of a winner. As it happens, all these phrases come from the same commercial for razor blades, but living life fully is part of almost any ad campaign. What is left out, however, is the reality of what it actually means to fully experience something. Instead of looking for sensory overload that lasts forever, you’ll find that the experiences need to be engaged at the level of meaning and emotion.
Meaning is essential. If this moment truly matters to you, you will experience it fully. Emotion brings in the dimension of bonding or tuning in: An experience that touches your heart makes the meaning that much more personal. Pure physical sensation, social status, sexual attraction, and feeling like a winner are generally superficial, which is why people hunger for them repeatedly. If you spend time with athletes who have won hundreds of games or with sexually active singles who have slept with hundreds of partners, you’ll find out two things very quickly: (1) Numbers don’t count very much. The athlete usually doesn’t feel like a winner deep down; the sexual conqueror doesn’t usually feel deeply attractive or worthy. (2) Each experience brings diminishing returns; the thrill of winning or going to bed becomes less and less exciting and lasts a shorter time.
To experience this moment, or any moment, fully means to engage fully. Meeting a stranger can be totally fleeting and meaningless, for example, unless you enter the individual’s world by finding out at least one thing that is meaningful to his or her life and exchange at least one genuine feeling. Tuning in to others is a circular flow: You send yourself out toward people; you receive them as they respond to you. Notice how often you don’t do that. You stand back and insulate yourself, sending out only the most superficial signals and receive little or nothing back.
The same circle must be present even when someone else isn’t involved. Consider the way three people might observe the same sunset. The first person is obsessing over a business deal and doesn’t even see the sunset, even though his eyes are registering the photons that fall on their retinas. The second person thinks, “Nice sunset. We haven’t had one in a while.” The third person is an artist who immediately begins a sketch of the scene. The differences among the three are that the first person sent nothing out and received nothing back; the second allowed his awareness to receive the sunset but had no awareness to give back to it—his response was rote; the third person was the only one to complete the circle: He took in the sunset and turned it into a creative response that sent his awareness back out into the world with something to give.

If you want to fully experience life, you must close the circle.


Right and wrong decisions: If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. This isn’t a correct assumption because the universe is flexible—it adapts to every decision you make. Right and wrong are only mental constructs. Immediately I can hear strong emotional objections to this. What about Mister Right? What about the perfect job? What about buying the best car? We are all in the habit of looking like consumers at people, jobs, and cars, wanting best value for the money. But in reality the decisions we label as right and wrong are arbitrary. Mister Right is one of a hundred or a thousand people you could spend a satisfying life with. The best job is impossible to define, given that jobs turn out to be good or bad depending on a dozen factors that come into play only after you start the job. (Who knows in advance what your co-workers will be like, what the corporate climate is, whether you will have the right idea at the right moment?) And the best car may get driven into an accident two days after you buy it.
The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience. If this sounds too mystical, refer again to your body. Every significant vital sign—body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on—alters the moment you decide to do anything. A runner’s metabolism can’t afford to be as low as the metabolism of someone reading a book because, without increased air intake and faster heart rate, the runner would suffocate and collapse with muscle spasms.
Decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction. It may turn out afterward that you feel dissatisfied with the direction you’ve taken, but to obsess over right and wrong decisions is the same as taking no direction at all. Keep in mind that you are the choice-maker, which means that who you are is far more than any single choice you have ever made or ever will make.

Defending your self-image: Over the years you have built an idealized self-image that you defend as “me.” In this image are packed all the things you want to see as true about yourself; banished from it are all the shameful, guilty, and fear-provoking aspects that would threaten your self-confidence. But the very aspects you try to push away return as the most insistent, demanding voices in your head. The act of banishment creates the chaos of your internal dialogue, and thus your ideal erodes even while you are doing everything to look good and feel good about yourself.
To really feel good about yourself, renounce your self-image. Immediately you will find yourself being more open, undefended, and relaxed. It’s helpful to remember a startling comment from the renowned Indian spiritual teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj: “If you notice, you only have a self when you’re in trouble.” If that seems unbelievable, imagine yourself walking through a dangerous neighborhood in a bad part of town. All around you are people whose stares make you nervous; the sound of unfamiliar accents reminds you that you are different from these people, and in that difference you feel danger. The perception of threat causes you to withdraw by contracting inside. This builds up a wider gap between you and what you fear. Yet this retreat into the isolated, constricted self doesn’t really defend you from
anything. It is imaginary. By widening the gap, you only ensure that what might serve you—looking confident and at ease—can’t occur. Maharaj’s point is that what we call the self is a contraction around an empty core, whereas in reality we are meant to be free and expansive in our awareness.
Much time is spent in self-help trying to turn a bad self-image into a good one. As reasonable as that sounds, all self-images have the same pitfall: They keep reminding you of who you were, not who you are. The whole idea of I, me, and mine was erected on memories, and these memories are not really you.
If you release yourself from your self-image, you will be free to chooseas if for the first time.
Self-image keeps reality away, particularly at the emotional level. Many people don’t want to admit what they are actually feeling. Their self-image dictates that being angry, for example, or showing anxiety is not permissible. Such feelings don’t accord with the “kind of person I want to be.” Certain emotions feel too dangerous to be part of your ideal image of yourself, so you adopt a disguise that excludes those feelings.
Deep-seated rage and fear belong in this category, but sadly so does immense joy, ecstasy, or freewheeling spontaneity. You stop being ruled by self-image when:

  • You feel what you feel
  • You are no longer offended by things
  • You stop appraising how a situation makes you look
  • You don’t exclude people you feel superior or inferior to
  • You quit worrying about what others think about you
  • You no longer obsess over money, status, and possessions
  • You no longer feel the urge to defend your opinions

Going beyond risks: As long as the future remains unpredictable, every decision involves some level of risk. That’s the story that seems to be universally accepted, at least. We are told that certain foods put one at risk for heart attacks and cancer, for example, and therefore the rational thing is to quantify the risk and stay on the low side of the numbers. But life itself cannot be quantified. For every study that shows a quantifiable fact about heart disease (e.g., men who drink a quart of milk a day are half as likely to suffer a severe heart attack), there is another study to show that stress raises the risk of heart disease only if you are susceptible to stress (some people actually thrive on it).
Risk is mechanical. It implies that there is no intelligence behind the scenes, only a certain number of factors that result in a given outcome. You can go beyond risks by knowing that there is infinite intelligence at work in the hidden dimension of your life. At the level of this intelligence your choices are always supported. The point of looking at risks would be to see if your course of action is reasonable; you wouldn’t rely on risk analysis to override far more important factors, the very factors that are being weighed at the level of deeper awareness:

  • Does this choice feel right for me?
  • Am I interested in where this choice is leading?
  • Do I like the people involved?
  • Is this choice good for my whole family?
  • Does this choice make sense given my stage in life?
  • Do I feel morally justified in making this choice?
  • Will this choice help me to grow?
  • Do I have a chance to be more creative and inspired by what I am about to do?

It’s when these things go wrong that choices don’t work out. The risks may be relevant, but they aren’t decisive. People who can assess their choices at the deeper level of awareness are aligning themselves with infinite intelligence, and thus they have a greater chance for success than does someone who crunches the numbers.

When in doubt: It’s hard to let go when you don’t know if you have made the right choice in the first place. Doubt lingers and ties us to the past. Many relationships end in divorce because of a lack of commitment, but that lack didn’t grow over time; it was present from the very outset and was never resolved. It’s important not to make critical decisions when you are in doubt. The universe supports actions once they are begun, which is the same as saying that once you take a direction, you are setting a mechanism in motion that is very hard to reverse. Can a married woman feel unmarried simply because she wants to? Can you feel that you aren’t your parents’ child simply because you think it would be better to have different parents? In both cases the ties to a situation, once it is in place, are strong. When you are in doubt, however, you put the universe on hold for a while. It favors no particular direction.
There is a good aspect to this pause and a bad one. The good aspect is that you are giving yourself room to become aware of more things, and with more awareness, the future can bring you new reasons to act one way or the other. The bad aspect is that inertia isn’t productive—without choices you cannot grow and evolve. If doubts persist, you have to break out of stasis. Most people do this by plunging into the next choice, catching life on the rebound: “This didn’t work out, so I better do something else, no matter what.”
Usually, the people who wind up making totally arbitrary choices—recklessly going for the next house, the next job, the next relationship that shows up—turn out to be over-calculating. They spend so much time figuring out the risks, looking at all the pros and cons, assessing every worst-case scenario, that no choice looks right, and sheer frustration pushes them to break the deadlock. Ironically, such irrational leaps sometimes work out. The universe has more in store for us than we can ever predict, and bad choices frequently smooth out in the end because our hidden aspirations know where we are going.
Even so, doubt is destructive to the one quality that awareness is trying to bring to you: knowingness. At a deep level, you are the knower of reality. Doubt is a symptom indicating that you aren’t in contact with the knower inside. It usually means that you are looking outside yourself when you have to make a choice. Your decision is going to be based on externals. For most people, the strongest externals come down to what other people think because fitting in is the path of least resistance. But fitting in is like embracing inertia. Social acceptance is the lowest common denominator of the self—it’s you as a social unit rather than you as a unique person. Find out who you really are; let fitting in be the last thing on your mind. Either it will happen or it won’t, but in either case you will be in no more doubt about yourself.
There is no formula for removing doubts because finding the knower inside is personal. You have to be committed to expanding your awareness. Don’t be in doubt about that one thing. If you turn inward and follow the path that leads to your inner intelligence, the knower will be there waiting for you.

Seeing the possibilities: It would be much easier to let go of outcomes if every choice turned out well.
And why shouldn’t it? In the one reality there are no wrong turns, only new turns. But the ego personality likes things to be connected. Coming in second today is better than coming in third yesterday, and tomorrow I want to come in first. This kind of linear thinking reflects a crude conception of progress.
Real growth happens in many dimensions. What happens to you can affect how you think, feel, relate to others, behave in a given situation, fit into your surroundings, perceive the future, or perceive yourself. All these dimensions must evolve in order for you to evolve.
Try to see the possibilities in whatever happens. If you don’t get what you expected or wished for, ask yourself, “Where am I supposed to look?” This is a very freeing attitude. On some dimension or other, every event in life can be causing only one of two things: Either it is good for you, or it is bringing up what you need to look at in order to create good for you. Evolution is win-win, which we can say not out of blind optimism but once again by referring back to the body. Anything happening inside a cell is either part of its healthy operation or a sign that a correction should take place. Energy is not expended randomly or on a whim to see how it turns out.
Life is self-correcting in just this way. As the choice-maker you can act on a whim; you can follow arbitrary or irrational paths. But the underlying machinery of consciousness doesn’t alter. It keeps following the same principles, which are:

  • To adapt to your desires
  • To keep everything in balance
  • To harmonize your individual life with the life of the cosmos
  • To make you aware of what you are doing
  • To show you the consequences of your action
  • To make your life as real as possible

Because you have free will, you can ignore these principles entirely—we all do at one time or another.
But you can’t make them deviate. Life depends on them. They are the ground of existence, and even as your desires come and go, the ground of existence is unchanging. Once you absorb this truth, you can align yourself with any possibility that comes your way, trusting that win-win is the attitude that life itself has been taking for billions of years.

Finding the stream of joy: My fancy was caught by an episode in the adventures of Carlos Castaneda when his master Don Juan sends him to a witch who has the ability to adopt the perception of any creature. The witch allows Castaneda to feel exactly like an earthworm, and what does he perceive?
Enormous exhilaration and power. Instead of being the tiny blind creature that a worm appears to human eyes, Castaneda felt like a bulldozer pushing each grain of dirt aside like a boulder; he was mighty and strong. Instead of feeling like drudgery, the worm’s digging was cause for elation, the elation of someone who could move mountains with his body.
In your own life there is a stream of joy that is just as elemental and unshakable. A worm knows nothing but itself, so it cannot deviate from the stream of joy. You can disperse your awareness in every direction, and by doing so distract yourself from the stream. You won’t really let go of your self-image and your restless mind until you feel, without question or doubt, a palpable joy in yourself. The renowned spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti once made a passing comment I find very moving. People don’t realize, he said, how important it is to wake up every morning with a song in your heart. Once I read that, I performed a test on myself. I asked inside to hear the song, and for a few weeks, without any further willpower on my part, I did notice a song as the first thing that came to mind when I woke up in the morning.
But I also know that Krishnamurti was being metaphorical: The song stands for a sense of joy in existence, a joy that is free of any good or bad choices. To ask this of yourself is both the simplest thing and the most difficult. But don’t let it slip your mind, no matter how complex your life becomes. Keep before you the vision of freeing your mind, and expect that when you succeed at doing this, you will be greeted by a stream of joy.

CHANGING YOUR LIFE TO ACCOMMODATE THE SIXTH SECRET

The sixth secret is about the choiceless life. Since we all take our choices very seriously, adopting this new attitude requires a major shift. Today, you can begin with a simple exercise. Sit down for a few minutes and reassess some of the important choices you’ve made over the years. Take a piece of paper and make two columns labeled “Good Choice” and “Bad Choice.”
Under each column, list at least five choices relating to those moments you consider the most memorable and decisive in your life so far—you’ll probably start with turning points shared by most people (the serious relationship that collapsed, the job you turned down or didn’t get, the decision to pick one profession or another), but be sure to include private choices that no one knows about except you (the fight you walked away from, the person you were too afraid to confront, the courageous moment when you overcame a deep fear).
Once you have your list, think of at least one good thing that came out of the bad choices and one bad thing that came out of the good choices. This is an exercise in breaking down labels, getting more in touch with how flexible reality really is. If you pay attention, you may be able to see that not one but many good things came from your bad decisions while many bad ones are tangled up in your good decisions. For example, you might have a wonderful job but wound up in a terrible relationship at work or crashed your car while commuting. You might love being a mother but know that it has drastically curtailed your personal freedom. You may be single and very happy at how much you’ve grown on your own, yet you have also missed the growth that comes from being married to someone you deeply love.

No single decision you ever made has led in a straight line to where you find yourself now. You peeked down some roads and took a few steps before turning back. You followed some roads that came to a dead end and others that got lost at too many intersections. Ultimately, all roads are connected to all other roads. So break out of the mindset that your life consists of good and bad choices that set your destiny on an unswerving course. Your life is the product of your awareness. Every choice follows from that, and so does every step of growth.

 
 
     
     
   
     
     
 

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