As a living being, what is the most basic state you can be in? A state requiring no effort on your part whatsoever and of which all human beings are capable, but which most of us rarely engage in except if forced? The answer: existing; simply being.
If you were on your couch talking to someone and that person then got up and left the room and there was no laptop in the room and your phone was dead, how long could you comfortably sit there or lay there just being and taking up space? Forget any spiritual talk or any kind of ‘practice’ of anything; how long could you do it? Maybe you’re at a diner with a friend and they excuse themselves to use the restroom. Are you okay? Or are you diving for your phone and looking around for anything more ‘interesting’ going on in the room or outside the window? Maybe they get back and you say ‘what took you so long!? I was just sitting here!” As if that were a terrible thing.
Some people answer “Yah, I really can’t deal with that—I need to be doing something” or “I’m okay maybe five minutes—maybe ten?” Many people begin fidgeting, counting ceiling tiles, dreaming about a new vacation home; anything to ‘pass the time’, but few of us are able to just sit peacefully feeling our heartbeat and listening to our own breathing for very long. In other words, very few of us would be able to engage in simply being for even a short span of clock time.
Imagine that! Just existing and taking up space is very difficult! Your own mind betrays you and starts to torture you; “Lets go! What are we doing here? How long do I have to sit here? Is my phone charged yet? Where did the other person go? Is he or she angry with me? Isn’t there something productive I could be doing right now?” and so forth and so on. Your body feels restless and fidgety. ‘This has to stop!,’ you think.
But WHAT has to stop? Being alive? Existing?
For many of us, this simple act of being frightens, challenges and frustrates our efforts more so than any work-related responsibility, academic testing or relationship issue. Isn’t it interesting such a seemingly simple, straightforward ‘act,’ i.e. the act of taking NO action, should cause so many people so many problems? Such non-action is even seen as ‘worthless’ or stupid by many. As if the most fundamental, most basic essence of our presence here on the planet is not at all worthwhile!
So imagine that! We are human beings and most people are all but unable to simply BE. In this sense most of us are very good at the human part of human being, but not so good at being.
This is partly due to culture; human culture! As children, we are constantly encouraged to do or think something all the time by well-meaning teachers and parents etc. The state of simply being is in fact actively discouraged! ‘Don’t just sit there!’ Is a common refrain. So it happens that while many of us have years of experience engaging in all manner of occupations, activities and endeavors, all manner of doing or thinking about doing, very few of us have much interest in or experience with this most basic quality of existence; one which is free and readily available to all of us. This is the state of non-doing; the state of being.
Throughout your life, you may have come to know this state by the other names it has been given, such as ‘laying about’, ‘contemplating your navel,’ ‘being lazy’ or ‘meditation.’ However, at its core, it is simply the act of being alive with no willful engagement in any particular activity. You can conceive of this state as your ‘default’ and native state; the desktop screen of your computer. No action, no endeavor, no effort; just existence. Just breathing and feeling your heartbeat.
And it is this state of your being which is the most important state of being to become acquainted with because it is the purest; everything else on top of it is human-created ‘noise’ full of ideas, opinions, arguments and advertising jingles etc.
So, while most everything else in our world is human-created, your very existence is not. It isn’t cluttered with advertising or ideas about the world or politics or the stock market or a thousand things. It simply is. It is pure. This is what the spiritual gurus mean by ‘there is nowhere really to go’ or ‘everyone is already enlightened.’ They mean that this pure uncluttered state is already available to you and is with you at all times; we are just too involved with the superficial mind-created noise on top of everything to experience it.
So how can you realize this; this bedrock state of existence beneath the artifice of the mind and the human-created artificial world? Do you need to move to Tibet? Wear a robe? Not necessarily. Like anything, you can practice! Whether in Tibet or Atlanta, it is free to spend some time in silence just breathing and feeling your heartbeat each day. Perhaps the best, though not the only way to practice this, is by setting aside time for it daily. This is commonly known as meditation. By meditation though, you must be carefuI not to try to do anything special or attain some special state. This is because such ‘specialness’ will then too be a creation of your own mind; your own ideas about meditation and your nature rather than your very nature itself.
One method is just to set a timer for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes and sit down or lie down or situate yourself in any comfortable position and then… do nothing. Do not try to clear your mind or calm yourself. Do not try to meditate! Take some deep breaths to situate yourself if you like and close your eyes or leave them open. Maybe observe any feeling states that arise or thought patterns, though no mental comment on them is necessary. Otherwise; just become comfortable with stillness and get in touch with your own existence; your own being. After some practice getting in touch with this state; the silence and stillness beneath the world of noise and man-made ideas, the inertia of your thought train may slow down or even cease for a time.
Then there you are; just existing; relaxed and unafraid. It’s then that you begin to experience your own true nature as your true essence rather than the mind-created ideas about what you are or what this world is. Gradually this growing ‘stillness beneath the noise’ with follow you throughout the day and more and more you’ll feel calmer and generally more connected to the external matters in your life. You become more comfortable with non-doing even in the course of doing things! You also begin to realize how confusing and obfuscated the mind-made world is.
To paraphrase one modern spiritual teacher, connecting to the stillness beneath the noise is like walking into a quiet room and shouting; the room was always silent until you got there and shouted. Then afterwards, it returned to silence. The silence was always there; it just needed for you to stop shouting. It’s the same with your being.
Underneath everything is silence; just breath and a heartbeat.