Here is a fascinating article sent to me by the Guru of Creative Thinking Mark McGuinness.
Here is that article. You might wish to read it first before you read the rest of my comments.
It’s about a journalist who goes on a 7-day Buddhist silent meditation retreat which does his head in. After just one day he thought he was going insane. Symptoms: intense boredom, aching, agitation, restlessness, escapism. All the signs, in fact, of a Headmind that was about to explode with frustration.
Interestingly, his Headmind adopted a very familiar tactic in such situations: which was to chatter about what other people on the retreat might be doing: making up fantasies about who was sleeping with who on the retreat. Everything you would expect, in fact, from a Headmind which would do anything at all to escape from living in the now.
But after the fourth day Bodymind takes over once more and he ends up in a much better place.
Reminds me a lot of the Teachings of Gurdjieff, on which I have written before in this blog. That, in turn, advocated that we human beings need to do a lot of work on escaping our enslavement to Headmind. But that can be difficult to do because Headmind is crafty in feeding the idea that what it thinks is ‘reality’. And then feeding the further idea that escape from that is impossible…
To remind you, Headmind hates:
Living in the present moment
The desert (nothing to worry about or do there! – which is why Christ so frequently visited it).
But, as the article demonstrates, when you force Headmind to give up what it habitually likes to do: watch TV, read newspapers, crawl the internet, worry, fantasize, make up stories about the past, chatter about the future, then eventually it just shuts the fuck up.
And then you end up in a very nice place indeed, a place of ‘mindless salvation’; a place of overwhelming peace, happiness and fascination with the world we live in; just as if you were seeing it (again) for the very first time.
This is the follow up article to Schopenhauer: a philosophy for grumpy people? Which attracted a good response from many readers, many of whom had never heard of him, and were intrigued by his pessimism. Like Hugh Laurie in House he attracts people with his attitude problem.
In fact both Dr Gregory House and Schopenhauer have much in common:
- Both are loners
- Unconventional thinkers
- Grumpiness combined with a wish to help others
- Black humour
- Grim realism
- Mockery of conventional, pompous, people and ideas
- A (well-disguised) compassion for others.
- Both are skilled wind-up merchants
For Schopenhauer, the world was a place he never made and little admired. Unlike almost all other philosophers, he did not believe that human beings were created to be happy. The reason for that is that our Will for personal gratification is out of all proportion to what Life can actually offer us. That, he claimed, was the reason for our continually recurring states of frustration, heartache and boredom.
Now, while I believe Schopenhauer was right in some of his diagnoses, I disagree about the cause. It is not the Universal Will which is the cause of personal misery but Headmind obsessions working through the Ego. I have written about this before in my article on How your Head F*cks You Up.
While I agree with Schopenhauer that we are not created to be happy (because we are blessed/cursed with an enlarged Headmind/Pre-frontal cortex), I disagree that we cannot, in fact find it. We can find it if we persist, through Awareness, and through downsizing the Ego.
However, I will leave you with a few more conclusions from the Master:
- Make good use of the only thing you can control: your conscious mind.
- Strive to live in the Now
- Set limits everywhere: on desires, wealth and power.
- Accept limitations: that leads to peace of mind.
- Accept misfortunes: only dwell on them if you can change something about them.
- Seek out personal space and time for yourself; other people may try rob you of peace of mind.
- Keep busy, always.
- Do not expect too much from other people: like you they are only human.
- In the long run, assume disappointment will be your lot more times than not.
- You are not alone: others share your disappointments.
- Your recognition of your shared humanity with others is the basis for compassion.
- This recognition frees you from the Ego.
- At times of great difficulty you can take consolation from the fact that every other human being has endured similar difficulties.
- Contemplation of Nature, Art, Music, Literature and the Spectacle of life raises you above it.