There are many myths about becoming conscious that I believe are holding many of us back. We don’t feel that we are worthy, that we know how to do it, or that we have enough time. These myths about becoming conscious would all be fine if it weren’t for the fact that they are halting individual’s progress.
Myth # 1: Mastering your mind – becoming conscious, takes a long time
In our culture and folklore we see consciousness or divinity as some great epiphany, lightening strike, or immediate change. Blamo! Someone was meditating for 20 years and their skull cracks open and they are infused with purple light. Or, the ubiquitous grey-haired man climbs up a mountain in the rain and holds something over his head screaming. Poof! But what if I told you that it was more like a spectrum?
We all start out not knowing about any of this. Then we learn about it. We experience it a little. We experience it more frequently. We experience it enough to be seen and feel like a changed person.
Consciousness happens in an instant and then we spend our time trying to get more of it. Negative situations have the ability to propel us forward down this path and cause radical change. This is quite common and those that have this experience are thankful for the thing that went wrong. For the rest of us, we don’t want a car crash or surgery-gone-awry just to feel whole. We wake up and then we make incremental change.
You will not be a Zen Master tomorrow but tangible improvement is yours for the taking, now. You will begin on a path that will lead you to greater and greater improvement over time. What we want to dispel is the notion that you have to put your time in and await an enlightenment that is always just around the corner.
Myth # 2: You have to be part of a religion or eastern tradition
Religious groups and eastern internal pursuits contain the highest number of people who embody what we are after. It makes sense, these cultures and practices have spent millennia working on ways to advance our ability to dictate what our mind thinks and how positive it is. Much of what we know about consciousness is the direct result of their hard work and discoveries. However, there are just as many people (or more) participating in these traditions who suffer greatly from the chaos going on in their head.
Being part of one of these traditions, knowing the tai chi form, whatever interests you, does not guarantee a calm mind. It can help but you need to understand why your mind is not focused and address the problem directly. If you are a practitioner of any of these traditions as we are, your focus and results will be dramatically enhanced. But you need to 1) believe that this internal quietness is available to you and 2) pursue it directly.
Myth # 3: Silence is outside of the body
We are very used to thinking that quietude and silence exist in our external environment. Is the radio off? Will she please stop talking so loud? Man, that air conditioner is loud. I need to get it fixed. I don’t hear anything; therefore, it is quiet.
We can also think of quiet as being inside us. My mind is racing. My mind won’t shut up. That song is stuck in my head.
But the silence that we are after is not the absence of noise. It is noticing that there is a silence that is always present. Every noise, every thought, arises against the backdrop of this silence. It has to! If it didn’t, how would you know it is noisy at all? What are you craving or lamenting? What are you trying to get back to? You are trying to experience the silence that is already present inside of us.
Thinking happens whether you want it to or not. AND! Thinking stops whether you want it to or not. You can’t control it. When you stop trying to control it, you can see that thinking occurs in a vast space. And when the thinking stops, this vast space is still there. That is silence.
Have you ever been so absorbed in a thought or an emotion that you had no idea what a person is saying to you? Or for a split second had all the music or noise around you stop (in your head) even though it was still playing. That is silence. We do not want to create silence. We want to tune in to the powerful silence that is already there.
Myth # 4: “Enlightenment” or “Consciousness” is only for certain people
This fourth myth might be a little hard to accept. I know for me, growing up in a Christian tradition, the idea of higher-ordered consciousness was the domain of God. Any talk of enlightenment or divinity smelled of sacrilege. Who was I to think that I was worthy of this? Ascribe to it? Strive for it? Sure. But, be conscious? No way. That’s arrogant.
Know that some people (billions) define enlightenment or conscious thought in a very different way. And when you re-read your traditional scripture through their lens it takes on a completely different look. A calm “conscious” mind is available to all of us and is actually far more familiar than you would expect.
Readers of Tai Chi Basics consistently ask for resources to start meditating or improve their practice. I have become a big fan of the Art of Mushin Meditation Study Course because it is accessible to everyone – everywhere and is a good blend of hands-on practice, explanation, and science.