For more information, contact:
Gary Schouborg, PhD
Schouborg, Gary (2006).
"Follow the River of Inner Rhythm," Common Sense, July-August, 16-17.
Follow the River of Inner Rhythm
Gary Schouborg, PhD
To say that process is our innermost reality is to say that each of us is a river (process) of consciousness in which patterns (sensations and meanings) emerge and disappear constantly. Enlightenment is an awakening to ourselves as river; it’s not a process of reasoning. Concrete symbols, icons, ritual, and theologies serve to apply spirituality in diverse contexts and in practical ways; but we shouldn’t identify with or fixate on them. When we do, we cling, which keeps us from flowing.
What enlightens us is not understanding fascinating (and important) theories, such as what is the “self,” but rather understanding anicca(changing), anatta (no self), and dukkha (anguish). We need to awaken to the transitory nature of experience, the fact that no concept or set of concepts captures all that “I” am. When we fail to grasp anicca and anatta, we suffer unnecessarily. We are victims of our own mental anguish.
This is not to deny the importance of an integrated, healthy ego. Clinging arises when “me” or “mine” are taken absolutely. Non-clinging arises when they are understood within the framework of anicca, anatta, and dukkha. “Mine” and “yours” are not absolute, but rather interrelated and constantly evolving realities. Realizing this—having a felt understanding of this—is to “be in the flow” of what we are, which experience provides its own, inherent contentment and happiness.
What is the pleasure and joy associated with living in the flow of our immediate and natural waking state? We have at least three forms of pleasure—(1) from achieving a goal; (2) from pursuing that goal; and (3) an abiding somatic pleasure (a basic, primal contentment) that is natural to our waking state and is independent of whether we are successful or not in achieving our goals. Pursuing our goals also differs from real contentment in being dependent on specific goals. In contrast, basic contentment is a primal somatic pleasure that is present whatever our goal. Independent of our specific goals, our pursuit of them, and our success or failure in achieving them, basic contentment abides.
We lose awareness of this basic contentment by overly focusing (insisting) on successfully achieving our goals. Letting go of our insistence on success, we may first reawaken to the satisfactions inherent in what we do in pursuing goals. Letting go of obsessing over our destination, we allow ourselves to enjoy the trip along the way. Pursuing goals in this liberated, non-clinging way gives different colorations, a richness to our lives. Beyond the world of goals, however, we may eventually awaken to a basic primal somatic pleasure: an abiding equanimity and contentment in living.
Having quiet times of meditation can be useful for some to awaken to this equanimity and contentment. Buddhists refer to a “passive/receptive heart” which gets to a fundamentally important point. It is in an inner quiet that we realize that our innermost happiness does not depend on satisfying any of our desires. It is already here. At this point, we have no need for the metaphysical scaffolding that hopes in God’s salvation or in higher reincarnations or in life after death. What we have at this moment is self-justifying, if you will. We are unconditionally happy for being awake. We can experience this happiness even in the midst of intense daily activity. When we do, we experience that daily activity as part of life, its joys and suffering. From that felt perspective, we take no specific joy or suffering as essential to our happiness.