Fortress or Prison?
“The mind is its own place – It can make Hell of Heaven or Heaven of Hell.” John Milton in “Paradise Lost”
At some point we have to decide who we are and who we aren’t. The jury is still out on the human mind and its machinations. After all, the body has existed as a entity of wisdom for far longer than the mind. Evolution is unforgiving of those who don’t adapt and the greater the power for good, the greater the potential for destruction. Events in the Middle East with ISIS underscore the horror of the mind as the master of fate, rather than the servant of enduring principle.
Given the potential for mischief by the human mind, we would do well to discipline ourselves by being aware of negative thoughts that rain down upon our poor bodies. Internal commentary and self-criticism, as well as the overflow of self-loathing silently projected onto others, make for a toxic marinade. No wonder we feel sour and life gets to be a burden for many of us (much to the joy and profit of the pharmaceutical industry).
Here is the basic error… We identify with our thinking and mistake our true identity with the random thoughts that waft through consciousness. We aren’t our thoughts. The Eastern saying, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master,” is oh-so-true. Thoughts are just blips on the screen of this moment. So are emotions. If thoughts and emotions aren’t reined in, the suffering can be monumental.
If we aren’t our thinking minds, then who are we? Enlightened teachers share that we are Consciousness, Universal and Infinite. We are Consciousness taking form in this material dimension. If we identify with the material form, we are doomed to suffer in the shadows. If we identify with Universal Consciousness, we play joyfully in physical form, but the “third eye,” as represented in Buddhist icons, guides our movement and our experience.
To identify with material sense is to identify with “temporary.” Material objects (including us) begin to disintegrate the moment they appear. To identify with the Creative Source is identify with “permanence.” Creativity will always be under way, even if this world ceases to exist. There will be other worlds, stars created and disappearing. That is what is permanent. Surrendering to this reality eliminates fear and frees us to love in the playground of temporary knowing there are realities beyond this experience.
The alternative is to build a fortress around ourselves. The fortress consists of protecting “me,” and “mine.” Life seems to consist of “me” and “everyone else.” The perceived need for protection requires that we dig a moat and pull up the drawbridge to limit access to the fortress. Before we know it, keeping others out has trapped us within. The fortress has become a prison.
This process can be literal in separation from others, or it can be internal. In our moat can be criticism and mistrust, maybe never outwardly expressed, but guiding our decisions and deeds. What is so clear is that to be materially rich without deeper meaning in life creates slavery to the material, wretched anguish and confusion. The walls are never thick enough. Isn’t it ironic that some millionaires never feel like they have enough? People strive for fame and fortune, then can’t leave their mansions for fear of being mobbed, kidnapped or worse.
So, the key to unlock the door is on the inside… Is your mind ‘thinking you?’ Or is there someone wise in there, watching thoughts, emotions and actions, listening quietly and guiding your footsteps in the world? Is your mind serving you, or is it posing as your master? Something to contemplate…but don’t think too much about it.
With love, Rosanne