[Disclaimer: this isn’t an article about male and female jobs because we all moved way beyond that long ago didn’t we..? Didn’t we…?]
After decades of searching for a solution to anxiety, confusion and general ill-at-ease-ness, I came across something called (among other things) ’The inside out understanding’.
This states that there is no objective reality.
It tells us that all experience is thought brought alive in consciousness.
It tells us that nothing we perceive is real.
The slight problem with this is that it looks like total bullshit.
Because obviously things are real.
There are tax returns to complete and bills to pay and meetings to attend and trains to catch and customers to serve and washing up to do and forms to fill in and rubbish to put out.
To say this is not real is nonsense.
Because there they are – the bins! (I’ll stick with the English word and assume my American friends get what I’m talking about.)
Tomorrow the bin men will come. If the bins don’t get put out on the street this evening, they won’t get emptied. If they don’t get emptied there won’t be space for any more rubbish.
Bins. Binmen. Rubbish to be taken out.
So how does that work with the understanding that all experience is created in thought?
If I stare long enough at the rubbish while contemplating consciousness will it disappear in a beam of light?
If I meditate on the nature of thought will the bins walk themselves out to the street outside?
Hasn’t worked so far. Not even when I turn on my Himalayan salt lamp. Nothing. Not one inch do those bins move.
They are real and solid, they exist, they are in my life.
And yet I can see that it is perception that gives these bins reality and meaning.
In the experience of say an eight year old goat-herd in the remotest tribe, these bins, indeed bins and bin men in general quite possibly have no reality whatsoever.
If I gathered together all the people in the world (including all the bin men and goat-herds) and brought them to stand directly in front of the bin and said ‘look at this’ there would be 7 billion experiences of reality in that moment which may or may not include bins.
Not one of those experiences would match mine.
Not one of those experiences would be more right or more real than mine.
Each would appear 100% real, 100% right.
As experience changes, bins exist or don’t exist, are relevant or irrelevant, ugly or useful or black or dirty or smelly or clean or overfull. Taking them out can seem a burden or easy or something I do while chatting on the phone to my mum without even noticing. They can be the reason to be annoyed (in those retro-moments when I do secretly, don’t tell my Mum, believe it is a job for a man). They can seem like a symbol of a shockingly wasteful society or of a highly organised civilised system.
An idea of bins comes and goes. The definition and meaning they have in their moments of existence slips and slides. All according to perception in the moment. The bins exist because perception allows them to exist.
It is exactly the same with this self that seems to be me. Seven billion versions of it. None of them (not even mine) more right or real than another.
So this leaves us in a predicament.
It gives us an understanding of the illusory nature of reality and at the same time we still live in an apparently real world of kids to feed, washing up to do, tax returns to fill in, and bins to take out to the street.
So now what?
We look at what connects the two.
We look at the bridge between the understanding of how experience is created and the experience itself.
This bridge is the space in which experience is created. It is the apparent perceiver of the experience.
This is the idea and the experience of the self, the personal, the ‘I’.
As long as there is an ‘I, Clare’ that believes it is a fixed, objective real self there will be a world of objects, people, events and circumstances that also look fixed, real and objective. These will appear harmful or pleasurable or annoying or helpful to me. I will seek to change the world or myself in order to feel secure and happy.
As long as there is an identification of self with consciousness, it will look like my experience has something to do with me. As long as it looks like objects appear in ‘my’ awareness, I will seek to change my thoughts or my perspective to feel secure and happy.
As this identification with made up self or separate consciousness wanes, everything changes.
The ‘I’ and the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’ see through themselves. Consciousness rises to such an extent that it is clear there is no ‘I’ to protect, there is no ‘me’ to change things and there is no ‘I’ that can be aware.
This can last a moment before the ‘I’ looks rock solidly real again or it can last a life time. It doesn’t matter either way. The illusory ‘I’ gives all the roller coaster thrills of the illusory world. It gives the drama of apparent choice and control. The tension of imagined risk and failure.
The state of no ‘I’ gives the gift of watching from a place in which security, safety and well-being are such a given that they don’t even exist as concepts.
In those moments when the ‘I’ dissolves, there is marvel, there is pure love, there is wholeness. There is doing because it would be impossible not to do. There is no concern as to outcome. There is no desire to feel differently. There is simple movement, simple action, natural, unstoppable and inevitable.
The washing up is done. The tax return is filed.
The bins are taken out.
And as to who or what is taking the bins out?
Maybe we’ll find out one day.
For now, it’s enough to know: it’s not us.