We are all aware that as individuals we have intentions. We plan to do this, we plan to do that, we set ourselves goals etc, but we also have subtle intention which often goes unnoticed. The question of interest here is what drives intention and
why is it destructive from a personal development point of view. We often hear people talk about “silencing the mind” or “getting our thoughts under control” when discussing Zen. The question we really want an answer to is the question “What causes this unending stream of thought and how can I stop it”? Our thought can seem neurotic in nature because it just doesn’t shut up. Even while we’re sitting still we tend to daydream and hold internal conversations. There is an internal pressure that seems to be constantly forcing us to think. This brings to mind a question asked by spiritual teacher Richard Rose:
“Do we think or are we caused to think“?
To get a better understanding of this internal pressure we need to look inwards and try and get a clear perception of what we might call the “underground stream”. This underground stream is a monotonous stream of thought and intention that runs almost invisibly to those who have not paid attention to it. It is the part of themselves that they think of as “me” but they are not very aware of it and can’t seem to get it under control. It has a tendency to ambush them with both welcome and unwelcome thoughts. They are not very aware of it because their attention is fixed on their overt thinking, that is on the thoughts that seem to pop into their heads. They often think of these overt thoughts as their own thinking but fail to perceive that these overt thoughts are really after thoughts. The overt thoughts pop out of the underground stream which is almost invisible but which constitutes an internal pressure. The ego is the underground stream and it’s associated likes, dislikes, fears and beliefs. It is the underground stream that worries, that feels threatened when challenged and which feels the need to defend itself. It is essentially neurotic in nature because it is ever in a state of agitation and attaches itself to beliefs, likes and dislikes.
We can get a fairly clear picture of this underground stream of thought if we consciously observe ourselves while thinking about something that worries us in some way. When we think about something that worries us, the thoughts tend to quieten and we become aware of a sense of unease deep in our bodies. If we can keep our overt thoughts under control and look at this underground stream we can see that it appears to be constantly in motion and composed of worry, insecurity and neurosis. It is like a little child that constantly worries about itself and it is the source of most peoples lack of confidence and feelings of self doubt. It poisons our overt consciousness and thinking with negative thoughts. It is also the part of us that likes to pretend; to pretend that we are something that we are not. It does this because it is worried about it’s self image and how other people may perceive it. It has, “ideas about itself” and these ideas run in an almost invisible stream.
It is the characteristic of being in constant motion that almost defines the underground stream and makes it the source of unending thoughts. People cannot control their thinking because the underground stream is unstable. It ambushes them constantly and they say things to themselves such as “I can’t stop myself” or “I have no self-control”. It is as if there were two people, and psychologically speaking there are two people. There is the underground stream and there is the overt thinking. The unaware person thinks of themselves in terms of their overt thinking and can’t grasp why they are not fully in control of themselves. The underground stream constitutes their psychology but is consciously almost invisible.
Having looked at this underground stream in detail it becomes apparent that to gain some self control and some self insight we need to tackle the unending motion of the underground stream. While it remains in constant flux we have no stability in our minds. We are like a robot that reacts in a knee jerk fashion to everything it perceives. It is essential for us to get this under control and develop a solid mind; to be “like a diamond” as Zen would put it. We can go about this by implementing some of the things in my previous post “The Zen Task” or alternatively by making an effort to constantly observe the underground stream. The stream is characterised by motion and therefore it can be observed by simply watching for motion in your own mind whilst keeping overt thoughts under control. It is important not to engage with the motion simply observe it in a detached, unconcerned way. Once you develop a clear perception of it you will be able to bring it under control. Ultimately you will have the ability to stop thoughts popping up constantly by combining control with a large dose of humility. Once you reach this stage you will have a significantly more solid mind, you will be able to put non-action into effect and you will not feel constantly harassed by thought and lack of self awareness. You will become much more intuitive and will be able to put this intuition to good use and perceive the world through a deep intuition rather than a constant intellectual chatter.
When the underground stream is thoroughly brought to a halt and it can truly be said that there is “no thought, no action, no movement and no intention” then the stream will over time evaporate and the ego may become an object in consciousness, a “field of force” with no mentality left in it. At this stage the person will be “thoughtless” and live a life of utter ease, freed from worry and in direct perception of their own mind, a mind that is both themselves and everything.
“When walking, just walk, when sitting just sit, whatever you do don’t wobble”
“No thought ,no action, no movement, no intention”
“Be like a diamond”
“Be unconcerned, be humble”