Under the veneer of contentment, we are too busy to see what we are doing, too restless to stop or to keep our minds still. It isn’t just a shifting around so that we can find the right posture or the right set of conditions in life; it’s a deep inner angst.
At first this sense of disquiet manifests as nascent feelings that we would never have allowed ourselves to feel before and that expose how wounded we are, how tired, how ill.
We begin to recognise our entanglement, the stress we are holding, how disappointed or angry we are – at ourselves or our friends; at our children or our parents; our loved ones or our ex-loved ones; the world; our jobs; our bodies; our lives.
Actually, this restlessness is a cry of urgency, of samvega. It is the first glimmering, an unconscious step towards waking up to our vulnerability and the imminent danger we are in. Intuitively, we realise that if we carry on in this way, we are like ghosts, robots. We may be very busy, rushing from one important activity to another, but we are not really living our lives – we are not consciously in our bodies, nor can we authentically connect to what we are feeling.
This is living like a cardboard cut-out of a human being, swaddled in cotton wool and well-concealed and disguised so that we don’t have to feel our fear, or acknowledge how angry we are, or touch our grief. We cope. And the more unskilful the ways of coping we adopt, the worse our condition becomes – until the mind gives up, or wakes up.
This is a rare and redemptive insight. It is a gift of intuitive wisdom revealed in the most simple act – contemplating or sitting quietly in the forest, listening to the birds, feeling a sense of wonder and stillness. Unexpectedly, the whirlwind of mental passions and habitual thoughts that spin us around on the ferris wheel of samsa ̄ra – the desires, craving and unrest, the opinions we have about ourselves and others – falls silent. For a moment, we are not thinking.
This reflection by Ajahn Medhanandi is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp. 90-91.