As the great Zen teacher, Alan Watts said: We all need to go out of our minds at least once a day. When we go out of our minds we quickly come to our senses.
Given the circumstances we are all having to deal with at the moment, many people are ‘going out of their minds’, whether through boredom, grief or fear. Suicide numbers are up, as is domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse. On the one hand we may feel lonely, isolated and confused, but this is also the best opportunity we could have to be quiet, reflective and contemplative.
The mind is capable of understanding the most intricate scientific and mathematical theories and can make complicated corporate decisions, yet the same mind can get upset or even unglued over a seemingly harmless remark. It fluctuates from attraction to repulsion, creating endless dramas that act out our insecurities and fears.
The tragedy is that such mental play is considered to be normal. We become exhausted maintaining our dramas and thinking patterns—”my mind is so busy it’s driving me crazy!”—as if this were some sort of achievement. There is no denying the importance and value of the mind—there is great brilliance and beauty here—but there is also great absurdity. Thinking, for instance, is not wrong at all, but are our thoughts constructive ones or do they generate further confusion? The mind is a perfect servant but a terrible master, for no matter how intellectually astute or creative we may be this aptitude often has little or no effect upon the habitual mind and its repetitive patterns: the fear, guilt, anxiety, neurosis, shame, and self-centeredness.
We usually take offense when someone says to us: “Are you out of your mind?” But what if it were actually the coolest thing to say? What if being out of our mind means we aren’t disturbed or annoyed by the madness of our mind and are more in touch with our heart and our freedom?
Humankind has come a long way in terms of physical evolution; we have developed our world beyond any other known life form and have achieved enormous technical advancement, like going to the moon, but there is still a long way to go in the evolution of consciousness. Evolution takes us from the gross to the subtle, while involution takes us from the subtle to the sublime. We have yet to touch the depth of our authentic self by turning within instead of outside ourselves.
Meditation is being present with what is, and occurs in the inner quiet that is always there, beneath the discursive chatter and distractions. Like the water in a lake, when the mind is still we can see the depths below but when the mind is disturbed it’s easy to get caught up in the waves. In meditation we watch whatever arises, like waves, and as we pay attention so they are unable to take over and run the show.
When we get out of our mind and into our heart, then we are free from our insecurities, worries, judgments and self-centeredness, free from everything that keeps us confused, scattered and fearful, free from the dramas and stories that reinforce who we think we are. And we find who we really are instead; we see our limited nature more clearly and discover the vast, unlimited depth that lies within. Then the mind, emotions, and intellect are our means to live in this world, they serve us instead of driving us crazy. We can be in the world but not of it!
To actually feel oneself in step with the dance and as part of the living earth is to cast off the narrow prison walls of the isolated self for ever – once one has breathed freedom, one will not re-enter the cell. Anne Banroft, The Spiritual Journey