Liberation is the realization that what we are depends on absolutely no thought. We see that what is true for ourselves is true for everything in the universe. Before thought, things are. Thought is, always, a secondary happening. Nothing wrong with that, but it is never the thing itself. It is a form of reflection of what is.
But normally, life is far from so straightforward.
Let’s see what happens at the gym.
I hate the gym. I hate the gym because I would prefer to do anything else but to exercise mechanically. So when I go to the gym I immediately get consumed by purpose, so I can get something out of this painful experience. I’m doing what I hate to burn calories, to get more fit, and to look better. The elliptical machine provides me with feedback about some of my purposes. It tells me how many calories I’ve burned, how “far” I would have travelled, and how long I’ve been working out.
As I observe all of these values, I can see that what I’m really doing is “measurement”. This is such an important word. I am busy evaluating my “progress”. Measurement is the religion of the ego.
Measurement, when applied to an achieving or declining self is the very model of separation (duality). On one side is ME who needs to be thinner and more fit and on the other is the drudgery of exercise that is intended to provide me with these tenuous rewards (they might also kill me).
In the process I assert a personal me with its given assessment, as well as the projected, much better me who is slimmer and in better physical condition.
My contempt of exercise brings all of these issues of ego to clear focus. It is really a beautiful example of “life as suffering” (Buddha’s first noble truth). Everything is a mental projection based on other mental projections. So not only is it largely fantasy, but its filled with arbitrary personal identification. My value as a human being is on the line. I am, in effect, split into three discrete entities. The current overweight me – the projected less heavy me – and the internal evaluator that is ceaselessly evaluating my self-improvement. It is, entirely, a thought based construct. Can it get more brutal and ridiculous than that?
Now let’s contrast that level of consciousness with that of just seeing.
When everything is seen without value or purpose or even recognition – which is to say, when everything is seen without the thick haze of personal conditioning, then a wonderful lightness fills the experience. There is just movement, color, physical strain, a sense of the body, sound, etc. Everything is exactly as it is. Everything is embodied in the perfect trust in this moment. Because only a thought could distrust this moment and that too can be seen. I can’t tell you what a wonderful feeling this is. The instant we can disengage from the plodding narrative of the personal me, life lived as thought, which is totally a head-trip in the first place, we experience immediate liberation.
Here’s the key: when we are personally identified with our conditioned sense of self, there is the birth of a million stories. Over time we get really, really familiar with these stories. They get monotonous and predictable. And finally, they just run out of gas. We stop believing them and as we stop believing them, we stop believing in the story-teller. It all just starts running out of gas. When that happens, and it eventually will, the whole edifice of the personal self just collapses all on its own. As we merge into presence, the heaviness of the personal self becomes lighter (and sometimes it contracts and becomes heavier than ever) … and then, one day, … it just crumbles.
This is the one weight loss program LA Fitness cannot claim – but you can.