Over months and years, the journey of inner transformation is punctuated with moments of intense change, times when we are intensely aware of tremendous growth. Awakening to new levels of power is exciting and liberating. Like all times, these times also pass, even though in the euphoria of the moment we feel unstoppable.
As the energy moves on to a calmer place, like rapids settling in a wide ravine, it is important to use this as a chance to gather the mind. It is in these times that we can establish a natural discipline of mindfulness. By maintaining this practice awareness will continue to grow and in a way that is increasingly at one with your life. Where once your newfound awareness demanded that you live in a new way, now the very gears of your day to day existence align themselves through your peaceful action with your innermost spirit.
So the discipline and the heart of spiritual practice is mindfulness.
At its most direct this involves vigilant observation of thought, belief, and word. Observation is the main thing rather than attachment or resistance. When you cease to identify with your thoughts, negative chatter or self-defeating beliefs, you can simply see and hear them like passing shadows. Indeed in truth they are much less substantial than that. So just observe.
Let me share with you the story of Alexander and Bucephalus. When Alexander the Great was a young boy of ten years, his father King Philip II of Macedon was offered a powerful black horse by a Thessalian horse dealer. While clearly powerful, the horse was wild and full of rage. No one, it seemed, could get close to him let alone ride this beast. So the King dismissed the offer. But the young Alexander, after watching the horse, asked his father to buy the horse for him and promised to pay for it himself if he failed to train it. Humoring the boy, the King agreed to the deal and watched on as the boy approached the horse.
Alexander had noticed something the others had not. He had observed that the horse would go wild with fear whenever the sun was behind it and it was confronted with its own shadow. All he had to do was turn the horse into the light and the shadow would dissappear. For the next 18 years Bucephalus would accompany Alexander in his conquests across the Middle East, Persia and Central Asia.
Like the horse, if we don’t know the shadows to be just that they will fill us with fear or unquenchable longing and grasping. This is the way we live most of our lives, caught between fear and desire. Sometimes our thoughts fill us with fear. Why is it that we let something so insubstabtial effect us. Is it not only that we believe it is something more? Is not fear also arising from our forgetting the nature of the spirit, the core of our existance. Remember, beyond the limited ‘I’, the ego self, is something infinitely greater. The is the essense of being and consciousness. Know then, that when we fall into fear, into feelings of poverty, when we forget our power, this is because we have identified ourselves once again with the destructive aspect of the ego. Remembering this, and being diligent in this awareness is the heart of practice.
The ego self does have powerful uses, it need not be feared or resisted. It has its place, and must be expressed and honoured like all things. It is this through which the individual life finds its own unique expression. But the ego is also its worst enemy, turning in on its self, like a snake biting its own tail, burning its self with its poison. Through the discipline of mindfull awareness, the ego can be returned to its natural place from which the need for fear and craving will subside.