I have related in my books and in this blog how being aware of my ego arising remains a constant challenge. Over the years, more and more aspects of my learned experience, of my ego, have been surrendered to my true Buddha nature and no longer ensnare me. The ego still rises, but I just watch it and let it subside.
But there are always other nooks and crannies of my ego-mind that remain almost untouched by the cleansing light of my spiritual work. And I have related these discoveries as well. As the weeks and months pass, more and more of my ego-mind becomes subject to the light of my unborn Buddha mind and those areas too slowly cease to disturb my peace and my ability to be at one with all things.
Recently while I was meditating, I became aware that there was a huge area of my learned experience that remained untouched; I had been unaware because it didn’t push any buttons, it didn’t cause any neurosis, it didn’t cause any “problems” for my spiritual well-being. That area is the large repository of learned experience that just sits there, and when called upon, impacts how I view a particular situation.
I came upon this realization after I had voiced negative thoughts about Philadelphia when talking about a potential move. But when I was meditating, I remembered that as an adolescent, I used to love taking the train into Philadelphia with my mother to see a matinee of a Broadway-bound show, have lunch, and shop. It was a treat and always pleasurable. Then at some point, downtown Philadelphia fell on bad times, major stores closed, and it became desolate, dirty, and ugly.
Years later I had read that the center city had rebounded ... young people were moving into the city turning old commercial areas into residential, stores were back, there were many new interesting restaurants, and cultural life was strong (as it had always been) with a new performing arts center. And when I went to center city with my brother and sister-in-law to go to concerts, I experienced this newly energized city. Although I also saw that aspects of “Philadelphia, the not beautiful” remained. I also spent several days one year walking around center city, really acquainting myself with much of the area for the first time, because I was thinking of relocating there at the time, and I was generally pleased by what I saw.
Yet despite these experiences, the image that stuck in my mind, and which I expressed recently when Philadelphia came up in conversation, was this extremely negative view of the city as an unattractive, unwelcoming, dead center city. In this case, one aspect of my learned experience overruled the rest of my learned experience and had I not become aware of this during my meditation, Philadelphia would have been off the list as a possible location for our move.
Perhaps for the first time, I realized just how dangerous our learned experience could be because its impact is often so subtle, so insipid, that one isn’t aware what is taking place, even after years of meditation. I had at that moment a revolt in my being, the kind of experience Krishnamurti calls for. I said, “no more.”
Krishnamurti says that, “When we look at ourselves with the dead authority of yesterday we will fail to understand the living movement and the beauty and quality of that movement. To be free of all authority, of your own, and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigor, and passion.”
I can only experience things without the intervention of thought if I am aware of my thoughts, a reflection of my learned experience, arising. This episode was yet another reminder that thought is always present and if one is not aware it will engage itself and you will not see things as they are. Awareness is the constant challenge.