Vernon Howard was a genius at showing students how to study their minds. He wasted no time filling our heads with affirmations. Instead, he taught us to become thought-watchers. “Go through your day,” he said, “experiencing every useless thought and emotion.” That is the direct way out of hell, a hell we create for ourselves moment by moment.
He hastened to add that angels go with us into hell, always, when we are studying our thoughts and emotions. Our reactions to this world are knee-jerk ones, so the goal is to see this on a very deep level.
There is nothing sentimental about the Work; it goes much deeper than that. It offers you a way to become one with yourself. As Dogen said, “To study the self is to study the Way…”
And so my life has been shaped around this exercise of being a self-watcher. It also extends to being a watcher of the outer world as well. They are ultimately the same thing. And believe it or not, we are divine beings encased in the armor of the mind.
To be truly free is to be fully alive while in this heavy earth suit. Oh, it is hard. But as he said, “The hard way becomes the easy way.” Or in the words of Christ, “Straight is the way and narrow is the gate and few there be that enter in.”
I am learning to live at the still point, where silence simply happens. It is there that you live in the world but not of it. It is there that you realize your true nature. It is there that self-love is seen to be cosmic love, for there is no difference in scale or scope.
When I woke up this morning, I had slept so deeply that at first I had no idea of what this earth life was about. It was frightening. Who was I and where had I been? I recalled remnants of the dream in which I had seen lovely owls and cats and birds nesting in ancient rock. So there is life in seeming deadness.
And so it is with us. We live more and more in the ancient and the newly born, for time is falling into the rhythm of our breath. We are time untimed and space unspaced. We are truly beings of light.
Have no fear of witnessing every dark place in your mind and in your life. It is the true way back to the light.