Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus: We begin February with a series of posts in which we will review old texts from the blog and will include new ones on the topic of thoughts, such as the veil that hides the perception of the presence of God in our daily lives. In this way we want to continue with the subjects of the last retreat and also with something which is frequently tackled in the two courses offered on this site. We find it very useful for our way of being as well as being in the world. Receive a fraternal embrace invoking the Holy Name.
In the book “The Jesus Prayer – Initiation to the practice” in the first letter it is said: “From the point of view of the psyche, the one who embraces this prayer has to start to part with thoughts. The main difficulty is not to become accustomed to prayer but to renounce them. And this is because we tend to identify this flowing of the mind with ourselves”. – I would like to get some clarification on these points, how is it that we have to part with thoughts? I think that without them we would not be able to function, we would be like people with severe mental retardation.
I understand perfectly your objections or questions. It happens that what we usually do is not thinking at all. And, in that sense, it has been said there that we must renounce thoughts. We must give up a rambling way of thinking, an erroneous way of organizing our experience as we go through life. Generally, we call thinking a certain “labeling” of the phenomena that appear in front of our senses.
We also consider thoughts to be the associations that are automatically produced in our mind between what we perceive and what we remember. Each thing that we see receives from our mind a name and is immediately connected to our memory records, along with the things that we have lived. This may be a very interesting survival mechanism, but it is not thinking.
Strictly speaking, thinking is not something that we do, but it is “done” in the same way as digestion is done, breathing or the renewal of skin cells and other processes of similar characteristics in our body. Also, inevitably, a fabrication is elaborated in the mind with regards to what has been perceived; placing what has been seen in relation to our future interests. We never see the thing in and of itself, but according to our pretensions, projects and preference of topics.
This situation is part of our present human condition and in a certain way, it has to do with what is mentioned in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. This way of functioning of the mind disengages us from reality, preventing us from seeing what is happening and keeping us in a world with large doses of fantasy. Moreover, we have become accustomed to “live inside” these automaton processes of the mind and we equate it with ourselves.
That is to say, we identify ourselves with this mental happening. Imagine that someone has the power to follow the digestive processes and to realize when the bile is secreted, when the food is dissolving, when the nutrients and vitamins are incorporated into the bloodstream… Imagine this person can direct their attention towards the peristaltic movements of the intestine, etc. It is laughable, even more so if this happens every day and the person continues to concentrate on following this metabolic flow. Picture it in your mind, day after day, all of their life. What we do when we believe that we think is very similar.
It seems to us that we think, when in reality we are being carried away by a mental digestion of the experiences that occur. When one stops “living there” with one’s attention, when one gives up the identification with these psychological processes, a new world opens up that is unknown to us… A transfiguration of the world takes place.
I understand what you are explaining, but how to get out of the mind? Or how to be able to live from the place where the real is perceived?
Once you have at least intellectually accepted what has been said, regarding that one is not that continuous process of thoughts that come and go, of endless dialogues and considerations about everything and all things, will it be possible to move towards another way of being. In this change at the beginning, it is decisive to direct the attention towards the senses, taking it away from the mental happening. Let us make this clear so that it is not misunderstood:
The common thing is to live “lost in thought”, that is to say, revolving around oneself in an egoic way, overwhelmed by one’s own problems and issues, absorbed in our psychological processes, enslaved by what is contrary to us, striving to achieve what we crave as happiness. That is why I was telling you that it is important to direct our attention out of this mental discourse and begin to pay attention to what we perceive. We cannot become aware of the divine presence in everyday life as long as we look without looking, listen without listening, or project instead of perceiving.
It is as if we are never really where we are. Our life has a lot of simulation in it because in truth we always want to be somewhere else, wherever our yearnings are pushing us to. The specific way of doing that is also mentioned in the book in letter three and the so-called “Sacrament of the present moment”, referred to in the “Spiritual Exercises of the Russian Pilgrim”, also allude to this need to place ourselves first where we are before undertaking any attempt to improve our life situation…
Extract to El vidrio opaco