Self-Improvement Is The Barrier To Enlightenment, And The Way To It

There are many mystics in the world that have been a great inspiration in my life. Nearly, all of them mention the importance of focusing away from thoughts, towards higher consciousness. For in the vast space of a free mind, is Enlightenment. Many scientists, writers, artists and creators of all kinds— have utilized this fundamental idea into their own philosophy to stretch their mind into a new dimension of thought. One that is more holistic and balanced and as a result, allows them to realize more innovation and creativity in their work.

Mystics saw thought as the only limitation in humanity. To the degree that thought is transcended; is the degree of freedom that one individual could embody. Like Enlightenment, freedom had no end, which means that anything we can imagine is not just a fantasy or a dream, but a real possibility that could be enacted with enough conscious energy towards that ideal.

A rather lofty statement, huh? I wouldn’t expect anyone to read this and believe it. For belief is in the realm of thought, and consciousness always limits itself by believing in thought as reality. But, I have to honor those thoughts! Because thought is powerful enough to construct the reality we perceive. By this, I of course mean, that whatever you believe to be true, is in fact true, from your current understanding of how reality functions. Everything we have created through thought, has been created by chopping up reality into manageable pieces of information that has its own internal system of logic and functions by virtue of that created system. In this quite formal sense, even non-thought is a type of thought. Though a bit more refined.

Don’t think too hard about what was just said! I honestly don’t want you to think about this stuff! I would rather you get the general idea, and leave it at that.

For us in the modern world, thought is used often at our work environments or in our studies to give us that sense of improvement, accomplishment and material advancement. Thinking seems especially necessary when we are calculating numbers, making plans for the future, or if we want to find the right words to say to someone.

Thought is therefore, very attractive for anyone who wants a smoother life in the society we have structured for ourselves. But, if one is only thinking, all they will have to reflect upon is the same level of thought. This is because thought is mechanical and operates on the same parameters unless it is looked at from a higher perspective. Which is why meditation is suggested for anyone who desires to look outside their thought and expand their consciousness towards higher thought.

Still though, we remain in thought, despite our efforts in meditation. And as stated earlier, thought is limitation. If we are still in thought, we are never truly free. We may have the illusion we are free, but that freedom is a simulation of thought, thinking its free within the confines of its own limiting internal system of logic.

Thus, a question is posed only by the mystics: “Can we be free of thought in our lives?” This type of question will frighten or upset any other individual, because they have made their livelihood off of thought, and the fruits of that thought has produced for them. Though, they may on occasion, utilize non-thought through meditation; thought is never ultimately seen as a limiting factor in life. Yet, they continue to struggle with the low valleys in life; wondering why there is so much sadness in their life and suffering across the world.

I found that I was able to indeed reach a point where my thought became more holistic, more balanced, and at a higher, more refined level than where it was previously. But, becoming free of thought was always in the back of my mind as the highest ideal for the totality of my freedom.

I spent many, many hours meditating and focusing away from thoughts towards my senses. When I would wake up, my consciousness would quickly realize that I was still engaged in thought. “Hm, I wonder if my podcast will make me any money?”, “Maybe, it is more spiritual to have no money?”, “I think I want to eat a bagel”, “But, maybe I need to wait until mid day?”, “Maybe fasting will make me transcend thoughts faster?”, “Wait! I am supposed to not be thinking!”, “I have no reason to think, why am I thinking?”, “I will only think when absolutely necessary!”, “Maybe it is never necessary to think?”, “Then again, maybe thought will always have to be used?”, and so on until I realize it is probably better to focus on non-thought.

The idea that it may not be necessary to ever manifest a single thought is such a powerful idea, that it envelops ones entire soul like a small seed that is destined to become a massive world tree that overshadows an entire forest. For sure, there are savants with skills that allow them to channel whatever information they need without thought. Such as some individuals being able to calculate numbers by simply seeing them in their mind, instead of having to laboriously work it out in some kind of archaic system that requires a lot of thought and therefore a lot of energy.

I meditated day and night, even while riding on my bike, going to the grocery store, watching youtube, or playing video games. I soon would forgo doing anything productive because I saw that it would create more thinking in me when I started a project of any kind. Eventually, I felt I had to stop playing video games, and using social media as well, since those activities also found ways to make my mind think about them. I reached very serene states of consciousness during this time, where indeed I felt a great sense of freedom.

But, alas I came to the conclusion that anyone would have already assumed from the beginning, without having to buy a ticket to the circus. I found that no matter what, thought would be there. And the reason is because I had desire. I had desire to think. And desire to advance my skills and my material situation. Though, this is not much different to how the majority of our population lives their life. Was this whole decade long journey a pointless quest for Enlightenment?

Not in the least! As Terence Mckenna once mentioned “Nothing is ever lost”. All experience grows awareness in a certain kind of direction that is specific to that individual. I finally learned how to be at peace with my desires. And the key, was still in the idea of being able to control thought, allow thought, and finding yourself not thinking about anything in particular. Specifically, in having no expectations.

For the great majority of us, our thought will not be transcended in this life. However, it is possible to create more balance and refinement in thought by mastering the energy that swirls around our being like a chaotic whirlwind of accumulated emotional trauma. Any amount of awareness towards conscious energy will leave less energy towards all of our negativity and suffering. As well, another powerful ideal is to change any belief into a more empowering and holistic one. For belief is just a collection of thoughts that keep repeating in the same order. In this way, thought has less power to overtake our lives and less ability to lead us into a self-generated suffering.

However, this is a type of self-improvement, and paradoxically self-improvement has nothing to do with the highest ideal of transcending thought! In the movie “Fight Club”, we hear Tyler Durden look at a Gucci ad for men where he says “Self-Improvement is masturbation.”

In ancient Zen texts, we hear of the masters relaying the same type of wisdom, such as this story:

Nangaku one day goes to Baso’s hut, where Baso stands waiting. Nangaku asks, “What are you doing these days?”

Baso says, “These days I just sit.”

Nangaku says, “What is the aim of sitting in meditation?”

Baso says, “The aim of sitting is to reach Enlightenment.”

Nangaku promptly fetches a tile and polishes it on a rock near Baso’s hut.

Baso, on seeing this, asks, “What is the master doing?”

Nangaku says, “Polishing a tile.”

Baso says, “What is the use of polishing a tile?”

Nangaku says, “I am polishing it into a mirror.”

Baso says, “How can polishing a tile make it into a mirror?”

Nangaku says, “How can sitting in meditation allow you to reach Enlightenment?”

In this way, improving one’s self through any kind of endeavor will never get you to the highest state because it is in reality the only barrier to that highest state. Actions of any kind, are like turning a stone mill, in the hopes that the crushed rock will eventually churn out gold.

But, from my perspective, I have realized that this has to be only half the truth. For within any endeavor of self-improvement is indeed a progress of one’s state of being into a more balanced cohesion with life. Like a car that is able to become more reliable, more energy efficient, faster, or more stable on the road. So to, can our mind reach such a refined state.

In this car analogy; the goal is not to upgrade the car, but to leave the car altogether. To ascend beyond thought instead of refining the mechanism.

The desire to upgrade our thought, will nearly always exceed our desire to transcend thought. This is because, our society demands more thought from us, and we are often benefited in the upgrades. Like the analogy of our car, we will want to continue to upgrade it until we see no point in upgrading it further. The constant improvement will at a certain point feel pointless to us, because at a certain time, very little else will be gained as a result of the upgrade.

Thus, we have no choice but to play out the desire, until we see the greater alternative before us. For sure, it is possible to transcend our thoughts in brief moments of time, but to embody the state is left for only those with the desire already built in to the deep wishes of their soul. Which leaves us to burn through the karma of our lesser desire in order to reach the higher desire. Within sudden Enlightenment is the idea of understanding it all at once, in an instant, the totality of your awareness in human form. This means that it cannot be considered to occur within time, because time is an excuse to delay your realization in the moment. However, if you create an excuse of needing more time, then nothing can convince you until you decide when enough is enough. Which is the experience of a gradual Enlightenment. This also means, that any point along the journey, one can realize it now. Without needing any routine, refinement, or ritual.

This bridges the idea of being able to leap across the abyss in a single bound by grasping the whole picture all at once. For of course, either phenomena (sudden or gradual realization) is possible when we look at it from a certain point of view, that leaves nothing out of what it means to be human. Our continual usage and refinement of thought will sluggishly create a better society no matter if we pursue either non-thought, or refinement of thought. Though, like an inferno bound to an iron chain, the desire to transcend thought will more readily lead you to accelerate either ideal.

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