We all have something about our lives that we don’t like. It can be physical e.g. a big nose, love handles, not the right skin tone or hair colour etc. Or it can be environmental e.g. living circumstances or your job. All of these are examples of suffering and in Buddhist psychology it could be classed as one of the first of the four noble truths. For those who don’t know, the four noble truths are a central Buddhist teaching. It goes:
There is “suffering” (in the world).
There are causes of “suffering”.
There is an end to “suffering”.
The ‘eight fold path’ will lead you toward the end of “suffering”.
My major form of suffering is “thinking”, especially over thinking. It is part of the human condition.
For as long as I can remember I have had a preoccupation with knowledge and particularly a desire to ‘know’ and ‘understand’ almost anything. The particular areas that interest me more than anything are human behaviour, in the form of the actions of others as well as what drives people to do what they do. This search has forced me to read many books, obtain a Psychology degree and spend time learning additional interpersonal skills. All of this has been honed in a very corporate work environment. This ultimately has help me to attain personal and professional pleasure.
However, there is a darker side to all this knowing that has also caused me both personal and personal discomfort.
Having a predisposition to think can lead me you make many wrong turns, poor life choices and through miss informed beliefs about a broad range of things it can lead me to poor decisions in work. This thinking has led, in the past to stasis, exhibited in the form of lack of personal and emotional movement and it has also led to Fear and doubt. Fear, over time, that took the place of knowledge and certainty and led to ignorance and uncertainty. This was particularly evident when venturing into something that was not know to me and not fully understood.
Thinking, in my professional career has also led me to ‘be’ disconnected to the humanity of life and stoped me being connected to the job and people in a truly alive way.
A life lived through poor actions that produce an output of uncertainty, caused the ‘real me’ to get lost. To become led by fear and not driven by my ‘alive’ and heart based instinct. Risk became a thing to avoid and the need for knowing how to avoid it became a heavy weight that hung around my neck, and simply got heavier and heavier.
If you have ever become emotionally, and in some cases physically, stuck not knowing what the best next move is, you’ll know what I am talking about.
In Greek antiquity the word ‘Gnosis’ was a noun used, one that had a feminine root source, that meant “knowledge”, the kind of heartfelt knowing that is warm and embracing. It was used in comparison to the intellectual definition of knowledge which was called “Eídein”. Eídein had a more masculine meaning it was brusque and harsh.
Gnosis, has always been a definition I leant towards, not only because it sounded interesting and ‘fancy’ it because it reminded me that knowing didn’t have to have a masculine and somewhat cold edge. Knowing could be gentle and embracing. Knowledge in my mind is intended to help nurture people, to help growth.
Knowledge should be information that supports and helps people grow. Gnosis/ knowledge should be a healthy thing, and worked with carefully.
However I thought, the method to understand what was to push, push, push through more and more reading but I have learned that is Eídein and not Gnosis; forceful and not gentle. It was like using a hammer in order to do fine engineering that actually requires precision tools and a gentle touch.
I have realised I have in the past missed a very important part of the puzzle. I had searched, looking for something that was already here.
This is where the transformative power of mindfulness and meditation came in.
It was the simplicity of meditation and mindfulness that was the key. It was soft and gentle and it helped me develop a sense of real peace. It opened my mind up from a narrow view that knowledge was all that was needed, to one that was more heart felt and that applying the knowledge was as important.
It was Gnosis, but without having to know it was. It was feminine and comforting, not Eídein and harsh. Mindfulness was the final piece that led me to understand who I was, how I can and should responded to life, how I acted in certain situations and it helped me to just let go and not try to overly work things out.
Mindfulness and meditation supported knowledge, because it cradled it in the loving arms of awareness. Knowledge, had in the past, painted the fixed map of my life but had become a series of paint by number experiences, rather than fully lived ones and taking turns that were not always visible.
Mindfulness brought into the spotlight deep awareness and vivid experiences and as result it shown me the clearer route to health and wellbeing. No longer was I going through the motions based on just ill informed thoughts ideas, I was starting to live life through heartfelt interactions, with others, but more importantly with myself.
Knowledge, for me, is no longer something to grasp onto as the only thing that I should experience life through. No, knowledge was merely part of a wider framework for living more fully and one that ultimately, with the support of mindful awareness, a visceral heart connection and deep awareness of ‘the now’, life could deliver a fuller and happier experience for me and everyone around me.