The goal of self is no self. The goal of self-awareness is self unawareness. The goal of mindfulness is mindlessness.
The end is the beginning.
Watching an infant learn to walk. Her awareness of her own body is constant. Her awareness of her own feet, her own hands. One foot gets in the way of the other. Knees are wobbly and unreliable things. One hand holds this, the other hand holds that, now what? Trembling awkwardly she attempts to stand; legs askance, feet clenched, toes curled holding onto Mother Earth for dear life.
If she could speak to me she’d say, “Being a newborn was easy. Didn’t have to think about this “body” thing. Ignorance was bliss. Just laying there was bliss. Until it wasn’t… something made me want to get up. Something wanted me to GET GOING.”
She looks at me quizzically as if to say, “Do you struggle to walk? You don’t seem to. I don’t see you tripping over your own feet. I don’t see you fall onto your backside over and over. It just flows for you doesn’t it? I’ve been watching you. When you walk you flow. Left foot, right foot. You stop, you turn, effortlessly. Without thinking you seem to do it. You even sprint or dodge this way and that when my sister runs after you to tag you. How do you do it? I’m hyper aware of my own limbs, my own knees, my own feet, my own ankles, every single toe. I’m always aware of my hands, my elbows, my fingers. I look at them. I taste them. I touch and squash things with them. You barely even seem to notice your own limbs or your own body. Aren’t you aware of it?”
And I might answer her, “I’m rarely aware I have a body most of the time. I don’t think about my knees when I walk, or twist or run. Nor my feet, nor my toes. It all just happens by itself. My body has its own consciousness, now. It is aware of itself, now. It doesn’t need me to be aware of it unless something breaks down. And my input is required to correct what has happened. But my hands and legs, my body as a whole, has a life of its own. And yours will too one day.”
“Then, what makes you different from the newborn that I once was?” perhaps she might ask. “As a newborn I was unaware of my body and you similarly seem unaware…”
“Yes, but the newborn is helpless, I am not. The newborn is unaware, surely, but so is it’s body. It’s body is not yet conscious of its own workings. So, that is what you are learning now. You are learning all this FOR your body. You are assimilating this knowledge gradually, through trial and error, so that you will one day pass it on to your body. Then you will no longer need to remain so vigilant. Your body will remain vigilant for itself. It will take care of itself. You can go back to being unaware unless needed. The end is the beginning.”
As with the body, so with the mind : so with thoughts, so with emotions. All these mental mechanisms we struggle to work with. That create much inner conflict. Our thoughts tripping over one another. Standing awkwardly askance desperately groping for a firm foothold on reality. Our emotions swaying us this way and that, causing us to lose our inner balance and fall over. Over and over. We, who were ignorant once, have awakened to some inner impulse to “get up”. Some mysterious force that compels us to GET GOING.
And so we are aware at all times of the mind, of the self. We are watching it, we are vigilant. We are hyper aware. Always aware of every edgy impulse, every darkening mood, every compulsive thought, every brooding feeling. We touch it, we taste it, we marinade in it. We squash it, we push it away, we bring it closer. Always aware, always mindful.
Yet, this is nothing more that the infancy of our consciousness. Self-absorption, self-conflict, self-awareness, mindfulness is a necessary learning phase. We are learning gradually through trial and error. We are learning FOR our minds. Just as we once did for our bodies. We are assimilating this knowledge so that we may one day pass it on to our minds.
And when that happens we will no longer need to remain vigilant on behalf of our minds. The mind will remain vigilant for itself. The mind will take care of itself. Thoughts and emotions will flow, stepping one in front of the other seamlessly. They will speed and slow, weave and dodge in an elegant rhythm that we will barely even notice. The mind will have a consciousness of its own which will only need our input if something breaks down and needs correction.
Awakening is this coming full circle. Just like the infant awakens to “having a body” and then embarks on a journey of discovery, conflict and eventual understanding, so also does the individual go through the process of awakening to “having a mind” and then embarks on a similar journey. The final step is a return to unawareness. A return to the innocence of “not knowing”. Or more accurately: “not needing to know”.
When the body has learned to be responsible for itself. When the mind has learned to be responsible for itself. Then the self turns it’s attention away from body and mind unless called upon when something is broken and needs correction. It vanishes instead in being. In the essence of the moment as it appears.
For the goal of self is no self. The goal of self awareness is self unawareness. The goal of mindfulness is mindlessness.
The end is the beginning.