As an icon painter, I am often asked by students, “how to Paint an icon?” It is a question I answer by saying this.
Unthinking and unchanging, far away but always near;
You are the knowable known without knowing.
These are the fifteen words I meditate on as I teach others how to Paint an icon.
They are words that are not mystical or extraordinary; it is a simple concept for contemplation. I am that which is not, I am that which is not, I am that which is not, is another one. After repeating some small phrases like these changes our interior life in a remarkably short time, our mind starts to settle down into stillness and the jumping screaming monkey mind begins to fade away. The yogis and mystics have spent years in their cave training the mind to listen and be still. The hook is, a yogi or mystic cannot give you the effect of the practice, only you and your practice will unlock the wisdom itself which is already complete within you. Practice is the key, take time out, get off the path.
Be the seer and the seen.
There was a an Indian Father with four blind sons. One day he asked his sons if they wanted to know what an elephant was? He took them to the river to “see ” the elephant for themselves. At the end of the day he asked what they perceived? The first said the elephant was like four great trees, the second said the elephant was like a great blanket that moved in the wind, the third said the elephant was like a long rope with fringe on the end, and the fourth said the elephant was like along hose with air moving in two directions. He laughed saying they were all correct but each of them only knew the elephant in part by not in her entirety. They each collected a perspective and believed it to real and complete.
I have no doubt you instantly understand the point of the story. We see only what we are familiar with and do not see all of anything completely. Blind prayer and contemplation lead us to a deeper reality of our self as we sit with it over time. The more we explore the mind, the clearer becomes the illusions inside it.
The chattering mind is like the many parts of the elephant. New experience is the treasure, not the knowledge or technique, or who you know or how long you sat. The joy is in the quiet surrender so we can look around at the beauty. Aren’t we all getting sick of the constant thinking and rodeo learning trying to figure out what is an elephant?
Mind is inside the body but it has no location.
There is confinement, there is the cause of confinement in the mind and there is a way out through meditation, contemplation, breath, stillness, prayer of quite, etc. Go into the cave of your own mind and sit with it till it is still. Stillness requires no tools, simply sit, breath and seek not. Why pay for another class or book about this stuff? You already know everything you know and every time you hold onto it or value what it is, you live a limited reality. It is a good thing to be blind in the cave, thinking till you are exhausted, and finally finding out we are all simply breathing. We all wrestle with wanting to give up prayer and meditation, believing it to be a waste of time, watching our thoughts lead to action, instead of stillness we could better go “do” something. The cave’s door in the mind is like an eye lid which turns off the external stimuli. Inside the cave mind the mystics and yogis dismantle the will, memory, intuition, intellect, intent, belief, etc and ultimately find no use for the mind at all and no use for action. The engagement stops, so the activity stops, so the manifesting stops.
Get out off the road every once in a while.
Turning off the mind is like standing in the road while a bus is coming, you are being run over every day by a bus full of mind stuff. Get out of the road and watch it pass. Nothing has changed actually; you just cease to be the object in the road, no more getting hurt by the bus. Everything in the mind is remains on the bus, only you get a chance at having a beautiful day on the sidewalk. The bus is monkey mind, everybody’s mind, every temptation and opportunity to be thinking. All meditation, prayer,and contemplation offer is time and a chance to wake up and look around at the beauty.