In Part One, we looked at the personal development of equanimity as an important step in attaining an inner state that allows room for new, and deeper, aspects of consciousness.
Equanimity takes us into a ‘new space’ within ourselves. We are aware of the world and its ups and downs, but we don’t react to in the way we used to. Instead, we have a heightened consciousness that is present yet detached from the stream of experience that’s coming at us. By not identifying ourselves with the content of that stream, we awaken something within, something that is calmer and far more out true nature.
This generates a need to understand the inner nature of the stream of events that we experience. We begin to question it in a different way. The idea of ‘accounting for our actions’ is well established in our Western minds in the West. The word ‘Karma’ began to filter into western consciousness in the early years of the last century, fuelled by a perception that the East possessed ancient truths which, combined with the West’s grasp of science, would enhance and enrichen our lives.
There were many interpretations of karma. Some saw it simply as cause and effect, with one’s actions producing a moral response from a ‘greater authority’, rewarding or retarding our perceived journey towards some distant perfection.
The Buddhists interpreted it differently. They perceived that if and understanding of karma was approached from a basis of personal equanimity, it offered the possibility of self-development ‘in the moment’. This was mirrored in the ‘Fourth Way’ philosophy of Gurdjieff, which spoke to the modern men and woman of the first half of the last century, needing to reconcile a society being changed, drastically, in each decade.
Gurdjieff spoke of a ‘third force’ that had the power to resolve seeming paradoxes. Not action and not reaction, this force could only come into being in special circumstances.
Because equanimity is a mental and emotional state detached from the flow of events, we can understand that our ‘now’ inherits the results of past actions but also gives us the potential to exist in a deeper state where karmic inheritance is secondary in power to a deeper consciousness.
I remember an admonition from an old Rosicrucian text read in my teens;
“When the consciousness arrives at this point, all judgement is suspended because we have become part of the unfolding of reality, not a reactive opposition to it…”
Does this detachment mean we don’t care what happens in the world? We do look at the world differently from this vantage. For a start, we realise that we live only in our world. This is not to say that experiences are not shared. They are; but each is different for the soul experiencing them. There is no exact commonality of experience, for it is composed of the product of what is happening plus how we react to it; and those seemingly small differences can result in an entirely different lived episode.
An early business mentor told me I needed to study really successful executives in dynamic corporate environments for I would find they spend the majority of their time listening… Only within a quiet synthesis of the present will they act.
In a belief system where karma operates rigidly, with the past actions determining the present, there is little room for free will. The Buddhists and Gurdjieff saw that actions truly in the now shape in ‘real time’ the present as well as the future. This restores action in the now to the causal level, and to the extent this happens, restores to us a degree of free will. For Buddhists, this is symbolised by flowing water. Too strong a flow and we can do little but secure our footing. But if the flow is gentle, then we may have much greater freedom. The skill would be in knowing the difference…
Both Buddhism, and the Gurdjieff method speak of a new type of action that is only possible at that quiet level of the self, where the egoic nature is silenced, and this new ‘quiet room’, seen previously only from the outside, is entered. Within this deeply peaceful space the greater Self can act in a way that makes it part of the unfolding wave of reality.
It’s easy to begin this journey into the self via the kind of guided meditation presented here:
When you are falling asleep tonight, visualise a fisherman’s net in your mind. See it clearly; feel its texture and colour. Imagine you are running your fingers over the small holes and testing their strength. Let your fingers travel to the point where the material of the net gives way to the stronger ropes that pull the loaded net from the water.
Tell yourself you will awaken with this image in your mind for use on the day that follows.
The morning after, hold in your mind the intention that when you feel yourself getting angry or impatient at any point during the day, you will cast this net around the perceived circumstances. Then imagine dragging the net out of the water and standing over it, look it at the ‘catch’. See the emotions normally generated by such circumstances struggling inside the net, resisting your work in ‘landing it’.
When this happens, see yourself smiling and let your hand slide back over the main ropes and ask yourself this question: “Who is holding this rope?”
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.