Philosophy Works (Class Seven)

I had all the intentions to skip this class, as I felt sleepy, but my curiosity in what next class brings prevailed. I was 20 minutes late and found no Meta, but a substitute instructor instead. I asked for class notes, but was given a surprised look as if class notes were a luxury philosophers could do without… New instructor was reading passages from several books and I struggled to stay awake and keep my attention focused, but was able to make some notes, which I’ll try to recreate now…

We suffer from distracted attention by thinking about things that are not present (either past events or contemplation of future events), but instead we can and should prolong moments of being in the present by paying attention to what we see. What have you observed by walking down the street? Very often we can’t recall what we passed by, because attention was given not to surroundings, but to our thoughts.

Then we were asked if we were happier when we were children and the answer was yes, almost unanimous. Normal child is observant and happy. Why is that? I said that children don’t have responsibilities…as adults do. But the answer was that yes, we do have responsibilities and things to do, but it makes a short list and could probably be done in seconds sometimes, if only we don’t dwell on it.

I also thought that children are not spoiled with desire yet, or their desires are still minimal. They don’t yet know what is out there possible and they are still learning about possessions, wants and needs, haves and hot haves. And they don’t have the pressure of expectations, maybe minimal. Expectations surely grow with age. We are supposed to pay back for what we were given during childhood, either by our parents or our society.

The instructor said that a child has less distracted thoughts. Attention is root of clear thinking. Children are always in present. That is why when we ask children what they want to be they don’t understand the concept of time (somewhere there). They want to be what they like now. There is no there and then for children, it is always now.

We continued our conversation about distracting thoughts, as surely we like to escape present sometimes, especially when we need to do something unpleasant (or so we think). We discussed washing dishes. It is a simple act, but we can focus all our energy on creating this negative vibe about it. Someone said it is a short activity; at least it is not long! I said that you can derive pleasure from seeing a stack of clean dishes and be proud of the results. I was wrong… We can find our bliss in present moment while we are doing dishes.

Bliss is one of the qualities of being/self; together with consciousness and knowledge, bliss is nature of self. Enjoyment is nature of experience, but bliss is inside us. Bliss only needs attention and stillness. Bliss is internal happiness or basic goodness. It is about taking one moment at a time. To find it we need to introduce stillness in our lives.

In Buddhism there are four main states: activity, sleep, consciousness and stillness. We don’t do last two enough.

The Self/Being/Absolute is truth, consciousness and bliss. The creation is for bliss. You can be blissful as a witness, not a doer (without getting involved). You can still be active, but you don’t have to be active in order to be happy, as your happiness is in stillness too- appreciating the world around you and our connection to it.

Today we have boundaries and little bliss in a little box called “me and my life”. The self is not satisfied with little bliss, but more bliss derived from consciousness and stillness. All we need to do is to be able to switch thinking from doing to observing, even during action so that we observe and attend.

The instructor suggested we do an unusual exercise – go for a walk and try to see beauty by being grounded (by paying attention to our feet on the ground and attention to everything around us). Think what you really see, not think of what you saw last time walking down the street.

It is amazing how 15 minutes of a stroll can be so powerful in showing you the beauty of the world we so underestimate. I was walking slowly, making sure I feel my feet touching the ground with every step.

No matter how strange it sounds, but I felt that I have legs! I was so aware of the fact that I’m able to walk and I was appreciative of that, as being able to walk is a luxury to some people.

I paid attention to everything I saw around me. I met one pigeon and two sparrows busy looking for food, several happy dogs, three lonely ghosts, several dozen pumpkins, about twenty humans, and a multitude of buildings and plants… and one huge sun shining brightly. It was a little cool but it was so pleasant that I couldn’t stop smiling. I went to see a house where I used to live years ago, and I found a new building still under construction instead of my old house. I talked to a man and his son about my living at that house, because I just wanted to share my experience with other humans.

When we came back to class, we all discussed our findings. One woman mentioned that she saw beautiful flowers that she didn’t think were still around in chilly November. We need to appreciate what we have both individually and as a group. There is so much beauty around that is unseen.

We think that if we are not doers, we are not useful and we are not worthy. But even in stillness we can find our usefulness by appreciating others and emitting positive energy. By rushing and thinking negative thoughts, we contaminate the environment with negative energy.

The question is: “Was the Buddha a useful person even if he wasn’t a doer in our modern way?” He said “I’m awake”, and by simply being that we can change the world for better.

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