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Sons and Daughters of Infinity
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Sons and Daughters of Infinity

What does the “+” in “Mindfulness+” mean? Find out.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thanks so much for listening today. I am thrilled to be back in season five. If I didn't say that often enough in the last couple of episodes, I wanna say it again. It's just great to be recording again and sharing a practice with you all that continues to be really transformative and life-changing for me. I talked about the plus in Mindfulness+ back in season one, but I wanna pick it up again. I think there are some new listeners, and even if you're not a new listener, you might have forgotten about that conversation. I want to just pick it back up and add a couple new layers. Maybe I have a few new tricks up my sleeve over the last five years, picked a little something up, an insight here or there. So I wanna talk about why Mindfulness+? So mindfulness first, it's this practice that's really proliferating in the Western world. More sectors of society are interested in it, politics, education, medicine, everywhere. It's a practice that dates back to early Buddhism, so we could take it back. Some people associate mindfulness with the innovation of Buddhism where it actually differentiated from Hinduism, and this is about 2,500 years ago, so it goes back at least that far. The plus is significant to me. So mindfulness is a practice, is we could think of as a set of attentional skills we can use to sharpen the mind, deepen our concentration, change the way we pay attention to moment to moment experience, and that's significant in and of itself. And if we look at the written record in civilization, there's evidence that human beings have been doing meditative practices for many thousands of years. So I always think it's interesting, when human beings have been doing something for thousands of years, it's not guaranteed wisdom because there is such a thing as kind of collective stupidity and cultural ignorance. Just 'cause we've been doing it a long time doesn't mean we should keep doing it, but when it comes to like the wisdom traditions, when it comes to spiritual practice, it's interesting to me that perhaps tens of thousands of years ago, early humans were staring in a fire going into a trance state or building a sweat lodge and turning the temperature up really high to get themselves really focused and to learn to break through the relative conditions of comfort and discomfort into something that is perhaps prior to that duality. And you guys get the drift that it's interesting that human beings have been doing mindfulness type practices for probably many thousands of years, but one of the most influential schools in my own practice over the last, it's probably been almost 20 years now that I've been tracking Western developmental psychology. Whereas meditation goes back thousands of years, development as we understand it in modern times, it probably dates back about 100 years, maybe 150 years if we go back to the proto developmentalists, but it's to say it's new, it's a new kind of insight in our collective human knowledge, and it adds a dimension to the practice that I feel is really significant. If you listen to previous episodes on Mindfulness+, which I recommend if you're enjoying, I often talk about developmental themes throughout, because as we do a mindfulness practice, if we practice in a particular way, the research shows that meditative mindful practices stimulate healthy adult development. I can't talk about all of the complexities of developmental psychology in a single episode, or even if I dedicated the whole season five to development, there would still be a lot to say about it, but I thought to reintroduce this plus in Mindfulness+, to talk about the developmental dimension, I would start with an oldie but a goodie, as they say, to get back to the basics. One of the great pioneers, the kind of person who may have been born in the wrong century by the name of Sri Aurobindo, the developmentalists I've worked with for the last 15 years almost uniformly esteem Sri Aurobindo as one of the greatest developmental minds ever on the planet. So Sri Aurobindo's work is difficult. You have to like, it's not a page turner where you curl up all cozy by the fire and enjoy your wassail. Sorry, we're getting into wintertime here, so, you know, I'm feeling it. But I kind of have to roll up my sleeves and go like one sentence at a time with Aurobindo. It's difficult, but highly rewarding. So in fear and trembling, I thought I would bring up a quote from Sri Aurobindo. This is from his work, "The Life Divine", and he talks about development in this passage in a way that is, it's complex, but it's also elegant and comprehensive and insightful. So I wanna read the passage and then I wanna reflect on it, and then we're gonna move into a little bit of practice today. Sri Aurobindo writes, "The knowledge we have to arrive at is not truth of intellect. It is not right belief, right opinions, right information about oneself and things. That is only the surface mind's idea of knowledge. To arrive at some mental conception about God and ourselves and the world is an object good for the intellect, but not large enough for spirit. It will not make us the conscious sons and daughters of infinity." That's a great line. "Ancient Indian thought meant by knowledge a consciousness which possesses the highest truth and a direct perception and in self-experience. To become, to be the highest that we know is the sign that we really have the knowledge. For the individual to arrive at the divine universality and supreme infinity, live in it, possess it, to be, know, feel and express that one in all his being, consciousness, energy, delight of being is what the ancient seers of the Veda meant by the knowledge." Oh, man, it's good. Man, so I'm gonna give this another pass, and one thing I'll say, so I'm gonna read it again, 'cause passages like this deserve to be read aloud twice. I know it's a podcast and you can just scrub back, but I'm gonna read it twice. I remember Evelyn Underhill, who's a master mystic in her own right, she in her book "Mysticism", a classic from the early 20th century, she talks about the hallmark of spiritual text, if it's really powerful and it has rhythm, it's almost musical. And when I read Aurobindo, I've felt myself just helplessly lulled into the timeless rhythms. So let me give this to you again and then we'll reflect a bit. "The knowledge we have to arrive at is not truth of the intellect. It is not right belief, right opinions, right information about oneself and things. That is only the surface mind's idea of knowledge. To arrive at some mental conception about God and ourselves and the world is an object good for the intellect, but not large enough for the spirit. It will not make us the conscious sons and daughters of infinity. Ancient Indian thought meant by knowledge a consciousness which possesses the highest truth in a direct perception and in self-experience. To become, to be the highest that we know is the sign that we really have the knowledge. For the individual to arrive at the divine universality and supreme infinity, live in it, possess it, to be, know, feel and express that one in all his being, consciousness, energy, delight of being is what the ancient seers of the Veda meant by the knowledge." That's a big quote, and this is just a couple sentences from, Sri Aurobindo's books are these tomes. There was one book, "Synthesis of Yoga", it probably took me five years to read, so, you know, before you rush to Amazon to buy an Aurobindo book, know what you're getting into. But I love Aurobindo's spirit and I love his work, and what he's pointing to in this particular passage, I just wanna reflect for a moment, then we'll move into an experience. And we live in a moment in the modern world where we habitually cognize, we intellectualize, we take experience and we render it into something abstract, conceptual. And most of education to this day kind of reflects this bias that knowledge is what we can know and express, clearly articulate, even measure and so forth in the spirit of the European enlightenment. What Western developmental psychology has done painstakingly over the last 100, 150 years is kind of chart in Aurobindo's terms different levels of mind, different stages of development, different qualities of consciousness that unfold developmentally, the way an acorn falls to the ground, the shell cracks open, the seed germinates over days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries. This acorn becomes an oak and it's a process that unfolds through time and space. We human beings are a process that unfold over and across time and space. I'm reminded of a Chinese idiom. They say it's something to the effect of, , and it means that you can grow a tree in 10 years, but it takes a century to grow a human being. It's that quality like, and it's not literal, right? 10 years, 100 years, what they're saying is that we can consciously become the sons and daughters of infinity. That if we give ourselves to a developmental process, the mind cracks open, the surface ideas of knowledge yield to something so rich, so multidimensional and inter-realmic, we could never express it in language. With all the human languages that have ever existed or will exist, we couldn't possibly express the fullness, we couldn't possibly express the emptiness, we couldn't possibly express the grandeur of what reality is. Mindfulness+ points to this process, the human being as an infinite process, that already we belong to infinity, already we're sons and daughters of infinity. Do we realize that yet? Is our moment to moment experience one of, I belong to infinity? My heart is the big heart that comprehends all galaxies, the entire cosmos and beyond. Or do we go around sometimes collapsed into a state of complaint and bickering and whining and accusing and human things that we all do all the time? And the pep talk here today on Mindfulness+ is certainly not to shame anybody for contracting into those states. I do it all the time, but to realize that those contractions are actually forms of grace that remind us that there's an expansion after the contraction. There's this acorn that wants to hatch. Within the acorn is the oak. Within the acorn there are countless oaks. Within the grain of sand is the universe, in Blake's words. The human being is infinite, and that's a really profound thing. To feel that in my heart right now, to feel that with you all right now is a profound thing. And we're learning more of the ancient science of contemplation and the modern science of development. It's helping us create new maps that hopefully help more of us find our way to this realization, to what I believe is our birthright. We're actually, this is not like a luxury sport. What's a, it's not like yachting or something the world can do without. Sorry you people who own yachts who are listening. No offense. But what I mean is meditation, mindfulness, Mindfulness+, to me it's not just indulgent recreation for the privileged. I believe it's something we human beings are naturally drawn to. Our hearts are called back to it endlessly, whether we like it or not, and if we give ourselves to the practice, if we give ourselves to the path, then somehow we catalyze the process. We make possible what wants to happen through us. So Aurobindo here in this quote, he's talking about the surface level mind which sees things as it sees them, and that's okay, but there is an infinity within it and through it and prior to it and beyond it, and we can claim this. We can claim this capital K knowledge, this gnosis for ourselves. We can engage in a transformative process together. That's what I think he's saying. That's part of what I think he's saying. And it's delightful. What's this line here? I'm gonna pull out a few phrases. Then we'll get into some practice. It says a conception about God, ourselves, and the world, it's an object that's good for the intellect, that's good for the mind. The mind likes that, but it's not nearly big enough for the spirit, capital S. So in that sense, development is an invitation to transcend ourselves, to go beyond the self, but always to include the self, like not only the absolute, but the very achingly poignant specificity and uniqueness of our individual lives. And it's actually both. The uniqueness of our lives isn't different than the absolute in the end. I think development points us towards the relative unfolding of our absolute nature. How do I say it anymore economically than that? But talk is cheap, right? All the words in the world can't get us there, so maybe we could do a little practice and just enter in together and see where we pop out on the other side. Go ahead and settle in if you're not already settled in. Start by just doing nothing, sitting, standing, walking, lying, whatever you're up to, and just feel the contours of the body and the mind. Like you're not doing anything special. You're just here. You are. Notice sensations in the body. Notice the activity of the mind. Maybe you need to go to the store to pick up groceries. Maybe it's been some time since you've visited your parents. Just allow the body and mind to do its thing and just be really engaged right here in the conditions of your life. And you can even intentionally think about what has to get done today. What are the concerns in your life right now? And as you do this for a few moments, gradually or suddenly if you'd like, I want you to just intentionally move awareness into the heart, literally the physical heart, to feel your awareness coming from the inside of the heart, and feel this shift, this attentional shift, just for the moment intentionally leaving behind the surface level understanding, concepts, and knowledge of the ordinary, everyday mind, and just feeling from the heart, knowing from the heart, by and through the heart. And as you do this, as you continue to relax and breathe and feel, I want you to go looking for any boundaries you feel in this experience of knowing from the heart as you just immerse yourself in this warmth, this sympathetic resonance with the song of the universe. Notice if there is a place where you suddenly stop and you suddenly terminate and you go no further. Or in a similar way, if you can detect a beginning in this warmth, this resonance, this knowing. Continue to relax, drop in. If you feel the habit energy of looking up to thought to understand what's happening to interpret it, that's fine. That's natural, but practice just sinking back into the depths of the heart and the heart's knowing. What is it that is aware of the happenings, the risings, the passings in this moment? Whatever it is that's aware, is there a beginning to this awareness? Is there an end to it? Are there any walls or borders or boundaries? In Aurobindo's poetic language to relax the surface structures of consciousness in the mind, thought forms to open up in and through the heart is to consciously become a son and daughter of infinity. Rest assured you don't have to struggle here. You don't have to make anything happen. You're not supposed to feel something that you're not feeling. It's just right here paradoxically. In this simple feeling of being, there's nothing to attain nor to get. And in a relative sense, we're becoming something. We're an unfolding process. We're developing into what we're capable of becoming, relative and absolute, being, becoming. This is not knowledge that we accumulate in the mind. This is the knowledge that we are. Thank you for sponsoring this episode, Sri Aurobindo, and gratitude to all the pioneers who continue to illuminate the path for us. Thank you to all our teachers and the circle of illumined souls who watch over us and support our practice. A big thanks to Skylight for bringing Mindfulness+ how shall we say, out of the graveyard, the boneyard of podcasts. Good to be with you all. I hope you all listen to us next week. We'll be back with more on Mindfulness+.

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