A couple of evenings ago, sitting on our west-facing deck just after sunset, I stopped the world for a while.
I used a trick that I invented–well, stumbled onto– and I’m delighted to report that it works.
Stopping the world is stopping thinking, a state of consciousness in which you have brought your mind to complete quietude. You are not thinking at all. The mind is still.
In our ordinary state of consciousness our mind is busy creating the world, re-creating the world, or projecting an imaginary world of the future. Our thoughts may be assessing the current situation, which is to create the world of the moment: my mind says, “Oh, that’s beautiful,” or “I need to resist what is happening right now,” and so on. Or our thoughts review the past or they rehearse a future that may seem quite real even though it hasn’t occurred yet and may never occur.
All this thinking is happening in a pretty disorderly process, like the ball in a pinball machine ricocheting off pneumatic barriers unpredictably. And like addicted pinball machine players, we punch at the ball with our control levers, sometimes tilting out of control, sometimes making a big score, but most often failing and then trying again without ever finding any grand victory.
Our brain is the most complicated thing in the universe as far as we know; it is a magical organ, evolution’s most extraordinary development.
Our powerful minds can peer into the quantum world and its invisible effects, and they can explore the entire universe as it unfolded billions of years ago.
Our minds can also be dangerous. The mind can ruin a perfectly good life. Our minds are difficult to harness and control. Our minds can drive us crazy.
Sometimes we need to stop thinking in order to make perceptual breakthroughs or simply to rest.
Anyway, I stopped thinking the other evening on the deck. There was a steady breeze blowing out of the south across the deck where I sat. For a while I was thinking, as usual. I noticed once again that I am unable to be completely present when I am thinking. I’m looking out at a stunning scene of desert valley and mountains outlining the horizon many miles away. The clouds are changing shape and color with every minute. A five mile per hour wind is blowing the prayer flags that flap above my head. But I’m not fully there because I’m thinking—thinking about my life, thinking about the world.
Then I used the wind to stop thinking. I turned my head to take the breeze fully into my left ear, blowing out all thoughts as it filled my head and then flowed out of my right ear. The breeze took over my mind.
With this technique, my mind was not able to form its thoughts. All I had in my head was the wind, the energy of it entering my ear, the sound of it filling my awareness.
Not thinking, I was in a state of bliss and wonder. I perceived the magnificent scene in front of me afresh, seeing it without descriptions or bias or interpretation. In my normal state—thinking, thinking, thinking about all sorts of things as I view this same landscape, I don’t really see it. It looks familiar and I dismiss it, as if it is not worthy of my full attention. I’ve seen it before; my mind wants to move on.
Now, not thinking, a majestic, unfamiliar world stands before me, beautiful, powerful and endlessly fascinating.
Stopping the world, I gained entry to another world, a world that is so vast it is beyond description and beyond understanding. I can only witness it. I had the same feeling that I have whenever I am able to stop the world: I was perceiving a different world, and I wanted to stay there, free of thinking at last. I’m living in awe.
And then Mary came out of the house, wanting to talk to me about the stars, and the world reasserted itself as I resumed thinking.
But I will stop the world again, because I now see that if I can’t stop the world, I will be unable to explore other perceptual realities, unable to see that our human world is only one of many worlds that we can inhabit.
To be able to pioneer on the frontiers of human emergence, we must be able to stop the world.
The world does not want what seekers want
Seekers of awareness want to expand their capacity for perception. We want to see as much of reality as we can.
In the last post here, The News: Our Best Mirror, I pointed out that for the first time in human history we can assess the entire human condition: the news reports everything that is going on in the human species, so we can see clearly the state of human evolution. Nothing should surprise or disappoint us now about human thinking and behavior: we have seen it all and continue to see it every minute in the news.
We see what the world wants—to sustain its proprietary explanation of reality. The world wants power, domination, material well-being, and tribal unity and safety, among the big issues.
As you watch the news—as you view our current state of evolution—there is not much evidence that the world wants to explore realities beyond the current state of human cognition.
Have you noticed anybody interested in stopping the world in order to explore other perceptual worlds? How many conversations have you had lately about the possibility that the current human construct, a true marvel of human creation, is only one possible world for us to explore?
Nope. The world invests almost all of its energy in sustaining itself in its current form.
That investment is thinking. Almost all of us help to sustain the world in its current form by thinking about what it is, what it has been, and what it could be. We invest our thinking because we want to survive and thrive in the current world.
Because we rarely stop thinking about the world and our personal participation in it, our brains are never out of gear. Most of us can’t think of anything but this world because thinking is the way we have evolved to build a world of safety for ourselves. We don’t think it would be good to stop thinking. We don’t believe there are any other worlds to explore.
But seekers can see that thinking is almost always a trap—a trap with no exit, because we can’t think of anything except this world. Thinking, we are guards at the gates of learning beyond this world.
The Bible and other religious teachings have long warned about being “of the world.” Those teachers warned against being part of evil and sin, which they thought thrived in the world and defined it. To avoid being sucked down into the swamps of the worst human behavior, they imagined gods, heavens, and other worlds they preferred and hoped to enter after death. These are not worlds that can be explored by humans while they are alive, but fantasia that can only be thought about. Thus, there is no heaven without thinking.
Humans have long believed that they must turn their backs on the world in order to avoid its perfidy. But they kept on thinking about our actual world and about their after-death world.
What do you see when you stop the world?
Masters of awareness have long taught that we must learn to stop the world—to stop thinking. They realize that we find it almost impossible to stop thinking: most of us cannot stop thinking for even a minute.
The masters taught all sorts of meditation techniques that aim at quieting the mind. They taught forms of physical exertion and dancing that jolt the mind out of its usual patterns. They experimented with drugs that dislodge thinking from its throne and allow entry to other realities.
Many seekers have stopped the world long enough to experience other worlds.
What do they see when they stop the world? They report, and this is my own experience so far, that the worlds they enter cannot be described. It turns out that our language is structured to describe the world we humans have created, not the other worlds that exist.
The world of human cognition is endlessly fascinating, a world that human language was evolved to not only describe but to protect and sustain.
We have no language to describe the worlds that we can experience when we stop thinking.
You have to go to those worlds to experience them directly.
To get there, stop the world. Stop thinking.
Stopping thinking is the big leagues of poise
A completely quiet mind is the epitome of poise. In that quiet state, we are deeply present, without the limitations of language and memory, limitations that narrow our capacity to be present. Deeply still, we can finally appreciate fully the wonder of the now.
Quiet, we feel no separation from anything or anybody. Only thinking can create separation.
Not thinking, our gratitude soars because we have left all human care behind.
Silent at last, our creativity suddenly emerges, sensing more than we ever thought was possible. Quiet, all options arise and become available to us.
Without thought, all of our boring resistance to life evaporates, along with all of our earnestness and heaviness. Free now, our hearts are light and we can fly free to unknown realms.
The breeze is blowing again, and I’ll be back on the deck tonight to stop the world.