Why is happiness linked to enriching life experiences not permanent?
The experience of life is only one half of the equation. The other half is the one who experiences. They go hand in hand. In every experience, from the trivial to the most enriching, they are both present. Experiences come in many forms; some are natural, and humans create others. They may be subjective experiences drawn from thoughts, or they may relate to objects in the external world. In each instance, happiness is a product of the union of the experience and the one who experiences. Since experiences are transitory, this union is also temporary. So is the resulting joy. Each experience of pleasure and joy creates a desire for more such happiness. This cycle can only be sustained by increasing the variety and richness of experiences. Understanding the mechanism of experiencing, rather than the content of experience may help in uncovering a greater source of joy.
Each experience of pleasure and joy creates a desire for more such happiness. This cycle can only be sustained by increasing the variety and richness of experiences.
Understanding the experiencer and the experienced
The experiencer and the experienced may be compared to the breath, which has two components — incoming and outgoing. They travel in opposite directions, yet there is a point at which they meet. The mind moves as the breath moves. When the incoming and outgoing breath meet, there is a transient period, which may last from a fraction of a second to several seconds in which there is no movement. In this brief period, where there is no movement of breath, the mind’s activity also temporarily ceases. It may not be possible to generate a new train of thought when the movement of the breath stops.
The mind moves as the breath moves.
The cessation of the mind’s movement happens briefly in each breath cycle. In death, it is permanent and lasting. The mind ceases to exist any longer. The pattern of the breath influences the quality of thoughts, and the perception of breathing can, in turn, affect the mind.
Just as the body breathes, thereby sustaining life energy, the mind also breathes. The mind breathes through the senses. There is a constant interchange of information from within the mind to world and vice versa. The eyes have a dual pathway; they seek out sights in the world and bring that information back to the mind. The rest of the senses, such as smell, taste, touch, and hearing, travel one way, which is the intake of information from the world.
The mind breathes through the senses. There is a constant interchange of information from within the mind to world and vice versa.
When all of the senses are working together at the same instant, the experience becomes heavenly. For instance, when we are eating a meal, simultaneously enjoying the appearance, smell, texture, and taste of the food, along with the accompaniment of soft soul-stirring music in the background, we feel incredibly relaxed and content. We don’t easily forget such an experience.
The opposite is also true. When all the senses are dormant, and their energies are neither moving inward nor outward, there is deep bliss. In sleep, none of the senses are active. When there is not even the experience of a dream, such a deep state of sleep feels refreshing and rejuvenating. Since awareness is absent, there is only a faint memory of that experience.
Both these instances, one where all the senses are working together at the same time, and the other where all the senses are dormant have one thing in common. There is no separation between the experiencer and the experienced.
In the former, where all the senses are engaged at the same time on one activity, energy shifts towards the experience. In the latter, where all the senses are quiet and dormant, the energy shifts towards the experiencer. When there is the totality of either the experience or the experiencer, it is as good as a merger happening between the two.
For example, 100 + 0 = 100 and 0 + 100 = 100. When the involvement in experience is 100%, and attention on the experiencer is 0%, the net is 100%. Similarly, when the attention on the experiencer is 100%, and involvement in experience is 0%, the net again is 100%.
The merger of the experiencer and the experience — Genesis of the witnessing state
When attention is on experiencing, we refer to it as mindfulness. Mindfulness when total, cannot be an activity of the mind. When this happens as an activity of the mind, there is a split. Part of the mind is involved in the experience, and the other part watches. When the mind is wholly immersed in the activity of experiencing, a witness to the mind emerges. This witness can watch all the movements of the mind’s energies. Witnessing involves looking at the whole.
When the mind is wholly immersed in the activity of experiencing, a witness to the mind emerges.
A vital aspect of a witnessing state is the absence of partiality, which comes about when the ego is active. When we are performing any activity, if we carry the feeling of “I am doing this activity,” it is the ego which becomes the watcher. The ego is part of the mind, and when the ego is active witnessing cannot be total. If we take a step back and witness even the thought that proclaims “I am doing this activity,” we are one step closer to the actual witness state.
When the senses are active, witnessing involves being watchful of external activity without directing such activity. When the senses are dormant, witnessing consists of being observant of the potential energy in the mind before it manifests as thought and action. That energy is not disturbed or transformed into thoughts and actions. It is watched.
In the witnessing state, there is a complete union of the experience and the experiencer, which then leads to the state of no-mind. Witnessing becomes the center of the no-mind state. The mind is a directional entity. It focuses our attention in one direction, either towards or away from something. When there is no-mind, there is no one directing awareness one way or the other. It spreads circumferentially and equally in all directions, like the rays of the sun, which spread out in all directions. Deepening the intensity of awareness while being careful not to assign ‘doership’ to this, will make it spread even further.
In the witnessing state, there is a complete union of the experience and the experiencer, which then leads to the state of no-mind. Witnessing becomes the center of the no-mind state.
Awareness and lasting joy
The zone of complete awareness is one of silence and the absence of mental activity. This is like a lake with no ripples. There is depth to every lake. But ripples on the surface make it impossible to see clearly below the surface. But in a very still lake, light can penetrate to the depths and may even reach the bottom. Similarly, when the mind has no ripples of thought, the fire of awareness can spread into the depths. The deeper awareness penetrates, the greater is the intensity of joy. This joy has nothing to do with the experience or the contents of experience. It is lasting and permanent.
Originally published at https://mindandsoul.space on June 19, 2019.