Take a few moments and hear the sounds around you… yes now, just for a moment stop reading and pay attention to the sounds. What do you hear? May be the traffic, music, people talking, a telephone ringing… close your eyes… what do you hear?
Now, if I ask you ‘what do you need to hear the sounds?’ an answer would be ‘I need my ears’. And that is true, but it’s only half-true because the ears are always hearing…but we do not always hear. The ears are not like the eyes; if you close your eyes, you don’t see. But you cannot close your ears; they are always hearing. So, if the ears are always working but I don’t always hear the answer that I need my ears to hear is not completely true.
So what do we need to hear beside the ears? We need a clear mind. The mind has to be behind the ears with attention for us to hear. The ears on their own do not produce hearing.
And it is the same with all the senses. If we have our eyes open, we always see; we cannot not see. But often we don’t realize that we are seeing, or we don’t see what we see. We can be in the most beautiful amazing garden but be so worried with problems that we don’t really see we are there. And that’s not because the eyes cannot see but because there is no perceiving. The scene—the perceived—does not enter because the mind is not there. (When I talk about the mind I don’t mean the thinking/rational mind, but the part in our brain that is able to really see, perceive, feel and so of course the clear mind includes the emotions).
Right now I’m talking and all of you are hearing my words…but some of you do not perceive them because, in your head, you are still in your office, or in the traffic jam, or talking to your girlfriend, or fighting with the person that almost crush into your car or thinking about tomorrow’s meeting or….. My words, although the ear can hear them they get lost, they disappear. And the same goes with everything else.
The wonderful and also sad thing is that any depth we can have in life is through experience. Life is about experiencing it, and if we don’t, we just live a superficial life. The more experience there is, the more life we have. And by experience I don’t mean going to Africa to see exotic animals, that’s an experience all right, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about every moment, this moment, to see what is in front of me, to see the light, or to hear the sounds, or to see colors, or to see the person we are talking to, to feel my own emotions, to feel the other person’s emotions…to be open to the immensity of life that is presented to us every second. Every instant of our lives there is something to experience…but because we are so busy in our heads, our seconds evaporate. (If we live to about 80 years, we will have about 2,515,968,000 seconds. We should not wait for a few thousand left to see that this second IS our life.)
We often tend to envy people that, we believe, have more things than we do: one has a better job, more money, more comfort, more leisure, another one has a good family, a nice wife/husband, a sweet child, yet another one is able to travel a lot and to see different countries, and another one…. What we are all looking for is happiness, but often we forget that real happiness lies in being able to live our life fully, whatever that life happens to be. It may be that the people that apparently have more than we do are really experiencing their life more fully, but it could also be that they are so busy in their heads dealing with problems (either real problems or silly imaginary ones) that they don’t really experience their life, they don’t experience their moment. And I honestly wouldn’t envy anybody that cannot live their life deeply, no matter how much they posses. (You may have the money to buy a big house, but that does not create a home. Happiness is not in the big house, it is only in the home). This is what living is, what being alive means: to see, to hear, to experience, to touch, to vibrate and for that, one of the ingredients is to have the mind behind. Not the thinking/talking mind, but the clear and quiet mind, the one that is able to perceive, to appreciate, to feel…to love.
There is one more thing. To perceive the world (I call the world everything that is presented to me at any moment: my body, other bodies, nature, people, emotions, situations, objects, etc, etc) a clear mind has to be there, but in many cases, also a particular knowledge of what is to be perceived is needed. To hear the sound of the traffic we don’t need any particular kind of knowledge, but to hear/perceive this music (music by J. S. Bach is being played), we need a clear mind plus knowledge. Without a clear mind, the music will simply not enter our perception, but without the knowledge of Bach’s music, to follow this example, we can hear the music and say ‘oh, this is boring’ or ‘I don’t like this, this is church music’…and actually this happened to me. When I was a teenager I was very lucky to discover Bach’s music. It was very special to me because I had never heard anything so beautiful, so profound, so touching. Once, I brought some of that music, one that I found especially beautiful, to a girlfriend I had at that moment for her to hear it…I just wanted to share my discovery with her…and she said to me: ‘this is funeral music!’. And it was fine, that was what she perceived, that was her knowledge. May be it was similar to something she heard once in a funeral…I don’t know. But that was not funeral music, it was actually quite the opposite, it was amazingly loving and alive…
So, the clear mind has to be there but also a certain kind of knowledge is needed to be able to see, to assimilate what we actually perceive. It’s like a wonderful old wine. Somebody who has no taste for it may try it and say ‘No, I prefer a beer’. And that’s fine, but it’s just because there is no knowledge behind.
I find that in order to experiencing the best of life these two things are very much worth pursuing: a) to acquire knowledge/understanding of the ‘things’ of the world and b) to cultivate a clear mind, a mind that is not completely lost in thought.
For knowledge, we need to dedicate time. It will have nothing to do with good or bad but simple with my desire to live a more interesting life. Instead of spending our time in front of a silly movie, or a computer game or too much time in front of facebook, we can use that time to read interesting books, see documentals, studying art, learning about the world.
And we cultivate a quiet mind by learning to value the simplicity and beauty of each moment, of this moment; by seeing that the next moment is never more important than the present one; by understanding that there is really nowhere to go, but that whatever we find ourselves to be, that is where we are supposed to be…or as the poet Hafiz has said: ‘This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you’… to deeply understand in our hearts that our destination cannot be anything other than the present moment; anything else than Now.