The Movement of Life and Thought

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    Martin LeFevre,

    Flocks of sparrows land in groups of 15 or 20 in the shallows across the stream. One group flies down from the branches overhanging the creek as another flies up, in a perfectly choreographed flurry of life.

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    As soon as this aerial dance ends, a mallard couple casually drifts down the current. They are the picture of ease, and languidly settle into the shallows for some preening and a nap.

    Their connubial bliss is rudely interrupted. Three males make their way upstream near the edge of the stream, where the water flows past a line of stones. Paddling against the current or walking in their ungainly way in the shallow water, they head straight for the female across from me.

    Sure enough, when the lead male gets within a few feet of the couple, all hell breaks loose. The paired male fearlessly attacks the chap at the head of the duck pack. There is a brief skirmish, and all five fly downstream at high speed, just above the water.

    A few minutes later one of the males returns, flying somewhat higher. The encounter must have slightly unhinged him, because he actually hits a branch above me, though he recovers quickly in flight.

    The oaks in the parkland are filling in, but the sycamores, the last to come into leaf, are still bare. The rains are dwindling, but the grasses are still green and lush, and they look like small shafts of wheat waving in the late afternoon sunlight.


    It’s a tremendous thing to spontaneously step out of content-consciousness without being separate from the world. Content-consciousness is to us humans like water is to fish; we inhale and exhale it, swimming in it without even knowing it is our milieu. To become aware of this darkening sea, and be lifted out of it, is the art of undivided observation in meditation.

    It’s the quality of watching that acts on the cumulative past within one, and frees one from its shadow. Then there is another order of consciousness altogether, one of light, not darkness.

    There are, as I see it, two primary levels of reaction. The first, when one is sitting quietly, is the mental chatter, associations, and memories that are continually thrown forth in the mind, as well as the emotions that bubble up or burst forth.

    The second level of reaction is the observer, with all its judgments and evaluations, mostly subconscious. When one is able to simply attend to the movement of the content of the mind and heart, without the secondary level of reaction, the heart empties and the mind quiets.  It’s the observer, and lack of attention, that keeps all the mental chatter and impacted emotion going.

    But how does one end the observer? There is no method, but if one watches the movement of one’s mind carefully, awareness quickens and thought slows. There is a moment when the whole brain catches thought separating itself from itself–as the observer, the self, the ‘me.’ That perceptual insight ends inward division, at least for the time being.

    So with both levels of reaction, it’s the quality of the watching that acts on and negates the past. That means the ‘I,’ as a product of thought, can act on nothing; it can only react.

    Thought separates. That’s a necessary and rightful physical function, since we couldn’t conceive, plan, or build anything without it.

    But when thought spills over into the psychological realm, the problem begins. And it’s a very old problem. Then thought inevitably divides, producing conflict and suffering in the world, not to mention the increasing disruption of the earth’s seamless ecosystems.

    To some degree, insight physically changes the brain. Can insight affect the core consciousness of humanity, which is shared by everyone? Perhaps, but what matters most is a deep and abiding insight into the entire movement of thought within ourselves.

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