Distance as Virtue
We need to be close to each other: it’s part of being human. And we also need time set aside to rejuvenate. We often call that vacation. So, one thing we sometimes do on vacation is “go away.” Get a new experience, with distance away from our routines and our normal order of things. And sometimes we create an intentional daily practice of withdrawing, putting a distance between us and the rest of our world, to contemplate, meditate, commune with a source of inner strength, pray, however that may demonstrate in your world. That is one of the simplest ways you can create a daily routine that can be a source of great inner strength.
Distance from the continual input from the monkey mind can bring great relief. Vacations help. Meditation can help. Prayer can help. And engaging the part of your consciousness known as witness consciousness can help. I first began to intentionally engage my witness after my life had fallen apart. In 1988, I began my recovery from many years of very dysfunctional and self-sabotaging behavior. My life was a mess. I had to unlearn beliefs and ways of being that were not serving my growth or my relationships. One of the tools I was taught and began to engage in was this: being totally honest in all my affairs. It was a new integrity and it began to serve me well. I had to face many of the messes I had created over the years of destructiveness, despite my concurrent conflicting desires to be creative and loving in my world.
It was uncomfortable, especially at first. Like any learning curve, it required commitment and consistent intentional practice to master. And good help from qualified professionals and well intentioned friends. I was blessed with both. I learned to recognize the part of my consciousness that
is always witnessing. I learned to make it my friend, in spite of the persistent efforts of my monkey mind to re-engage in self-destructive, dishonest behavior. Sort of like learning how to rein in a team of 12 horses running away with a stage coach. They want to be reined in, but are running because that’s what they know to do. My monkey mind knows how to look for and find something to be afraid of. And run with that fear, including making up stories and wanting me to believe them, whether they are really true or not.
You can be witness to your own devices: you can notice the stories your monkey mind is telling you and wanting you to believe. Your higher executive function can begin to discern whether or not those stories are true, or fabrications which may even be a disservice to you achieving your goals. You can notice the emotions that may be motivating your monkey mind to create its stories. There may be some sense of fear that something is a threat to your safety or the stability of your world and your hopes and dreams. There may be some sense of hurt or pain. As humans, we are vulnerable. As evolving humans, we can learn to cope with our conscious and most importantly our subconscious/unconscious motivators. And we can learn to make different, more productive choices.
It has been said that we live in two worlds, one on each side of our skin (Paul Reps, Square Sun, Square Moon; 1967). We are constantly navigating both worlds at the same time. That navigation can take a lot of energy to maintain. In those two worlds, there are (1) the stories your monkey mind is telling you, (2) the knowings of your inner heart where unconditional love dwells, (3) the experiences of your heart where all your emotions come and go, and (4) the part of your mind that knows that there is more going on than meets the eye, to name just a few of the angles of your conscious awareness reported to you by your five senses (and with any luck, your sixth sense, your intuition).
And then (5) there is your soul. For some of us, there may be no such thing as a soul, especially if we are to believe the stories of our monkey mind. Or, we may not be sure what the soul really is, given the context of Western Civilization, with so many differing definitions and opinions about the soul. From Plato to Socrates to Shakespeare, to name a few, we have many angles to look at, and to sort
out. For some of us, the soul may be the most important aspect of our life in this material world. For most of us, there is some distance between our mind and our soul. For the soul, that distance means nothing. For the mind, that distance can be perceived to be everything.
Whatever your experience, when you begin to witness yourself, your mind, your heart, and even your soul, and discern between those different angles of consciousness working through you, that distance from the grip of the mind as if it were the only path to the real truth, that distance can begin to give you a new experience that can be enlivening, refreshing, and empowering. The trick is to discern whether the monkey mind is mimicking the heart or the soul. The heart and the soul will bring expansion and connection. The monkey mind will bring separation and disconnection. That is a great place to begin your journey of reconnecting to the Divine Truth of who you already are.
And from there, the distance from where you are and where you want to be begins to become not only manageable, but glorious.