What prevents you from finding “presence” and being in the present moment?
We all know what the problem is: it’s your “ego.” It gets in the way of you enjoying the present moment.
When you’re not enlightened, you lack the “observing mind” and instead, fall prey to “egoic” machinations and to…suffering.
In the language of psychoanalysis, not having that observing mind is called “being unconscious.”
And that’s the “ugly” truth. Your reflexive, unconscious mind (which has it’s habits) is what’s keeping you from being able to be enlightened, and at peace.
Now, you can’t help being unconscious. It’s what your mind does. But here’s what psychoanalysis offers you if meditation isn’t getting you there: a method for knowing your unconscious.
What happens when you’re unconscious?
When you’re unconscious, you can’t consciously connect to parts of your mind. Maybe you like to repress anger. Maybe you don’t know, consciously, that you spend most of your waking hours in mild disappointment. Maybe you can’t connect to being mistreated or taken advantage of because you prefer pleasing people. Maybe you don’t like feeling sad, so you can’t see sad things you should, especially if your children need you to know their feelings. Whatever it is your mind doesn’t want to connect to inside yourself (and it’s something for all of us) you then repress into your unconscious.
But when you know your worst unconscious as Eckhart Tolle (one of our foremost spiritual leaders) himself grew to, in his moment of awakening when he realized he wanted to kill himself, you can finally “observe your mind.”
Before you can observe your mind when it comes to unconscious stuff, your mind is busy defending against it.
When we defend against thoughts and feelings to keep them repressed, it’s really tiring.
It takes a lot of energy to push ourselves away.
But since we can never really get a full divorce from our most repressed thoughts and feelings (they’re always lurking in our minds, haunting us like ghosts) no matter how much we try to repress things, they are there. So consciously you don’t want to think about or feel certain things, and you work to defend against them, but unconsciously, you want to become known to yourself.
Your suffering is your path to what your unconscious wants you to know.
Being haunted by your unwanted thoughts and feelings, and working hard to defend against them, creates what is known as “intra-psychic conflict.” This is the conflict is between the things you think and feel and your desire to defend against and repress those thoughts and feelings. Intra-psychic conflict is what makes us feel confused, agitated, shaky and uncertain. There are so many forms of “suffering” but once the conflict is resolved, and you can accept into consciousness what is unthinkable, unwanted and repugnant. Then, you can make your peace with the truth, without conflict, without suffering, and with clarity, determination and goals.
How can I become more conscious and enlightened?
A good pre-requisite to working towards “presence” or“enlightenment” is to talk about your thoughts and feelings with an emotional guide who can help you become more comfortable with whatever, inside yourself, is still troubling. Then (if your guide is good) you may discover your unconscious thoughts and feelings, and resolve your conflict against knowing yourself. In time, this will naturally, gradually and safely build your observing mind. That’s when presence becomes truly possible.
Don’t “force” yourself to find presence and do away with your suffering. Enter into it through meditation. Get to know it. Find an emotional guide — not a coach or CBT therapist — but a psychoanalyst or analytically-trained practitioner who delves into deep emotions.
Allow your explorations to lead you to discover your most unwanted, unthinkable thoughts and feelings. Eventually, when you can accept everything that has gotten repressed somewhere in your mind — thoughts, feelings, ideas, emotions — you will naturally feel peaceful. Only then will your “observing mind” be fully operational. Only then will you finally be able to come to terms with your life without the “suffering” of intra-psychic conflict, where you struggle against knowing what’s real. Then, you will feel at peace. Even if you’re sad, or angry, you’ll be at peace. That’s what happens when you no longer have to fight against the parts of yourself that have not yet been admitted to your conscious mind.