Asheville Sangha

Supporting Non-Duality and Awakening in Asheville and Beyond

Do you think you're the doer of things? If not, then read no further. If so, I invite you to ask a few questions and do some further investigation. First, let’s look at the possible options for what is doing the doing. Is it the mind? Is it the body? Or is it something else? Conventional thinking may lead us to believe that the mind is governing the body, so let’s investigate that first. Begin paying close attention to what the body does without the thinking mind's involvement. Whether it's putting away the dishes or driving a car, notice the thoughts going on during your daily activities. When putting away the dishes the mind does not have to think about how to pick up a dish, where to place it and how to get it from point A to point B. It happens by itself. Oftentimes during these routine tasks, the mind is actually occupied with thinking about the past or the future and is completely disconnected from what the body is doing in the moment.

Some people think they need their mind in order to drive a car, but if you pay attention while driving is happening you will notice that thinking about driving is not really happening. For example, the mind is not thinking thoughts like, "Turn on the left turn signal now." Or “Check the rearview mirror now.” Or "Apply a small amount of pressure to the gas pedal now." Or “Turn the steering wheel a few inches to the left.” All of that happens by itself (fortunately). I think it’s safe to say that if the mind had to formulate thoughts to operate a car, the body wouldn’t be around for long. What you will find upon closer scrutiny is that the mind can either be silent or preoccupied with non-driving related thoughts and driving happens beautifully by itself. Many people have experienced driving to a destination and having no memory of the trip, either because attention was focused on some mental story, or just silently witnessing. I have tested this at great length and can safely say that thinking isn’t needed for driving. In fact, in my experience driving becomes an art form when the mind takes a backseat (no pun intended).

There are countless ways you can investigate whether thought is needed for the body to do what it does. Look at how it gathers up groceries from the car and somehow navigates getting them to where they need to be. Thoughts are not governing which hand should grab which bag, how to adjust the load, how to open and close doors, how to navigate walking, etc., etc. The body is making hundreds of little movements and adjustments each moment, even seemingly planning its next move, without thought telling it what to do.

However, please don’t take my word for it. Look for yourself and notice how thought is not required in order to do most (if not all) of the things the body does. I would also invite you to see if you can find any tasks that the body does during a day that do require thought. If you find one, please let me know. For now, let’s presume that the body does what it does without the need to think about it so we can continue our investigation.

Before we proceed, it’s important to note that there are ways in which thoughts can influence the body. In the example of driving, the mind might say, “I need to get to point B.” And it might even plan out how it's going to get there. But beyond that, it's up to the body to do what it does. In addition to the mind’s intentional attempts to get the body to do something (i.e. drive to point B), the mind unintentionally influences the body in other ways. For example, when stressful thoughts are present, the body often has a physiological response. Tightness or tension in the body often arise when the mind is preoccupied with a stressful story. Our thinking affects the body, but it is not doing the body. It seems more accurate to say that the mind is merely making suggestions to the body that the body either follows or doesn’t. If the body follows the suggestions, the mind feels in control. If the body doesn’t follow the suggestions, the mind may analyze the situation in order to figure out what’s going on. It’s not hard to find examples of how the mind’s attempts to get the body to do something (i.e. exercise, work, taxes, chores, etc.) are often ignored until the body is ready to do them. Despite what the mind says, we don’t know what the body is going to do until it does it. The mind is more like the body’s narrator. As the body does what it does, the mind creates a story around how things are being done. This was actually demonstrated in a scientific experiment that might interest you (see Neuroscience and Free Will - Spoiler alert… The body knows what it’s going to do about six seconds before the mind does.

Assuming the mind can come to terms with the fact that thought is not required for the body to fulfill its functions, it becomes clear that the body has its own innate intelligence. It does what it does beautifully, with an intuition of what needs to be done. It’s like a highly sophisticated robot that is programmed to survive, seek pleasure and avoid pain. Once this is realized, the mind can finally relax and take a step back from its attempts to control, analyze, second guess, judge, blame, etc.. However, this might require some ongoing experimentation before the mind is convinced enough to fully trust the body to do what it needs to do when it needs to do it. I will say from my experience it is definitely worth investigating.

So, if the body does what it does without the mind’s control, the question arises, “Are you controlling the mind?” Have you ever looked to see where thoughts come from? Do you ever have any clue as to what thought is going to happen next? Are you planning the next thought before it arrives? Or does it just arise out of nowhere? When a thought arises, ask yourself, “Did I choose this thought, or did it just arise?” A skeptical mind (like mine) might think of a way to out smart the system by thinking, “In ten seconds I will think the word, Hello.” Then, count to ten and think the word, Hello. The mind could then say, “See, I can choose my own thoughts.” But where did the thought, “In ten seconds I will…” come from? Was that a premeditated thought, or did it spontaneously arise? If you look you will find that thoughts arise organically and without premeditation. You have no more control over them than you do the body. Thoughts just happen or they don't. Their content and timing are not up to you. Again, look with your own direct experience.

Once you are satisfied that the neither the mind, nor the body, are being controlled by “you”, it’s time to go a little deeper to see what is at the root of all doing. Here are some good questions to sit with. “If the mind and body are just happening on their own, where do “I” fit in?” “Do “I” have any control over anything?” “What is it that's making all of this happen?” “Is there anything here in the body-mind organism that is making anything happen?” “If so, then what is making that work?” “Where does the impulse to do anything arise?” “Where do thoughts arise?” “If I am not the body nor the mind, what exactly am I?” “Is there an “I” at all?” “If so, and it's not the body and it's not the mind, where is it located?” “Does it have a location?”

It's important here not just to read these questions but to look to where they point. The act of looking is the answer. What you will eventually discover [spoiler alert], if you have the desire to know what’s really going on here, is that what you truly are is not the body nor the mind. The mind and body are being done by what you truly are, but that’s not something “you” have any control over, because there is no “you” as a separate, finite self. This animating life force energy (aka Consciousness, Awareness, Presence, Life, God, Nature, Love, etc.) is pulling all the strings and the body-mind is like a puppet. It’s all being done, like a well-choreographed play of divine energy. This realization puts an end to all second guessing and questioning of what has already happened or will ever happen, because it’s clear that everything is being done by a higher intelligence. There’s no more need to judge or blame. When the “you” realizes it’s not the character in the play, the character becomes a portal for joy and lightness that emanates from the same Source that’s animating the Universe.

It’s also important to remember that if there is no “doer” here (where you thought yourself to be), then there is no “doer” there (where you thought others to be). It’s all out of our hands. People cannot help but do what they do, because we are all being done. This realization leads to forgiveness as well as deep compassion and love. There are no separate individuals. Just [insert your word of choice] wearing an infinite number of disguises. Just sit with that for a bit. Or don’t. It’s not up to you whether you do or not, so why not just wait and see what happens next :)

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