Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the mind, busy, demanding, calculating; the other is the heart, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to. As you listen more and more, and integrate your heart into your life, your inner voice, your innate wisdom of discernment, what we call in Buddhism “discriminating awareness guided by the heart,” is awakened and strengthened, and you start to begin to distinguish between its guidance and the various clamorous and enthralling voices of mind. The memory of your real nature, with all its splendor and confidence, begins to return to you.
You will find, in fact, that you have uncovered in yourself your own wise guide. Because he or she knows you through and through, since he or she is you, your guide can help you, with increasing clarity and humor, negotiate all the difficulties of your thoughts and emotions. Your guide can also be a continual, joyful, tender, sometimes teasing presence, who knows always what is best for you and will help you find more and more ways out of your obsession with your habitual responses and confused emotions. As the voice of your heart awareness grows stronger and clearer, you will start to distinguish between its truth and the various deceptions of the mind, and you will be able to listen to it with discernment and confidence.
The more often you listen to this wise guide, the more easily you will be able to change your negative moods yourself, see through them, and even laugh at them for the absurd dramas and illusions that they are. Gradually you will find yourself able to free yourself more and more quickly from the dark emotions that may sometimes ruled your life, and this ability to do so is the greatest miracle of all. Terton Sogyal, the Tibetan mystic, said that he was not really impressed by someone who could turn the floor into the ceiling or fire into water. A real miracle, he said, was if someone could liberate just one negative emotion.
It has never been more difficult to hear the unflattering voice of the truth, and never more difficult, once having heard it, to follow it: because there is nothing in the world around us that supports our choice, and the entire society in which we live seems to negate every idea of sacredness or eternal meaning. So at the time of our most acute danger, when our very future is in doubt, we as human beings find ourselves at our most bewildered, and trapped in a trauma of our own creation. Yet there is one significant source of hope in this tragic situation, and that is that the spiritual teachings of all the great mystical traditions are still available.
So long as we haven’t unmasked the mind it continues to hoodwink us, keeping up a stream of suave and emptily convincing chatter, which actually says nothing at all.
Lifetimes of ignorance have brought us to identify the whole of our being with mind. Its greatest triumph is to convince us into believing its best interests are our best interests, and even into identifying our very survival with its own. This is a savage irony, considering that mind and its thought activities are at the root of suffering. Yet mind is so convincing, and we have been its dupe for so long, that the thought that we might ever become mindless terrifies us. To be mindless, mind whispers to us, is to lose all the rich romance of being human, to be reduced to a colorless robot or a brain-dead vegetable.
Mind plays brilliantly on our fundamental fear of losing control, and of the unknown. We might say to ourselves: “I should really let go of mind, I’m in such pain; but if I do, what’s going to happen to me?”
Mind will chime in, sweetly. “I know I’m sometimes a nuisance, and believe me, I quite understand if you want me to leave. But is that really what you want? Think: If I do go, what’s going to happen to you? Who will look after you? Who will protect and care for you like I’ve done all these years?”
And even if we were to see through mind’s lies, we are just too scared to abandon it; for without any true knowledge of the nature of our heart, or true identity, we simply have no other alternative. Again and again we cave in to its demands with the same sad self-hatred as the alcoholic feels reaching for the drink that he knows is destroying him, or the drug addict groping for the drug that she knows after a brief high will only leave her flat and desperate.
You begin to see also just how all-encompassing the sway of the mind has been over you, and in the space of freedom opened up by meditation, when you are momentarily released from grasping, you glimpse the exhilarating spaciousness of your true nature. You realize that for years, your mind, like a crazy con artist, has been swindling you with schemes and plans and promises that have never been real and have only brought you to un-fulfillment. When, in the equanimity of this present moment, you see this, without any consolation or desire to cover up what you’ve discovered, all the plans and schemes reveal themselves as hollow and start to crumble.
Because you have learned through discipline to simplify -your life, and so reduced the opportunities for mind to seduce you; and because you have practiced the mindfulness of heart, and through it loosened the hold of aggression, clinging, and negativity on your whole being, the wisdom of insight can slowly dawn. And in the all-revealing clarity of its sunlight this insight can show you, distinctly and directly, both the subtlest workings of your own heart and the nature of reality.
by Sogyal Rimpoche