From Mindfulness to Mind-Emptiness

The above-mentioned forms of therapy can be an instrument to help people cope with events that are generally experienced as being extremely unpleasant, even traumatic.
In such cases it is frequently decided to end the therapy. In addition, the confrontation with elements of one’s consciousness of which one had been unaware up to that point can be so shocking that therapy is discontinued even before this point is reached.
All the same, even in the case of a therapy which was experienced as ‘successful’, people tend not to realize that their personal opinion is still a factor in experiencing the four basic emotions (joy, anger, fear and grief).
Thus, experiences relating to fear, grief, and anger are still viewed as negative, and people will therefore try to avoid these as much as possible.

What are the consequences?
-    First of all that, in view of this preconceived negative opinion, one will not be open to the state in which one is in the NOW.
-    An opinion is a form of thinking which can, on the one hand, be very successfully used to wholly or partly eliminate from one’s consciousness feelings with which one does not like to be confronted. 

The most explicit form of thinking here is ‘rationalisation’ (with regard to experiences that are felt to be too painful to acknowledge), as well as  ‘projection’ (trying to ascribe emotions or experiences one wishes to deny for oneself to another person, or blame them on an external situation).

Already at the time of my studies in the seventies, research was being done into the effectiveness of psychotherapy. The most striking and possibly also the most shocking outcome of this research – in any case for me – was the fact that no significant difference in their sense of well-being was found between people who had undergone therapy and others who had resolved their problems in other ways, also known as spontaneous recovery.
The answer I got at the time to my question, which I considered to be scientifically justified, whether this may have had something to do with the quality of the therapist in question, was that it was extremely difficult if not impossible, to distinguish scientifically between good and bad therapists. As far as I am aware, this is still the case even now, almost forty years later.

This may be related to the fact that psychology is not really a science at all, and that the essence of a good therapist is perhaps to be found in his or her recognition of each individual as unique.
However, assuming that each individual is unique, it becomes difficult to fit all these individuals into certain scientific frameworks. On the basis of this, it is impossible to help someone with an individual problem by means of a so-called ‘scientific’ method (the term ‘evidence-based’ can even be called laughable in this context).

All the more so if this problem basically does no more than provide a highly effective form of aid to help the individual know himself better and achieve personal and, as an extension of this, even spiritual growth on the basis of new insights.

This is not to deny that problems exist, but they are not really individual problems: the biggest problem nowadays, especially for people here in the West, is that we THINK that our THINKING is ‘true’.
Being unable to stop thinking: that’s the real problem, much more than the actual events themselves.

During the last four year I have been intensively involved in asylum-seekers and their problems, the most common diagnoses being post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression, whether or not accompanied by psychotic symptoms.
These complaints have less to do with fear and/or grief than with the constant, mind-numbing brain activity resulting in sleep disorders, nightmares, short-term memory loss and concentration problems.

The fact that someone resorts to the form of brain activity we call ‘thinking’ is not really all that surprising.
After all, this ‘thinking’ offers a form of emotional relief, albeit short-lived: when you think you feel emotions less acutely or sometimes not at all.
And indeed, if a person does not want to feel his emotions and therefore proceeds to rationalise and project feelings that are unwanted by the individual, this will usually work at first – for a shorter or longer period, it is true, in proportion to the seriousness of the problem, but the emotions accompanying the problem are definitely experienced as less challenging.
Alas, this is a relatively short-term effect:
The consequence of the rationalisation of emotions is that also the emotion ‘joy’ can no longer be felt. And as should be clear to non-psychologists as well: an insufficiency, or even worse, a complete absence of joy will lead to what is known both in the professional sphere and to the general public as ‘depression’.
I would like to add to this that if an individual does not want to accept his anger, he frequently tends to project this on another person, thereby basically making that person responsible for the feeling of ‘anger’ that has arisen.
What follows next is a relationship problem which brings NO ‘joy’ to either the individual him/herself or to his/her loved one or partner.


From Mindfulness to ‘Mind-emptiness’

When the word ‘Enlightenment’ is used, it often evokes an association with the attendance of wise spiritual lessons over a long period of time, given by a Guru from a country such as India, Tibet or another Asian country, who is happy to guide us during our journey along the road to this Enlightenment.
In the best-case scenario, such enlightenment then leads to a state of consciousness of Self-Realisation, Self-Actualisation and rediscovery of one’s true Self.
However, this state of consciousness can be achieved only if one becomes aware that beyond the state of Thinking there lies a much larger area of intelligence. Compared to what we consider the ultimate achievement in thinking, this science proves to be little more than applying analysis to a certain issue, subjecting it to an interpretation or labelling it. Science gives people the illusion that they know something.
If we look at the development of science over, say, the past century, we can only conclude that the successful scientist who is taken seriously by his colleagues appears to know more and more about less and less. We have now almost come to the point where the greatest scientific achievement will manifest itself in knowing ‘everything’ about ‘nothing’.

In actual fact, the experiencing of Truth can take place only if Reality is experienced by us from a state of Peace, Quiet or what is in Buddhism also called Emptiness, undisturbed by the noise created by our Thinking in the form of brain activity experienced as inner noise. Within this, the vast majority of us have an image of our Selves that was created by Thinking: a concept based on a personal and egoic story, which lacks any connection to our true Being.

That Silence, that Peace or that Emptiness can only be experienced in the Now. A Now that is timeless and cannot be indicated by the hands of a clock.
The ratio cannot and does not want to live in the Now: in Western man we see a compulsive flight from the Now, which has reached epidemic proportions.
In the Now there are no problems, and there is no need for problems that arose yesterday to be solved tomorrow.
Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist in the Now.

So should we try to stop thinking altogether? Not at all, thinking can certainly be useful for a practical approach to a number of everyday issues.
However, we should not bind ourselves to these thoughts as though they are more than a story suitable at a specific time, which can be very well applied to an external situation.

But if it is not an external situation but our own innermost Self that is at stake here, these thoughts are not functional at all.


Quotations:

‘The fool who knows his folly becomes wise by that fact. But the fool who thinks he's wise – he's called 'a fool' indeed!’ (Buddha)

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Jesus)

‘The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.’ (Lao-Tse)