'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
It has been fourteen days.
Fourteen days ago there was an exercise put out there for those to follow who are seeking to get their world in order and who feel bogged down in a mire of 'whys - what ifs - whens' and other such questions. If you have undertaken it, you now have a page - or many pages - of questions. They may be entirely random and obscure but that is fine. At first, it may have felt a bit strange; artificial, even. That is also fine. The importance of any activity is to overcome the ego and participate unreservedly. We are often totally unaware of our own ego (even though we readily point to others!), or if we acknowledge, do so with an element of that very egoism, "this is how I am/think/act and that's that".
This exercise, as basic as it is, will have been as much of a challenge as the ego is dominant. Do not mistake this for meaning 'egotistical or brutish' or any of those other very negative things. We can be very positive and high-functioning people but still be firmly bound by the ego. In Vedanta when ego is referred to, it is in the same manner that it is understood in psychology; the "I" self, the awareness of individuality and the fight to keep that individuality. Majority folk spend a significant part of any day in 'brushing' that ego. Ego wants this or that or the other and poor old body and mind chase around attempting to satisfy it. Ego has two ways to go when it is dominant; it can indeed go the path of the egotistical and bombastic, pushing and pulling at others in an attempt to come out on top, or it becomes unstable and reactive, taking all the troubles of the world upon itself.
Okay, those are the two extremes; however, all the stages between these two sides are just variations on the theme. Sometimes, we pendulum between them as we struggle to protect our ego territory. In physical/ psychological terms, the healthiest ego is that which is balanced well between these two and knows how to redress any shift in that balance with no danger to the ego-self or the others with which it comes into contact.
In spiritual terms, the aim is to overcome the ego entirely and shift into the spirit-self, which can stand as strongly independent as any other self, but without the crests and troughs experienced by the ego-centric self.
The ego-self is a fragile beast and causes us great pain. Surely it deserves a medicine which will not merely patch it up, but renew it and support it and put it back in its rightful place. Mind and intellect are the channels through which ego manifests. Mind is the feeling element, intellect is the assessment tool. Mind is a poor thing, with tendency to be responsive only. The intellect is the grander sibling, having the ability to direct mind, provided it is not become lazy and dull. Mind can hoodwink intellect. Mind is the interface with body and the feedback from body may say 'tired - hungry - sleepy' and so on. Mind then makes arguments to intellect for responding to these triggers. If intellect is not fully on its game, it lets mind have its own way. If it does not question what is presented to it, all sorts of chaos ensues.
Do not let intellect give mind its slack!
This exercise, begun 14 days past, is to now go to the intellectual stage. Review. Whether or not you chose to make 'folders' of related questions, it ought to become clear that there are distinct 'patterns' in the thinking. By placing the questions onto paper, it is now possible to take a step back and view these thought threads with a more 'distant eye'. In this manner it is possible to 'gather one's thoughts' into a more cohesive and functional pattern. Intellect taking charge.
The first stage of this, after simply reading through them, is to notice the repeated questions. When 'asking' (writing) them, it may not have occurred that there was even a repetition. Look for them now. You are looking for those which have the same basis. For example; "...without wealth, how will I feed myself/family?" and then "...without wealth, how to maintain health?" Do you see how these are not actually about either food or health, but about wealth only? If you have categorised already, you may find that this appears in all of them… remember, do not start forming judgements or pigeon-holing yourself! This is not an exercise in pointing the internal finger. It is to aid a clarification of thought and address the best way to formulate questions in order to obtain greater Self-understanding and move along spiritually. The first 'gain' which may be noticed, if applying this tool well, is an emotional easement. The mind, for all its flutterings, is actually our child and it likes nothing better than to have 'the parent' intellect take charge.
Spend the next 14 days going over the questions which were raised. There may be only a few - there may be hundreds. When you spot the obvious replicates, write them all out separately on a fresh page. Go over again and find the not so obvious replicates. They are there, lurking. Be alert to them. If you have not previously categorised, do so now with something like a colour-coded marker, or numbering system. Spend no more than 30 minutes each day on this. Why? Firstly, because it is easy to become distracted with what's on the page - or have the mind jump and want to play - and the purpose of the exercise is dissipated. Secondly, it is to begin a daily discipline of subjective enquiry, but not to indulge. If one day is missed for any reason, do not then spend an hour the next day to make up. Stick to 30 minutes. Thirdly, there will be tendency to try and make sense of the patterns or to begin justifications and all other such distractive nonsense. Leave the questions on the page. You are being the Witness Self (sakshi) in this exercise; nothing more. An additional thing which may take place is 'fresh' questions arising. This time, armed with some increased awareness of the process, assess the question before it gets written down - if it truly is fresh, place it accordingly; if with further assessment it proves to be yet another replicate, place it on the relevant list.
You are doing this so very privately, but over time, using such techniques, the benefit will show externally. Do not rush at this. To create a lasting change takes time and effort. What's that? "Too much work... too hard…"……….. Who (what) says so??!!!