How much of what we see in our environment do we claim ownership of? How much of that owns us? We tend to take for granted, without thought, that anything we acquire by whatever means we hold is our property. This includes our mind and body. It also includes relationships; yes, we have relationships that imply a form of ownership.
Ownership then puts us in a position of being responsible for, caring and maintaining, perhaps feeding, protecting, and controlling what we “own.” From another point of view, we might say those things own us. Isn’t it so?
If you don’t believe this, try this example on for size. Haven’t you ever had a moment when you thought how wonderful it would be to get in a car and go with no particular destination in mind? Leave everything behind and go. If you haven’t had one of those moments, you either haven’t lived on this earth long enough or are a saint.
What that moment should tell us is that ownership works both ways. It is why people may reminisce about the early days when life was simpler. Why do we go on vacations, go to the zoo to see our relatives, or take a long walk in the woods? Isn’t it the escape, even temporarily, from our responsibility of ownership?
The next question one might ask is, wouldn’t I be happier if I divested myself of everything and everyone? Fortunately for most of us, the answer is – not really. But why not? If it feels so good temporarily, why not all the time? Simple. You may have forgotten the two things you failed to leave behind when you decided to escape all possessions—your body and mind. These two things you own are the real reason you want to escape. Isn’t that true?
For most of us, the answer is yes. There are, throughout history, those for whom this wasn’t true. Their purpose in letting go of possessions not necessary for survival was to seek a spiritual gain that was not physical. By not having the distraction of material things, they could focus all their attention on looking within; by means of fasting, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. These individuals were rare and admired in certain circles because they emerged as spiritual teachers or saints when they accomplished their mission. A few modern examples are Friar Richard Rohr, Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira, Sadhguru, Fr. Thomas Keating, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, and FR. Thomas Merton. An eclectic bunch, to be sure, a couple of secular individuals, three Catholic monks, a Sufi, and a Hindu. These are just a few of the many spiritual teachers in modern times.
So, this is interesting, but what has that got to do with me? Well, I am glad you asked. Within this article is a clue as to how you can have your cake and eat it, too. The wonderful thing about our mind is that we can control it.
Whether or not you are religious or spiritual, you can take a vacation from ownership whenever you have a bit of time to yourself. For most of our lives, we allow our mind to control us when we are not using it for our own purpose. The rest of the time, it is like a chattering monkey. In fact, some have referred to it as the monkey mind. The monkey mind is really what we want a vacation from. Doncha think? It would be nice if we could tell it to shut up, have it obey, and give us – wait for it, wait for it – peace of mind!
Believe it or not, you can do just that. Most of us were never taught how. The how is meditation. Don’t let that word scare you. It has been misdefined, misunderstood, taught incorrectly, and used to frighten young children. Some say you should sit cross-legged on a rock, hand out with fingers in the shape of an oh while chanting ommmmmmm. Well, you could do that, but you could also meditate while feeding your chickens, milking the cow, or dancing in the dark. There could be other definitions, but the one I like best is stilling your mind and being aware of the present moment. Myself, I find it easier, in the beginning, to “meditate” while hiking in nature or driving on country roads. Later, as I practiced it often, it began to come naturally at any given time. All of these “meditations” the monkey mind hates. It will do everything possible to get your attention. The key to handling a screaming monkey mind is to accept it for what it is, but not be drawn into it. It is that simple. Don’t try to get rid of, resist, or suppress it; that gives it more power. It will eventually go away on its own, at least for a while. Yes, it will keep coming back when you aren’t paying attention, but you now have what the monkey mind hates most in your toolbox, losing its hold on you.
Yes, owning no more than you need gives a sense of freedom, but if you must own and be responsible for many things, there can still be a joy if you live in the present moment, which keeps the monkey mind at bay—no monkey mind = no mental suffering.
Okay, I’ve got to leave you for now; my monkey mind is approaching, wanting attention.