Knowing in the Nowsam
By Gina Lake
Just sit still a moment and experience what is. What do you experience? a thought? a sensation? an image? a feeling? a desire? tension? relaxation? contraction? expansion? awareness? presence? silence? acceptance? beauty? love? joy? All of this and more can be happening in the now. It turns out the now is packed! If we don’t follow our thoughts, feelings, or desires but just stay present to them arising and falling away, we will be able to experience everything else that is happening in the now.
All of this experience packed into the now is life living itself. Life is perfectly capable of carrying on—and it does—without so much thinking going on. Of course, some thinking is necessary to function, but most is extraneous. When we live in the now, life is simpler. The mind complicates life by creating problems that do not exist and then trying to figure out how to solve them. It offers everything it has learned from experience or read or heard from others that might be relevant. It is like a computer with lots of information, most of which is not applicable to this moment.
If we are very present to each moment, what is needed will be apparent. All this information offered by the mind is not necessary because the now already contains what we need to know—for now. This knowing keeps changing because the now keeps changing, so how could the mind possibly keep up with this? The mind’s knowing is stagnant and hit or miss at best, although at times it does coincide with this moment-to-moment knowing.
We don’t seem to trust that life is fine without the mind’s intervention. We really believe that it has something valuable to contribute beyond functional thought because it is very convincing. But it doesn’t. Outside of using it for functional purposes, it can be set aside, which is what occurs once the Self (the Divine) begins to live more fully through us: The mind is taken up when needed and set aside when not. This new relationship to the mind doesn’t happen overnight, however. We usually need repeated experiences of life happening just fine without listening to the mind before we begin to trust this way of being.
More often than not the mind has failed us. But instead of giving up on it, we keep going to it for answers. They aren’t there! They have never been there, not to anything but the most basic practical questions. We are so sure we can come up with the answer to anything if we think about it long enough, but the mind is not equipped to tell us how to live life. The only good answers for that come from the knowing that arises in the moment.
Think of all the times you have struggled to figure out what to do about something. This can go on for days, even weeks or months, before you realize what to do. Where did that realization come from? Did it come from all the thinking you did? Usually it appears out of nowhere when we are not even thinking about the issue. The experience of knowing in the now is instantaneous, sudden, sometimes surprising, and unaccompanied by thought. Inspiration, creativity, inventiveness, understanding, insight, and new ideas pop into awareness out of nowhere. That is the Self at work.
This experience is very different from thinking. Thinking is an experience of being absorbed in an imaginary reality: We picture what will happen if we do this or that. We might have an inner dialogue or conversation with ourselves about it. Perhaps we make a mental list of possibilities. All this is taking place in our mind, and it is experienced as activity in our head.
Knowing in the now, on the other hand, happens when we are not thinking. That is the difference. The other kind of knowing is more like trying to know by thinking about something. These two kinds of knowing feel very different energetically and experientially. Once we are aware of the difference, they are not difficult to distinguish.
Copyright © 2005 Gina Lake
Excerpted from Gina Lake’s book, Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening. (Published by iUniverse; July 2005; $13.95 U.S.; ISBN: 0-595-34833-5)
Gina Lake has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth. In addition, she has authored several books on spirituality, including: Pathways to Self Discovery and Symbols of the Soul. She also compiled and edited Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self, based on the teachings of her husband. Together, they offer satsang (inquiry into the nature of being) and spiritual retreats.