My mother’s mother was a wise one. She understood the dynamics of the thinking machine. She was aware that her thoughts were not her or hers, that they arrived uninvited and that not all deserved to be made welcome as guests. Talking about such unfamiliar notions in the early 20th century, a farmer’s wife on a high country New Zealand sheep station a hundred miles from anywhere brought sideways glances and cast her as an outsider. (What’s new, huh?)
She liked to say, “Stand porter at the door of thought.” Perhaps she’d read that somewhere, or even made it up herself, whatever – it was etched in pokerwork on my fresh young hard-drive.
My mother was a chip off the old block, philosophically speaking. Her favorite aphorism was, “What gets your attention gets you.” Come in after school with a bellyfull of moans about how one had been bullied or unfairly punished or cheated on, and that’s what you’d hear. Hmmm. She should’ve been called Kali, my mum.
So, unlike most kids (I suspect) I grew up with a healthy skepticism re thoughts, thinking, and even the ‘thinker’. When I came across the teachings of J Krishnamurti there was huge relief, because all through the years of my early education I had met no one outside my family who was remotely concerned about the way one’s thinking unfolds one’s experience.
But it would take the passing of many moons before the nonduality teachings of the Advaita sages would reveal the baseline error in both Granny’s and Mum’s pithy sayings, and explain why, in spite of their apparent wisdom, they actually made little difference. One was still locked into the effects generated by thinking – both one’s own, and that of others.
The error lies in the unexamined assumption that there is a separate self who can take up the role of that “porter”, or who can be ‘got’ if attention fixates somewhere it shouldn’t.
This morning, while mulling over delicate family business, the aphorisms reshuffled and restated themselves in a fresh cluster of words.
Thoughts are arising here.
The ones that receive attention create me.
Granny and Mum would know exactly what I mean. They’d be chuckling away like two crazy crones. Good company for this one eh?