When we are acting we are often dreaming. Let us look at some very simple act like sweeping up the leaves or something like that. Let’s take scrubbing the floor as an example. Now what happens? We’re asked to examine what happens when I scrub the floor. What is actually happening? I don’t have to listen, there doesn’t have to be much actual thought, but I’ve got this stay in this room to scrub. I start there. While I’m scrubbing there I’m thinking “God – a whole room!” Then I get so far and I think, “Oh – it’s about a twentieth. Phew. Well done! Just a bit more”. In other words, while I’m acting, I’m calculating. Along with the action, I’m dreaming. I’m doing the action, but I’m dreaming. “I’ll just start at this. Oh, I’m halfway through; but I’m getting blasted tired.” All the time it’s going on; then, “Why am I doing this?” Well, I’m doing it because of fear. If I’m in the army, I’ve been told, “Clean that floor. Scrub that floor”, and if you don’t, you know what to expect. Fear was the motive why I acted; fear while I’m acting that I’m not making a proper job of it; and fear at the end, “I wonder what they’re going to say, whether they’re going to pass it.” Or hope. “I’m going to get quite a bit … They can’t get people to scrub floors round here, so I should get a better wage for this.” Or, “I hope people will notice what I’ve been doing, this unselfish service, you old, faithful dobbin, you know. Oh yes”. Hope while I’m doing the thing and I’m hoping. And then at times I just get absolutely fed up, and then it’s drudge. “Good God! Here we go again. Oh Lord”. Now all these things, I’m carrying along with me while I’m doing the act. They were all running through.
Those things are running through. Now it means that there’s a tremendous amount of tiring activity taking place besides the action itself. And one of the points of Yoga is to practice to stop the dreaming. Go beyond the quilt of samsara (the world manifestation) and simply to have this act in this great space – then it becomes shining. There’s a sort of radiance when he escapes the dreams and haze of the oppressive mind-cage. If I if I were to write something: “Well, pick the thing up. Now I have this here – no, I don’t want this one. I want that one. Now I’ve got this here, but the telephone’s ringing, so I’ve got to answer that.” We should be able to put the things down, and then just to pick up the one I need – not trying to hold everything all the time while I’m doing one thing. The ability to put things down. We know how to think; but we don’t know how to stop a thought.
Now, there’s a basic Yoga exercise to try to do this. Sit reasonably upright and then feel you’re on top on a hilltop and you’ve got in your lap a cloth full of little pebbles. You’re on a hilltop under the blue sky. You’ve got a cloth full of pebbles in your lap – little pebbles. Now a thought comes up. Pick up a pebble and with that pebble throw the thought away, so that the thought and the pebble go away down the hill, fall away down the hill. Then another thought comes up, a row I had yesterday. Pick it up; chuck it away. Then another thought comes up, ‘I think I might find a chance to…’ Throw it away. Another thought comes up, ‘How can they say that to me?’ Throw it away. There’s no need to make the gesture. Just sit as the thoughts come up, sitting on the hilltop under the blue sky and as the thoughts come up, mentally throw them away with a pebble. Now if you’d like to try for a minute or so.
This is a basic practice. In throwing away these quilts and dreams with which we surround our ordinary actions and life, what happens then is that the simplest thing begins to become radiant and it becomes energised. The movements of the scrubbing brush, of the hand when writing, or of the mind when thinking, become simple and pure and they flow evenly. Even a very long and taxing intellectual job can become a flow, as though it’s carried along by itself and so with the long physical job. If it doesn’t have all these accretions and all these additions and dreams and frictions, it soon becomes a divine flow, it’s sometimes called. All these are words taken from other people’s experience and, as such, they are ‘counting money in somebody else’s pocket’. Now we have to earn the money for our own pocket by practising ourselves.
This is a basic practice that we’ve done. It’s about sitting under the blue sky, so that the thoughts reduce; and then to act and think without a tremendous multitude of whirling thoughts going on around the immediate one. It doesn’t mean not to plan, but it means to be able to plan and then put it aside and not think, “Oh, but then supposing that happened.” We don’t have earthquakes here, do we? But to some Japanese neurotics they start thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to go out. There might be an earthquake.” The doctor says, “Well, if you’re in, there’ll be an earthquake just the same, won’t there?” “Oh!” These things are not based on reason at all, but they can be paralysing. In a Japanese monastery if there’s an earthquake you have to sit still; the monks sit and stay there, until the earthquake stops. You get two or three minor ones before the big one. If it falls down it falls down. Well, it’s very unusual for a building to collapse like that. As a matter of fact you’re often safer inside. People run into the street and the roof tiles come right down on them and kill them. You’re often better off like the cats, staying in – they’re better off generally. But the point is to become free of the all the unnecessary thoughts. And one of the slogans is, ‘Give up the unnecessary thoughts’.
Well now do you have any question on this? It’s something for practise really but just the same.
First question: “May I ask about the practice? The practice seems to me to be layered. You get rid of the thoughts that are immediately immediately close to your consciousness, but you are aware that there are there’s another layer of thoughts going on below the surface. I mean it didn’t seem to me to be quite as simple as you described it. I seemed to be going through layers of thoughts getting more remote in my consciousness, but I was still aware of movement in the mind.”
TPL: Yes. These things take quite a long time. The depths of the mind are not changed by what we do on the surface. And we can indeed, as you say, calm the surface of the mind, but there can still be turmoil below. But by habitual practice the impressions of calm begin to descend too, and then they begin to calm down the lower depths of the mind. And because they’re based on truth of what we really are, they will always overcome in principle the turmoil which is based on what we’re not, on illusion. It’s a good point thank you.
The yogic practice is like gardening. If you want to change the direction of a young tree and you just push it, you’ll break it. You have to apply steady pressure, steady pressure and then the tree can be grow. On the other hand, if you’re so afraid of breaking it that you won’t apply any pressure at all, well then, of course, you won’t get the curve you want. So it has to be a steady pressure, not too violent, but steady and continuous. With steady and continuous practice for at least six weeks and the effect is there. It will be noticeable after three months and they say after three years a lot of other people will notice it too.
Second question: “Although what you described is a form of Yoga. This is essentially the same thing as mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, isn’t it?”
TPL: Well, it has a devotional element, which the mindfulness doesn’t have in Buddhism, no.
Second question (continued): “Can you say a little more about that?”
TPL: Well, in the Buddhists’ Buddhism they don’t like to postulate unknown entities, such as a Self. The Buddha had the doctrine of ‘no self’, as you perhaps know; or perhaps he had a doctrine of ‘no doctrine of the Self’; but he doesn’t like postulating and ultimately ‘no Self’ is one of the keys of Buddhism. In the in the Yoga, the Self is one of the key concepts. The Buddhists, probably Buddha himself, didn’t like using the word, Self, because people immediately stick at the individual personal self when the word is used; and that’s what he wanted to loosen and get rid of. But there is a marked (similarity) – well, the technique in many respects is identical; but in some of the basis of devotion to the Lord and so on, the stress is different.
Third question: “Trevor, does the effect of the pacifying of the surface of the mind carry on? Possibly that, eventually, the posture is of no more importance? I’m thinking of when one can’t go to sleep at night, for example, when the breathing practice just doesn’t help. Can you say if you think that would apply in the same way as you said before?”
TPL: “No. The best thing with inability to sleep is to say, “Alright I’m not going to sleep.” Then get up and put on (something comfortable) and get out something one’s always meant to study, or do, and be prepared to have some coffee or tea and think, “Right, I’m going to sit up and get on with it.” Have the bed there and think, “Well, if I’m tired I can lie down if I like; but I’m going to get on with this.” Quite often it’s better than thinking, “I must go to sleep.”
Fourth question: “I often scrub floors, and I never think about what you were saying, the drudgery or how lovely it will be when I’ve finished. Also I think I often hear music and think of poetry. Therefore I wouldn’t agree with you that it’s a good thing to get rid of the surroundings as you are suggesting.
TPL: Well, if you’re surroundings are favourable, you won’t want to get rid of them. No.
Fourth question (continued): “You’re saying it’s not necessary then?”
Fourth question (continued): “To get rid of the dream – it’s often very pleasant.”
TPL: It makes the action more efficient. If you’re doing an action that you’re familiar with and like and you’ve got the chance to have internal poetry and so on, that’s alright for you at the time. But the time’s going to come when it’s an action that one doesn’t like doing.
Fourth question (continued): “Well, that’s right. You don’t like doing it, but you’re thinking about the end product.”
TPL: Well then, that’s impairing the action. The action should become radiant in itself, if it’s cleared of these dreams. If it’s dependent on pleasant associations, or thinking of a good result at the end, or fear of a bad result at the other end, then it’s not so efficient and it’s not inspired, no. That’s their teaching. A Jesuit father told me that one of the final examinations you’re given is to scrub a big floor a stone floor. He told me he did it; he said, “I left it absolutely spotless.” And then the master of novices came in with a bucket of sludge, and threw it all over the floor and said, “Scrub that floor.” However, thank you for the point.
Fifth question: “I read that during the war they found that young women were much better at doing routine, boring jobs in the factory than men, because they were better at dreaming basically. Moving their minds away from the boredom of the job which tended to impair their efficiency. They were actually able to do the job better, because they weren’t bored, because their mind was active and they were able to dream. Interesting thought isn’t it?”
TPL: Well. The arrangements were made that they could talk to each other.