Maybe it’s like this for many people. A day rattles by full of this and that, like an old freight train. And at the end of it, it parks itself at no final destination still carrying the cargo. Sleep is an untidy mish-mash of dreams. To wake in the middle of the night, even with someone sleeping beside you, is to sense loss and uncertainty. It may seem that that’s the way life has to go; that we have to be busy. However, it’s also the case that we choose to be. In order to jump over the gap that yawns open when the activity or the engagement stops, most people have an array of hobbies, gadgets or books. Even more tellingly, if these fillers aren’t available the mind fills with discordant thoughts and dissonant emotions. One of the worst ordinary things that happen for someone is to be left waiting somewhere without a friend, say at an airport, with nothing to do and no-one to talk to. Restlessness grabs hold; or loneliness, worries, and unresolved emotions.
So thank goodness for meditation, which offers a way to steady and clear the mind. Meditation also gets us to recognize a fundamental property of consciousness: that although that mind-stream may carry all kinds of creatures and a lot of rubbish, its ‘water’ is clear. To be more prosaic – we can watch, or witness the movements and content of the mind. There is an awareness of the flow of mental content, from the sublime to the ridiculous, heavens and hells; and also a detachment from being that flow. In meditation, when you recognize this normal property – awareness – it feels like an important realization. Sometimes it’s seen as the only valid and necessary realization. We can be ‘that which knows.’