In stillness and silence, we sit and observe our thoughts without attachment. We do not cling to them or resist them. To cling to thoughts is to endorse them, to follow them and give them attention so that they and your awareness unite as a train. To resist thoughts is much the same, to “talk back” against them and to become wholly an internal dialogue. Without clinging or resistance, the frequency of thoughts decreases as we “tune in” to the unveiling.
Yet, even as we progress, there is a more subtle clinging and resistance that we must be aware of. A contemptible, sinful thought arises and we inwardly turn away. A lovely, compassionate thought arises and we happily watch it flutter away like a butterfly. By not giving our whole attention to them, the thoughts soon subside back into the morass of mind. Yet still we might sit in duality, imagining that these passengers are thoughts of darkness and thoughts of light.
We may begin to go further. Having made our judgments, we might then ascribe the thoughts of darkness to some external, dark force. We might start to ascribe our thoughts of light to an external, positive entity. For, having split ourselves in two with worldly discernment, the crack in the world soon becomes visible. Whether such outward beings exist and infuse our minds with thoughts is not the point – even if they do, we still uncenter and blind ourselves by our judgments.
To defuse the duality we inject into the world we perceive, we must refuse all false idols. At first, when we sit in stillness and silence, we learn to disbelieve all the thoughts that appear. But that disbelief is not whole until we also learn to disbelieve the subtle judgments that occur. These too are thoughts, though they do not come in language. Judgments, just as the more overt language-thoughts, arise from conditioning. All that we have resisted or clung to in our lives has formed our swamps of mind. It is from those waters that both the language-thoughts and the subtle judgments arise.
We cannot know whether a thought is of darkness or of light. We can know if it fits into the religious, philosophical, and moral guidelines we desire for ourselves. But that is only knowing whether one thought fits into other thoughts we have tried to make into mental bedrock, and leads only deeper into confusion and illusion. Perhaps the thoughts of darkness or light are merely perception of the another’s consciousness? Perhaps the thoughts of darkness are the disturbing sounds of mental jackhammers finally bringing down some mental edifice that has kept us bound? Are the thoughts of light only self-serving boosts to ego? Who can say whether the digestion of all that we have seen and heard is good or bad – is not the full digestion of all that is eaten preferable to the eternal lingering of half-eaten mental food?
To finally let go of the very idea of thoughts of darkness versus thoughts of light is to release yourself from the task of arduous mental construction and reconciliation. The play of shadows and lights in our minds, sometimes illustrated as visions in meditation and prayer, are dangerous distractions if we give them any belief. Whether we find ourselves in dark valleys or high mountaintops, in mind or heart or life, our belief and our attention must be given only to the stillness and silence. They are the ground of consciousness, they are the manifestations of divine love, they are the vehicles of peace, bliss, and compassion. By returning our attention to stillness and silence again and again, we reach out and hold the Beloved’s hand.
When our minds churn with thoughts of darkness and thoughts of light, the world is darkened in our eyes. But when our seas of mind are calm, the brilliant illumination is perfectly reflected.