In his lectures on the essential laws of fearless living, Guy Finley tells the story of a woman who inherits an antique box from her grandmother. “She puts the cherished keepsake on her makeup bureau, next to her own collection mostly of costume jewellery, but never pays it much mind,” he goes on.
“And there it sits. But what she doesn’t know is that her grandmother hid a priceless diamond ring within the box, in a secret compartment. It’s hers to have, if only she knew where to look for it. But will she?” In many ways that story of the woman’s unsolicited gift is not unlike our own saga, Finley says. For ’hidden’ within each of us, and yet in plain sight, is a power of unmatched brilliance.
Paradoxically, some of us take it for granted; while others may disparage it even when they know of its existence or its limitless potential. The self-help guru defines this great inner gift lurking within simply as “our ability to attend to what we will. Coupled with awareness, attention empowers us to unite ourselves with whatever we wish to know and be.” Needless to add, this power can be used for ends good or bad. “When we use it for practical work, or for honest self-observation, we use it to our own benefit,” says the master who runs the Life Learning Foundation in Merlin, Oregon. “However, when the power operates on its own, within us, without our awareness of what it’s interacting with, it can cause many problems. Here is where the unattended mind becomes the breeding ground of self-defeat.” Another take on Finley’s message is given by the stoic philosopher Epictetus: it is not life events that disturb people but rather their (irrational) judgements about these events.
The same point is summarised in a Sanskrit verse, which says that nothing by itself is bad or good but (our) thinking makes it so: Manah eva manushyana karana bandha mokshayo (mind alone is responsible for human bondage as well as freedom). So how does one condition one’s mind to lead one from the darkness of tamas to the brightness of jyoti or effulgent light? By being mindful: “If by being inattentive to our own interiority, we see how much of our own unhappiness is self-created, then, we can learn to reclaim and redirect our attention,” Finley exhorts, “placing it within what is right and bright. But, there is only one way to realise this reversal: we must work to see how wrongly directed attention works against us.”
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