Aha Moments of the Mind: Extend the Impasse

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.” ― Rumi

Don't Mind

You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to rest in peace. Just tell your brain to shut up for a moment and in that moment feel what peace is. Aha moments are little droplets of gold, gold that is mined in the place of no mind. People report an intuitively felt “impasse”, a tiny time gap just before the “Aha” realization. “The brain just stalls prior to the “Aha!” is how one client describes this moment of impasse. It’s like a nanosecond when the analytical mind is suspended and in this interruption, latent intelligences are engaged. A light is switched on in our right brain and consciousness floods the darkest corners of our unconscious bodymind. In this enlightened impasse pour forth the fruits of higher, richer and more dependable ways of knowing.

To reach this impasse we must give up the need, the habitual drive to know things. Giving up knowing is not encouraged in our thinking-obsessed society. It has brainwashed us into being constantly in our heads calculating, planning, scheming and worrying. We are never taught or encouraged to be in a still mind, a mind that has surrendered to not knowing. Yet some of the most exciting Aha awakenings germinate in an impasse of glorious ignorance, or we could say innocence, the innocence of “beginner’s mind”. Paradoxically, it is when our individual ego mind admits its ignorance, that we transcend the sense of a personal mind to tap into a transpersonal field of consciousness, an open intelligence, a post-rational way of knowing.

Not knowing means learning to sit and just be. We have lost sight of the fact that we are human beings and it’s much easier to just be than to tie ourselves in knots through thinking, analyzing, striving and stressing. Our culture is so focused on doing, on thinking, on achieving, that we no longer create the space to just “be”. Being, with no thinking, equals simple peace of mind. And when everyday thinking is transcended, creativity can shine through:

‘I learned to sit and allow myself to ‘not know’ the outcome.  Giving myself permission to simply be and not achieve anything was actually my real AHA. I simply hadn’t given myself the space to create. (M. O’R., client).

We are so trained like animals to figure things out, get things ‘right’ that we have to “give ourselves permission” to admit to not knowing:

“I learned to sit in silence while allowing myself to not know the outcome. If I just “sit” with questions, often resolutions will appear”. (H.G., client)

Suspending the mind, giving up the pressure to ‘know’ involves a certain degree of trust:

“I went to a place of NOT knowing and trusted”. (L. A., client)

Aha moments of a non-cognitive nature show up in many reports:

 “No processing of information is involved. In the moment of the Aha itself, thoughts seem to cease.” (T.H., client)

When we slow down the stream of thought, we can surrender our stories and loosen the chains of our ego:

“More and more do I feel that I am no longer dominated by my ego but from a centre deep within, an intuitive, wise place” (S.H., client)

The next client’s “Aha” moment took him beyond his ego, his “little self” to another level of identity:

“When the aha came, it came from a place beyond my ego, my ‘little self’ and felt like it came from my core, my essence, another order of reality completely”. (S.W., client).

Aha moments that arise in subtle levels of consciousness beyond the rational mind are comparable to those experienced in meditation: 

“I’ve only had moments like this in meditation, and after meditating for years.

I felt my energy change and slow when she said this, felt my mind pause before it revved up again. Somewhere in the slowness was an acknowledgement of how often I do this, and the awareness of its link to an old pattern I have of justifying everything before it even happens”. (H.M., client)

‘Somewhere in the slowness’ H.M. experienced her insight. The slowness is a spontaneous impasse that can access unconscious material. Resting in the impasse is a way of unlearning, of unstitching experience so that perceptions and conceptions can all be recognized and renounced. Letting go means handing over the burden of certainty to a higher intelligence – our own inner wisdom or intuition. This is where we experience true knowing because it is gained from first hand experience. It is beyond the ‘knowledge’ of mental concepts with which we have been so thoroughly conditioned:

“My attitude towards things has changed. I KNOW things. I have a certainty. I had to let go of previous perceptions and concepts”. (S.B., client)

K. H. now knows how to activate her intuition and has learned to trust it:

“I am more calm when it comes to solving problems. I do not “push” for solutions, I know they will come. This does not mean I am passive. I understand now what parts of me to activate in order to allow the solution to appear”. (K.H., client).

Practices 

1. Knowledge is not very important. Take a pause from knowledge and go into  ‘don’t know’ mind. Even if it’s only for a few seconds at first, drop everything you think you know about yourself and about the world. 

2. Deliberately elongate the impasse. Suspend the thought, delay it, grant it no power, send it packing, keep it dangling. Rest in a space of no mind.

3. Meditate for longer periods, allowing everything to be as it is, with no grasping of any concepts that arise in the mind.

4. Stay in the present moment, totally engaging with only that. ACIM calls it the Holy Instant. Create space for holy instants in your day.

All of these practices will produce Aha moments. The longer the impasse, the more penetrating and transformational the insights are likely to be.

 

The Collective Ego

The Whole World is a Story

Ours is a world of endless stories, always has been. We absorb fables and legends as well as current stories just as those who went before us did. The worldviews of our parents and our society are force-fed us from birth. We never question the fact that had we been born in a different place or time we would be hearing very different stories. Instead we start to identify with the cultural stories we are told and ape them unthinkingly, as if they were true. We may grow up to favour the fairy-tales of our particular religion or the stories spun by our chosen political party but buy into the stories, and regurgitate them, we do.  

Academia presents stories in the form of theories of everything. Competition and not co-operation reigns not only between academic schools but within them. Each school of thought views the self or the world from its own narrow perspective. Any truth it is able to bring is always relative, i.e. dependent on its context in time and space. This means that even if theoretical stories can bring forward some knowledge, that knowledge will always be inherently partial. Academia is much more about being right than being real, more about prestige than truth.

As individuals, we lack self-knowledge because we are too busy listening to the outside world’s stories. We drink in what everyone else says about us, shaping our mind and our world, culminating in a story about ourselves, our ego. The ego dictates all of our stories about the material world and the body mind and soul of the human being that resides in it. Failure to transcend the ego blocks our unfolding, preventing us from reaching the highest levels of our potential. Instead it binds us to the trance-like society in which we live and where we echo the stories we’ve been spun.

Some stories go way beyond the ego-body-mind to reveal the dimensions of you that are not physical, or material, but subtle, reflecting the subtle energy bodies of your soul and spirit. Spiritual stories blow orthodox thinking clean out of the water, at least the traditional Western thinking to which we are enslaved. Spiritual stories implore you to look inside yourself for any true knowledge. Unlike relative knowledge, true knowledge is changeless and eternal. The ultimate nature of reality cannot be found outside of the self in any worldly thing. We will never know this until we bust through the story of the ego that keeps us small. Transcend the ego and you begin to contact the subtle realms that begin to free you from its bondage.

Material Stories

At the level of matter, the brightest brains of the scientific world shed only the dimmest light on the biggest questions: ‘why are we here’ and ‘what is the nature of the universe’. According to our current story roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy and 27% dark matter. The rest - everything on earth, all normal matter, everything ever observed with all of our instruments - adds up to squat, less than 5% of the universe. This is why the wisest story of all admits that we know very little about this earthly plane and our purpose in it.

Forget the universal, even on a physical level we tell ourselves a story of what we look like that bears little resemblance to fact. To take one example, picture this experiment. Before you is a magic, floor-length mirror. The mirror has an adjustable switch on the side. You must regard yourself in the mirror while turning the switch, stopping when you think the mirror reflects your true size. The results of the experiment show that fat people adjust the mirror to reflect a much slimmer body shape and thin people see themselves as much larger. “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” (And would some Power give us the gift To see ourselves as others see us!) in the words of the immortal Rabbie Burns. So even on a material level we are in la-la land when it comes to our perceptions of physical reality. 

Body Stories

Stories about the emotional body are conflicting because the truth is we are cut off from our bodies. The body inconveniently dangles beneath the omnipotent brain, occasionally giving us jip. The Western story is a story of the mind not bodymind or heartmind as it is in Eastern traditions. I blame Descartes – I think therefore I am. His famous saying would be more accurate if we added one word at the end of it: I think therefore I am…screwed. Through over-thinking our culture has decapitated us from our bodies. We’re the opposite of the headless chicken, we’re nothing but a head. The activity of going to the gym to get buff or even fit does nothing to forge a bodymind connection. You may get ripped but you’ll remain numb from the neck down, totally out of touch with your emotions. We’ve become so habituated to burying our feelings that we can’t even name our emotions.  Experiments show that groups of people have to be given lists of emotions so they can identify their own from the categories presented. That’s how well we know what’s going on inside us. The story of the body only becomes salient when there’s something wrong with it.

Mind Stories

On a mental level we’re just that. Mental. When asked who you are, you are likely to give a history – what you were named, where you come from, what you’ve done etc. But your history is just another story – a fable that your ego has fashioned into an identity. And you will defend this identity to the hilt. The ego says “attack this story I’m telling you and you attack me”. This is because you think you are nothing but the thoughts and stories that run your life. Ego is a legitimate part of the self but it’s a very small and fragmented part. Ultimately ego is just a fearful thought but it seems very real when it is casting us adrift in a sea of doubts and worries.

The ego specializes in manipulating our thoughts to keep us stuck in our fearful heads. Which is exactly where the powers that be want us to stay. Just look at the culture that bombards us daily with horror stories of inhumanity and suffering. Media images and stories stoke the ego’s flames, sparking negativity in every direction. When not judging others, the ego loves telling us the same old stories about who we are, why we’re not good enough and why the world is a scary place.

 

The ego represents a stage of development that is supposed to be transcended by a certain age. The tragedy of this mind-obsessed society is that too many people remain stuck at the egocentric level of consciousness. And regardless of whatever outward appearances may suggest, people who are stuck in their ego will never find lasting happiness. They will eventually find only a big whole inside where their soul should be. The grip of ego blinds you to who you authentically are in your soul. If you continue to say yes to the ego you will forever forsake the inner knowledge that would guide your life purpose. You will have capitulated to the trance society that has brainwashed you. Despite this we are encouraged to pour all our energies into the ego, binding us to false stories of who we are. So when you are next asked who you are and you trot out your history, at least realize that it’s just another story dreamed up by your ego.

Beyond the material, physical and mental stories lie the stories of soul and spirit dimensions of reality.

Spiritual Stories

Spiritual stories emphasize who you are beyond any story that the mind can possibly concoct. They tell of states of consciousness that transcend the ego-body-mind. Spiritual stories are not the infantilizing stories of orthodox religions but derive from experiences in the highest levels of consciousness that see beyond the material universe.  

You were raised largely without the spiritual succor to achieve these levels. Your stories are confined to one dimension of ‘reality’. Your historical and ongoing indoctrination keeps you bound to the material world; cut off not just from body and soul but from your higher self, your true Self. Only through the eyes of your real Self can you see past the vast illusion of the ego to the place where true peace and love reside. 

Spiritual stories speak of two essential emotions – fear and love. Fear comes from ego-identification. The ego can never guide you out of fear because it is made of the stuff, even though it will trick you into thinking otherwise. It will lull you into believing you have knowledge and understanding. Your so-called understanding is but stale beliefs handed down by others that you’ve swallowed whole. Understanding without experience is no understanding at all. You have to intimately know something in order to get it. It has to be personal and experiential. What society considers knowledge and true knowing are two different things. Knowing comes from a place beyond the ego and reverberates throughout the body, connecting to an intuition or whatever we want to call such a trans-egoic level of intelligence.

Meditation and contemplation free you from all stories to rest in a place of stillness, of silence that reveals your true identity. Nothing except an inward direction of attention in stillness can illuminate this knowing, this ultimate knowledge that relies on no external authority. Love resides in this level of consciousness. To know love is to transcend fear. This is truth.

Some spiritual stories admit of material and spiritual planes of existence. Others deny the material world entirely, claiming that you are not experiencing anything at all because the world you see is a total illusion, a fabrication of the ego. The all-powerful ego has drawn a thick veil between who you really are and the small, false self that you perceive yourself to be. Wouldn’t this be the biggest, most delusional story of all, the invention of a world that is not there?