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The Web Of Illusion - Way Of The Peaceful Warrior

Take Home Message: The mind controls you and it can run wild. The idea is not how to fix inside, but how to rise above the ever changing mind and emotion.


This is an excerpt from Chapter Two of The Way of The Superior Warrior. It is perfect for anyone who finds themselves imprisoned in their way of thinking.


The March winds were calming. Colourful spring blossoms spread their fragrance through the air – eve into the shower room, where I washed the sweat and soreness from my body after an energy filled workout.


I dressed quickly and skipped down the rear steps of Harmon Gym to watch the sky over Edwards field turn orange with the sun’s final glow. The cool air refreshed me. Relaxed and at peace with the world, I ambled downtown to get my cheeseburger on the way to the U.C theatre. Tonight they are showing The Great Escape, about a daring escape of British and American prisoners of war.


When the film was over I jogged up University Avenue towards the campus, heading left to Shattuck, and arrived at the station soon after Socrates come on duty. It was a busy night, so I helped him until just after midnight. We went into the office and washed our hands, after which he surprised me by stating to fix a Chinese dinner – and begin a new phase of teaching.


It started when I told him about the movie.


“Sounds like an exciting film,” he said, unpacking the bag of fresh vegetables he had bought in, “and an appropriate one, too.”


“Oh? How’s that?”


“You, too, Dan, need to escape. You’re a prisoner of your own illusions – about yourself and about the world. To cut yourself free, you’re going to need more courage and strength than any hero.”


I felt so good that night I just couldn’t take Soc seriously at all. “I don’t feel like I

am in a prison. – except when you have me strapped in the chair.”


He began washing his vegetables. Over the sound of running water, he commented, “You don’t see your prison because its bars are invisible. Part of my task is to point out your predicament and I hope it is the most disillusioning experience of your life.”


“Well thanks a lot, friend.” I said, surprised at his ill wishes.


“I don’t think you understand.” He pointed a turnip to me, and then sliced it in the bowl. “Disillusion is the greatest gift I can give you. But, because of your fondness for illusion, you consider the term negative. You commiserate with a friend by saying, “oh, what a disillusioning experience that must have been,” when you ought to be celebrating with it. The word dis-illusion is literally a “freeing from illusion.” But you cling to your illusions.”


“Facts,” I challenge him.


“Facts,” he said, tossing aside the tofu he’d been dicing. “Dan, you are suffering: you do not fundamentally enjoy your life. Your entertainments, your playful affairs, and even your gymnastics are temporary ways of distracting you from your underlying sense of fear.”


“Wait a minute Soc.” I was irritated. “Are you saying that gymnastics and sex and movies are bad?”


“Of course not. But for you they’re your addictions, not enjoyments. You use them to distract you from your chaotic inner life – the parade of regrets, anxieties, and fantasies, you call your mind.”


“Wait, Socrates. Those aren’t facts.”


“Yes, they are, and they are entirely veritable, even though you don’t see it yet. In your habitual quest for achievement and entertainment, you avoid the fundamental source of your suffering.” He paused. “That was not something you really wanted to hear, was it?”


“Not particularly. And I don’t think it applies to me. You have anything a little more upbeat?” I said.


“Sure,” he said, picking up his vegetables and resuming his chopping. “The truth is that life is going wonderfully for you and the you’re not really suffering at all. You don’t need me and you’re already a warrior. How does that sound?”


“Better!” I laughed. But I knew it wasn’t true. “The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle; don’t you think?”


Without taking his eyes of the vegetables, Socrates said “you ‘in between is hell, from my perspective.”


Defensively I ask, “is it just me who’s a moron, or do you specialise in working with the spiritually handicapped?”


“You might say that,” He smiled, pouring sesame oil on a wok and setting it on the hot plate to warm. “But nearly all of humanity shares your predicament.”


“And what predicament is that?”


“I thought I had already explained that?” he said patiently. “If you don’t get what you want, you suffer. If you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold onto it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change, free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, no amount of pretending will alter that reality.


“Socrates, you can really be depressing, you know that? I don’t think I’m even hungry anymore.” “If life is nothing but suffering. Then why bother at all?”


“Life is not suffering, it is just you will suffer it rather than enjoy it, until you let go of your mind’s attachments and just go for the ride freely, no matter what happens.”


Socrates dropped the vegetables and tofu into the sizzling wok, stirring. A delicious aroma filled the office as he dove the crisp vegetables into plates and set them on his old desk, which serves as our dining table.


“I think I just got my appetite back.” I said.


Socrates laughed, then ate in silence, talking small morsels with his chopsticks. I gobbled the food in about thirty seconds; I guess I was really hungry. While Socrates finished his meal, I asked him, “So what are the positive uses of the mind?”


He looked up from his plate. “There aren’t any.” With that, he calmly returned to his meal.


“Aren’t any! Socrates, that’s really crazy. What about the creations of the mind? The book, libraries, arts? What about all the advances of our society that were generated by brilliant minds?”


“Socrates, stop making these irresponsible statements and explain yourself!”


He emerged from the bathroom, bearing aloft two shining plates. “I’d better redefine some terms for you. ‘Mind’ is one of those slippery terms like ‘Love. The proper definition depends on your state of consciousness. Look at it this way: You have a brain that directs the body, stores information, and plays with that information. We refer to the brain’s abstract processes as ‘the intellect.’ Nowhere have I mentioned mind. The brain and the mind are not the same. The brain is real. The mind isn’t.”


“‘Mind’ is an illusory reflection of cerebral fidgeting. It comprises all the random, uncontrolled thoughts that bubble into awareness from the subconscious. Consciousness is not mind; awareness is not mind. Mind is an obstruction, an aggravation. It is a kind of evolutionary mistake in the human being, a primal weakness in the human experiment. I have no use for the mind.”


I sat in silence, breathing slowly. I didn’t exactly know what to say. Soon enough, though, the words came. “I am not sure what you’re talking about, but you sound really sincere.”


He just smiled.


“Soc,” I continued, “do I cut off my head and get rid of my mind?”


Smiling, he said, “that’s one cure, but it has undesirable side effects. The brain can be a tool. It can recall phone numbers, solve maths problems, or create poetry. In this way, it works for the rest of the body, like a tractor. But when you can’t stop thinking of that maths problem or phone number, or when troubling thoughts and memories arise without your intent, it is not your brain working, but your mind wandering. Then the mind controls you. Then the tractor has run wild.”


“I get it.”


“To really get it, you must observe yourself and see what I mean. You have an angry thought bubble up and you become angry. It is the same with all your emotions. They’re your knee jerk responses to thoughts you can’t control. Your thoughts are like wild monkeys stung by a scorpion.”


“Socrates, I think.”


“You think too much.”


“I was just going to tell you that I’m really willing to change. That’s one thing about me, I’ve always been open to change.”


“That,” Socrates says, “is one of your biggest illusions. You’ve been willing to change clothes, hairstyles, women, apartments, and jobs. You are all too willing to change anything except yourself, but change you will. Either I help you open your eyes or time will and time is not always gentle,” he said ominously. “Take your choice. But first realise that you’re in prison – then we can plot your escape.”


Notes On Chapter


Losing the illusion makes you wiser than finding the truth – Ludwig Borne


Your mission is to be able to see your darkness and embrace it like your light. You encompass the shadow as you bathe in your shine. Without these two qualities in balance, we will evolve eyeless in the darkness, or blinded by the light.


Just as we have to feel it to heal it, we have to see it to free it.


If you don’t get what you want, you suffer. If you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold onto it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change, free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, no amount of pretending will alter that reality.


“Socrates, you can really be depressing, you know that? I don’t think even I’m hungry anymore.” If life is nothing but suffering. Then why bother at all?”


“Life is not suffering, it is just you will suffer it rather than enjoy it, until you let go of your mind’s attachments and just go for the ride freely, no matter what happens.”


George Gurdjieff, an American born mystic, once said “Man will give up any pleasure, but he what will not relinquish is suffering. He shared the fundamental fear that we cling to the familiar and wish to avoid change. When things are seemingly bad, we want to change it, at least some of the time, but even then, some of us have remained in painful situations because they were at least familiar. As the saying goes, “The devil you know is preferable than the devil you don’t know.”


The willingness to risk is part of the journey. Facing great fears and finding the willingness to let go of who we think we are.


As S.t Augustine wrote “Pray not for lighter burdens but for stronger shoulders.”


‘Mind’ is one of those slippery terms like ‘Love’. The proper definition depends on your state of consciousness. Look at it this way: You have a brain that directs the body, stores information, and plays with that information. We refer to the brain’s abstract processes as ‘the intellect.’ Nowhere have I mentioned mind. The brain and the mind are not the same. The brain is real. The mind isn’t.


Even if you disagree with his definition of the mind, everyone has tried to calm the thoughts, storms, and worries from the mind. Some of us have tried meditation, yoga, or other methods to each a deeper state of centeredness.


Therapists serve as cognitive chiropractors, helping us to make adjustments in our ways of viewing the world.


As I have come to realise, I have more control over what I do than what I think and feel, I understand Socrates was telling me – not to how to fix my insides, but how to rise above the ever changing mind and emotions. Now I focus on my actions and let the rest be.


With gratitude,

Tanya x


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