The State of Insight

By Martin LeFevre 

After high winds snapped four posts and brought down the back fence last night, there was a break this morning in the “atmospheric river” that’s been deluging California with one heavy storm after another. The true meaning of carpe diem becomes abundantly clear when the next tempest is just a few hours away. 

I’ve had some excellent short meditations of 30-45 minutes on the patio during the nondescript wet and gray days, especially as dusk deepens and brings a feeling of fathomless mystery. But the din of a freeway about a mile away (the background noise of man) competes with even a steady rain. 

Listening to the vehicular thrum without choice or exclusion, the mind still falls silent but meditation, at least for me, cannot deeply ignite when the noise of man dominates the aural environment. 

A complete meditation, to my mind and heart, requires an hour in a quiet spot for sensory awareness to gather attention. Paradoxically, one has to allow time to end time and devote all one’s energy to passive watchfulness for effortless attention to quiet the mind of thought. 

At the parkland, the series of storms have transformed the knee-deep creek of summer into a raging river surging like an untamed animal and cresting with innumerable whitecaps. Incongruously, a dozen tiny sparrows feed at the top of a slender, leafless tree, its trunk underwater. They fly down one at a time to perch briefly near me. 

A steady stream of people, also seizing the day, goes by on bikes, foot, or electric skateboards on the narrow park road across the stream. I can only see them for a few seconds as they pass by between the bushes, but everyone seems glad to be out after days indoors. 

There is no goal in meditation—just the intent to ignite the movement of negation. Any memory of previous meditations precludes meditation in the present. 

The door to meditation opens when the observer, with its judgments and evaluations, memories and interpretations, ends in passive awareness quickening faster than the habit of separation and reaction. Then thought yields to effortless, all-inclusive attention, and spontaneously falls silent. 

The silent mind drops into the unknown when time as becoming completely ceases. Clarity of mind is stillness, silence, and emptiness. A mind filled with knowledge, however accurate, is not a clear mind. In silence there’s a state of insight which has no answers just understanding. 

Driving home, a sentence I read this morning comes to mind: “Clean, abundant energy is the foundation on which a more equal, just, and humane world can be built… this is a world progressives, in particular, should want to hasten into existence.” 

That strikes me as particularly wrongheaded. The idea that “the dystopia we fear is keeping us from the utopia we deserve” is deeply mistaken. It isn’t the dystopia we fear, but the dystopia we have and refuse to face which we therefore deserve. 

Besides, there is no utopia—no world where “smaller, modular nuclear reactors make new miracles possible like cars and planes that don’t need to be refueled or recharged.” Such materialistic fantasies, even if they could be achieved, will not come in time to halt the mass extinction of our fellow creatures at the hands of man, or fill the emptiness that no outward progress can remedy. 

To the extent that progressives think externally, solely, or even primarily in materialistic terms with respect to human advancement, they echo the hollowness and emptiness of reactionary conservatives interested only in ego and power. 

“In 100 or 200 years, everything will look radically different,” Melissa Lott, the director of research at Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy, proclaims with the confidence of a true technophile. Without radically changing inwardly, however, nothing will be essentially different—the decimation of the Earth will continue, and the disparities between the haves and have-nots will be even greater. 

It’s true that “too often, the right sees only the imagined glories of the past, and the left sees only the injustices of the present.” And that “many in politics have abandoned any real vision of the long future.” 

But to put politics first is foolishness of the highest order. Politics is the most manifest level of a peoples’ character, attitude, and behavior. Politics is hell because we accept living with one foot in hell in society and make things worse by seeking external, technological, remedies for what are first internal, psychological, pathologies. 

A mind and brain that regularly drinks from the infinite wellspring of silence asks questions but seeks no answers. The completely still mind is in a state of insight and understanding. 

Today I saw that when one’s mind is not in that state, I still seek answers. It seems almost impossible not to do so—except when the mind of thought is completely quiet!

Even so, I’m sure that if enough of us give the highest daily priority to attention and stillness, rather than technology and politics, then we’ll build a new world, and in 100 years everything will look radically different. But just as there is no perfection, there is no utopia.