Most of our bodily functions, under normal conditions, are either voluntary or involuntary. Not many are both. We can choose when to use the washroom (to a point), but we don’t choose our heartbeat. We might choose to control our breath, but it’s an involuntarily action that will happen regardless. For the most part, our functions are either/or.
One whopping exception is our thought process, which for most of us, is both voluntary and involuntary. And the beauty, as humans, is that we have an opportunity that repeats itself every second to take voluntary control over the involuntary process.
It’s an incredible reality. Every second of every day, we can decide what is processed through our “think” box, in addition to how we feel. We can decide, every second, whether to feel happy or sad, grateful or frustrated, loving or not so loving, or whether to let garbage thoughts stream or stop them in their tracks. The challenge is finding our transcendental ummph.
When I was 18 during my second semester of college in the early 70s, I sat in on an extracurricular course called Transcendental Meditation. The concept sounded intriguing. I guess the numerous LSD trips I had experimented with, although quite mind-bending experiences, were mostly joy rides and not so grounded in reality. The TM practice though, was too slow for my young head after the psychedelic form of expanded consciousness. Regardless, there was something about transcending the normal state of mind that was tempting. I left both of them behind not long after that semester.
Recently though, the idea of transcending mental noise has once again become alluring. But to be in continued control of what passes through the thought process seems to take extraordinary effort. If only it were as easy as going to the gym a few times a week. Life is full and busy for most of us — bombarding us with people and circumstances that challenge us from transcending anything.
Is getting to a form of permanent transcendence for yogis and spiritual masters only? Can’t be, because we all have the power within us to think and feel as we choose, to make decisions about, and take responsibility for, our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Is it that simple? Maybe so, as many have known this over the last couple millennia. Perhaps it could be said then, that abdicating this responsibility of taking control over the involuntary thought process, of letting someone or something determine our emotional state, or permitting our thoughts run amok, is like saying we are not the masters of our own thought box.
But what do I know. It may be easier than I’m reckoning. It could be that those hallucinogenic trials in my (more) youthful years knocked a few rungs out of my transcendental ladder.
Nevertheless, whether for a second, or perhaps two, simply recognizing that there’s always another second, one second away, provides an exciting prospect of almost unlimited opportunities for poking our heads above the clatter. It’s possible because it’s an every-second decision.
Now I’d better get back to searching for a little of that ummph, the transcendental kind, which seems to continually evade me.