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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Subway as the Path to Enlightenment

There are a lot of people in the world who are interested in spiritual development. We sense that there may be a better way to ‘operate’ the mind than going about allowing the world to constantly distract us. Yet many of us are very busy, and may not have the time to devote to a specific spiritual practice (I won’t go into the obvious point about making spiritual practice a priority...).

It may be true that it requires complete dedication to experience ‘enlightenment’ as experienced by some advanced spiritual teachers. Yet there are more simple, mundane, yet nonetheless uplifting and even transformational processes that we can incorporate into our everyday lives, which help elevate consciousness.

Here’s one that you can use today. I call it “The Field”. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is both simple and easy. It can take as little as three minutes.

The Field helps shift you from ego to Spirit, from the little self to the higher Self. It does this by bringing into awareness the countless value judgments that you make, and then allowing you to relax into presence.

Background understandings:
All life contains inherent beauty. All life is an expression of divinity. The ego locks us out of this awareness by making value judgments, investing energy into some things, but not into others. What happens is that the mind then decides that some moments need to be invested with “positivity”, and others with “negativity”. The problem is that after a while the good/bad dichotomy tends to become self-regulating, and we lose control of the ego. The ego runs the mind, rather than the mind controlling the ego.

This habit is a function of your neural evolutionary biology. In order to live and survive, the mind has to inform the organism of favourable and unfavourable circumstances, so let’s not judge that as wrong. Still, we don’t have to put up with it all the time. We can begin to regain control of the ship!

There are literally millions of bits of perceptual data that the mind can focus upon in any given moment, and what your mind is attracted to structures the ego’s experience of reality. What you focus upon expands, by being assigned importance, and designated as “real”. In fact there is typically little that the mind thinks that has any empirical, real-world equivalent. It’s basically an illusion, but because of the emotional value the ego places on the internal world it structures, people become attached to that illusion. That’s why people tend to spend much of their time beating each other over the head with blunt instruments, battling to assert that their reality is the real one. That’s what I call ‘drama’. We all do it, so let’s not pretend it’s only others that are stupid enough to engage in this energy-wasting exercise.

If you want a respite from the mind’s babbling nonsense, try The Field exercise.

Here’s how you do it.

·         Chose a moment where you have five minutes of free time, and where there are many people about. This could be the office, the café, the restaurant, the subway, a public bus etc.
·         Begin to take your attention away from your thoughts, and onto your breath, as it moves in and out. Close your eyes if you want to, but this is not strictly necessary. Focus upon your breath for up to a minute. As your mind tries to bring your attention back to your thinking, just acknowledge this, and gently return your attention to your breath. Do this as many times as necessary. Do not judge your thoughts or try to eliminate them. Just move your attention back to your breath.
·         After about a minute, bring your attention to your vision, the information that your eyes are delivering to you (you can include sound if you like). Keep your vision relaxed, and look straight ahead with a soft focus, allowing your peripheral vision to open up. Without focusing upon any specific thing.
·         As you are looking ahead, relaxed, begin to take note of where you are tending to invest attention. In particular, note the judgments that you have about the people and things you perceive, but do not believe in those judgments or assign them emotional energy. The judgments may be: “She’s too fat”, “He’s old”, “Why is she wearing that?”, “This place is so noisy!”, and so on. Also take note of “positive” judgments, such as, “He is handsome”, “She’s so cute”, “I love babies” and so on.
·         Continue to relax and breathe deeply. Keep your eyes relaxed and gently focused. Allow your judgments and perceptions to come to you. In observing them, you create a state of non-attachment.
·         After a short while, allow yourself to gently look upon your surroundings, and any people you care to perceive, but without placing a value on them, such as the way they dress, look or behave. They are perfect the way they are.
·         Remain in that relaxed state for as long as you care to. Allow your mind to find silence, by focusing upon what is before you, not your thoughts and judgments. You will find that you see the world and the people in quite a different way, once the judgments are disinvested of importance.

I find that this process grants me peace. It also transforms my energy field. I feel more light flowing in, and this often includes a perception of actual light moving in through my crown chakra and third eye. It shifts the relationship with the ego, and my vision becomes a “field”, which I am observing in a nonattached way. In other words, attention moves from seeing the world as ‘real’, to taking note of the space where thought arises, and assuming responsibility for it.

I used it this morning on the crowded MTR (subway) in Hong Kong, and it really shifted my energy. I got on the train feeling rushed, and left feeling at peace. Just imagine that: the subway as the path to enlightenment! Typically public transport leaves people feeling drained and horrible: but it is the tendency to judge all those we see that lies behind much of the unpleasantness. There are just so many opportunities to judge others on public transport. Yet there is a great opportunity also, for it is a perfect opportunity to gain greater self-awareness, greater peace, and bring more love into the world.

Give The Field a try today. What have you got to lose? Your energy and your presence are a gift to all those around you. For, even though others may not consciously realise it, your energy helps to shift theirs. Many people go through adult life with almost no experience of presence or peace, or being accepted by others without judgment. ‘Receiving’ them without judgment is an invisible blessing.



  1. I have a long subway journey ahead of me now, and I'll certainly take your advice!

    But I was wondering about another factor - we're also crammed up against other people's energy fields on the subway in a way which feels very unnatural, and which causes us (instinctively) to put up massive psychic defenses. That's pretty exhausting and negativity-inducing thing to do; does the Field exercise make it unnecessary, do you think? Or do we still need to protect our own integrity against other other people's psychic shrapnel that's hurtling around?

  2. It is certainly unnatural, Simon, and quite literally so! That doesn't mean that you can't bring yourself into alignment with where you are, though.

    In practice, I don't find it necessary to protect myself against too many people in public places. If your own energy is fully present, and you are not engaging in judgment, you will tend to avoid psychic dramas with people. However, it is true that judgment is a catalyst for such drama and 'negative' entanglement.

    The whole idea of the Field exercise is to bring attention to your own mind and its role in imposing meaning on neutrality. If you can relax and just be at peace, the rest should take care of itself.

    Finally, if you do get the sense that someone is a bit dodgy with their energy, just move away from them, trying not to judge the situation.


  3. Wonderful advice. I used to tell my children, when they really disliked someone to find something about that person that they did like. Maybe their eyes? Their laugh? I wanted them to become aware of where they focused their attention. I practiced it while standing in a DMV line for 1.5 hours the other day. I was not happy, and the ego loves to pick on people when it's not happy. So I spent time just thinking good thoughts about people. As you said, concentrate on positive aspects of people and your frame of reference shifts. Good post, valuable information.

  4. Hi Anthony,
    I'm starting a six-week meditation course Monday for members of a gym. I think I might try your exercise with the students. Mindfulness amidst the traffic of moving life.

    I remember riding the subway years ago in Paris and listening to people speaking French, not understanding, hence making no value judgment. I recall my French friend saying, "You're lucky you don't understand them." So she was making value judgments that I, in my ignorance, could not make.

    So maybe if we pretend others around us are speaking in a foreign tongue, we might more easily reach that sense of non-judgment leading to mindful acceptance.