Rene Descartes, the father of modern science, was once asked if he believed in magic. “I think not,” he said. And with that he ceased to exist.
OK, that never happened. What does seem accurate is that Rene Descartes, for all of his remarkable brilliance, set in motion a belief system based upon the dominance of thought creating a cultural worldview that dictates how we see "reality" to this day. At the core of his belief:
“I think therefore I am.”
Even at first glance this statement seems profoundly limited. Our thinking in no way assures our existence. For many of us, it endangers it. (There was a reason for Descartes dependence upon thought. He apparently suffered from a severe anxiety disorder. His solution was to discipline his stunning I.Q. to non-stop cognitive activity. While he doubted everything - as many with anxiety do - he wasn't able to doubt his doubting, which is to say, his thinking. Thought was provable. A life grounded in thought appears to have been the only way he was able to avoid an inner chaos that included an early childhood with multiple caregivers after the death of his mother in his first year.) We have based our understanding of "reality" upon Descartes' solution to anxiety.
While helpful in the realm of science, the all pervasive nature of this solution has severely truncated our capacity to consider how reality may extend beyond what thought can offer.
Hence the approach within these pages:
“I breathe therefore I am.”
It is in the simple process of breathing that we have another option for grounding our lives. Dropping below our Level Two anxiety, we can allow roots to grow deeper than our capacity to "know," entering this next breath as a sanctuary offering support and new possibility.
Spiritual traditions around the world have trusted and practiced this process for millennia.
This, of course, is the practical and (for many) essential importance of a daily practice.
It is rare that a new idea can vanquish and end the pain of Level One/Two thinking. For most, if not all of us, our negative certainty will never pack up and go away.
It doesn’t have to.
As long as we have direct, moment to moment access to Presence, the absence we continue to carry will not undo us.
Christians call this “the peace that passes all understanding.” Peace deeper than our mind's capacity to make sense of things.
Buddhists call it “natural great peace.”
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma
and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury
of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean
I would still give up ten stunning new thoughts for a single, tender breath.