Unclutching – The shaft that does not exist

Shaft of pain

There is a very beautiful analogy by Ramana Maharishi, an enlightened master from India. A dog chews a dry bone. As it chews, fragments of the bone will poke into its mouth making it bleed. The dog thinks the blood is coming from the bone and it enjoys the blood. It continues to chew on the bone for the pleasure of the blood! It doesn’t realize that the blood is coming from its own mouth and not at all from the bone.

If violence excites you, you wait for that kind of incident in your life. If pain excites you, if you believe life is a pain shaft, you
wait for that kind of incident in your life in order to strengthen and reinforce your belief. That is the general human psychology. Although people claim they want to break the violence shaft or pain shaft, they secretly nurture it.

Let me provide a deeper understanding.  The pain that you had ten years ago, the pain that you had nine years ago, the pain that you experienced seven years ago, the pain that you experienced three years ago, and the pain that you experienced yesterday are all unconnected, independent, individual incidents. But you start connecting all of them and create a shaft of pain. You connect all these thought shafts and create one big shaft. You start thinking and believing, ‘My life is pain.’ Is that true? No! What happened to all the sweet incidents of joy that you experienced in between? Surely, there must have been at least a few moments of joy in between?  They are simply forgotten. They are never picked to form a shaft. So the shaft, any shaft, is never true, because it focuses on only a fragment of your complete biography.

First, you start archiving the painful memories for utility purpose. You archive all your pains, probably for medical history sake or to tell your doctor. By and by, you start believing that all these pains that happened in your life are connected. You decide that your life is pain; your life is suffering. The moment you come to the decision that your life is pain or your life is suffering, you create hell for yourself.

For example, until yesterday you were only walking, you were not able to fly. You know in your past you never flew, you only walked. Can you believe you can start flying from tomorrow onwards? You can’t.  You know tomorrow you will still only be walking. You rely solely on your remembered past experiences to predict your future, eliminating many new possibilities.

There is one more important thing about pain that I want to share with you. This may look mystical, but let me be honest, Patanjali* says very clearly that any pain can be used as a door to enlightenment.  The technique is to not label it as pain.  Just observe and see what is going on. See the way a small child experiences something new with all excitement and curiosity. Do this with situations that you currently label as pain and see how the whole experience transforms.

When you just observe the pain, you come to understand two things. First, in the process of pain you will see your body rejuvenating itself, reconstructing itself.  You incorrectly label this process of rejuvenation and call it pain. Second, when
you stop labeling it ‘pain’, you stop resisting the pain sensation and it can heal more rapidly. When you label it as pain, not only are you fighting with the self-healing process, you are also elongating the process and creating more pain.

Shaft of joy

The joy that you experienced ten years ago, the joy that you experienced nine years ago, the joy that you experienced three years ago, and the joy that you experienced one year ago are all independent, individual, unconnected thought shafts. At the present time, you connect all of those thoughts and create a big shaft of joy.

You may identify your joy with an object, a person, or a space like a particular vacation resort. Now you will try again and again to bring that back in your life, to bring that person, that object, that space, or that same incident back in your life. Try as you might, you will not be able experience the same joy again. This puts you in further pain!
In life, we constantly create either shafts of pain or joy. Once you create a shaft of pain, you try to break it. If you create the shaft
of joy, you try to elongate it! But you don’t understand that you can neither elongate the joy shaft nor break the pain shaft – simply because the shaft itself doesn’t exist. It is just selective memory.  The very shaft is your imagination.

Thoughts are like bubbles in a fish tank

There is no linear connection between one thought that we have and another thought that we have. The only relationship between thoughts is that they come from the same source. But we constantly connect one thought and the next thought in a linear manner.  Just as bubbles in a fish tank rise from the bottom, our thoughts also rise in the same manner. When one bubble comes and reaches the surface of the water, the next bubble starts and then the third bubble starts. Because the bubbles are rising at a high speed, they look like a continuous stream! Actually there is always a gap between two bubbles.

Like the bubbles, we also experience a neutral space between two thoughts. Since the gap or the neutral space between two thoughts is so small, we think all thoughts are connected and form a shaft. But there is always a gap between two thoughts.

Let me tell you about an incident that happened:

One gentleman around forty five years of age came up to me and said, ‘Swamiji, I am going to divorce my wife, please bless me.’ I told him, ‘I only bless people for marriages.  Why do you want me to bless you for a divorce?’ He replied, ‘No, you have to bless me, because I have suffered so much.’

I said, ‘Suffering is always give-and-take.  It is never just taking. You must have given your wife enough suffering too. So, please tell me the truth about what happened and then we will analyze the situation.’

He replied, ‘How do I decide which incidents to tell you, and which ones to leave out? There are so many of them!  From day one she has been torturing me. You don’t know how much torture I have gone through!’ Then he narrated an incident
from the day of his marriage.

In Indian villages, when a wedding takes place, the newly married couple plays games after the marriage ceremony. For one of the games, a ring is dropped inside a pot filled with water.  The husband and wife put their hands inside and compete to pick up the ring.  Whoever grabs it first wins. These small games were created mainly to reduce the unfamiliarity between the couple
because in arranged marriages the bride and groom first meet during the wedding ceremony. They have small games to reduce the distance between the couple because they are new to each other.

This man said, ‘during that game, she scratched my hand. With her nails, she scratched my hand!’ And he started a big story about everything that she had done to him since that day! For all practical purposes, he had kept a file, like a police report from the first day of his marriage.

After two or three incidents, I told him, ‘Please stop! If this is the case, she should be happier than you to part ways. It is very
difficult to live with someone who keeps such large and detailed files in his head!’ Any time she does something, this man will always be looking through the files.

Then he told me the immediate reason for the divorce. He said, ‘She spilled some coffee on my clothes!’ I told him, ‘Spilling coffee on your clothes cannot be a reason for a divorce!’

He said, ‘No, you don’t know. Today she poured coffee; tomorrow she will pour acid!’ He really said this. I did not understand the connection. I asked him how he could possibly connect coffee and acid. Again he said, ‘No, no Swamiji, you don’t know.’

He may seem extreme and you may laugh when you hear this. But, just look intensely at your own life. You are doing the same thing – constantly creating illogical connections. You forget to see incidents as being independent of each other. You forget to see thoughts as being independent.

If you just learn this one simple technique of unclutching, you will be able to retain a significant amount of energy in your system, in your being. As a result, you will be many times more productive and creative. Your relationships will be much friendlier because you will not clutch incidents that are not related. You will not feel suffocated by people or their expectations of you. You will have tremendous inner space available to you to fulfill your needs, as well as others’ needs. You will also have tremendous compassion to know why others are suffering. It is only when you don’t understand why the other person is suffering that you are harsh with them.  When you unclutch, you are able to accommodate that person in your inner space. You are automatically compassionate. Your very life has a different quality and you become a different person in the world.

It is never the ‘same’

Every single happening in our lives is unconnected, even our everyday activities like eating and drinking. Each and every experience is independent by its own right.  Drinking water yesterday and drinking water today are two completely different
incidents. The food that you ate yesterday and the food that you eat today are different, even if they seem physically the same! But your mind creates the shaft between these two incidents and says; ‘I eat the same food every day.’

Please be very clear, you don’t eat the same food every day. You may use the same word ‘eating’ for both the experiences, but they are not the same experience. Do not be cheated by the words that you use.  Yesterday’s eating, tod-ay’s eating, and
tomorrow’s eating are separate incidents, separate experiences. They are completely independent and unattached.
A beautiful incident from the life of an enlightened master from central India:

During the last ten years of his life, the doctors asked the master to eat a particular kind of food. He was not allowed to eat anything else. He had to eat the same kind of food three times a day, everyday.

After two years the person who cooked for him came and complained, ‘Master, I am bored with cooking the same food.  How are you able to eat the same food day after day?’

The master just laughed and said, ‘I am not eating the same food every day.  How can I eat the same food every day?  I can only eat this food today.  Tomorrow’s food is totally different!’

Life is new every moment.  It is the mind that makes it look repetitive, dull and mundane.

From Living Enlightenment,
pages 207-210