"How far to heaven? Just open your eyes and look. You are in heaven." Ravi Shankar
I presume that most readers will be familiar with the common struggle that often ensues between cohabitees of opposite gender over the position that the toilet seat should be kept in when not being used.
I don’t want to get into who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. Feel free to continue arguing amongst yourselves. However (sugar and spicers please correct me if I am mistaken), I assume that one of the main reasons why the wonderful fairer sex object to the toilet seat being left in the ‘up’ position, is because at some point or other they have found themselves sitting with their bottom several inches further into the bowl than they are generally comfortable with. I will admit that although it is considerably less likely, men are not immune to occasionally finding themselves in this position either.
Many writers and speakers on the subject of spirituality use terms like presence, awareness and awakening. For some readers these terms may sound impressive, even perhaps superhuman.
But the great toilet seat debate reminded me just how simple it really is. Is it possible that someone who is wide awake and fully aware in the present moment would find themselves with that devilishly disconcerting damp derriere?
It is necessary to walk up to the toilet and sit on it without paying any attention to its state whatsoever. Although eyes are open, the person is essentially sleep-walking, completely oblivious to the present moment. Spiritual teachers point out that most humans spend almost all of their so-called ‘waking’ lives in this kind of state.
Awareness, awakening or presence are nothing more miraculous than paying attention. But why bother? What is the point?
Well, I can suggest at least two possible benefits to be going on with. The first is to avoid unfortunate mishaps like the one mentioned above. The world is constantly changing. If we approach it using a mental map cobbled together using prior assumption based on memory, then it is rather likely that we are going to find the world has no intention of conforming to that mental map.
So what we think is, is rather different to what actually is. Our unfortunate friend assumes the toilet seat is going to be down. In reality it is up. All that was necessary to avoid the mishap was a little extra awareness.
The second potential benefit is a return to wonder. Sometimes I drive on the motorway through the north of England. The countryside either side of the motorway is breathtaking. Perhaps those of you who also drive have sometimes had the rather disconcerting experience of ‘waking up’ at that steering wheel, looking at the odometer, and being completely unable to remember the last 15 miles or so. This happens to me sometimes. Instead of sleep-walking I have been sleep-driving. Although a passenger next to me might have reported that I was apparently wide awake the whole time. Not only does this usually frighten the bejeesus out of me, but it also makes me aware that I have completely missed the opportunity to observe the acres of wonderful countryside that I had been driving through.
All around us every day there are countless wonders to behold, but we are so often on auto-pilot, trudging through life using our fixed mental maps rather than looking at wondrous ever changing reality, with just brief glimpses of clarity here and there.
Next time you go to sit on that toilet seat and find it not there, rather than charging downstairs on auto-pilot for the customary auto-pilot argument, perhaps use it as a reminder to bring your attention back to Life as it happens. Maybe then you can even give your partner or children the surprise of their life by thanking them for the lesson.
"Right outside your door are countless wonderful things patiently waiting for you to step out of thought and take a look."
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