Teaching 1: 'The Freedom
of the Uknown' by Will James
Teaching 2: 'Simplicity'
by Will James
Freedom of the Unknown
We are all very comfortable with the familiar and a little
uncomfortable with the unknown or uncertain.
We have this habitual tendency to interpret the present
with the constructs we have built up from the past. We
carry over our impressions and overlay them onto what
is happening now, thus interfering with the natural spontaneous
flow of life. In looking for the familiar there is a tendency
to distort the present experience, for the ideas and concepts
of the known, which are always carried over from past
experience, cloud the mind and limit the openness to any
We also bring from the past experience our fears and anxieties.
This inhibits and restricts our willingness to be open
to new experiences. We narrow and fence ourselves into
a restricted area of the familiar by imagining all the
possible harmful outcomes that may arise. We are talking
here about the psychological fears and anxieties, our
imagining what might happen and the uncertainty that goes
with that. We are not talking about the learnt survival
responses that protect us from physical harm.
Facing the present moment afresh is a challenge for all
of us, can we recognize the uncertainty of each and every
moment and still remain open to each new experience.
All these behavioural patterns arise as some form of protection
mechanism for the self, for the construct that needs continual
reinforcement and affirmation. The self is inherently
insecure for the very reason that it exists as a separate
solid thing only in our imagination. The more fears and
anxieties we have the stronger our sense of a separate
self and also the more restricted and controlled we become.
Is it possible to live free of this conditioning, this
We don’t need to practice extreme sports or to be
constantly putting ourselves into dangerous situations,
actually every situation is uncertain and at any time
anything could happen.
Are we taking each moment for granted, feeling a false
security that today will be just like yesterday? Can we
be open to whatever arises without feeling we need to
be prepared or protected by our knowledge and our concepts.
With the understanding of the fear of uncertainty comes
a freedom that is not imprisoned or restricted by the
known and opens the unlimited possibilities of the unknown,
the full expression of just this unfolding life.
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Our modern society can appear incredibly complex and brutal
and often motivated by greed. We only have to look at the
recent financial crises to see this insensitivity and exploitation
at work. This insensitivity, confusion and complexity is
contributing to alarming levels of stress and anxiety on
man as well as pressure upon society and the environment
on which he depends. Young couples are trapped in mortgage
and financial pressure, anxious about the security of their
jobs and hence their ability to finance their loans.
For some a response to this confusion and entrapment can
be to try and simplify their situation; to try and live
a less complicated life. For many however this is not an
option as many are slaves to the system of debt and repayment.
Many of us of a certain age are familiar with this situation;
some actually remember the seventies. Many believed that
by simplifying their lives they would bring about a radical
change and awaken some understanding of the human condition.
Simplicity however is not merely imitating others or withdrawing
from society or adopting some belief however noble.
Simplicity that is fundamental and real can only come about
by an inner understanding and cannot be enforced outwardly.
From this inner understanding outer simplicity becomes a
natural outward expression.
Life is becoming more and more complex, change is occurring
faster and faster and the answer to this is not necessarily
to withdraw from society. How to find that simplicity of
mind that enables one to be more sensitive to our own needs
and to the needs of others and society?
It is this inner simplicity that is so essential because
simplicity creates sensitivity and receptivity. A mind that
is not open, that is caught up in its own superiority and
desires can never be sensitive or receptive to life. When
all our attention is caught in our thoughts, anxieties,
views and opinions then we are self obsessed and isolated
from the world around us.
We can only be inwardly simple by being aware of the complexities
that we are caught up in and consequently being aware of
that which obstructs and blocks sensitivity and an open
receptivity to life.
What is it that impedes our direct experience? Surely it
is our accumulation of beliefs, ideas, views and fears that
we cling to. We are prisoners to our ideas, our desires
and our views from the past. Simplicity cannot be found
unless there is a letting go or freedom from the accumulated
constructions of the past.
The mind is full of past impressions and sometimes we feel
that the answer is simply to get rid of all the excess mental
junk. We think we need a garage sale of the mind, boxes
of secondhand fears, used ideas, worn out theories etc.
need to be discarded and that we need professional de –
clutterers sometimes called Dharma Teachers to help us.
We could spend the rest of our lives trying to simplify
our inner life and in doing so only make our minds more
complex. This process would be made even more difficult
because we would continue in the meantime to acquire more
The only answer to this dilemma is to instantly see the
whole process of complication and in the very seeing free
ourselves from the habit of accumulation.
When we look into the relationship between our inner and
outer world, we see that they are intimately connected.
We see the suffering, the conflict and pain that is present
and by facing these truths openly and honestly, the pathways
to inner simplicity open.
The Buddha understood this connection, hence the eightfold
path, which focuses on giving attention to both the inner
and outer areas of our life.
It is also through inner simplicity that creativity is possible.
What becomes possible is a life of improvisation, where
each experience is fresh and new, undistorted by the past
and met with a sense of innocence and wonder.
Our problems, social, environmental, political and spiritual
appear so complex that we think we need ever more complex
solutions. The mind that is so full of facts borrowed from
other people, a mind that clings rigidly to concepts and
ideas; that mind is incapable of simple direct experience
and it is through the simple direct experience that the
truth is revealed and solutions are found.
A simple, unobstructed mind is free of the whole concept
of becoming, free of being caught in the prison of time.
When we see our desire to become some idea of who we think
we should be, we realize that this is only adding more complexity.
We see it as a movement away from simplicity therefore we
let go of all forms of “becoming”. Can we totally
let go of trying to change ourselves for the better? For
surely in trying to change there is only tension, suffering
The natural expression of inner simplicity is a loss of
infatuation with oneself and one’s own needs and a
greater sensitivity to the needs of others.
True simplicity is not something you can pursue, it is not
something you can achieve or an experience you can have,
but rather it is a quality of mind. Simplicity is like grace
or like a flower that simply opens when the time is right.
It is a mind free of reaction, free of fear and paranoia,
it is that innocent mind of wonder and love, it is always
already present if we only step aside and allow it to blossom.
All that is needed for this blossoming to unfold is a deep
trust and the courage to face life honestly, directly and
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