It had been three days since he last left the old wizard. The sky was heavy with rain. Water rushed like a whitewater river down the street filling gutters like a dammed spillway washing all the flotsam and jetsam from the neighborhoods high on the hill toward the city center below. Here and there drains were filled with so much debris that small lakes formed around them obliterating the intersections. A wind blew down from the top of the hill with its full force channeled by the rows of houses and narrow street driving the rain deep into any nook or opening in the well-kept buildings or any man foolish enough to be outside on a day like this.
A young man braved this storm wearing only a short slicker and a knit cap hoping to arrive at his destination before thoroughly soaked. Of course it was not to be and soon he found himself standing before the familiar door and waiting for what seemed an eternity, dripping from every fiber of his being, for the invitation to enter.
Standing in the foyer and creating a small puddle on the floor beneath him he smiled, shook the water from his hair and took off his jacket hanging it on the hook directly across from the door. Before he could squeak out a greeting the old man began speaking.
“Sooo, did you let go of all your attachments?” asked the old man.
“Yes, it wasn’t easy, but, yes.” The young man exclaimed as he removed his sodden shoes and nudged them to the side.
“And nothing! No magic, no nothing!” The boy said in anger as though he had been duped. The perceived failure of the last three days along with the miserable weather had ruined his mood leaving him none too polite with his mentor’s incessant questions.
“Then you didn’t detach.” The old man exclaimed with an air of dismissal.
“I did so!” said the boy stubbornly.
“Did you expect that when you finally detached then you could do magic?”
“Yes, of course!”
“Then you were still attached to the outcome. You probably had the thought that I had ripped you off in some way and that thought instantly took you over and you couldn’t let go of it. That’s another attachment, attachment to your thoughts. You probably felt proud of yourself having been so successful, didn’t you?”
“Yes I was!”
“Pride, expectation, thoughts, beliefs. You just exchanged one set of attachments for another. I said to detach from every thing!”
The boy just stood there, gaping. “But I thought…”
“That’s the problem, you’re still thinking. You actually think that your thoughts are important don’t you?”
“Yes sir. But now I’m beginning to wonder.”
“Stop befriending your thoughts, stop acting as though they have any real contribution to your life whatsoever!” He demanded emphatically. “They’re worthless when it comes to magic. Just let go of everything, even your silly little thoughts!”
“Silly little thoughts?” The boy exclaimed defiantly.
“Do I detect pride? Have you become the thought that your thoughts aren’t silly? Foolish boy!” said the old man as he taunted the young man without mercy.
The boy clenched his hands into fists and could feel the heat of anger crawling up his neck and onto his face. He was starting to lose conscious control of himself and words of fear and threat and rage spit from his mouth, words that he had never heard himself say. This wasn’t him speaking and then it struck him. His expectations, pride, and anger were taking over. They were in control and were beginning to dominate everything. Not only was he attached, but literally joined at the ego.
With great effort he began to relax and to let the fire of his ego slowly extinguish. Finally he found his own voice again. “This is, isn’t as easy as I, I thought.” He stuttered.
“Nothing worth being or having ever is.” Said the old man with a sigh.
“Too much thinking gets in the way of being magic. You want to let other things take you where they will. If you want to get to the place where the magic lies, you need to get outside your thoughts and let the soul move you. This is what world-class dancers, musicians, actors, poets and writers do– during creation they transcend the ego and let their soul guide them. It’s in this space that the magic will find you. Stop trying to control and let that which animates you guide you.
Now go home and wander around in your thoughts for a while. Don’t try to change them, or to not have them, just notice them as they wander through your mind. Notice what happens in your body when they come to visit and what other thoughts enter into the conversation. I want you to be an observer of your thoughts and feelings throughout your day, not a participant. Observe without judging or figuring out, or predicting, or labeling– just watch them. If at any time you notice that you’ve gotten caught up in them, acknowledge them and go back to observing without judging yourself.
Imagine having a mind like that of a baby, a beginners mind if you will, a mind that embraces nothing but the moment. I want you to especially observe your expectations. There is no expected outcome for this exercise. Whatever you do is just fine.
Let go of the expectation that if you were to practice rightly, if you were to achieve ego detachment that you will be a better person. You won’t, you’ll be the same as you’ve always been. This process is not about getting better or being better. This is not about better. Also, there’s no meaning in the exercise, that’s an attachment to ‘meaning’. Just do it, for no reason and take what you get.
Do this for a week, then come back and see me.”
The young man nodded and turned toward the door. For a moment he was devoid of thoughts, then turned and said, “Thank you” with more earnest gratitude than he had ever experienced before. And the old man smiled for he knew that the acknowledgment came not through a thought but from the very soul of the boy himself and for one moment the room lit up brightly.