Unmasking Harmony In Our Culture

Ironically, maybe this could be a time of unmasking. Living in isolation, like in the time of COVID19, can be a time to go inside, learn how to stop the stress of thinking, and take off the mask. Lama Brian Hilliard shares his learning to overcome too many thoughts.
Lama Brian Hilliard is a Tibetan meditation teacher.
unmasking harmony
Lama Brian Hilliard is a Tibetan meditation teacher.

I think the most exciting experiences I ever had were not what you’d ordinarily expect. It was not skiing down a mountainside in fresh powder snow (which I’ve done many times), and it was not waking up on the first day of a holiday at the beach. In fact it wasn’t anything you’d outwardly see as exciting. I’m talking about just simply meeting myself in an empty room on a cliffside on the Bay of St. Lawrence, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. That meeting was the beginning of a vision for how I could live in this life, on this planet.

You rather listen than read? Play Lama Brian’s audio talk below:

  1. Unmasking Harmony Lama Brian Hilliard 12:50

Strict Retreat On The Island

I had been sitting for many months with my retreat companions. And one of the main threads of that experience was the difficulty of just being with myself day in and day out, supposedly practicing advanced meditation rituals, and speeding towards the goal of enlightenment. Five times a day I had to start a new meditation session, be with myself, and practice some kind of concentration. My experience was anything but holy, and usually filled with all kinds of problems from morning to evening. Everybody irritated me, and I was not exactly the favourite of the group.

It’s Just My Mind

What I did understand during this period of retreat in isolation and confinement was that all the difficult experiences I had to endure were just in my mind. I understood this much, and had the goal of working through them, processing them, and ultimately being at peace with myself. But my thoughts would never stop, and there were many negative thoughts.

It wasn’t exactly a 5-star hotel, but there wasn’t really anything in the environment that was a problem. We lived on a cliffside overlooking the Bay of St. Lawrence. In the distance pods of whales swam in circles. Outside were occasional moose amid the dancing pines. In the summer it was complete heaven with the scent of wild roses wafting on soft ocean breezes. We were completely taken care of. My retreat companions were irritating but reasonable. Nature was so perfect and the weather dramatic. So I lived in a perfect place with my mind.

Read more: How can we deal with thought during meditation? Explore some simple tips on minding your mind.

The Stress Of Having A Mind That Thinks

Why is it so difficult to just be with ourselves? This time of global pandemic reminds me a lot of that period in retreat, and it has presented many of us with an opportunity to completely reinvent ourselves, and reinvent the world we live in. We are pressed by extremely challenging circumstances, and if we are fortunate, we have enough resources to survive. But we always have our minds, and thoughts are everybody’s problem. When we were free of masks and could travel anywhere, we could lose our minds. But now we are more physically distanced, pressed by the demands of isolation or distancing. And the one thing the virus does for most everyone is highlight our existing problems and challenges, both at the societal and individual levels. Individually, the pandemic highlights the state of our minds.

Unmasking Harmony

Ironically, maybe this could be a time of unmasking. If we have enough resources, we are fortunate beyond anything that we could have imagined would happen in this lifetime. We’ve been forced to be more with ourselves. This is a luxury we could enjoy. In my way of thinking our mother, the earth and the environment has given us a gigantic feedback and is saying: STOP! Stop everything! When we stop everything, including our wild and unruly minds, we unmask and reveal ourselves, reveal our perfection, and reveal our potential.

Nature Is Part Of Us

Usually we hear that we are a part of nature and that we need to respect our planet. But I don’t quite agree with this statement. I think it is more accurate to say that nature is a part of us, and that our bodies extend to include the complete interconnectivity of all of nature on this planet, and beyond. With this intimate connection we have a great responsibility to the earth. We are the ones with the awareness that can know everything that’s going on, including our role in the destruction or safe-guarding of the planet. I’ve been watching “Our Planet”, with David Attenborough, and I feel a deep sense of pain and responsibility with every interdependent ecosystem he presents, from the deep oceans, to the deserts and forests.

Staying Home And Benefiting The Planet

Isolation has forced us to consume less, the air became cleaner in some places, and wild animals entered the cities. We are practicing kindness by staying at home and not infecting anybody. We are already practicing protecting the planet. Planet earth is abundant, rich, and it’s extraordinary variety from blue whales to butterflies is stunning and breath taking. How could such incredible beings come out of this planet? Every breath we take is half coming from the oxygen of the ocean depths. The animals live in complete symbiotic harmony with each other and our planet displays their beauty and harmony in all the environments. But now it seems we are trying to get back to normal, but I hear that many of us do not want to go back to disharmony and life as usual.

A Culture Of Harmony

My point is that our hope lies in learning to live in harmony with ourselves, with our own minds, our minds that have the extraordinary ability to encompass and be aware of the whole planet. This is how our magnificent world can continue. We are born perfect, even if we have defects. We have to trace ourselves back, each one of us, to our perfection, our innate harmony. Take off the mask. It’s challenging, but not all that difficult to do. Insight Timer, for example, is creating a culture of deep appreciation for what truly matters.

Like the wildlife of our planet, we have so many expressions of ourselves: in spiritual systems, in meditation, in sound, in ways of discovering our place. It’s amazing what comes out of the minds of humans. That which isn’t destructive is harmonious, not only with ourselves, but also with the inhabitants of the planet. We are creating a culture of harmony and this is exactly what the world needs to survive and flourish.

Read more: Now more than ever we must remain calm and spread kindness to our global family. Meditation teacher Daniel Matallana explains how to use isolation as an opportunity for growth, healing and self-development.

Back To The Island

So finally in isolated retreat in the beautiful highlands of Cape Breton Island, I gave up. I gave up giving myself such a hard time. I learned to relax, and let go of the importance of myself and my thoughts, my thinking mind. I began to feel that innate perfection and harmony, the same perfection and harmony that manifest in nature on this planet. We can see ourselves in this way, even with our defects. To me, this is the most important thing to learn in this life. Human beings are built to evolve to the next level, which now means to come into harmony with the entire planet. Or something else…

So I ask myself, what is it that I need to learn in this life? Then I set out and do it. There is excitement in sensing the possibilities from inside to outside, in learning how to stop, and in taking off the mask.

Read more: Do you feel uncomfortable sitting in stillness or don’t you know how to be alone with yourself without feeling anxious, guilty, overwhelmed, or downright lost and confused? Explore Jessica Amos’s guide on how to be alone with yourself.

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