Diving for Pearls with Maggie Kay
Taking it Deeper
When Dad died, I was in the middle of my first year of exams at university. Trying to set out the arguments for and against the existence of God in my philosophy exam paper paled into insignificance compared to what I was going through. Fortunately, the summer holidays were nearly upon me, and I had a few months to recover some passion for my studies.
Despite an initial impetus to study journalism, I dived in to social science with relish. I soaked in all the theories, all the studies, all the claims, and all the arguments, and tried to work out what I thought. No matter how deeply I penetrated my subject, however, it seemed that for every argument one way, there was an equally compelling argument the other.
By the time I learned to meditate at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre, I was more than halfway through my degree. But even though I loved what I was learning, I was getting frustrated with all the clever word games and the academic obsession for establishing scientific proof for everything. It seemed that for every theory, there was another proving the exact opposite, and the most interesting things you just could not prove either way. There were some ideas that I found intellectually thrilling, but even with those I felt like I had gone as far as my thinking mind could take me.
Free Will and Determinism
However, there was one mystery that I just could not stop wondering about – are we humans in charge of ourselves and our destiny, or are we just robots mindlessly acting out whatever we are brainwashed with? The philosophers call it the ‘free will versus determinism debate’ and theories about it are at the core of much of our belief systems. Fortunately, I was about to make a new discovery that was going to give me a whole new way of understanding what we are all about and what we are capable of – meditation.
One day, my fellow student friend suggested that we go and learn how to meditate. It was something I had been thinking about having had a taste of meditation at my yoga class. So I agreed to attend an introductory course with her at the local Buddhist center. We learned two basic meditations – the mindfulness of breathing and the development of loving kindness – and I took to them like a duck to water.
I was just knocked out by meditation. So THIS is how you can go beyond intellectual thinking! A whole new dimension of experience was opening up before me. I loved it. I loved how good meditation made me feel and how clear and calm my mind was and how open my heart became. That year’s exams seemed so easy in my new focused, positive state of mind. And as for Buddhism, the more I found out about it, the more fascinated I became. It was even better than psychology.
The principles Buddhists follow derive from an enlightened teacher, an actual, historical man called Siddhartha Gautama, who lived and taught in India more than 2,500 years ago. He is known as the Buddha, which means the Awakened One, as he ‘woke up’ and ‘saw things as they really are’ after a long spiritual inquiry involving deep meditation.
The idea is that all of us can become enlightened, i.e. awaken to our full potential as human beings. There are no commandments from God to obey, just guidelines from a wise, wholesome, kindly teacher to help us create happier, more fulfilled lives, or to put it more in terms of traditional Buddhism, to escape from suffering.
Best of all, Buddhism provided me with an answer to my question about whether we have free will or whether we just act out blindly from our conditioning. The typical Zen-like answer was… both are true! Hah!
Sangharakshita described this phenomenon in terms of “mind reactive” and “mind creative”. The premise is quite simple. The less aware we are, the more subject we are to conditioning influences (mind reactive). On the other hand, the more selfawareness we possess, the more free will we possess (mind creative).
In other words, if our minds and hearts are very dull and asleep, we don’t know what we are doing or why, and go about our lives in automatic pilot. If, however, we wake up our hearts and minds with something like meditation, we breathe awareness and therefore choice into our lives. We have enough inner space and wherewithal to recognize our options and make a considered decision. Meditation creates awareness, which creates choice, which creates free will.
Mind Reactive and Mind Creative
It was no wonder that I was obsessed with this free will and determinism debate at university. Every subject I was studying asked the same questions: Are we free? Do we choose our destiny? Or are we just products of our conditioning, brought up a certain way, with certain genetics and it is all going to just happen and that’s it, we might as well just give up on attempting to direct our lives?
So it was a total revelation when I heard what Sangharakshita had to say about mind reactive and mind creative. The reactive mind is the one that is automatic and acting from something that we are not fully conscious of, therefore not necessarily making the right choices. The creative mind is a mind that has information, it has pause, it has self-reflection and self-awareness and therefore a choice can be made from that space, from that pause.
Many people act reactively, but with meditation, with pause, we open up the opportunity to be creative. It is almost like time slows down. You may have had this experience if you have meditated. You open your eyes and all the colors are brighter and everything seems more alive and there is more space around everything. If somebody irritates you, you don’t get that charge immediately inside you because you have some sort of inner resource which allows you to see it from another perspective and you can respond from that wiser perspective.
So, with meditation we are developing that space, that creative mind, that awareness, so that our choices become more conscious and, therefore, in our best interests. The thing that determines the difference is awareness. If we are aware, if we have consciousness, then we have the freedom to choose our response to things. If we are unaware, if we are caught up in habits, then we don’t have the freedom and we are victims of our conditioning.
It is interesting that the word reactive and the word creative are made up of the same letters, just rearranged!
Meditation helps us create this ‘gap’. I don’t know what I would be like if I hadn’t been meditating for more than 30 years – a very different person, I expect. Meditation stills the mind so that you are not on automatic pilot, you do have a gap to respond from. It is a practice. Just like getting fit at the gym, if we are out of condition, we need to go to the gym for a bit before we are really adept at it. It is the same thing with meditation. When we sit down and meditate, we are literally exercising our awareness muscles, our capacity to be aware.
Known as the Inner Wisdom Coach and formerly an ordained Buddhist, Maggie specialises in meditation, mindfulness, law of attraction, metaphysics and spiritual intelligence for life, love and business.
As well as coaching one-to-one, she trains accredited Thrivecraft life coaches and meditation teachers and runs retreats and workshops for soulful entrepreneurs, coaches and well being professionals.
In 2016, with her son Jamie grown up, Maggie established Thrivecraft Home Hub, a riverside country retreat in Cornwall, UK, where she lives with her soul mate husband, Patrick.
Her new book – Diving for Pearls: A Wise Woman's Guide to Finding Love (O Books) – is a highly readable true love and spiritual adventure story laced with tips and teachings on meditation, Buddhism, inner wisdom and relationships relevant to all.
Maggie's vision for the future includes taking Thrivecraft worldwide via a new online academy; continuing to mentor coaches, well-being professionals and meditation teachers to grow and prosper their businesses; producing audios of her full range of guided meditations; and writing further books to inspire and support everyone to create rich, happy and fulfilling lives.
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Thrivecraft with Maggie Kay
Wisdom. Inspiration. Self-belief.