In our metaphor of veils as patterns of thoughts around specific subjects, relationships, and aspects of identity, there are bound to be some knots! As we come upon a knot, we may experience some fear of what might be hidden. We may feel a desire to turn away, to find comfort in whatever we believe will soothe us. A craving might come up and we feel compelled to seek what we crave in order to avoid looking into that knotty unknown. At that moment, if we can pause and remind ourselves to be present, we can see that the knot is just part of a veil that is blinding us to this moment. We can bring our attention to the breath and other physical sensations. We can cultivate awareness and compassion. We don’t have to run away from the knot and seek solace in something unskillful.
In meditation, as we relax and release tension, there is a gentle loosening in our tight thought patterns. As we cultivate kindness toward ourselves and all beings, there is more spaciousness in how we relate to the thought threads of the various veils that arise and fall away as we again and again anchor our awareness in the breath or other physical sensation.
(The breath as an anchor is usually more neutral than other sensations, and so is less likely to activate thoughts and emotions. This is not always true. We can have a ‘breath veil’ if we have any physical condition that causes difficulty breathing or are close to someone who has. If this is the case, another sensation or a mantra of some kind might be a more skillful choice.)
The knots in some of our veils can be so dense they seem solid. We may see them as more real. Even if they cause discomfort we may find a strange kind of solace in a knot of mental misery. Perhaps this knot is in a veil of identity and holds some ‘proof’ that we are extremely flawed in some way. Or so we believe. And we’d rather believe it than be proven wrong. Without that knot that seems so solid and permanent, we fear we might disappear. So we don’t want to bring compassionate awareness to look any closer. We just hold on tight, wrap more threads of thought around it, and tuck it away, perhaps labeling it ‘my most secret self.’
This not only makes it difficult for us to see; it makes it difficult for others to see us as we hide behind our knotted veils. And while that may be our intention, it is not a means to live an authentic, potentially joyous life, is it?
Living with this secret knot blinds us to our true nature. We are not what is woven into the veils through which we see. We are radiant energetic aliveness, as vibrant as birds, flowers, trees, and all other expressions of life loving itself into being. Our complex mental processes weave these metaphoric veils as a way of organizing information. It’s a convenient system, but it is just a collection of patterns of thought. It is not who we are. There are cultural veils that contain lots of message threads that lead us to believe Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am”. But this has been proven to be a disastrous philosophy for our species and the planet, setting us apart from all life. The need to be seen as unique and special leads us into feeling isolated so that we cling to even the most difficult knots of stories about who we are.
Fortunately, more and more people are now taking the time to unplug, to meditate, to be in nature, to give themselves time to quietly reconnect with their innate aliveness of being.
After meditation, when the mind is quiet, the veil nature of thoughts can be clearer. And a knot might be a little looser, a little more available to see its various threads from different angles. Now we can see that the knot is not a solid object, but made up of memories and assumptions based on those memories. Perhaps at the core of the knot is a thread, long hidden, of a childhood memory. Maybe it is something that was said to us by a parent, schoolyard bully, or someone else that caused us pain. Our hurt feelings activated more threads of thought, shot through with strong emotion, and each time we relived the painful memory, the knot grew thicker and tighter, until we couldn’t see the little thread of memory that set the knot’s twisting and winding into motion.
But now we can see more clearly. We can bring our greater understanding of life, and perhaps our experiences as a parent or teacher to see the child we were, to hold that child in tender loving awareness. We can see now how much pain the perpetrator must have been in to inflict it on us. We can now see that we have been blinded by a thick knot of beliefs that is not solid. It’s just a tangle of erroneous assumptions upon more assumptions woven around a forgotten thread of experience that under closer examination falls apart.
(If the experience at the core is one of serious and/or repeated abuse, although the same method applies, you may feel you need the guidance of a professional therapist in your exploration. But to be most effective, do your homework. Meditate to develop a clarity of mind, take notes on your own findings, identify the veil you want to investigate. Since this veil metaphor is in development, don’t assume your therapist will know about it! But that’s okay. Your ability to identify where you have difficulty will help them guide you in your exploration, and with more tangible results.)
There is no past and future in the veil.
What appears to be the past is only memories. What appears to be the future is only projections of hopes and fears. When we feel we are on a timeline, we sabotage our own ability to be fully present and to awaken to authentic aliveness. We are always simply here and now. Everything we do in this moment radiates out and impacts all life. So we live consciously, making wise choices, trusting that each wise choice will be of benefit in some unknowable way.
Because there is no past or future, it is safe and nonthreatening to explore the veils, even the loosening knots that reveal things long forgotten. Anything we come upon is just memory, perception, assumption. They are no threat to us now. What we discover may activate emotion and prompt the unskillful weaving of more threads in this veil or another one. That is why it is important to do this kind of investigation when the mind is clear and filled with a sense of compassion. It would be wise to meditate beforehand, and to cultivate wise intention for the process. Only do as much as feels natural. This is not a surgical procedure but an ongoing gentle inquiry. Take all the time you need.
Does the knot go away?
We’re not making an enemy of the knot and our purpose is not to get rid of it. But as we look at it with our spacious awareness, the knot naturally loosens. Threads may become thinner, even turn into wisps, and disappear. So yes, with compassionate attention, a knot can detangle and drift away. And with that there is a great lightness of being fully present in this moment, awakened to pure love, gratitude, and delight.