Can life be pigeonholed into a viable model for success? Can a methodology or system be relied upon to give us the results or achievements that we desire? Can a formula for winning ever work with such an unpredictable thing such as life?

If we read all self help, psychological, philosophical and religious books on life, we’ll get dizzy. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, be careful with this, embrace that - it’s all ultimately a waste of time and energy because we eventually find ourselves again faced with the enclosed system called our personal life.

If we can but look at this life of ours objectively, both the happy and difficult times, we can see that there is actually a common thread running through all of our experiences.

When we stop to really look at this life, not trying to solve anything or make it better, but simply observing; what we discover is that when things are going great, we are too caught up in the pure, heady enjoyment to notice that the enjoyment will only last for a little while, after which we lapse into that familiar, uncomfortable cycle of discontent where we again have to engineer, one way or another, our return to pure pleasurable experiences. This cycle of happiness and discontent we can observe as a reality.

We can also observe that in this process of life, we install in our minds a fine filter of sorts that is designed to protect us, just as an oil filter protects an engine from harmful deposits. Our mind filter, however, catches not only harmful deposits, but supposedly good ones as well. Thoughts and emotions, ideals and opinions, all get stuck there.

Our mind filter holds onto the supposed good deposits, trying to eek out as much pleasure as possible. It also clings to the bad things, as if they were chicken bones caught in our throats. We then attempt to figure out how we can get rid of the bad things, while subsequently clinging to the good things and trying to work out how to keep them forever because we love them, have become attached to them, and count on them for our endless pleasure.

Therefore, it becomes obvious that the secret of life, is undoubtedly removing the filter so everything flows quickly and easily through. This does not involve a method, nor exercises or theories, just observation of what is going on inside our heads.

By simply observing how our filter restricts us and causes us stress is the beginning of removing this filter, and includes necessarily leaving both the chicken bones that we hate, and that which we supposedly love, behind.

When we begin to understand the filter, however, and how it complicates and stresses our lives even when it holds onto the things that we presumably love, we will naturally seek to remove it. This is called looking at life with an overview, rather than becoming endlessly and helplessly caught up in life where life‘s circumstances dictate our happiness.

When we discover this overview of life, which is a radical shift in consciousness, then the mechanical, Pavlovian, predictable actions and reactions to life’s situations take on a frightening aspect, where we see our lives, in a way, unruly and being led uncontrollably by cause and effect, by karma, so to speak, where the faster we run, the more behind and confused we become. One action leads to another, to another, to another - ad infinitum.

Most of us, however, never see this cycle. We imagine that we are in control and end up merely bouncing off life, now here, now there, in and out of different relationships, towns, houses, careers, ideals, religions, concepts, opinions - constantly trying to solve things once and for all - and solving nothing. We find ourselves in pursuit of that fleeting happiness that is never quite sustainable because our situations are always in a never-ending flux. Our kids grow up and change, we age and change, our life ends.

But this is all we know. We have never experienced life without a filter, life that is free from aversion and hatred, clinging, attachment, and even so-called love. This experience has been historically reserved for the very few - the sages and seers of the universe who have found a peace and contentment not dependant upon being held hostage by life at all.

When the filter is removed, life flows through us instead of battering us. Instead of clinging to a idealistic log in a raging flood that threatens to drown us at any moment, we are now on the banks of a quiet stream that flows through a beautiful woodlands, as our entire being remains at ease.

We can begin to get a glimpse of life without a filter simply by going for frequent walks, alone. And while walking allow whatever we notice to flow through our filter as if our filter now has bigger holes in the screen so that more can get by without sticking.

When we talk to people or watch the news, notice if our filter has a screen with small holes or large holes. Can a lot get by and not bother us? Or does every little thing get stuck? Can our mind let it all flow through. If it can, then can our mind not worry about doing anything about any of it and let it all go, at least for today? Maybe tomorrow we can change the world, but for right now, can we let it all flow through?

This is not a method or practice, this is a mere observation. Can the mind let go of its filter, or does it insist on retaining the filter because something important requires accomplishing? Our kids grow up and change, we age and change, the sun burns out, the universe collapses, our life ends. These are our accomplishments. Can the mind let it all go? Can we simply eat, sleep, work and play, and let it all go?

If we can, what is on the other side of a mind that is thus freed? This is what is talked about in all the deepest areas of the religious dogmas, the Holy Books, but what is the actual experience of this?

Dare we change our entire focus of life and embark upon this rarest and most exalted of experiences into the profound parts of the transcendent mind? Or, as most of us are prone to do, will we continue to cling to our opinions about life, held fast by a mind filter that keeps us entrapped in the unending vagaries of the world?

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at: and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:

His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.