When you run, everything is different. You feel like a constant with everything around you moving. A sense of detachment sets in and it helps see things differently.
On weekends when I do longer stints, I cross the Akkulam bridge and see the ‘african payal’ eat up what is otherwise a beautiful lake. Just then, the Zen couplet made perfect sense…
“The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection
The water has no mind to retain their image”
Ironically these beautiful lines seem to negate something beautiful. Because in objective reality, neither the geese nor the lake in the setting expect the onlooker to ‘react’ to the spectacle. Alan Watts once joked ‘the clouds are not floating peacefully for the artists to be painted’! I guess, we human beings have a problem. We have this irresistible urge to ‘interpret’ and ‘judge’ what we see. Of course, it is essential mechanism to our survival. It is perhaps a natural outcome of consciousness and intelligence’s evolution itself. This process of interpreting is the first step towards ‘understanding’. But it also leads to conclusions, judgments and responses. Perhaps this is how the ‘ego’ or the Self reinforces itself every second of its identity, integrity and existence.
Here, you are overwhelmed by the symmetry of reflection of those white geese over a serene placid lake. The beauty is indeed too much to bear that your heart fills with joy. Your mind digs deep to retrieve a longing affection lurking somewhere (coded in its pre-historic DNA winding). In fact, our greatest sense of familiarity and comfort to certain settings have been well researched. In Edward Wilson's words "Human Nature is the ensemble of such hereditary regularities in mental development that bias cultural evolution in one direction...and thus connect genes to culture in the brain of every person."
Isa Upanishad Verse 2 sings, only by performing detached actions should man aspire to live on. Let your actions not produce any attachment in you!
"Kurvanne-veha karmani doing only ‘detached’ actions,
Jiji-vishey-chhatam samah should one aspire to live for ever
Evam twayi nanyathtosti if this is done,
na karma lipyate nare" then action does not bind you!
and perhaps, the whole of Bhagavad Gita exhorts us to this same detached action.
Neuroscience based SCARF model tell us that the brain processes and classifies every incoming stimuli as threat or reward (five times every second!). The brain or ‘Self’ then decides to move away or towards the stimuli. By logical extension, one might as well argue that you associate with any stimuli you like ( for example, this scenic setting) as your own or you. It becomes a part of your identity, gets etched in memory (like ‘Oh my god’s own country’ tag). But in reality, there is nothing to be attached (to). You are unconsciously getting identified with the knowledge or label, thus increasing your territory of identity and taking up the onus of defending this baggage of knowledge as your own identity and existence as you run along…
Unfortunately the human condition has a natural propensity to gravitate towards attachment. As the findings in neuroscience suggest, ‘evolution’ oriented our cognition skills to store the past, to compare and differentiate, to understand and then to act and innovate. While this has triggered ‘development’ of human species (in terms of science and technology et al) and an appreciation of creativity through arts, the basic human condition has suffered from this active interpretation and intervention. One has become so much conditioned by intelligence, that, recognizing attachment as the flip side of intelligence begs a high level of detachment if not transcendence.
So should one look away? No. Seeing and enjoying the moment was the intended action. But it stops right there. Remember, neither lake nor the geese carry the burden (that is, the scene) you now carry in your mind. As the famous Zen tale of 'Two Monks and a Woman' goes “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
Well, if you ponder on and continue to run, the mystery only deepens…they say, there are just two entities at any instance, the Observer (you) and the Observed (lake and geese). I look ahead and I realize. It will take many more miles for me to catch up with those enlightened elite, like Jiddu. When they look around they say, they see the observer as the observed!
Observe, and in that observation, there is neither the observer nor the observed, there is only observation taking place - courtesy JK.