A Mind-Made Maze

I’m an architect by nature; I’ve been building walls since I was born. With each new unpleasantness that life offered me, I built a new fortification to keep it out. Now I’m 31 years old, and I live in a labyrinth.

The air is always filled with my favorite songs, and the moss covered halls are littered with keepsakes. The dark memories and painful feelings are kept tucked away in a sophisticated vault.

I spend my days aimlessly walking these halls, looking fondly at the things I’ve collected and patching up loose bricks.

Everything that enters this labyrinth is either collected, shut away in the vault, or left to stalk these eternal halls in search of me—so I keep moving. Should I catch a glimpse of a chasing shadow, I build another wall between us. Then I circle around behind it and build another one, leaving it to wail and pound on its barriers for the rest of my life.

For I am the ego, the guardian, the collector, the architect, and I have an inexhaustible amount of tricks up my sleeve. I’m here to keep you safe, to give you a sense of security and stability. I exist so that you don’t have to. I weave intricate lies so that you can feel like you know the truth.

I live to save you from boredom, dissatisfaction, disappointment, and fear. I made this mental convolution to blunt the sharpness, bitterness, and chaos of day-to-day life. Unfortunately, my design also dulls vividness, sweetness, and warmth as well. I made this maze to spare you from hell, but it has also denied you heaven.

The ego is the architect, you are the Watcher. The Watcher is this awareness of awareness we all have, this sense of stability and solidity. It’s an illusion, the fundamental ignorance.

It can only exist in a combative environment, in the struggle between self and other. It’s a way for the mind to protect itself from the mind so that no matter what happens in life, “I” am always a step removed from it all. The Watcher is the one wandering the labyrinth.

Where is the body and mind in all of this? They’re left to rot outside the labyrinth along with everything else I call mine and not mine. Even if one believes in a soul, we still say, “My soul,” so that’s also outside the maze.

Ownership and life are at odds with each other. Life teaches us again and again that we don’t own anything, but we ignore the lessons.

One of the goals of practice is to stop putting up walls. Then we realize that, really, there have never been any walls to begin with. There’s no maze, there’s no Watcher, and there aren’t any demons chasing around in your mind.

It’s all a hoax, an illusion, a monumental misunderstanding. The whole thing, the entire problem begins when we superimpose something onto the present moment. It begins with memory, craving sensations that have past. From there, it spread to thoughts of the future, the yet to come.

Then, the icing on the cake, huge chunks of the present moment are blocked out of awareness and the spaces filled in with fantasies.

All of this is done so that we can better navigate the world. It’s tough to survive without memory and without anticipating the future. It’s tough to handle the present moment if parts of it aren’t filtered from perception.

Tough, but not impossible. The brain is hardwired to always take the easy way out. It’s an energy saving mechanism. Practice involves overriding our evolutionary programming because when that programming is placed in a “civilized” setting, it just causes suffering—like bringing a bull into your living room.

But none of this has to be so, it could easily be otherwise. The teachings on selflessness show us that there’s no need to put up walls to protect ourselves and training in concentration and ethics allows us to live in the world and be fully in the world. There’s no need for any of this suffering and nothing to gain by chasing gains.


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