Come said the muse,
Sing me a song that no poet has chanted
Sing me the universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within it,s central heart
Nestles the seed of perfection
By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal’d the seed is. – Walt Whitman
It seems that today in our modern world there is much to divert of us from the experience of being. There was a time when it was an everyday occurrence for most to contemplate the bigger picture and questions of existence. We are in truth inseparable from all that we perceive to be separate from us. In that moment of silent contemplation there is that awareness. We can realize the limitations of all that we have come to believe and have developed and created in our striving to influence and alter our environment as an aid to our sense of security and insurance of our existence.
John Daido Laurie writes that ” In the cold dark shelters of our primitive ancestors, lit only by the flickering of campfire, at days end there was a time for recollection and stillness that would help to fuel the next days events. Since the beginning of time the still point has served as the birthplace of all our activity.”
Rodney Smith writes that “we are immediately confronted by the conditioned tendencies that have unconsciously driven our life. Our history, with its expectations and fears, is embedded within these conditions. These tendencies contain our preset ways of relating to this moment and cannot be perceived as long as we are unconsciously acting from them. These unconscious patterns assure that our present actions will be based upon our history and that we will endlessly repeat this conditioning into the future. Every unconscious action strengthens our preconceived view of the world and assures our reactions within that view.”
What is it “to be” in this universe without the influence and interference of all that we have become? How can we know for sure that what we so vigorously perceive and assume to be true is in fact so? What can we know of our origins that might be beyond what we have become? Does our learning (conditioning) as children defer from “being” or does it add to the experience and does a reconnection with that experience of being enable us in a way that may not be realized through conventional ways of understanding.
For the most part of my life I have been at the mercy of what I was raught and what I learned. I owned no other tool that I knew of. I now question how much one can know of an authentic experience of being through this process of becoming conditioned as a human being.
I am quite sure that this question of direct experience of being can not be known through conventional means. Turning towards a more meditative and contemplative life has helped me to relax my learned responses and assumptions about life and existence. What I know of “being” I experience through attending in direct awareness. I realize that I must return to my acquired conventions in order to communicate the experience, however it is that ” being” is not definable through the use of those tools that humans typically define things and as well find meaning and negotiate our every day life.
I have been reading a book by Krista Tippett titled “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living”. It has caused me to contemplate what has unfolded for me in my conversations with others about life, Buddhism, spirituality and the possibility of living fully. I value greatly the opportunity for discussion especially after the time that I spend in Germany. Living here involves longer periods of solitude.
It’s not in an absolute way that I value conversing and it’s not what I can discover in terms of more data and knowledge but more how it can help facilitate awareness of my self and others. What arises in communication with others is often, so very revealing and expanding although I always find it challenging to express an experience while at the same time not offending others in that attempt. I’m not sure whether or not it is something that people in general are comfortable doing or not. It’s hard work at times. Conversation can get mired in attachment to conceptualizations that don’t allow for expanded and creative notions and envisioning. I know that at times I have walked away from discussions feeling quite vulnerable albeit possibly more open. But there are those times when, in a way that awareness has not penetrated, I become trapped.
Krista Tippett has been conducting wonderful interviews, on a program titled “On Being” and in her book she discusses the value of questioning and conversing. I wonder if there is a place for this kind of conversing in Buddhism and other spiritual forums.
She writes that “An alternative involves a different orientation to the point of conversing in the first place: to invite searching—not on who is right and who is wrong and the arguments on every side; not on whether we can agree; but on what is at stake in human terms for us all. There is value in learning to speak together honestly and relate to each other with dignity, without rushing to common ground that would leave all the hard questions hanging.”
With the shock of the outcome of the USA election still resonating, there is arising anxiety connected to the insecurity that I feel. I have come to be aware of my habitual reactions and drams I hold that are efforts to relieve the anxiety. In that awareness I am able to be more present to it; reminded of the nothingness that is the essence of our life which includes all our futile efforts to reduce the anxiety that we experience. I can not find the security that I search for in particulars and external solutions and that the anxiety is of an existential quality.
Stephen Batchelor writes in his book “Alone With Others” that “No particular interpretation or expression of Buddhism can be final. Buddhism just like any other phenomenon is a dependent arising and therefore lacks any inherent self nature.”So it is with all else. Our conceptual understanding is not as we imagine it to be. Concepts and ideas are incomplete; time limited creations separated from other very relevant phenomenon that they are in reality inseparable from, in our perception. In life they are vastly complex and interrelated. The perceived solutions to our anxiety that we entertain are similar creations.
Inevitably I find truth not in grasping onto superficial meaning but in stillness and the realization of being, that is discovered in that stillness and the emptiness that emanates from it. I find value in attempts to articulate that process and to express the faith that I have come to know as clearly as I can. Of course this is ever-changing and unfolding. The closer I am to perceived truth the more that there is a realization of interconnection and compassion for others.
Even in these recent times of our collective choices to withdraw into our neurotic, egoic and familiar ways there is hope for us to awaken to something greater than the self and all its fragmented needs.
It seems to me that our worldly life has become a constant search for security and comfort with which we have become habitually conditioned to. The possibility that we might have to spend a significant amount of time with ourself without the distractions that we are so conditioned to rely on is quite an uncomfortable scenario to imagine.
To my mind, I am coming to see that this-worldly life is an escape. When you have a problem you can turn on the television, phone a friend, go out for a coffee or turn to google. There is the internet and the iPhone and so many other options that enhance that possibility and propensity for escape. The market place is about these distractions, but I am discovering that these acts of escaping , fragments our consciousness. There is something of us missing in living according to popular conventional, worldly norms. There is an absence of a process of honest and open self investigation and contemplation in our reliance on escape.
I saw a post recently suggesting that we should let our children be bored; that boredom provides an inner quiet that helps our children with self-awareness. I have learned to value the step out from that worldly life and to increasingly value what unfolds for me in solitude; the insight and peace it can bring. In solitude you have no one to turn to but yourself. When problems arise and things become difficult you have no choice but to go through them, and come out the other side. In solitude I am learning to be with my own nature in the raw and to find a way of working and dealing with it.
These are not things that are much valued these days but there is something about connecting with this place in awareness that is essential to our being. It is the place that we unfold from and all that needs to happen is for it to be uncovered. The responsibility and the choice is ours.
Every age has its leitmotif, a set of beliefs that explains the universe, that inspires or consoles the individual by providing an explanation for the multiplicity of events impinging on him or her. In the medieval period it was religion, in the enlightenment it was reason, in the nineteenth and twentieth century it was nationalism combined with a view of history as a motivating force. Science and technology are the governing force of our current age.
The Leitmotif helps us to understand our worlds but it is not in and of itself an absolute truth. If it were it wouldn’t change from year age to age. It is more the way that we come to rely, relate and believe in a leitmotif, that is itself a problem and maybe there is some advantage in learning to explore other possibilities of perception and understanding the world. Sometimes our attachments to our thoughts can separate us from what we truly are. To let go of the narrative, grand or individual, and to look to our own direct experience in life and to trust in something that we are a part of and that is a part of us and that we can know more fully from looking inward.
In some ways, “to look within” is a leitmotif. But it is not in believing in the leitmotif or the narrative or the meaning, or concept that we look to understand and know more intimately our being and role in existence. It is in coming to relate to and be in life from the direct experience, that there is a new way of seeing.
Change is required, if this world is to move in the direction of recovering from what humans have done to it. I have asked myself, what it is about myself, that might need to change. From there I have proceeded with examination and questioning of my own perception and self seeing. I as well question the need for another attachment to a story or set of beliefs that will help me to feel more secure in my transformation to a better person. It seems that we human beings, in the world are always seeking security for ourselves, both physiologically and psychologically. It seems to me that this pattern and/or intent and the narrative that it produces, hasn’t in fact worked all that well.
On a grand scale of narratives, Hegel introduced the notion that there should eventually come a time when modern humans would develop a social political system that would be based on freedom and liberty and that this would be the end of history. Francis Fukuyama published his book “The End of History and the Last Man” exploring this issue of liberal democracy and whether or not it would be the saving grace for humanity.
This idea of liberal democracy being the ideal state is just another example of humans looking for solutions in a grand narrative and it has contributed to a realization, for me, where by, I question whether or not psychological security, even really exists. It is a fact that it is sought by humans, in various forms that seem to have no substance and can even be said to be illusionary, divisive in belief, dogmatic and religious in their sanctioning or not; and so on. I have come to realize that these are all psychological delusions and attachments to narrative, divisions that if not investigated and explored in a responsible way for oneself, have a fragmenting focus that inevitably creates physiological division, which contributes to conflicts, wars, and the suffering and the tragedy and the inhumanity of man to man.
It’s not in the pursuit of another narrative that we will become more attuned to our problems. Perhaps it is in a different way of seeing that a more holistic and relevant response will emerge. .