The drive to survive seems to be a response to a fundamental sense of vulnerability that is at the heart of my own consciousness. That drive is insatiable in its striving and influence on my thinking. Although when I bring a meditative awareness to this truth I take a step towards loosening this seemingly fixed and innate pattern of response. Could it be that rather than “survival” being of a quality that is an unalterable instinct it is more that it is a response that has been a conditioned one and that is more pliable than generally thought and that it is possible that it can be transformed?
A step towards increased self knowing seems to open the door to a transcendence of this conditioned way as I begin to realize and recognize the impracticality of my striving and thinking. This also requires a settling into the more fundamental essence that is inseparable from the sense of vulnerability. Arising out of being present too and embracing this experience my emotions, perceptions, thoughts and sense of being are transformed. I am able to move past a world obsessed with my own sense of a limited egoistic perception and intent. I settle into and trust in something of an evolving “life essence” that I am inseparable from that has been blocked from being experienced directly in that striving way.
Having spent another month here in Myanmar I am aware of a powerful cultural conditioning that influences and propels a more mindless, conforming orientation to “Being”. The quality of individual reflection, contemplation and expression is generally absent or greatly suppressed here. Myanmar people have been oppressed in their ways for over fifty years by a military government and prior to that the British Colonials and a religious and tribal collective socialization. It seems to me that this extensive social conditioning itself is a powerful force that limits the likelihood and opportunity for an authentic and integral quality of existence. These collective influences seem to be part of an attachment to a rather rigid cultural, survival response that discourages individual expression much of which might be unconscious.
There is an irony to this sense of mindlessness, in that the population of Myanmar is 90 percent Buddhist. My own experience of Buddhist teaching involves following a path to “self knowing.” I have come to realize through extensive time spent in Asia that the reality of Buddhism in the world is that it is often reduced to a religion and/or culture that more than often embraces fantasy, idealistic, and dogmatic thinking and that the authentic experience and awareness of “selflessness” is not realized for the most part,
William James wrote “The rest of us can… imagine this by recalling our state of feeling in those temporary ‘melting moods’, into which the trials of real life, or the theatre, or a novel, sometimes throws us. Especially if we weep! For it is then as if our tears broke through an inveterate inner dam and let all sorts of ancient peccancies and moral stagnancies drainway, leaving us now washed and soft of heart, and open to every nobler leaning. With most of us, the customary hardness quickly returns, but not so with saintly persons…”
Maybe during his time this was an experience of a more saintly person but what I have discovered is that this is a potential quality of experience that is realizable, to as William James indicates, “the rest of us. It may be a religious man, or imaginative man, the state being realized through a refusal to develop those qualities of practical-mindedness and eye-to-business that seem to be the requisites for survival in our complex civilization.
Gurdjieff suggests, through Ouspensky’s writing that the main difficulty which the system must combat is man’s tendency to sleep, to do things mechanically. The world has no meaning for us because we do all things mechanically.
One thing that I love about Canada, that I have not found in Germany, where I now live, is the vast presence of an uncultivated state of nature. I am heavy hearted in missing that at times. Maybe it is partly to do with how Germans have efficiently come to manage their material world. Germany is a very cultivated and highly managed place where order and efficiency are highly valued. The raw and wild nature has always been a place where I have been more able to connect with a deeper part of myself. The degree of control of the land of Germany reflects a greater general absence of a natural connection to being for me. I find a more natural way of being in the way of life in Canada and in Myanmar where I am writing this from. Is it possible that with all of our modern discoveries that come with this way and these values and what we call progress…. we find ourselves on the surface of life and that efforts to find truth are abandoned and hidden under a bourgeois compromise: that our search outside is often accompanied, and compromised by human pettiness and human triviality ?
I find myself to be somewhat of an outsider, even in Canada, and in so doing feel as if I am often standing alone; in a compromised universe. It seems that not enough individuals are prepared to stand as a witness to save this planet and that it is highly likely that the vast majority of us are looking in the wrong ways. What is important or real seems not to be realized, known or said. We are beginning to realize that in the thousands of years of human influence, observation, reflection, and recording that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood and what we know with perfect accuracy as the past, has never existed. Is it possible that reality is nothing to most and that their life runs on, unconnected with anything outside of assumed norms and perceptions.
I am now in my life not content with adhering to being led by my instinctive drive to control my external world or to attend to conventional assumptions about what I need or want or that I must be. This all had to do with perceiving everything as separate and external to me as well as possessing an insatiable grasping after a more secure and comfortable illusion of a happy existence. I now feel that in the end it brings only unfortunate consequences. Attending to convention without question was the ordinary bourgeois part where I followed tamely like a goat in the world. In order to live fully I have followed my more natural urges to be an Outsider; one who is aware of his dissatisfaction, who is tired of being a goat. In so doing it has been a step towards investigating in a more expansive way; realizing that the life-force is higher than the mere individual will to self-preservation.
Inspired by ColinWilsons writing.
I wander through the dusty streets of Mandalay
Near where the dirty Erwaddy River does flow
And on each human face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
(Inspired by William Blake
It was the beginning and as Robert Blake wrote, “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.”
I am deeply suspicious of those who profess to know themselves in a way that is intensely confident and assured. Colin Wilson suggests that the “self-surmounter”can never put up with the man who has ceased to be dissatisfied with himself. It strikes me that they are operating from perceived illusions of their belief in self. Perhaps it is more that they have not become insightful enough to be aware of their looming self doubt or that they are too attached to “self” to see beyond it. It seems to be a never ending task to shift what we have accumulated of our personality that is in the way of knowing “self”. We humans seem to have an incredible ability in our conditioned way of seeing, to ignore, deny and avoid painful truths about ourselves. To search for truth is too much for the denier.
And thenvthere is the problem of self expression as St. Augustine has writtne ‘I came to know where I was [as a child], and tried to express my wants to those who could gratify them, yet could not, for my wants were inside me, and they wen outside’ (Conassions, Bk. I, VI. Italics mine.)
I have become aware of the limitations of the conditioned self. It is what I doubt. In some ways my later life has been about the refining of a “gentle will” that is focused on revealing what has interfered with openness and receptivity to revelations of self knowing that are authentic.
It seems as well that there is something of my essence that is by its nature creative and imaginative and that when I enter openly into that, there is in turn a more satisfying sense that my attempts of expression are more authentic. At times that creative expression itself is the action that reveals something more of my self. Creativity and imagination seem to be inseparable from that experience of becoming and being authentic. With this there is an increased awareness of the mystery, of life and that which can not be known.