We-Space III: Eros and Evolution

Eros and Psyche

What is increasingly common among a global sampling of practitioners is that ingenuity, skill, intelligence, fearlessness and chance are conspiring in group settings to dissolve psychological barriers, heal social isolation, conditioning and the colonizing effect of modern society to access ever deeper levels of authenticity. Here, the creation of more complex mutual agreements reveal the workings of collective intelligence and push the frontier of inter-subjectivity. This is growing up.

The working definitions of We-Space and its relationship to psychological development, group process or “spiritual evolution” differ depending on who’s talking. These differences seem to depend on the complexity and depth of psychological and linguistic agreements arising among participants or whether the inter-subjective space moves from the relative space of familiar psychological content into an entirely different (absolute) spiritual or philosophical context.

So far I have not encountered a uniform clarity or critical attention paid to the specific question of whether the spiritual context of We-Space is intrinsic or not. Again, depending on who’s talking, one might hear a casual reference to it as a pre-existing (absolute) condition–already true–in which every human or, for that matter, sentient relationship is already “cooking,” so to speak. Others might make equally casual references to the term as a general reference to deliberately fine tuned qualities of attention, presence and consciousness in group situations creating something not previously existent. This is what I would call “improving samsara.” It’s important to examine the language we use and carefully choose words to describe what we mean by the term We-Space as it is language itself that keeps us in the linguistic prison of separation. The question is, what is it about these inter-subjective experiences that advances human consciousness or evolution? Is it recovering existing nature or is it something new?

Why does this even matter? In pre-egoic primitive or tribal cultures, the social matrix in which subjects with limited interiority (sense of self or individuality) lived was already inter-subjective. Today’s mass culture both demands and facilitates that we become increasingly individualized. That sense of self is perpetually reinforced; we are driven to satisfy the appetites of individuality (whether artificially induced, useful or even healthy) to such a degree that the inter-subjective matrix has been actively suppressed. Collectivism in any form is anathema to libertarian and corporate ideologues.

To be conscious meant that two or more people were privy to some item of knowledge not available to others outside the privileged circle. In this sense, “consciousness” is similar to “conspire” (to “breathe with” others).  ——De Quincey, p. 149

Inter-subjectivity in its simplest form is an agreement between people, from the most superficial to the most profound, even to the metaphysical–or even to ignore it altogether. The very term implies interaction from the position of one’s own subjective experience with the subjective experience of another. In a sense, inter-subjective presupposes a mutual affirmation of each other as “others,” as objects separate from one’s self.

That we can now refer casually, after a century, to the metaphysical potentials of the inter-subjective field is evidence of an evolutionary turn toward re-acquaintance with the root definition of consciousness: “knowing with” or “breathing together.” In exploring the full depth of group agreements, I am not regarding We-Space as a synonym for generic inter-subjectivity. At a neuro-psychological level, entering inter-subjective space may activate mirror neurons as simulations are formed in our own minds about what is being simulated in other’s minds. Further on, engaging in dyadic or small group simulations bring us to higher levels and more complex agreements about reality, coherence, what phenomena are important and why.

I am applying the term We-Space to a more specific quality of inter-subjectivity in which the context shifts from psychological to spiritual or philosophical, waking up. This is the inter-subjective frontier (entering absolute space in which “I” is less defined), bearing fruit either by plodding steps or great leaps toward non-conceptual, unitary awareness. We are not creating a field of collective intelligence. We are discovering it anew; it is the true context of the agreements by which we live.

Spirit is not in the I, but between I and You– Martin Buber, 1970, I and Thou, p. 89).

In a growing number of circumstances, with an increasing number of adept leaders, it is apparent that still deeper, trans-egoic levels of engagement (a temporary abatement of the super-ego) are possible and, as we assimilate their meaning and potential, learning how to access them is increasingly necessary. To suggest that these qualities of attention are inherent is an easy reach.

This also matters because the momentum of communal engagement is pushing the frontier of the definition of “human nature.” Evoking We-Space is not a quirk, an easily dismissed popular phenomenon artfully constructed by self-interested entrepreneurs. It is a blossoming, increasingly elaborate and significant deep-dive into our true nature in parallel with the solitary orientation and practices of contemplative traditions.

Practitioners in this field may be tempted to say that I am jumping the gun, that practice precedes theory. Perhaps they are justified. Yet ironically, suggesting the exploration of inter-subjective space is a practice lacking a fully formed theoretical foundation is to overlook myth, psychology and modern philosophy.

At the mythic level, cultivating inter-subjective space is an entirely erotic adventure in the most comprehensive sense. Eros is an impulse to move toward, to unite, create and discover. It is ongoing, never absent. It is not conceptual, rational, linear, exclusive or limited. One might say it’s a universal character of sentience, a longing for connection and belonging. It’s not solely a human trait or source of action. It is life living itself, driven by a uniform and unchanging principle. Eros doesn’t know about ego or practicality, about individual conditioning, trauma, psychological or physical wounds. It can be denied and ignored, but it cannot be turned off. It is adaptable to every circumstance and always creatively responding to any limits being placed upon it.

The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.—Thomas Berry

The perpetual longing for union arises from an equally perpetual differentiation of matter and consciousness. From that differentiation arises subjectivity.  Thomas Berry defined differentiation, subjectivity (“differentiation-integration”-Wilbur) and communion (“transcendence and inclusion”-Wilbur) as the constant and cyclic primordial intentions of evolution, infinite spontaneous acts of creation, the continuous distinctive separation of entities: the erotic principle, longing for creation and longing for union.

If we were taking about human beings, we would be calling differentiation the assumption (reification) of unique identity, followed by a self-awareness and orientation (interiority) that characterizes subjectivity, the realization of self, self as distinct from other. In Buddhism this is regarded as a fundamental confusion: the root of suffering. When we engage in We-Space practices, we are addressing and unraveling  human suffering. By assisting each other in eliminating successive filters from our view, we approach a collective version of the absolute view.

People initially entering group process, whether it is Circling, HeartIQ, the Evolutionary Collective or perhaps especially the space of Surrendered Leadership, may have no clue what to expect. What may initially happen, a first stage, is the revelation of differentiation in the deep dive into one’s own interiority, the elaboration of the diversity of individuals engaged in the process. But as the character of the process cycles deeper and further toward We-Space, the dynamic of differentiation can become exquisitely poignant in moments of dissolution. The evolutionary process itself emerges and participants may find themselves both completely present (in a trans-egoic state) as well as being in awe of that presence in self and others.

We-Space then becomes a condition of standing fully within the paradox of differentiation and subjectivity, experiencing a unique creation of one’s own identity, while simultaneously having a transcendent experience of all “others” as subjects, virtually undifferentiated from and fully connected with oneself. For a group of diverse subjects initially experiencing others as objects to undergo a transformation of group consciousness such that all objects disappear into a continuum of subjects is what Thomas Berry would call communion.

According to De Quincey’s most radical definition of intersubjectivity, the mutual structural coupling of already existing experiencing subjects, where the interiorities of the participating subjects are interdependently shaped by their interaction, the co-creation of the space is based on the relationships of the participants, co-emergence and co-arising move into a condition of inter-subjectivity preceding subjectivity.

We-Space communion is a shift from the psychological context of co-creating subjects to one in which the primary relationship is with the group. Interiority emerges from group process, not vice versa. The group becomes an organism. —shifting from “I am creating you” to “you are creating me” to an entirely different context: an agreement that neither is creating the other, that both are in creation in a context yet to be named, fully plumbed or understood.

The primordially erotic nature of such differentiation, subjectivity and communion never abates. Dissonance, conflict or irritation might precipitate a temporary (and necessary) recapitulation of “self” as a conscious or unconscious act of differentiation. The quality of leadership—or surrendered leadership—in this context determines how the condition of  union evolves further.

Does inter-subjectivity actually create individual subjectivities, is it ontologically primary, or does inter-subjectivity presuppose already existing centers of subjectivity?

–De Quincey

As I inferred above, Quincey is postulating that the most advanced states of inter-subjectivity call into question whether subjects come before or after the inter-subjective experience. In this state, there is no clarity about the ontological relationship between the whole and the part (Am I creating you? Are you creating me? Are we both being created by something that is neither you nor me?).

In Vajrayana Buddhism, there is no uncertainty about this question. All subjects appear spontaneously from the primary (erotic?) communion of dependent co-arising within a timeless ground that arises without cause and has no characteristics. It is neither subjective nor inter-subjective, nor indeed, anything at all. This is a somewhat modified definition of the Basic Space of Phenomena — the substrate of consciousness underlying the entire matrix of dependent co-emergence. Here, inter-subjectivity pre-exists all subjects. Things do not “exist” on their own.

The magic of discovering something new always trumps the security of existing knowledge.– SeanWilkinson, Circling Europe

Thus, We-Space is (becoming) a practical definition we may apply to a shift from subjects cultivating a high degree of agreement based on physical and linguistic signals to a shared (non-conceptual) condition in which the ontological relationship between subjects and the inter-subjective space is much less clear. In this communal space, subjects inevitably do experience interiority, yet it becomes a much less reified condition, arising and disappearing more spontaneously as one’s attachment to the idea of a distinct–and fixed–identity softens. In this space, reification/interiority appears with increasing subtlety, as subjectivity enters a natural and organic ongoing flow of differentiation, in which releasing into a less differentiated communal experience becomes far more accessible.

Similarly, the primary (erotic) motivations of evolution are all operating in this condition of We-Space in simultaneous, integral non-linear fashion, each moment a transition into and through the other conditions. We-Space could be called a primary experience of evolution. Its unitary character is its spiritual dimension.

There is something about the nature of consciousness, it seems, that requires the presence of the “other” as another subject that can acknowledge my being. (When I experience myself being experienced by you, my experience of myself—and of you—is profoundly enriched, and, in some encounters, even “transformed.”) Quincey, p.148

Everything exists in relationship. Consciousness is the communal experience of “knowing with” others. Inter-subjectivity exists independent of and precedes subjectivity. We-Space is a (still emerging) collective version of reality sought by individual spiritual practitioners for centuries, the emptiness of self. In that sense, perhaps we can be clear: “we” comes before “I.” We is already true.

 

 

We-Space II: Supernormal States

Signs of intersubjective entry into the We-Space Sangha.

The yoga of intersubjectivity in all its forms is yielding information and learning at new levels of consciousness and in new configurations of field phenomena. If an individual awakening process is any guide to the nature of collective awakening experience, we would have to consider including the possibility that the nature of intersubjective space mirrors and eventually yields phenomena and capacities similar to those arising from concentrated and prolonged personal practice. The recognition and interpretation of such phenomena as nyams or even supernormal perceptual states might well also yield a database of experience, though great care must be taken to avoid regarding these states themselves as fruition.

First, so much of the lingo of We-Space exploration is about presence: mindful presence, radical presence, etc. The moment we assign a label to presence as a state, as soon as “presence” becomes a capacity or skill, it is reified. Any concept of presence (referencing  time) that doesn’t regard time as merely another form of perception or that presumes the existence of an identifiable basic unit is flawed, or is at least a captive of flawed linguistics.

There is no such thing as a unit of time in any absolute sense. Since that is the case, we must define “presence” as resembling something more like absence. That is, an un-reified vastly spacious awareness that has loosened attachment to and is no longer in the tight grip of a specific identity: one so expansive that “embodiment” implies a limitation, so permeable that emotional states, the ambient phenomena of a group process, no longer  impede the flow of authentic connection. Temporarily at least, one is so completely “here” that time stands still. At the same time, no one is home. Similar to the conditions of advanced meditative practice, the ego has been rendered quiescent. One remains in a non-conceptual state. There is nothing to reify.

Woody Allen once famously said, “Time is nature’s way of preventing everything from happening all at once.” From the dualistic view in which subject and object exist, we can only imagine “everything” as discrete events, jumbled together without order, arising in random fashion, crowding each other out, competing for “space” in the arising and disappearing chaos of phenomena, all competing for attention. The dualistic view is  that this competition appears as the constant arising of sense perception, the evaluation of that perception, becoming thoughts in relation to the timing of “events” that we perceive or imagine to exist.

But awakened mind is not just another unconventional and unfamiliar form of time in which “events” occur. There is no sequence of events. There are no events. It is time-less. There are no discrete moments. There is no present, no past, no future; no procession from one thing to another. There is only what is-now-which is changing constantly.

The term beginningless time is a conception arising from within our limited view of reality, our conditioned view, intrinsically based in time. Normally, we are not capable of another view. The reality of awakening mind lives outside of time. It permeates the construction we call time and it is not time bound at all. Then again, neither is it other than time. Wherever you are standing, you do not do so for “moments”—or for any single moment. You are standing there in and with your entire life, without beginning or end; you may imagine yourself to be in a discrete “event,” yet you are not separate from any other event.

The discipline we apply to the development of attention, to resting in a quality of effortlessness in our daily existence and to the attention we bring to the activity of mind all seems to be limited by the reality of samsara itself, the fundamental limitations to which we are helplessly subject. That limitation is time. And…it is also timeless.

The more we awaken, the more we learn about the terms of samsara and our condition, the more we might come to regard our predicament as a perpetual purgatory, which is in every instant both timeless, with all events happening simultaneously, and a time bound condition over which we seem to have little if any control. Any collective process identifying as a vehicle of awakening, in particular the Surrendered Leadership experience of Circling Europe, will, if the right conditions are cultivated, eventually test the grip of the conventional experience of time. To the extent that a group might experience an altered experience of time, it would have to be regarded as a supernormal state.

A second feature of supernormal collective activity might manifest as transient clairvoyance (sensing a future event) or clairsentience (experiencing someone else’s reality in the past, present or future). Functional telepathy might also be a general way of categorizing supernormal phenomena arising from long-term intentional co-creative practice. Knowing what someone else is thinking, anticipating an appearance, a communication, an unusual ideation, simultaneous events or any phenomena occurring between participants separated by great distance

These states might appear to individuals or small groups, anything up to and including the entire group having a common experience, simultaneously experiencing an emotion or sharing a vision, a visitation, a premonition or gaining intuitive insight into the nature and process of an individual or the group as a whole. Such events might appear as dreams, waking images, bodily sensations or powerful emotions. Recognizing such possibilities will be important conditioning mitigating reflexive discounting or disregard for transient states. Sharing information about such phenomena has the potential to further elevate the level of coherence that is already emerging.

Progress resulting from collective We-Space practices may appear in many and unexpected forms. Cultivating the subtle capacities of our interior life that relate to our mental, emotional, intuitive and spiritual landscape and how we perceive one another—cultivating a grounded and rooted relational capacity is the foundation of every viable We-Space. But it all comes fraught with the same caveats that might apply to the results of any solitary practice. Any group declaring its purpose to be a group awakening beyond the existing limits of grip process is already inciting perceptual bias and unwarranted expectations that will may guarantee failure or at least delay.

There will be a natural tendency of any group detecting signs of collective “awakening,” however they may have arisen, to conceptualize the incubation process, codifying the pathway and limiting the essential open curiosity that probably led to such events in the first place. Such efforts can also become conceptual digressions from what may have been an entirely spontaneous process that may require much more investigation before adopting a formula for its reproduction. In short, there is no linear formula. The more trying, the less arrival. The more looking, the less finding.  Experiences of group opening, especially supernormal states, are created by resonance, not by conceptual practice.

 

The proper response to the emergence of unusual collective phenomena is to remain on the path that got you where you are, not to digress or fall into conceptual traps with it, focusing on a future that doesn’t exist. Focus must remain in the present, which also doesn’t exist, but it’s all we’ve got. These admonitions would apply to individual practice as much as to a group.
The fact that episodes of unexpected collective non-dual consciousness have occurred is a sign that something unusual can indeed happen among groups of people who have sufficiently whittled away at the influence of ego-centered control strategies and entered into powerful practices to sharpen their perceptual skills, feeling everything and rejecting nothing with an attentive and open and exploratory mind.
The technologies that serve as a platform for such collective emergence are gathering quickly. They appear to converge toward traditional tantric practice that regards the present moment as the engine of awakening. Everything becomes a doorway into deeper connection and an enhancement of We-Space. The transcendent is always intrinsic to the prosaic, however ecstatic or painful it may be. It is there in every moment, whether in the experience of deep feeling, exposing the root of suffering, acknowledging the presence and inevitability of death, struggling with resistance or guarding or transparency.
The evolved We-Space is not only one in which the individuals can give presence to the transcendent but also one in which all the barriers and and blocks that individuals construct can be named and seen and forgiven. Learning to recognize the glimmers of fruition in every bump, ever obstacle, every personal and interpersonal challenge is to realize the unity of ground, path and fruition ever more skillfully and completely, bringing us closer to the full expression of the We-Space Sangha.

We-Space: The Next Buddha

We-Space is a term for the deepening experience of collective field phenomena occurring in groups. It may be called collective intelligence, an energetic manifestation of the resonance occurring among the participants in an increasingly intimate group process. Whether “we-space” pre-exists or is evoked by a group process, is psychological or spiritual or evolutionary in nature depends on who you talk to. There are numerous processes included under the generic term and there are numerous purposes to which We-Space is being developed and directed. Based on what I have learned so far, the full potential of We-Space remains unexplored and virtually unlimited.

The vision of We-Space expressed here will not reflect a very deep comprehension of formal Integral theory or reference its hierarchies of evolutionary development. Like Michael Brabant, for example, I may diverge from the existing framework to explore the potential of We-Space to facilitate direct non-conceptual experience, to manifest supernormal states, to function as a matrix connecting diverse collective awakening practices, to highlight the limits of-if not overthrow-the dominant paradigm of scientific materialism. But that is the grand design, is it not? Based on personal study and practice, intuition, direct experience and contemplating the implications of what is described by many participants in the recent We-Space Summit, I think it’s possible to outline a few characteristics of this intelligence.

The threads of We-Space development and interpretations are analogous to the proliferation of long-term generative practices of different lineages of spiritual practice or to the parallel development of religious or sacred philosophies. But particularly now, they seem to be exploding out of a rapidly growing knowledge base resulting from deep and creative explorations that began five decades ago in the earliest explorations of group process.

We can easily acknowledge the contributions made by each of these lineages over a considerable period of time to the evolution of the whole. We can select personal practices from the buffet or immerse ourselves deeply in a single path. But developing a common understanding of the context in which all these processes are arising and flowering also serves and energizes the whole in ways that are already bearing magnificent and unexpected fruit.

Evolutionary Spirituality identifies itself as generic, stripped of jargon, cultural trappings and formal rituals of organized religion. It identifies as evolutionary as if it is unveiling and accelerating the evolution of human consciousness into a  universal embodiment of We-Space. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of the long-term enjoyed by similar inquiries taking place over the past 1200 years, for example, within Mahayana Buddhism alone (or much longer in the case of other religious traditions), which to my knowledge is the most extensive documented inquiry into the science of mind. We are facing a far greater urgency, a looming existential condition characterized by overpopulation,  planetary resource depletion and climate change, combined with rapidly evolving and energizing cross-pollination of sacred philosophies in search of keys to advancing human evolution, changing the course of human development from its current self-destructive path.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s well known declaration, “The next buddha will be a sangha” applies here. His vision may have been driven by the perfusion of evolutionary philosophies across global culture concurrent with a struggle to redefine governance, economics and spirituality in humanist terms. To apply this vision to the ongoing development of We-Space is probably not novel. Considering its implied parameters in greater detail might seem ambitious, yet to do so is an acknowledgement of an obvious and natural objective: organic openings such as the Patricia Albere’s Evolutionary Collective, even going beyond powerful preliminaries such as Tej Steiner’s Core Life Skills, Circling, Christian Pankhurst’s HeartIQ, Thomas Hubl’s Transparent Communication, Surrendered Leadership and other approaches to recognizing interpersonal field phenomena and the development of authentic relationship and radical presence as preparation for and enhancement of We-Space. These do contribute to widespread and growing evidence of collective efforts to embody critical evolutionary change, leveraging the impulse to evolve to a widening audience.

Since there’s plenty of room for interpretation, I will try to be clear about Hanh’s references to Buddha and sangha. Referring to the “next Buddha” is not a reference to a historical figure. “Buddha” refers to a state of awareness, not to an individual. That state of awareness may be called Buddha nature, primordial awareness, non-dual consciousness, spontaneous presence, the ground of reality or rigpa. Further, all phenomena arise spontaneously from the primordial (non-dual) ground. The essence nature of all appearance is not other than this non-conceptual, empty and supremely spacious presence that has no beginning, no end, is unconditioned and utterly insubstantial. In fact, to say this “condition” is the ground of reality is an oxymoron. Reality is not conditional. Its essence is nothing at all.

So, how can the next Buddha be nothing at all? A sangha is a community of practice. Superficially, the next Buddha will be a community of awakening individuals, as Dustin Diperna suggests, sufficiently capable of subsuming personal ego concerns and propagating the nature of collective reality such as to be regarded as leaders with a common vision and an approach to awakening. Imagine the simultaneous poly-centric emergence of key learnings that together comprise a distributed yet wholly coherent network of awareness. Each taken separately might not fit the criteria of true non-conceptual awareness, yet together they might well express something far more powerful.

The members of such a sangha needn’t be in geographic proximity or deliberately in coordinated action. They may not even need to know each other, though identifying and naming such a sangha would be a significant moment of progress. Imagining a community redefining authentic Buddha-nature as a field of collective influence is an explosive suggestion that a world-view growing from a spirituality of the near-future, if we are to survive, will be leaderless in the conventional sense, manifesting as a shared non-conceptual unconditioned conscious transmission and propagation of the essence of its liberating nature.

At the deepest level, however, identifying a sangha as a “Buddha” implies that it will embody elements of collective awakening closely aligning with or even identical to the state of awakening achieved by the historical Buddha, which is to say a collective experience of directly embodied non-dual pure awareness in which barriers between subject and object effectively dissolve into a common experience of unitary consciousness. Such a state implies a capacity to transcend apparent paradox: the conceptual and the non-conceptual, duality and non-duality, personal agency versus being a “channel” of some extra-corporeal intelligence, accepting “what is” versus having an agenda for change, realizing the truth of appearance as well as the insubstantial nature of all appearance.

It’s also important to differentiate the unique and rapidly fluctuating time-bound and conceptual We-Space created by any group from an absolute timeless and non-conceptual essence of We-Space that exists regardless of who is engaged, yet not identified with anyone in particular. The journey of any group (sangha) deliberately exploring We-Space will eventually be to transition from its relative forms to a realization of its absolute qualities. This process will require intensive, prolonged and coherent practice, timely and creative exploration of inner space never before navigated. At some point, however, two things will become evident: 1) it very much matters who is present as individuals in the process cannot simply be randomly interchanged with an expectation of arriving at identical results; and 2) the inward turning of the group to the intersubjective space must eventually turn outward toward service.

Such a collective achievement might also model a natural integration of requisite components of an awakened state; specifically, both absolute and relative bodhicitta and the development of a collective version of bodhisattva expression in the world. This is analogous to saying that the next Buddha (Sangha) will achieve an integral state of Being and Doing, demonstrating that neither are seen as opposite sides of an hypothetical coin, but that each becomes indistinguishable from the other.

What is traditionally represented in some branches of Buddhism as an ultimate state of consciousness requiring numberless lifetimes of arduous karmic resolution to achieve is, according to Dzogchen practices of the Great Perfection, within reach in a single lifetime. There is no timeline attached to Thich Nhat Hanh’s vision; let’s just say that, for those who wish to see the human experiment continue, and assuming the conditions for such a transition, even if only on the smallest of scales, can be created, there’s no time to waste.

The following is a partial list of potential characteristics of authentic non-dual We-Space:

  • Absolute We-Space is present whether it is realized or not. It already exists whether one believes in it, has experienced it or not. It is always here. It is never not here. It is implicit in every moment. Absolute We-Space is not a product of me or of you. It arises as us yet is also inherently something greater. It does not belong to any one, any group or any thing. We belong to it.
  • We-space is not an object to be cultivated. Talking about it as if it is a separate phenomenon or as something that is either here or not here only reinforces the dualistic thinking that makes it more difficult for us to recognize and enter authentic non-dual (absolute) We-Space.
  • In relative (dualistic) We-Space, objects (“others”) appear to be real, yet are entirely projections according to our individual experience and conditioning. At all times, I am creating “you.” “You” are creating me. The objective of an evolutionary process of revealing We-Space is to unravel the projections until they either dissolve or become transparent.
  • Individualism/personal autonomy/personal agency are illusions, rooted in conceptual mind. They all refer to presumed boundaries between one identity and another. The We-Space Sangha is a deliberate creation of conditions in which boundaries, erected according to conditioning, experience, religious norms and economic assumptions, can be reconsidered. This is partly a matter of neurophysiology and partly of cultural and economic colonization. The authentic Sangha of We-Space challenges every social, religious, ideological and economic structure. In order to realize full communion and full autonomy of every individual, decolonization must be teased away from neurophysiology.
  • An enhanced emotional connection between separate individuals, i.e. an improvement of samsara, is a valid objective of We-Space inquiry, but is not the ultimate objective. We-Space may be accessed by cognitive decisions to enter into a mutuality of increased permission between two or more identities, but if we are to enter the Sangha of We-Space, we do not drop deeper into our identities. We drop out of them more completely; we commit acts of release beyond any we may have previously imagined, literally cutting through the grip of the separate time-based karmic identity, perhaps not absolutely and not permanently, but at least enough for us to see the totality and potential of our co-creation.
  • We do have to come into a personal We-Space before entering collective We-Space. We have to be comfortable with recognizing our essential poverty, experiencing ourselves as naked; becoming more comfortable and secure in our own nakedness before we are able to share naked reality with each other. The field quality that awakens such a degree of safety is the act of dropping our attachment to a separate identity. This might be compared to a personal mindfulness practice that precedes our capacity to enter a group mindfulness practice.
  • In We-space, all feelings, conditioning, reticence and emotional guarding are viewed from a more neutral, less ego-invested quality of presence. We cultivate together the capacity to reduce our need to protect our selves; that need itself becomes just another thread of the interactional dynamics that might be experienced, shared and examined. We sense a greater access to and a reduced influence of emotional material that reinforces tendencies to regard our selves as separate identities. In We-Space, with intelligence and a shared willingness to be more vulnerable, we can assist one another to come closer to our core conditioning that represents a barrier to entry into We-Space in the first place.
  • Leadership is a transitional identification of a single or group of individuals whose reliable inquiry into collective We-Space shows evidence of fruition. If this occurs, the essence nature of We-Space empowers others to examine and reflect on their own participation and become empowered to model We-Space as well. In other words, a “leader” is identified as a transmitter, perhaps as a gateway for the group into non-conceptual mind. The objective of the process is the propagation of that transmission, making everyone a leader. The more people can become this, the more we accelerate toward a critical mass of humanity realizing and becoming empowered to recognize and enter relative We-Space, to engage in We-Space communication with others, realizing that ultimately, We-Space is not about following single leaders or becoming a leader, but in sharing an empowering vision that facilitates confident expression of temporary and progressive integrative leadership emerging as the We-Space Sangha.
  • Inasmuch as “leaders” identifying with specific traditions or philosophies exert influence within a matrix of diverse approaches to awakening, the force that supports the integrity of that matrix is their own integrity and momentum toward diversification within their chosen traditions. Holding a particular approach to awakened knowledge combined with the gravitational influence provided by similar figures operating in their own orbits both retains the integrity of their knowledge base as well as contributes to the creation of new information driving the evolution of the matrix as a whole.
  • We-Space is part of an evolutionary move away from post-modern culture driven by individualism and toward enhanced collective consciousness and collective action. We shouldn’t be naive about the economic, political and religious forces arrayed against such a movement. We are in an increasingly intense confrontation with powerful forces of libertarian individualism, self-interested Austrian economic theory and radical Calvinist religious ideologies. As a corollary to Thich Nhat Hanh’s vision, the transition to Sangha implies this critical shift toward revealing the nature of collective mind, collective development and action. In Buddhist terms, We-Space is, by inspiring an intention to awaken collectively, shifting from “me” to “we.” If it is authentic, it will inspire the awakening of compassion, generosity and action characteristic of the bodhisattva spirit.

The next Buddha may not be an exclusive or isolated sangha, a group of awakening beings from different traditions and different cultures, but an inclusive, possibly  distributed Sangha, holding the collective space for awakening by its coherence and the integrity of inherent confidence. The “we” is (or can be) the cracking of the egg in which we all exist, from which leaders/teachers will emerge, the awakened ones or the ones on their way who have previously been isolated from each other by sectarian and economic structures that isolate us and incentivize individualism.

The magic that cuts through the proliferation of approaches to realizing and engaging in We-Space and the increasing differentiation of individuals engaged in those processes is surely in part the acceptance of our individual uniqueness, but is also the revelation of what we share: our common human suffering. The unique nature of each individual’s version of dealing with suffering is what both keeps us apart and also what binds us together. We-Space is a hugely promising emerging vehicle for realizing Buddha’s Third Noble Truth, that there is a way out of suffering. To the degree that groups can mid-wife, witness, honor, share and resolve the common nature of our individual paths through life, enhancing the collective field in which we exist and evolve, We-Space moves ever closer to becoming Thich Nhat Hanh’s next Buddha.

 

Equanimity

equanimity-1-1170x666

Equanimity means stability or composure, an evenness of mind and attitude. In the Buddhist sense, this means an imperturbable vision in which nothing stands out, all phenomena being regarded as literally equal. No phenomena distinguishes itself from any other. There are no extremes. One dwells in the vast depths of the ocean of phenomena, undisturbed by the turbulence of the surface. In the absolute sense, equanimity is thus another way of referring to true nature, as it is the quality of Buddha nature that is the capacity to remain in such perfect repose.

Such an infinite and sustained evenness implies a profound freedom. We think of it as freedom from the essence of samsaric existence, the continuous flowing into our selves, the core of the Second Noble Truth, the perpetual attachment to and search for what is ultimately a superficial and illusory happiness. In equanimity, authentic happiness resides in the freedom from the search, though not in separation from the reality of the search or from other beings consumed by it. If I cannot be ruffled by the routine zigs and zags that life takes, even and especially by the extremes (old age, sickness and death) that we can all expect sooner or later, I have achieved some grace, have I not?

Equanimity might be mistaken as dullness or vacuity, a smoothing over, even a suppression of natural human response. But no, authentic equanimity is not a flattening of responsiveness. Neither is it a dulling of perception. Quite the opposite. It is based on a heightened awareness of the forces and beliefs luring the mind away from balance, yet remaining in unity with all.

Each of us lives in a personal world of relative equanimity, a continuously fluctuating continuum. We ourselves and everyone we know or will ever encounter, in their own way, is moving back and forth on that continuum and, we hope, generally toward greater equanimity. That may seem a bold statement. And it is surely slow process. But even the most tortured among us have some awareness of their own suffering and are likely making whatever progress they can manage toward being less driven by their emotions, which is not to say they are becoming more effective in repression, but rather more effective in looking beneath to the essence of disruptive mental habits.

Some days we are able to maintain both engagement and a bemused balance of mind. On others, we’re deer in the headlights–engagement and balance completely escape us. We are well aware of our own flaws, the times when stress is overwhelming, when anger or sadness, helplessness or loneliness burst forth either without considering the consequences or even despite having considered them. These are moments of reverting to the attachment to self and misunderstanding the origins of thoughts. At such moments, authentic (absolute) equanimity,  the infinitely even quality of awakened mind, is nothing more than a distant dream.

The implication of true equanimity, the absolute state (Brahman), is that the effects of ego have been quieted. If there is an “I” which can be differentiated from others, then the inner experience of “I,” the super Disney E-ride emotional roller coaster will always be drawing us into differentiation of experience into extremes of good and bad. As the Four Immeasurables prayer says, ” May all beings be free of attraction, aversion and partiality and rest in great equanimity.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says in Courtland Dahl’s Entrance to the Great Perfection: A Guide to Dzogchen Preliminary Practices, “What would you do if there was no you? If there were no ‘you’ and no ‘I,’ then just imagine, what would become of passion? What would you do with it?”

On one level, he is asking what would become of the inborn tendency to make judgments, the relative passion of falling into partiality and attachment, deciding something is good or bad and wanting it to change. He goes on to remind us that emotions, in essence, are not other than emptiness. True equanimity is being able to recognize and observe emotion without being drawn into the drama. This does not mean we can deny emotions or act as if they are not real. Equanimity is the refined capacity to experience emotion fully and to transform it into its true nature.

The Latin origin of the word passion is passio, “to suffer.” The crudest form of passion, deeply rooted in illusion of the separate self, accompanied by only a rudimentary capacity for equanimity, does indeed imply great suffering. The self-oriented kind of passion that thrives on confrontation, competition, the zero-sum passion, is never fully satisfying because the outcome will always be temporary and superficial.

To paraphrase Dzongsar Khyentse further, we might regard the relative form of passion  as the opposite of equanimity. It involves fabrication, like constructing ornaments on the original tree of an emotion. Such adornments quickly become a personal agenda, which doesn’t coexist well with equanimity.

But what of inspiration, the passion to benefit beings? What of the generous impulse to contribute to a better world? What happens to passion as the capacity for equanimity grows and matures? Does it disappear? Or does it transform into love, into com-passion, the motivation to benefit others? The com-passion seeking definition here, derived from the latin “to suffer with,” is what arises with authentic equanimity. It is not the passion of attachment and fabrication of the self; it is the dawning of wisdom. That is an altogether different quality of passion than how we would normally think of it, a passion that is not grounded in attachment.

How do we know the difference?

There is clearly such a thing as relative equanimity, just as there is relative compassion or relative bodhicitta. This is conditioned equanimity, still subject to cause, still residing in a dualistic frame. Duality has not been dissolved. A personal agenda coexists with this version of equanimity. It is still possible to alleviate suffering effectively because we are cultivating a capacity to respond to immediate conditions with grace instead of with grasping, with selfless generosity instead of aversion.

While we experience the temporary bliss of relative equanimity, the accompanying relative compassion can indeed be very effective…temporarily. If we aren’t checking and noticing our personal agenda and how it is intruding, then the outcome of our efforts will likely descend into exhaustion, confusion and disappointment.

This is how Narayan Helen Liebenson ( a teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center) spoke  recently:

Ultimately, we are trying to cultivate a passion for life rather than for the things of life, a passion that expands our heart and our sense of what is possible in this world. This kind of passion is love, not just for a select few, but for all. In this way, [com]passion and equanimity come together in love and in wisdom.

As equanimity grows, so also does wisdom. As strong motivation (passion) becomes less oriented to the solitary self and more so to the collective, so compassion grows. And along with that, service. Cultivating equanimity increases our capacity to love in a more universal way. We make a transition from “me” to “we”. Our passion for our selves opens to an active loving passion for the benefit of all.

Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche said it well:

You can be open and love someone and not be attached. One might call it passionate, but it is open—and that is what makes the difference between love [passionate service] that benefits and love that causes us to suffer. Our equanimity comes from open awareness itself. Each time you let go of your attachment, you reconnect with open awareness. This is what is known as the path. 


 

The Last Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the “holder of the ocean of Dharma,” IVth Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, the embodiment of Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion, leader of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, Nobel Prize winner and possibly the most widely known and admired person on earth (except in China), has said that he will be the last Dalai Lama.

Such a decision can only be the result of much contemplation over a long period of time. For westerners, for most Buddhists the world over, it may appear that this decision is made primarily to prevent Tibetan Buddhism from being subsumed or split by the Government of China, to preserve whatever remains of the independence of traditional Tibetan spiritual and monastic culture from becoming an appendage of the Chinese State. Yet the price of terminating the lineage may be high, as a stateless people will have to grapple with the loss of their most important institution providing a cultural glue between the past and the future.

At one time, monastic culture in Tibet was the State. Throughout the troubled history of the succession of Dalai Lamas, centuries of shifting relations with Mongols and multiple Chinese dynasties, Tibet managed to retain a tenuous (even debatable) independence from China based on the spiritual accomplishments of its multiple lineages…until 1950. Now, after the systematic destruction wreaked by the Cultural Revolution and the limited restoration of monastic culture since, China has declared that they will name the next Dalai Lama by drawing lots.

This may appear to be a radical shift in their relations with the Gelugpa in particular, but it isn’t really. Their interference with the succession of the lineage, and the Gelugpa tolerance of it, goes back to the 16th century. But in declaring their intention, they would presume to subjugate the spiritual hierarchy of Tibet to the interests of secular political control. This is surely a major consideration for whatever decision His Holiness makes.

I’m not about to claim historical authority, but there are a few points to make about China’s relationship with Tibet. In the west, we tend to regard the relationship between China and Tibet as a black and white issue. China invaded Tibet in 1950, effectively ending Tibetan independence. That’s just about the limit of popular knowledge. Yet China’s relationship with Tibet goes back at least as far as 640 CE, when a daughter of the Chinese Tang Emperor married the Tibetan Emperor, Songsten Gampo.

A stone outside the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is inscribed with the language of the treaty of 821 between a later Tibetan Emperor, Trisung Detsen Ralpachen, and the Tang Emperor Mu-Zong:

‘Both Tibet and China shall keep the country and frontiers of which they now are in possession. The whole region to the east of that being the country of Great China and the whole region to the west being assuredly the country of Great Tibet, from either side of that frontier there shall be no warfare, no hostile invasions, and no seizure of territory.’

So began a long and complicated relationship for the next 1300 years.

Since the beginning of the Yarlung Dynasty of Tibet (7th C), the language and culture of Tibet was infused with Chinese influence, including literature, astrology and medicine. During the Mongol period of China (13th-14th C), emperors sent caravans of gold westward to the Lamas of Tibet in support of their message and their monasteries. As political power shifted in China away from the Mongols, the clarity of Tibetan independence from China muddied, even as internal political influence was an ongoing topic of jealousy and conflict between monastic systems and schools.

It was the Mongols who bestowed the title of Dalai Lama upon a succession of abbotts of Drepung Monastery. Later, it was the Great Fifth Dalai Lama who invited the Chinese armies to subdue their Red Hat enemies. Thus, the Gelugpa lineage of Panchen Lamas and Dalai Lamas and the political influence of the Yellow Hats was secured by a foreign army, a favor unlikely to be forgotten by any subsequent ruler.

Ongoing rivalry between the Mongol and Chinese royalty was played out in Tibet well into the 18th C. During this time, several Dalai Lamas met suspiciously early deaths, opening the way for the Chinese to maintain control and resist further Mongol influence. The Gelugpas maintained spiritual and political primacy, but were also isolated from the outside world in exchange for peace and domestic tranquility at the behest of their Chinese patrons and occupiers.

In the late 19th century, Russia and Britain were battling for control of Central Asia. In 1904 the British sent thousands of troops to Tibet. Hundreds, if not thousands of civilians were killed. Shortly afterwards the British took control. In 1906 Britain and China entered into an agreement: the Chinese agreed to pay Britain two million rupees for Tibet (!).  In exchange, London recognized China’s right to annex the country, which they said had always belonged to them anyway. To this day, the conventional reason China invaded Tibet is its belief that it rightfully belongs to the mainland.

In 1912, the XIIIth Dalai Lama made his return to the country after years in exile. During this period, China was in chaos as the Qing dynasty had collapsed. The few Chinese troops that were stationed in Tibet where easily defeated. The Dalai Lama proclaimed independence which lasted until 1949.

In 1949, under Mao Zedong, China launched its invasion of Tibet. In October, 1950, the Chinese Army took over the country, starting at Chamdo. A year later the Dalai Lama through his representatives, signed a treaty with the Chinese. In it they recognized the authority of China over their country. When looking at the reasons why China invaded Tibet, the importance of this agreement (the 17 Point Treaty) cannot be overlooked. While the Chinese say it verifies their claim, the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in exile have long claimed it was a treaty signed under threat of force (and without the Dalai Lama’s review) and is therefore invalid.

Under Chinese rule and with the steady infusion of Chinese into the territory of Tibet, the local population has been subjected to economic, social and racial inequities. According to the exile community, over half a million Tibetans have died due to starvation, disease and imprisonment since the Chinese occupation. They also point out that the entire country is being inexorably assimilated into mainland China, turning it into a home for its own people. With the development of a transportation infrastructure, massive and rapid urban development and the gradual marginalization of traditional Tibetan culture, the time will come when Tibet and its culture will disappear as it is subsumed into the Chinese culture.

Of course, the PRC disputes these claims. Beijing says that from 1912 to 1949, the economic situation in the country had deteriorated. What the Chinese Army did was to liberate the people from suffering, inept leadership and a feudal economy controlled by the monastics.  With help from the mainland, the say, the economic and individual status of the people has improved. The government also releases statistics saying GDP figures have risen tremendously since the occupation. They also point out that workers there are paid highly (although many jobs are not available to those for whom Chinese is not the primary language) and infrastructure has improved. The Chinese also claim they have embarked on a mission to preserve historical sites.

The decision the Dalai Lama has to make is whether to remain passive in the face of probable assimilation of the Buddhist hierarchy into the influence of the State or whether to stand for the independence of monasticism from the state. Regardless, monastic communities within greater China have had to reconsider and redefine their economies according to Chinese political restrictions, avoiding the economic structures for which the Land of Snows was originally invaded in 1950.

What effect would the disappearance of the Dalai Lama have on dharma in the West? Will Western Mahayana Buddhism gradually dissect out the cultural associations with Tibet while preserving the essence of the teachings unencumbered by 1200 years of tradition, including the bad habits, sectarianism and faulty thinking of the very people who have brought it to us?

When the Dalai Lama says he will be the last, does he mean the last Tibetan Dalai Lama? What if the Dalai Lama were to reincarnate (and be recognized) outside of Tibet? Could he assume the traditional responsibilities as head of the Gelugpas? What if he were to reincarnate as a non-Tibetan? Or as a woman? What of Tibetans bereft of leadership? How will the Tibetan people, both in exile and in Tibet, already in profound pain, react to a selection of the next Dalai Lama by the government of China? For that matter, would they follow a non-Tibetan, or a woman? Would such a loss incite mass suicidal rebellion or deepen existing hopelessness?

What if he does not reincarnate at all? What happens to the drama of discovery and selection that has endured the centuries and sustained an unbroken lineage? The only clarity among all of this uncertainty is that we will still live in a world on the brink, a world just as much in need of Tenzin Gyatso’s religion of kindness, with him or without him. We will still be in need of the blessings of Chenrezig, the further proliferation and flowering of global efforts devoted to collective awakening. To whatever degree His Holiness has inspired devotion, generosity, compassion, the application of the principles of dharma, his loss will undoubtedly inspire an even deeper commitment if not also a greater sense of urgency.

 

Restoration

 

I

the Path is like walking backwards
on a tightrope between knowing and guessing

where you are going may come as
premonition or by sensing beyond the senses

yet grasping for where one has been
is to lose one’s sense of place

clouds arise and disappear
obstacles may appear as demons that are no other

than energies of purification noticed from a silent perch
structures of design whisper their secrets

to many deaf ears listening from the lower registers
of superstition to the higher octaves of reality

where shall I build my listening post
cloaked in the chimera of “mine”

where non-action assembles the scattered pieces
sources of the shifting image of now

                                 II

what was once a portal to clear intent
moistened by tears of surrender

shed under imagined guidance
hard-won by chain linking the signs to mark the way

by neglect becomes a bleak and darkened barred
window opening to implacable gloom

there is no substitute for breathing life and light
into a hardened maze of practice than gratitude

                                     III

for every state in which one dwells or seeks to occupy
an equal and opposite condition awaits
life is audited in real time by a neutral accountant

without a source yet possessing inconceivable omniscience
that is in truth not different from your own
were it to be unleashed in an explosive surprise

take a moment to consider there is no place
and no time like the present to digest the vajra truth
that there is no time and no place where you do not dwell

Essence Nature

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Most people would probably agree that the biggest human questions are why are we here and where do we come from. We generally do not believe anyone who claims to have received a phone call from God. And even if … Continue reading

McLeod Ganj

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I went to the railway station in Amritsar for my 8:20 train a week ago and discovered all trains had been cancelled-not only for that day but for four days. I had no choice but to take a taxi east … Continue reading

Jokhang

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

For a couple of days already before entering the Jokhang Temple, I had become familiar with the human traffic around it because my hotel was so close. The commercial scene, the human traffic and the security presence are all permanent … Continue reading