We-Space: Locating Self

In the midst of Circling, the ethic of immersion into a deepening group process, cycling more and more into the present moment, the boundaries of Self get murky and less defined–whether we like it or not.  Expressions from any individual are often tentative, as if venturing forth from the safety of one’s personal domain carries unknown risks. Clinging to separate identities in an atmosphere of implied intentional dissolution turns out to be more or less slippery, at times even counterproductive. But that’s the idea. Let go of your preoccupation with Self and feel your way into the collective dynamic. Tricky. Challenging. Murky. Also an invitation to unearth what for some may be profound discomfort.

The true nature of our relations to each other and the world emerge in toppled assumptions, unexpected curves along the path of unwinding layers of personality, guarding, looking for a “true” self in relationship or imagining there is anything solid to “conclusions” or even “lessons.” One is faced with realizing that while we might have momentary or even tenacious fantasies of being in the center of our own worlds, the truth is that everyone else is also in their own center…or at least wrestling with its unique parameters, its anchors, imputing its indelible nature.

Yet the fantasy of a center is just that, an illusion.

Everything is moving. Nothing is truly resolved, despite reflexive reification to satisfy our longing for certainty. Trying to pin anything down is a fool’s errand, certain to lead to confusion and dissatisfaction. We are perpetually in the middle. Yet also, at any moment, the truth of Self, hovering like a condor on warm updrafts, swoops to the front of awareness, perhaps even unexpectedly erupting into familiar, old or even novel emotional states including fear, uncertainty, self-criticism or a delightful and playful freedom.

At the same time, beyond collective awareness, the unforeseen and mostly unpredictable dynamics of We-Space, there are further nuances of Self and selflessness in the reciprocation of the interpersonal exchanges, the interpenetration, shifting connections, the levels of permission, the sheer dependent co-arising of it all, which is to say, “relationship.”

That this is occurring in a context assuming the exploration of We-Space to be the cutting edge of human evolution (or at least spiritual evolution) makes it all the more portentous and at the same time even dubious.  Whereas some insist Circling is a deliberate cultivation of a supportive atmosphere in which individuals elevate and clarify the level of mutual permission to access and share deep personal process, it is also just as likely that sooner or later its more challenging transformative potential is realized in the deliberate or unexpected discard of the vestments of ego to expose a more raw and real, even purified, identity. Is such a condition a result of “support?”– or, more likely, the erosion of every notion of support?

Individuals undertaking a traditional practice of mindfulness (shamatha meditation) eventually understand that peering through the blizzard of spontaneous mental activity isn’t necessarily a direct path to blue-sky clarity. One meets persistent and deeply rooted patterns, the shadow self, demons and false states masquerading as truth.  Likewise, a Circle, or for that matter any group, deliberate or otherwise, populated with the same personalities over time (a family?), might be regarded as a group mindfulness practice,  exploring and sharing transient emotional and mental reality, slowly evolving to more intimate and authentic qualities of relationship. It could be said that any group eventually learns to cut through and discern internal process to a consciousness of field process/phenomena. Circling is merely a more deliberate and accelerated path. If I am in a Circle, I am sharply focusing on my internal process and I also want to notice the collective field (the activity of “group mind”). And I want to distinguish the two.

However, just as in solitary practice, there is nothing linear about entering “group mind.” We cannot automatically identify or regard any single expression as an expression of the field. More likely, what is an expression of self (or discursive mind) is constantly shifting as each participant moves back and forth into and out of mindful space. Responding to or being reactive to someone else in a Circle is not equivalent to an emanation of group mindfulness. Sooner or later, personality (a regression into ego) interrupts every drop into the deep silence of authentic connection.

When we are able to cut through the personal need for support, looking for reinforcement for what are in essence our personal constructs (projections) about ourselves and others, the naked reality starkly revealed is that none of us is here to please, to connect, to support, to fix or give others what we imagine they want. Yes, we do all of these things as if they are our true mission, or at least we try. But the Circle can also be a hot context in which we examine our motives (or have them reflected back to us), thus refining our capacity for fearless compassion.

As I once witnessed in a blazing Kali-esque exquisite moment of liberating truth, one person in a Circle, at least within the limited time-frame of that meeting, embodied the profound and most painful paradox of Self: the non-dual nature of appearance and reality, the simultaneous truth of selflessness and how each of us is helplessly clinging to our identities as if there really is some materiality to our existence.

She appeared to be in a (silent) state full of both crystalline clarity and inexpressible grief, a momentary deconstruction of everyone else feeling their own unmet needs reflected back to them. For that brief period, her piercing brilliance caused considerable discomfort in some others as they appeared to struggle with ego boundaries, differentiating between Self and the field, bias about what a Circle is, a role they may have chosen or their own projections about themselves and what they want from Circling.

And ironically, of course, all of this is simply my personal projection. It is certainly my own dance with Self, mindfulness practice, assumptions I have about extending solitary practice into a group setting. But I will continue to test and test and assess and learn. I will throw open the doors and windows, just in case, one day, someone shows up to set fire to everything and burn down my house of straw.

We-Space III: Eros and Evolution

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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 … Continue reading

Trusting the precipice….

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing–
each stone, blossom, child–
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we tangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

Reiner Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, II, 16.

What is the ground? Where is the ground? Is there a ground?

These past few months, more like the past few years, are a slow turning toward Rilke’s elusive essence, shifting circumstances and frame of mind, perpetually straddling multiple worlds.

Disappearing into an deliberate pursuit of an imagined solitary personal salvation is barely conceivable as it is too superficial, though unsteady is the balancing act between pushing forward with an undefined agenda (or no agenda), attending to what appears in front of me, patiently imagining a more obvious emergence will strike me between the eyes….and that I will recognize it.

I will more likely edge tentatively into love than dive, whether it is for a person, an idea, an entire gestalt. Meanwhile, it’s tantalizingly easy, as if having quickly fallen back to sleep after a moment of meditation, to become lost in the conceptual.

I miss not being engaged in a collective effort with its conflicts, dissonance and resolutions. I would feel better furthering tangible benefits on behalf of the whole. But who is to say I am not already doing that, perhaps in a small but no less integral way. I imagine a shorter lag between effort and fruition, a more linear continuum between concept and outcome, like “closure,” resting in the illusory security of active beginnings and definitive endings. My course over the past couple of years may resist definition, but at least it’s been driven by indelible truth.

I care, as if caring itself is the license permitting the softening of personal boundaries, entertaining a profound and limitless permeability, as if caring alone is enough to become transparent and to invite others to do the same, softening into the restless and the sublime tumult of living.

Being a solo traveler has reached the peak of its appeal. It’s difficult to fully accept how much this is true. The primary obstacle to entering a promising relationship is that I am only beginning to trust again being able to recognize one when I see it. Becoming aware of my blindness too late in the last one was a hard blow. So I imagine it is easier to settle for less… for limited companionship without an expectation of anything more substantial. But then what?

The superficial path of least resistance appears easier, as if it frees me from having to confront the main issue. What is it I could not see? What was it I wanted to be true that was not true? Every time I contemplate extending myself into a more substantial alliance, I recoil. I don’t recall ever feeling this way. I don’t know if there is a way through.

I imagine simple refuge, that someone or something will magically make it all clear and easy. I conceive of relationship without attachment, as if commitment implies ownership, or even monogamy. I am free to have any relationship at any time, with anyone, with no obligations, loving fully, equally and without restraint….even if only temporarily. But I am 70 now and the prospect of not progressing beyond this is real. Could I accept such compromise?

Now, after accumulating more than a year’s time in Chiang Mai, I wonder  what could be inadequate about remaining in familiar surroundings? Why forego the comforts of an American home, community and convenience, the deepening groove and safety of perennially soothing routines that connect one to a single place, except for the prospect of continuing to be solitary.

Being in one place reinforces the illusion of permanence while attuning one to less obvious change. At “home,” the passage of time is reflected in my surroundings and thus in myself. I’ve come to rely on a change of scenery from time to time to recognize where I’ve been. There is an ongoing urge to explore beyond the familiar. Diversity is the soul of creation. For me, the diversification of life and culture drives conscious creativity in one’s own view and in life. The creative impulse, the drive toward communion, eros, is the evolutionary process itself completely encapsulated in a single word. It is optimism, consciousness and dissolution all rolled into one.

It’s a partial re-boot, a belief in the next moment without having to know what is next. A longer-term encounter with predispositions, personal bias, expectations and habits allows eros to manifest anew, freshening perspective and opening transformative possibilities.

 

We-Space II: Supernormal States

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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 … Continue reading

We-Space: The Next Buddha

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We-Space is a term for the experience of collective field phenomena occurring in groups. It may be called collective intelligence, an energetic manifestation of the resonance occurring among the participants. Whether “we-space” pre-exists or is evoked by a group process, … Continue reading

Equanimity

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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 … Continue reading

The Last Dalai Lama

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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 … Continue reading

The Abuser in Chief

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There have been recent developments in the case of a well known Tibetan Buddhist teacher accused of abusing his students over a long period of time. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse posted a substantial statement about this issue, going into detail about the … Continue reading