‘Less is more’. (Pierre Seghir, one of my first teachers, Crete)
‘The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.’ (‘Existentialism..’ Walter Kauffman).
‘There is no inertia in consciousness’ (J.P Satre)
“If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out..and difficult.” (Heraclitus)
“The initiated,” said Aristotle, “are not supposed to learn anything, but to be affected in a certain way and put into a certain frame of mind.” (Early Greek philosophy, John Burnett)
When the body has become accustomed to a level of health through careful and persistent effort, at a certain point something else has to happen. If not, we simply fall into a rut; producing the same movements everyday in maintenance alone. Then, our Practise ceases being such. A continuous source of movement and inquiry, has degenerated into mere habituation. Used, albeit unawares, to block the very change we claim to seek. We have allowed Practise to control us, when it should be the other way around. In objectifying ourselves in this way, we attempt to preserve ourselves, trapped forever the same by doing the same thing. The choice we are inspired to make in Practise is the road less taken. To lose this fictitious sense of self and to actually live in the fluidity of our Being.
We would, of course, like both; but even a cursory inspection reveals we can’t hold onto ourselves as we know-us, and, change at the same time. That is, unless we start to envisage a different idea of selfhood. One in which we can hold a sense of self, preserve an inner integrity, whilst being open enough to possibility to keep on moving with a current-experience of life. This is not an easy scenario; one that needs some Practise, and, some guidance. To navigate this paradox is the job of any ‘spiritual’ method, yet too often, the aspirant falls into some kind of ‘spiritual culture-de-sac’ where they end up distracted and obcessed with the tool, rather than, the envisaged ends. Hence, why it’s so useful to keep some rough-notion and perspective of objectives.
So it is here, In ‘recreating the wheel’ time and again, doing the same Practise, and knocking on the same closed-door each day, we can easily set up a kind of exotic obstacle-course for ourselves. We may achieve a basic sense of security and due diligence, having done what we feel we ought to, but this is to far under-use the greater spirit in which The Practise, moreover life itself, could open onto. Yet, all too often we decide to create a secret scheme to avoid the anxiety that accompanies change; to seal ourselves in repeated-action against an unpredictable world. Attempting to demonstrate a conventional and methodical reality to ourselves, one in which we can rely; where we have a role and certainly about the ‘information’ we’ve learnt.
However, as we all have experienced, this sense of conclusiveness may be comforting, but it is not at all satisfactory. Somewhere within us, we know this to be a fabrication. There is this sense of avoidance (perhaps, the origin of our feelings of guilt and shame) we are always aware of something lacking; not quite right. The same kind of ambivalence is found in our attitude towards Practise. We are desperate for the change it appears to offer, but, at the same time, fear to abandon what we think we know; about ourselves and the nature of experience, that we might lose ourselves too. Fair enough; to put-aside our fixes-Ideas it to enter into a pact with the gaping-chasm of the unknown and potentially chaos. To our rational minds, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Instead, we remain safe in our self-made certainty, and the feeling of progress and movement that Being needs as it’s life-blood is found within the a constant intensifying and complicating our chosen method. Although, the method doesn’t adequately provide for this sense of evolution, for it is a material tool, subject to the limitations pertaining to objects in the world. At some point, everything material must be defined in their essence around perameters. In contrast to this Being, in order to fulfil it’s very criterion; must keep creating in a continuous state of becoming. For this reason, the choice when we get stuck is then to create in a different direction, (changing again when we soon meet natural boundaries) leading to a very superficial conception of life. Or, to enter into the realm of pure illusion in what we are doing to create our own idealised sense of development.
Yet, what we are doing, is confusingly, trying ‘not to know’; to put aside the assumptions stagnating our Being, blocking it from being made afresh in the present. For, most obviously, if we were happy with what we knew, we would be contented to simply rest; inquiry, searching, and effort would drop away. So, we must either admit, that we are not doing what we claim to; or attempt with the Practise into some kind of realm of unknowing in order that something new might come through.
We are tasked to somehow cultivate this very subtle attitude in the movements we perform. It may be done; but it’s not as obvious as our original intent with the method. However, we cannot continue forever to utilise what we do for increasing our greater health and it’s subsequent ‘clear-headedness’ ad-Infinitum. This is not an adequate thread of continuity to work with, for at some point, although, health is incredibly useful, this will have been achieved; and then what, simply maintaining it forever?
Now the task must change, in order that we still have something to keep moving with. For, we will move whatever; we can move in honesty or illusion, it’s all the same to the world, yet, sadly, not for us. In this endeavour then, movement must be explored and our approach refined, in order that it doesn’t meet an end in our natural-ability of measurable extension or intensity of feeling. Indeed, this is the best case scenario; that we meet a road-block externally, and, having taken the practise as nothing other, simply give-up. On the other hand, often the degree of desire to be something other than we are, and, it’s accompanying frustration, will lead us to keep stubbornly pushing against our perceived limitations. This will at some point inevitably wring us dry, or, destroy us.
In this manner then, our new horizons must be signified by at least the intent towards a degree of restrained volition in movement. This symbolically represents a seismic shift in our relationship to Practise. When, before it was characterised by straining to achieve, to be what we are not (but still, holding fixed ideas of conclusions, without wishing to relinquish anything of what we think we are) now it has subtly turned-on itself. From an external means of demonstrating our being to life, through ultimately trying to protest against what it really is; an acceptance has started to percolate. Now our consideration, instead, is the courageous intention to accept the ineffable state of our actual, honest, Being.
For the longer we Practise, it starts to dawn on us that we don’t actually know from what point we are starting. We have been, perhaps, a bit hasty in our assumption of our goals. But, sticking with a method (probably any method which allows for continuity) is a great reality-check. Inevitably, once the conclusions are fully seen-through; either as unsatisfactory, or, impossible, we must turn to consider our original premiss. That is if we are skilful, we will turn back on ourselves to find out exactly why things are not working.
Of course, this challenge is often met with burying our head in the sand instead and continuing anyway. We really don’t want to meet the challenge of embracing our own being. We would much rather keep distracted by outer attempts at movement, and, gaining more information. Basically, to prove to ourselves that we exist as we would like to; that we are valid, concrete entities. Yet, this is to go on in dishonesty, and, sooner or later, this too will run-aground. Instead, the first and fundamental change that needs to take place is the acceptance of our natural, physical and material boundaries. After this, the relinquishment of our constant desire to transcend them.
Again, this materially impacts our gestures as we no longer keep up pushing. That’s not to say the boundaries don’t shift a little hard work, but the sense of restriction will still remain, because it is not an external one we are fighting. After all, our boundaries will fall somewhere; we accept we cannot fly, for example; so why should we become infatuated with other aspects of our perceived limitations? It’s all because we don’t want to face what our inner-construction entails; the un-acknowledged fluidity, and thus, temporality, of our Being. The first step we take in approaching this is to retrain our awareness back on ourselves, which encompasses focusing on a ‘quality’ of movement instead of our most literal and incessant attempt to transgress and deny what we are in ‘quantity’.
To be clear, it’s still not to do with our tireless conventional-efforts at material freedom. This inclination to return back to acknowledging our Being doesn’t grant us an externalised-degree of reward. Henceforth, it’s pretty uninteresting, moreover, unintelligible, to regular society. In every other sphere of life we are sold the myth that we can, in fact, create the life we want. But, this is really to set ourselves up for a bumpy-ride, as reality simply doesn’t give-on to that potentially. We are, indeed, far more limited in the scope of our will; isolated in our subjective-experience, pretty much powerless in the face of our life-situation and back-story. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ being exactly that fact itself.
This sounds an incredibly pessimistic realisation; so it’s highly understandable that we constantly seek to deny it in creating and then attempting to preserve in our reality. This is both with what we think we are and also with what we do – with objects and our roles towards them. But, the nature of things is otherwise, and there is yet still, quite a payoff to accepting all this. It’s not easy road to travel, nor does it seem immediately beneficial. This is the task of sticking to a method and having a bit of faith, indeed, spurred on by the very fact that the method itself is seemingly open to continual evolving. For, if we can just push through this loneliness and dread entailed in seeing ourselves as we are, The Path has been said to open out on the freedom that we, erroneously, ceaselessly attempt to achieve in the visible, outer realm.
So, practically speaking, action must be potentised, become about a Quality; be turned back to point towards ourselves. Physically, we now relate to force as a balancing process. rather than stretching out of ourselves, in one direction only, we now turn to consider anchoring the energy expended in opposite directions back into our own body. In a sense, this itself is self-embodiment. Yet, it does go a little further than that. For; in a regular repetition of a set-formula without any specific ends, or destination, we are inevitably, suggested back to considering more thoroughly what we actually are doing. Crucially, that is, if we are not distracted by a sense of linear-literalness in which the method can be basically conceived.
However, this very repetition is also subtle, for it is all to easy for it to degenerate into a purposeful dulling of our awareness of ourselves and a shutting down to it. There must be a continuity with it, and, moreover , this must be an honest, real one. Again, Quality provides this; it can be infinitely refined, constantly created afresh time and again. On the other hand, pushing for Quantity (a measurable external endeavour) will always burn itself out. This sense of creating a continuous thread of experience through time is so important, as it is here we can come to recognise an experience of ourselves in context between what we were and what we will be.
Within this uniting of a seemingly disjointed flow of experience lies a sense of ourselves and the redeeming quality of meaning and significance in life that this ‘inner-integrity’ provides. On all other accounts, we are simply caught up in an infinite stream of random and disconnected occurrences. These appear senseless and therefore a governing state of our ‘care’ and diligence towards life also seems redundant. However, we still generally choose this rather than face the reality and isolation at the heart of our Being.
Yet, it more than an adequate resolution to all our efforts. This is so, because it’s tangible ‘realness’ is so grabbing; it’s so dynamic and actual. Finally, all this struggle is still worth it in the face of living a life in dishonesty and denial of our own Being. No wonder we speak of returning home and our sense of separation. We have, albeit subconsciously, rendered ourselves homeless by our conventional way of being. In this way, we attempt to rather throw our lot in with ‘them’, for, In numbers we feel we are safe from ourselves; our loneliness. in this case, a teacher a school, and a Practise fits-the- bill nicely.
On the other hand, suspended physical effort (inner tension paradigm, or pulling together instead of pushing ourselves outward only) leads towards this sense of voidness. Undefined by intent, we are ultimately alone with ourselves; even unknowing as to what this Self is. But, within its unbounded, un-legislated, unrestricted state, lies the gift of a constant freedom to create and move. The spontaneity and aliveness we crave is available but the price is to relinquish almost everything to arrive here.