Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Edges

Greetings to all, and my apologies for my somewhat extended absence. I am, you see, on a business trip in China. It is only just now -- 5 days into the trip -- that I have arrived in Shanghai and am at my hotel room early enough in the evening to feel up to posting something.

Today's picture is the great wall in winter: the former edge of the Chinese empire.

One of the things I have been observing on this trip is how dependent we are on the state of our organism for our spiritual work. The organism produces all the energy we need to work, and when it is being taxed by external circumstances, especially those that arise as a result of extreme time change, the parts of us that are available to receive the kind of material we need to feed our souls do not have as much at their disposal as they usually do.

There is a paradigm in spiritual practice that suggests we should become free of external circumstances; that is, that somehow we can attain a state where the external does not have anything to do with how we are. Personally I think this is impossible. We can only exist at the juncture between the internal and the external.

In biology, it is well understood that habitats that represent edge conditions usually present the richest habitats. That is to say, on the edge of the wood in the brush there are more birds and animals than deep in the woods or out in the meadow. The coral reef, which is the edge of a continental shelf, is rich in life. The lagoons behind it and the deep ocean on the other side are less biologically diverse. Again, where cold ocean currents meet warm water there is an explosion of life. So the greatest diversity, the most food, the most dynamic and compelling conditions for life, all occur on edges. They occur where two different states meet and form a relationship.

It is no different in spiritual work. What we call our being, or our consciousness, inhabits an edge, a point between two levels: the higher level from which God emanates his holy energies, and the lower level where they are manifest in material reality. These two levels need to be in relationship, and it is the job of our consciousness to try and be present within this habitat, this edge, to bring the two together. Exactly as in the biological world, a very rich food exists here in this edge habitat we call life.

Allowing for that digression, back to my observations about my state. Although I had plenty of energy for meditation and enough energy to have a reasonable connection during day-to-day circumstances, it has been difficult to muster enough energy to engage in the active kind of pondering that I also like to engage in during daily life. So I see that there is only just so much available to me to work with. As I adjust to the time over here, more becomes available, and I see that all of a sudden centers within me are able to form better connections than they were when I first got here. There is a gradual return to a state that has more potential, more sensation, more receptivity within the vessel.

We might liken it to building up an electric charge that can do more. We are, after all, electromagnetic machines and all of the work that we do in living this life has an electromagnetic character of one kind or another.

In my own opinion, it is a good thing for us to admit to ourselves that our inability to attend to spiritual practice is not always because of laziness or deficiency. In many cases, it is actually a matter of potential: that is to say, we are doing pretty much the best we can with the energy we have available to us. There is not an unlimited amount of energy, and we should not expect to launch rockets with a thimble full of lighter fluid. We have to accept our conditions gracefully and work with what we have.

There was a man named William Segal in the Gurdjieff work who, in his professional life, followed the adage, "make do with what you have." Hope I am not misquoting him here: in any event, you get the gist. We need to learn how to be within the way things are and do what can be done with them. Without criticizing ourselves, without feeling that we are crappy or unable, without a negative attitude that colors all of our effort.

It's a good thing to just live this life, to be within it, to see that it is good food for our soul, and to constantly make an effort to meet it with love and sensitivity- to the best of our ability. We do not have to be shining stars all the time;

it is better to light one candle than it is to curse the darkness.

I miss you all, whoever you are and wherever you are. You do me kindness to read my words and share my experiences. Hopefully they are food for you in your own search.

Godspeed to all of you and I hope that I will give you more postings before the trip is over.

With love, Lee.

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