Wednesday, October 3, 2007

munching on leaves

Caterpillars have it easy. For them, metamorphosis is a given--as long as they don't get eaten. In our own case, munching on leaves alone seems like it is not enough.

Some days, however, munching leaves is all we can do: and by munching leaves, I mean taking in our daily bread, actively taking in the impressions of our life, which we should all, I think, set as a specific aim for ourselves every morning when we sit.

Today I have been watching ordinary emotional reactions. As usual, here at the office, dozens of unexpected, challenging, often annoying circumstances arise. Within these conditions, I see that my emotions are constantly in reaction to the situation. I often see that the thinking part is opposed to them; that is to say, while the emotions are telling me one thing -- quit this stupid job right away, for example --the intellect is busy pointing out that the emotional reaction is too extreme, invalid.

BUT, on the other hand, the emotional reaction is true- this is really how I feel. And the intellectual reaction certainly doesn't have any solutions for that. It doesn't have the right kind of equipment.

What to do?

In the middle of all this, today, I re-discover the body as a mediator. I keep returning to the sensation of the body, to the experience of gravity -- the direct experience of gravity within the body -- as the anchoring point between this Scylla and Charybdis of emotion and intellect. Thought and emotion really are the rock and hard place of everyday experience, aren't they? The currents of life constantly force us directly between these two hard, rocky points of opposing inner truth. It takes a very clever navigator to avoid colliding with one or the other.

There is an old story about a priest and his seminary student. The priest is counseling a couple who is breaking up, and the student is shadowing him. First the priest listens to the husband and his complaints. When he is done, the priest says to him "Well, you are absolutely right." Then he listens to the wife, who voices her complaints. When she is done, the priest says to her, "Well, you are absolutely right."

The couple leaves the room and the seminary student looks at the priest kind of funny. He wrinkles his brow and says: "I don't get it. They can't both be absolutely right."

The priest looks at him, shrugs his shoulders, and says, "You're absolutely right."

Opposing truths... hard to resolve that one, isn't it?

....In order to have any balance within this unreliable "weather of life," all three points--intellect, emotion, body--have to be touched on in the moment, within the experience of Being. A greater awareness arises from within that moment of effort.

I am going to bring up something here that will sound quite obvious. I think, however, if you study it carefully you will see there is much more to it than we give credit for.

In studying my emotions today, I see that my usual emotional reactions definitely present themselves as intelligent. That's how they come across as they arrive: they are smart, savvy, they know how to deal with things. On examination, however, it's quite clear they are supremely stupid, since they don't take about 9/10 of the actual life situation into account. They give advice it would be objectively foolish to take.

Intelligence, on the other hand, usurps validity in its own way and poses as emotion in a lot of situations where it should not. The thinking part lacks in warmth and sensitivity, and can easily take convincing actions that, although entirely logical, are equally stupid.

A lot of dispassionate decisions made in business, almost invariably in the objective service of profit, fail to take the human element in to account, fail to understand the compassion that is needed, and deliver crushingly awful results to the individuals they affect. This produces those famous moments when the ceilings collapse on the men digging the coal.

We have, in other words, a major disconnect in us between what appears to be happening and what is actually happening. We do not study emotion and intelligence enough to see the difference between the two of them. When Gurdjieff asked us to engage in a serious study of the centers, I believe it was because he realized we actually don't know a great deal of what we ought to know about where the impulses in our life come from.

What is the use of sensation in this equation? ...By sensation, of course, I mean the experience of living in this body.

The physical experience of life as a reconciling force can help to wake us up. If we remember through our sensation -- or, even better, through the organic sense of being, which is a living thing rather than the willed event of sensation--that we are alive, and we are here, it sets us a fulcrum. If we are too far into emotion, we can leverage it with intellect, and vice versa.

Without a balancing point this is almost impossible.

So today the question is how to have a more specific, exact experience of life that begins with the question of how I can live with in this life more attentively, more actively, with more reason --which is not intelligence, not emotion, and not the sensation of the body, but a deft and dynamic blend of all three of these experiences within the condition of mind itself.

I believe that we have to bring a precision to our observation, not a precision of observation about events or circumstances, but a precision about the interaction of the parts within any given moment. This precision does not consist of analysis, but rather an inner, direct experience that is inhabited. Worn like clothing.

In the inhabitation of this moment of a greater inner precision, that which needs most to be discovered stands revealed without the use of force.

In the study of self, perhaps we ought to, in this ordinary life, be a little more like caterpillars.
To slowly, deliberately, locate leaves, munch on leaves, know we are munching on leaves, and perhaps even enjoy munching on leaves-

not such a bad thing, in the end.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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