Thursday, September 4, 2008
the good ground, the deep earth
We have a fundamental lack of sensitivity.
This isn't a sensitivity related to psychology or thinking. It is not a lack of compassion or outer considering (although those, too, are serious issues.)
It is a lack of sensitivity to our inner connections.
"Man cannot do," we are told, and indeed, we are unable to manufacture a sensitivity to our inner connections. Many different spiritual disciplines intimate, in one way or another, that one can manufacture such a sensitivity, but it is by no means certain. People may spend lifetimes, for example, practicing yoga and tai chi without truly understanding this question from a certain fundamental point of view. Those practices, like any practice, easily become sensory attachments and objects, rather than processes for participation. The ego and the mind routinely co-opt form to their own ends.
This lack of sensitivity only becomes apparent to us in the moments when sensitivity actually arises. That is to say, we don't even know that we are lacking sensitivity, or what kind of sensitivity we are lacking, until it arrives. At that point -- if such an arrival ever takes place-- we are astonished, because we did not know that sensitivity of this kind was possible.
We see that we know nothing about it. We see that we do not understand how to do it. We see that we do not understand where it comes from, or where it goes.
The only thing that we understand is that it exists, and that raises innumerable questions.
In the midst of the political atmosphere here in the United States, it is nearly impossible to avoid being touched by the influences of the outer, which provoke powerful emotional reactions. No matter which party or philosophy one subscribes to, the distress of the nation is evident; it has become a tangible, palpable presence. The blame-laying is upon us everywhere: leadership in America has failed and continues to fail, and the evidence is all around.
Like everyone else, I discover myself in reaction. It almost doesn't matter what I am reacting to; I could be a Republican, or Democrat; I could be rich, or poor, it wouldn't matter. The point is that this inner reaction takes place, and I see it. I become identified with it, and then I see that identification.
At the same time, there is a counterpoint that plays itself off against this in many moments. That counterpoint is this note of sensitivity--an awareness of both life and breath that is entirely different than my reaction. The reaction insists on trying to acquire all the weight for itself; Being stands in bewildered contrast, measuring the depth of my inability to be independent of such influences. I see the lack.
Is it just politics?
No. It's like this with sex; it's the same way with money, with my job, with everything. Today, the politics merely highlight the situation by intensifying it and making it more uncomfortable. The fact is that this is how it always is, with me.
I want to participate in the blame laying: it's the government's fault. It's his fault. It's her fault. I don't want to take responsibility. This is the big question. What is my responsibility? Do I want to blame, or do I want to work? I have to make a choice.
Then a new force arises -- arrives from somewhere -- that renders sensitivity.
There is an opportunity for an intimacy within the organism that needs to be sought, appreciated, cultivated. I discover a wish to get in touch with myself not just from some abstract psychological point of view, but by moving my attention, my inner sense of touch, to a point much closer to what I actually am, as opposed to those things that the world would make me.
As I receive these reminders -- as I lie awake in bed in the middle of the night, seeking my innermost self -- I see how little I know of myself. How completely I am taken by the external, by the outer state. And how, at the same time, a sacred gift is offered: an invitation to the inner state. An opportunity to value this small life differently. To value the people a little differently. To value even the people I disagree with differently.
Of course, that demands something of me. I don't want to give that up. It's much more interesting to disagree with other people as self righteously as possible. That is, after all, what life and politics today are all about, and we parade it shamelessly, as though arrogance was the virtue, and humility the vice.
What is supremely difficult to understand (although the sensitivity helps) is just how very much of myself has to go in order for me to be anything real. As I put my attention in the places where it is truly needed -- as opposed to delivering it directly into the hands of the hypnotist--I see that almost 100% of me is wrong. There is only a tiny part that knows what is real. It is that same mustard seed that we hear about in the parable. (Matthew 13:3-8.)
In order to be sensitive, I need to discover the good ground, the deepness of the Earth within me. I cannot allow my work, rootless, to be scorched by the sun until it withers away.
And how difficult--how very, very difficult -- it is to discover that good ground, if I let the soil of my life run through my fingers as though it had no value.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.