Thursday, October 23, 2008
We frequently hear about how Jeanne DeSalzmann called us to "stay in front of the lack".
The unfortunate fact is that we aren't quite certain what that means.
Everyone more or less agrees that it means something about "having an attention." But most of this proposition is resident in the mind. That is to say, the part that takes it in, processes it, and values it is the intellect.
We have two other minds in us which play a vital role -- or, rather, should play a vital role, but don't -- in daily life. These are the minds of the body and the mind of the emotions. The mind of the body is wrapped up in its own little set of habits and desires, and the mind of the emotion is simply reactionary under any ordinary circumstances.
So exactly what is "lacking?"
These minds need to be physically connected. They can't be connected by bringing an idea of connection. They can't be connected by using the mind to intend a connection -- not the habitual, formatory mind, anyway. They have to be connected by something new that happens within the organism.
What happens is not mental. It is physical. To put it in other terms, it consists of a material change in relationship within the organism itself.
Unless and until we sense our work in this way, we don't work. We think about working. Admittedly, years of preparation in the mind may be needed before this point is reached, but it must be reached. Otherwise nothing real happens.
Once the point of the physical sensation of inattention and attention arises, and a physical experience of partiality can be organically sensed and seen, then something real can begin. That is the point at which the mind of the body awakens enough to realize that there is a work to do.
The connection with sensation has a great deal to do with that awakening. This is why we spend time discussing the issue of relaxation and sensation. However, as Jeanne DeSalzmann said, "sensation alone is not enough." That is because the awakening of an organic sensation -- and the organic sense of being -- only brings two centers together. The advantage that it brings is that it creates a foundation, and this is no small thing.
However, the mind of the emotion is not so easily attracted.
We might compare it to a wild horse, browsing in the pasture. The horse has tremendous power, and an enormous potential to serve, but it is never been trained to do anything. It hasn't even been captured. And, quite frankly, it's quite used to running around wild. "Why not," it thinks (because it does indeed literally have a mind of its own) "just enjoy yourself?"
Like the ox in the Zen parable, it is this enormous force that needs to be caught and tamed.
It can't be attracted using force. We have to become interesting enough to the horse for it to come see what we are up to. If we have the right attitude--if we are very quiet and still --the horse becomes quite interested in coming closer to us--after all, for a change, there's something peculiar going on here, worth investigating--and then maybe we can form a relationship with him.
But we need to be attractive, we need to have a good quality in us in order to create a space that that horse wants to be in. This is why we can't use force. The horse is much stronger than we are, and if we try to capture him or hold him, he'll just run away. So we have to be quiet and, actually, loving in order to attract that quality of the horse, of emotion, which can help inform us.
I say inform us, because the three minds can work together to become something bigger. This is all on the order of what scientists call emergence. That is to say, when you put separate elements together, something emerges out of them that is much bigger than the gross sum of the elements alone.
When this takes place, something forms inwardly. This is the real meaning of information -- that which forms inwardly. So we are seeking to bring our parts together so that a quality can form inwardly. We use the words "a new quality of attention," for example, to describe it, but even that is inadequate. If we wanted to translate it in a more innovative way, we might say it was a new quality of "a-tension," that is, a lack of tension. But once again, we are using words to describe something, two thirds of which comes from minds which do not use words to describe their experience.
So at best, when we start to use words to describe this effort, this inward formation, and this attention, we only manage to capture less than 33% of what it is. I say less than 33%,because what we get when the minds work together is more than 100%. It becomes something new which is bigger.
Let's change the horse metaphor a bit so that it relates to a story from my youth. I'm not sure if any of you, when you were young, ever tried to catch a frog. When I was a little over three and a half years old, I spent much of the summer down at a small pond trying to catch a frog, and discovered I just couldn't do it.
After puzzling this over, I finally did what any practical child would do. I went to my mother and asked her what you have to do to catch a frog.
She told me that you have to sit very, very quietly and very, very still for a long, long time and wait for the frog to come to you. Then you move very, very slowly until you can finally grab the frog. Today she tells me that she never credibly believed a three-year-old child (especially a hyperactive one like me) could do this.
Nonetheless, I went down to that pond and I sat very very still for a long time -- I have no idea how long it was, but it was a very long time -- and I waited and waited and waited.
I was very still.
Chiefly, I was sensitive to myself. This is what the activity consisted of. I sat there and I saw how agitated I was, and I saw how much I wanted to move, and I measured that against my wish to catch a frog. I became much more sensitive, because I saw that my wish had to be much greater than my impulse to move. It all became a question of being sensitive to myself, to my state, and to my wish. It boiled down to have an organic sense of self in relationship to my wish. I did not know at that time that that was what it consisted of, but it was.
Finally, I caught that frog. I raced up to my mother triumphantly clutching the (absolutely terrified) frog in my hands. She was exhilarated and astonished along with me; then, she wisely advised me to return the poor frog to his home.
And I did.
So I didn't just learn how to capture a frog. I also learned how to let a frog go, which is just as important.
Part of the beauty of experiencing this life, of taking and impressions, of making an effort with more than just one mind, is catching the frog. Another part of the beauty is letting the frog go: coming and going, participating in the ebb and flow of our inner connections.
As we participate on both ends of the process, we may discover a new sense of both ourselves and the world.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.