Monday, November 17, 2008

surviving the low points

This picture, which I chose on the spur of the moment, is tempting me to somehow riff off the idea of a truckload of Cambodian monks. But I've tried it twice, and it's not working. So let's forget about that angle.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I found myself at a low point over the last couple of weeks. After a fairly rich summer -- which nonetheless brought many trials in terms of my physical state, due to the parasite I acquired and its aftermath -- I have reached the moment in the year where the tide begins to ebb, and one needs to practice more containment and gather oneself inward. That has been more challenging than usual this year.

Even allowing for the generous support which is provided both from within and without on a daily basis, things may become quite difficult--from the inside.

As that happens, one can discover that one begins to meet one's life differently. In my own case, people are noticing it -- I am more subdued, I have become quieter and talk less than I used to. This seems to be a fairly solid change, because it has been this way for some months now. I am less agitated than I used to be. Annie, my Christian mentor here at work, mentioned it today. She said I'm not "in character." She knows I'm not depressed or unhappy, but I am certainly not bouncing around the way I usually do.

The perspective I am gaining on the question of our life and the organism turns me back, as has been the case for years, to the question of who we are and where we are going. That is, who I am, and where I am going. An increasing awareness of the organism and the biological nature of this existence intersects with the awareness that there is an energy that expresses itself. These two features of life are distinct from one another, yet they cannot find a marriage without the intersection point inhabited by this thing we call consciousness.

In the midst of this, I see a disturbing temptation to turn in one direction or the other, rather than to inhabit both of them. To stand in the middle between inwardness and outwardness is much more difficult than to be outward or to be inward. Consciousness is a slippery thing that insists on polarizing in one direction or the other. Even more annoyingly, it tends to want to wander around like a cow out to pasture. Pointing it in a consistent direction turns out to be a rather difficult task.

It's notable that my emotional state has a great deal to do with my enthusiasm for work and effort. There has been a distinct arising of a negative polarity recently, and as the overall amount of energy available for support ebbs, the tendency has been to become attached to that. At the same time, the increasing equilibrium within me has managed to resist it.

Last week, I had a terribly negative confrontation with another individual who attacked me verbally in a completely unjustified and rather excessive manner, and although I certainly reacted -- physiologically, I got the usual shock treatment -- I managed to maintain my footing and come back at the other person in a very reasonable way, although I did raise my voice. I avoided accusations, ugliness, and simply pointed out that this person should not be behaving that way, especially in my own house. (This person was not, dear readers, one of my family or relatives.)

In the midst of what is, to some extent, a rather low point for me in an inner sense, that was a fairly good moment. It indicates that I am not totally victimized by external circumstances. That is certainly far from saying that I am free of them.

I see every day now that a good part of my energy needs to go against the negativity that spontaneously arises in me. It's especially difficult in the morning, because the parts that need to be better connected are not connected at all. Many of them work at different speeds, and they don't all come to a point of improved contact until later in the day. Until that happens, I am fated to inhabit the current inner circumstances and watch them rattle off a litany of things that are wrong, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how I won't be able to handle any of them.

The situation is almost ludicrous, and quite amusing: anyone who knows me personally would tell you that I am generally optimistic, and have managed to handle an enormous number of heavy blows in life without collapsing. One of my very best and oldest essence friends once told me that I reminded him of one of those inflatable clowns with sand in the bottom, who, no matter how many times it was hit, would just pop right back up.

From inside, it looks quite different. All of that has been achieved at great expense and only by going directly against an overwhelming avalanche of inner dialogue that tells me everything is helpless. I can remember observing this in myself as far back as I can recall. I have a tendency to dump everything in one huge pile in front of me, look at it aghast, and panic.

It's this lifelong struggle against my spontaneous and automatized negativity that interests me. Why am I a fear factory? And what is it in me that finds it productive to struggle against that?

In the Gurdjieff work, we are told many things about negativity. That we don't have to express it. That non-expression of negative emotion is a preparation for the work of intentional suffering, which helps complete an octave. That we have a right to not be negative ( as I recall, Maurice Nicholl said that, not Gurdjieff, though he may have been quoting him.)

All the things that we are told sound great. But when the tire hits the pavement, and the rubber starts smoking as the heat of our negativity burns off substances we need for other purposes, nothing sounds great anymore. All it is, is us, up against ourselves, up close and personal, where -- if we're working -- we see our own dirty underwear, and we not only see it, we smell it, and we taste it.

In other words, when we confront our own negativity, we are forced to -- as we used to say to each other when I was at prep school -- eat our shorts.

This is a sobering experience, bound to quiet down even the most agitated man if he really sees himself. Most other questions in life pale in significance if we really began to experience our inner state and see how fractured it is.

This confrontation with our own negativity is a key part of seeing our partiality in a concrete sense. There is no need to rationalize why we should do it, or where it is going. All we need to do is be there and see it.

What needs to happen will then--slowly--take place.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.


  1. The Solioonensius that the Earth is going through is a particularly strong one = WWIII.

    Except for some factors engendered by the life of outer men and the pseudo-life offered by television and computer instantaneous world wide news coverage, we certainly would be in an outer world war larger than any before.

    But the Solioonensius also affects man individually, especially if he has made himself "sensitive".

    For one person this is rather like having been "flayed". The nerve endings are exposed and every impression "hurts"; albeit for the safe cracker, this flaying of the senses allows him to "feel" the tumblers fall, (as in the "haps" of life), and can use these moments to gather up something really very special and hard to come by in any other way.

    Almost without saying, this is not a "fly" task but an "elephant" task.

    The material of one's own suffering is the pressing of oil from a rich olive. It can be used to simply burn, or for a great many other things, like a kind of inner "cooking". This is what in Sanskrit is termed "tapas", or "divine ardor heat".

    If you knew the Unintentional suffering that I have right now, which I am trying to turn into Voluntary and Intentional suffering in order to widen my being, you would cry for me, but don't, because this super-pain is just what I need, what the doctor is prescribing for me right now, and it is medicine which tastes AWFUL, but which I HAVE to swallow and allow to work on me.

    I wish to run away; to feel self-calm, but it is "verbotten!".

    I gotta go through this gauntlet naked, letting myself be slapped and struck from both directions. It is one of the 12 tasks of Hercules. "I" am not up to it, but "it" will be, because there is no choice. "I" must join with "it", and remain until it is assimilated.

    This Medicine is a poison, but I must take it or I am doomed.

    Brother, we are in this together.

    Conscious faith in the work,
    Richard aka rlnyc

  2. the yin/yang symbol expresses the movement back and forth from light to dark...the trick, however, is to travel along the curve between the two, never slipping too far in either direction, for that only makes the pendulum's swing become more pronounced...


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