Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fox Holes, Bird's Nests

A recurring theme in my examination of my work is the question of inner and outer perception. Of course, we could also speak of this as inner and outer impressions. I'm reminded, perhaps, of fox holes and bird nests.

One of the aims in Zen and in Yoga, one might say, is to go ever deeper within.

This, I think, is a good aim. Because I forget that there is any depth at all within me -- because I do not have a good connection with the organs that collect finer impressions -- there is often a flatness here where there should be depth. In order to attain any depth, it's necessary to place the attention quite specifically within a part of the body and to bring the effort and sensation to that point.

Now, there are a number of ways to do this, and I don't wish to provide instruction here. Not on specifics, anyway. What I do wish to mention is that this point of work is not well understood, and needs to be investigated much more precisely, much more thoroughly, and needs to be investigated actively within the context not of just sitting in meditation, but ordinary life.

Avoiding this question within this moment because I am overeducated, tired, bored, indulgent, or impatient will not help my work.

The reason for this need is, paradoxically, because the point of inner work is not just to go deep inside.

It is not just to develop a comprehensive sensation of the inner parts of the organism. It's true that the organism is divided into sensory apparatus for inner and outer impressions, and that each one forms what might be called a separate system. The important point is that the system is not separate at all--it's a whole and single entity, a co-operative structure that interacts. I can't, for example, separate the coarse from the fine if I don't receive any coarse in the first place.

Because of my proclivity for engaging in dualistic thinking, whenever I run into systems that have interactive structures of this kind -- for example, the universal system of evolutionary and involutionary forces --I begin to separate them, as though one were good and the other one were bad. So, for example, I might say "Evolution is good. Involution is bad." Or, on the other hand, I might say to myself, "An inwardness is a good quality. Outwardness is a bad quality."

I forget, perhaps, that neither one can exist without the other one. I even forget that if I am receiving something from a higher level, that is in and of itself an involutionary action, because an energy from above is moving down to me. So in my zeal to evolve, I lose sight of the fact that my own evolution depends on involutionary forces.

One of the tricky things about understanding inwardness is that I know next to nothing about it. If I actually began to experience a specific understanding of this question, it becomes enormously attractive. The temptation to fiddle with it is moreover nearly irresistible. I come to it without understanding, and especially without understanding that it is able to work in its own way if it is not interfered with.

I come from a world where all we ever do is interfere. There are even whole systems designed to help interfere. They tell me how to interfere, when to interfere, why to interfere, and what to interfere with.

Perhaps even worse, the cultivation of inwardness is beguiling. The process tends to draw me deeper and deeper into itself. Sometimes this even takes place at the expense of what is necessary.

So in my effort to go deeper inside myself, is there a chance I am actually forgetting myself?

Does my effort need to be to stand in the middle, at the intersection of the inner and outer worlds, at an interval between two notes? At this point where involutionary and evolutionary forces meet? Isn't that, after all, exactly where consciousness -- such as it is, such as I experience it -- actually resides?

This is a delicate question.

Somehow I think that if I am not inward, I lose something. Or, if I am not outward, I lose something (this last is more common.) Where I believe I lose something, however, is in not being poised between these two sets of forces. Ultimately, within the question of this work with my inwardness and my outwardness, there is a need to bring the two together. One must strike an intelligent balance.

There is a risk in this place. The fox-hole peace and security of inwardness, the bliss and safety of immersion in a gift that is given, must be sacrificed.

The bird's nest of my ego, and my identification with my outwardness must also be sacrificed.

...And where, then, do I find myself?

Is it, perhaps, in a place of exquisite uncertainty, where there is nowhere to lay my head--where conditions must, first and foremost, be accepted?

May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.

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