Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The swimming pool

Bangkok, October 8

I’m pondering the question of thinking on an intimate scale, internally.

Internal thinking doesn’t consist of having thoughts. It consists of entering the entire experience of one’s inner sensation of oneself, of one’s Being. 

This is related to Gurdjieff’s concept of “I am,” but it does not involve intoning the words or thinking the words with the mind. It involves discovering the meaning of these words within the context of sensation and feeling, which is quite different than saying them and trying to think one’s way into an understanding of them.

I’m accustomed to thinking on grand scales; I think we all share this proclivity. Human beings, if they are anything, are dreamers and conceivers of vastness. We like nothing better than to engage with ideas, entities, and events much larger than we are; even the movies in our popular culture reflect this. In our rush to embrace the huge, we forget the small. We never pull our focus back into who we are and where we are

We constantly become the things that happen instead of the receivers of the things that happen.

Studying this tendency in myself this morning while swimming in the pool here at the Sheraton Hotel, I was struck by the impression that every object, event, circumstance and condition I encountered instantly became an abstraction to be catalogued, rather than an intimate encounter with the experience itself. I find that there is even a tendency to come to everything that flows into Being before it gets there and to prepare an abstraction to receive it, that is, to receive it into a box, an inner piece of territory, that has already anticipated it, knows where it goes, has it defined, and can contextualize it. 

There's very little opportunity to take in anything truly new, intimate, or at depth when this kind of activity goes on.

As I studied this, swimming the breaststroke in objectively beautiful surroundings — certainly an accurate reproduction of the Holy Planet Purgatory — it was interesting to see how the experience of the pool and the water, the foliage and the tropical trees, changed when I engaged in a less predetermined inward state and received the impressions just as they were. It provoked a religious response.

Later this morning, at breakfast, there was a moment when I understood having a real appreciation for my immediate conditions. 

There is a three-centered kind of gratitude available to us in which the simplest objective understanding of everything we have been given provokes an active, intelligent, and organic gratitude. This is another level of religious impulse; and whenever I encounter that feeling (which does not happen every day) I understand that the idea of gratitude is a theoretical one unless Grace supports it. 

I don’t know how to have gratitude on my own; and I don’t know, for that matter, much about allowing the world to flow into me without the preconceptions I meet it with.

This question of thinking intimately and on a small scale, of coming into a molecular relationship with Being, activates a kind of vibration that is more prone to receive life. It always begins there; we are vessels into which the world flows. That is the beginning; and yet it is constantly forgotten, this idea of being there as everything enters us… being there not with a game plan, but with a sense of mystery and an openness that does not presume.

It’s a gentle thing, this idea. A bit of humility can bring me to it if I have an interest.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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