It seems that after twenty years of meditation something of a change is occurring in my 65th year that is more organic and fundamental in its essence; perhaps related to that contemplative focus that I have been atuned. Previous boundaries of self that I have known and been unable to escape are falling away. Perhaps it has more to do with a reduced tendency to identify myself according to small particular outward descriptions. The definitions, concepts and other thinking that imprisoned my body and limited my experience no longer serves to contain what I am. There is something more expansive that I have not known that is emerging, absent of the angst and psychological burdens that carried with me each day. I don’t have the words for it as of yet other than knowing that it is something of my being that I have not seen or at least not recognized. There are some fundamental changes in perception and orientation underway. It seems that these changes include an increased inclination to express myself from a place of direct experience as opposed to through time lines and conceptual abstractions.
My wife in her sensible way will not stand in the rain as I love to do nor will she wander from the path when we are hiking on trails as I am inclined to. These days many people are wary of going beyond the boundaries of the known and cultivated. Granted there isn’t much in our world today that is uncultivated. As well , in our strong inclination to follow convention we are constantly prompted to adhere to what others have discovered as truth; to those who have made the way safe for us.
I am grateful for the access that I have to Canada and it’s fringe areas and that I can explore nature on those edges. For me there is something to be learned in leaving the confines of the cultivated world and questioning what is known. In doing so the mind begins to question and the question directs the mind and we begin to awaken. What I have been taught and have come to think that I am and that I know and that feels safe and secure becomes grist for the mill. It seems to me that there are two very different ways to live life; one based on attending to an inner experience, which, because of its nature is available to only a few, because they accept the difficulties that come with having it, and the other centered on what is more exoteric and conventional. There is inevitably something sacrificed in our fixation with feeling safe and secure; our lives often being reduced to the pursuit of that perception. Many insightful writers have realized this including Stephen Batchelor who’s book “The Faith to Doubt” encourages a more questioning and investigative pursuit of a knowing that is more experiential.
It is not that I have discovered security in an inner attentiveness, in fact I have become more aware of what it is to live my life with a constant awareness of being vulnerable. I have made many mistakes in finding my way although I don’t regret being inclined so, as it brings with it a sense of being fully alive and being whole and in authentic relationship with the mystery and impermanence that is the truth of life. In learning to live more fully I have become aware of my “self” fixation and how that has involved an insensitivity to others, innocently arising out of ignorance and naivety of what is beyond the “self”. Not being able to step out from this has left me without a greater sense of concern and compassion.
Some may feel that I am unnecessarily dancing with and tempting fate” in living beyond the safety net and the acceptance and pursuit of what is known and secure”, that is of greater risk than benefit; that it is more normal to refrain from making waves and avoid fearful or unknown experiences. I have a sense that stepping out from this more conventional way of understanding allows for exploring life in a more authentic, responsible and revealing way and in so doing it involves an expansion of consciousness, an opening to a deeper investigation of truth and a more creative and connected way of relating to others and to life. It’s not about “rebelling” or pursuing a particular philosophy. It’s more about becoming aware of an intelligence beyond my conditioned sense of self and attending to an energy that serves to free the mind; to allow for going beyond institutional constraints and what is thought to be known and accepted and to realize and embrace the unshakeable difference of living from the heart that is discovered outside of these conventional boundaries. It has become a way of life that continues to brings gifts, in coming to a greater sense of knowing myself and my connection to others and to everything else in this existence.
“We create our own barriers to understanding and we reinforce our limitations to life”. This is a main theme of the book. In awareness we realize how something essential and most authentic of what we are is compromised. We can come to find this through the conditioning and social pressure to be something else and in that rediscovery there is again an evolving aspect of existence renewed.
I encourage exploration by means of a contemplative process, distinguished from our conditioned thinking. Contemplation involves, for me, investigating the truth of everything that we have in the past blindly accepted and possibly as well all that we blindly act upon. This isn’t the same quality of thinking that most people generally and conventionally are engaged in, daily and blindly.
It’s ironic that many of those people share a perception that this act of contemplative thought is obsessive thinking. It seems that there is avoidance involved in that conventional way; an apprehension of entering any depth of awareness that involves leaving everyday pursuits. There is rationalization involved that the work required to look at life honestly is too much; as being too cerebral. But ultimately I feel that it is an essential part of awakening consciously to what is authentic of me, that has not been realized in the “self”.
Quite often I encounter individuals who consider my thinking and insights to be of a quality of cerebral over-indulgence. In this assumption they seem not able to distinguish the difference between contemplative thought and conventional conditioned thinking. They see limited advantage in questioning convention and tradition and choose not to challenge or question there situation. It’s an easy choice these days as we are provided with an endless range of high-gloss entertainment to satiate us. The world we inhabit exists for many of us like a theatrical puppet play.
If we chose not to investigate our vision of what we have come to know of ourselves and life to be we remain guided as we have been for so long, by what we perceive to be stable bodies that have in fact fostered confusion and blocked realization of the infinite possibility and creative potential of existence beyond that conditioned thinking. Our acceptance and acquiescence contributes to layers of delusion that prevent us from entering the rabbit hole where nothing is as it has been defined or as fixed, permanent or as normal as we have until now perceived it to be.
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We humans seem to be conditioned in our upbringing to experience life from a place of boundaries and fixed concepts and to find definition and meaning in that way, however, in so doing we might be fostering a dulling of a more expansive experience of existence. We seem to need those boundaries in our development unfortunately at the cost of openness.
It’s no easy task to open, beyond that place of conditioned experience. In our search for openness we ironically often find ourselves in groups and with others that promise spiritual awakening through attachment to more of the same boundaries and fixed concepts.
It is my sense that in the perpetuation of this dilemma, human experience has in general become closed off from something more authentic of being. If we are to reconnect it is important to realize the limitations of human thinking, language, rigid conceptual conditioning and culturally imposed boundaries and how they have become impediments to a more direct and sensuous experience of life. It can be so very liberating to step beyond our conditioning and as well the limitation of religious dogma and attachment to cannon and expounding of creed to explore more directly our humanity in this existence.
Aversion, fear and/or a sense of vulnerability are encountered when we venture out beyond our conditioning. It has been a life long learning experience for me to to come to be with and enter into this unknown and undefined place of being. I am grateful for the insight that has brought me to a place of being enabled to be with myself and life in a more authentic and direct way.