This is a multi medium creation. I’ve used oil pastels and acrylic paint and inks in this one. I’ve tried to create the sense of illumination and less than ideal forms of birch trees. I love painting birch trees; something about the contrasting affect. My paintings never turn out how I envision them to but I am happy with this one.
For me there is the experience of vulnerability in shedding of what is old and obsolete of the self and in the reorientation and adjustment in the return to a state of poverty. There is a sense of vulnerability, not something experienced as a permanent state, but having to do with this re-encounter with what is unknown.
In describing “poverty” Henry Corbin wrote that it is the fundamental condition of human existence. He refers to this metaphysical state as mystical poverty: where all things derive not from themselves, but from a source that is the grantor of Being to everything. Mystical poverty is the true state of all beings: each and every thing has nothing in itself, is nothing in itself. Corbin tells us of the seventeenth-century Shi‘ite Mir Damad who heard “the great occult clamor of beings,” the “silent clamor of their metaphysical distress;” it appeared to him as a music of cosmic anguish and as a sudden black light invading the cosmos.  This is a direct experience of what philosophers call the contingency of being, and it gives rise to the great question of metaphysics “Why is there something rather than nothing?” For the gnostic, it takes the form of a moment of annihilation and terror, destroying the solid foundations upon which the ego and the literal world are built.
A degree of poverty is a prerequisite for the experience of the fullness of the world. In our desperate grip upon the world we are block ourselves from that direct experience of witnessing the form emerging from the formless. Creation unfolds only in letting go; when power is renounced and a state of poverty is realized. The things of this world grow opaque when we try to control and possess them. They withdraw into themselves and contribute to further blockage in access of the riches at the roots of things.
From Tom Cheetham’s newest book: After Prophecy: Opening the Eyes of Fire
I’ve had ongoing revelation regarding the notion of vulnerability recently, influenced by a talk I had with a colleague at one point last fall. In our discussion of feelings encountered in awakening, the notion of vulnerability came up. She mentioned to me that perhaps it was important to maintain boundaries if one was experiencing vulnerability.
After some time I experienced an insight. That is that the “egoic self“ does require boundaries. The boundaries we are talking about perpetuate and reinforce a manufactured sense of individuality insulating a person from external threats of one sort or another. But there are also other things that boundaries insulate one from; things perhaps quite fundamental to our sense of what is natural of our being.
Liberation actually involves a loosening and stepping out from those boundaries of ”self” into whatever might be left that is natural of ourselves. Initiation involves risk and challenge—to shift perspectives we must be willing to experience our own vulnerabilities. But we must also have the inner confidence to not be paralyzed by those vulnerabilities in order to move forward toward greater integration. In that mindful falling away we die to what has been superficially conditioned in us that has provided insulation and security in to the illusion of separateness. This pursuit has not allowed for deeper awareness and realization. In our readiness to step out we discover a more subtle revelation of the mystery of life and being. There is opening to deeper understanding of the birth and death of the form that we have found ourselves a part of. In so doing we come upon a vast new experience of expansion of consciousness and knowing of our “Self”; much more than can be realized as a “self”. Vulnerability might not describe that experience comprehensively. There is an aspect of existential angst that is part of it that we are likely averted to as well.Vulnerability seems to be likely something encountered along the way, that is inseparable from a a more vast sensitivity, unpredictability and sense of interconnectedness that is encountered in our natural state of experience.
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”.