Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 6: A paradox in the effort to encounter reality

Linda here. Difficult day for me to follow the conversation. If this feels repetitious, it is only because we are always talking about one thing. 

Reality: What is it and how might we experience it?

In the last couple of weeks, there has been an invitation to "encounter what is there, reality." 

Of course, this is a big question…what is reality?  Someone asked about the difference between REAL and REALITY.  What is real? Well, we might say that we we experience in this world is as real as Harvey's model of circulation was in the 1700s. That was very "real" to them at the time.  Is it then reality?  It seems not.  

Is the genocide and suffering in the world "real?"  Roger's disposition is that it is "produced," rather than something that exists on its own, independent of human investment of energy in some kind of activity. 

Let's say, for the sake of this blog entry, that reality is.  That is, it is what IS.  (Perhaps this is a reference to the "now". Do we actually exist in any other moment than the "now?"). 

This is different than "our" realities, the stories we tell ourselves about what is. In this way, "our" realities are not a whole lot different than fantasies--they are stories imbued with personal meaning that are more or less correlated with factual information.  Roger provided a technical distinction from Heidegger, that fantasy is a turning away from what is; imagination is a turning into what is. 

One of the things that was reported about an attempt to encounter what is,  was that thinking about how to do it resulted in a brain overload, where one's brain "turned off."  Roger commented that that would be an excellent way ("brain turned off") to encounter reality. 

The dilemma that we seem to be in is that our minds are active, like a gerbil on a wheel. Their incessant work is producing something, but this something is not generally helpful to our experience of what is.  Roger asserts that all this activity is the thing that gets in the way of encountering reality in general and our solidarity in particular. 

What we are exploring, this encounter with reality, doesn't involve "doing" anything.  We imagine that we need to manipulate ourselves to encounter reality. Instead, it is the case (says Roger) that we are constantly manipulating ourselves to encounter a "produced" reality that we often conflate with what is.

What is "produced" reality? Does it require an investment of your energy to keep it in existence? If so, it is produced. What is there when one stops adding energy to this produced reality ("my" reality)?

I digress. I have been unsuccessfully attempting to encounter reality without the interference of my mind. Allegedly, attempting to do so will reveal the places where we are actively producing something. I have noticed a couple of things.  One is that when I can, for a moment, encounter people from a different place of being (with the gerbil resting), there is so much more "there."  One can feel people and there is a richer exchange, a connection.  This works best for me with strangers, like at the grocery store. 

Secondly, what I have noticed is that the activity of my inner gerbil is most obvious to me when I first wake up in the morning. My first thought is something that "needs my attention"--some problem that needs fixing. What I can see in this mind activity is that I am feeding an egoic identification with "self" as "reformer." I think I see now what Roger means when he says our minds are busy in the "active production of self. "  I am in a constant state of reifying my egoic identity of reformer, agent of change, 'fixing' things. What if I gave the gerbil a rest? What then would I experience?

Why is it hard to experience reality? 

At some point, Roger presented an image of himself, siting at the edge of a beautifully-inviting, clear and deep pool of water.  His sitting at the edge also involves him clinging to a fetid sack of crap which he acquired through a lifetime of "Getting his shit together." (Mission accomplished!).  
We are holding onto this sack "as if" our life depended on it; our life, little "l," does.  Our Life, big "L", requires that we relinquish the sack and dive in.  

We see a gap between the liberty and health that we might experience in letting go of the crap and diving into the pool. But of course, our clinging to the sack is a park of the sack itself. 

It is this fear of impermanence that keeps us clinging to the sack.  We think that letting go means the end of us, means losing. When we let go, a different landscape of being becomes available.

We want assurances before we let go of the sack, but that desire is of course, part of the sack itself.

In the end, it is very hard to encounter reality or even another human being in the process of clinging to that sack.  

Our next meeting is the "Monday-Tuesday, May 27" at the usual time and place.  (This is, of course, not to be confused with "Maunday-Tuesday."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day 5: The production of our identity in an age of separating

Linda here again. If ever there was a day that I couldn't follow my notes, it is today. I am sure a lot will be left out. My apologies.

Experiencing solidarity and unity: A look at the homework

Last week's homework was an invitation to encounter the world from a "felt" position, rather than a cognitive one or an emotional one.  In doing so, you might be able to see what it is that is creating a feeling of separation between you and an "other."

The theory beneath this invitation is that the nature of reality is that of "prior unity".  The word "unity"  means a state of being whole. The word "prior" implies that this state of wholeness is prior to the arising of "forms."

You might now wonder what a form is.  A simple definition is "the visible shape or configuration of something."

So, prior unity describes a state of wholeness that exists prior to things and beings taking on a visible shape.  If this were then the nature of reality, like the ocean being a whole body of water, it seems that the arising of forms--like the arising of waves--would not negate the wholeness of the body of water. Could we actually sense and feel that wholeness, even though we have taken on the form of an embodied consciousness?

That was the homework.

We already have access to this unity, but if we don't feel it, what is it that is disallowing us to experience our (theoretically) true nature of oneness?

We must be actively producing this condition of "non-oneness" that destroys our access to the oneness.

Someone answered this by recalling an experience they had at a debate about nuclear power. They found that as one person spoke with impassioned inaccuracy about the science of nuclear power, they were highly offended. Their offense from what occurred as the wrongness of the speaker's statements was accompanied by a suite of thoughts and feelings that created a distance between themselves and the speaker.  They also added that when they could locate empathy for this person, it dissolved some of that distance.

Roger reported having many amusing thoughts about us doing our homework.  He said from a theory of prior unity, there is then nothing to do to be able to feel solidarity with someone else. Solidarity is the natural state and already available.  It is the case that we need to stop doing the things that we are doing that prevents us from feeling that.

A simple way of saying this is: It is hard to encounter someone else when you have a whole lot going on. In the example of the debate, the listener was unable to encounter the speaker because his attention was taken up by her wrongness according to the produced model that the listener had inherited.

We are taking action, doing something, but we pretend that we aren't. What is it that we are generally doing that prevents us from feeling solidarity?  We are engaged in what Roger calls "the production of identity."  What does this mean?  Well, it often takes the form of saying, in our heads "I'm not like that," when "that" refers to some characteristic we imagine that another person has.  These are negations ("I'm  not..."), said to ourselves to differentiate our "selves" from "others."

An aside: Who is this "self" that we are producing?  And who is the "we" that is producing the "self"? This question kept nagging me while "I" was attempting to take notes. 

Someone then offered the observation that she tends to engage in the story of her identity when she is feeling insecure.  In those moments, she notices that she defends herself and confuses things with herself, mixing the story of accomplishments with who she is.

Severe confusion for the notetaker...Who is the "she" who feels "insecure"? Is this the same "self" she is defending?  And unsafe about what?

As I hear this, there are two people in the story, the consciousness who "is" and the "self" that needs security [in its existence?], who isn't the consciousness. 

I feel my colleague has identified a pattern that all of us experience, but never before have I noticed the somewhat oddness of the actual statements, that there are two different entities in the story--the "self" that needs defending, is insecure about its "self", and the "she" who is the consciousness apart from that "self." 

Identity: Exactly who are we?

All this talk about the self created reflections on the notion of identity, which we seem to be quite loose about, frankly.  That is, we seem to take on a great number of things as who we are, as illustrated in the phrase used to describe where one parked a car, "I am parked over there." (Are you, really?)  "I am the CEO of ____," implying that the essence of their being is in fact a role.  This is where one's identity gets conflated with a story that has meaning to that person. Eventually that story becomes his-story, and we define our "selves" according to his-story (I am intentionally using "his" and not "her" story, to reflect whose stories actually get recorded).

What does it mean to have an identity and do we actually define these by our "selves"? Or, as someone suggested, do our identities co-arise out of the interaction between or "selves" and our social milieu or other societal dynamics?

Someone posited the question of whether we are anything but free to be, without bounds?

Another answered "No. I am not a six foot tall man."  Of course, Roger then pointed out that that person was drawing the bounds of her identity around her organic self.  But that is a choice.  If I upload my consciousness somewhere, does my organic self matter?  (There is a movement called transhumanism, or h+, which is a futuristic consideration of the post-human condition. We won't get into it here).

This was a radicalizing question that was followed by this observation: I, Roger, am thoroughly persuaded about something of my existence, but have no credible evidence of it. The only place to look is memory. I cannot prove my existence as such in any place else. In that condition is the question of liberty or freedom. This circles back to the idea that access to freedom is the ability to choose what IS, not choosing what is NOT.   Choosing what is not ("I'm not like that person.") is the activity of the ego, creating the "little me", as Eckhardt Tolle says.

Oh my, any reasonable person would be confused at this moment. So it is a good time for a story about two waves, shared by dear Regina. 

There once was a big wave and a little wave.  They were happily headed toward the shore and the big wave said to the little wave, "There is something I'd like to tell you, but I'm not sure I should because it might affect how you feel about things."  Little wave responded, "What is it?"  The big wave said, "Well, when we hit the shore, we will no longer exist."  After some thought, the little wave said, "There is something I'd like to tell you as well, but I'm not sure I should because it might affect how you feel about things."  The big wave said, "What is it?"  Replied the little wave, "Well, we aren't waves, we're water."

With the benefit of now looking back on my notes, I think I am seeing (backwards) what Roger was saying. I think that he was saying that the thing that we typically think of as our "self" is not the consciousness that is aware of this "self". Using Regina's story, what we typically think of as our "self" is the stories we tell about the wave, thinking it is "us." So, Roger's observation might look like this:

I, Roger the big wave, am thoroughly persuaded about my existence, but have no credible evidence of it. The only place to look is memory, where I see the stories I tell about my wave-ness. I cannot prove my existence as such in any place else, and in fact, I will hit the shore and be gone. In that condition is the question of liberty or freedom for "me," the water; I am free as the water to choose what is--my apparent wave-ness, my real water-ness, and all that these imply.

How does this make any difference?  The asserted "self" has two qualities: It asserts that it exists and yet it is impermanent.  Even the point of view that asserts the "self" exists is impermanent.

This impermanence contrasts with love, which is not impermanent in the same way.  Love is outside of form (says Roger, yet there was a flurry of assertions and questions after this statement...we will likely need to devote a future conversation to understanding what LOVE is, since there was clearly a great deal of bewilderment about it).

Suffering, on the other hand, comes from attachment to form and desire for the form's permanence.

The asserted "self" is "form" (the wave). Every human tradition posits the existence of a "self" outside of conditional reality--this is the soul, the spirit.  What is this soul?  One theory is that the soul consists of the consciousness of prior unity participating in this world having forgotten that prior unity, yet still has love of that prior unity. In oder to participate in this world, the consciousness has to first see it as separate.

The age of separation

These same things are being said throughout human history, with the exception of the last 380 years. In the last 380 years, humans lived in a time where we asserted that objects are separate and self-occurring. This positivist point of view comes with a whole suite of beliefs about the nature of reality and the nature of knowing, all of which is socially constructed. The difficulty with this point of view is that it ignores the socially-constructed nature in favor of a belief that the point of view is factual "truth".

How did this happen?  It was Des Carte, the founder of the modern theory of knowledge, who had a series of dreams in which he concluded that some things represented "truth" another others, "error". Laura Rendon tells this story elegantly in her commencement speech Rendón, L. (2000). Academics of the Heart: Reconnecting the Scientific Mind with the Spirit's Artistry. Review of Higher Education, 24(1), 1–14.

Built into this frame is scarcity with competition as the means to the ultimate ends of growth. This paradigm is deeply embedded into our confused interpretation of the phrase, "Survival of the fittest," by which we take to mean "Growth through domination in a world of scarce resources."

Deconstructing the positivist frame is not a refutation of it, but a consideration of expanding the set of frames available to interpret what we encounter in the world.  An alternative frame:  "Synergistically thriving through collaboration in a world of abundance"

So here we are, back at the original homework. Our aim was to encounter the world as it is. In order to do so, we must suspend the positivist frame, since from within that frame, nothing outside of the frame exists.

And what do you do when you encounter the activity of activity creating separation?  One option is to choose it as it is.

Try it.  No need to manipulate anything about your state. What happens when you choose it as it is?