I’m exploring a new take on a familiar theme and am putting
it out in this format in order to engage those of you interested in exploring
it with me.
We’ve often referred to this, our shared delusion of reality
(this world), as the “world of opposites.” Everything in this plane of
existence is opposite to what we’re taught to believe. “Conventional wisdom”
runs along the lines of “worry is
preparation, fear keeps a person safe, it’s possible to control outcomes,” and
so forth. (You might take a moment here to jot down some of those you’re told
you don’t believe but live by nonetheless.)
But what if the “world of opposites” is much more pervasive
and more deeply “personal” than we’ve realized? What if that notion can assist
us to see, on a moment-by-moment basis, exactly what egocentric karmic
conditioning/self-hate is doing to keep us in its thrall? Seems worth looking
into, doesn’t it?
Now, of course, as with most of awareness practice, coming
at this straight on isn’t all that effective. That’s why spiritual folks use
metaphor, parables, analogies, etc., to assist in sneaking up on what we can
see out of the corner of the eye but often miss if we look directly. When we
look directly, we’re usually using conditioned mind to look, and “from the corner
of the eye” viewing enables insight and intuition to slip through.
With that approach I will endeavor to point us in the
direction of exploration.
Let’s use as our first test case a person who is insecure,
responsible, and hard-working, who seeks external approval and tries hard
always to get everything right. The internal conversation is along the lines
of, “I need to…, I have to remember to…, I wonder if ‘they’ will like…, I can’t
believe I messed that up again…, why do I always say the wrong thing….” There
are plenty of openings for self-hate, and the conversation in the head is
focused on what went wrong in the past, what’s probably wrong now, and what’s
likely to go wrong in the future. The person is tense, tight, unsure, anxious,
and often miserable. He’s working overtime to be the perfect person and living
in a world of failure and criticism. If asked, the “self-aware” person would
acknowledge, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how I am.”
Here’s the “what if” for that person. What if that person
arrived in this world bright, intelligent, eager, and enthusiastic, with great
instincts and a well-developed ability to assess circumstances and communicate
clearly what’s being seen? What if that person encountered an egocentric,
karmically-conditioned, self-hating environment that needed to squash any
authentic expression of Life in order to maintain its own false reality? What
if that person eventually acquiesced in order to survive, got with the program,
took up as internal conversation a version of what was coming from the outside,
and, over time, came to accept the false reality of egocentric karmic
conditioning/self-hate as the “true reality” of Life, treating himself as he’d
been treated, striving to please the “outside authorities” (which now only
exist inside!), unable to access his authenticity and certainly NOT living as
the authentic expression of Life he most likely came to this plane of existence
In other (and perhaps fewer) words, authenticity arrives
into a conditioned circumstance, the human being adapts, takes up the
conditioned reality in order to survive in it, forgets the original
authenticity, accepts the conditioned reality as “true,” and looks to the
assessment of the conditioned reality to know “who/how I am,” then spends a
lifetime believing, feeling bad about, hiding, and compensating for an identity
that has nothing to do with who s/he is! Except it is the opposite of who/how s/he is authentically.
Let’s try another: Person is born intelligent, curious,
eager to learn. External environment is threatened by all that present, here,
unencumbered “seeing.” Person gets a lot of rejection for seeing and saying. As
above, the person gradually gives in in order to survive the circumstances. The
internal conversation becomes one of “I know what’s right/best, but I can’t say
because I’ll be rejected and punished.” This can turn into anger and resentment
that “they” (a “they” only existing inside conditioned mind at this point), are
controlling me. The conclusion: I’ll hide out, lay low, not let anyone know
what’s going on with me, and I’ll be safe.
Sadly, in all such cases, we are emphatically NOT safe. Instead,
we are in the gravest danger a human can experience: we are trapped alone with
a force that is surviving at our expense. In addition, we are unable to access
our authenticity (which resides on the other side of the incessant internal
survival conversation), and thus can neither express our authentic being nor
learn all that would be available to us if we were able to show up in each
moment ready for the receiving and transmitting of the Intelligence that
Animates that is possible for us as human incarnations.
So, as we explore this:
~~ An “I know” conversation in the head is meant to conceal
the fact that “I don’t know” and prevent me from being open to information that
would allow me to be lit-up and eager to see and learn in each moment. In other
words, “I know” robs us of innocent authenticity.
~~ An “I don’t care” internal conversation camouflages a
deep caring rooted in awareness of the interconnectedness of all Life. “I don’t
care” robs us of our ability to give and receive Love.
~~ An “I’ve got to be perfect” conversation keeps us from
recognizing the perfection of all Life and robs us of our ability to relax into
the unique part each expression of Life plays.
~~ A “There’s something wrong with (me or them)” prevents us
from experiencing that there’s nothing wrong anywhere in Life—never has been,
never will be—and cuts us off from an open-hearted appreciation of everything
exactly as it is. This orientation also closes us off from gratitude and
Now, the main thing I want for us to explore together is how
focusing the attention on an internal conversation reinforces the illusion of
an ego-I and creates a barrier to authenticity. It’s not that authenticity
isn’t “here” and available. In fact, it’s ALL that is here and available. It’s
that when we are engaged in the conversation, we can’t experience authenticity. It’s exactly like sitting on a beautiful
beach in front of a perfect sunset and missing the whole thing because our
attention is on an annoying conversation we had last week.
A perspective: Life is improv. Until we are with the moment,
we are attempting to follow (and insist that others follow) a very old script
(that others don’t even know exists) that has nothing to do with anything
happening now or in the past.
The whole point: If you want to know who/how/what you are
authentically, listen to what the conversation in your head is telling you,
look to see what is opposite to that, and get a sense that that opposite
definition is who/how/what you are authentically. The same formula works with
others! A person who “presents” as one way is probably very close to the exact
opposite when identified with the conversation in egocentric karmic
conditioning/self. To see what one is authentically, look at the internal
conversation with conditioning and know authenticity is the opposite of that!
The one exception: When someone is “coming from center” they will be congruent
inside and out. Fun to play with, yes?
2) Encounters an egocentric, karmically
3) Identification with the ego-I system created to survive
in the world
4) Attending constantly to the conversation in the ego-I
5) Presenting the opposite of that ego-I conversation to the
A rather simplistic example: You are born open, curious, and
loving. The world you must navigate is fear-based, suspicious, and reserved. You
become frightened, anxious, and protective of self. As the internal
conversation focuses on how “they are/it is,” you are told how to behave in
order to avoid what will befall you if you run afoul of “them/it.”
Inside you’re terrified and closed, outside you appear to be
self-effacing and affable.
Who/how are you authentically? Open, curious, and loving. Along
with a lot of other Life-affirming qualities you’re not allowed to experience
My hope is two-fold. 1) That you will look to see what is
the conversation that occupies your attention (it may seem too varied at first
glance, but if you continue to attend, you will see the over-arching talk that
contains the many sub-texts), and 2) that you will call in to Open Air so we
can talk about what you see. I am hoping to engage the whole Sangha in this
conversation, and Open Air is our best avenue for achieving the broadest
exchange. An upcoming practice opportunity that might assist in clarifying the
conversation is the email class beginning July 16—lots of clues there!