Fear of the Inexplicable

We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any 
way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible 
in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded 
of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most 
singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. 
That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done 
life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” 
the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things 
that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been 
so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could 
have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.

But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished
 the existence of the individual; the relationship between 
one human being and another has also been cramped by it, 
as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of
 endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the
 bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone 
that is responsible for human relationships repeating 
themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and 
unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable 
experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes 
nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation 
to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively
 from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of 
the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident
 that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a 
place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and
 down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous
 insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in
 Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons 
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
 us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
 We are set down in life as in the element to which we best 
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
 years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
 hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be 
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
 mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, 
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; 
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
 arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us 
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
 still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust 
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
 ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into 
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses 
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps 
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless 
that wants help from us.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

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O sweet spontaneous

by: e.e. cummings


sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting
 
fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
and
poked
 
thee
, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy
 
beauty, how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and
 
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
(but
true
 
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover
 
thou answerest
 
them only with
 
spring)

What Am I Not Accepting?

I’d like to share a practice that emerged for me in meditation this morning. I noticed a vague tension, as I often do, and felt myself wanting to get rid of it. Then I had the realization that the tension I was experiencing was being created, moment by moment, through my resistance to tension. In seeing that, there was a softening, a willingness to accept what a moment before I had been pushing away.

These tensions are like signposts: they indicate a place in consciousness where we are relating to what is arising with rejection or resistance. They call attention to where the flow is being impeded, and thus, they are profound gifts. Their invitation? Notice what is going on here. There is something you are not fully accepting. Go see. There is much to be revealed.

And so, I was guided to undertake a practice of inquiry for the next few weeks, and these were the instructions I received:

Ask yourself, as often as you remember to: what am I not accepting, in this moment? Have no concern for any other moments, just see about right now. Just feel into it, and see.

No requirement to change any non-acceptance that is discovered, just become aware of what is being resisted. Turn it around and look at it from a few angles. Taste it. Is it primarily physical, emotional, cognitive, subtle? Notice that as attention and curiosity land on it that it sometimes begins to melt or change. Notice that it often reveals a deeper layer of resistance, or bigger piece of resistance. Notice that our consciousness is layered, like an onion, and that as we relax or let go on one level and a deeper level comes to attention, we may again notice discomfort, tension, closure. We might become aware of something we feel more compelled to avoid. And again, in that moment, simply ask, “What am I not accepting, in this moment? What is arising, what is present, that I am not accepting, that I am pushing away or resisting or denying? What am I aware of right now? Can I soften into acceptance of all that I am aware of in my experience? If not, what am I not accepting, in this moment?”

This is not an aggressive inquiry. It is not about finding what you are not accepting and “fixing” the non-acceptance. It’s just about noticing and allowing. Allow the non-acceptance, allow it to shift if it wants to, to not shift if it doesn’t want to, to melt away if it is on the edge of dissolve. It is simply about noticing, bringing your attention to the enactment of non-acceptance as it arises in this moment through you. It is about curiosity.

Of course, attention is a very powerful thing. Very often, all the resistance was waiting for was to be noticed. Upon being noticed it evaporates. This is not always the case, but it does happen often. Still, our agendas are not what’s important here. Our only job is to direct attention in this direction — to invite it to rest on what in this moment is not being accepted, to simply notice.

You will discover that your awareness deepens; it begins to move through the layers some, from what you are aware of on the surface, to what is underneath that, and then, what is underneath that and so on.

There are many layers. As attention goes to the deeper layers, we start to become aware of some of the basic programs, the foundational structures of our individuated consciousness, in other words the consciousness of the separate self.

At this level the things we notice tend to be very primary. These are the attachments and aversions that underscore most of our experiences and that earlier in life helped to root the basic aspects of our personal identity. This is the place where we can begin to see the programs we are running and how they limit our perception and determine our experience. And yet, in noticing this, our primary intention remains to simply notice and allow. Attention itself does the work, you don’t have to.

Our only job really is to choose what we wish to give attention to. That in itself takes training; we don’t notice that by habit, we are making these choices continuously. As the choices are unconscious (habitual and automatic) it feels simply like we are noticing reality, rather than that portion of reality that our attention became trained to notice as very young people long before we had developed the capacity to self-reflect. As beings becoming Self-aware, we are now awakening and developing the powers of conscious attention.

Attention is very powerful. What we direct attention to is what we experience. This doesn’t mean that all the other things we are not paying attention to no longer exist, it just means that as our attention is not with those other things, we are not experiencing them. The practice of directing attention to what you are not accepting in any given moment is a profound practice of liberation.

I would like to invite you to join me in this practice, as an experiment. Whenever you think of it throughout your day, pause, settle, and inquire, “What am I not accepting, in this moment?” Notice. Allow.

If it is a helpful practice for you you may wish to continue with it, creating reminders for yourself to stop at least a few times a day to check in in this way. Please feel free to share in the comments below any part of your process with this practice and what it is revealing to you.

With much love,
Lauren