I've noticed a recurring idea cropping up in my life. “Idea” might not be the most complete way to describe it- I certainly have lots of ideas about it- but it could just be a universal law, or a pragmatic way-of-living or a philosophical imperative or some such. But I've started noticing a bunch of different ways in which it can be expressed. Reading books and watching YouTube videos and shit, and just kind of toying with different ways of living my day-to-day life, I've found a few different ideas that seem to express this principle.
One way it's expressed is from Huang Po, the grandfather of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. He says, “Do not permit the events of your daily life to bind you, but never withdraw from them.”
One major characteristic of this principle is that it consists of two opposite aspects: one active, or outward (e.g. being involved with your daily life); the other non-active, or inward (e.g. being unbound by your daily life) . The second major characteristic of this principle is that both the active aspect and the non-active aspect are simultaneously lived. This is a bit like a paradox, because it refers to an action and an un-action co-existing at the same time. Outward and inward orientations at once. I'd like to show a few other examples of this that I have encountered. I hope to demonstrate that this principle I'm talking about is not an idea arising from one school of thought, but is encountered by many people in many ways.
The form in which I was first introduced to this approach to life was in the Thelemic text, The Book of the Law, wherein it says in the 44th verse of the first chapter, “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” “Unassuaged” means full, unmitigated, or not held-back. “Purpose,” etymologically, means putting-forth. When I think of “unassuaged of purpose,” I think of an extremely active state of giving, sharing, or devotion. Like throwing energy into life. Put that together with “delivered from the lust of result,” and you having something like giving whole-heartedly, free from the restrictions that the expectation of reward or payment imposes on your life. To me, this doesn't necessarily mean an absence of feeling any expectation, but just not being controlled and led around by those expectations. Stepping back from them, even while allowing those feelings to be present.
Last fall, I read a thrilling little book by Jake Horsley called “Matrix Warrior: Being the One.” I'd recommend against reading that book if you're a stoner, or if you're paranoid, or if neo-psychadelic Gnosticism makes you throw up, cause it's a little far-out in a very ham-fisted way. But it's still a surprising book. At one point, the author is describing the teachings of Carlos Castaneda, author of many books, and self-proclaimed sorcerer. Castaneda says that one of the primary modes of activity of a sorcerer moving about in this place that we call the every-day, social, “real” world, is an activity which he calls “stalking”. Now, quoting from the book:
“The art of stalking is centered around acceptance of death as an inescapable force in our lives. In the light of coming death- a force which cancels out all our acts forever- all beings and all decisions are equally insignificant (or equally important), and so are reduced to folly. The advantage of one who stalks is that, in recognizing his own folly and that of others, he has control over it. He is no longer attached to his acts or desires, nor concerned or worried about the outcome. He already knows and accepts that the outcome may very well be his death; in which case, whatever happens, it can't be any worse than that. So, in his acceptance of the equality of all things- from a speck of dust to a universe, a gnat to a messiah- and in his awe and wonder at the mystery of existence in the light of inevitable death, one is free to act without fear or regret, with abandon and control. Since every one of his acts may well be his last, he gives it his total attention; that's control. Since he has nothing to lose, being already dead, he can allow his passion for life to consume him, and gives everything he has to his acts; that's abandon.”
Stalking, as defined here, means not letting the events of your life bind you (because an awareness of impermanence frees you from the grip of their apparent significance), while simultaneously remaining very involved in those events (because that is what happens when love is expressed).
Another place that I found this principle described, but in different terms, was in integral philosopher Ken Wilber's book, “The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion.” He uses the term “holon” to describe any entity, any thing that you can imagine or observe or that exists, so, any (noun). He says,
“[Every entity] is a whole that is simultaneously a part of another whole: a whole atom is a part of a whole molecule, a whole molecule is a part of a whole cell, a whole cell is part of a whole organism, and so forth. Each element is neither a whole nor a part, but a whole/part...
The fact that each holon is actually a whole/part places it in profound tension: in order to exist, it must in some sense retain its own identity or its own agency as a relatively autonomous whole; yet it must also fit in with the other holons that are an intrinsic part of its environment. Thus, every holon must maintain not only its own agency, but its own communion, its extensive networks of relationship upon which its own existence fundamentally depends. If any holon profoundly disrupts either its agency (as a whole) or its communion (as a part), it simply ceases to exist.”
Too much individuality, or too much communion, and you will be in a severe state of imbalance. Looking at what Wilber says here through the lens of this life principle that I'm writing about, I see communion (of a part) as an outward orientation; an involvement in the events of your life, giving your energy to the people and circumstances and empty regions that make up your environment. I see the agency of an individual, or autonomy of a whole as an inward orientation, a stepping-back and recognizing that you are whole and sufficient and complete in yourself, very simply and quietly, as you are right now. You need nothing but the presence of being.
To synthesize the pieces so far: do not permit the circumstances of your life to distract you from your wholeness, but never withdraw from communion. Pure will's purpose flowing outward into life's web, unconcerned about the end results, because the end (not to mention the beginning) is always contained within you.
I saw a video on the YouTube a few weeks ago, and noticed it was being passed around on the Facebook. Here, I'll share it. I see it discussing this very same life approach, but once again, coming at it from a slightly different angle.
“To love with our whole hearts (involvement), even though there's no guarantee (unbounded).”
“When we work from a place that says 'I am enough,' (involvement from an unbounded bedrock) then we stop screaming, and we start listening.”
The wholeness of “I am enough,” as Brown points out, only comes from authenticity: being unbound by what you think you should be. Letting go of that stuff, and expressing what we really are. We bind ourselves up with the events in our lives when we try too hard to grasp and control them. When we try too hard to make the uncertain certain. When we try too hard to attain or maintain perfection. We grab hold of what we think is the “substance” of our lives and intentionally wrap ourselves up in it, saying “this substance is ME! It defines me!” Then we wonder what freedom is supposed to be. I think this is a case of too much communion, using Wilber's terms. We forget ourselves.
I'll share one more place that I found this principle being expressed in a unique way. It's worth watching all 9 parts of this interview, but part 1 is enough to express the idea clearly.
I noticed that this “Ho'oponopono” technique encapsulates the simultaneousness of the inward, “letting-go” orientation (assuming responsibility and seeking deep reconciliation by inwardly saying things like “please forgive me for generating whatever restrictions are holding you back”) and of the outward, active orientation (by allowing yourself to express gratitude and appreciation through authentic activity, as if saying to life, “I love you, I want you to be free”).
According to Dr. Hew Len, it is the old data that binds. I've often thought of that data as the narratives, notions and dreams (literally) that we identify with and have yet to let go of. That dream world (consisting of static data) keeps us stuck in our loops or stuck in our tracks and scripts. Brene Brown points out that our job is not to try to maintain perfection. I see this also as meaning that our job is not to try to rebuke and eliminate our notions, tracks and scripts, or to try to destroy our old, static data. Brown says our job is to say to our children (and aren't our mental constructs our children too?) “you're imperfect, but you're worthy of love and belonging.”
A few days ago in a movie theater, I overheard some dude talking to his hot date about his love of dance. He used two words that I think can be used to sum up this “non-dual imperative” that I'm writing about. He said in order to really, really dance, you have to “lose yourself.” I like that. Lose yourself: no more self concern. Lose yourself: make the dance floor burn.
Who am I? Living, breathing Nothing.