THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

In the three-story artisanal wooden jungle-house beside the Amazon river, I am lying on the balcony floor watching the lightning flash like cosmic schizophrenia when I hear a booming set of knocks on the front door.

“Ma, hang on a second,” I say to my mother on the telephone, who I’ve been talking to for the first time in months.

I know just three things: I’m alone at night, Eufagne, the fifty-seven year old lady who made this house has gone out without a word this morning, and nobody would hear a scream over the thunder. It’s like the sky is having a heart attack, extreme indigestion and a mental breakdown all at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“Quién es?” I finally shout over the thunder. I’ve been talking on the phone, so of course they’ve heard me already. Who is it?

“Stefan,” a cheerful male voice shouts back.

All the muscles in my body relax at once.

“Un momento, porfa.” One moment please. I get up, tell my mother to wait a second, and scramble for the keys. In bursts a towering German with a smile you could see from the moon and a giant backpack.

I immediately switch to English, “Oh thank God,” I splutter. “How was the hiking adventure – we thought you were gone for just ten days! Rosa came over and was also wondering about you. How long ago did you leave- ”

He laughs. “How do you know so much about me?”

Rosa is his girlfriend and came over last week, frying herself an omelette with red onions while I cleaned the kitchen shelves like a maniac. Stefan has travelled almost all of South America by bike – except the leg with Rosa.

“Eufa,” I say.

“And my bicycle?”

“Still beautiful and right where you left it.” I gesture to the lounge.

We enter the kitchen towards the living room together, and I turn on the light switch, blinding us for the briefest moments. We both put out a forearm over our eyes and squint.

And just like that, the electricity vanishes.

We are suddenly and acutely aware of the way the wind shrieks through the bamboo and giant banana trees and the sand-soil forest in the cerro above, alongside the orchestra of street dogs. Given that there are no street lights this far from the centre, everything goes pitch black. I go still, suddenly remembering Eufa warning me about this over a month ago – sometimes when the rains come down, the power lines collapse here. I jump into action.

“Mama, we’ve got wild jungle hurricane going on over here, the lights are out so I’ll talk to you later okay?” I trill in Hindi to my mother on the phone.

“Okay, okay. Mama loves you. Take care,” she says. I cut the call and flip on my phone torch.

“So, er.” I say. Stefan and I peer at each other in the pitiful torchlight.

He laughs again. “Candles!” he grins. We both start scrambling through the drawers and shelves – or what little of them there are.

Eufa is a minimalist. She’s a fifty-seven year old atheist, almost entirely raw vegan – pardon the cheese – speaks five languages, the village English teacher, wild traveller, Krishnamurti lover and activist. She’s had three great loves in her life, does artesania and every morning wakes up, puts on the gumboots and the dirt-splattered working clothes, and the beige hat to hack at a giant mound of dirt outside her front door in preparation for the worst El Niño of the century we are about to see this summer. Eufa is the fittest Bolivian female of her age I’ve seen yet.

She’s been fighting against the construction of the bridge over the river for over ten years, and is hell-bent on getting it out of Rurrenabaque before it turns into a sprawling Caranavi – a grey mess of concrete, dirt, prostitution, industry and smoke. They’re building the highway from Brazil through Bolivia to get the products out to China as fast as possible, of course. With three thousand Chinese prisoners hacking away at the highway on the other side of the river, and a drug and prostitution industry already emerging, you could argue the battle’s almost already lost.

And yet, despite having phone bills racked up by government spies who aim to minimize activism as much as possible through listening in and destroying citizens’ right to communication, despite a teaching life she’s tired of thanks to hora boliviana – or the Bolivian ‘informal’ culture of making it an hour, two hours late to meetings and events without communicating and thinking it’s todo bien; despite facing two grim possibilities of either having her entire house torn down for the highway – with its beautiful wooden balustrade, loving eco design, hammocks and artistry – or having the highway pass right under her nose and destroy the serenity, Eufa is fierce, furious, loving and deeply, deeply young. Eufa can touch her toes, raise her legs almost vertically, and has skin as smooth as a thirty-year old. I feel like I’ve met my godmother.

Eufa and I have talked for hours and hours without end over the past six weeks, about everything from food to politics to activism and love. Despite her having no cellphone – let alone computer – we always manage to communicate perfectly. But this morning, she was gone without a word when I awoke. We always, always went to the Sunday morning market together.

I felt a little alone and helpless lugging twenty kilograms of fruit and vegetables six blocks from the river and up the hill.

And so – obviously – there is no way to call her to ask her where the candles are.

“Um,” we both say at the same time.

“That’s okaaaaaaaaay, don’t worry about it,” Stefan says. We venture outside again – thankfully the balcony has a sort of roof. He sits down on the sofa and I lie back down on the floor mattresses on my front. The rain means the mosquitos are out of sight, although I’m convinced the tarantula is still lurking about the deck. Niko – the Chilean psychotherapist working at Luz’s bakery who lived here earlier – and I have taken turns gently lifting the comically hairy beast from the deck and bathroom on the end of a broom and taking it far, far away to the other side of the jungle-garden.

It always returns, though.

“So tell me about your trip,” I say, at last.

He laughs again. Eufa’s right – Stefan is the strangest German we’ve ever met. As he talks, his story flicks back and forth between times and places and we alternate between me teasing out more details of his formidable adventure and watching the lightning erupt faster and faster in the sky.

“It’s like the sky’s giving birth,” I say.

Stefan bursts out laughing.

In Spanish, there are two ways of saying a feeling: one is using the verb estar (to be – in this moment) and the other is using the word ser (to be – permanent). So you say estoy bien or estoy al centro (I am well or I’m in the centre of town) to indicate a kind of ‘being,’ which is temporary and could change tomorrow – feelings and locations, for example. And you generally use ser for more permanent things, like Soy morena or soy de Europa or soy flacita (I’m brown-skinned, I’m from Europe, I’m skinny). If you use it for a feeling, it means that’s a permanent state. People who suffer from anxiety have expressed this to me as Soy ansiosa, which means, literally, I’m an anxious person or I’m (almost always) anxious. However, I feel an immense easiness around Stefan; he’s an open book. Everything is wondrous to him – every moment an adventure. In the two hours we’ve been talking before Eufa finally arrives – from a day of hiking all over the rivers and mountains – I’m sure he’s been grinning the entire time. I can almost feel it through the darkness.

With him, I’d say Stefan es alegre. Literally – Stefan is a happy person.

I’ve met few of these beings in my life, and every time they’ve left me with such an openness and lightness of spirit.

“Voy a dormir,” Eufa announces soon after the lights come back on. I’m going to sleep.

Stefan jumps up and rushes upstairs, returning with a towel. It’s micro-fibre, like mine, but much bigger. “I’m going to take a shower,” he announces.

But instead of going into the bathroom, he wanders out the front door.

My mouth falls open.

“How…how is the storm?” I say, finally, as he returns some twenty minutes later and wipes his feet on the doormat beside one of Eufa’s protest signs.

Lindo.” He smiles and shrugs the towel around his torso. “It sounds like hell pooping its pants on the roof but it’s actually pretty light.”

I prop myself up on my elbows. “Isn’t it…cold?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “Just right,” he says, grins, and wanders upstairs.

I look towards the front door. I think, I can beat this. I count minutes in my head.

I remember: Stefan went out in shorts and walked in the rain.

After I’m certain Eufa and Stefan are well asleep, I sprint out in nothing and start dancing.

***

Stefan is up for anything. Climb a mountain? Check. Make a feast? Check. Fix my computer woes? Check. Visit Luz to revamp her menu on a Macbook Air? Check. Have me walk on his back and re-align his pelvis? Check. Try acrobatics moves where I could potentially die? Check, check and check.

It’s my last few days in Rurrenabaque, and I feel enormously liberated. He and Bruno – a Frenchman travelling the world whom we’ve talked into joining us at Eufa’s place – fill up the house with their giant smiles and energy, and I begin to miss Ana a lot less. Ana was a Polish dancer who was here a couple of weeks ago, after almost a year of absence from Bolivia and now in her seventh year of travel.

That’s the thing about staying in one place for a long time – everybody else leaves.

I’m about to leave on the weekend, and I’ve finally had a chance to practice ground acrobatics with someone with the best flexion and muscle control I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Stefan,” I say, towards the last night as I eat the last of the tiny bananas and he fixes up his bike by the stairs, “If this cycle-touring the world thing doesn’t work out, you should seriously, seriously think about joining a circus.”

He laughs.

“I’m not joking,” I say. “I am fully expecting to see Youtube videos of you with Cirque du Soleil one day.”

“I don’t know about that. Maybe!” He straightens up from the bike.

This is one of the things I love about Stefan. He’s relaxed. Not in a stoned-out or whatever-happens-was-meant-to-happen un-caring and drifting way, but in a hyper responsive, reflexive, adaptive way. His relaxedness means he has no walls. Few barriers. He is one of the most inspirational people I’ve come across yet, for one reason: he’s totally open. Stefan tries anything. His face lights up at the smallest thing – a bowl of muesli with yoghurt, a pair of sandals, a patch of cloud on a burning Amazonian day. You ask him to join you on any adventure, big or small, and the answer is always a whole-hearted, immediate yes.

I wonder what it would be like to be like him, one day.

***

“Presence,” the Mexican young man says in the strangest French accent, “Is something everyone talks about while everyone’s actually, deeply distracted.”

Emmanuelle – a self-taught business management expert, recent traveller to Cuba, metal-lover and recent vegetarian who sells beautiful Indian carpets on Saturdays with her father – has towed me along to her Thursday Hatha Yoga class in downtown Montpellier, France, almost a month after I left Rurrenabaque, Boliva.

Four of us sit in a sort of circle facing inwards, two on mats, two without, as Victor explains the purpose of the session to us.

“We try and bring our whole selves into the room. That doesn’t mean all the woes, the worries, the thoughts. That’s the ego. Our whole selves are something beyond that – a kind of Being. A quality of attention. Full presence.”

Out of nowhere, he tosses a juggling ball in my direction.

I catch it without thinking.

“Aha!” Victor grins. “So we are present right now.”

I breathe in relief. Catching has never been my forte.

Turns out Victor is some kind of multimedia yoga artist. He gets us to pass the juggling ball between the four of us in rapid succession in complete random sequence, adding a second ball, then a third, then a fourth…and a fifth.

“Don’t worry about the dropped balls. That’s my job. I pick them up. Just focus on the ones in the air. If you’re worried, you’re not present. So of course you’ll miss. Just observe. We’re just playing here. Play requires presence.”

At the fourth ball, I stop watching the balls entirely. I focus in on a central part of the circle instead and catch and threw out of my entire field of vision from there. It feels like my consciousness is hyper-expanded and hyper-contracted at once. I stop thinking.

Days later, I describe it as It was like being the infinity of everything and the singularity at the same time, being aware of the suchness of everything without being the duality, without creating the duality and then being fucked up by it or confused by it – because there wasn’t the thinking ‘self’ to confuse. It was just, like, catch, throw, catch, throw, catch, catch, throw, throw…

None of us are on drugs, but it’s a trip and a trance. Four grown up big kids sitting in a circle with mats and mirrors in the south of France while everyone gets drunk on the Thursday night outside, being completely transfixed – enchanted – by an infinite game of juggling balls in silence – sometimes grinning – while a near-stranger tosses more balls into our space and collects what we drop.

Then, all of a sudden, Victor turns off the lights.

And we drop all the balls at once.

He says, “Close your eyes.”

We close our eyes. I shift in my cross-legged position on the floor – my thigh muscles have become too big from years of gymnastics and karate to sit like this comfortably – and turn my palms upwards to the ceiling. I take a deep breath from my belly.

“Just…observe,” he whispers.

Everything goes still and silent and black. My heart becomes transformed into this giant butterfly fluttering its wings hard, really hard, I write, days later. I’m beyond thought, I’m in this really weird hyper ecstatic zone but it’s just in the central chest area, it’s not at all in the mind/head area.

 It’s like my heart has these hummingbird wings and the hummingbird wants to rip out of the confines of my body; it’s somewhat uncontrollable, and I’m laughing inside, really laughing inside even though outside all you would see – if you could see in the darkness – is a giant smiling beaming across my face; bright white teeth in the blackness.

And then after many minutes have elapsed with this crazy sense of collective consciousness that was so highly energetically charged – throwing the balls around – being transformed into deep inner observation, Victor says, “Now, we’re going to do some sums.”

The collective energy of the room keens in. I fidget a little – I’m not used to sitting for long periods.

“Still, with our eyes closed,” Victor says, “I’ll start with 1078.”

“Emma, minus 14.

“Olivia, minus 23.

“Nalini, plus 15.”

And so on, each person subtracts or adds to the number of the last person. You’d think it would be easy.

But we’re gone. We’re long gone.

Victor continues the game. For hours, it feels.

But it’s like peering into a deep, grey fog in our minds. We aren’t functioning in logic anymore. Logic and rationality require a different kind of mental capacity than juggling four balls in a circle – so we take light years to respond to simple sums. We’re sitting in darkness – internally, and externally.

I can’t seem to be able to hold on to anything particularly well in my own brain. The numbers slide in and tumble out, gracefully. It’s stunning. It’s fucking amazing. Because – and I’m aware that some higher part of my consciousness is aware of this – there is no thought and no desire for thought and no holding on to thought. Just a One Great Big Empty Nothing.

Space. Lightness. Poof and it’s all gone – just a stillness, a nothingness, pure observation. Wow.

Then, Victor says, “Emma, you’re thinking.”

Still with our eyes closed, we hear her response as if from underwater, “Yes.”

“What do you see?”

Silence.

She murmurs, at last, “The number. It’s like a little dancer in my mind.”

He says, “Yes.” Then pauses.

I try to hold on to the last figure whatever it was, in case he asks me to subtract or add, but it glides away as quickly as it came.

“We are all going to imagine the dancer,” Victor murmurs. “All four of us. Imagine…his clothes…his face. Imagine his feet, the shoes he is wearing, his hat. Imagine the stick in his right hand.

“Now, imagine the path beneath the dancer’s feet.”

Victor pauses.

“And now…the forest behind him. Imagine the sky. There’s a sky above the dancer. What does it look like? There are some clouds, a sun peering through.”

Slowly, we create a mental painting of this dancer, and I feel a little like I am both alert and relaxed at once. The dancer is there, with its beautiful, colourful painting in my mind. But he doesn’t really matter to me, fundamentally.

Then, Victor says, “And now, we erase.

“Get your mind to take a rubber…and erase the sky. Erase the hills. The forest. Erase the path. Erase the shoes, the legs. Erase the rest of the dancer. His hat. His stick. His hands, torso, face. Erase all of it away, until it’s gone. All gone.

“And now,” he says, “Emma, what do you see?”

“Nothing,” she says.

“Nothing,” Victor echoes in the blackness.

***

It’s been almost seven months since I’ve been travelling as I write this, and I feel liberated. Self-liberated. Liberated from the self.

In Woman Who Run With Wolves, Estes writes of the importance of ‘going home.’

It is ironic that we have made wildlife refuges for ibis, pelican, egret, wolf, crane, deer, mouse, moose, and bear, but not for ourselves in the places where we live day after day. We understand that the loss of habitat is the most disastrous event that can occur to a free creature. We fervently point out how other creatures’ natural territories have become surrounded by cities, ranches, highways, noise, and other dissonance, as though we are not surrounded by the same, as though we are not affected also. We know that for creatures to live on, they must at least from time to time have a home place, a place where they feel both protected and free…The return to the wildish state periodically is what replenishes her psychic reserves for her projects, family, relationships, and creative life in the topside world. Eventually every woman who stays away from her soul-home for too long, tires.

Our skin is our greatest sensing organ; it tells us when we are cold, too warm, excited, frightened. When a woman is gone too long from home, her ability to perceive how she’s truly feeling and thinking about herself and all other matters begins to dry and crack…Popular culture calls this “burnout”—but it’s more than that, it’s hambre del alma, the starving soul…But the woman must understand this herself: When a woman goes home according to her own cycles, others around her are given their own individuation work, their own vital issues to deal with. Her return to home allows others growth and development too.

In order to converse with the wild feminine, a woman must temporarily leave the world and inhabit a state of aloneness in the oldest sense of the word. Long ago the word alone was treated as two words, all one. To be all one meant to be wholly one, to be in oneness, either essentially or temporarily. That is precisely the goal of solitude, to be all one…Solitude is not an absence of energy or action, as some believe, but is rather a boon of wild provisions transmitted to us from the soul…Because it is considered such an untoward thing, we have learned to camouflage this interval of soulful communication by naming it in very mundane terms. So, it has been named thusly: “talking to oneself,” being “lost in thought,” “staring off into space,” or “daydreaming.” This euphemistic language is inculcated by many segments of our culture, for unfortunately, we are taught from childhood onward to feel embarrassment if found communing with soul, and especially in pedestrian environments such as work or school.

Somehow, the educational and business world has felt that such time spent at being “all one,” is unproductive, when in fact it is the most fecund. It is the wild soul who channels ideas into our imagination, whereupon we sort through these to find which we will implement, which are most applicable and productive. It is commingling with soul that causes us to glow bright with spirit, willing to assert our talents, whatever they might be. It is that brief, even momentary, but intentional union that supports us to live out our inner lives so that instead of burying them in the self-inversion of shame, fear of reprisal or attack, lethargy, complacency, or other limiting reasonings and excuses, we let our inner lives wave, flare, blaze on the outside for all to see.

Although there are many physical places one can go to “feel” her way back to this special home, the physical place itself is not home; it is only the vehicle that rocks the ego to sleep so that we can go the rest of the way by ourselves. The vehicles through and by which women reach home are many: music, art, forest, ocean spume, sunrise, solitude. These take us home to a nutritive inner world that has ideas, order, and sustenance all of its own.

For me, that could be much of this ‘happy list’ – any key to unlock the heart but also the soul. But it’s generally characterized by – as Estes writes – solitude, internal or external. It’s that inner silence. The letting go of thought and brain-chatter.

As I left the room that evening in Montpellier, I realized two things: first, I fell into the unthinking faster than the rest. Second, they came out of the mind-emptiness much faster than I did. I was still mushrooming in the glorious nothingness till midnight.

I noted a giant difference between this here-now presence and where I had been this time last year – exams, the death of my grandmother, relationship breakdown, assignments, extra-curriculars, book chapters to write, projects, speeches, performances…I realized that taking the time out and doing nothing had – despite all the little setbacks and frustrations – ultimately given me the time and space to be away from any kind of formal constraint (read: the formal education/economic system), away from any kind of stress and to live and act from a place of deep stillness, openness.

I remember a conversation I had with Jimmy Green, an MKPer also part of Generation Zero, New Zealand’s largest climate action group of 20,000+ members, and fellow deep facilitator about Presencing and Theory U. Presence, he had said to me one chilly Wellington evening, isn’t a state you plan for; it’s something that just happens. It’s not a state you stay in, either, he continued, otherwise you would never come out and enact it in the real world – it’s just something that centres and guides you with the essence, the two questions of: Who am I? and What is my work?

absencing

Presencing Institute – Otto Scharmer – http://www.presencing.com/permissions

Estes concurs:

The wonder and pain of returning to the wild home place lies in the fact that we can visit, but we cannot stay. No matter how wonderful it is in the deepest home imaginable, we cannot stay under water forever, but must rise back to the surface. Like Ooruk, who is gently placed on the stony shore, we come back to our mundane lives infused with new animation.

But I’ve often wondered about people who enact much in the outer, tangible world yet exude an infinite deep presence at the same time – are the two really not possible simultaneously? Or is it, rather, like spiral dynamics from integral theory where you sort of cycle the U over and over and over again – in a spiral, as it were – and you hit that presencing bottom of the U through successive iterations so fast that of course all your ‘outer’ work is ever-imbued by this quality of consciousness?

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And sometimes, I would gather, it seems like we are repeating the same mistakes, or the same cycles, the same processes and passing through similar sorts of ‘life stages’ or awakenings over and over and over again, and we find it futile, a sense of I’ve been here before, I’ve learnt this lesson already, when in reality, we are merely passing through a similar point in the compass or circle again, but with wider radius every time so the spiral is ever-expansive.

If we are learning each time, truly learning, that is.

I asked Victor, that evening, about ‘meditation’ and he laughed. He said, meditation is a word that’s just so overused now. Now every psychologist and social worker and yoga teacher and educator and his dog and cat are doing ‘meditation.’ Meditation is a deeply sacred and very complex process – I’ve been doing yoga for almost a decade and would say I still haven’t got there yet.

I asked him, then, what is meditation? To him, anyway.

Well, for a start, it’s not just mind-emptiness. That’s good, but that’s not quite all of it, not yet, anyway – it’s a great first step. Especially if you are aware of the consciousness being fluid, uncluttered. If you are aware of that, then there is a thinking self that is saying, ‘I’m not thinking.’ And as long as there is that – the sense of ‘me’ or ‘I’ – then you’re not meditating. You’re thinking about meditating. Meditation is like…when the subject and object disappear, truly disappear. It’s not that you just don’t notice the dualities anymore. It’s that there are no dualities anymore. There isn’t a sense of ‘body’ as a ‘me’ encased in ‘flesh’ separate from the rest of the surroundings – so the sensation of pain or discomfort associated with sitting for long periods also disappears. There isn’t the sensation of hunger, or needs or wants – wanting this, wanting that, objects, things, food, sex, and so on. Because all that comes from a place of ‘I’.

I listened, fascinated and at once utterly at odds. This past year, the work we were doing as part of Non-Violent Communication – as well as what Estes writes in Woman Who Run With Wolves – was exactly about this: recognising, acknowledging and honouring the individual feelings and needs:

Understanding the other persons’ needs does not mean you have to give up on your own needs.

In our culture, most of us have been trained to ignore our own wants and to discount our needs.

— Marshall Rosenberg (Founder, NVC)

But I also see how Victor is echoing Alan Watts in this – ‘Meditation is frustrated…so long as I think of it as something I, myself must bring about.’

The hallucination of separateness prevents one from seeing that to cherish the ego is to cherish misery. We do not realize that our so-called love and concern for the individual is simply the other face of our own fear of death or rejection. In his exaggerated valuation of separate identity, the personal ego is sawing off the branch on which he is sitting, and then getting more and more anxious about the coming crash!

If you’re happy and you don’t know you’re happy, there’s nobody home. But this is the whole problem for us. Several thousand years ago, human beings evolved the system of self-consciousness. And they knew they knew. There was a young man who said, “Though it seems that I know that I know. What I would like to see is the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know.” You see? And this is the human problem. We know that we know. And so there came a point in our evolution when we didn’t guide life by distrusting our instincts. And had to think about it. And had to purposely arrange and discipline and push our lives around in accordance with foresight and words and systems of symbols, accountancy, calculation, and so on. And then we worry. Once you start thinking about things, you worry as to whether you thought enough. Did you really take all the details into consideration? Was every fact properly reviewed? And, by jove, the more you think about it, the more you realize that you really couldn’t take everything into consideration because all the variables in any human decision are incalculable. So you get anxiety. And this though also, this is the price you pay for knowing that you know. For being able to think about thinking. To feel about feeling. And so you’re in this funny position. Now then, do you see that this is simultaneously an advantage and a terrible disadvantage? What has happened here is that by having a certain kind of consciousness, a certain kind of reflexive consciousness, being aware of being aware, being able to represent what goes on fundamentally in terms of a system of symbols, such as words, such as numbers, you put, as it were, two lives together at once, one representing the other. The symbols representing the reality. The money representing the wealth. And if you don’t realize that this symbol is really secondary, it doesn’t have the same value, you know people go to the supermarket and they get a whole cart load of goodies and they drive it through and the clerk fixes up the counter and this long tape comes out and they say “Thirty dollars please.” And everybody feels depressed. Because they give away thirty dollars worth of paper but they’ve got a cart load of goodies. And they don’t think about that, they think they’ve just lost thirty dollars. But you’ve got the real wealth in the cart, all you parted with was the paper. Because the paper, in our system, becomes more valuable than the wealth. It represents power, potentiality. Whereas the wealth, you think “Oh well. That’s just necessary. You gotta eat.”

We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that ‘I myself’ is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body—a center which ‘confronts’ an ‘external’ world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. ‘I came into this world.’ ‘You must face reality.’ ‘The conquest of nature.’ This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated ‘egos’ inside bags of skin.

I think, therefore I am not here.

I’ve thought long and hard about where the ‘quality of consciousness’ of NVC falls in with Theory U, and all I can say for sure is this: it’s definitely at Level Three of Listening, definitely at Open Heart – because empathy is the whole point. But does it traverse into Level Four – Open Will – or deep Presence? Or does that require letting go of the ‘me’ and the ‘other’ duality yet further? Or perhaps self-empathy (step three in many NVC processes) is at Level Three listening, and simply empathy transcends into Level Four?

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Presencing Institute – Otto Scharmer – http://www.presencing.com/permissions

Rosenberg writes that presence is the only way we will have real empathy, understanding…

Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being.

Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion.

Clinical training in psychoanalysis has a deficit. It teaches how to sit and think about what a person is saying and how to interpret it intellectually, but not how to be fully present to this person.

NVC is also, very much, about choice. I choose to feel this way because I need…Giraffe language requires openness, giving permission, requesting rather than demanding and in so doing, giving the right to choose rather than being forced. So do we choose full presence? Or is it something that just happens upon us?

And is choice an illusion? A sort-of convenient illusion we create so as to give a sense of free will and power to one another? Is there free will? How can there be, if the ‘I, myself’ is…well…an illusion? Niki Harre conveniently sidesteps the problem of ‘free will’ by asserting that she won’t discuss it in her book on finite and infinite games – ‘I’m not interested on whether or not we have free will. What matters is that it certainly seems like we do.”

Alan Watts doesn’t seem particularly impressed by this happy delusion:

You cannot control your thoughts, and you cannot control your feelings, because there is no controller. You are your thoughts and your feelings, and they are running along, running along, running along. Just sit and watch them. There they go. You are still breathing, aren’t you? Still growing your hair; still seeing and hearing. Are YOU doing that? Is breathing something that YOU do? Do you see? Do you organize the operations of your eyes, and know exactly how to work those rods and cones in the retina? Do you do that? It happens, and it is a happening. Your breathing is happening. Your thinking is happening. Your feeling is happening. Your hearing, your seeing, the clouds are happening across the sky. The sky is happening blue; the sun is happening shining. There it is: all this happening.

May I introduce you? This is yourself. This is a vision of who you really are, and the way you really function. You function by happening, that is to say, by spontaneous occurrence. This is not a state of affairs that you should realize. I cannot possibly preach about it to you, because the minute you start thinking, “I should understand that,” the stupid notion that ‘I’ should bring it about arises again, when there is no ‘you’ to bring it about. That is why I am not preaching. You can only preach to egos. All I can do is talk about what is. It amuses me to talk about what is, because it’s wonderful. I love it. And therefore I like to talk. If you really knew the way you are, things would be sane. But you see, you can’t do that. You make that discovery. Because you’re in your own way. So long as you think “I’m I”. So long as that hallucination blocks it. And the hallucination disappears only in the realization of its own futility. When at last you see you can’t do it. You cannot make yourself over. You cannot really control your own mind.

And:

How can you allow this moment? How can you accept it? Wouldn’t you have to be separate from it, to allow it? How can you allow the air, the rain, the grass as it grows? How can you allow the breath in your lungs? Isn’t it already allowed? Isn’t life already exactly as it is? How can you allow or disallow what is already here? Isn’t it already too late to accept or reject this moment? How can you surrender to that which you were never separate from in the first place? Hasn’t the deepest acceptance already happened?

In effect, that there is only choosing if there is the illusion of separateness.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

  1. I find your analysis, references and experience overwhelming.
    From time to time read similar articles on LinkedIn or Pinterest on the understanding of what one is conveying to the world and who is the target.
    They same reflections come up but in a lighter version for ” poor readers ” I’d say , but they make you stop reflect on what , why and for whom you are doing what you are doing.
    Then there comes the table of I, It ,Its and We, so true it always opens ones mind to what is in the surroundings. I’ve been to a few training courses and one of the first things they always made sure they transmitted to the participants was team work and leadership and all what comes from those macro topics.
    From the first day I was introduced to these concepts I tend to use them in my everyday life and sometimes risk being accused of being too diplomatic or not taking sides but looking at other from the outside .
    I don’t know … It feels like either we don’t have the time to stop and reasons twice or put ourselves in other’s perspective.
    —————————
    I really have to say you just gave me one more title to read, the abstract you referee to when talking about home really stuck me, that part couldn’t have said it better. I like to believe Home is where the Heart is, as my heart knows when I have reached a place that’s welcoming or just for transitig purposes .
    So far only twice I’ve felt like that . A place to forget about time and worries but focus on where I want to be and do in life .

    Can’t wait for more inspiring pieces of your blog

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Sydney!

    I lovelovelove your reference to Ken Wilbur’s four quadrants – I believe the spiral dynamics AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels) figure I’ve posted up there is the more complex version of the I, We, It, Its theory. It is incredible how much truth there is in his model yet how many in this world are fixated on just one or two quadrants as their way of viewing the world.

    It makes me so happy to hear you keep true to your holistic way of viewing the world, even in diplomatic and political events – as I think we both recall from Model ASEM 2014, sometimes we are forced to take a side for the nation we do not personally believe in, and which barely comes from a holistic perspective. You may also find Niki Harrés work on infinite games enlightening in this regard. The Future Knowledge Lab we used at UNESCO Forum last year used an innovative methodology involving breaking down ‘assumptions’ about the world – also worth a look.

    I might also add to the quote, ‘Home is where the heart is open.” 🙂 Enjoy Women Who Run With Wolves if you do get around to reading that – one of the best things I’ve read in years.

    Arohanui.

    Like

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