Through a Glass Darkly

Gie Blandin, "Aube dur le Lac"
Gie Blandin, Aube dur le Lac

We begin meditation by sitting quietly while maintaining an awareness of our posture from the inside; we try to have a sense of the whole of ourselves sitting here now. We can become aware that there are two movements within ourselves. Perhaps we realize that we are in fact, two. One part of ourselves has carried us around all day. It has reacted to people and events, it has manifested in certain habitual ways. It has been pushed and pulled around by the incredible forces of our external life. Our entire day is written on our bodies in the form of tensions; both emotional as well as physical. This other part is much quieter and extremely fragile. To become of aware of its existence we need to make a turn within ourselves in a completely different direction. We need to learn to listen to it. What does it need? It needs to be attended to and this attendance needs to be continually renewed. It must always be a fresh approach and not a dead idea or a dead concept. We need to maintain a connection with this part without any force. We need to be in-between both of these parts; moving outward as well as moving inward. If we are caught in our thoughts we simply try to make a gentle return to the inward current like a sailboat that needs to catch the wind that is blowing from a different direction.

I see that there is often a lack of emotion in my effort. It seems to me that I do not feel this “lack” deeply enough. Honest and sincere observations of myself reveal how passive I truly am. How I am merely a passenger in this machine and that I have no control of myself whatsoever and that in reality I am merely pushed and pulled in every direction. I need to face “the terror of the situation” and awaken a desire to Work. As I am ordinarily, I do not want to sacrifice the old man in me (my habits, desires and mechanical manifestations) to clear a place for the New Man. I believe the Gnostic’s alluded to this idea when they wrote, “to become one first you must become two.”

We grossly underestimate this force of life that constantly pulls us outside of ourselves. We forget that we are more than just one person. Man’s name is legion. We are a network of selves. Some of these selves are interested in spiritual work and some have no interest whatsoever. In fact, some may even be completely antagonistic towards this search because they have a vested interest in maintaining their illusory life. We forget that these parts need to be fed as well. I have a feeling that we need to be wholly interested in just simply observing ourselves as we are. This interest needs to be stronger than the flow of associations that runs through us constantly. The practice of meditation prepares us for this. It trains us to have a separation that allows us to see and sense ourselves in a new way. When we are able to take a step back inside of ourselves we can approach a more objective study of ourselves as we are in the moment. What is taking place in our emotions, our thoughts, and our bodies right now? Through this practice we learn the importance of cultivating the faculty of attention.

What do we do with this attention once it is cultivated? What is the purpose of it? Sure, we may have all these extraordinary experiences but, so what. Where do we go from here? It is dangerous to speak about such things because we may just be hanging ourselves on a frozen concept or a dead idea. We are good at closing doors and constructing walls but how do we stand in front of something so vast? How can we inhabit this sense of scale? Perhaps a better approach would be to search for deeper questions, that is to say, living questions.

A Native Story

The grandfather looked at his young granddaughter thoughtfully. Something in the beloved child of his child was developing there and so he spoke to her as follows. “Inside me, there are two wolves and these two wolves fight each other constantly. One of the wolves is aggressive, nervous and filled with a wish to succeed. The other wolf is different. He wishes for more understanding. Both wolves want fulfillment. The first wolf dreams that this could result in more prestige in the eyes of others but the other wolf believes that fulfillment may be found through the path of understanding.”

The grandfather observed that his granddaughter was looking at him anxiously and added “Don’t worry about me alone, for this fight between the two wolves takes place in every one of us existing on this earth. In other people, the first wolf may have a variety of characteristics but the second wolf is, more or less, the same in everyone.”

The granddaughter looked thoughtful and was silent for some time and then she said, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight in you?”

“Well” said her grandfather, “It depends which one I feed.”

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