The journey to conscious
Posted by Simon Parke, 05 March 2018, 5.36am
We meet a friend.
‘How was your day?’ we ask.
We get the normal response; it’s a common one; I say it myself sometimes.
‘Not too bad’ or ‘I suppose I’ll survive’ or ‘Had worse’ or ‘Oh, you know, so-so – can’t complain.’
(Though that in itself is a complaint.)
There’s something damaged about these responses, something crushed, something depressing.
They suggest someone who basically sees life as a threat; they suggest fear.
A good day is one in which I didn’t get hurt, that’s the message…so quite a low bar.
(Fear does breed caution.)
And unfortunately, the longer we live in this hunched and fearful manner, the longer this pattern of response remains, the more closed down we become.
Fear breeds caution breeds low-grade depression.
‘Can’t complain!’...only the truth is, we’re furious…
So, what would psychological and spiritual growth look like here?
It would look like there being only one of us inside.
Just one of us, with no scared part - and a another part protecting the scared part.
Or an angry part - and another part trying to calm or repress the angry part.
Or an anxious part - and another part saying it’s ridiculous to be anxious.
RD Laing calls it ‘a system of false selves.’
Away from this crowd, there is just you; just one consciousness, aware of thoughts and feelings passing through – the scared, the angry, the anxious, the shameful…but without attachment to them.
Just one you, in the words of Michael Singer, ‘watching the dance of the psyche.’
This is what it is to be conscious, to be one undivided self; and to arrive at this place, we will allow all things to the surface.
‘Until we make the unconscious conscious,’ said Jung, ‘it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’
So we invite everything to the surface; it’s as simple (and difficult as) that.
And our main difficulty, (we will notice this quite quickly,) is our tendency to protect and defend our hidden selves.
Here is a deep-rooted energy, the energy to protect and defend, particularly our sore, unresolved areas.
Approach someone’s sore spot and they will come at you with great force… or great withdrawal.
This is why people experience such strong reactions on retreat or in therapy. There’s a lot we somehow feel we must protect and defend. And retreats and therapy may make these areas vulnerable or exposed.
This is not freedom.
Only when we have nothing to protect are we free.
It’s nice meeting free people…people who have nothing to protect.
I think of the story of the hermit who lived in a cave.
He had only two possessions: a bench and a blanket.
He returned to his cave one night to discover a thief taking his bench and blanket.
The thief looked surprised but the hermit tried to calm him.
‘Do take them,’ he said. ‘I would give you the moon if I could.’
He had nothing to protect, nothing to defend. He was free… our spiritual and psychological homecoming.
Nothing to protect, nothing to defend; just one conscious self…
We waste a lot of energy in defence of our self-image, our self-narrative.
We build tall thick walls around it.
We put attack dogs at the gates.
We scour the horizon for enemies.
And the more energy we give to it, the larger the project becomes, with the need for more walls, more dogs, more scouring of the horizon.
But there is nothing to defend.
And the moment you feel your energy being drawn into it… let go of that energy, let it dissipate.
If you feel fear or rage, anxiety or shame; allow it through you, like some traveller in a guest house.
But don’t feed it with attention; and don’t insist it must stay; don’t worship it, as if it’s some V.I.P.
If we feed these states, what started as something small can become manufactured, towering and dominate our lives.
So when you feel energy rushing to the negative or the defensive – ‘build walls, unleash the dogs, scour the horizon!’ – let go of it, like one might let go of a crazed pig.
Release it…and reclaim the peace and stillness of simple presence, which existed long before your divided and well-defended self.
This is what it is to be conscious.