Teaching September 2010: Ordinary
As I have explained before, I consider that the sharing we do, of the experiences that arise during the hands-on sessions, is probably, the most important segment of the work. Important in the sense that what we are listening to is someone’s embodied experience of the life story that they have identified with as being “me.”
If the group is safe, and the trust is there, the revelation may well be at a deeper level than the speaker has ever allowed herself to experience, at any time in her life. That is to say, she hears her story for the first time. The awakening to the dis-empowerments that we all keep on repeating, can be very profound. The possibilities for choice that stem from the awareness, can be equally profound. Once I come into the realisation of how I am habituated, the possibility of change is there. I have options which I do not have whilst I remain re-active.
Time after time, we have sat in a state of simple receiving while someone explores, sometimes in astonishment, how they have colluded in their own life-limiting dis-empowerment by accepting perceived parental judgements as being a statement of continuing truth about his or her value as a person.
Sometimes the change resulting from the empowerment of awareness is very rapid, sometimes the trauma has to be revisited and revisited, before the penny fully drops that “hey, I can do something about this. In fact, I had better, as no-one else can.!” Never mind will, no-one else can!
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the privilege of witnessing these life-stories. I have no difficulty in remaining completely present to them as I fully realise that what I am hearing is also the story of my life and the story of humanity. The imagery may vary from one culture to another, it does, and from one generation to another; so it should; but the essence is perennial; changing only its form, not its essence.
Another thing we have discussed elsewhere and quite often refer to in seminars is the difference between the personal intellect and Intelligence. Briefly and very simplistically, for this purpose, the intellect relates to Intelligence in the way that a diode searches for and finds radio waves on a crystal. (I am painting a pictorial analogy; I am not quoting a science).
I have referred to Rupert Sheldrake and his hypothesis of Morphic Resonance with some gratitude when I get too depressed at the loneliness of not being “scientific.”
Just recently, however, something new and to me, enormously exciting, has been happening. Instead of people experiencing anger or shame or amazement at the emerging revelations of patterns of reactivity, and the awareness of “how stupid I have been,” they are beginning to talk about the “ordinariness” of what they are experiencing, as they get in touch with deeper layers of the psyche held in and revealed through getting in touch with and acceptance of the body. It is not that there is no pain; there can be quite a lot of it; it is more that there is observation and sensation of the pain but less, or no, suffering from it. Can we separate one from the other? I believe so.
Assuming, as I have come to trust, that what happens in one group, in one place, tends to be already in place somehow, in the context of another group, in another place and this is what I mean by Morphic Resonance, then there is a real breakthrough to non- or rather, less, attachment. When this happens, I feel that what I set out to do is largely done; we only have to guard against falling back into old patterns and lack of awareness.
I always claim that what I set out to do is nothing; my wife keeps reminding me that you can’t do nothing –and I agree – but what you can and do do is trust. I am content with that correction.
Since beginning this work, some years ago now, the aim has always been to reveal what is actually there, when we go deeper into our beings, the human psyche, rather than take a philosophy or religion and try to match up to it.
By and large, I have tried to avoid dogma and – isms. I have largely avoided terms in Sanskrit, Chinese, Pali, Aramaic, Yiddish, Japanese, Persian and Arabic. If there is a truth, it has to be applicable in our age, place and language. We do not have to become someone else of another colour, language and time in order to be awake to our capacity. We have only to let go of the armoured defences, the separatenesses that create the diminution of the fulfilment of that capacity.
We try to hold a group as a safe place for all, by joint agreement and awareness. In that space, the sheets of armour are allowed to gently melt and we slowly become aware of what is left.
And what is left, finally turns out to be ORDINARY. The Bliss of Being Ordinary!!
There is nothing else. Just stay watchful and in communion, so that we remain aware of habits and how easily they can rush back into formation.
Throughout this work, the main reference points, to which I have to keep on returning, are the embodied life and example of Jesus and the life and teachings of the Buddha. I believe it to be valid to seek to be PRESENT with those examples. Where is present? Why, the one thing that is present from birth to death is the body! Even before the awareness of that fact.
There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centred on the body.
The Mahasattipathana Suta. The Buddha