The Truth is Somewhere In Between
There is a meditative inquiry process I learned from my Integrative Restoration/iRest training that I find very potent. It involves the alternation between polarities to create a new felt sense of something in between.
To keep this from being too intellectual I invite you to try a basic example of it here:
Feel your body contacting something solid right now…really feel it…describe it simply
Feel the parts of the body that don’t touch something solid…really feel it…describe it simply
Go back and forth, feeling one and then the other…distinctly…as fully as possible.
Now feel them both simultaneously…both together…as fully as possible.
What is that like? Can you describe it?
What most people report is that they don’t quite know. The experience cannot be thought about so concretely. The process actually arrests analysis. I almost feel it as a neurological release.
When we feel into it with interest, it often feels good. Like something new and different. As a well cited Rumi quote goes: Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about….
This practice and quote are glimpses of a non-dual state. A “place” that we long for on some level, and yet don’t trust as real. A taste of it is liberating, and yet hard to sustain. With exploration and practice it is an important element of healing the body, mind, and spirit.
I have a lot of tools in my bag when I work with people individually. Depending on what people come to me for: Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, Grief, Astrology, Spiritual Direction, I use the tools I think are relative to them and will work well for them at present. In reality I mainly rely on deep listening and deep faith. Faith that everything is part of the whole. Even and especially when it is hard and heartbreaking.
The polarity exercise came up recently as I was hearing someone who is struggling, physically and emotionally, express a string of negative thoughts about what is happening to them. When we did an inquiry exploring the negative thoughts and their opposites, she offered the insight “the truth is somewhere in between.” We could both feel the power of her statement, and how it could help her navigate, but also the pull of the negative thinking and the struggle to be OK with not being OK right now.
There is a lot to explain there, and it won’t all come through clearly in words, but I will say simply that with all my tools and training, what is often most important when we are deeply struggling is letting ourselves feel our feelings through, finding safe ways to do that. Giving ourselves time, it takes longer than we think it should. And, being kind to ourselves as we grope. It’s OK not to be OK right now. It’s OK to not know what to do yet. There may be nothing that can be done. The difficulty and vulnerability are its own teaching, its own worth and wisdom. We are learning to be in between.
The last part of this contemplation of the truth is somewhere in between takes me back to some teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions as well as a few people I hold in my heart at this time.
In Yoga Philosophy, as expressed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is the basic premise that wholeness, our spiritual origin, or the light of consciousness is always there. It is the churning of the mind- our sensing, thinking, and selfing brain, that obscures the fuller reality of Oneness. We confuse our own personal perception with the truth, again and again and again.
The path of Yoga is said to be simply, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, so the true light of consciousness can shine through. While this sounds anti-intellectual, it is really about understanding consciousness and requires great amounts of viveka khyati, discriminative awareness, a high meta- cognition faculty.
To keep it simple, Yoga reminds us that our brain and perception are problematic. Even correct perception will ultimately be a stumbling block. Yoga challenges us to hold to the oneness, rather than be caught in polarity. To use our Rumi quote, to lie in that grass. Again, to learn to be in between.
The Buddhist perspective, has a different take on ultimate reality. Not as oneness or something constant to attune with; but as flux, change, impermanence. It is our grasping and effort to control the uncontrollable that causes suffering. Freedom from suffering is about loosening our grip. Like viveka kyhati of yoga- sati, mindfulness, is one of the important skills that helps us see what is actually happening in the body/mind and make choices that are freeing. We are learning to be with life on life’s terms.
I won’t expound on Buddhism more, as I don’t want to do it an injustice. What I will share are a few of the ways I felt it was conveyed to me that point again to the non-dual state. Both come from the Buddhist teacher I have been with most, Michelle McDonald. She loves to refer to and quote from Nisargadatta Maharaj. He was a modern Indian saint from the Vedic Tradition. Not a Buddhist, but considered by those of his time as a fully awake and realized person. He did not teach theory, he only taught direct perception. How to see through the duality to the deeper foundation of being. His quote that I have rested in most is, “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.” Once again, the invitation to acknowledge both /and.
The last story I will tell, related to all this is the response Michelle gave to someone’s question regarding the personal agenda of waking up; the paradox of seeking freedom when we are also told to let go of wanting, to be present now. The younger teacher responded “Yes, that is the paradox, we learn how to bare it.” Michelle in her maturity said, “No, it is only a paradox if you are in your head about it. It is resolved when you stay close to the present moment, the direct experience of life unfolding.”
As closure I offer, you one more Michelle quote about the power and potential of true presence, which for me is the abode of the non-dual, in-between. “The truth is we don’t know what is going to happen next…each moment is newborn or life isn’t alive. Aliveness requires the birth and death of every moment. “
Blessings to my friend Katya who is currently living into dying. And to my friend Nathan who slipped away too soon.