Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Pendulum

When it comes to the question of innate human nature I think I side more towards Taoism & Buddhism, with a light seasoning of Gnosticism.

Considering I was brought up in a culture heavily influenced by traditional Monotheistic/Abrahamic faiths, it was an uphill journey/battle for me not only to realize it and accept it, but also to allow myself permission to believe it. It was a decades long sojourn.

Like the Taoists, I believe we are all originally and innately good. Like the Buddhists, I believe we - each and every one of us - carry a potential; a natural state of enlightenment, and like certain aspects of Gnosticism, I believe we may have forgotten our 'birthright' and may become lost and confused in delusion - but the path, the way back, always lies within ourselves. But what is that natural state?

Like the Taoists and Buddhists I have come to believe the only constant in the universe - of mind, matter, and spirit - is Change itself. Impermanence. And if the one and only unchanging universal constant is Change itself, what does it means to find and follow our path back to this original, innate, and "enlightened" state, where it too must be in flux?

The Taoists have a term.
Wu Wei.
Action through inaction.
No cohesion. Once we can begin to naturally 'flow' with the Way - the Path - the Tao, all we do is flow along with it. No action is required. This is our Wu Wei nature, our Spirit-centered nature (mind). It is in harmony with the flow and ebb of the universe.

However, it is often in conflict with what Buddhists might call the Ego or the Self. David James Lee (of Wu Wei Wisdom) put it extremely well when he describes severe imbalances as the motion of a pendulum with this Ego swinging to extremes of Yin or Yang (to resort back to Taoist terms) - too aggressive or too passive.
I proposed that you could view your mind as if it were an energetic pendulum, where the two extremes would represent your Ego out of balance (both Yin and Yang), and the more central position would be Wu Wei, a place of energetic harmony or the 'sweet-spot' of effortless-effort.
He continues by describing this harmful Ego-centered nature as follows:
Imagine that the Human Centred Mind or Ego is like a well-meaning but rather misguided guardian or an overprotective and frightened parent that's worried and concerned about their child's well-being and future. Often they believe they know best and so will start to try to subtly influence, manipulate and restrict the child's life and activities under the loving guise that they have its best interests at heart. Such actions have the potential to negatively impact the child's self-confidence, self-worth and self-love and, most fundamentally, give them little opportunity to experience and hone their emotional education in preparation for adult life.
An important point to remember is that this 'Human-Centered-Mind', even though often misguided and overprotective is looking out for our best-interests (or perceived best interests), safety, and survival.

A still pendulum hangs perfectly within the Wu Wei nature. In harmony, but not in balance. How can it be, in a universe governed by perpetual Change, where the only thing that doesn't change is Change itself?

The 'balance point' in this pendulum analogy is a harmony between our Wu Wei nature - our Spirit-centered nature - and our Ego/Self nature, but we need to properly understand this Ego/Self centered nature.

Aren't we taught that the Ego is something we want to get away from; that we should strive to purge? Aren't we taught that the Ego isn't even real? That it itself is just an illusion? Wouldn't finding some sort of balance point between these two be delusional, watering down something pure into an impure state?

But this Human Centered mind keeps us connected to reality and the world we live in. If we were to attempt to totally purge this Ego/Self we would also be attempting to escape the world; cut off all ties from it. This would be no different than what the more radical Gnostics strived for (with their pneumatic-doctrine).

I think Noah Levine clarifies this best when he describes what lies beneath this confused and delusional Ego or Self with his comparison to a rainbow, emphasizing its temporal reality, but not a permanent or fixed existence. Our Ego/Self is real, but only in a momentary way. And as such we can have the ability to find a harmonious balance between it (with this proper understanding of it) and our innate Spiritual nature.
"Believing in a permanent self is like believing in a permanent rainbow. We all know that rainbows are temporary optical illusions based on the factors of sunlight, moisture, and heat. The environment creates each rainbow like a mind creates a self. Both creations are relatively real, in that we can genuinely experience them temporarily, but just as the factors that create the illusion (whether rainbow or self) arose, so will they also pass. There is no permanent self; there is no permanent rainbow. It is not true to say that there is no self at all or that everything is empty or illusory, but it is true that everything is constantly changing and that there is no solid, permanent, unchanging self within the process that is life." from "Wide Awake", by Noah Levine.
The middle path between our innate, albeit disconnected, spiritual nature and our momentary Self that grounds us to reality and the world we live in, is the balancing point.

A slow swing of the Pendulum. Never swinging too far in either extreme. Always staying close to this Wu Wei 'boundaries', yet always in perpetual motion - change.

It matters little what we choose to call it. I don't want to get hung up on nomenclature.
The point is a balance between the Ego that Noah Levine describes (temporary, and momentary) and that aspect that David James Lee points out of an Ego that looks out for our worldly well-being, and our innate Spiritual-Centric self.

To accomplish this we are faced with two challenges, both of which can be monumental.
The first is to abandon our belief and clinging to our identity as a permanent unchanging Self.
The second is to find an understanding of what our spirit-centric nature - stripped bare of our Ego - really is.
What methods can we use to find out way?

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