Mad Parts of Sane People — learning to embody ourselves — to visit the depths of ourselves, and then to incorporate and share what we find — is the ultimate mark of courage
The Costa Rica Update
Week five of our sabbatical — road trip! We bused to the Monteverde cloud forest (zip line and skywalk photos to come) then took a boat across part of Lake Arenal, to La Fortuna. Got a car, and are now heading south, toward our property.
Here are videos from the zip line
Last week, I quoted a bit of text from a book called The Mystery of Human Relationship, by Nathan Schwartz-Salant. The book has proven to be extremely dense with Jungian archetypes, Freudian ego definitions and alchemical references. I’ve managed to get through half of it, and keep intriguing myself with interesting ideas.
The transformative (alchemical) process described in the book is best described, I think, by the recognition of how close we are to chaos — to madness — what Schwartz-Salant calls “the mad parts of same people.” It’s the sensation of something that is “of” me, but “not me”—a part of me that lurks around the edges of my consciousness. We do all that we can to avoid having to confront, let along reveal to others, this “mad part.”
Yet, wholeness and presence lies in confronting, owning and letting others see who we are—even the parts we are reluctant to show.
Here’s today’s quote:
“Generally, one experiences considerable disturbance when a consciousness emerges that conflicts with one’s established personality. The stronger this awareness, the stronger the conflict. On the one hand, the realization or embodiment of this consciousness requires that old structures, which once defended against the new awareness, dissolve. On the other hand, the affirmation of the new awareness requires that one be willing to be led further in ways that are not necessarily predictable.” (pg. 100)
Schwartz-Salant writes that we must have the courage to see all of ourselves, that we need to learn to dance with, and incorporate all of our “selves” into a whole. We then must risk sharing ourselves by passionate engagement with another, or several “others.”
The result of such mad dancing is transformative wholeness.
In one passage making this point, Schwartz-Salant writes:
” Who sees the other half of Self, sees Truth … when he sees his face, his own other face, when he has looked into his own eyes, he has found Truth.” (pg. 107)
“But one can learn to stand firm and fight one’s terror while still holding on to one’s humility at being overwhelmed — not by another person, but by a phenomenon, by two talking heads and by the terror they engender.” (pg. 107)
OK, so where is Uncle Wayne off to today, you may wonder? Told you the writing (his, not mine 😉 ) was dense. However, dense or not, the guy makes sense.
I quoted an article about Leonard Cohen a week or so ago on my Facebook page, where Cohen says,
“These problems exist prior to us, and we gather ourselves, almost molecularly, we gather ourselves around these perplexities. And that’s what a human is: a gathering around a perplexity.” Leonard Cohen in Shambhala Sun
What both are describing is a decent, by centimetres, from the head into the body.
Emphatically, Schwartz-Salant equates the arising of a “higher” consciousness with a willingness to be in the body. It’s almost as if, in our willingness to accept our “in-the-body-ness,” we somehow, paradoxically, embrace our essence.
The Ego Project (For more on this, read my book, This Endless Moment)
Our process, from age 0 to 16, is to create both walls (which, with presence and effort, can be converted into flexible boundaries) and an ego identity. Again, we say, most people don’t move past the ego project, so the walls keep feelings trapped in our bodies. Our fear of threats, however, keep others out.
My “stuck” ego identity tells me it is “me” who is building and maintaining the walls, but it’s not. It’s maintained by the “socially acceptable me.”
This is the perplexity Cohen speaks of—it is our sense of self that keeps one trapped—trapped in a sense of self that is unprovable, and trapped behind walls that keep others at a distance. And as you “sit” (meditate) you become aware of this “other-than-this-story-ness.”
I am not this, I am all of this, I am everything. While being no-thing.
See? it’s crazy, and well worth running from hiding from. Unless you hate the games and seek another path.
The ego project is like building a castle. Up go the rocks, the walls. I stand in the middle of my walled fortress, seemingly impervious to the slings and arrows lobbed from the outside. Eventually, I suppose, siege weapons will be trained against my walls — and eventually someone stronger always comes along and knocks a hole in the walls.
Now, the wise person might think,
“Hmm. Maybe a moving target is harder to hit.”
Most people, however, decide that the architect was at fault — and that thicker walls are needed. They erect another edifice, more massive than the first.
Think about people you know, or you, and how most confront, say, a divorce. Haven’t you heard someone say, “I’ll never make myself that vulnerable again!” Because we were taught to erect defenses and hide as part of building our egos, we can almost be forgiven for doing exactly the same thing, as an adult, when we are hurt.
We wanna run, we wanna hide.
Back to the wise person. They decide that living behind walls is stupid. Sound is muted, light is flickering, and you’re in there—alone. Life, real life, they realize, is lived outside of the walls. So the wise person steps out and starts walking, listening, seeing, relating.
It would make little sense for that person, just in case, to drag along the castle. Or several bags of concrete. No, if you’re walking, you’d better travel light.
It is scary out there, exposed to all sorts of new, unfamiliar situations and dangers. And thus it is with self-exploration. We move from the safety of the head, with all of its rules and regulations, judgements and resistance, down into the body, into a territory we normally only visit when emotions arise or when we want to have sex. Down, down, into the realm of darkness and emptiness, fullness and light. And decidedly, into connection.
” … one has a particular experience of living in it, which is to say, one feels confined in the space of the body. This state requires a free flow of breathing that is felt as a wave moving up and down the body; then, one begins to feel that one inhabits the body.” And inhabit it we do, with all of the attendant feelings, passions and dynamics.” (pg. 72–73)
Once you get in there, into the depths of you, you notice, almost immediately, the chaos.
Thoughts seem to emerge, not from the head, but from the heart.
Think of it this way — if the ego project is to build walls and to scare us into staying firmly in our heads, from the perspective of our heads, we will have a quite restricted view of things. Sort of like seeing life out of the slots in the tower wall, if you will. Now, to the ego, the tower, the castle, is the world. All that exists is contained within the walls — all beliefs, all understandings, all self-knowledge is knowledge from within the ego structure itself.
It’s like Aristotle’s cave—the shadows on the wall are perceived as real and reality. The report from the guy who goes outside and sees the “real” world is dismissed as describing a fantasy.
I want to be all of me…
Thus it is with us, until we choose to leave the safety and predictability of the castle walls.
Of course, allowing yourself to fully feel your feelings and fully inhabit your body is a scary thing. Not because the contents or feelings are bad, or scary per se, but because they are different. Intense. Hot. Strange. Our tendency is to fly away, back to the safety of the walls. Better, we think, predictable and lousy, than unknown and scary.
Many people stop their self-exploration just at the point when they realize how ill-serving their rules and walls are. They get a taste of the freedom, but fear the outcome of confronting the “madness,” the passion, the unboundedness of the parts of themselves they’ve resisted knowing.
It is a normal reaction to flee the exploration for safer climes, and one that needs to be resisted.
Courage is required for this exploration, and courage comes from the willingness to go deeply inside, to see what’s happening and then to report it. It’s all about staying awake, staying alive, and not running when things get intense, mad, heated.
It’s not about understanding it, analyzing it, figuring it out. There is no “it.” There is just your willingness to finally experience all of you, and to give your head a holiday.
This process involves the willingness to be totally honest and open about the feelings that you confront. It’s about revealing attractions and repulsions, and emphatically it’s about being willing to risk endless experimentation and testing of the artificially imposed limits society would tell us are “for our own good.”
AND, it is only by risking sharing our selves that we can know if the person we are with is, in fact, capable of standing with us. As Schwartz-Salant writes:
“Only the person who accepts entrance into one’s world of madness is worthy enough to see one’s soul. Only then may he or she be trusted enough to prove that he or she will not be another violator.” (pg. 109)
Seeing your own face, standing firm, refusing to run, being honest, and communicating from the dark and scary place—leads to Truth—leads to expansiveness. And the walls come tumbling down.