by Antonio Dias
Habits are powerful. When in the middle of a run of posts, it seems easy to just hit the keys and have another one spill out onto the screen.
When the smooth flow is broken by events or, more precisely, by the way we react to events, then it can be difficult to get back into the flow.
What had been catching insights as they come forth becomes an act of striving. As time passes an awareness that “I’m not keeping up!” gets harder to shake.
This seems to happen for two reasons. One is when there appears to be an actual “demand” for words. When I’m asked to come up with something to put forward an agenda.
Another is when the constant rush of thoughts takes over and blots out the space needed for insight to take root and then come forth.
The two are related. They are disturbances in the field. They are times when our habitual expectations that things can be commanded and summoned at will take over.
My curse, or blessing, has been that when this happens I tend to loose my muse and what’s left isn’t much of anything.
There’s another aspect to this. Every outpouring needs to come to an end. Every conception built of smaller bits and pieces eventually runs out of its original connection with reality and its inspiration and will begin to crumble.
One of the benefits I’ve had from working in a variety of fields of endeavor; painting, design, writing on various topics; is that when one push begins to get stale I can shift over to another. I’ve long held that I can cover more ground by letting something lie fallow than by pushing it through countless iterations. I’ve certainly tried that way too. It just doesn’t work.
One of the hardest parts of all this to understand, certainly to communicate, is that what all this is about is not getting good at something or meeting some goal. It is about finding a way or ways to break out of our cycles of expectation that condemn us to futility as we get short-circuited on the way to breaking out of the old traps.
Staying fresh, staying within a flow of insight, even these are not places we can rest in. They will come and go and we need to be able to adapt.
A charcoal drawing is a good example. The fresh clean surface is truly a field of endeavor. It is ready to take whatever marks we make and charge them with the power of the field and highlight their interactions, their relationships to each other, and to the field itself. This gains momentum as we add strokes and modify them and wipe some away – never quite totally. There’s always a shadow of the mark left. The whole gains in energy, gains in subtlety. But at some point, we might loose our focus, or we’ve just gotten seduced by the rush, and we’ve pushed on too long. In either case, the energy deflates. The field is clogged and whatever had been growing there is now dying.
The same thing happens, not only within a piece of work, but in a flow of work. When we lose the conditions for a flow to continue on its own, when we begin to fall for the illusion that it, or any of it, can be commanded; then it begins to collapse. On the other hand, if we allow for fallow times and return ourselves to a center, then we will be ready for the next flow when it comes.
But then, sometimes…
Sometimes we need to just set out! Waiting for conditions to be right can be its own form of usurping control. We shift the playing field into deeper shadow, but it is still a play after control to say, “Not now.” Sometimes we need to just begin.
Isn’t this what happens in the midst of flow? We are in the habit, so we don’t give it a second thought. We set-off. We begin. We expect to catch something, because that has been our habit then, but we catch it because we jumped off and began, not because of any other hidden trick that commanded a result.
At times, within the peace and equanimity of a relative vacuum here in this quiet world of mine – where there can be little sense of obvious connection made, little direct feedback observed – it can be easier to let the flow come and go as it wishes. Perversely, having moment arise from what goes on here can have the opposite effect.
My guess is that what needs to happen is an increased habituation to such moment – here used as it is in the root of momentum, not as a short duration of time.
This returns us to the paradox of “Beginner’s Mind.” With just about everything, the optimum result is to combine a depth of experience with beginner’s mind. This may be another way of talking about confronting our conditioning without succumbing to it. The beginner is free and open. The experienced is full of knowledge, of thought. Each has its benefits, each its drawbacks. Combining the two may be a definition of Mastery, Self-mastery which is our source of strength and not just another striving after power.
This amounts to a different level or kind of experience. It is related to what Bohm said about chaos being a perception. That everything is always in order, it is just that often that order is beyond our comprehension. This form of self-mastery involves an appreciation and an ability to accommodate the breaks in apparent flow as parts of the flow. Turbulence is not an aberration. It is a common condition of all flows. Awareness of this grows as we attend to it. This kind of experience may actually lead us back to a beginner’s mind, and thus help defend us from the limitations of being trapped by thought, by experience, by expectation.
Sometimes we just need to start…