The Opportunity to Think

Thinking, the active participation in a creative act of thinking, as opposed to being caught up in reactive entanglements in thought and conditioning, requires peace and quiet and a rested state of mind.

These have been scarce lately….

In this statement is a key to how this process works. A triggering situation sets off a cascade of repercussions that establish habits of mind that view one’s situation as being one of scarcity. It’s a question of one’s level of resilience towards  disequilibrium that lead us to “fall of the wagon” in this way. Urgency rears its head. We are off-balance and begin to react instead of looking for ways to respond with sufficiency. Our projections begin to overwhelm us and our view of what is shifts into the realm of scarcity, of hostility, of conflict and a desperation seeking control.

We are immensely vulnerable to this mechanism. When we see ourselves primarily as individuals we are especially vulnerable. And, in our society as it is presently organized, it is difficult to remain immune to the bombardments of influences that maintain and build those beliefs. Add in any disruption and the backsliding is almost inevitable.

Inevitable, but is it invincible?  Here is where developing an awareness of proprioception, and a practice that brings us face to face with both the roots of our disquiet and the stability waiting in reserve for us to acknowledge it, makes a difference. It is not the same process as if we were hit by instability without any preparation.

I’ve used the example of the establishment of what came to be Outward Bound as a description of the process we need to be enacting today. Fit young airmen and sailors were being shot down or torpedoed and finding themselves alone at sea in a small raft. Many succumbed, but it became clear that the reasons were more psychological than physical. They were not reaching their limits of resilience, they were giving up. They were defeated by sheer unfamiliarity with these unprecedented conditions. In their conventional mind-set, based on their conditioning, they simply did not believe survival was possible.

The Outward Bound* program led its participants through a process of familiarization that allowed them to adjust their world-view, change their conditioned responses, so that when these young men found themselves in a raft alone at sea, they understood how resilient the human body can be if we don’t block its responses to conditions as they exist overwhelmed by projections of dangers that may not apply, or of expectations, either of immediate rescue or immediate death, that get in the way of one’s abilities to cope.

I see this as a description of our situation as our predicaments unwind and the enormity of our situation unfolds. There are countless inappropriate and dysfunctional reactions we can fall into. There are also ways in which, by making an effort to act upon our conditioning and to familiarize ourselves with the possible pitfalls, to improve our chances of survival, and at least help us maintain equilibrium for as long as it is possible, while facing what comes in a spirit of acceptance and witness instead of as victims lashing out against the unfairness of the cosmos and leaving a wake of further victimization and additional unnecessary destruction behind.

We are unprepared. We have little or no idea how unprepared we are.

We can either react to this in fear and anger, lashing out, looking for scapegoats, and punishing perceived injustice; or we can make efforts to familiarize our selves with our vulnerabilities and find ways, not only to prepare physically, but to adjust our selves mentally and emotionally for what is to come.

This is not a process of proliferating what-ifs, and hyping further reasons to panic and react.

One advantage we gain from the stepped decline of a catabolic collapse is that as things breakdown in stages we have multiple points at which to confront clarity. It becomes easier to lash-out in reaction, but it also becomes easier to recognize dysfunction and to find quiet moments, in an undiluted powerless dusk, for example, or in a serendipitous gathering outside our habitual circles, to make connections and practice dialogue and compassion. It is easy to discount this advantage we have. It is easy to take each shock as reason to give-up instead of letting go. But if we do that, we give up one of our few, and most powerful, advantages.

Amidst the clamors of broken routines and discomforts and even seriously unmet needs, let us not forget to leave ourselves time for the opportunity to think, to face changing conditions creatively, with compassion and in a spirit of dialogue.

*I use Outward Bound as an example and not Boot Camp, because its purpose was distinct. Boot Camp indoctrinates people into a cadre ready and able to kill on command. It is a process not only of changing conditioning but of breaking one’s compassionate spirit and establishing a hierarchy of control to take its place. These are two distinct and diametrically opposed processes.

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2 thoughts on “The Opportunity to Think

  1. Hm, yes, I think I know what you mean. It is as if life was in a mode of constant button-pressing/triggering/bombardment of all possible things. As if it was checking how do I react? Will this make you collapse? If not, how about if we add this other thing, and another, and another? And yet, life goes on, having its sweet moments and joys.

    As if the comfort of structures was falling away – bringing about an ability to take in this moment more fully. This breath, this mouthful of good food, this song. All of the chaos-triggers just pointing out the shape of the collapse that is already happening. And life: it is offering a new way of assembling the experience of being here now. No safe haven where one can practice one’s art amidst friendly folks and have a predictable life and a destiny that makes sense. Just another day swimming in the witches cauldron, ducking the flying shit and catching the tasty morsels as they fly by.

    The offer is only for those that want to take it. There are people who have chosen to live in awful private hells, made all by themselves. And there’s that strange phenomenon where they absolutely must try to pull others into their own version of hell, maybe just to have company. They find it incredibly rude when I say no thank you. Life is so short, I have no time to sit in someone’s private hell just to keep company.

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    1. What a wonderful image: “the comfort of structures…”

      Yes, this is certainly a large part of how I feel each day. It tugs in different directions.

      It is grinding and difficult. This is neither good nor bad, but provides resistance which is essential.

      It is also warming to realize that the lack is not a personal fault. Or that our difficulties are signs of an unchangeable “human nature” that destines us to fail, to be miserable, and to therefore seek escape and call it salvation. If these structures do not comfort us there might be others that would! This is apparent if we look at some examples outside our current pattern. It is also clear in the ways in which our organisms leap to satisfaction and to this very sort of comfort whenever we open ourselves to a new possibility.

      Thank you…

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