Once we begin to recognize what it feels like to be alive it can still be a shock to acknowledge how much of our lives is spent in circumstances that are dead and threaten to engulf us once again in the numbness we’ve just begun to leave behind. But, if we fail to let this realization sink in; if we fail to mourn and take-in the pain, work our way though the regret and anger these recognitions bring to light; we risk falling back into a condition of moving through our lives undead.
The numbness goes deep. We’ve come to accept that every interaction whether with a loved one or a business adversary or a representative of some institution with power over our lives seems to have to happen from way down the long-end of a tunnel of repression, from where we suppress whatever might let us feel alive. This pressure has reached such a level; and our inability to either cope or see a way past it has gone so far that many lash out in a rage, expecting that this flood of secondary emotion will bring some relief. In this condition we see the cause of our pain as external and we vow that those who bring us pain will pay.
Except… these are projections, reactions to effects and not responses to causes. Unless we’re ready to take responsibility for our deep and pervasive complicity and then work our way through the consequences we remain mired in suffering and compound misery through our failures to connect.
Following the trail of this deadness that pervades our days brings us one step at a time to a way to get through this. We fear the pain this will unleash; but that fear is nothing but a trap. Fear guards our suffering. It chains us to our suffering and ensures that we will never escape it. Ground down by not only the pain of suffering but at some level by an awareness of the futility of remaining stuck in reactions; we build this cocoon of numbness around ourselves. We comply within an unacknowledged conspiracy of deadness, a refusal to question the perpetuation of this numbness, this killing atmosphere, when we encounter it as we move through our undead existences.
The accumulation of this dynamic of compounding suffering and misery coupled with this conspiracy of silence, of remaining numb and dead, or accepting the outbursts of fear induced rage as “authentic,” fuels the thrashing cycles of what passes for public life today; what we see reflected back at us in our various media. It is mesmerizing. It holds us in thrall. Their defining characteristic is that these mechanisms do nothing to help us move on. They ensure we stay trapped and that we remain passive partners in our own incarceration by fueling urgency and striving and the sense of hopelessness and deep fatigue this brings forth.
We make ourselves stupid. We watch each other make our interactions ever more stupid. We feel helpless at the horror of it and we watch our selves succumb as if in a dream.
We do this every time we fail to question a role either imposed on us by a petrified scenario we let ourselves be drawn into instead of an actual connection; or, we swallow our awareness and bury our attention so that we can survive the humiliation – or so we wish it were true.
We go through the motions. We mutter something about checks and balances, negotiated outcomes, a marketplace of ideas. We dearly wish this will absolve us of the guilt, the shame we can only keep at bay by numbing ourselves even further. The more these roles bury our vitality the more we defend them as the only possible defense against our humiliation. We stop dealing in anything that might actually matter and bury ourselves in ersatz struggles for dominance or escape.
None of this brings anything other than more of the same. We know this. We dread it, and yet, we seem to relish in it. Convinced of our extreme vulnerability – we are undead after all! We insist on hiding behind, inside, these armors that fail to protect us and only keep us locked in their constricting coils and isolated from any connection that might bring us to an awareness of our capacities and an ability to develop our strengths.
This is the twisted bargain we make with the delusion of power. This is that first slippery slide we make that only leads to increasing suffering, compounding misery, and all-encompassing mega-death.
It’s just that belaboring the Enormity of where we’ve put ourselves only feeds the mechanisms of further paralysis. Unless we stop looking at the barrier and develop a habit of discerning where the clear spaces are – no matter how narrow and precarious they might be! We won’t allow ourselves access to joy and never find the center from which we can reflect, recognize, move, and act.
We quake at what seems to be the immensity of our task. After all, it must be an immensity to match the enormity of our situation. What this does is distract us from its sublime simplicity: What takes us out of these loops and coils and mazes begins with the most fleeting moment of clear attention.
Attention is not focus. That’s where we’re misled. Attention is not “Cosmic Awareness™!” Just as meditation is not some rarefied state that can only be achieved by saints and gurus. Attention is what happens when we get out of the way of our capacity to take-in what-is. Meditation is attending to the breath, realizing that self-consciousness and distraction and stream of consciousness are always just right there ready to pull us away. We meditate when we grow confident that we can bring our attention back to the breath. That’s it.
This awareness of attention, an ability to attend to attention, not control it or “guide it….” We simply attend to attention and know that this simple act ripples outward to change… everything.
Engaging with attention, another name for this might be proprioception, an awareness of our selves, the virtuous root for the vicious cycle that is self-consciousness. None of this is anything that can or must be learned intellectually or anything we can be convinced of through argument. The centered-ness, the buoyancy, and dynamic stability we glimpse at the very first moment we contact this is-ness; introduces us to fact in a way that puts all the role-playing games into a clear light. That shows us how they can never be anything more than distractions and can only lead to what they’ve always brought us: an undead existence and ever-expanding destruction.
But, if we allow the compartmentalization we’ve been conditioned to accept as normal to separate these moments of clarity from the rest of our lives; we continue to risk being poisoned by these situations of undead-ness that we cannot help but encounter throughout our days in this world as it is. We also remain complicit in the bargain to keep all of us in chains. We also refuse to help others who we take as obstacles when they are just some of us reacting out of the same suffering we’ve managed to begin to alleviate in our own lives.
Psychic poisons gain their potency from the way they are transmitted in an atmosphere of darkness and silence. Attention is the light that dissipates their power and brings us to our strengths.
What happens when we stop cooperating with the conspiracy of silence? What does that even mean?
It doesn’t mean launching yet another “War on Everything™!” That is clear. It has nothing to do with any sort of confrontation, adding another layer to the battles either for or against identities and orthodoxies of convention. It is simple: What happens when we bring attention to these fraught situations? What if we turn its light on the darkness and fog that envelop us whenever we find ourselves in these toxic situations?
There is no script to follow. No outcome to be striven-after and then quantified.
Most likely there will be an awkward confusion. We’ve broken with the script. It’s inappropriate!
This can quite easily lead off into the direction of championing and fighting for or against. That’s a false-step. It comes from distrusting the capacity we all have somewhere within us to recognize a moment. Even if it might take years for that recognition to sink in, do its work, and begin to find expression in someone’s life.
The timing of someone’s response, the shape and form that response might take, none of these are under our control or even necessarily subject to our understanding. All we can be sure of is that with each small moment of connection we make we have broken the chain of complicity and let in some degree of light, some access to vitality and joy.
And this is sufficient.