â€œWe hold ourselves in place so as to not be all over.â€ I awoke with those words still on my lips. Holding our self in place is an energy consuming matter. Itâ€™s a discipline, a concentration, and only if we hold still for a while can we study ourselves. Or so it seems. The old Greek admonition, â€œKnow thyself,â€ comes with an explicit method it seems, the method of holding myself in place. You may not think so but in the modern world where science rules, everything we want to study, everything we want to know every aspect of, must hold still. It needs to be steadied, fixated, put into a prison of repeatable circumstance. Only then is the knowledge we derive from what-we-hold-still valid. And what we do with that knowledge isâ€¦ build cogs, wheels, fixtures, machines. Imprisoned matter. All is â€œheld in place.â€
Maybe what we call ego is nothing but mental and emotional intelligence held in place. Maybe ego is what we can hold in place by identifying with it. It is the way we become some one. But what if, like for me, youâ€™re losing your grip on that idea of self? What if youâ€™re quite naturally â€œall over the place?â€ You can, like Iâ€™ve learnt the hard way, and then automated so as to not be aware of it all the time, pretend to be this or that with a passion for one and the other and a philosophy to match. You can, at least for a while. But if you canâ€™t pretend anymore because youâ€™ve seen through your pretense, things get tuffer. There are, then, a couple of ways to ignore what you have seen through, but eventually that will make you feel depressed and kick your ass until youâ€™ve met the challenge: â€œWhat is identity and identifying good for?â€ At least that looks like the challenge I faced in this regard. Well, obviously, having an identity makes you knowable and more predictable to the advertisement industry and the police, the modern guardians of civilized society. It also holds you still enough that scientists can dissect you and your psyche and determine if youâ€™re fit for society or belong on the reject pile with all the hippies, punks, and other no-goods. It also makes you eligible for a traveling document allowing you to cross the lines between the different nations, which youâ€™re also supposed to be identified with[i].
You and me, we built an identity in compliance with our culture, and we compliantly hold ourselves in place. All of this is strengthened through some real hard questions, like â€œWho are you really?â€, or to finally become your Unique and Enlightened Self or some variation of that. People like me, who are actually all over the place, or others suffering from the emptiness that yawns beneath the ego â€“ thereâ€™s nothing there â€“ go on long journeys and through tremendous hardships to come up with a satisfactory answer or way of being. And, stumbling on mind-blowing experiences, may stay with an enlightened identity for a while or even until they die. I couldnâ€™t.
When we are born we can do without identity and even identifying. Mama is allâ€¦ is all. Kids, for quite some time, speak in the third person of themselves. They havenâ€™t learnt yet that they are their name and they are a self. And usually during some period of hardship or a disease a transformation happens, your child gets it and starts to speak as the first person singular. Child now identifies as â€œIâ€ and the doer of things, most of all the wanter of things!
Identification is an extreme form of participation, which is what we do all the time: participate, as I never tire of saying these days. We hardly if ever see what weâ€™ve identified with, we participate so strongly in the game of identification that all distance disappears. We actually become â€œI.â€ And within the Indo-European language families and cultures, which are the only tools at our disposal to work with or through all matters, we become â€œIâ€-dentified so much that we have a very hard time to understand and live with â€œbeing all over the place.â€[ii]
Iâ€™ve noticed in the last couple of months that a basic re-orientation within the psyche is on, a reconfiguration following my â€œparticipatory transformationâ€ and itâ€™s consequences that were not foreseeable by me at the time. Understanding thoroughly that our psyche is already a participatory phenomenon, and that we can participate so strongly that we actually feel like, think like and act like what weâ€™ve identified with, things loosen up. Which doesnâ€™t, at times, feel good at all. But knowing that some ancient cramps are relaxing, and that that is the cause of the pain, and sharing all of this with youâ€¦ makes it all good to me.
[i] Just one identity-card or passport, even though some lenient nations allow you two identities.
[ii] In this day and age most likely 90% of the languages touched by the world-economy and globalization of the European culture (which started in 1492, not just a hundred years ago or so) require you to identify,Â and have a hard or even impossible time integrating aboriginal populations that do not participate in the I-dentfying game.
In recent weeks I’ve been contemplating the living field and how it operates.
In “The Living Field, Participatory Design & Collaboration Ecology” one of the important points was, apart from taking a close look at what kinds of fields we are dealing with and some other matters, that processes like participatory design and community building are very much linked into the living field and are really an expression of it.
In “The Living Field & the Art of Living” I looked much more at what it reveals and how to constellate a living field in such a way that art emerges, the epiphany of beauty.
These last couple of days my contemplations went more into how we are connected within the living field, sparked of by some writings and tweets that were implicitly based on the assumption that there really is a division or separation between subject and object, as for instance in the thoughts so brilliantly put together by Robert Kegan where he says that human development mainly proceeds by matters becoming an object that previously were part of the subject. A fear, for instance, that we are not aware of and that rules our life as part of our identity, as part of the subject, and by becoming aware of it it becomes an object that we have some distance from and that therefor we can think about. This assumption is also behind Ken Wilber’s idea of the evolutionary “transcend and include” movement of consciousness. (I’m aware that I cannot do justice to the subtle thinking behind all this, but for my purposes what I just said is enough).
Our thinking about almost everything, as shown in the above examples, is very much rooted in the assumed dichotomy between subject and object.We are never shown to be fuzzily sobjective or ubjective, which – I’m sure – is almost always the case…
When I tried to ‘open source’ my own basic spiritual conviction about two years ago I came up with the following statement (this is the current version: v4.1), “Consciousness – upon close inspection – is not located in the head or in any other place. It is part of being bodily alive. Individual consciousness emerges within a living field of being known and experienced by ‘others.’ Upon appreciative self-reflection and we-full co-inspection, consciousness appears to be continually and dynamically self-organizing as relational presence in natural, social, personal, spatio-dynamic and spiritual ecologies.”
As you can see from this statement a disembodied universal consciousness separate from appearance does not make sense to me; people and things do not appear in consciousness, as planets, suns and comets appear in space, for instance, but everyone and everything arises with some kind of consciousness (at least for us; can’t speak for a cat, a tree or a stone). An example for what I mean is how the letter A arises in the black background (illustration on the left). The background is only background by grace of the letter arising ‘in front’ of it and the other way around.
That individual consciousness emerges within a living field of being known and experienced by others originally dawned on me – even though I wouldn’t have expressed it like I do now – when I was present at the birth of my son. The way mother and child looked at each other right after birth was an almost tangible field. (There is a small time window when the newly born baby does actually focus very clearly; since birth complications led to me seeing him first I know what this deep unwavering gaze looks like and does to you.) Mother is melting into baby and baby into mother…
When all is normal, the child’s consciousness emerges in the field that mother, and later father and young one form. It is almost as if in this small and then ever expanding group/situation the living field itself grows into consciousness and the individual being. The child – and of course the ‘others’ – are each intelligent nodes, attractors, vortexes expressing, and partially localizing this living field consciousness. And, of course, non of the participating beings organizes the consciousness for the others – what emerges comes about within the field they all form.
Individual consciousness, self-reflection etc. is the living field extending into the endless depth that forms in that region of experience that we call ‘inside’. The localized consciousness, the I, the ego is one of the great evolutionary ‘inventions’ helping us to grow the cultures we are embedded in…
I keep using the living field metaphor because it allows me to think of subject and object without doing away with the whole concept of the actual existence of a subject and an object, like in Advaita or Neo-Advaita or in similar spiritual – usually patriarchal – traditions. There is nothing illusory about subject and object, but neither is it real in the sense a table or computer screen are real, rather subject and object appear within the relational or ‘relative’ field that we happen to find ourselves in, the foundational reality of being/becoming. As an individual we may be intrinsically attached to a particular body but our person, our individuality and consciousness are a localized expression of what we are embedded in: a larger whole, a whole that we cannot be separated from. This whole is what I keep referring to as ‘living field’, a wholeness in which there is indeed an I and You as much as there is a he, she, and us and a they and it; not as things, not as objects or subjects really but as poles of the living field, the multi-polar field brimming with aliveness. So in a meeting with another person I and You immediately form a more or less coherent ‘bubble’ in the living field in which the two main poles are, well, You and I. And this also goes for I and it, us and them, and so endlessly on – multi-polar situations in flux.
What then is the multi-polar living field ‘made of’? What keeps the poles in such dynamic situations related in just the way they are? How are these constellations constituting themselves dynamically?
By resonance (or the relative or obvious lack thereof).
We all intuitively know what resonance is (scientific explanations; a java-applet of resonances in a string).
It is thrilling when first you discover that phenomenon, or so it was to me as a kid. Me holding a big guitar on my lap and someone playing on a piano – the guitar’s body was vibrating! Oh the thrill of it. Couldn’t get enough! Sheer magic at work, not the magic of stories, but a magic I could feel with my whole body!
As I was contemplating all of this Helen (As tempting as it is to draw lines between synchronicity and resonance, I’ll leave that for another time.) tweeted this quote by Edgar Mitchell, “Resonance is nature’s way of transferring information.”
At first glance this feels right, and the quote was rightly retweeted a couple of times, but then… Contemplating on resonance, speaking of “transferring informations” seems severely limited. That idea is still very much married to ‘something’, information, going from one ‘place’ to the ‘other’. Resonance as I intuit it, and as these ideas on the living field seem to demand, is more akin to a dance. When dancing, is one partner transferring information to the other? Well, yes, one could say that they are but that doesn’t make too much sense, does it? A dance is not about transferring information (well, most of the time – when I was younger I wanted to transfer, often, that I was fancying the girl I was dancing with…).
But I don’t think resonance is about transferring information, again most of the time; it seems much more that information transference is a side-effect. Resonance, like a dance, is about enjoyment and expression, it is not really about anything but itself – it is its own meaning and expresses it in its movement.Â Someone once told me that Isadora Duncan, the famous dancer from the beginning of the last century, upon being asked by a reporter what her dance meant, said, “If I could say it I wouldn’t dance it.”
Just so it seems to me that it is the living field that is in-forming, constellating, dynamically shaping the rhythms and sounds of all that it encompasses. A living field than is a resonant field and is not accessible as an object, as one would be able to do if one were a subject. It is the personal resonance that allows us to be ‘informed’ by the other. It is my resonance with you, and your resonance with me that forms and is in turn formed by the quality of the field and the consciousness that emerges between us.
But, one might ask, “Doesn’t that mean that it is the resonance in or as the subject that this is about?” – thereby expressing that really I have gained nothing by using this kind of language and these ideas. Doesn’t an outside source (you, he, she, it, they, the situation) set up a vibration that I, then, resound with?
Resonance, in the classical sense that believes in separate entities, already is not a one-way affair. As soon as I begin to resonate I feed this vibration back to where it came from and strengthen that vibration. And so, even if the old separative concepts were true, properly looking I’d say that the ‘sound-field’ as a whole is the most relevant information in this situation. So it just takes a small switch in our understanding to see the living field as foundational; what’s between us as a much more meaningful influence than the poles, the subject and object. Or to put it another way, You cannot reduce the living field to the sum of its participating beings and entities.
If you look at the above illustration: Is A (the + pole) transferring information to B (the – pole)? Or do we see a graphic rendering of a resounding field? And what about the center of the picture, or any other place, where there is ‘nobody’ right now – but could potentially be?
Most likely we all see a whole resonant field here, a highly coherent region within the larger living field. We see dancing, a graph of a dance we can derive information from, if we like, depending on where we happen to position ourselves or where we are localized. And yes, surely we might be able to determine what started this coherent field; someone who has seen its birth and history might be able to answer that question.
But it’s surely much more relevant how this sounds, how to tune into it in such a way that the field is enhanced and an ever increasing richness of overtones and undertones can emerge. And more important than the separation between the two subjects or objects A and B is their resounding connectedness and the meaning of this that can unfold as a fractal in the participating poles to resonate as a much larger whole…
There are many avenues of contemplation and highways of wholesome action that a resonant living field opens. Reducing all this to subject and object certainly is possible and yields (lots of?) empiric knowledge. Yet I believe we hear the first verse of a melody, nay the first movement of a symphony of the highly coherent resounding field of aliveness from the polyphonic future… and it’s wind lift us up, as we’re learning to fly into its unknown skies.
Making myself available and looking out for new streams of income I’ve revisited Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness” site to redo and check out what my strengths are.
Seligman has pointed out, and I agree from my daily practise, that to lead a happy life we need to use our main strengths regularly. Knowing this I felt confident enough to recently write a short statement on twitter:
Happiness is likely when you do / be something you’re good at & like, follow your intuition & heart, communicate from your soul.
Being, who you are, doing what you’re good at – this is exercising our strengths.
Actually, being good at something is our gift to all the relationships and communities we participate in. Who would have thought we don’t have to be anything other than who we are, and do anything other than what we’re good at to be a blessing to this world! This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to develop or improve, if that is what we feel like doing. But unless we do, or are compelled to by inner pressure, simply being who we are is more than good enough: it’s our gift.
Development and improvement is a natural movement; actually it’s emerging in nature all of the time. Our cats, now 8 months old, impress me recently with the precision and strengths of their jumps which have mightily improved these last few weeks. They love hunting the occasional fly that comes into our appartement and to catch them… this is how they developed, by doing what they love doing.
Recently we have moved from a merely changing world to an emerging-flexflow world; by this I mean that the rate of change has accelerated so much that now ‘novelty’ is continually emerging – unprecedented situations, unreducable complexities, ambiguous multiplicity abounds. It seems that a good way to adapt to this, let’s call it simply ‘complexity’, is with collective and collaborative intelligence. This goes for the economy where we’re seeing the first signs of “Enterprise without Boundary” embedded within “Information Fabrics” and “Collaboration Ecologies”, and it goes for social and political life where we also see first signs of the influence of social networks eclipsing the power of parties in some issues. And of course this is true in the individual’s life where the role of community is rising again out of the ruins of mega-individualism; and what we mean for each other is strengthened immensely.
Our identity used to be a fixed ‘thing’. When I grew up – and I’ve heard someone say this just the other day again – grown-ups where asking children (mainly boys, but in emancipated surrounds also girls), “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a recent development in Western societies that we start to understand that life-long learning and development is not a choice but a must. But actually, that was yesterday, because now having one fixed identity, being someone, is not really needed anymore. Multiplicity, flexibly being many things to many people is much more helpful and satisfying.
So when I say, being who you are – being who I am – this is what I mean, “It’s as if we come from an era where we thought we were a tree in a wood, and now we see that we are a wood ourselves, part of and meshed into forests upon forests.” Another way to put it would be, trust that you cannot be anything but ‘yourself’, which is being many and diverse…
Back to strengths – which are, if what I said above is right, the strengths of all of you; I’ve taken the “VIA Signature Strengths” test on the above mentioned website again today and found that the following are the ones that “we” have; strengths that I very much love to support the larger community with:
Appreciation of beauty and excellence
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.
Curiosity and interest in the world
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.
Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.