This was first written on 17/02/2020
We are living in scary times. The familiar and the known are threatened from every side. As the planet heats up exponentially, the soil is losing its fertility. As billions of living creatures are incinerated in wild fires, the insect population is being worse than decimated by chemical agriculture. As trees are demolished at accelerating speed, water is being degraded by the activity of rapidly reproducing human beings. Not to mention financial instability, religious fundamentalism and the rise of fascist populism.
It would seem like we have little choice but to shrivel uptight with anxiety and fear. Or gird ourselves with elaborate denials and hypocritical self deception.
Even if we police our thoughts, and allow others to regulate our information flow, there is more to us than what we think. There is more to being human than what we can do. More fundamental than our ability to act and our ability to think is our capacity to feel.
What we feel is not unlike what we think and do. In that they are based on experience. They all function through the remarkable power of habit. We do not really choose what we think. We think what we think now because of what we have thought before. We can not do something just because we want to. We have to learn to drive, use a computer, climb a tree. We feel what we feel because of what we have felt in the past.
Human experience is a function of our ability to learn. Although based on genetic determinants we have to learn to walk the way that we walk. Although based on inherited capacity we learn to speak the language and the way that we speak it. Although based on the nature and limitations of the human nervous system we all learn to perceive what we become able to perceive. Eskimos see many more shades of white than other humans. Those who grow up in the jungle or forest see flora and fauna that city dwellers can not.
It is hard to look at little babies without responding with warmth and delight. They are so full of joy and love. They can not speak, nor move freely. Yet when they are not in physical need they radiate happiness and trust. This can not be said of many human adults, if any.
This universal transformation from joy to anxiety, from safety to insecurity is no mystery. It is a learning process. A learning process based mainly on experience. We learn to feel unsafe by experiencing being threatened. We learn to mistrust by being neglected, rejected, manipulated, exploited. Not only by strangers, but even and especially by those that we know and love.
It can be unlearned. Not by reading, thinking, talking about it. It can only be unlearned by experience.
A human being is a social being, a tribal being. We need each other. Because we experience neglect, rejection, manipulation and exploitation at the hands of others we feel unsafe. We know how vulnerable we are from long and often bitter experience. To feel safe we need to experience something else. We need to feel that we belong. That we are not alone. That we are supported.
This is definitely possible. Even in these cataclysmic times we can learn to feel safe. Even though we can never know when nor how disaster and death may take us, we can still feel safe in the unpredictability of this world.
There is a place of inviolable safety. It is an unusual place. It can not be found on any map, nor in any diagram. It has no geographical location. It can be found in the city or the desert. It can be found by the old and the young. It can be found by rich and poor, able and disabled. It can be found no matter the colour of your skin, the architecture of your ideologies. It can be found in solitude and it can be found in company.
It is to be found in the heart of human nature.
The heart of human nature is not a place. Yet when it reveals itself you feel completely at home. You feel totally safe. Anxieties and strategies fall away into a peaceful, satisfied silence. There is nothing left to know. There is nothing left to prove. There is nothing left to do. Being is enough. You feel safe. You feel supported. You are home.
This place is easily found. You only need become intimate with your own presence, or that of another. This does not require any technique or action. You do not have to know anything. You do not have to do anything. You only have to feel. To feel as deeply and clearly as possible.
Of course the sensations generated by your body are always changing. Inhalations become exhalations. Air flows create changing stimulations on your skin. Digestion creates changing vibrations, rumblings, circulations. Gravity creates changing pressures and tensions. Plans and regrets rise into awareness. Doubts and anxieties bring changing feelings into your body. It you give them all welcome, if you let them express themselves without indulging them, they will pass.
If you remain quietly within your own presence, or sharing your presence with another, these stimulations will fade. They may continue in the background perhaps, but you will lose interest in them. Instead you will be taken by more subtle currents, flows and rhythms within your own presence. Currents of softness and warmth. Vibrations and pulsations of pleasure. Rhythms of opening and release.
It does not matter what your mind had been doing. If you leave it alone and just feel the simplicity of sensations being generated by your body you will be taken through the anatomical presence and physiological activity of your body. You will be taken into the presence of your spiritual nature. You will be taken through the particulars of your socialisation and biology. You will be taken into the universal presence of the human spirit.
This presence does not belong to any culture or society. It is as universal as DNA. It is with you. It is you.
Sometimes you may be a teacher, nurse, doctor, mechanic, engineer. Sometimes you may be a daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, wife or husband. Just as you do not always wear the same clothes, you do not always act and live through the same social persona. We are all continuously changing our psychological and social clothing: in response to changing circumstance.
Whatever the social and psychological clothing you may be wearing you remain present. It is never your daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, wife or husband. It is never your best friend. It is always you. It has always been you at the heart of your life. It always will be.
Beneath your social and psychological identities is who you most deeply and continuously are. Who you most clearly know yourself to be. You are only sometimes any particular social role. You are always you. You know this you with a certainty, a clarity that you do not have about any of your social roles.
This you has no distinguishing characteristics. It is neither young nor old, small nor large, wise nor foolish. Yet you know it more intimately than you know anyone or anything. It is you. It has always been you. It has no flavour although you know it better than any taste. It has no scent yet you know it better than any smell. It has no sound but you are more familiar with it than you are with any melody. You know this presence better than you know anything. Yet if your try to speak of it you will likely find yourself floundering.
This presence, this pre-social, pre-cultural you, is not only more familiar to you than anything. It is also more reliable, more consistent than anything else in your life. You have always been you. You have never been anyone else. Even as all your experiences, hopes, memories, skills, knowledge continuously change, this presence and its familiarity never change. It is with you always, even when you don’t notice, without ever changing.
It does not change because it can not change. It can not change because it has not been created. It can not end because it did not begin. Even though most of the time you do not notice it. Even though most of the time you can not experience it. You cannot experience it without a nervous system. You cannot experience it without a brain, a body. You can not experience it in a coma or when you are asleep. Yet it is present. It does not go away. It has never gone away. It can not go away.
This presence, this you, is your spiritual nature. It never goes away. It never changes. It can never change. It will never change.
It is because you know that everything changes that it is so hard for you to feel safe. You know that what is born dies. You know that whatever begins ends. This makes it hard to feel safe. Unless you know something else also.
There is something you know that has never changed. That will never change. That which animates your own life as you. To become deeply familiar with your own unchanging presence is to loosen the grip of the changing. It is to weaken the power of your biological vulnerability. It is to find the presence of invulnerability: spiritual invulnerability.
This invulnerability is always present, always potentially available. To unlock that potential you need only become intimate with your own presence as often as possible. To hang out as deeply as possible within yourself whenever you can. To let go of your social, psychological and biological personae into who, what you most deeply are. Into this presence that is not a thing.
You don’t have to do this alone. You can do it with others: one other or more than one. It doesn’t matter. Whether you are alone or in company just settle into stillness and tune in. Tune in to the sensations being generated by your body. Allow your mind to freely recognise their implications. But invite your mind to relax, to let go, as much as possible into your deeper ability to feel. As distinctions blur and boundaries dissolve you will be taken through the opening spaciousness of your own presence into the peaceful abundance of a formless emptiness. You will feel and find your self at home. At home in your body. At home in your mind. At home in this unstable, crumbling world.
The experience of the changeless is all you need to counterbalance all of the experience that have left you feeling unsafe in this world. For within your experience of the changeless you find indubitably that you are not only a biological being. You are also a spiritual being. In your spirituality you are untouched by change, untarnished by time, untouchable by death.