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.