Friday, 10 June 2016
The Divinity of Polarity
Here's a thing. During my years as a practicing Buddhist I was never told about the sacred nature of duality, the divinity of polarity, how opposites are the portal to the infinite. The image above is of Hayagriva yab-yum, but it is not the male/female, yin/yang coupling that I am mainly concerned with here. It is the splitting of wholeness into light and dark; black and white; in everyday experience, nice and nasty.
The teaching of this sacred duality fell to Neil Kramer, as did many things that have impacted positively on my life over recent years. In his typically clear and coherent manner, he describes how polarity is a teaching mechanism. It is possible, I suppose, that other planets, other universes, may boast different styles; but we live on a planet which is pretty gritty, pretty basic, so duality is the name of the game, In particular, this means paying attention to, embracing, the negative pole, the one we easily wish to reject, to pretend doesn't exist.
A while ago I identified two things that really are my bag. The first one is consciousness: see plenty of posts on Pale Green Vortex. My life has been more-or-less devoted to consciousness exploration; it is the main man, the creator, reality. The second thing that is my bag is anxiety. Friends, welcome to the dark side. Anxiety is dark, believe me. The other side of the polarity. I am a specialist. I know.
Anxiety really came to the fore during my years working as English language teacher. I am the kind of guy who wants to do a good job, not waste other people's time etc. Which is all very well, except that day after day after month after year I would experience a nearly constant undercurrent of anxiety: is this material interesting enough; have I got enough variety in the class; and, worst of all - have I got enough material to last the three hours? This was the real nightmare scenario: running out of things to do with an hour to go, and without energy or spontaneous creativity to sort it out on the spot, just left in this panic-filled void.
I gave up teaching, and planned wholesale life changes, involving, among other things, moving from London to Highland Scotland, aka the Great Unknown. This was the final straw, the anxiety-provoking Great Unknown (that is what anxiety is, a reaction to the unknown. And, guess what - the future is by its very nature unknown). Sensations disappeared from my feet and legs, and I was unable to walk properly. Instinct told me not to bother with a doctor. It wasn't multiple sclerosis, and eventually I moved to Scotland to climb mountains.
But the anxiety was still there. This April I wrote about my visit to the homeopath two years ago. During this fateful ninety minutes, the anxiety came up, through, and out. It must be something to be a practitioner like that, with a bloke you've never met before living out this total panic scenario, everything completely out of control, recounting how this image a bit like Munsch's Scream comes at him, complete helpless panic, about nothing in particular yet anything and everything.
With the help of the homeopathic sessions and some guiding words from Neil Kramer, I began to get a hold on what this anxiety stuff is: where it comes from, what it denotes. To the point where I can now more steadily begin to experience the reality that the character experiencing all these anxious feelings is a made-up fiction anyway.
The point is this, though. Anxiety has been a major way into 'developing', moving on, over recent years. It has required real, visceral situations to present it as a teaching node, be it the house flooding, my wife having early-stage tongue cancer, or other less dramatic events. The dark side can force a hard, clinical we could say, examination of the deepest, most fundamental and obstinate aspects to our being. A necessary examination, which will never be effected if we adopt as our motto 'All you need is love' (unless you clearly recognise that love from the universe may appear in vicious, cruel guises).
As I mentioned above, my years in organised Buddhism failed to bring this out. When the dark side presented itself starkly for recognition, inclusion, or whatever, I was either left to my own devices or needing to look to Lou Reed, Jim Morrison, or Carl Jung for a finger pointing the way. Key notions in Buddhist practice were 'developing', 'transforming', 'transcending'. When flailing about in the stormy waters of the night sea, these ideas don't seem to make much sense. We had a meditation, one of the primary ones in the system, which translates roughly as 'developing loving kindness'. Despite practicing this regularly for many years, I confess that this makes no sense to me at this moment in time. How do you 'develop' love, exactly? It's never happened in my life to date. Isn't love an immediate response to, for example, experiencing the interconnectedness of us all, or our essential non-difference? Or a response to the deep empathy that can arise with another being? Correct me if I'm wrong, anybody. I'm up for learning.
So, a lot of modern New-Age stuff, a lot of 'light workers', disavow this aspect to our sacred being, deny these teachings which seem to me necessary if we are to truly move on in our 'spiritual lives'. A number of friends and acquaintances have recently engaged in various 'no self', 'non-duality' techniques, normally with the aid of a guide, and readily accessed online. I have dipped into some of this material myself, and have found it useful in some ways. A question remains, though, about how deep it goes (this notion of depth may be rejected as valid by some no-self exponents. So be it.). Buddhism, I contend, needs its wrathful deities, and modern systems of no-self require similar, otherwise the 'awakenings' they assist will tend to be vapid. So I was pleased to read one of the main guides on this particular site informing one no-self hopeful that his fear was his best friend; it was through his fear, properly experienced, that he came to see, and eventually see through, the fantasies which acted as mind-made manacles around his consciousness.
No darkness, no light.