On not being present
Just found your pages. Courageous writing. Your central topic, amidst the engaging meandering, that of being fully present, does feel like THE lifelong dance project. Thanks for reminding me of that in a gentle and honest way. That’s my takeaway and with that I shall return to life ( well, now sleep) and look forward to your future essays.
Hello Caroline, we met briefly after your talk with Dougald Hine in Glasgow. Your writing seems alive (best word I can think of) and being present in the writing must be a key factor. I’m really interested in the list of Classics you linked to, having read a handful of Taoist texts and related books. Where would you recommend starting with Thomas Cleary’s writing on Taoism?
It’s really interesting the way you describe the way some people seem to see you, in ways you may not welcome due to either not being ready for or because you don’t like (my words!) the messenger. Alastair MacIntosh often talks about truth and reality in sanskrit language (satya I think)being the same thing.
Thank you very much! I shall investigate your reading list. Your description of the dreaming part is lovely too. So many people dismiss it.
Thank you for this. It puts me in mind of - and I don't, byt this, mean to imply that it applies to you or anyone else in particular - something a female pal sent me a while back. That was an article on how being somewhat Aspergers-y is more common in women than is usually diagnosed. The reason for that underdiagnoisis, the study suggested, is that women are conditioned to be good at masking, and mimicking 'appropriate' behaviours and presentation from those around them in place of feeling the authentic emotions they 'ought' to be feeling. It included a set of indicators to look out for and I felt an immediate shock of recognition, though of course that itself could be self-delusion.
Authenticity, eh? Hmmph. To tolerate it, I think one has to be accepting of a certain separation from others, a self-othering, if that's what one's authentic self really is, and that's a challenge.
This piece blew me away. I really resonate with the feeling of often being beside myself, not present and ruled by lists. Something to work on! I love the idea of making friends with our dreaming selves. Thank you for sharing that.
' I have yet again written myself back into the moment.'
Your words and what Dreaming Pip left in my pocket this morning are a relationship and reality of their own!
Powerful. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing all of that, Caro. It is a courageous gift from the heart (Latin cor "heart").
Have you read IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD ?
All of my early training -- in family, school, among peers, etc. -- was an outrageous miseducation ... about the body (soma -- the body as experienced from within), about feeling, sensing, intuiting and imagining in relation to thinking and knowing. It was an education in dis-association -- thus dissociation (not being truly present). I've always known this. The knowing was in the bones ... and in the shimmering sensations in the skin, the tightness in the belly and breath....
I always knew, and yet I did not know ... and could not know as "knowing" was explained and taught to me by the dominant / mainstream / western / modern culture ("civilization"). There was never an option to remain whole within myself (other than dis-associated, dissociated), as I had no guides or teachers, no support such a herculean task.
I'm now 57 years of age, and all of my life I've been following the profound tacit knowing teacher dwelling in my skin, bones and breath. I never imagined it would be so difficult and take so long!
The instrument of dowsing
The key is the tacit, which remembers all which we've been trained to forget. It hasn't ever forgotten what we know but know not how to speak -- even to ourselves (!).
I'm writing about this now ... a book. Slowly. Folks need to know that we've all been in training ... dis-association training (dissociation) ... fragmentation training, splitting, breaking apart. It's not just in some of our families, but it's habit is woven into the fabric of our culture -- whether we live in the USA, the UK, Australia, ... most anywhere modern and western.
We have to really understand, in a whole and rounded way, what went wrong before we can put it right. And that's not just a personal problem but a collective one, and we're all in this together.
(Yes, your friend Iain McGilchrist is among my many guides in this process.)
I'm here for you in it. And you are here for me in it. And we are blessed.
Another book mention that came to mind, perhaps because a certain kind of meta-awareness (direct awareness of awareness itself by awareness itself) FEELS so core to the meta-cognitive aspect of my unfolding research, inquiry, journey home ....
The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness, by Diana Winston. ( https://www.soundstrue.com/products/the-little-book-of-being ) It's a book about how to be directly aware of our own awareness -- which I FEEL is necessary toward knowing in a whole and rounded way and breaking the dissociative spells.
Aah. Thank you. Your writing is helpful... I have been thinking about my lifelong yearning for a sense of presence/connection in communications with other humans, but then when the opportunity comes, my mind almost always veers away. So natural and easy for me to be present when no humans are around. But humans scare me/overstimulate/ frustrate/ annoy- I literally shy away. I felt a sense of recognition when you shared about the father figure , and I know there is trauma there that informs patterns of mine, but then I look at photos of me as a 2 year old, hyper-focusing on what is in front of me and not connecting with the other humans in the photo, and know that there is this way in which my mind just doesn't want to be so present with people (self-diagnosed on the spectrum of ADHD here.) Yet! Yet I am always wanting connection. Practice in safe spaces helps. Your missive reminds me to go back to some practices.
Thank you Caro! So much of what your write here resonates - being called out by teachers and not understanding why, just feeling dissociated... and the thing about about the dissonance growing up amidst unsafety and denial. Something in me is breathing more deeply having read your words.
There's no way of saying so which does not lead through grief and grieving. What the modern western 'self' ultimately "is" appears to be a self-image. Not the actual or real self, but merely an image of self. And modern western psychology is all caught up in this image and its stories, framings, patterns of being.... Modernity, as a "project" (Think here the strand of the Enlightenment in which 'man' is master and world is slave) had certainty as its principal aim and goal. With certainty, we could ostensibly stave off the literally unthinkable risks of the living body, the soma -- to make the world finally, finally, finally (oh, gawed!) safe one day -- by being "in charge," by being dominant, by being "human" in a distinctly modern and western sense centered on the image of oneself as "master".
The result of this pursuit of certainty and mastery is isolation, loneliness, alienation, fragmentation -- being utterly alone and apart. To be a master one must be apart, not integrated, not participant -- but alone. A sovereign. Above and apart, looking down on -- but not participating in -- one's own experience and relations.
What appears to be happening now is that the Myth of Mastery is failing us all. It is now fully obsolete. And so, then, is the very modern image of 'self'.
The whole story of the modern self is being flung repeatedly against a wall it cannot pass through. And so we are in this passage, this liminal space -- all of us together -- in which an image of who and what we are is in the ruins. Life among and amid the ruins. Hallelujah! At last!
Thank you for sharing! This was just what I needed in this moment. I've been feeling rather beside myself lately. Probably, in part, because I haven't been making time for practice. Whenever I see a new post from you come up it brings me a little joy. They always have such gems of wisdom.
I...feel seen. Not sure I like it.
Hi Caro -
Surely you've already heard this, but I'm listening to it for the first time now. It's your friend, Dougald, talking. https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/hermitix/episodes/Climate-Change--Collapse--and-Modernity-with-Dougald-Hine-e1tne77 He says that if by some miracle any three people, living or dead, could be brought together in a room to talk, he'd like it to be yourself, Ivan Illich and John Berger.
He didn't mention me, but that's only because he could only choose three, of course! (wink, sly smile, looking away now shamefaced)
This rang quite a few bells... One specific story brought to mind a friend who suffered abuse early in life and as a consequence lived literally beside herself: when she first came to her teacher, he said almost exactly the same thing: "Your body's here but you're over there."
The first principle of a certain Sufi path is "awareness of the breath", and that's entirely about being here, now. I know the breath is enormously important to many traditions for this same reason.
I appreciate the vulnerability of writing something so personal, and that's important too. I'm meant to cultivate that but hmm.