the way down (excerpt from course workbook)

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“the way up and the way down is one and the same.”
-heraclitus

it seems very rare these days, as it probably has been throughout history, that a man or woman behaves much at all like the person he imagines herself to be. most often our self images are hasty and incoherent patchworks of biology, upbringing (parents and culture) wishful thinking and self rescue fantasies in complex interaction with the conscious and unconscious minds. meanwhile, what we really are is…well, does anybody know?

to approach the problem of self knowledge (an essential counterpoint to the activity of self transformation) by adding to our self images ideas about our “true” nature or self is to invite failure – after all, who but the little self, with its constricted imagination and deep sense of inferiority, could piece together such fantastical notions as this supposed mythological “big self”? any underlying truth that might exist will not reveal itself through these ::deep:: contemplations of the little self, but through removing that so-called “self” entirely; not by moving “up”–a false and evasive upward movement into ideas, concepts, hopes or fears–but down, into truth, reality, not as we would like it to be, not as we fear it might be, but as it is.

this course is meant to facilitate a confrontation with the real.

it divides the “way down” into three stages and provides practical work for each stage on the levels of the physical, the emotional, and the cognitive. these techniques are fool proof – provided they are actually carried out.

stage 1: contraction, condensation, bitterness

this is where we begin, where we come up against the boundaries of habit, constriction, tensions and belief; here we find that growth is not merely a matter of desiring to grow; we learn about our current perceived limits as we bump up against them. we observe, allow ourselves to see, and learn to tolerate any discomfort that may arise from that seeing.

stage 2: expansion, force, evaporation

having mapped out the boundaries of the current self we begin to strategically apply “heat” in order to begin to dissolve them. this phase is often exhilarating and semi ecstatic, as we find, maybe for the first time, that apparently immovable boundaries can in fact be moved and even dismantled, provided that we apply the proper methods. we disrupt, melt away, and learn to tolerate any anxiety that may result from that melting.

stage 3: integration, circulation, equilibrium

this is where we step back, let the flames die down, and survey the remains. the emotional vapors given off by applying heat can be intense, and we want to be sure we have processed them before returning to address the next layer. we reflect, allow ourselves to adapt to the change, and begin to look for signs of the newly shaped contours of our selves, as we prepare to repeat this three step process as many times as layers of boundaries exist.

 

the specific contents of each of these stages will differ significantly with each individual, depending upon past and current experiences. but the techniques provided, if performed sincerely, will not fail to initiate the process, a process which is itself universal. it is the unmasking and removing of the illusions that protect us from our fear of the unknown. and what is the unknown? it is all that is, has been, and will be; and it is unknown because it cannot be known.

when we lie to ourselves and others about who and what we are, where we are, and what we know, we may succeed in momentarily protecting ourselves from fear, doubt, hurt, or misfortune; but this turning away—this turning “up” into fantasy and belief, tall tales about the quest we have already undertaken or may one day undertake–has only one ultimate result: the anchor is never actually pulled, the ship never actually sets sail, and we never actually take the night sea journey through which we can actually move beyond fear, beyond the greatest lies we tell, beyond the worst mistakes we make.

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