10 - Integration and Three Centers of Knowing and Being - Part 1
Updated: May 18, 2020
Alright!! Let’s all take a breath. breathe in deeply, and breathe out fully. Let your mind relax, clear, and be empty for a moment. Close your eyes, listen to your breathing, and try not to think or imagine anything within your mind and soul. Breath slow. Feel your breath. Hear your breath. Let your mind be dark. And wait. Keep breathing. This is a kind of meditation, the goal of which is to begin to produce an inner stillness which allows for the interior space to begin to see things differently. I thought it appropriate, after all this deeply philosophical thinking and talking, to try and reset our center in the space of stillness, so we are better able to come again to all these concepts more freely, ready to really hear, process, and receive what we’re meant to from them. Something I learned in college, from a literary professor, was the idea of surrendering to the text. The thought was that when you first read something, or take in new ideas, just try to drop all your preconceived notions and really listen. Try to take it in first on its own terms. Buddhists call this the "beginners mind," and they spend years of intensive practice to get to a place where everything can come to them unfiltered through their own personal perspective. They call it the beginners mind, because the goal is to approach everything as something new, as if you knew absolutely nothing about it. Christian practice calls this humility, and some of my own spiritual teachers call it beginning with a “yes” instead of a “no.” It’s interesting that Buddhist practitioners spend years of dedicated focus to get to this place. It shows just how much we are wired to approach everything with a “no” first, instead of a “yes.” What I mean is that we often come to everything thinking we already know everything, and then filter new ideas through what we already know. It is a guarded approach to every moment. It’s a skeptical approach which is largely based on ego and self-importance. In other words, we approach life with “I already know,” instead of “please teach me.” The goal of the ego-centric person is to appear like they’ve got everything figured out, even if they don’t. I was really good at this. I’m very creative, and have a quick mind. My mantra used to be, “if I don’t already know something, give me 2 seconds and I’ll form my own opinion about it.” But what that does is keep us locked inside our own thinking, unable to really hear and receive any new thoughts, unless they line up with what we already believe. This is a defensive stance towards life and learning, and it doesn’t produce much thriving and growing. So, lets all take a breath, let go, and come back to everything I’ve been saying with a fresh, new perspective and willingness to hear and learn.
What I want to do now is not only revisit the three Centers of Being and Knowing, and how they fit together, but reveal a deeper understanding of how they work together to bring us to greater enlightenment and personal transformation. Remember, the goal of personal transformation is the movement away from selfishness, towards selflessness. What tends to focus us more on ourselves? In one word, being self-conscious. It is our uncertainty about ourselves that makes us feel insecure. That insecurity makes us more focused on trying to assert who we are. If I don’t know myself, I will constantly push back against others trying to assert themselves, because it makes me feel insecure about who I am. When I know myself, then I have no need to assert myself, because I am confident and content in being who I am. When you know yourself, you are free to engage in the joy of knowing others. Does that make sense? Sometimes those who appear the most confident are the most insecure, that’s why they must constantly keep asserting who they are. When you know who you are, you don't have to focus on who you are. Then you are free to just be. That is the goal, and why selflessness is one good way of describing where we are trying to go, and what it will look like when we get there. Getting there has to do with getting back in touch with our whole self. That’s what the three Centers of Being and Knowing are about. These are the means by which we are able to accomplish the goal of selflessness. You can’t become selfless by trying to be less selfish, just as you can’t become healed by trying to be less broken. There is a process by which you get to that healing; a number of steps, practices, and actions which you must take. The road by which we come to that greater self is by being more fully engaged with ourselves, and with the world. But the vehicle by which we travel that road is always an encounter with the Divine.
As I’ve already tried to make clear, that part of ourselves which we seem to naturally connect with is our mind and body. The other parts of ourselves are much more mysterious and harder to grasp. Even our emotional life, which we cannot doubt that we experience, still seems more like something that happens to us, instead of something we can grasp and understand. In other words, our emotions, much like the other less visible parts of ourselves, seem to always be coming out of the shadows from a place which we know little about. In this way they can seem more like things which are constantly blind-siding us, because we seem to have no good ability to understand how to work with them, so they aren’t working against us. Because of this the most common approach to those parts of ourselves which aren’t so easy to connect with is detachment and numbing. If I can’t understand it, or control it, perhaps I can simply cut it off. I did this why my body center. I experienced physical abuse as a kid. I was already an extremely sensitive, which made this physical abuse even more overwhelming. It wasn’t a daily or even weekly abuse, but because of how I reacted to it, and how intense each experience was, I decided to detach from the place where that abuse was happening as a means of coping. And, as in all abuse, it didn’t just stay in my body. It filtered through my body Knowing-center, into my other Knowing centers, and then into all my centers of Being as well. I became oppressed by this abuse in every way, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It not only effected my health in all those areas, but how I formed my identity into adulthood. In other words, it also effected my centers of Being. Because of this abuse, I was detached from my inner life is so many ways. The best way I could deal with it was through detachment and numbing. But that did not really detachment from the abuse or it’s effects in all my parts. It just pushed them all into the shadows, which meant that they were much more apt to jump out of the shadows and continue beating me up, which is why I had a major breakdown at the age of 43. That breakdown was devastating, but mostly because I was so out-of-touch with so much of myself and my inner life.
In a sense, when we narrow our perception of ourselves to a container smaller than who we really are, we not only diminish ourselves, but we also prepare ourselves for lot of continuing problems throughout our lives. We do not really get rid of all of ourselves, we just learn to operate in a much smaller self, leaving the other parts in the dark to wreak havoc from the shadows, and to never get better. Whether we had good or traumatic childhoods, we all have parts of ourselves which come more naturally to us, and parts which don’t. The dominance or reticence of these parts depends largely on the common energy that dominates our individual, family, regional, and national cultures. One way or another, there are parts of ourselves which seem to come more easily, and parts which seem more elusive. Some people are more in their heads, some more emotional, some more body driven, some more spiritual and some more physical. Regardless who you are, and where you are, the goal of every person is to become as fully engaged in their fullest self in order to be as fully alive and thriving as possible. This will not be accomplished by simply doing what we've always done. We must fight against the predominance of our individual or corporate programing and learn how to awaking every part of ourselves, so that there is nothing left which can sabotage us from the shadows. This process is called integration. The first step of integration is simply recognizing the reality of what is real. This step alone can take a long time. It simply entails coming to terms with our strengths and weakness, within the scope of understanding and learning the fullest picture of who we’re meant to be. That’s why I’ve tried to spend a good amount of time first establishing the fullest picture of what it means to be fully human and fully alive, by exploring the concepts of the three centers of Knowing and Being within the context of a universal and personal divine cosmic energy. You have to know the goal before you can determine where you’re at in reaching that goal. The goal, as I see it, is the fullest possible integration into our whole selves. That means being as fully engaged as I can in my sensuality, emotions, thoughts, body, soul, and spirit as I can. That is what integration is about. Sounds like a really big goal, doesn’t it? So, where do we begin?
I’ve already tried to express this, but it bears repeating. In a world where we are partially or even fully blind, we need to find a good and selfless guide who is willing to walk with us all along the way. That’s why it’s important to start by working out, at least to some degree, how you feel and what you think about some kind of God character. You won’t get very far at all down the path of integration and personal transformation if you haven’t yet figured out who you think God is, and whether or not you think you can trust that God. As soon as you start to walk down the path, with this Guide, you’ll find yourself stepping back and stopping when confronted with the challenge of trusting this Divine Guide to lead you. If you don’t have a God you can trust, then you won’t be able to surrender enough to get very far in the process of personal transformation. I realize how discouraging that idea may be to many, and just how daunting. The truth is, if you’re human and you’re honest, then you’ve had some struggles with this God character. There isn’t a person alive on the planet who doesn’t have their doubts about the goodness and trustworthiness of God. There are many who may never admit that, or want to, but that’s part of what it means to be human. I think, if we can all truly admit that, it’s actually a relief. Unfortunately, most religions haven’t done a good job teaching us to search, question, and lean into our doubts about God. Most religious prefer to shut that kind of thing down, because most religions are centered around a closed system of certainty. In other words, they don’t just have “the truth” about God, they have “the only truth” about God. It’s what’s often called theology, orthodoxy, or tradition. Most religions exist to tell us, in black and white terms, who God is, and the right rules to follow in order to appease or please Him/Her. The message of most religions is, “We have the right truth and the only truth about God.” But nothing could be further from the truth. If God is truly as big as most religions claim, then it’s factually impossible to have the only truth about Him/Her. There is, in fact, no truth which could contain God. If we keep to the broadest understanding of who God is, then we understand that no human understanding can contain the One who transcends and inhabits the entire universe. In light of that, we can easily eliminate the voice of anyone telling us they have the correct or full understanding of God. Never trust a religion or religious person who doesn’t know how to doubt. Could we not at least say that there are religions which do a better job of getting God “right”? I suppose, but then again, if God is as vast and expansive as religion claims (and I believe), then we can only say that some religions do a better job of revealing part of who God is. And that has, in fact, been my experience. I started out Christian, in a religious sect of Christianity which taught and told me that I had the right and best understanding of God. But what I’ve learned along the way is that so many individuals, religions, and spiritual teachers all have a good and helpful understanding of God that has expanded my own understanding and experience of Him/Her. That being said, it’s important ask, how do we filter out the bad and hone in on the good. How can we tell when a truth or teaching about God is good and healthy, or when it’s harmful and unhealthy? That’s a good question.
There’s a simple litmus test I use to determine this, outside of God’s direct and personal guidance. That litmus test is inclusion verses exclusion. God, and by relation His/Her truth, is always inclusive. That which attempts to describe God in exclusive terms is not good or truly God. Now, why do I say that? It’s very simple. Again, if we think of God in the broadest terms as creator/sustainer of the entire universe, then we have to say that everything created came from God and is also energized by God, so what part of God would God exclude? The truth is that the Creator God which many religions claim to worship is the very God they also reject whenever they exclude any part of His/Her creation. Who or what does God exclude in a universe that is, by definition, existing and continuing to exist because God wills it? When we understand God as the Divine energy of life that sustains the entire universe, then we can say that, if something exists, it’s because God chooses for it to exist, and therefore deems it good and worthy of inclusion. Simply put, if it exists, then it is of God. God does not exist in our brains. What we believe about God does not equal what is true about God. God is who He/She is regardless what we believe. The goal then, is to discover who God is. Before we learn in practical/experiential terms who God is for ourselves, we must begin with the knowledge and wisdom that others have passed down to us about how to know God, and who God is. And, we know we can trust that wisdom when it is both inclusive, and useful in helping us know God for ourselves. Any religion that seeks to trap individuals, and make them dependent upon it for knowing/practicing the right rules and methods of coming to God is not at all helpful in delivering us to God. It is, by all means, effectively keeping us from God.
I hope that’s helpful in this journey of coming to trust the only one able to lead us into the darkness of those parts of ourselves too obscure for us to connect with on our own. You will not get very far at all if you're not able to make peace with God enough to allow for His/Her divine direction. Of course, there’s a whole lot more to say about this God, and a whole lot more work for all of us in coming to truly know and trust this Divine light on the journey of personal transformation. Much of the work in this process comes slow. It is by nature more a letting go than a gaining, a release and surrender more than a gathering and succeeding through our own efforts. Success in learning the true nature of being comes as we stop trying to be something in order to fall back to what we already are, and have always been. That’s the beauty and difficulty of this process. It’s not something we can fabricate, not through our best thoughts or attempts to live a good life and do the “right” thing. But it is also beautiful because of that, because it requires very little from us other than learning how to let go. I hope you keep walking with me into the dark, and keep growing in your willingness to allow for the Divine light to shine in your life as you learn to trust more and more in His/Her personal, loving, selfless presence. That Divine presence can change us, and help us grow into greater integration with our fullest self. So, lets' keep moving forward in the goal, as we continue discussing what that looks like.