Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Delightful Dance of Immediate Recognition

Over the past weeks we have been looking at each of the words in the title of this blog, "Read, Relax, Recognize," and today we come to the last of the three words.
It might be helpful to begin with a story that could help illustrate what "recognize" means. Some years ago, I was traveling in a VW bus through the south of France with a dear friend, and on the Saturday night before Easter we arrived in the city of Arles. We were sitting in a cafe on the square beside the ancient Roman amphitheater watching the people promenade along the main street. There were many drunken young men who were out and about, and as so often happens in a situation like this, two of them got into a violent fight. After they had thrown a few punches, they grabbed one another by the shoulders, and each struggled to subdue the other. But suddenly there was an instant when they looked into one another's eyes and held the gaze. There must have been a moment of recognition, of actually SEEING the other person for the first time. They at once relaxed, gave up struggling, let go their grip, put their arms around each other and begin to dance a waltz with great big smiles on their faces! Wow, now THAT is recognition!
So, what does that story have to do with us? We have been struggling with a lot of things in our own lives: "Who are I;" "What about all these thoughts and emotions I have;" "Will I be happy in life;" "Will I find someone to love me;" "Why do things go wrong;" "Will I be free of the pain I feel," and so many other things. We have things occur in life that we don't want; we struggle to make things better or make the wrong things go away, but then more things occur that we resist and resent that we need to deal with, and on and on it goes for a whole lifetime. Quietly (or not so quietly) we live a life without ongoing balance, peace, sustained joy or any resolution of the things that afflict us.
This battle with our experience may not be obvious to us much of the time, because when we feel afflicted we often turn to things like food, spending money, sex, entertainment and other distractions to paper over the negative feelings. We may present a brave front to our partners, friends, family and to ourselves, but often we struggle with deep dissatisfaction and doubt.
We want to make it better, but the solutions we find are not long-lasting. The freedom, stability and peace of mind we long for seem to be so distant. That is a pretty bleak picture, but for many, many of us, this is our lived experience on a moment-by-moment basis.
But wait a minute, is it in fact our lived experience moment-by-moment? Or is seeing things in this way only an acquired habit that has engulfed us because we didn't know any other way? Like the two drunken brawlers, could we be struggling with an enemy that is not really an enemy at all, but who is a friend who has merely gone unrecognized?
The fight that we have been in, maybe for our whole lives, can be swiftly ended. Nothing inside or outside of us needs to be changed; we only need to see clearly....we need to recognize what is already there. And what is already there? An as yet unrecognized clarity and wholeness that exists at the base of all this turmoil.
We could say that the moment of recognition that the two men felt when they truly saw one another occurs for us when we gaze into the "eyes" of our experience and recognize it for what it is. The labels we apply to the experience--good, bad, want this, don't want that--do not determine reality, unless we allow them to do so. If we choose to be caught up in these things, the stillness and ease that are at the basis will remain unrecognized.
We are introduced to this peace and clarity by not pursuing our thoughts and emotions and building a story around them. We rest in the peace that is already present by not seeking anything or wanting to change anything. In a very simple way, on a moment-by-moment basis, we rely on the clarity that is the basis of the thoughts and emotions.
"Recognize" as a word means simply "to see or acknowledge again." That is all we are doing...seeing again, acknowledging again...rather than being enthralled by all the confusion. We, like the two drunken brawlers, are only a moment away from a very beautiful and delightful dance.

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