“What is needed is self actualization not self image actualization.”-Bruce Lee
It seems like many of us in the world today live in some degree of self-imposed existential inhibition devoid of the nectar of direct experience. Our day to day life and how we choose to engage with it, is often not heavily influenced by a reality that is created by our “actual” experience of life. By “direct experience” I mean a state in which the stories, false ideals and conditioned psychosomatic behaviors that dominate us are minimized or completely removed, even if just for a moment.
In this state, we are present, embodied and “alive”. This idea, of direct experience can be found in many spiritual disciplines around the world, and can also be seen in western “body-mind” therapy circles. It has driven the philosophies of monks, mystics, therapist and athletes the world over. It has been presented through many names and aspects of it can be seen in various concepts, such as:
- Beginners Mind
- Flow State
- Being in the moment
Even though some of these concepts may seem foreign, it seems that the common thread is that all these concepts drive us toward a primary mode of consciousness: that we are completely engaged with the experience at hand, without the “thinking mind” or our conditioned modes of operation, coloring the moment to make it something it is not. The more we can do that, the deeper into our direct experience of life we can go.
I would like to point out quickly, before we move forward, that there is a major element of embodiment in this state, as connection with the physical is fundamental in direct experience. Whether we are talking about, yoga, bio-energetic body mind therapy, extreme sports or the Zen arts like archery, our ability to fully engage and release all else, is fundamental to how these traditions are structured.
Ultimately the purpose of these disciplines is cultivating a state that you leave the “training arena” with and use in the rest of your life.
Most of the traditions that have sprouted the above mentioned terms, are pretty much in agreement, that the average person is not actually engaged or having direct experience most of the time.
Our minds, traumas, lack of embodiment, philosophies, agendas, fears and ideas of reality prevent us from actually experiencing life itself. This whole dynamic can be seen in simple and also profound ways. It can range from a fear of opening up (by tightening the front of our bodies) in a particular social situation because of how we experienced past events (that can even go back as far as infancy), to the way in which we structure our entire lives, through the philosophies, ideals and values we choose to embrace.
Through deepening my practices that make up the core of Healing the Human Animal, I have joyfully and painfully, discovered that many of the thoughts and values I had about myself and the world, begin to dissolve the deeper into my personal experience I go.
For many of us, our value system is a complete artificial fabrication crafted by media, community, trauma, neurosis and the agenda others, and not from uninhibited fully engaged experience.
In simple terms, we become conditioned. To the degree that our motivations do not stem from our own inner core, is the degree to which our own inner experience is rejected in favor of something else.The lack of embodiment, grounding and immediacy many of us live with, bouncing around between the past and the future, between what is expected from others and what we try to impose upon ourselves, robs us of an authenticity that comes from being able to be alive in our actual truth.
There is no foundation for experience: people claim to have certain values and certain motivations, and then when you look at their actions and the outcomes they consistently create; it is not that difficult to see that they have absorbed an idea, for which the living experience is missing.
It is seen in those who say they value something, such as health, they exclaim they do not want to be sick, and then proceed to carry out action after action that leads them to illness.
Actually feeling good, energized and fully alive is not really an experience they truly seek to have, yet being sick is also not an experience they want.
These splits in the personality come from “believing” certain things and not having a stable base of self-actualization from which to gauge these beliefs. It is not difficult to see why this manifest, when you consider that from the moment you can speak, walk and act within society, there are countless forces attempting to tell you why what you feel is wrong:
Don’t cry, sit still, don’t play that way, don’t show the other kids your body, eat like this, talk like this, boys don’t that, girls behave like this, do your homework like this, write your paper like this ect…
We could go on and on with examples, but the point is really clear, nearly from the moment we are born, conditioning from external forces set in, we are generally broken like a horse and domesticated into the particular culture we exist within. In order for this to happen our feeling faculties and mental faculties must be severed. This psychosomatic surgery weakens us and makes us easier to manage and lead.
What we feel is right in the moment is then stifled, blocked and even punished.
Slowly this distrust of own experience sets in. From there we create stories, adopt disembodied ideals and do our damnest to maintain the status quo we have created for ourselves. Not everything we adopt in this way is “wrong”, but, ultimately questioning what it is and adopting our own moral compass is fundamental to having a direct experience of life.
Instead of pursuing pleasure and what feels innately right, many are motivated by puritan thoughts, redemption through suffering, being a martyr, self-deprecation, being elite, being the best, the most badass, the hero, the savior and just a general slew of unconscious roles that take away from who we actually are.
The more we impose on ourselves a role, while denying ourselves our true feelings for the sake of some imagined ideal that we are using to escape our actual experience, the more we are diseased.
It infects “self-help” by us trying to “improve ourselves” instead of thinking of “improving our experience”. One insinuates that we are not good enough already (because of an imagined ideal) and must be fixed, whereas the other zeroes in on the way we live the various moments of our lives.
“Once we give up our true self to play a role, we are fated to be rejected because we have already rejected ourselves. Yet we will struggle to make the role more successful, hoping to overcome our fate but finding ourselves more enmeshed in it. We are caught in a vicious cycle that keeps closing in, diminishing our life and being.”- Alexander Lowen
To become free, truly free, we must reclaim experience though deep psychosomatic embodiment and a non-manufactured engagement with the forces of life.
Through this we can cast off the archetypes and stories that do not emerge organically from our own soul. We find our own inner source of divinity, and feel its wild spirit roaring through our being.
When we step into our own living experience, it alone guide us by swallowing the stimuli we are exposed to, digesting it, extracting what nourishes us and releasing the rest. Then, the feelings and roles you have adopted, can more easily be cast off.
You are either leading yourself or being led. To be led by unexamined forces is to be diminished, and not fully alive, not actually present within the reality of your being. One of the biggest acts of rebellion and spiritual cleansing you can perform: to become free.