The other side of wisdom, knowing. Posted by John on May 22, 1999 at 07:32:25:
I've been "under the weather" all week, feeling pretty bad. Seems I've
let myself get seriously run down. Although I coach and practice
mindfulness, I'm not always wise by any means.
As usual, I've been reading the Classroom Talk postings day by day.
Interesting to have a chance to hear so much from you "newcomers." And,
I confess—though that wasn't the reason this time—I often like to "hold
back" on my comments so that I can see what you Students have to say to
each other first. And, as usual, I've been rewarded in that.
First, I admired your posting, "a tale for Suz" on May 20th, Douglas.
It seems to me you've really gotten to the very heart of the subject
we've been talking about in these recent weeks . . . neighbors, our
relationships with our neighbors, and how to know what to do, when to
help and when to not help, when to interfere or not interfere. How are
we to be guided in our relationships with our neighbors on a consistent
moral basis that we can understand?
In the way you pose the question, and in the answers you share, this may
be the best posting I've ever seen in Classroom Talk, so far. But,
apparently you are "in the dog house," because you say so, and, if so,
you are doing it to your self. You're not in any dog house in my
thinking. I have a job to do, which is to teach students here how to
catch on to mindfulness and then use it to study life with. I have to
diligently keep my eye on the ball in that regard, or I'd be absolutely
useless to you Students. You don't have to take that personally . . .
although I suppose some newcomers will.
I mustn't let my coaching become bogged down in intellectual
discussions, however lofty they may be, unless, at the same time I can
tie them in with the work that lies at hand: learning to catch on to
experiencing (as one does in the state of mindfulness) as a separate and
valuable way of understanding life in its own right. The purpose of
this class is not to have brilliant philosophical discussions (although
that's okay and sometimes interesting). It is to catch on that one
lives in "a realm of shadows," and that one can learn to step out of
that and into "a realm of light."
I'll get back to your "tale for Suz" posting in a minute. But first I'd
like to point out that Pauline's response on the "dust bunnies" to you
is an absolutely accurate teaching. Hi, Pauline. I'm very gratified
to see how much she has been learning in the ways she puts her remarks
there. First, she is aware of the fact that she doesn't know what you
mean. Then she describes what she does know, in her own experience.
What she means is obvious and apparent to me in every paragraph she
writes. I think nearly any mindfulness practitioner would be able to
relate with what she says. She isn't just repeating memorized concepts
(the intellectual method of public education), but is sharing what she
experiences in practicing mindfulness. This is a true teaching, tailor-
made for you, Douglas, as good as I could give.
In your position—which is NOT in any dog house!—the best way that you
might relate with Pauline's sharing here could be by saying to yourself:
"Hmmmm. Pauline and Coach understand each other here in terms of things
that they have each caught-on to. Whatever else may be so, I have not
yet caught on to what they mutually understand as obvious and apparent
To a mindfulness practitioner, in the direct experience of it, the
present moment *is* all that really exists (including the experience of
mental constructs such as any thinking that is going on). But until a
person learns how to practice mindfulness, there is no way that this can
be understood intellectually.
The exercise with the shadows in Kinderseeandhear isn't designed to send
you off looking for things in the shadows, although that's perfectly
okay, too. It is designed to show you that at any time, wherever you
are, right before your eyes, the shadows are always right there before
you. Yet usually, these shadows "go on" being completely ignored. This
is "one facet" of "being asleep." In the terminology of the training,
these ever-present and over-looked shadows are, themselves, one of the
many things that dwell "in the realm of shadows" for us, until we wake
up and get focused and notice that they are, simply, there. What these
kindergarten exercises are designed to show, collectively, is that the
whole world around us (and within us) is "in shadows." And we can
practice bringing categories of the realm of shadows into light—in this
case, the category being the existence of shadows themselves.
>When I began to explore the shadows . . . what I found was dirt . . . litter.
"Dirt," and "litter" are value judgments. That's thinking about it.
That's going beyond the parameters of this exercise, which is merely to
experience shadow as shadow, merely what you see of it, and dust-bunny
as merely what you *see* of it, without placing any judgments on it.
It doesn't "mean anything." It just is. Getting that judging intellect
out of the picture is what is called for here, so you can merely see
what you see. If you go along in kindergarten translating each of those
experiential exercises into value judgments like that, you will be
jumping beyond what the exercises are designed to show, and missing it
with each one of them.
>Moreover to just detach and simply observe these internal objects is not an easy thing to do
It's very difficult in "ordinary consciousness," almost impossible
except for a second or two. In mindfulness, this becomes easier and
easier with practice. You can just "ease into" watching it. The
kindergarten exercises are designed to coach you through some of these
observations, to make it easier for you in the beginning to see what
Incidentally, I prefer to be addressed in Classroom Talk as "coach," if
you don't mind. It's not to put on any airs, or call attention to
"rank." If you use "John," it may seem to imply that we are just
"hanging out together" and invite interesting and entertaining
"intellectual bullshit," as Fritz Perls once called it, in our
conversations. If you use "coach," it may serve as a reminder that the
only reason I am here is to constantly shift the focus from the
intellect to the awakened experiencing of the five senses.
If you are still thinking of "parting company," it may simply be that
this is not the course that you are interested in choosing to take. If
so, there won't be any hard feelings on my part, although I'll be
>"Teach us to care and not to care." T. S. Eliot
>How do we learn to mind our own business and just what is our own business anyway? I suppose that I am asking this more of myself than anyone who might happen to be reading this.
This is a key question—*the* moral question, the *ethical question*! It
is at the heart of all of these recent sharings about our relationships
with neighbors—Betsy's, Pauline's, hoodoosuz's, especially highlighted
with the Fate of that little girl. (Incidentally, suz, I'm glad you
have considered turning all that conscientious work you've put into your
place into an investment—on the path to finding another place that you
may like better. We're allowed to do that in our lives. It wouldn't
have been right for me to suggest it, yet, as you bring it up, it sounds
like an idea worth considering. I hope you found Douglas' sharing about
Basho and the little girl comforting and healing. I did, myself.)
How do we know whether we are supposed to help the other person, or how
to help the other person if we are going to help them? How can we know
in our hearts that what we choose is the "right" choice?
This is the highest question in the realm of the Player/Judge, the
epitome of wisdom, which is the Player's specialty. In our classes, I
have emphasized again and again that "I don't know" is "the warrior's
wisdom." Obviously being able to get out of thinking we know when we
don't really know is a gate. And there is also the other side of
wisdom, which is *knowing*.
Life throws us many enigmas. The quintessence of wisdom is in knowing
when the answer cannot be determined by ordinary reason and logic. This
is intuitive, rather than logical. The essence of wisdom is in knowing
when we don't know, when we can't know, yet *knowing* anyway. The
general answer I can give to this now is that in practicing mindfulness
one can be in touch with moments when one does know, intuitively, what
to do. It "feels right." It has a perceptible quality of rightness
Although logic suggests an unananswerable dilemma regarding the
abandoned child by the side of the river, Basho seems to have *known*
what to do as he went on by in his quest. It often happens for me that
even though I am baffled about the logic of it, if I practice being
mindful, the answer just comes to me in some form, and I *know* what to
do. It's an "aha!" I'm not suggesting any "infallibility" in this, of
course, but only refering to an experience that feels comfortable to me
and guides me, beyond the parameters of reason.
In the usual situation, the ordinary person being asleep all the time,
they can't avail themselves of such intuitive information. They are
caught arguing the logical considerations of the problem back and forth
in their thinking minds, and the answer may never come to them. If they
will switch over to their experiencing mind, the answers can just pop
up, in another form of knowing. And one can learn by experience in the
long run what kind of confidence one can place in answers of this kind.
I've found this kind of "intuitive insight" satisfactorily comforting
and useful over the years. The more that I grow in recognizing the ego
and personality parts that crop up in my thinking mind for what they
are, the more I grow in learning to trust my instincts of this kind.
>In our practice we learn to care with a full-hearted attention, a true caring for the moment. We also learn to let go.
Yes, Douglas! This expresses the intention of this class perfectly.
I'm aware of feeling very tired, suddenly, and I've got to get it
together later this morning to head out to work over the weekend.
Perhaps I'll catch a little nap, instead of cleaning up those dirty
dishes. See you kiddees later. Love y'all,
Archived 15 Jun 99