Tuesday, June 15

Mindful Monday: Inhabiting the Freakspace

From Mary Rose O'Reilley's The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd (2001):

"Diane Arbus, famous for her photographs of 'freaks,' said, 'Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way, but they come out looking another way, and that's what people observe. You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw... Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way, but there's a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can't help people knowing about you.'

"That freakpoint, of course, was what Arbus tried to photograph. It's also the point that meditation practice brings to attention: the rift in the personality, the fault line. Many people try out meditation as a way of relaxing, then discover that sitting quietly brings up anxiety, buried anger, or mere sleepiness. One may flee a meditation practice that seems to stir up a nest of hornets. But to meditate well is not to enter an altered state of blissful repose: rather, it is simple observation of what is. That's why, in the long run, paradoxically, it's relaxing. It teaches us to sit quietly with fear or depression or elation or whatever inhabits from moment to moment the freakspace....

"Living in contemporary culture forces us to take on layers and layers of false personality. Mirrors are everywhere, and we learn to be always posing. We grow a kind of shell or carapace over the real person in order to go out and find jobs or mates... This process of growing a false skin is so universal and unavoidable that I think it must serve some developmental purpose. Fortunately, another natural process is also at work: at the same time as false persona grows, false persona erodes. The nature of the carapace is to dissolve and set the spirit free, over the course of a good long life. Meditation helps us to move with this natural process rather than against it. We have such a strong instinct to hold on to false identity. We spend so much money, after all, buying those clothes, that education." pp. 299-300.

What are you noticing about the growth and erosion of the false persona in your meditation practice?


for Mindful Monday


© April 13, 2015, post: Donna Pierce
Photo Credit: "Faces," Jan Jaromír Horák, 2015

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