“When I was born, I donned a spacesuit for living on this plane. It was this body. And you learn how to use your spacesuit - and you get really good at it. You get so good at using your spacesuit that you can’t differentiate yourself from your spacesuit anymore. And everybody comes up and says, “What a nice suit”. And you’re constantly looking into others people’s eyes to find out if you’re really wearing a nice suit. It’s what I call Somebody Training.” Ram Dass
We’re all wearing the most amazing suits. They can see, taste, smell, touch, feel, and hear. What a sublime joy, for no reason at all, we’ve been gifted this experience. Yet, sometimes this joy turns into a burden - it becomes a game of Me against the World. This is because we wear another suit - what Francisco Varela and colleagues call the abstract attitude.
“This abstract attitude is the spacesuit, the padding of habits and preconceptions, the armour with which one habitually distances oneself from one’s experience”
This suit is just as useful as the first, and in fact, they are one and the same. Yet, as Ram Dass wrote, we easily forget who we really are. We lose ourselves in the suit, in the abstract experience of being a Self.
“We are not our thoughts; our thoughts are artificial creations. So we can think anything. It can be reasonable or totally insane or whatever, but thinking is an artifice that we tend to identify with, intimate ourselves with, and we let our thoughts control us.” – Ajahn Sumedho
In the same way that the astronaut’s spacesuit protects them from the environment, and doesn’t let anything in - so it is with our suits. We are forever an inch away from reality - forever perceiving it from the distant and contracted lens of the personality. We let thoughts mediate our every interaction - forgetting that it doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine if Neil Armstrong continued to wear his suit on Earth?
"If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death." - Pablo Neruda
What happens when you put your storyline aside, put your struggling aside, and put your pride aside? Then you can finally listen! You can hear what the world is telling you, or rather, what you are telling yourself. The illusion of separation is persevered only when you’re wearing the spacesuit.
“The universe looks more and more like a great thought rather than a great machine.” - Sir James Jeans
Is this process as dualistic, cold, and disconnected as your mind often suggests? Paul Dirac, one of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century, thinks otherwise.
“Pick a flower on Earth, and you move the farthest star”
This interconnection is clear only when you come up for air, only when you remember that your spacesuit is incredibly useful and beautiful - but that you can take it off and breathe! It is only then, that you fall in love with the world again. It is only then, that you meet your lover. But as Rumi so perfectly writes:
“True lovers never really meet. Love is the dissolution of the sense of separation”
Take off your suit sometimes.
It is as it is.
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My newest blog post on the Buddhist concept of Suchness
The first quotation is from a brilliant movie about the life of Ram Dass called Becoming Nobody.
A beautiful reading of Rumi’s poetry
Music to read to