The concept of “being” first caught my attention when cousin Dan shared about this book he was reading, The Art of Being by Erich Fromm. To me, it illuminated the difference between basing our lives on “having”, on consuming, on doing, and rather being focused, or oriented towards being. The difference is monumentally significant and alters the way we greet the world.
More recently, psychiatrist and author Mark Epstein has been popping up around me. I was familiar with his book, Thoughts Without a Thinker, but hadn’t read it. Curious, but not enough.
Until sisbum told me about his new book, The Trauma of Everyday Life.
Going through therapy makes me super interested in the internal world and the personal experience that is uniquely ours. Upon researching his books, I found a copy of Going on Being at the nearest library!
I’m drawn to his psychotherapeutic approach that has Buddhist inspiration. Here’s an excerpt that really helped to untie the knots in my brain revolving the concept of self/no-self. Therapy is a digging deep into our past to heal our emotional wounds. How does this fit in with the concept of no-self? If there is no “self” to work with, are we grappling at ego when we do this? But how do we release the past without acknowledging it?
“I remember once trying to explain the Buddhist view of self to Isadore. In Buddhism, there is said to be no fixed, intrinsic identity; only a flow with no one behind it. Isadore had no problem with the Buddhist view. Gestalt therapy also sees the world as a flow; as a continual unfolding, a succession of meeting places at the contact-boundaries of experience. The “ego” is the individual vehicle for carrying out these meetings, but it has no intrinsic identity either. A healthy ego initiates, approaches, makes contact, and dissolves, only to begin the cycle again. A disturbed ego gets in its own way and interferes with healthy contact, perpetuating its own reality at the expense of the interaction. When I was having trouble speaking to Isadore directly, my ego was actually more active than when I learned to relate openly. In those circumstances where my ego did not dissolve, I was left with a sense of deficiency, having failed to accomplish the intimacy or relationship that I was naturally seeking. An ego that gets in its own way never gets to transparency; the result is a person contracted around his own sense of inadequacy. A positive sense of self emerges only when the ego allows itself to melt away.”
This was a Eureka moment for me in so many ways. It helped explain how we can have an ego and also how this comes and goes like waves on a beach. Nothing wrong with ego. It’s the clinging to it, clinging to this concept of ‘self’ that obscures us from forming authentic relationships.
Being over doing. Be there as a conscious, present energy, and this will be of most benefit to life. Otherwise we’re so clouded by our perceptions, our expectations, the past. How can we expect our relations to be free of clutter? How can we be free of the past? Free from our own mental constructs and mental prison?
I’ve temporarily concluded that we can observe our experiences like a check-out counter. We have all these things in our cart, and some we’ve hidden in our jacket and clothes. When we brush things under the carpet, ignore and deny, that’s what we’re doing. Smuggling things out of the store without paying.
So what can we do?
We can scan each item, each experience, through the thingamajig, process it through our consciousness, log it as something that happened, then let it go. Bag it, and be done with it. Don’t keep paying the price for it every day.
It’s the acknowledgement and awareness that can help heal… does this make sense?? it did in my head…
Thank you, Universe, for all the blessings and synchronicities. May I be of service to you.