We’ve discovered that the universe is not a place; it’s a story, a story of an irreversible sequence of emergent events. For a long time we thought that the universe was an established realm that had its major creativity happening only at the beginning of time. We now understand that the universe is an ongoing creative event. Stars came forth, galaxies came forth, planets have emerged, life burst into existence. This power of emergence could also be called ongoing creativity. In some ways, it’s the greatest discovery in the history of the human sciences—that the universe as a whole, and each being within it, is permeated with the power of emergence. Brian Swimm, Cosmologist
Each of us is a pioneer on the frontiers of human emergence. Fully alive, we accept our pioneering role in the universe, even though we can never understand it completely and even though many of the people around us don’t seem to be pursuing this incredible, exciting, and daunting assignment.
How can we tap into our own power of emergence, move toward our great potential, and live a vibrant life of joy and practical advantage? Swimm gives us an encouraging tip when he tells us that emergence in the universe is always given the energy it needs. Further, he says, anything that blocks emergence is destroyed. If we are “permeated with the power of emergence,” then we will be given the energy we need, unless we resist our own emergence—obviously a dangerous thing to do.
Poise Is the Price of Admission on the Frontier
To be a pioneer on the frontiers of human emergence requires poise. Poise is our highest state or consciousness, so “The student’s goal is poise,” as Florence Shinn says in her classic book, The Game of Life and How to Play It. Poised, we are properly humble and alert, like any sane warrior facing the unknown. Poised, we must be present, connected, grateful, creative, and lighthearted. Poised, we leave the safety of the ordinary life and its many complaints and limitations for a life of vibrant joy and practical advantage.
Head for the Trouble
So, how to tell what wants to emerge within ourselves? How can we find where our greatest potential lies? What needs changing? What must we learn in order to emerge? What path must we take? It’s really pretty easy to find the answer to what wants to emerge: go straight to the trouble, the people and situations in our life that we reject.
Hopefully, the list of people and life situations that we reject is a relatively short one at this point, but we need to know what is on the list. Make the list now.
- Who disturbs you? Name the individuals or groups and describe what it is about them that you reject. Who haven’t you forgiven?
- What situations disturb you? List them and identify what you are rejecting in these situations.
- What are the triggers for your anger, irritation and impatience?
- What can make you unhappy? Is there anything that can throw you into a funk or even depression?
- What are you afraid of? What do you avoid, even though there is no imminent danger?
- What outside yourself would you like to eliminate from life? What about life seems imperfect to you?
Self-pity Blocks Emergence
Now you know what makes you feel sorry for yourself currently. We can’t emerge as long as we feel sorry for ourselves. The pattern of self-pity goes like this:
- I have a strong visceral reaction to someone or something, a feeling of anger, irritation, and impatience. I suffer.
- I feel sorry for myself. I reject what is happening. My self-importance is pricked. My ego cries out in anguish.
- I create a victim story to explain my suffering. Someone or something is doing something to me. Of course I feel bad, I assert: who wouldn’t feel bad when outside forces assail them unfairly!
- I seek support and rescuing. I tell my victim story to people who will agree that I have been mistreated by life.
- I obsess, roiling the problem over and over, rehearsing what I might do in response, maybe even plotting revenge, but at least imagining that justice will be done and my tyrants punished.
This universal pattern saddles us with a bad explanation for what is going on and keeps us stuck. Now we circle in an eddy, with the feeling that we are going somewhere, but actually just going round and round. We lose our poise with regularity whenever the rejected elements of our life appear again, all too predictably.
Embracing What We Reject
The great teacher, Krishnamurti, said that the secret to his life was that he didn’t mind what happened. Many people will find this attitude maddeningly passive or morally obtuse. But Krishnamurti was a poised soul who said yes to life, no matter what it presented to him. Not minding what happens is the path of emergence.
Ram Dass put it this way:
We now recognize that if there is anything at all that can bring us down—anything—our house is built upon sand and there is fear….Thus we become motivated to confront the places in ourselves that bring us down—not only to confront them, but also to create situations in which to bring them forth. Ram Dass with Stephen Levine, Grist for the Mill
Real learning takes the heart of a lion, and its challenges cannot be glossed over. We won’t find this path to emergence intuitively correct at times. We want to avoid the dark places in ourselves. We want to move away from suffering, and we may be convinced that avoiding pain is the sanest reaction to challenges. Once we understand, however, that our emergence and its vast rewards will result when we turn to our discomfort, we will be more and more willing to do what is required.
Our suffering is our potential trying to get our attention. Once we turn to face it and embrace it, the great adventure of emergence is underway.
Note: This was the first post on The Poised Life blog nearly five years ago. I’ve revised it a bit and post it again to remind us about our exciting role in the emerging universe and the consciousness that we must develop if we are to play our part fully. Gary