“As our practice progresses, we develop a growing capacity to experience what many spiritual traditions call the Witness, or the Transcendent Witness. What this means is that we are able to watch ourselves from outside ourselves; instead of being lost in our traumas from the past, our conditionings, and our old dysfunctional stories, we can actually observe them from the outside. When this happens, we begin to understand that, if we can observe ourselves, or what we thought was ourselves, from outside of ourselves, then what we are must truly be greater than we formally believed we were. Over time, this witnessing happens more and more frequently, both when we are meditating and when we are not meditating.”
These are John Dupuy’s words on the power of cultivating a multi-perspectival experience that includes the spiritual and ethical “lines.” I have been extremely grateful to have found his book, Integral Recovery. As most of my readers know I have been immersed in a journey of personal recovery for almost three years now. Dupey’s work brings together two worlds that have remained separate for me for some time: recovery and integral scholarship.
I am extremely and increasingly attracted to meditation. I am practicing it. When I read Dupuy’s description of the ‘transcendent witness’ it struck in me a familiar resonance. I know this experience… this place of unobstructed equanimity and non-judgment. At once you meet the absolute gift and touch the extension of your potential toward extraordinary limits… and then the transcendence fades, the witness returns and you relapse into ordinary experience.
This is the practice.
The power of baring Witness to yourself, your comings and goings, the seemingly mundane tasks of living, opens the doors to a scenic perception of conscious creativity. It gives time a unique advantage. Holding your actions a moment further in full intuitive skill allows grace the avenue it needs to arrive. Children begin to find you. Those with a deep longing to be sensed are attracted to your presence – a presence of space and time. Witness… God is a verb, an action to be lived.
I was just having a conversation with a man about running for politics in Chattanooga. He impressed upon me a thought that has been recurring: I am old enough to run for office. It was inspiring to speak with him as he reminded me that I am gifted. I have the ability bridge worlds, to live between them and affirm both even as they occupy divergent motives and beliefs because they are different cultures. For instance, I call, both San Francisco, CA and Chattanooga, TN, my home. Most would say that the culture of San Francisco and the culture of Chattanooga have little in common, but I find the differences to be extremely creative. My experience is that creativity is forged not only from partnerships but also from antagonisms. During our conversation I used the term – cultural ambassador – to define myself. I’m not paid very well…yet.
This, ‘being between worlds’ has been at the center of my academic career. I have always sought the dialogue between religion and science, between the post-modern and the metaphysical. As I think of it still, this tendency flows farther back into my experience. I have always been both my mother and father. I have borne witness to their strengths and weaknesses lived out in my experience. Their divorce at an early age defined the character of a struggle that in no small part has designed my life – whether to stay or go? I’ve responded to this question by demanding both, thus forged my deep commitment in being/becoming something unifying, especially where to unify seems like an impossible task as it so often is during divorce.
My graduate school experience was one of the most significant processes of my attempting to bridge the impossibly distant. The ‘character’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘karma’ or ‘complex’ (a word feels inadequate) between my role as a son for my parents and as a student for my programs felt the same. I had cultivated a deep relationship between two programs of study that never found the space to listen, dialogue, and learn from each other. I was the stranger going between, affirming both and still I had little to say over the collapse of one of the programs – the incarnated, projected, and representational mother in my story.
I’m grasping at my gifts in the present. It is clear I’ve stepped into some new form. Whatever gifts I have they flow from the heart of recovery and it’s complex-integral character. Recovery has been fulfilling the very hope my youthful Christianity sought to educate. My personal struggle with healing and the path that led to my sobriety has been the most creative experience of my life, and it was/still is like bridging worlds between sane and normal, crazy and inspired, isolated and together, apathetic and motivated, dark and light – a hero’s journey for the contemporary subject.
My power is staged as another character. Outside of my script, there is a life available to me, and I prayerfully seek that life. It is said that our scars make us beautiful and give opportunity for the light to shine through. The outstanding aporia between all that constitutes this self and the magnetic hope that pulls me toward some broken potential is God’s impossibility. I give it up in an admission of powerlessness and fate.