Flexible Roots

Flexible Roots

While we may think of stability and flexibility as opposites, Chaos theory suggests both are required for a system to continue. Research has found that chaos often overlays a higher order. In fact, chaos itself is found to have order within it. The simple formula of fractals, for example, is found throughout nature.

Natural systems display random fluctuations arising from order. If something is too stable or if the randomness is suppressed, it becomes rigid. Tall buildings must be able to move with the wind and earth or they will collapse. Rigidity becomes inertia (tamas guna), then entropy (disorder) takes over.

This is also true bodily. For example, if you watch a family playing a game on the floor, the children will wiggle about while the adults sit still. The kids jump up quickly, the adults more and more stiffly with age.

Too much change makes us feel like a leaf, buffeted by the wind. So we need that stable inner base of being. But too much stillness leads to rigidity. Balance is the key.

This is true even of spiritual practices. Shiva the destroyer is associated with consciousness. While he is the destroyer of ignorance, an excess of ungrounded transcendence leads one to poor health and finances. The Vedic principle is dying the cloth – you dip the cloth in the dye (consciousness), then hang it out in the sun to bleach (activity). Repeat until the colour becomes fast. Too much dye, the fabric rots. Too much sun, the fabric also deteriorates.

We need a little chaos to stay stable and alive. Homeostasis isn’t control, it’s flexibility – balance in the face of change.

This is the dance of life. To find our stable roots within, then enjoy the adventure of constant change.

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  1. Tim

    A recent trip to a meditation mecca had me witnessing groups of older men who practice meditation all day every day but who appeared like homeless vagrants. After years of being connected to a meditation community, I have really come to understand that householders can’t afford to hide from the travails of this life, what Hamlet called, ” the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” We do so much better when we balance the inward and the outward realms of life.

    1. Exactly. If the drive to be in seclusion is an avoidance of the world, it is an avoidance of our spiritual journey and leads to tamas rather than sattva.

      The key is finding the way to be in the world and balance that with transcendence.

      I know of groups of men and women who have lived much of their lives as monks in remote places. Have they awakened? Mostly not.

  2. K

    One thing though is that things are not so much in one’s control that one can choose to transcend or not. For example, I grew up in chaotic circumstances and also had a less than optimal adult setting that I ended up inadvertently transcending (i.e. living in my head) and being a semi-recluse. So it is easy to say that one should balance groundedness and transcendence but unless the circumstances are available it is difficult to achieve balance. Similarly, some people may have extreme poverty and transcendence is not an option. So luck/chance/karma plays a role.

    1. Hi K
      That’s where we get into perspective. Managing our spiritual progress has almost nothing to do with a me. Transcendence is all about letting go where a me is all about wanting to control.

      What becomes apparent from a later perspective is that life circumstances are there to help us grow and often are a reflection of inner things needing to be seen or learned. The world stage is playing this out dramatically at the moment.

      We may feel a victim of circumstances but a higher value of ourselves is choosing that.

      I’d also note that living in the head is not what I mean by transcendence. It is a very common way of withdrawing (speaking from experience), but this is an aversion response. The transcendence I mean is samadhi, beyond the mind. Pure consciousness.

      Because this is a non-doing, it is not limited by circumstances. But it does require a pre-developed clarity or the support of others. While we might say the second is more likely in better circumstances, there is never a barrier to spirit.

      Karma is about the field of action and interplays there alone. Spiritual progress is cumulative and develops behind that and is not limited by that. While we may see it as luck, inner development has a momentum that will create circumstances for growth. This may not happen in ways we’d like or in our control. But it does very much happen. This is not luck but prior transcendence.

  3. K

    Nice clear explanation. Thanks. Here I was, thinking I was other-worldy/transcended because I was not engaging with the petty/gritty of life but living in my head! It is interesting that “spiritual progress develops behind karma and is not limited by it”. I feel intuitively that this is true but a little hard to fully wrap my head around. Because I thought spiritual development occurs through karma – karma yoga – or service to others – no? I am probably thinking too concretely about all this and it may not be so mechanical as I envision.

    1. Service and Karma Yoga are practices that culture a way of being in the world that is not grasping and ego driven. While in the field of action, they help step us beyond it.

      The trick is, we first must find the spiritual beyond the mind and body/ field of action. Once that is integrated, then we can find the spiritual in the world, in the field of karma. Then there is no difference.

      But it’s much too hard to disentangle from the world in the world. Easy if we go beyond it.

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