In Search of the Sacred
Christine Norstrand , International Viewpoints Vol 34
A focus on the sacredness in everyday life is not usually a part of professional practice. Our session actions follow a set program of actions that we must accomplish on the bridge that never ends. Results are incremental but sometimes we are in such a hurry to get where we are going that we miss where we’ve been along the way. In a very real sense, we have escaped the tyranny of the past into the future.
In our last column, we made the point that objectives* have fallen on hard times. We see that this is true even though BOPs (basic objective processes) have been traditionally viewed as "reality" processes, processes that will pull a viewer out of her other-worldly significance and so make her more able to create effects and achieve her present goals. She becomes an ever better creator of futures, potential and actual.
Objectives help us in our passion to create futures. Why then, knowing this, are objectives considered to fall somewhere on the boring-to-torturous scale? Is our daily life so unconfrontable and meaninglessly repetitious? Can we bear no more repetition for even a short period of time?
In creating futures, we are creating experiences for ourselves and others. In choosing to experience those creations, we decide to be the effect of them down the road. Yet when they are realized, if we are unwilling to be the effect of our own creations, we do not feel the experiences we have created, running on to yet another game, another identity, another future. Having "had" no experiences, life seems empty, meaningless, without passion. Imagine always cooking dinners and never getting to sit down and enjoy a meal with the people you are about. Yet this is what all too often happens, we prepare the dinner and instead of enjoying the experience, we focus on what we’re going to make tomorrow, always on the go, never stopping.
We have the goal to cause and then to be the effect of that cause. On the one hand, like Hercules, we gather our strength, develop extensive plans, and apply ever effort to realize the effects that we envision. We go about actualizing our achieveness in a linear, focused way. This is wonderful! We bring secrets into the light, we make what is hidden revealed. We persist until we understanding everything we can about a situation. One goal follows another, each with its own game and set of agreements and rules. We ride the cosmic merry-go-round.
The effect side of our goals are often unacknowledged, getting pushed aside in our analytical strivings. Our actual wants are two-fold: We want to achieve the goal and also, to *feel* the experience we have created. That feeling of the experience reflects a non-linear, non-analytical desire, a desire for "sacredness" in our experience. *When an experience is sacred, it is only what it is and yet all of what it is, an awareness of eternity and infinity held in the container of a specific act or situation.*
A search for sacredness, for experiencing the sacred in daily activities and objects, has not been a consideration in our practical, engineering-oriented counseling practices. In such an orientation, happiness is defined as overcoming barriers and attaining goals. Experiencing that which we have at the end of that attainment has not factored into the algorithm.
A Bit of Tea
As I write this column, I have beside me a mug of chamomile tea. I found a teabag in the cupboard, dropped it in the mug, added tapwater, and microwaved it for forty seconds. No elaborate Japanese tea ritual, no symbols evident. Yet as I focus on the present mug of tea, its personal and our collective history are also present. I know, without leaving the present to consider it, that the mug was a gift from my friend Daryl when I moved to Arizona, a friend I parted ways with more than a decade ago over theological issues. I know that chamomile grows wild in parts of the California chaparral and in the south of France in the summer. The mug of tea becomes all of what it is and only what it is in a numinous** way: the aroma chamomile is more delicate, the warmth of the mug against my fingers is more comforting, pleasant memories are evoked but not focused upon. I experience what is present and what is not. The experience becomes more real -- it becomes sacred.
Goodness and badness are alike considerations. Our decisions to avoid or deaden our response to those experiences that we abhor also blankets all of our experiences, both wanted and unwanted. Resurrecting that awareness of experiences brings the unwanted to view, as well as the images and experiences we long for. We must have and feel the intensity, if only for a moment, of the experiences we dread. Even those moments are sacred, once we have resolved our resistance to them. We find that we must be here, where we are with the effects which we have created, before we can move on.
Early on, we run BOPs that deal with a viewer’s ability to focus her attention of the physical nature of what is present. "Look at that mug." "Touch that mug." "Find the chair." We discussed the various undercut objectives the last time I wrote this column. From these undercut processes, our viwer learns that she can control her attention, focusing it where she will by reason of her own decision. She is in the present. and ready for a more advanced set of objective processes.
Now we invite her to span attention. We ask her to focus her attention on one object, then another just like it. Soon she is able to focus her attention on sets of like objects, adding additional objects at each pass. She realizes she can span attention between members of a set of similar objects, such as matches. She may get a sense of being "bigger" or have an out-of-body experience.
Next we ask her to examine dissimilar objects, such as the objects in the room. "Put your attention on the lamp." "Now put your attention on the lamp and the coffee table." "Now put your attention on the the cofee table and the rug." And so on, until she can span attention as well as focus it on and among all the items in the room.
Can’t Confront "Nothing"
It’s not just bad English. One of the difficulties our viewer has had is that she "can’t confront nothing". Nothing is a black hole that terrifies her and draws her attention. To the extent that she considers "herself" an object, there is no second pole for her to discharge against, and charge builds up when she attempts to look at "nothing". She feels she must do something about this "nothing".
So when we move to these slightly more advanced objects, we first off identify this "nothing" by its own character. Our viewer has been thinking of it as merely the negative of something she’s had her attention on. She hears a sound and her attention focuses on the sound. The silence that surrounds the sound doesn’t exist, it is a "nothing". Magically, we make "something" of "nothing" so there is not a choice between a "sound" and "no sound", rather "no sound" is now acknowledged by its own quality: silence. "Listen to the ticking of the ticking of the clock." "Put your attention on the silence in the room." "Look at the vase of flowers." "Put your attention on the free space in the room." As she assumes a viewpoint exterior to the two poles of something / nothing, she no longer has to provide the second pole for the focus of her fixated attention to discharge against. The two poles discharge against each other and she is free.
Two Faces of the Goddess
The sacredness of the present experience forms a complement to the vitality and causativeness of objectives. It is a different manifestation of what is divine in your viewer. She recovers her godlike abilities to create, to focus, to set and realize goals. These we know to be true, they are the enticement to a being actively avoiding unwanted experiences and experiences of "nothing" by actively working toward her goals. At the same time, she also experiences the manifestation of the sacred in the spaces of the present experience. She is more able to feel the experiences she has created for herself. She is able to span here and there, at the same time. She holds, in one moment, both godlike creative power and the sacred experience of her own creation.
*Objectives (BOPs) are a series of orientation processes that invite a viewer to get in communication with and focus attention her present environment.
**Ant has asked me to define this word. It comes from "numen", a presiding spirit or guardian deity in Roman mythology. Here we are talking about indwelling guiding force or spirit that helps us that is both transcends our everyday experience and yet manifests itself in it.