Practice with others, no teacher. What I'm doing.
I sense, again and again, that practice brings together three streams, known variously as:
The Truth—The Way—The Life,
The first–some kind of God-energy, a sovereign Spirit–is what we map on to the person in the teacher or therapist role. Easily. But where do you source a sense of consciousness… a seer… the receptacle of all-knowing… when there is no teacher to fill the space?
Right now we are insourcing the seer. Going without a teacher is incredibly sweet, everyone tapping self-reliance they’d forgotten is there, strengthening it, and in the weaker moments keeping it together for the team if not oneself. Sometimes it’s easier to stay on target if you feel you’re doing it for the benefit of others. Some people who have less understanding of the practice don’t even show up to join us because there’s no teacher to care for them, and that’s actually a benfit to us.
Everything is stiller than ever. The energy is not even that of witness-cultivation (which you seen in the quieter practitioners in a sort of chatty room) so much as just being there and letting it be enough. Of dropping the flight away from it just being exactly like this, and finding joy in the thisness. Without a teacher but with high stakes conspiration and strong fidelity to a taken-for-granted method, the possibility of nondual states in practice seems much more obvious to me. This can be easy, with simple strong support.
Afterwards, the other day, I remembered the bitter existentialist line from Saramago…
How often have we shown ourselves as we really are, and yet we need not have bothered, there was no one there to notice…
Ah the resentment of the baby atheist, the anger of the lonely young post-Christian! Poor child, realizing your own end-in-yourself. We in the room are so over it.
That said, it never hurts to throw a security camera up in the rafters even when it’s not rolling tape. There’s some part of us together that turns on even to the imagined dialogue with some vaguely-felt seer in the machine. A dialogue that wants to collapse in to mutual participation, and does so more easily because the fact that the camera (or statue, or photograph) is lifeless is perfectly known and no kind of secret.
The hanging SKPJ on the wall and lighting the candles to Ganesha. So here we are surface-level atheists, post-projectionists; but there’s still an ongoing participation in that which cannot be discussed. And some part of experience that lights up even in deeper in theta state if the unspeakable is mirrored back in ritual. Let the ineffable try to take form as photo or statue or security camera—it’s always a lost cause but the incompleteness of trying still creates a resonance, makes us all a little stiller, sometimes even makes it feel that we’re held by something. In a suspension. Weirdly ambulant in time and space by the grace of whatever.
I had forgotten about that for some years, during bitter post-Christian teenagerdom and the activist and grad school years of seeing it all as just atoms and the void. It’s nice to recover the security blanket. Even if now it’s just a tiny thread not backed by anything at all, it still feels warm.
One of the least ritualist, most self-reliant, among us is Lily, a clockwork-methodical practitioner who has her "own interpretation of practice.” She has no interest in some larger subculture around ashtanga, in anything at all religious or philosophical, and no need to participate in owl-typical what’s-it-all-about inquiries. The other morning as we began and found SKPJ out of order she stamped a foot ruefully and said,
Listen I don’t care if it’s a pain in the ass to put it up I’ve got to have the damn picture. I can’t do it without the picture.
Brilliant. She cracked me up.