I did a call with my beloved dharmacampers just now on deciding to be happy, the nature of reality and the role that projection plays in sculpting reality (and our capacity to decide to be happy).
I wanted to post some of the quotes here that I read to them, and some of my thoughts.
What is projection?
One of our tasks in dharmacamp this week is to look at projection and the role that it is playing in our relationships, and our experience of our lives in general.
To what degree is there a reality at all? Or are we just making it up? Different traditions have different beliefs on this.
The Buddha said, famously, "the mind is the forerunner of all things."
In Classical Tantra, (Kashmir Shaivism), reality is never fixed, but arises moment-by-moment, in the space of relationship. Reality is co-created. It arises out of our collective projections, layered upon each other. Part of our work is to disentangle our own projections from those of others, while still remaining in grateful interconnectedness with the relationships and the tribe we choose.
Another tradition, Advaita Vedanta, believes very strongly that the reality that we call reality is actually maya, illusion, entirely scripted by projection.
Many modern spiritual teachers agree. Byron Katie wrote: “The power of the turnaround lies in the discovery that everything you think you see on the outside is really a projection of your own mind. Everything is a mirror image of your own thinking.”
You need to look deeply at this to determine where you fall on this debate. There is no one right answer. I tend to align with the Shaivites on this one.
Advaita Vedanta gets a lot of flack from other spiritual traditions about being so hard-line.
Notwithstanding, it is a powerful practice to experiment with the idea that everything you experience is sculpted by perception, and everything you perceive in your life is but a projection of your own unconscious mind, with all of its unresolved fears and dreams and motivations and hopes.
According to this view, your samskaras (habits) will dictate what you can see on the outside. The teaching, from Advaita, is to perceive this reality as if it were a dream, and to realize, in so doing, that we tend to see only what we want to see, and what we want to see is what feels familiar to see. Our conditioned mind wants to re-assert our view of the separate self that we feel comfortable with, and so we actually choose to behave in ways that will evoke the responses from the world that will affirm the self-image that feels familiar. Therefore, we choose the partners who will re-create in us the feeling states that are familiar, the jobs that will reinforce our self image, etc.
It's HARD to do anything about unconscious samskaras and projections. We try to set "sankalpas" -- intentions, and the unconscious fights back, and we find ourselves back on the gridlocked wheel of karma, in the thick of our own pain/fear/anger/irritability again, just wishing it would go away on it's own. Taking any pill we think will numb it out, even if only for a day.
This is either totally meaningless, or totally tragic, or totally lame. If you view it from the perspective that everything is perfect and the universe it unfolding as it should (my usual go-to) then it's totally meaningless, and people will wake up when they are ready and the time is right. IF the trauma is too steep, and the willingness has not ripened, then the pain will go on and be revisited upon the heirs. This is tragic, especially given how precarious this beautiful planet is, along with our stay upon it. But sometimes it's just LAME! Because some of us are primed for re-writing our scripts, we've received the teachings, we've seen the light, we've begun to wake up -- and then we go back to sleep.
TAMAS - according to yoga -- laziness, sloth, terpitude -- tugs at all of our lives, and some of us need to just light a little fire beneath our own asses and do a bit more work. Some of us need a kick in the pants. Because the truth is, humans are totally capable of re-writing the karmic scripts of our lives. And it's questionable if we can do anything else positive with our lives if we haven't done this work. If you want to do a little work today, and move the needle of life towards bad-assery and away from drift towards karmic, entropic unconsciousness, then read on!
It's perfectly easy to set intentions.
But it won't work unless you set yourself to the task of actively adoring the parts of yourself that kick and scream in opposition. When all parts of the self receive our respect and compassion, a deeper integration occurs, and we are free to then step forward into our lives with mindful intentionality.
A question, from Krishnamurti:
How do you listen? Do you listen with your projections, through your projection, through your ambitions, desires, fears, anxieties, through hearing only what you want to hear, only what will be satisfactory, what will gratify, what will give comfort, what will for the moment alleviate your suffering? If you listen through the screen of your desires, then you obviously listen to your own voice; you are listening to your own desires. And is there any other form of listening? Is it not important to find out how to listen not only to what is being said but to everything -to the noise in the streets, to the chatter of birds, to the noise of the tramcar, to the restless sea, to the voice of your husband, to your wife, to your friends, to the cry of a baby? Listening has importance only when one is not projecting one's own desires through which one listens. Can one put aside all these screens through which we listen, and really listen?
- J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
An exercise for allowing the unconscious a little bit of space to roam:
In order to understand anything about projection, we need to have insight into what’s happening in the unconscious. That’s what meditation is for. Additionally, CREATIVITY, creative expression, is also an insanely effective way to uncover what is happening at the level of the unconscious.
If we create a space where we are unhooked from our normal routine, and we are not clinging to our conscious vision, we are neither in the unconscious nor in the conscious, but in a liminal space, a space between those realms, and therefore the unconscious is more accessible.
"Inviting in the Unconscious" Assignment:
Do something creative. Write in your journal, or make a piece of art, or a poem, or a song, or sculpture, or a dance, where you simply set an intention to let what is unconscious come to the surface. Do it in private, for yourself. Release the logical mind. Observe what happens.
do not fret about the form/aesthetics/craftmanship of the art or dance, the grammar/style of the writing, or the musicality of the song.
Use the art to let go, to express, and to release. Observe any patterns/symbols that arise. Don't struggle to make sense of it all. If something makes sense, great. Don't use force. It can take time.
Explore (in private, without making a big fuss about it) what the unconscious revealed, and the role it, through projection, might play in your life.
And then relax, and watch what unfolds! Drink some water, and expect the universe to behave a little differently!