“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society… Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that they are indeed separate! Society as we now know it is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules.”
This book by Alan Watts is delicious and very much illuminates some of the concepts we’ve been contemplating(see below for a short Alan Watts video). It made me wonder about Aprigraha again. How often do I think I have original words when they are the words I heard or saw, even through a peripheral sense? How can I listen so that I honor the words and thoughts of others? How in a world that often values certain voices over others do I create practices of listening to a more diverse group of voices?
It made me consider the cultural ritual of asking someone, ‘What do you do?’ And in response we answer with ‘I am… ’ I’ll admit I had one of the light bulb moments about how this ritual forces us to define our self as ‘the doer’. I could almost hear Professor Rambachan"s voice (from our Sunday night Philosophy Watch Party) say with a giggle, ‘We are not the phone, we know we are not the cow, but what about the body –are we the body?… And the poem says I am, not that. I am, Atma, pure conciousness existing all the time .
I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self. I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (i.e. the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.
Since we chatted about using gender inclusive language during Yoga Teacher Training, I’ve been churning this idea of how words make shapes in our brain. It’s such a clear example of how language shapes what we see & what a fun challenge it can be to shift our language. This question of What do you do? is intended to initiate connection between two people and yet causes separation. If we find different words could it create connection and inclusion rather than separation?