The Ball of Yarn
In case you havenít noticed, I love analogies. Hereís one I have found myself using to describe the horror of directly encountering the tangled morass of your own Being which has resulted from a lifetime of conditioning.
When newly born, we face a bewildering set of experiences, some of which bring pain, others pleasure. It seems to me that we are genetically predisposed to preferring pleasure (see my essay Nirvana), and for good evolutionary reasons. In our attempts to experience pleasure (and to avoid pain), we encounter resistance from others and from the world. Because we donít yet understand that we are separate beings, having been ejected from motherís womb, any resistance feels, on some level, shocking. How could, or why would, anybody or anything stop me from getting what I want or need? Another form of the question might be: How could there be anything but ME? The mere encounter with any form of resistance to our personal will signals that there is something out there that is definitely separate and inexplicably alien to our sense of self.
Now the fun starts. Instead of informing us that we are paradoxical beings who are simultaneously separate and inseparable, our parents tended to signal to us that we are merely separate. Or that we are physically separate, but emotionally connected. At least sort of, sometimes. Perhaps they signaled that we are their own flesh and blood, but not if we did something wrong. We received hundreds, thousands, millions of communications, both subtle and gross, that conflicted with our own feeling-sense of reality. Each time this happened, we were faced with a very difficult choice: my truth or theirs? Their truth was usually presented in a manner that forced this my-truth-or-yours split, because it was stated as absolute truth, not offered in mutuality (see my essay Mutuality). Because we were helpless animals who desperately needed the approval and nurturance of our parents, the price to pay for standing in our own truth wasóor felt likeódeath (see The Lunar Module Analogy). And so we began to adapt, to adjust to otherís truths. Because we humans are amazingly adaptable, we grew up taking on otherís truths, sometimes even forgetting that we have our own truth, our separate existence that innocently challenges othersí realities merely by being different.
Each time our own truth is denied, or we gloss over a conflict, or we accept anotherís truth in violation of our own, a knot is tied in the continuum of our own Being. Itís like a knot youíd tie on a finger to remind you of something. Itís an unconscious self-reminder to come back to that place and reexamine it when you can, when you are more capable, when you are more healed. To reclaim your own truth and stand in it, when you donít feel quite so threatened. When you donít feel like thereís a gun at your head, and you can make your own assessment of what happened instead of feeling forced to accept anotherís. Itís a reminder to find yourself again there, in that place, in that wound.
Years and decades later, you feel like your whole being is tied up in knots. And it IS. Like a ball of yarn thatís been in the bottom of the knitting basket for years, patiently waiting to be patiently untied. Waiting for someone to even notice that itís there. Sometimes its presence looms large, and the prospect of untying it seems daunting, impossibleóa task far too great to accomplish under any circumstances, in any lifetime. Sometimes we donít even notice it; weíve denied itís existence for so long that itís like an old dump thatís been paved over and nice white lines have been painted on its surface to look organized and well-adjusted (look for my upcoming essay, The Parking Lot Analogy).
The layers and complexities of these knots is truly awesome to behold. Anyone who has engaged in any significant form of self examination or self improvement knows this. When you start to fall into the morass of it all, there is an instinctive recoil. The fear, the self-betrayal, the denial of all that is sacred, the yearning, the painóyour entire existence is tied up in that ball. How could you even dare to enter such a place? Itís all too scary, too repulsive, too painful, and too endless to even consider. Which isnít to say that you havenít considered it, or that you havenít courageously spent even years or decades going there. But is that ball of yarn untangled? Some of it, sure. But the mass of it? Have you given up on the possibility that itís even possible? Or have you not yet given up, but perhaps are despairing of the possibility of a REAL, fundamental healing?
Here is my truth about this, based on my experience: Such a healing IS possible. But not by hypermasculine means (if you havenít already, please read Sanielís book Waking Down to understand what he means by that word). It is accomplished through a three-pronged approach, which, taken together, are like three prongs on a key that, when turned in the rusty old lock, actually opens it. What are the three prongs? Transmission, information, and mutual relationship. I will elaborate on these in another essay, but, to boil it all down, it means permission. Permission to be ALL of who you are. Permission to be all of the beautiful and weird animal you are, permission to realize your own divinity, and permission to be divinely human in relationship with others.
Once you have been blessed with encountering such permission, such as through reading my or Sanielís essays or by finding yourself in our midst, something amazing starts to happen at the very Heart of your Being. First, you begin to tentatively permit yourself to feel enlivened. To the seasoned spiritual seeker, this is scary, because it exposes you one more time to the hope that the long-sought awakening might actually be realized in this life. Since this hope has been cruelly dashed innumerable times, it pushes some big buttons merely to encounter the possibility again. And yet, if this Waking Down process is happening for you, the fear of failure does not stop you.
As your confidence in your own awakening Being becomes increasingly solid, you find yourself suddenly able to face directly into the difficult places that were previously (even in the most amazing seminars) too scary to encounter. You find yourself taking a deep breath, and actually diving back into the great ball of yarn again. But this time itís different. Instead of having one side of your Being trying to work on another part (and from a distance), you find yourself mysteriously dropping into each knot more and more spontaneously, and without the inner split that was driving you before. Now, you simply find yourself seeing the next knot, recognizing what youíre seeing, feeling it, and permitting yourself to BE it. And by being it, it unravels itself.
After some months of this process, you will probably begin to wonder: 1) is there any difference between this and therapy?, 2) is there really an end to all of this?, and/or, 3) is this worth it? First, there is a huge difference between Waking Down and traditional therapy: Transmission. The transmission of realized, embodied Being has a magical effect on aspirants in the Waking Down process. It creates a context for the whole Being to fall out of the hypermasculine way to life, and to drop into increasing wholeness. In the context of transmission, the investigation of each knot in your Being brings about an integrated healing that permits each knot to be permanently untied.
Regarding the second two questions, I can say by extrapolating from my experience that there does indeed appear to be a fundamental end to this untangling process. The tangled ball of yarn is finite. Is it worth it? Well, I personally wouldnít miss this for the world. Itís frequently not a whole lot of fun, but it is real. And the healing I have found so far is well worth the price Iíve paid with the discomfort of dealing with my own dark side.
However, at the end of the task (and even along the way), there is a nasty surprise. The more you untangle your own ball of yarn, the more you start to notice that the treads of your own Being are none other than those of your friends. And of the world. And of all worlds. In other words, the task of untying the Universal Ball of Yarn has just begun. But heck, what else did you have on your schedule for the next ten million years?
© 1999 Ted Nathan Strauss