Self Setting Aside Self

A non-trivial aspect of my spiritual practice – that is rooted in A Course in Miracles but diverges in thoughtful applied ways – is to set gently aside questions of mystery in favor of engagement with what appears, or what seems to be, the case.

mucking the pasture
not me – but Fionnghuala – mucking the pasture . . .

That is, when I am mucking the horse pasture, or clearing trails in the forest, or baking bread, I am less concerned with the abstract nature of the self – the light of pure awareness, say, or Consciousness (with a capital C) – and more with how that self is experiencing its self right now.

In doing so, the spiritual mystery of the self, its nature, its origins, et cetera – naturally dissolve. It is as if – and may, in fact, be that – love is content with the subject/object divide, so long as it is allowed to rest gently and non-confrontationally in the apparent division.

Also in doing this, I am engaging in a sort of bastardized Husserlian bracketing. I am giving attention to what is given, rather than struggling mentally (or psychologically or intellectually) to understand what is given. Again, it is my experience – my thesis, as it were – that love understands itself in the context in which it appears. So the bracketing – which intends to set aside complex questions of self which have riddled western history and thinking for millenia – becomes a way of knowing. It is as if the questions that were bracketed return or – even better – never left.

horses and fly masks
it’s fly mask season . . .

What does this look like – or how is it enacted – in my living?

Say that I am mucking the horse pasture. I give attention to the task which includes both physical and mental elements:

– noticing where the manure is;
– forking it into the wheelbarrow;
– eyeballing the horses eyeballing me;
– noticing the birds, butterflies, and insects;
– noticing the flowers and grass;
– hydrating if necessary;
– not rushing and not slacking and not hurting my body;
– dumping manure in the proper compost pile (they are divided     according to time of year and length of time spent composting);
– stirring the pile if and as necessary;
– putting the tools away

This is a lot to do! And, of course, it all sort of arises in an apparently singular welter. There is the work and there is the way my body handles it. There is the environment and the way in which attention reveals it – the more attention given, the more there is to attend. There is the overarching context of loving these very horses and wanting their living to be clean and pleasing and safe. There is the comfort and diligence in composting manure to enrich our gardens and allow us to barter with neighbors, and there is thus an overarching sense that one is doing to the best of one’s ability what is best and most loving for the collective.

It is not necessary to do anything in order to be aware of all this! It simply happens. And there is a natural corollary: it is not necessary to understand the self or its origins or its true nature in order to be a self or experience a self or bring that self into loving application. Simply do it and observe what is happening as it happens.


distant pasture
the pasture at a distance a little after dawn

The suggestion I make – because it arises from my experience – is that the mysteries and the mysticism (and salvation and awakening and present-moment-awareness and . . . ) are all simply natural aspects of what is naturally happening. They are included in the package, as it were. And they reveal themselves as we give attention to what is happening, which is not dramatic or intense but merely this very living that we are doing and were always doing.

No more and no less: and just enough, just so.

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