Seven years was a turning point in my relationship with process, but it was also an evolution of previous methods. In many ways it picked up where the drafts left off — those letters I had written to myself while I was in correspondence with my long-lost father. Both projects attempted to attend fully to the present moment; to stay with the irreducible experience of time and place. And both projects found that while these moments remained irreducible, they also evoked things that were beyond themselves. T1
T1:Here non-representational theory is again instructive, speaking as it does of a ‘relational view of the lifeworld’ which ‘zeros in on the crossroads between metaphysical and material’ (Vannini 2015, p. 8). As Vannini elaborates: ‘Non-representational researchers, alongside with relational scholars, believe that life arises from the entanglement of actors — human and non-human animals, organic matter, and material objects … Such emphasis on relational materialism, immanence, and the sociality of “things” prompts non-representational researchers to study associations, mutual formations, ecologies, constellations, and cofabrications that highlight how the conjunction “AND” matters more than the verb “IS”‘ (ibid.).
‘In short,’ Vannini concludes, ‘so much ordinary action gives no advance notice of what it will become’ (ibid. p. 4).
In both its turning and its following, seven years was also a way forward. For improbably, the ritual had worked. I had arrived back in the present moment feeling that I was a part of the world rather than apart from it. This arrival was accomplished not through any single moment of epiphany, or even through the writing and rewriting of the experience, but just by going back and finding my own traces. The threads of me; the evidence that I had lived here and that this life was mine. I was weaving, mending, integrating.
It was this integration that allowed me to move on and expand my work beyond the personal. Not by getting it out of my system, but by getting it into my system. For while my readings on Buddhist unintegration had most certainly nudged me toward the idea of seven years, I had not understood just how necessary it was to be somebody in order to achieve the meditative state of being “nobody” (Engler 1986). This sense of self that I had reclaimed was not a puzzle I had solved only to discard when it unlocked the next gate. Rather, it was a compass that would enable me to travel confidently even when I had no map. T2
T2:Buddhist psychologist Ron Crouch (2011) asserts this value of the self even as he emphasises its nature as process and not solid, immutable object. ‘The self in Western psychology is viewed as that function of the mind that helps us to organize our experiences,’ Crouch writes. ‘It takes raw sense data, memories, and other cognitive functions and turns them into recognizable narratives. It is critical for everything that we do. Without a strong sense of self, we literally could not make sense of anything that happens to us’ (ibid para. 4).
Released not from uncertainty but from the blinding fear of it, I could finally see this place. I could move through it and with it, and I could begin to communicate with its more subtle frequencies. T3
T3:An interesting confluence of Zen and non-representational theory arises here, where it is the “being nobody” of unintegration that opens up new possibilities for relating with other entities of the “lifeworld” (Vannini 2015). Zen scholar DT Suzuki alludes to these possibilities in his discussion of satori — the moment of enlightenment in which unintegration is absolute.
‘The individual shell in which my personality is so solidly encased explodes at the moment of satori,’ Suzuki writes (1994, p. 22). ‘Not, necessarily, that I get unified with a being greater than myself or absorbed in it, but that my individuality, which I found rigidly held together and definitely kept separate from other individual existences, becomes loosened somehow from its tightening grip and melts away into something indescribable, something which is of quite a different order from what I am accustomed to.’
‘This abrupt experience of satori, then, opens up in one moment … an altogether new vista, and the whole existence is appraised from quite a new angle of observation’ (ibid. p. 23).