One of the biggest blocks I had starting down the path of real inner work, was finding the “line” between using the tools and insights gained and simply aborting the situation all together.
When we are on this path we start by learning how to cope, or how to “deal” with things. This allows an opening, or a disruption, of negative or self-destructive patterns, and in this opening we get a glimpse of “reality”.
This reality is subjective to us, but it’s not only subjective because reality is what is “before” thoughts, before definitions, or positive/negative narratives. A tree in the forest does not identify as a “tree”, it just is. Our language added to it helps us to identify it for certain purposes but doesn’t mean anything for the tree.
In other words, reality simply is. What we add to it is only for our purposes but are not necessarily needed in the normal sense. This is why we are tortured by these additions.
Simply “Is” could be looked at as a spiritual buzzword nowadays, but if you really look at the situation without interruption you can see it. Trees don’t talk, so definitions mean nothing to them. They grow, they do their job, they die. That’s it. This is not meant to be depressing, or to hint that nothing “means” anything; it’s to show that definitions, words, and narratives are only important to the ones describing something. It doesn’t always mean something for the objects we are describing.
So we learn ways to cope and “handle” which in turn produces a reality check. We learn, for the first time, that there is something before, or beyond, this unproductive programmed state we live in.
This starts to open the door to use the tools gained in order to transcend (get above) any problem we have.
Alchemy would call this “transmutation” because we are taking a situation that is not preferable and “transmuting” it into a situation that is preferable by seeing the big picture. Even if a situation is 99% “bad” there is, technically, a 1% part of it that’s not bad. So if we can see this through awareness that goes beyond emotional reactions, we can technically align with that instead of the negative that serves us no purpose. In “seeing” that 1%, we now have control because we are not at the whim of the 99%. We now have choices.
The true “sage” would never be in a situation he couldn’t transmute, but there are some situations that don’t serve us well.
So do we stay in a situation and continue to use it as “transmutation training”, taking all angles into consideration and transmuting them to what we want, or do we abort because the situation is nothing but transmutations?
Where is the line?
We all have the ability to make choices. So at the foundational level of this discussion we could say it’s up to the person how far they would go in any situation. It’s also depends on a person’s current outlook. Many will say these situations are just opportunities for “enlightenment” and they weed out the bad part of our “smaller” selves. In other words, if you are resisting something 24/7 that is a sign you need to transcend it, or, put more bluntly, get over it. Drop it or be tortured by it forever.
In general, people will push things as far as they can go. If they are aware they will push them to the limit but “know” that’s the limit. They unaware will continue down the same hole forever. It’s the choiceless choice as they say – you just know.
In a lot of ways this answers the question – it depends on someone subjective experience and their current outlook or framework on life.
But is there a no bullshit, no holds barred “line” that once we hit it we need to abort?
Everyone has their own definition of good or bad, right or wrong. Some believe blowing you up or cutting your head off is the right thing to do. Others feel that killing an ant hurts everyone. Bottom line there is no such thing as right or wrong there are only definitions based off of someone’s subjective experience. A hard pill to swallow but contemplate it for a second.
For every person that feels something is good, there are millions of others that don’t. The stoics had it right when they said there is preferable and non-preferable. In other words, there are things that a person prefers subjectively and things they don’t prefer. That’s it.
So wherever we grow up, whatever we are taught, whatever we hear, programs us to thinking that something is right or wrong. Because of that, everyone has their own line that once crossed becomes their breaking point.
The boundless boundary
People will tell you to create boundaries. It’s in all the self-help books. But what happens when something goes outside that boundary? It’s never a good experience. That boundary creates a property line, and if anything trespasses we become reactionary, emotional, bumbling idiots. Or we spend all our time hoping and modifying our situation so the boundary is never breached.
What we need to create is a “boundless boundary” based off a framework or context that is funneled with an open end, so to speak. Think of the funnel you use to put oil in your car; the plastic narrows but still has an opening. This allows for things to move in and out and can be applied to our situations.
So while things can build up at the narrowing of the funnel, it doesn’t mean they don’t have space to move out. We have to work in that space if things push towards a non-preferred outcome.
In tactical work they call doorways a fatal funnel, because someone can be on the other side and your movement is restricted at that funnel. You could be walking into a bandsaw with guns. But if nobody was there, would it still be a fatal funnel? In other words, movement is only restricted with boundaries and if the boundaries are not there then we are free to work. That’s why we keep the “funnel” at the end.
We have to direct things in our subjective daily framework, but we still need an opening at the end of that funnel. We are leaving a way out, in a sense, because we know situations can change. When you create a boundary and set it in stone, you are not considering change, and when you don’t consider change, you are now controlled by that boundary.
So the line is subjective and based off of our subjective outlook of where we are in life at the moment. In saying that, we must create a boundless boundary, or funnel with a clear opening, and use that as our barometer of the situation.
We must work inside that funnel and monitor if things get near the narrowed end. But if they do, we just observe. And if things slip outside that funnel and our boundless boundary is now “breached” we become aware of how the situation is unfolding.
If someone in our lives brings us to the narrow part of the funnel, we become aware of it, and know that we are hitting the limits of our boundless boundary. And if those people slip out of the narrow end, we watch them go through it. But it doesn’t mean we follow them.
Be aware, though, because people are not always as close to the end of the funnel as you think. You have to watch the situation with unedited, unemotional, pure observation. If in that state you see the person getting close, then you can watch them slip through. But don’t assume they are getting close without a pure set of eyes.
We all have to find our boundless boundary. Create what you need to create, and enforce your space, but make sure you leave the narrow end open. Because things will always change and there needs to be an opening for that change to move through. Otherwise you will be an inmate to the boundary you created.
Find your line, but keep a space open for things to exit.