This post looks at how our inner and outer worlds interact and what the implications of this are for meditations, retreats and our wider lives.
The table below shows a simple way of describing the experience of our inner worlds and our outer worlds and where they overlap.
Body, Heart, Mind & Soul
This table shows how each of our parts relates to the inside and the outside.
The inside are the things that are subjective and the outside are the things that are objective.
You could also divide the table further by adding conscious and subconscious to each of the boxes – the things we are aware of or can connect to and things we aren’t or can’t.
The table is clearly an oversimplification because things don’t fit neatly into one box; the boundaries are blurred, and most importantly, every single box is interacting with every other box in every moment, both consciously and sub-consciously.
If you imagine a thread that connects each box to every other box, then make that 3D, that’s how I like to imagine the sum of our experience. It’s like an incredibly complicated, living, three dimensional web of energy. Some parts we are conscious or aware of and lots of parts are happening with us having no idea about them.
It has been claimed that 97% of the mind’s processing is happening subconsciously and that doesn’t even include all the things that are happening in our bodies.
Whenever we interact with another being, everyone is bringing their 3D energy web to the interaction.
So if you’re interacting with another person, they have their own sphere of activity that has all of those things going on, that is deeply interconnected and complex. And every single part of your experience is interacting with every single part of their experience.
Your souls will be having a conversation on a very abstract meaningful level, while your bodies are giving each other lots of signals and that will be impacting each person’s emotions etc.
Every single part of your experiential web has just connected with every single part of their web. The world has just got exponentially more complex.
Not only that, but there is also an energetic web, that holds the relationship between the two of you. You create a collective experience that exists separately to either of you as individuals. For example, people will start mirroring each other’s body language, their heart-beats start to sync up, they will have shared emotions, they will create a shared language etc.
It’s a collective experience that doesn’t belong to either of you, but every part of this also connects in with every other part of each of your individual experiences. Exponentially more complex again.
Just imagine what that looks like with 10 people.
As you can imagine, this is totally overwhelming and we can’t process all that information, so we filter out most of our experience. A lot of it stays subconscious – our brains don’t process everything that is happening in our bodies, hearts and souls. It would be too much for us.
Part of this is that we create very strong habit pathways. Ways of interpreting information, behaving, responding to things etc. We do this both as individuals and within our relationships – there will be habits and ways of being that are ingrained in us and the way we interact.
Practice and Retreats
Meditating and going on retreat allows us to disconnect from a lot of this interaction. This is super useful for getting clarity on what is going on in experience, as well as for rest and recovery. It allows our bodies to process the backlog of overwhelm that every day life can bring and then focus in on specific parts of experience.
As soon as we return back into life we will get pulled into the same patterns and habit pathways in our webs again, unless we can change how we interact with those pathways.
One example of this is by concentrating on certain aspects of experience and reshaping how we process that information. For example, by concentrating on impermanence we can change the way we relate to our experience.
Another example of this is shared inquiry – by practising together and sharing what is happening in this moment in a safe place, we are relearning ways of being with other people. We are practicing things like deep listening and opening to more authentic ways of being, that can transform how we show up in our relationships with people.
We can also choose where to put our attention, for example, by focusing on heart states and practicing what this entails, we will have more capacity to do this outside of a practice setting.
By changing our connections, we are changing our entire way of experiencing and being.
Seeing things from other’s perspectives and connecting with other people’s experience can also help us move forward a lot faster and avoid getting stuck in our same inner patterns.
Unless your objective with meditation is to completely detach from life and reality, then it makes sense for the setting in which we practice to include some of the ways in which we relate to our selves, our environments and each other.
We want to be able to cultivate the habit of being able to sit with experience and not needing it to be any different, while also learning to connect with new parts of ourselves and process reality differently or awaken new aspects of experience within us. To turn on the lights in new parts of the web.
It is in the balance of accepting things as they are and healing and deepening our experience that awakening happens.