France and the Dilemma of Being


Jessi and I have been traveling in France the last two weeks, attempting both to explore and let go, two drives that seem to fight against each other, especially on vacation.

On the one hand, the release from obligatory work commitments excites our minds to explore new places, walk streets unknown, visit museums. We ride the energy of the symbolic mind as it cooks up adventures for us.  

But this kind of exploration, especially in a new city, has a cost; it takes time, thought, and energy to plan. 

On the other hand, we are experiencing the impulse to relax, to let go, to free ourselves from the agenda of the mind, to be with the interconnected world of experience.

We sleep in, walk by a river, drink coffee, sit and read, eat, nap, stare out a window, go to bed early. In these instances, we are being directed by our bodies, the parasympathetic nervous system, the organism itself that takes care of our minds all the time without us thinking about it.

These two impulses, to explore and let go, are so often in conflict with each other. The mind wants to imagine and create, the body wants to relax and sink into oneness with the bed, the city, the universe. 

What do we do with the constant conversation between these two sides of ourselves? 

Another version of this existential dilemma can be stated this way:  On the one had, there is the human desire to develop ourselves and all our capacities, to self-actualize and become what we imagine we can become, to stick out from the crowd, to be our unique selves and share our particular gifts with the world. In essence, to be an individual. 

On the other hand, there is the desire to release ourselves from the confines of being an individual, to let go of our character traits, our drivenness to be important and special, to merge with something transcendent or at least beyond the peccadilloes of our fickle minds.  

And again, like going on vacation, these two desires  often appear at odds with each other.  It’s not immediately obvious how we can develop our individual capacities with passion while at the same time connecting with something beyond ourselves.

Undergirding this dilemma, just below the surface, is the ever-present spectre of death. The vacation will end in a few days, a reminder that vacations in general will end some day, as will all that I do and everything that I care about.  At moments, this helps us relish what we have and what we are doing. At other moments, it pulls enjoyment right out from under us. 

So this morning, sitting in bed, as a gesture of respect to the mysteriousness of this human situation we live in, we started the day with a conversation about how we are caught in this desire to be an important individual AND no individual at all. A diamond in the rough and the rough itself. 

And with no attempts at solving, we hung out in the dilemma, rain pouring outside the window, and then went to drink a coffee.

We’ll face this dilemma in our next Weekend Workshop, August 23-25th in San Jose, CA. ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT. Register now.

John Rosania