The alchemy of the human condition
In our existential human condition, we have an experiential sense of separation — we are here (and not there), we are now (and not then), and we are “this one” (and not another one).
We are separated in space, time, and self, and we do not simply transcend these conditions. Your present human condition might be comfortable enough, but deeper contemplation will show you that all is limited, temporary and ultimately unsatisfactory.
At the deepest core of all that is our separation from the eternal ground of being, which alone truly satisfies. From the egoic stance of relative autonomy, our implicit fear is both that of being alienated from that ground, as well as being annihilated in it.
We could choose to stay on the surface of life and try to make the best of it, or deeply face our existential condition and the prospect of facing deep anxiety. At some point, this becomes an intolerable alternative that must be encountered here and now, and not in some possible after death state. Existentially, are we willing to face the deep truth about our condition here and now?
All the great spiritual masters, of whatever tradition, have reported that real peace or happiness is not to be found in accumulation or accomplishment, but in what is truly essential to our being.
They ask us to go beyond the familiar human condition to its essential ground of being. That can be a helpful pointer, but it is still an appeal to authority and perhaps for the few spiritual heroes among us.
Others have reported special experiences, such as near-death experiences, or the awakening to a whole new dimension of consciousness, such as enlightenment. But if what we want is really intrinsic to the human condition, there should be something within the ordinary human experience that is available to everyone.
Beyond fear, it is the deep intuition of this essential ground or presence that gives us the courage to find out.
We can recognize that being as such is the very ground of the human condition, of being human in any moment. In quiet contemplation, where deep mind meets deep heart, it becomes clear that we can never truly be separate from that ground, which is our very being.
Recognizing the oneness of being as the fundamental ground of reality, we recognize that anything gone into deeply will serve as a portal to that. This is the message of alchemy: that the apparent “lead” of the existential human condition opens into the “gold” of presence that is always here now as the very essence and ground of any moment.
This is the “good news” that is based on direct experience beyond hope or faith.
The existential human condition can be expressed in condensed form as “being here now.” It takes courage to be willing to show up, even when this doesn’t feel good or meet our expectations.
When all feels well, we can be willing to show up, but as we rest in the ground of being that is prior to all conditions, we can be willing to show up in the midst of them. In the alchemical practice, when we are willing to deepen into our being, we open into being; when we are willing to be here, we open into the here-ness of unbounded spaciousness; when we are willing to be now, we open into eternal now. We are still in the human condition of the world of form, but now we are “in but not of,” we are “formless in form,” “being in being.”
Try this: Be willing to enter deep into the (apparently separate) body, and through the direct experience of deep sensing, discover that you open into spacious presence.
Be willing to enter into the (apparently separate) present moment, and through the direct experience of breathing, discover that you open into the timeless now. And be willing to enter into your (apparently separate) sense of yourself, and through the direct experience of feeling “I” in your heart, discover that you open into being Itself.
You are still present “in” the human condition, here and now, but now you are “of” the very presence of being.
Ed facilitates small weekly gatherings in Presence, making use of an embodied system of guided practices. Contact him regarding his schedule at: email@example.com. Send 600 to 700 word articles to Sally McKirgan firstname.lastname@example.org