Riding the Edge

The Mind   |   Jason Tseng  |   June 9, 2011, 6:12 pm

Recently, great posts by Alexandra and Audrey got me thinking. In their posts, along with my previous conversations with others who are trying to gain a little insight into their minds, often the word or the image of “edge” comes up.

Alexandra wrote about becoming aware of one’s subconscious thoughts, of going to the “edge of conscious awareness and stand[ing] there, staring into the darkness.” Audrey wrote an amazingly honest post about being on the “cultivator’s edge” of discomfort and upheaval.

For me, moments of that “edge” come up when I’m by myself, with no activities planned, and confronted with that nothing-space. Often, a nervousness comes up, and the need to switch on a computer, a TV or another device ensues. There’s an intersection between a reflexive following of that drive versus taking a step back and assessing what’s going on. It’s an ongoing, uncomfortable, and nebulous struggle not to follow that drive.

… this “edge” is not as much a domain or a location, but a functioning or a process.

Painted together, this “edge” is not as much a domain or a location, but a functioning or a process. That function navigates us toward the edge of our psychological comfort and complacency. In many cases that I hear about, it involves a lot of mental pain, discomfort, and difficulty. I often wonder why that is.

One theory I have is that our window of choices is small, and the movement toward our habitual thoughts is very quick. It always feels like an uphill battle, boxing with slippery shadows. Yesterday, I was in a meeting, and a professor made a comment that resonated with me. She asserted that we do not make rational and clearly delineated choices, but that we make “informed inclinations.” In that, we are all habitual, emotional creatures with a past history, and we’re bringing that to whatever present interaction we have. In a way, the “edge” we speak of is like surfing, where we try to ride on top of a murky, subterranean force.

One example that comes to mind is a friend who read my account of the weeklong practice session and commented, “Sounds like you didn’t have a good time.” Although tough and difficult, I feel this process helps us to simply recognize and not flinch and fall into these habitual forces, and all sorts of possibilities open up to us.

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