Courageously and fearlessly we faced one another armed with the sword of Prajna – cutting through confusion and ego pride- and splitting conceptualized self into pieces. Face to face, persistently questioned “who are you,” my notion of reality was challenged.
Habitually I cling to self-deception and solid perceptions of self and the world, instead of courageously experiencing life as it really exists. In the unfamiliar space of not knowing I struggled letting go, fearing whether or not penetrating insight and natural intelligence would arise.
However, conceptualized descriptions of self quickly faded after a few minutes of the dyadic inquiry assignment and a new deeper understanding of self ensued. My list of characteristics and self concepts quickly ran out, forcing me into the silence of not knowing. In this silent space, I “heard,” tuning into my body, “contemplated,” exploring what I noticed, and “meditated,” allowing the question to incorporate itself into my being.
Embracing the Unknown
In the emptiness of not knowing, I explored the “quality of creative doubt …, continually digging deeper” (Lief, 2002, p.66). Once I explored the discomfort of silence, my understanding of reality expanded. I “heard” the question in the way Lief (2002) explains is “based on being open to new information, gathering knowledge, and really trying to listen” (p.68).
Taking in my whole experience, I felt who I am moment to moment rather than just using the words I’ve grown comfortable to describe myself as. “Cheaven,” “daughter,” “sister,” “tall,” “26,” I became “hot,” “tight,” “nervous,” “lose,” “curious,” “pulsing.”
I moved away from self-constructs and into my body. Deepening my attention, I felt the question: who am I? It was not easy to become present to my experience; it was often agitating. Even now the fear of not knowing and letting go of self-constructs, I feel an uncomfortable heat and prickly sensation building in my body.
When uncomfortable I look for escapes. Some relief separating myself from the present moment. Charlotte Joko Beck (Welwood J., 1992) explains that when we want to be separate from uncomfortable feelings it helps to practice walking “the razor’s edge” and “experience whatever our life is, right this second” (p. 40).
Instead of shrinking away from myself or the world, I tried to see, touch and sense my uncomfortable feelings. Receiving the present moment, becoming curious of my discomfort. I felt my beating heart, my quick and shallow breath, noticed my gaze at the floor, and the silence of the room. When I would attempt to circumvent my frustration I became further panicked and tightly wound up in emotion. Gradually leaning into discomfort, I became more friendly and comfortable with it and myself.
Tuning Into Discomfort
Kornfield (1993) offers “a very basic lesson in meditation: facing our own greed, unworthiness, rage, paranoia, and grandiosity, and the opening of wisdom and fearlessness beyond these forces” (A Path With Heart, p. 9). Engagement with my undesirable emotions was the first step I took towards receiving wisdom through Prajna.
Once I tuned into my discomfort I found my voice. Taking in my whole experience I moved on to the second level Prajna “contemplation” – permitting new information and exploration. Silently sitting across my dyad partner, I was hot, fidgety, I looked away, and I was uncomfortable. I explored “uncomfortable,” felt it around my body and what thoughts came to mind. It was fear, worthlessness, sadness.
I was also perfectly content, open, grounded, and compassionate. Nothing was insufferable and the new information and ability to be in my body was comforting.
Through my journey, I felt the tightening and loosening of my body and willingness to continue. Tightness is the term I use to describe when I don’t feel safe, and looseness occurs to secure me. I embraced the feelings I was having, which gave me the ability to explore the experience without control.
Surrendering in this way, I began the “meditation” level of Prajna. Resting was not simple, a lifetime’s worth of conditioning blocked insight and natural intelligence. Practicing this dyadic inquiry for fifteen minutes naturally illuminated reality and brought my attention to the present moment.
The natural process from grasping onto concepts, to becoming receptive to my whole body, exploring questions and unknown parts of myself, eventually eased me into comfort with not knowing.
Understanding My Reality
My experience in the dyadic inquiry included the Prajna levels of insight (hearing, contemplating, and meditation) that deepened my understanding of reality. I gathered new information of reality, explored this information, and let it incorporate itself into my being.
Softening into the movement between tight-resistance and loose-receptivity, I became aware of my body, the environment and my mind exactly as it existed. I have become aware of my daily experience of using concepts and the “other” to construct answers to who I am.
This exercise, as well as my meditation practice, helped me experience reality. I have become more aware of the duality of intellect and natural insight. Rather than living solely in a limited conceptual world, the practice of Prajna allows penetrating insight and natural intelligence to reveal the vastness and profundity of the world.