WITHIN AND WITHOUT
Throughout my work in theatre, butoh dance, and hypnosis, I have been seeing many lessons repeating themselves to me, in various articulations. One of these lessons is that we can approach anything (whether it is a character we are playing, authenticity of presence, a creative trance state of mind, a connection to higher self, etc.) both through the form and through the spirit. They lead inevitably towards each other. Other words for form might be external, physical, body, structure; other words for spirit include internal, content, mind, within, and surely many others. I remember when my old theatre professor Gary Grant taught us about various acting methods, and how my mind was blown by the idea that I could approach theatre-making through bodily structure just as well as I could through beginning with the emotional reality (see Meyerhold’s biomechanics for any theatre people out there).
For me, butoh and hypnosis are two great ways of entering into the landscape of the unconscious. Butoh often (though not always) utilizes a bodily approach to entering into an altered state of consciousness, whereas through hypnosis we access the mind foremost and allow the altered state of consciousness to develop without moving the body. But in my experience, the body-method and the mind-method are equally valuable and equally effective in leading me into a meditative, expanded awareness.
Even within these two practices of butoh and hypnosis, there is a relationship of within/without that we can explore inquisitively. In both realms, I notice that sometimes it feels like the altered state of consciousness has led me in the direction of deeper and deeper into myself, into what I might call the “subconscious realm;” however, other times it feels as if I have moved in the direction of “higher,” coming in contact with a “higher self” or superconsciousness. And I wonder, are these feelings of going deeper inside or going higher, almost “out of myself,” really the same? Where am I going, when I feel these different realities emerging? Are there infinitely many kinds of altered states of consciousness?
Edgar Cayce, the famous “Sleeping Prophet” who tapped into psychic abilities, believed that what we call the subconscious was actually a passageway into the superconsciousness, and so for him, dreams and information received through similar means (such as through hypnosis and other trance-like states) were mediators between our conscious and the vast superconsciousness. Whatever your opinion of people such as Cayce and even the word “psychic,” there is certainly value in his model, which shows us how external manifestation in the physical realm is inseparable from mental patterns as well as the quality of spiritual intention. In fact, Cayce advises us that the most important experience for any person is to establish a “spiritual ideal,” which serves as a “motivational center of gravity.” Quite simply, every time we write or meditate with intentions or words or mantras such as “God,” “Love,” “Buddha,” “Krishna,” “Oneness,” “Peace,” and so forth, we are reviewing our spiritual ideals. And as the imaginative forces of the mind “dwell upon this high ideal, we are selecting the motivational circuitry in the body through which the life force may flow” (The Edgar Cayce Primer, pp 8-15). And this is why the simple phrase “change your perception, change your reality,” is so accurate!
USING EXTERNAL TOOLS TO UNDERSTAND THE INTERNAL
We grasp at our thoughts and feelings through metaphor. Metaphor is a way of using the external world to describe the internal— it is a mediator, just as Cayce describes dreams as mediators. The other day, I encountered a metaphor I found to be very liberating and useful. I was on the Metro North, riding south along the Hudson River, and I was looking out at the lush green mountains, the water, the clouds in the sky. It was so beautiful and invigorating to watch this landscape. Then I noticed that the window I was looking through was dirty, covered in splotches of grime. The focus of my eyes switched as I looked at this grime, and I noticed how when I focused on the dirt that was so close to my face, the splotches seemed to block out my view of the mountains! But all I had to do was switch the focus of my eyes. I could look way out in the distance at the vast landscape, and the dirt almost seems to disappear from view. It’s amazing how our eyes can do that, don’t you think? And it became almost fun to switch the focus back and forth, seeing how easy it is to choose my experience. And so I believe this is a useful metaphor for anyone who has a problem that is right up in their face, maybe blocking out the mountains that are just beyond it in the distance. If you have the ability to clean the window, you should do that by all means, but sometimes, we can’t control certain aspects of the environment; in those cases, know that you can control your focus and choose to become absorbed in something more pleasurable. Often, this is one of the basic tenets at work in hypnotherapy.
I cannot help but mention the Tarot again as an external tool which mediates the internal realm. In my opinion, it is not necessarily the tarot cards that are “magical,” but instead, it is me and my internal resource world of the unconscious and intuition. We absorb so many thousands, millions of bits of information every second, but only a tiny fraction of them remain in our conscious awareness. Everything else is contained within the unconscious. Therefore, could it be possible that some unimaginably complicated calculations are taking place on a microcosmic level when we encounter the tarot deck that allow our hand to autonomously pull those cards which best manifest symbolically what is happening with us internally? We know so many things, we know the wisdom that would help us out of tough situations and make decisions, its just that we can’t always articulate these answers. Thus, we show ourselves puzzles (such as through the tarot), and in the solving we learn to articulate a few of the most important things in the vast sea of the unarticulateable. The knowledge is already there, we just find the tools to help us discover it. Through the archetypal images in the cards, we open ourselves to introspection, insight, and inspiration.
As we go within our own physical vessel, we find that the external begins to align more and more with the internal. This is one of the useful aspects of Past Life Regression in hypnosis: as we journey to these stories of past lives (re-emphasizing that they are stories we are carrying with us now) and gain understanding of the metaphors and heal whatever situations need to be healed in those stories, we begin to heal the stories in our lives today, and we begin to see all sorts of external situations improve, paralleling the internal work.
IT GOES BOTH WAYS
We can look at our external situations, looking at what kinds of relationships we are drawn to, how we decorate our living spaces, what we eat, and so forth, and it will give us information about our internal landscape. Likewise, we can examine our internal landscape and glean information about why the external is shaped a certain way for us. Perhaps this latter method is a bit trickier, though, knowing that the unconscious tends to repress plenty of things from conscious awareness, which is why practices such as meditation, hypnosis, and butoh are so valuable. However, we should remember that sometimes repression happens for a good reason, and so we should honor that the unconscious will reveal to us in appropriate doses what we are ready to to contain in conscious awareness.
On a final note, in the larger scale of considering the relationship of within and without, it seems that the more we go inside and understand the frontier of the brain, the mind, the unconscious, etc., the more we go outside, not only understanding more about our planet, but expanding our understanding in the frontier of space, galaxies, other dimensions and beyond! Here I direct you to check out my previous blog post on fractal patterns within and without. This is an appropriate way to end: The more I move into the future and write new entries, the more I go back to old entries. Time is a snake that eats its own tail.