Q. Now and then I have moments of great determination. For example in meditation I would think ‘’If only I can concentrate just that little bit harder, just be a bit more one pointed….I know I can go deeper, I just need to try a tiny bit more….etc”
At other times I see clearly that I can do nothing at all, that everything just happens without any personal control or choice. Not only external events but even my thoughts and feelings. So thinking “I” can do anything at all seems to be the great illusion.
How do you walk the razors edge between these two?
A. The first thing I'd have to suggest is to get off the blade, as it sounds very painful! You describe both situations as basically illusory, so it must be the feeling of failure which cuts deep, and oscillations seem to be honing the edge.
Who is keeping you there, on that edge? If you were to see it as a wide meandering path through a Theme Park, sometimes needing effort, and sometimes being assailed by phenomena from all sides—you would not be balancing on an edge or getting hurt. You wouldn't get to the other end very fast if that’s your aim, but you bought the ticket, and I know you've read the flyer!
Why make your Will sharp, straight and exceedingly narrow? It could be more like a piece of elastic, sometimes tightening up, sometimes allowed to be slack, keeping a direction as it’s needed, even if that direction is sometimes circular (round your middle, for example!).
And if human nature -- your ultimate nature, the one your efforts are trying to locate-- is not a compact, solid entity which can be sliced by a fine edge, but rather without boundary, shape or size, then it can't perform that kind of balancing act.
That Nature is the meditator, and It walks beside still waters.....
Chuck away mind’s razor, and walk the winding path.
Addendum: Analysis of the process
I’d like to add something to this question and response, as it provides a good illustration of the principle behind working with symbols. My response was aimed at showing how the hidden (unconscious) power of the metaphor chosen here conditions the way the situation is seen, and therefore behavioural and psychological reverberations. Most of us, even the most cerebral individuals, naturally reach for metaphors to help capture experience, particularly emotional experience, which in this case was probably accurately captured by a razor’s edge.
Even if the questioner’s intention did not embrace all aspects of this common metaphor, eg. was focused on the fineness or thinness of a razor’s edge, the dangerous and painful implications were undoubtedly representative of a state of mind. And so long as it is seen in terms of ‘walking a razor’s edge’, even unconsciously, (usually unconsciously), the metaphor will drive the painful aspects into the psyche, and the situation will continue.
Change the metaphor, the way of seeing, and the whole psyche-system re-adjusts. It has to, in a real seeing, ie. a light-bulb moment, an insight, a ‘gosh-I-never-looked-at-it-that-way’ moment, a K-ching-connection kind of moment.
Hence my alternative suggestions of winding path etc, geared at undermining the original metaphor. Whether a verbal suggestion is sufficient to embed a significant change is a bigger question. It might at least undermine the foundations of belief and shift something!
Working more systematically with the symbols is more likely to produce lasting change. In this example, a person could be led into a very up-close and detailed experiencing of the razor’s edge and its effects, and find that it spontaneously transmuted into a different symbol ( eg, a winding path) which could also be explored and experienced until this new envisioning embeds and replaces the previous automatic association.
And then something is different in that person’s mental and emotional life, in the furniture of their personal mind-space. At the very least, the issue is more conscious now—the unconscious influencing is broken, with repercussions feeding into behaviour and expectations. A small step maybe, but It all helps re-jig the unified system which is a human being.
What, for example, a ‘winding path’ means, how a person personally translates it into meaningful action, will depend on the context. It could suggest or awaken various courses of remedial action: releasing self-will, cultivating trust, opening to new possibilities etc. Simply seeing one’s own role in creating and maintaining a problematic situation can be enough to promote change.