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Rigidity

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Rigidity

Becoming Only Boundaries, Hard, Rigid, Harsh and Alienating

Here the boundaries are functioning as the schizoid defense of isolation and defensive detachment. One defends himself against the vulnerability of being human by becoming only boundaries, hard, rigid, harsh and alienating. One feels untouchable, unaffected by others, without any human emotion. One feels almost nonhuman, as if he were from an alien planet, except that he still feels he is a separate individuality. This state of individuality lacks all other elements of being human, except for the sense of existing as an individual. It shows the ultimate outcome of identifying with separating boundaries. This is the most alienating of ego boundaries, and the most painful to work through. Its dissolution feels like a painful, terrifying and completely helpless state of fragmentation. But every student has to go through it, in order to dissolve this basic defensiveness. Its resolution involves working through the schizoid sectors of one’s ego, and leads to personalizing the human aspect of Essence, which feels like a clear and fresh running mountain brook. One then feels defenseless and vulnerable, but the vulnerability, rather than being threatening, is accepted as a quality of being human. 

Compartmentalizing Our Experience of the Soul

Our rigid identities and concepts of self compartmentalize our experience of the soul in such a way that we cannot see how her properties and capacities are available to us regardless of the state of consciousness in which we find ourselves. For example, when we are identified with a self-concept of being stupid, our soul forms into a dull and contracted state. But if we recognize that no region of the soul is devoid of any of her properties, and one such basic property is intelligence, then our identification with such a self-concept loses its rigidity, and we find it easier to access our natural intelligence. 

Discovering an Inflexibility in Our Experience, a Rigid Boundary About What can and Cannot Change

So ego experience inherently implies rigidity because we are identified with inner structures that are already defined and packaged. The fact that we are identifying with a self-image or an impression of ourselves or a pattern from the past means that we are repeating the same thing. We are not allowing space, we are not open for something different to arise. By holding on to that particular image, pattern, or way of relating, we are obstructing our own movement and unfoldment. We recognize that we are a certain kind of a person or that we are in a certain condition. And we notice that even when we want to change, even when we want to grow or we want to learn, it is not easy. We discover an inflexibility in our experience, a rigid boundary about what can and cannot change. Sometimes we can see that our experience is always changing, and we know that our body is changing and growing. But if we are honest, we have to admit that, in the midst of that change, we are always trying to hold on to something constant. We keep thinking more or less in the same way; even though our particular thoughts change from minute to minute, our repertoire is limited, and what we think about repeats over and over and over again. 

Freeing the Soul’s Dynamism

Liberation involves freeing this dynamism. To free the soul’s dynamism is to free her from being limited and constrained by rigidity and fixation, which means to find a way to deal with her structures so that there will be no such rigidity and fixation any longer. This requires that we first recognize all the structures as structures and the realities perceived through them as not fundamental defining truths. For the soul to be able to recognize a structure for what it is, the structure must become conscious and fully manifest in our awareness. This is not an easy undertaking, for structures can continue to effectively structure our experience only if they remain largely unconscious. In other words, in order for our ego structures to function as structures, we need to believe that they and their influences are fundamental truths about ourselves and reality. In fact, we arrive at the end of ego development with the crystallized belief that the views these structures define to the soul are fundamental and unchanging truths. Henceforth, the soul is resistant to investigating these structures, taking the view that their patterns are self-evident truths. Therefore, a more indirect approach is often preferable. A useful approach is to be empathic and attuned to the soul’s ongoing normal experience and preoccupations, taking into consideration the natural need for mirroring, recognition, and understanding. At the same time our exploration employs and expresses the soul’s longing to know herself as deeply and completely as possible. Taken together, these considerations, along with many more that we will discuss elsewhere, point to the value of approaching one’s inner liberation by exploring one’s everyday experience and its preoccupations.  

Identity can be More or Less Rigidly Identified with a Particular Content of the Self

The identity can be more or less rigidly identified with a particular content of the self. Some aspects of the identity, typically the more false ones, are felt as shaky and easily challenged. This leads to a certain grasping or tightness of identification, creating rigidity rather than flexibility in the sense of who one is. Psychodynamic theory and practice have explored extensively the defense mechanisms employed to maintain our rigidly fixed identities. When a person’s sense of identity is particularly weak, he can become desperate to identify with any content that will give his identity structure. In this situation, the function of identifying becomes extremely rigid, and we cannot easily allow any distance from a particular notion of ourselves. We might feel fear, or even terror, that any crack in our sense of ourselves will threaten the structure, cohesion, and stability of our self-identity. What we would normally call a stronger identity is somewhat secure, cohesive and stable. This stability allows the identity more freedom to be flexible, so that the self is more relaxed with respect to particular contents or patterns of experience. 

Limiting the Dynamism of Our Being

Taking the position that we know the present manifestations constrains these manifestations to appear within the conceptual confines determined by this old knowledge. This limits the dynamism of our Being to fixed, rigid, and repetitive patterns. It destroys the freshness of the moment and separates us from the wonder of the mystery that is always confronting us. We lose touch with the mystery if we go about our lives believing that we know all these manifestations that appear to us. You look at a person and say, “Yes, I see; she is made out of skin, nose, eyes, colors. . . .” Everything is known. Door closed. No investigation, no inquiry, no mystery, no wonder. After a while, you get bored. If you look at reality this way, you are shutting away the mystery and destroying the freshness that is possible in experience. It might feel secure for a while, but it really isn’t. Many kinds of situations and experiences—the most important of which is death—show us that this view of reality does not keep us safe or secure. One day you might be confronted by this event we call death, and it will make you wonder, “Uh-oh, what is all this? Do I really know what life is about?” When the time comes, you may only have ten minutes to find out. This is one reason why I sometimes say that the Work is partly a preparation for death. 

The Soul has the Potential to Experience Herself in Various Degrees of Structure, From the Most Rigid and Formed, to the Most Formless and Shapeless

The soul does not always experience these states this graphically in the form of animal or primitive organisms, but it is part of her potential to have these forms of experience, a fact utilized by some of the spiritual teachings in the formulation of their teachings and methods. The point we are making is that the soul has the potential to experience herself in various degrees of structure, from the most rigid and formed, to the most formless and shapeless. This is also important for the question of the evolution and development of the soul, in the sense that the soul evolves similarly to physical evolution, from the most primitive life form to the fully human level. Furthermore, that evolution corresponds to higher and more complex organization of structure. One significant observation here is the recognition that when the soul is completely structureless, before any development or maturity, the state feels fluid, and is similar to plasma or, more accurately, protoplasm. The actual texture and viscosity of the soul substance feels similar to egg white before it is cooked. We have seen that as the soul manifests more and more primitive forms of her potential she becomes more protoplasmic, like a jellyfish or an amoeba. When these structures finally dissolve what is left is a simple medium that feels like protoplasm. This is the most primitive the soul can be and still feel like a living presence. To experience herself in the mineral or metallic state does not feel primitive and there is no structure. The sense of life is gone; only consciousness remains.

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