November 9, 2014

What’s Normal, Anyway? A Manifesto on Ending the War Within.

Tammy T. Stone

It’s crazy, a delicate insanity really, to try to be normal in a world that doesn’t exist.

The thought occurs to me like this, and I write it down, perplexed.

I look at it again.

The world must exist. Of course it does. For all intents and purposes, anyway. My mind, work-in-progress as it is, is still deeply invested in a system of duality, so there is still an “out there” and an “in here,” despite what I know to the contrary.

And there’s that matter of how to fit into it.

Even when I come close to communion, like maybe the world is not so terribly far away, it still feels absolutely real, all of it. Which means there is still an enormous gulf: I’m on one side. The world is on the other.

I bring my attention to everything I can touch, see, feel, and this neatly carves a space for both the observer (me) and the observed (everything else). My mind knows there are no such things, that observer and observed dissolve into oneness, into Awareness, in an enlightened being.

“Is the observer different from the thing which he observes? It is different only as long as he gives it a name; but if you do not give it a name, the observer is the observed. The name, the term, acts only to divide; and then you have to battle with that thing. But, if there is no division, if there is an integration between the observer and the observed, which exists only when there is no naming—you can try this out and you will see—,then the sense of fear is entirely gone.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

I work for this dissolution. I want it, without wanting it too badly, I hope. Without clinging to it madly.

So far, I work the way I know how, which is to attempt to remain with my breath on the meditation cushion and off.

I try to be kind, though it sometimes takes my beginner mind some convincing that kindness and compassion are integral to the “conquering” of my mind, and see? I still think of this as a battle at times, when I am less kind, to myself and then to the objects and beings around me. It’s a war in which I want to defeat my own mind.

But my mind is a projection of the world and my own ego, so I can see how much friction I’m causing, at the expense of beautiful silence, before I even take a single step.

I have experienced the chaotic ebb and flow of my thoughts enough, though, to know they are not to be trusted, not as the foundation of me, anyway.

It was hard to let go of the mind I nurtured and defended so passionately for most of my life. I didn’t know what was left. My heart? My feelings looked like huge sacs full of woundedness, and for this I felt unworthy. And instead of examining this, I fell under the impression that these sacs should remain in a far corner of my consciousness.

Every piece of anger, every onslaught of tears was a violent interruption in a would-be calm life led by my mind.

Eventually, I realized they were not interruptions at all, but the very signs of a raw, open self trying to break through me and through to me, crying for my attention, not because they were ready, but because they were waiting for me to be, so they could lead me off in the direction of truth.

Truth can be hard to come by. But who wants to eat a photo of an apple when we can have the real thing? And so I sat, and sit. In the name of truth.

I sat down and decided, with a mind that just wouldn’t quit, that I would not run away from what my emotions were doing to me, through me, as part of my mind. As me.

There was a lot. Floods, storms, things so big it is difficult to imagine this epic saga was happening behind the closed doors of my eyes, that perhaps no one but the great seers out there could catch a glimpse of. My body rocked, tears poured forth, my body screamed from the pain haunting it, physically and between every cell of my spluttering heart.

It was madness. It was the world as I had been engaged with it my whole life, mapped onto me. In my mind, on my limbs and in my pores. All were related every which way.

Where this conglomerate mess fit into the grander scheme of things, I had no clue. You can’t see through a storm. You can only wait until it ends.

It does end.

The three marks of existence in Buddhism sing to me:

Anicca – everything changes.
Dukkha – we suffer.
Anatta – there is no “me.”

The words are easy to write, and less easy, but surely possible, to really grab hold of. But to experience, to know the blurred space between I-who-observe-all-this, and all-that-is-observed, this takes dedication to a life of no-quick-fixes.

What’s more, it takes an attitude of laughing, of smiling, of not fighting so hard for things.

“Without loving-kindness, staying in pain is just warfare.” ~ Pema Chödrön

Turning ourselves into our own enemies defeats every purpose, closes all doors, turns away from the possibility for love.

There is no battle. There is no war.

The war in the world takes us further and further away, and any victory won here will fall away as the bitter, disappointing and phony thing that it is.

Past the war, past perceived victories—maybe here we can be. We can be together, we can each heart-beat in our own way, we can think without our thoughts ruining us, we can emote to the health of all, and love all, and we can allow for the existence of a world without wanting to dominate it or forge too strong a path on its gentle, awesome surfaces.

We can allow a world without tossing it away as something that is an invention of our mind, because we know by now that minds are meant for better things than to cause and will the destruction of all.

We can feel our hearts, which are not about normal but about connection, and know our minds, which have nothing to do with normal and everything to do with how we guide them according to our best, hard-won intuitions. We can work for everything that awaits the evolution of us, and this is not labour, just like there is no room for normal in this sublime, infinitely nuanced place we call home.

This is what I want to work for. I don’t want to work for normalcy, unless normal is the harmonious rhythm between self and world.

This is the dream, to awaken to dreams, in dreams, surrounded by them, and through their wild expression we share in the light around us, where enlightenment shines upon us.

Will you join me?


Tammy T. Stone




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Author: Tammy T. Stone

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own


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