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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Oct 13, 2014

Existentialism to Gestalt

I am a like baby duck who is imprinting to every psychology beer bottle that comes along.
This week’s beer bottles are existentialism and gestalt.  I think that I am – for sure – a combo brew of the two.

Existential theory and its cousin, Gestalt theory, share the perspective that humans – each of us – spring from a matrix that is marvelous and mysterious. They have nothing much to say about exact pre-life and post–life destinations.  The hugeness of the mystery - the matrix of causation that has led to here and now and “me” is overwhelming and unknowable. So focus is on “just this” – life as it is. 

That very unknown hugeness is a source of existential anxiety. Just casting my mind out to the thin gaseous envelope that surrounds this planet which is floating in an infinitude of space, I can imagine it all to be a vast impersonal and possibly random, accidental abyss. Existential theory asks me to lean into that anxiety and let it open me; make me more vulnerable and capable of love, here, now. And it works: I do feel myself to be more available to love when I am less sure I know what is going on…when things are more flex and uncertain. Existential theory says that love is the highest goal and that leaning into my very human uncertainty, fragility and impermanence will open my heart to all the other humans, as we are all in the same boat. 

It seems to me that gestalt theory springs from the same existential ground but segues towards the perspective that the matrix, which it calls the “field”, is a miracle rising up to support life, (rather than a heavy cement ceiling that squashes all individuality and freedom). This matrix-field is still a mystery but it unwaveringly supports life and growth and evolution. So instead of a random abyss, the matrix of the causation of existence is an all-nourishing abyss, (a term used by Brian Swimme).

It is a risk – according to both theories – to wake up to this mystery.  But we humans have a chance, if we will exercise our freedom and take a risk, to participate with creation of self and universe by paying Attention to that which is right in front of us. That which is right in front of us - waiting for our attention, is offered up by the ocean of the field, for our assimilation, nourishment and growth. The best way we can "pay attention" is through somatic self-observation: maintaining keen awareness while keeping attention in the body and senses. 

If we can "risk" waking up - like Neo in the Matrix - we change the field. and I would agree with Rilke – although I don’t know if it is a Gestalt perspective - that participating with the figure and field is vital as it is “inside humans is where God grows”.

So! to be fully alive and to grow, according to gestalt theory, we have to aim to energetically welcome each figure or wave form as it rises up from the ocean of the field. We’ve got to want it... to say a resounding YES even in the face of not knowing what is really going on. 

Rumi wrote it beautifully:

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,      translation by Coleman Barks

1 comment:

  1. I find myself continually drawn to pondering these concepts as well. Have you read Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander or Eternea? You may like them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.