The Therapy Booth

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The Paradox of Freedom

on September 2, 2012

Innocent, by Alexei Harlamov (1842-1923)

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the Soul divine;
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

– William Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”

Innocence. It’s not what I once thought it was.

My name, Carin, is a Swedish variation on the English name Katherine, whose deep etymological roots are open for debate, but whose more modern (like a few thousand years ago, modern) meaning comes from the Greek kathaors, or pure. One of the possible roots of kathaors, also from Greek, is aikia, meaning torture.

And here we meet the paradox of freedom, the innocence in the darkness, purity in the torture.

When engaging in Living Inquiries with another person, the lines of separation blur. There is a melding of the facilitator and the one being facilitated, often in simple recognition. Every time I talk with someone, I hear something of myself in what they’re sharing, what they’re suffering, what they’re loving. I met with a man today who touched right into the heart of loneliness, just met it straight on and openly. Having been there, I smiled. What a great joy to touch that, with someone else there to relax with you. Not to add anything onto it. Not to take it away. The river flowing, unencumbered.

Also today I met with a woman who said that her emotions are all over the place. She said it’s likely pre-menstrual, but she wasn’t focused on that aspect of it. Just yesterday I wrote a post to our Living Inquiry Facebook group talking about my intense irritability – that was likely hormonal, but that even the description PMS wasn’t sticking to. It was just straight-on feelings.

So here I am, joining with these friends, even coming off of a morning of feeling pretty irritable and grumpy myself, resting together and mutually witnessing the minutiae of direct experience, straight-on feelings. And as I look, together, with them, I see the pure heart of innocence, even amidst what may feel at times like torture.

Not calling the grief by name, not labeling the buzzing physical experience, we come to see that we are not culpable in the way we’ve always suspected or believed we are.

The very first time I ever met Scott Kiloby, my teacher and the author of the Living Inquiries, I was upset about the way I was clinging to my boyfriend, no matter how distant or withdrawn he was from me. I wasn’t feeling or behaving in a way that I thought I should, and I felt morally and mortally awful about it. Scott said to me, “I remember having relationships like that. The more they pulled away, the more I went toward them.” He paused and said, “I never did figure out why I did that.” And, right there, I recognized something radical. This guy wasn’t going to tell me to fix myself or get out of my relationship or look into my parents’ relationship history to diagnose and better me. All he did was point me to my own direct experience. As he talked with me that day, all he saw was innocence. Even amidst the torture.

Sitting with these folks today, it is this familiarity, this recognition, that breeds such empty compassion. By empty I don’t mean lacking or devoid of anything. In fact, it is all-inclusive. In that way, there is an emptiness. A lack of any particular structure, organization or list. There is no registry stating which feelings, thoughts or emotions are acceptable and which are not. That book has been thrown overboard miles back.

And it’s not just facilitating these sessions that has me plainly see this equanimity; it’s experiencing the inquiries first hand. I’ve had many hours of sessions with my fellow facilitators, as well as experiencing the inquiries infiltrating my day to day life. This is a direct route to true compassion: finding out — right in the fiery intense heat of emotion, of grief, of longing, of lust, of manic bliss, of jealousy, of smoldering rage — if there is anything there that isn’t pure innocence.

When I was younger and looked up the meaning of my name and found out that it was derived from a word meaning the pure one, I just thought, “Yeah, right.” I may not have been the wildest child on the block, but I certainly wasn’t the most farm fresh either. I could imagine all sorts of sins that I’d committed by a pretty young age, many of them simply in thoughts or fantasies, that I’m pretty sure canceled out my name’s worth of virtue. Add on another 20+ years with mad forays hither and yon, and I just wouldn’t relate to my name’s origins at all. At least not the “pure” side. As for the “torture” side, although I have experienced my moments in life, I wouldn’t fully relate to that one either. And anyway, who wants a name that means severe pain?

But now, as I put them together, as I inquire, as I watch others inquire, they all meld into an intimacy with life, a joyful reunion of the purity of the pain, the freshness of each moment, no matter what.

I would have thought that innocence meant untouched by drugs, sex, or dramas, unexposed to life’s suffering. And, in a way, it is untouched. As the woman said to me today, in the midst of her stormy weather, there was a thread that ran through it all, a restful space, even as the maelstrom blew roofs off houses and flooded the roadways. We notice and rest in that which is untouched and see that it is all innocent.  Innocence unencumbered by changing moods, thoughts, physical responses or rivers of tears. Purity and torture, seen to be inseparable, and, upon close examination, seen also to be unfindable.

If you have any doubt about this, and you’d like to find out directly, contact me or another Living Inquiries facilitator and we’ll look together.

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One Response to “The Paradox of Freedom”

  1. Elaine Yannuzzi says:

    Both brilliant and beautiful, carin.

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