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‘In but not of’

This ancient phrase can be expressed as “in and not of,” to emphasize the deeper unity of the polarity (of being in and being not of), while “in but not of” emphasizes the contrast of the opposites.

Together we see the deep paradox of the unfathomable mystery of life and the human condition. We are invited to hold them both so that we don’t gloss over the polarity (or creative tension of the opposites), while also not getting stuck in some impossible battle of opposites.

Being “in” expresses the sense of being present; here and now. Being “not of” expresses the sense of presence that cannot be contained by any content (of experience or concept).

Being or presence truly is inherently “in but not of,” and the phrase is an invitation to recognize that to enter into that, to align with that, since we are not truly separate from that.

To what degree is it possible for a human being to open to that? To what degree is it possible for presence to come alive to itself, to awaken to itself, in the form of a human being? Let this be an open question, and consider how it lives in you.

As a simple (though profound) practice, we can experientially participate in this with the (equally simple and profound) process of breathing. Enter into the breath consciously, intentionally, as you let it slow down and deepen in your body and being. Honor the breath as an ancient stream into which you enter rather than take for granted or try to control.

The breath is not someone’s invention, it arises from the very ground of our life and being. It is naturally accessible for us to enter into and participate in the profound mystery in which we live, move and have our being.

Let each breath be a new opportunity for fresh and present inquiry and participation. You needn’t pretend that you know nothing, that you have no background. Rather, let all of that be as a preparation for this moment’s entering and participation. Do not assume you already know what all of this, or any of this, really is. Be willing to be in beginner’s mind, recognizing that you really are in that condition in any case.

On the inhales, enter into the sense of “being in,” whether this is the sense of being in the whole body or some center in the body, such as head, heart or hara (deep belly). These are all ways of entering into being here, being now, being in this human experience, in whatever this is. Even with all of our resistance to being in this vulnerable condition of being human in this world, with all its uncertainties and challenges, be willing to enter in, just for this moment.

Yes, we are already in, already born, already here and now, so can you be willing to say yes to this and willingly enter in, willingly be born in this moment? It does not come with a guarantee of safety, and yet something in you recognizes that it is safe, it is OK just as it is. Let your inhale be deep and relaxed, deep in the body, deep in this present moment experience of the human condition, just as it is. It’s OK. Maybe one day at a time is too much to ask, so what about one breath at a time, even one inhale, one moment? Without holding on to it, let it linger before releasing it.

On the exhales, enter into the sense of “being not of.” What does this mean? And what does the exhaling feel like? What does it feel like to really let go, to release, to empty? Let go of holding on, to let go of control?

Enter this practice, and let it reveal itself to you. Perhaps a conscious breath becomes a taste, a microcosm of being born and dying. Perhaps the inhales become an entering into the whole of life, the wholeness of being. Perhaps the exhales become a releasing of all you think you know, including yourself, a release into emptiness. And the miracle, the mystery, of “being in but not of.”

Ed Hirsch facilitates a small weekly presence gathering in Lithia Park, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, in the amphitheater-like structure just below the old parks and rec offices above the upper duck pond. For more information, email presenceofone@yahoo.com. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.