Betwixt and Between

Life is seldom simple, to talk about it is not simple at all. Even the responsibility of this paper came with five choices … five different but equally useful roads leading into the heart of Rome. Rome? Depth psychology in this case…an investigation into the fundamental meanings given to this process we call Life.

There are many clichés about what Life is and many factioned authorities on who said so…from cherries to beaches, from voodoo to zen, Life is what happens between then and now. It is birthed out of movement, out of the simple into the complex, into the labyrinth and it would seem that we then spend all of our time between now and then longing for a return to the simple, looking for a way back through the labyrinth.

But of course one of the fundamental rules of Life is that there is no going back, no possibility of regression; time as they say marches on, waits for no man. The only way out of the labyrinth is one step at a time, movement forward, involvement breath by breath.

Now since a journey outward is also a journey inward as each out breath expanded man’s mind each in breath expanded man’s heart, and out of this crucible was born the tension of the opposites, the crux of Life’s complexity…to serve the mind or the heart and the compensitory balancing between the two.

When Life is simple no explanation is required, Life simply is; but with the birth of an I/Thou relationship, with the movement out of unity into multiplicity, out of stasis into the world of choice and preference, Life assumes a complexity. There are many roads to Rome yet choice is the archetypal dynamic underlying each journey. Without choice Life simply is, with choice Life is a bowl of cherries. And though they all look the same, no two cherries of course are alike; look alike, taste alike, yes, but only alike, not the same. So choice can lead to preference or preference can lead to choice but either way it is this eternal dynamic which underlies the path through the labyrinth.

With its twists and turns, dead ends and dark corners the labyrinth serves as a metaphor for Life’s process but where does the labyrinth come from, what creates the possibility of choice and the desire to heed the call and move through the labyrinth; where did the in breath come from and where does the out breath go, and why; what determines preference and what, when, where, why and whom do I ask?

Questions: announcing the recognition of complexity, the acknowledgment of the I/Thou relationship and the beginning of the possibility of influence. Always implicit within choice is reference ‘which one to choose’, ‘which way to go’; always the search for answers to these questions has determined the path through the labyrinth both personal and collective.

The problem with choice is in fact that it poses THE problem for ‘which one to choose’ implies that there might be a better choice to make: which path leads to a dead end, which one circles back, which one moves forward; how to know, decisions: good or bad, better or worse, positive or negative, sickness or health: alternatives which give value to choice.

All in all, a very angst-creating process this need to decide in order to move, in order to birth Life, in order to sustain…sustain what…sustain whom…questions, more questions; the same questions put a thousand different ways, yet these questions are still fundamentally the same questions and the seeking of answers to these questions is always reflected by the mythopoesis of the journey through the labyrinth.

This ability to ask questions and the need to seek answers have given rise to the I/Thou relationship and man’s ongoing dialogue with the labyrinth itself. Who am I and who are you…how are we the same and how are we different…how do we know each other…shall we dance?

Those who sought to know Life outwardly became known as scientists, those who sought to know Life inwardly became known as mystics and yet each sought the answers to the same questions, investigating in its most intimate varieties the I/Thou dynamic.

And like all relationships between this and that it is the borderline dynamic existing at the meeting of this and that which becomes the liminal space of Hermetic lore: the frontier, at the edge, old meets new, the land of transformation, the land of metaphor becomes the heartland for the investigation of I/Thou. From Shaman to Shaker man has sought answers in the land beyond time and indeed it would appear that the search was successful and many answers have yielded themselves up to consciousness.

So exactly where is this heartland of cosmic wisdom, where does one buy tickets, how does one get there; if in fact just anyone can go? Can anyone go? It depends: depends on what; on what you believe in, probably not much else once all is said and done. And whether you shake, rattle or roll your way to it there is a moment between moments where I and Thou meet in ecstatic silence. Within the heights of reverie and the depths of dispair Life remains suspended in the moment, and it is from this moment that the labyrinth is birthed and it is to this moment we are dedicated in our life long journey.

So in fact pretty well everyone can go. This once upon a time land is accessible and it is here that we access the storehouse of Life’s memoria, a treasure trove of truth cross filed in a plethora of language and symbol; everything there is to know, all of Life’s possibilities held within this temenos.

And so the journey gives birth to the question and the question gives birth to the journey, the labyrinth flourishes and time spirals on.

Every breath is a step on this odyssey through Life and it is not possible to avoid the questions but it is possible to avoid the answers. It is possible to step hesitantly, seek out dark corners, fear the unknown. Within the complexities of Life it is possible to complicate further even the simplest of responsibilities; a simple step becoming home to neurotic urgings, a simple breath home to psychotic longing.

Life is not simple and the mystery of our very existence puts a question on the

wings of each breath Life calls forth. Where did the in breath come from…where does the out breath go?

Mystery entices. It beckons and it lures…with a seductive wink it suggests an unfathomable richness of knowledge at the same time warning of the hubris in seeking the power of the Gods. To follow the question into the heartland searching for a glimpse of truth; to undertake a heroic journey, a seeking to know Thou without and within; to follow the question is the first act of faith. The act of belief born on the border of this and that is the mythos of a civilization, it is the prayers of its sisterhood the ritual of the brotherhood, the laughter of children.

From here it is possible to shine lights in dark corners, moving with clarity and sureness of foot. From this storehouse of truth it is possible to sip at the well of remembrance, in fact it is an archetypal experience itself, this land of all possibilities. From here come nightmares and daydreams, visions and spirits, story and song; each an expression of the I/Thou relationship, each an expression of the truth we hold dear.

But as dear becomes darling, as we become married to these truths clasping them securely to us we behave as jealous lovers hovering narcissistically over these mirrors of our souls. Rather than ecoming ‘one with’ we seek control, the struggle between logos and eros begins and necessity is born out of desire, habit and dogma serving as godparents.

From pyromania to Beatlemania we are seduced by our desires, overcome by our urges and held hostage by our longing; mythos becomes pathos and the way becomes haunted with dangers real and imagined. Whether it’s Life on the fast track or Life at the edge this labyrinthian house of mirrors is not a fun place to be, the long vanished Garden of Eden with its simplicity and joy fades into the distance a much cherished memory.

Weighed down with the baggage of our misconceptions Life seems difficult, the journey a burden of great stress and terror. It becomes difficult to stand tall, to have courage, to move on; anger turns to dispair, all roads lead to nowhere, there is no place like home.

Lost in the wilderness of sorrow and guilt, of closed doorways and long shadows Life hesitates. Without clarity it is not easy to make choices, without clarity it is not easy to see ahead. From the producers of Dreamtime will come monsters at the door, reminders of all that we call precious, all that we hold dear. And right there is another version of the same basic rule…to have and not hold. Life demands full presence at the experience but no holding on – no judgments of which moments are better, which monsters preferred: no expectations of what ought to be, no planning ahead. As the labyrinth unfolds, so must one follow, moving ahead as each breath beckons; no hiding in corners, no running from monsters, no avoiding the next choice, and the next choice, and the next.

So back to the crux of the matter, to make choices without being attached to the outcome, to prefer something that prefers you, to balance the in breath and the out breath: Life is not simple. Like a moth to the flame we are drawn to our destinies choice by choice, action by action, moment by moment; always seeking to juggle intuition with instinct, balance thought with deed, mind with heart. And so we negotiate.

But exactly whom do we negotiate with, who sits on the other side of this bargaining table, with whom do we seek to share power? Since what is not I is Thou it can only be thou and with divinity projected onto Thou without and within, all aspects of the labyrinth are seen as sacred, as authentic voices of the mystery.

As this dialogue dances its way through the labyrinth it births pattern, an essential reduction of the path to mathematical precision: if this then that. From mambos to cha-chas, waltzes to swing, each mythos echoes the somatic arche of its creators. ‘The face you show God is the face God shows you’ over and over and over again. As the waves roll onto the beach and the cherries pile up in the bowl, Life undulates through the labyrinth and the wave and the particle dance laughingly through time.

But when tears outweigh laughter, when sorrow outweighs joy, when dispair becomes the light by which the path is reckoned; when dance and dancer are not in accord, cries of rejection and fears of abandonment echo across the dance floor. To prefer something that prefers you is to hope that it prefers you back forever, to hope you can somehow keep a good thing going, but this very hope, this desire to hold on, for marriage, for permanence, for belonging, creates the very attachment it is necessary to forgo. To dance each dance as the only dance is to enter each moment in service, hands out to give not to take, letting go of all else.

Here Life is simple. Now there is nowhere else to be, now there is nowhere else to go. Here and now on the dance floor as dancer and dance become one Life momentarily ceases to be complex. Here at the crossroads of yesterday and tomorrow, now and then, this and that, Life enters the moment and time is the servant, no longer the master.

And so it would seem necessary to journey to this crossroads, or perhaps they journey to us, in order to enter between moments, to hang out betwixt and between in the land without time. For here lies salvation, redemption of the past and a glimpse of tomorrow; seen as time out it is really time in…in touch with the self, in touch with the universe in touch with Thou.

Now if it were only as simple as a long distance call, or a touch of the help key – if only this place was just a plane ride away.

Lived in real time this crossroads is accessed through the mirror…pause, center, shift, going in… to gain perspective of the complex, one must return to the simple, the beginning of things… recalling the dance steps… retracing the archetypal experience to its home in the depths of our history, revolving into the start of our story. It is from ‘Once upon a time’ land that the hero’s journey always begins.

But when the dance gets confusing, steps are hesitant; it becomes necessary to stand aside, take a moment and reunite with the rhythm. “Take a moment’. How is it possible to stop time, to call time out? How is it possible to untangle the complicated and return to the simple? How is it possible to realign with the pattern, catch the beat, be in sync? How is it possible to reestablish connection with the cradle of Life? Where is the strand of fairy tale peas which lead out of the woods back to a place known as Home?

It is to this land that we seek a return; heading east to the land of the rising sun, to the border of the land without time at the door to the labyrinth; the crossroads of here and there, now and then; the announcement of the I/Thou relationship, the beginning of pattern. Birth.

All roads lead to Rome, all roads lead back to the center. From Vipassana meditation to Nichiren chanting, from sandbox therapy to psycho drama, from the discipline of craftsmanship to the liberty of song, Life is offered many opportunities to catch a glimpse of itself. Gazing through these mirrors into the land without time, Life sees itself clearly, knows itself intimately. From Shaman to sooth sayer there have always been frequent flyers on this imaginal voyage through the looking glass for there are many paths which instill centering, many traditions which instill mindfulness: from candles to flashlights there have always been ways to light up the dark, to peer into the mystery.

Light is born at the horizon, it is the good morning kiss of the sun and the moon. It is the lovechild of the I/Thou conspiracy. Finding this light at the end of the tunnel is a rekindling of the faith, a return to the first act of belief, a return to the simple.

So, it seems by honoring our roots, by singing the songs of our genesis we can reconnect to our psyches, caressing the cheek of our souls as we pass through the gateway of time and space.

It takes only sincerity and the allegorical blink of an imaginal third eye to convince the gatekeeper to stand aside. To slip inside the moment between moments, to step into now without stepping out can be the work of a Lifetime, or the grace of a moment. Either way it is the basic requirement.

To check up on Life it is necessary to check-in, to stop the action, freeze frame, be still. To catch the pattern it is necessary to stand aside, pay attention and watch, looking for the rhythm which finger prints each Life with its singularity, looking for the leaf camouflaged by the tree. By focusing attention, intention is declared and the price of admission is paid – the crossroads is reached, all of Life hangs in the moment.

From here it is possible to see the oak in the acorn, the acorn in the oak. From here it is possible to ‘know thyself’; to see who we are so we can be who we are. From here it is possible to gain persective, know the leaf from the branch, the branch from the tree, the tree from the forest. Here live the angels and guardians, devas and spirits. Here lives the question, here lives the answer, here lives the mystery.

‘Who am I’ seems to echo the core of the mystery and the question gives rise to the quest – the journey is born on the first breath we take and so the search for the Self begins.

So Life is not simple. Life teeters and totters. Complicated by each choice we make, each path we take, the labyrinth seems endless. The way forward is shadowed, the way back appears cluttered and closed…too many dances, too many rhythms too many…too much…too…too…too… . Which leads back to rule number one…there is no turning back…no reforming the given no wishing Life otherwise. Cards dealt must be taken – the next move must be made. It is only by converting too to stepping aside that we step back into our lives.

It is only by stopping the dance and by converting our attitude that Life becomes simple. For ‘too’ implies judgement ‘so’ implies suchness. When there is no choice but to ‘Be Here Now’, when the space between here and there is closed, when there is no time between now and then, when we live in the moment betwixt and between, without judgment, without expectation, Life becomes simple. Life simply is.

Four Quartets…
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing. (28)

On wings of light
I learn to fly
Throu ocean’s bliss
I hear my cry.
O sweet mother hear
My pain
To be with you
And home again.
1 2 3 4
almost out the door
1 2 3
woe is me
1 2
what to do
back to
life undone.
Birds of fire
Hearts torment
Gifts of laughter
Heaven sent
Little black shoes
on too big feet
At the crossroads
take a seat.

Rokie, Arizona
March 1993

Works Cited

  • Carody, Denise Lardner. Carmody, John Tully. Mysticism, Holiness East and West. Oxford University Press. New York. 1996.
  • Eliot, T.S. Four Quartets. Harcourt Brace. 1988.
  • Huber, Cheri. That Which You Are Seeking Is Causing You To Seek. A Centre for the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation – publisher. Zen Centre, Mountain View, California. Monastry/Retreat Center, Murphys, California. 1990.
  • The How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything Workbook. Centre for the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation. Mountain View, California. 1988
  • Ibn ‘Arabi, Muhyiddin. Journey to the Lord of Power. A Sufi Manual on Retreat. Translated by Rabia Terri Harris. Inner Traditions International. Rochester, Vermont. 1981.
  • Jung, C.G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. (Concerning Mandala Symbolism). Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen Foundation Inc. New York, 1959. New Material, Princeton University Press. 1969.
  • Ladinsky, Daniel. I Heard God Laughing. Renderings of Hazif. Oakland, California. Dharma Printing Company. 1992.