Resonance – A Function of Relationship
For many years now there has been a proliferation of sophisticated group dialogue practice exploring intersubjective field phenomena. Such phenomena have also been called collective intelligence, morphic resonance, manifestations of increasingly intimate group processes. Here, I’m calling it resonance. Whether resonance is a potential intrinsic to or evoked by a deliberate group interaction, whether it’s psychological or spiritual or evolutionary depends on whom you talk to. But regardless, its existence is a function of relationship. There are numerous processes included in the generic term and multiple purposes to which it may be developed. The full potential of intersubjective investigation remains unexplored and virtually unlimited.
The vision of resonance here is an exploration of the potential of group practices to facilitate direct inter-personal non-conceptual experience, to manifest supernormal states, to function as a matrix of diverse collective awakening practices pushing the limits of psychology and scientific materialism. But that is the grand design, is it not? Based on personal experience and further study, there are a few notable characteristics of this intelligence.
The threads of intersubjective development have been regarded as group analogues of long-term solitary spiritual practices or a parallel development of sacred philosophies. But particularly now, group practices are exploding out of a rapidly growing knowledge base resulting from deep and creative explorations with roots reaching back six decades. These pursuits arise from an intuition that solitary practices may be leveraged to group process. We can acknowledge the contributions made by different lineages of practice over a long period of time to the evolution of the whole. We can select multiple practices from a sumptuous buffet or immerse ourselves deeply in a single path. But developing a common understanding of the context in which all these processes are flowering also energizes the whole in ways that are already bearing magnificent and unexpected fruit.
Evolutionary Spirituality & Intersubjectivity
Evolutionary spirituality is generic, stripped of religious jargon, cultural trappings, and formal rituals. It identifies as evolutionary as if it is pushing the boundaries of individuality and accelerating the development of human consciousness into an eventual universal embodiment of high-quality intersubjectivity cultivated in advanced group practices. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of the long-term enjoyed by similar inquiries taking place over the past 1200-2000 years within, say, Buddhist lineages, or even longer in the case of other traditions.
Evolutionary spirituality is also a vibrant domain with many talented leaders and millions of enthusiastic followers. Its objectives, undermining the dualisms of self and other, self and the natural world, parallel what is found in more traditional Buddhist practices. There are dozens of schools and courses. The language of emergence and coherence and authenticity and heart-based practices permeates that world and drives its progress and amplifies its meaning. In all of it, we struggle to comprehend what we are called upon to know and do in a world appearing to collapse around us. Whatever excitement we may have about the gains we make is contrasted with and driven by a torrent of grief underlying a pervasive sense of urgency. Humans had better grow up—or down. But fast!
As far as traditional approaches are concerned, I’m most familiar with the path and psychology of Tibetan practices. Since the opening chapters of [my] book in which I have referred to non-duality as the bedrock of reality, of mind, I’ve been considering it in different contexts. Yes, comprehending the nature of this vision and integrating its features into everyday circumstances is a challenge. But it’s worth taking on because there are untold benefits. We may imagine a full and direct experience of the non-dual nature of mind is reserved for a fortunate few, but its potential for influencing our daily existence is deeper and more accessible than we might realize.
Combined with the immediacy of integrating spirituality and activism, these practices potentially lead us into domains in which the integrity required in these perilous times becomes apparent. The evolutionary potential for deliberately accessing features of this vision for enhanced relations remains largely untapped. What if this view were integrated into the ideologies and practices of evolutionary spirituality? What if its features were already operating in that realm unbeknownst to its practitioners, needing only to be recognized and named?
Interbeing – Two Subjects Become One
In the view of Vajrayana and Dzogchen, the union of appearance and emptiness (samsara and nirvana) is complete, permanent, and unchanging. Everything is exactly as it appears to be and simultaneously has no authentic existence whatsoever. Nearly all that conversation has been about the individual, how we as individuals can meet and become more mindful of the reality and imperatives of the View in our immediate lives. The View reflects the clarity and commitment to enacting a precise, pervasive, and creative compassion. All well and good. But when we consider whether and how this view operates in relationship, we are entering a new domain—or recovering what is already true. We already know something happens when two people come into a deep and trusting connection. We can call it empathy or ‘flow’ or resonance or synchronicity. An interactive quality of openness and exchange occurs, as if two people become immersed in a larger field holding them both, an altered state augmenting and enveloping individuals. Communication within that envelope is extraordinarily enhanced. The object disappears. The sense of other dissolves. Two subjects become One. In that sense, such a focus becomes a portal to intra-action, the true nature of relationship, expressed as an inherent unity of subjects, interbeing.
Another feature of resonance is timelessness, a slowing of time. The future and the past fall away and all that exists is this moment. Surely there are biological markers of this condition, a parasympathetic response in which consciousness of threat is reduced or disappears and defences dissolve into a state of mutual trust, safety, and unbroken availability. It’s a delicate condition, but one which can be cultivated. Its principles may already be well known, they just haven’t been applied to this context. From a Buddhist perspective, resonance approaches a shared experience of emptiness. It isn’t a total leap into a mutual experience of non-dual awareness, but it is a window into awareness of Awareness, a moment in which the true nature and presence of Being intrudes into the discursive awareness of one or more beings. This is a glimmer of the absolute, a moment of non-duality within duality which, for a moment, generates a transient experience of appearance and emptiness as a false binary.
Does the Self Disappear?
Intersubjectivity wrestles with what happens to the self. Does the self disappear? Do we have to lose something or surrender our identity to establish or reside in resonance? One reason group resonance is so difficult to generate, let alone define, is that the softening or dissolution of ego by multiple people in concert is presumed to be a prerequisite for group phenomena to appear. Others may assume just the opposite, that differentiation of individuals is required. I would suggest neither view is accurate. At the very least, the dominance of the self in intra-action is undermined.
The Dzogchen View is that absolute reality is constant, but that relative reality alternates like a light switch being turned on and off, a high frequency arising and disappearing. Yet self and not-self do not exist independently; experience and emptiness are indivisible. To believe self and not-self are independent is a false product of imagination conjuring the only possibility we can comprehend. Self and not-self, experience and emptiness, Presence and Absence seem to be more like the Tao, continuously folding into and out of each other as polar expressions of a single reality, instantaneously and continuously appearing to trade places at the forefront of influence and awareness. We are just as fully in our ego-selves all the time as not. We are thus not capable of entering group resonance only if we are able to dissolve ego. The intersubjective experience is tapping into an intelligence not rooted in ego.
If we were to examine closely our experience of resonance, we would acknowledge our heightened sensitivity to its appearance and disappearance—or perhaps more correctly—the continuously fluctuating relative appearance of self and not-self as a feature of the field. Thus, the field is not uniform; it is constantly changing. But that doesn’t make it any less real—or less resonant. We are not failing to achieve or sustain our intention. We must simply relax a little and realize we are not striving to achieve or notice one or the other. Both self and not-self are present. We can choose how to direct our attention, just as we do in solitary practice.
Both and Neither – in Every Moment
The Buddhist concept of personal liberation does not depend on a permanent achievement of selflessness, but rather a capacity to live in the subtlety of a stable awareness of the Two Truths as One. Likewise, the field awareness of resonance is not at all about not-self, but an ability to hold both self and not-self as immanent, timeless, and unchanging, which is to be both—and neither—in every moment. A delicate but critical paradox. This quality of awareness implies a larger reality, interbeing. We enter a quality of relationship enacted by whomever is present. From the description outlined here, it’s possible to say an individual may engage interbeing in solitary practice. When Thich Nat Hanh coined the term, he was reminding us we are connected in ways we either do not normally notice or cannot (yet) consciously access. He was suggesting we learn to do so because interbeing is always at play, always enacting itself in the form and formlessness of our relations at every scale, whether we are noticing or not and whether we are alone or not.
Connecting as interbeing when we are alone means we enter a consciousness of relationship with everything, and we may use one of many unconventional tools to get there. Resonance is the message of interbeing. Entering the resonance of interbeing in a dyad is a generative, juicy flow of awareness of Awareness often flooded with rich and dynamic imagery. To do so in a group is a palpable shared entrance into the timeless paradox of self and not-self. Methods of accessing resonance individually, in dyads or group settings may vary from the known and familiar, the unexpected, the ancient and the modern. Induction into interbeing can be a chance event, a glimpse, what we may call synchronicity, or a deliberate process known and practiced for centuries such as shamanic ritual or the I Ching. To comprehend these highly developed and reliable bridges to interbeing available for millennia boggles the mind. Plus, there are now many new methods emerging out of intersubjective exploration.
Resonant Space – the Next Buddha?
By whatever method or approach, we may glimpse our true body, the trans-corporeal body of interbeing. It is a deeply loving and forgiving and compassionate space of relationship, the source-less source of everything. It is an encounter with emptiness with the lightest of touch. Whole worlds appear and pass away in the briefest moment. And even the word ‘moment’ seems to have little meaning. In other words, evoking resonance is an embodiment practice, a descent into the One body, accessing the clarity, the unity, the dynamism, and unlimited creative potential of our true nature.
The following is a partial list of potential characteristics of nonduality evoked in the experience of resonance:
· Resonance is intrinsic whether realized or not. It already exists regardless of whether one believes in it or has experienced it. Its appearance is implicit in every moment. Resonance is not a product of me or you. It arises as us yet is inherently something greater—inter-being. It does not belong to anyone or anything. We belong to it.
· Resonance is not an object to be cultivated. Talking about it as if it is a separate phenomenon or as something either here or not here only reinforces the dualistic thinking that makes it more difficult to recognize and enter non-dual experience, however briefly.
· In relative (dualistic) space, objects (others) appear to be real, yet are entirely projections according to our individual experience and conditioning. At all times, I am creating you. You are creating me. The objective of an evolutionary process evoking resonance is to unravel the projections until they either dissolve or become transparent.
· Personal autonomy and agency are rooted in conceptual mind. They all refer to presumed boundaries between identities. The sangha of resonance is a deliberate creation of conditions in which boundaries, erected according to conditioning, experience, religious norms and economic assumptions, can become more fluid, less restrictive. This is partly a matter of neurophysiology and partly of cultural and economic colonization. The sangha challenges every social, religious, ideological, and economic structure. To realize communion (resonance or interbeing), we must reprogram neurophysiology.
· An enhanced emotional connection between separate individuals is an improvement on samsara, but not the ultimate objective. Intersubjective space is accessed by cognitive decisions to enter mutuality, i.e., increased permission between two or more identities. To enter resonance, we do not drop deeper into our identities. We drop out of them; we commit acts of release beyond what we may have previously imagined possible, cutting through the grip of separate time-based karmic identities, perhaps not absolutely or permanently, but enough for us to see the potential of our co-creation.
· We do not come into personal resonance before entering the collective version, but we do have to be comfortable and secure in our own nakedness before we are able to share naked reality with each other. The field quality that awakens such safety and trust is the act of softening our attachment to a separate identity. This might be compared to personal mindfulness practice preceding our capacity to enter group mindfulness practice.
· In resonance, all feelings, conditioning, reticence, and emotional guarding are viewed from a neutral quality of presence. We reduce our need to protect ourselves. That need itself becomes just another thread of the interactional dynamics that might be experienced, shared, and examined. We sense a reduced influence of emotional material that reinforces our separate identities. In resonant space, with intelligence and a shared willingness to be more vulnerable, we can assist one another to come closer to our core conditioning that represents a barrier to entry into resonance in the first place.
· Leadership is a transitional identification of an individual or group whose inquiry into collective resonant space shows promise. A ‘leader’ is identified as an adept facilitator, a gateway to interbeing. Leadership empowers others to reflect on their own participation as well. Ultimately, resonance is not about following leaders or becoming a leader, but about sharing an empowering vision that facilitates confident expression of integrative leadership emerging as a resonant sangha.
· Resonant space is part of an evolutionary move away from post-modern culture driven by individualism and toward enhanced collective awareness. We shouldn’t be naive about the economic, political, and religious forces arrayed against such a movement. We are in an increasingly intense confrontation with powerful forces of libertarian individualism, self-interested economic theory (neoliberalism), and radical Christian nationalist ideologies. As a corollary to Thich Nat Hanh’s vision, the transition to sangha implies a critical shift revealing the nature of collective mind, collective development, and action. In Buddhist terms, resonance is, by inspiring an intention to awaken collectively, shifting from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ If it is authentic, it will inspire compassion, generosity and action guided by the bodhisattva spirit.
· The Next Buddha may be a decentralized sangha, beings from different traditions and different cultures, perhaps even a distributed sangha, holding the collective space for awakening by the integrity of inherent or cultivated confidence.
· An integrated model of suffering is what facilitates its transformation. Resonant space is an emerging vehicle for realizing Buddha’s Third Noble Truth, that there is a way out of suffering. To the degree that groups or individuals can develop reliable awareness, access to interbeing, enhancing the collective field in which we exist and evolve, resonant space moves ever closer to becoming Thich Nat Hanh’s next Buddha.
This essay was originally published by Gary Horvitz in sponaneouspresence.net Gary is also the author of the forthcoming book: Just Passing Through: Reflections on Nonduality, Impermanence and Mortality.
Paintings by Sunil Sigdel