Patterns of Life

Let’s say I asked how you were doing right now, and you answered, “Well, I’m feeling a little tired.”

Okay. Now, here’s a question to ponder, not analytically but experientially:

What exactly is that label referring to?

Just as the various constellations we’ve identified in the night sky all refer to recognizable patterns of light, what is “tired” (or any other experiential descriptor we might use) a pattern of? Really look...

The experiential “particles” that have configured themselves into this thing you’re calling tired—what are those actually comprised of? Put another way, what are the experiential building blocks that make up this state you’re describing?

Just feel your way into the question…

What is it that has assembled itself into the particular pattern you’ve identified and are calling, “being tired?” Sure, you have a name for it, a word that attempts to characterize this particular pattern that’s appearing. But exactly what is that appearance made of? What is tired, actually?

What this kind of inquiry can reveal is that the seeming patterns we are describing are themselves not actually describable! We simply cannot get to the bottom of what anything is. Period.

Regardless of the label we’re using to characterize a given pattern, the patterns themselves are essentially un-characterizable and unresolvable in the sense of our not being able to determine exactly what they are nor where they are even occurring.

And so, it turns out that phenomena, including those we conventionally think of as entrapping or problematic, are far less fixed, structured or definable than we’ve imagined them to be. Challenging states such as fear or anxiety or insecurity can often feel like a kind of prison that we are somehow trapped in or limited by. But when we explore exactly what it is any conceptual or linguistic label is referring to, we can begin to taste the inherently diaphanous, transcendental nature of all these experiential patterns. This discovery reveals that we are never actually stuck in anything but are instead swimming in a sea of open-ended, unresolvable, indeterminate energy and intelligence, present and yet ultimately unfindable and ungraspable.

John Astin