A New Newsletter about an Old Problem.
Welcome to The In-Between. As you may have noticed, this newsletter has been widening its scope to include not just the triumvirate of Alexander Technique, meditation, and swimming but also the chaos and opportunity of parenting , and the challenges of chronic pain and illness .
The In-Between comes at this moment when we are all waiting for big things: a vaccine, an election, the return of in-person school and work. And yet isn’t this actually the constant: always waiting for big things? The sense that resolution could be just around the corner?
The title of the newsletter is partly an homage to a talk given by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, in which she points out what nearly everyone fails to mention about spirituality and healing:
“We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and the futility of running from pain. We also hear about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds. But we aren’t told all that much about the state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not yet dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth. Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid…”
Pema goes on to say that, “ This in-between state is where the warrior spends a lot of time growing up. “
Certainly my most meaningful (and difficult) experiences have been intensified in-between places:
- Waiting for a diagnosis or effective treatment when I was ill.
- Knowing my daughter had learning differences, but not knowing what they were or how to help.
- My early experiences with the Alexander Technique, where I could taste relief and change but not quite bring it about myself.
Despite the fact that we spend much of our lives in this “in-between state,” — not quite satisfied and not quite comfortable — it can be hard to see any value in it. We often chafe against it. Why?
- We are, as journalist Robert Wright wrote in Why Buddhism Is True, wired through evolution to invest an inordinate amount of hope in the future. It’s not enough to sit back and appreciate our day’s harvest of nuts and berries. We feel compelled to expand our mini-empire and create a more stable and ego-affirming reality (we also want to be seen by the tribe as successful, strong, and invulnerable). Rather than see insecurity as a fact of life, humans have often tried to eradicate it completely.
- This prolonged state of vulnerability and uncertainty is not discussed. We mainly hear stories of success and overcoming, which means that we often feel shame about our average-osity, our lack of overcoming, and sustained struggle.
In this newsletter, you’ll continue to learn and receive practices that I’ve drawn from the Alexander Technique and meditation, plus interviews and guest posts with inventive teachers, and short essays that help us transform ourselves for the better.
As always, Pema gets the last word: “ It’s important to hear about this in-between state. Otherwise we think the warrior’s journey is one way or the other; either we’re all caught up or we’re free. The fact is that we spend a long time in the middle. This juicy spot is a fruitful place to be. Resting here completely — steadfastly experiencing the clarity of the present moment — is called enlightenment. “
Originally published at https://www.dancayer.co on October 30, 2020.