life of one’s own
(2011 – first published 1934 under name joanna field) by Marion Milner (1900-1998)
The same year she married Dennis Milner (1892-1954), inventor, amateur economist, play writer, and also well-known for his call for a minimum income for all citizens
Their son John was born in 1932. They divorced in 1943.
Introduced to psychoanalytic ideas by her brother Patrick Blackett, the physicist and later Nobel prize-winner, Marion Milner went into analysis in Boston with Irma Putnam, at that time a Jungian. After her return to England in 1929, she worked as a psychologist for the Girls’ Public Day Schools Trust from 1933 until war broke out in 1939. She did research on “difficult” pupils’ problems (The Human Problem in Schools) and gave psychology lectures for the Workers Education Association. In 1934 (under the pseudonym of “Joanna Field”) her autobiographical book A Life of One’s Own, the first and best known of her journal based books, was published.
Marion Milner (1900–1998), sometimes known as Marion Blackett-Milner, was a British author and psychoanalyst. Outside psychotherapeutic circles, she is better known by her pseudonym, Joanna Field, as a pioneer of introspective journaling
In 1926, Milner began an introspective journey that later became one of her best-known books, A Life of One’s Own (initially published under the name Joanna Field in 1934). This started as a journal in which she would note down times that she felt happy and thoughts going through her head at those times, in an attempt to discover what happiness was; however, her introspection branched out into other areas, from an analysis of day-to-day worries to experiences which some reviewers described as “mystical”. Milner’s basic technique is a kind of introspection, observing fleeting thoughts (“butterfly thoughts”, as she calls them) combined with an openness to sensory experience she calls “wide awareness”. A Life of One’s Own was well-received, attracting favorable reviews from such literary notables as W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, and soon afterwards, she published a work on similar lines (again as Joanna Field), An Experiment in Leisure
on hold at library – thanks library
intro’d to Marion and her book here via maria: A Life of One’s Own: A Penetrating 1930s Field Guide to Self-Possession, Mindful Perception, and the Art of Knowing What You Really Want
a world which, in the sobering words of E.E. Cummings, “is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else.”
In 1926, more than a decade before a team of Harvard psychologists commenced history’s longest and most revelatory study of human happiness and half a century before the humanistic philosopher Erich Fromm penned his classic on the art of living, the British psychoanalyst and writer Marion Milner (February 1, 1900–May 29, 1998) undertook a seven-year experiment in living, aimed at unpeeling the existential rind of all we chronically mistake for fulfillment — prestige, pleasure, popularity — to reveal the succulent, pulsating core of what makes for genuine happiness.
Along her journey of “doubts, delays, and expeditions on false trails,” which she chronicled in a diary with a field scientist’s rigor of observation, Milner ultimately discovered that we are beings profoundly different from what we imagine ourselves to be — that the things we pursue most frantically are the least likely to give us lasting joy and contentment, but there are other, truer things that we can train ourselves to attend to in the elusive pursuit of happiness
she set out to doubt her most fundamental assumptions about what made her happy, trying to learn not from reason alone but from the life of the senses.
I found that there were different ways of perceiving and that the different ways provided me with different facts. There was a narrow focus which meant seeing life as if from blinkers and with the centre of awareness in my head; and there was a wide focus which meant knowing with the whole of my body, a way of looking which quite altered my perception of whatever I saw. And I found that the narrow focus way was the way of reason. If one was in the habit of arguing about life it was very difficult not to approach sensation with the same concentrated attention and so shut out its width and depth and height. But it was the wide focus way that made me happy.
Although I could not have told about it at the time, I can now remember the feeling of being cut off from other people, separate, shut away from whatever might be real in living. I was so dependent on other people’s opinion of me that I lived in a constant dread of offending, and if it occurred to me that something I had done was not approved of I was full of uneasiness until I had put it right. I always seemed to be looking for something, always a little distracted because there was something more important to be attended to just ahead of the moment.
Much of that aliveness, she notes, came from the very act of chronicling the process of self-examination, for attention is what confers interest and vitality upon life.
If just looking could be so satisfying, why was I always striving to have things or to get things done? Certainly I had never suspected that the key to my private reality might lie in
so apparently simple a skill as the ability to let the senses roam unfettered by purposes..t
I began to wonder whether eyes and ears might not have a wisdom of their own.
I had been continually exhorted to define my purpose in life, but I was now beginning to doubt whether life might not be too complex a thing to be kept within the bounds of a single formulated purpose, whether it would not burst its way out… So I began to have an idea of my life, not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know.
Here then was a deadlock. I wanted to get the most out of life, but the more I tried to grasp, the more I felt that I was ever outside, missing things.
let go of the things you have to cling to
At that time I could not understand at all that my real purpose might be to learn to have no purposes..t
I had at least begun to guess that my greatest need might be to let go and be free from the drive after achievement — if only I dared..t
I had also guessed that perhaps when I had let these go, then I might be free to become aware of some other purpose that was more fundamental, not self-imposed private ambitions but some thing which grew out of the essence of one’s own nature. People said: ‘Oh, be yourself at all costs’. But I had found that it was not so easy to know just what one’s self was. It was far easier to want what other people seemed to want and then imagine that the choice was one’s own..t
It struck me as odd that it had taken me so long to reach a feeling of sureness that there was something in me that would get on with the job of living without my continual tampering..t.. I suppose I did not really reach it until I had discovered how to sink down beneath the level of chattering thoughts and simply feel what it meant to be alive.
reminds me of james when he was describing/helping us with detox
I had just begun to ponder over the fact that all the things which I had found to be sources of happiness seemed to depend upon the capacity to relax all straining, to widen my attention beyond the circle of personal interest, and to look detachedly at my own experience. I had just realized that this relaxing and detachment must depend on a fundamental sense of security, and yet that I could apparently never feel safe enough to do it, because there was an urge in me which I had dimly perceived but had never yet been able to face. It was then that the idea occurred to me that until you have, once at least, faced everything you know — the whole universe — with utter giving in, and let all that is “not you” flow over and engulf you, there can be no lasting sense of security.
By continual watching and expression I must learn to observe my thought and maintain a vigilance, not against “wrong” thoughts, but against refusal to recognize any thought. Further, this introspection meant continual expression, not continual analysis; it meant that I must bring my thoughts and feelings up in their wholeness, not argue about them and try to pretend they were something different from what they were.
I had learnt that if I kept my thoughts still enough and looked beneath them, then I might sometimes know what was the real need, feel it like a child leaping in the womb, though so remotely that I might easily miss it when over-busy with purposes.
Really, then, I had found that there was an intuitive sense of how to live.
It was only when I was actively passive, and content to wait and watch, that I really knew what I wanted.
So I had finally come to the conclusion that my task was to become more and more aware, more and more understanding with an understanding that was not at all the same thing as intellectual comprehension….t
Without understanding, I was at the mercy of blind habit; with understanding, I could develop my own rules for living and find out which of the conflicting exhortations of a changing civilization was appropriate to my needs. And, by finding that in order to be more and more aware I had to be more and more still,..t.. I had not only come to see through my own eyes instead of at second hand, but I had also finally come to discover what was the way of escape from the imprisoning island of my own self-consciousness.
notes\quotes from book:
table of contents
10 – so talking teaches you how to think and often you must talk to yourself
13 – but it seems that in order or relax physically one must first be active mentally
intro – rachel bowlby
what she calls ‘my method’ was open to change along the way
‘remembering descartes, i set out to doubt everything i had been taught’.. she consciously tries not to remember anyone or anything she has even read, let alone been taught, instead pursuing something like a voyage of her own personal experimental discoveries..
starting from within.. first.. everyday.. ie: curiosity and decision making
w/in herself there lies another country, an elsewhere or otherwhere that is overlooked and unvisited until, but the act of observation and recording, she begins to realise the meaning of it
they (handbooks on mental training – self help) fail her, demanding some certain knowledge of a definite life goal, which milner doesn’t have; but the diversion, the ‘false trail’ w its ‘glowing promises’ then comes to serve as a kind of ad for milner’s own way
but milner then proceeds to a further justification which is all the more striking for being cast as in need of no elaboration: the need for such a method in these days is obvious, a method for discovering one’s true likes and dislikes, of finding and setting up a standard of values that is truly one’s own and not a borrowed mass produced ideal
self-talk as data
how strange it might have seemed to someone of the previous century to milner’s to be able to set the self and its individual ‘likes and dislikes’ as a ‘standard of values’ w no mediating or median source of value – community, ed, or even family – to stand between it and the alien ideals oat the other extreme.. the distantly manufactured external standard evidently bears no relation to the truth of this ‘own’ unborrowed self.
so milner whispers invitingly and inspiringly that something diff is to be heard and found if you stop to listen beyond the incessant ‘chatter’ of present day social waves.. stop, stand back and wait; watch yourself..
‘another trick that i discovered was to keep myself particularly alert to any little movements going on in the back of my mind, passing ideas which were often quite irrelevant to my task of the moment and which i would never have noticed in the ordinary way. i called these ‘butterflies’ for they silently fluttered in from nowhere and were gone in a moment’
‘particularly was i struck by the effect of writing things down. it was as if i were trying to catch something and the written word provided a net which for a moment entangled a shadowy form which was other than the meaning of the words’
‘not only did i find that trying to describe my experience enhanced the quality of it, but also this effort to describe had made me more observant of the small movements of the mind. so not i began to discover that there were a multitude of ways of perceiving’
‘all i could do was to drift blindly form one experience to another, vaguely hoping that if enough things happened to me i would eventually learn wisdom. i never realized that i was making the same mistake again and again, simply because i did not know how to emerge from blind thinking into that state of seeing in which reflexion and the drawing of conclusions were possible..’
this is a capacity to acknowledge or ‘admit’ to allow and to let in.. to the mind those aspects of its feeling and experience which have hitherto been overlooked or dismissed as not just uninteresting but undesirable or unlikeable aspects of the self..
‘but now i discovered that w the deliberate speaking of my thoughts to myself, in words, they lost their obsessive quality and also my boredom had entirely disappeared.. it was only when i had admitted to myself deliberately in words what i wanted, that i was able to accept the fact that i had not got it’
in this instance it is as though setting aside the failed connection, the unfulfilled desire, then makes possible the full enjoyment of another experience, here and now
‘of course as soon as i really looked at the standard i was judging by i saw its absurdity and knew at once that real life was not like that; but it was long time before i had realized that any standard was there
‘just as i had, when first beginning to examine my experience, found most of my delights in natural things, i was now finding that i chiefly reckoned each day’s catch of happiness in terms of my relationships w others..’
sounds like lab.. once free.. craved others..
both a and a
‘of this, wordless understanding seemed to be particularly important. before, i had been inclined to judge the value of meeting w my friends largely by what was said. now it was the unvoiced relationship which seemed of more concern – though this was perhaps partly the result of having for 18 mos shared the life os someone who had not yet learned to talk’ (just had a baby)
in a quotation from the journal.. ‘i escaped from the horror which would not let me sleep by the thought of n. (age 10 mos) in his little wooly cap’
‘.. began wondering what the scientists who deal w diff phases of social life could tell me. i had even got as far as resolving to read some books on sociology, when it suddenly dawned on me that that was not at all what i wanted: i wanted to know that woman as a person, a unique individual, not as a specimen’ (some lady she was observing as she passed on a train)
‘sometimes when i came out from reading in a scientific library, the first whiff of hot pavement, the glimpse of a mangy terrier grimed w soot, would make me feel as though i had risen from the dead. for this ‘dogness’ of the dog and ‘stoneness’ of the pavement which i loved so, were simply non existent in abstract ‘dog’ and ‘pavement’.. it seemed to me then that science could only talk about things and that discussion broke up and killed some essential quality of experience‘
milner seems to be representing brave voyage out into uncharted seas and territory, in which the map of science or other knowledge might have been an obstacle to discovering the new way that she seeks.. there is a deliberate refusal or repudiation of reading, as something that might wrongly pre map and there by distort the possibility of significant experience..
‘it took me years to learn that i must never begin my search by looking in books, never say ‘i know too little, i must read some more before i start’.. but that i must always observe first, express what i observe, and then, if i needed it, see what the book s had to say’
huge.. but even more so for daily living.. ie: rather than observe first.. to find something knowable.. listen to self first.. everyday.. to see what it is you desire to know/do/be
‘the reason why i did not at any time make the attempt to express what i saw in terms of conventional psychoanalytic concepts was that i wanted to keep rigidly w/in the bounds of my own actual observation.. to try as far as possible to forget everything i had read, everything i had been told, and to assume nothing that did not emerge out of my own direct experience’
in many ways, a life of one’s own does follow quite recognisable psychoanalytic trails. it looks out for areas of daily experience that are habitually ignored, and seeks to pay attention to them..
notice the unlikely ness
and as in psychoanalysis too, it is not, or not primarily , just the content of what is uncovered that makes a diff. the very ability to recognise what has been going on somewhere else in the mind constitutes a fundamental change in the self and its capacities for receiving or bearing new experiences..
where woolf assumes that motherhood is likely to be a distraction from women’s creativity – historically , women writers have had books but not babies – milner has a baby in the course of her narrative and motherhood, far from being an impediment, seems to provide her w new and expanded ways of thinking. one of the early reviewers of her book that she cites in the afterword written fora much later edition points out that despite the discovery of the pleasure of domesticity and nurturing, milner does not argue that these things and not a professional life, should be women’s domain; there is no question of conflict or choice between the two..
a ‘life’ of one’s own cannot fail to sound broader and more inclusive when placed alongside – or outside – a ‘room’ which in comparison appears to be enclosed and isolated..
it is in undertaking which, again unlike psychoanalysis, doesn’t require the assistance of a specialist other person; instead, as milner explains, it is something that anyone who reads her book may learn to do for themselves
or anyone who doestn’ read it.. ie: no train.. already in us
milner, on the other hand, turns away from specialist reading altogether and instead invites her reader (the singular reader, responsive to the intimate form of address) to discover the kinds of idio ‘facts’ of her own life that milner found for herself.. getting or finding this ‘life’ takes precedence over all the other material or personal accoutrements of existence; and conversely, the getting of it require none of the qualifications, whether ed.. financial, or otherwise situational
and again .. not even reading milner’s book as pre req
unlike woolf, milner doesn’t just tell you it would be nice to have on (of your own).. it shows you step by step and in lovely private detail, how to go about getting one – all by yourself, and w/o and need for special training or material resources – and what it might feel like to have one, moment by moment. it is and irresistible invitation..
what we need.. something that we are all already craving..
no train et al
this book is the record of a seven years’ study of living.. the aim of the record was to find out what kinds of experience made me happy
the method was a: pick out moments which had been particularly happy and try to record them in words b: go over these records in order to see whether i could discover any rules about the conditions in which happiness occurred..
writing book: for my own exploration/summary; publishing book: just in case might help others.. but in no sense is book a treatise in how to be happy.. it is only as true a record aa i could make it of what i myself found when i asked, ‘what do i like’.. it does not say ‘you must do this’.. it only tries to give one answer to the question, ‘what happens if you do this’..
it was this uneasy gap between knowing and living that determined the first steps in developing my method.. i tried to learn .. not from reason but from my senses.. .. it is the wide (vs narrow of ie: science) focus way that made me happy..
having found this out.. my next task was to find what this wide focus depended upon.. for i found i could not always achieve it..
i had not realized that by a few simple tricks of observation i could become aware of quite unexpected things in myself.. and it was gradually, by exploring this region, that i came to understand what forces were distorting and limiting my powers of perception, preventing me from making constant use of that source of happiness which my earlier observations had brought to light
the following is a brief summary of the theory
it seemed to me that my difficulties could most conveniently be considered in terms of a failure to understand that every human personality is two sided.. both male and female
it was no wonder that i had been able to find so little that was of use to me in scientific writings, for it now seemed, in the light of this theory of bisexuality, that the development of the feminine attitude beyond the purely physiological had never been intellectually understood.. since the developed feminine attitude naturally finds expression in terms of mysticism it had, i thought, been looked at askance by the analysing intellect and feared as an enemy of clear headed detachment.. obviously, the hardest task for objective reasoning is to understand its opposite
whales in sea world et al
most of the people i knew (both mean and women) had made a cult of the ‘male’ intellect, that is , of objective reasoning as against subjective intuition.. i had apparently been submissive towards this fashion and accepted its assumption that logical symbols were ‘real’ and anything else only ‘wish fulfillment’.. so i had for years struggled to talk na intellectual language which for me was barren, struggle to force the feelings of my relation to the universe into terms that would not fit.. for i had not understood at all that a feminine attitude to the universe was really just as legit, intellectually and biologically, as a masculine one; only, because it had never yet been properly understood, and had certainly not understood itself, it had always tended to give to its mythological and religious symbols a special reverence and validity. so i found that although the fem or subjective attitude needs the male intellect if it si to understand itself, most of those i knew who possessed competent male intellects were not sufficiently both sided themselves to have any notion of the meaning of subjectivity.. whether man or woman..
or some, who seemed to have partially understood their own femininity, like wienner and dh lawrence, hated and despised it because they were afraid of it. and i also had been afraid of it, had tried to fill my life w what were, for me, artificial male purposes.. had not dared give in to receptiveness, for it feared the loss of its own identity, and until it did i was unable to escape form that narrow focus of attention which always accompanied my purposiveness..
from all this i gathered that there are two entirely opposite attitudes possible in facing the problems of one’s life. one, to try and change the external world, the other, to try and change oneself..
to the man who is concerned w external matters, w trying to control people and things to suit his purposes, the problems of the opposite attitude seem morbid and unreal.. while to him who has no desire to force his personality upon the world, who takes into himself what the external world has to offer and there remakes himself into a new being, the other attitude is apt to seem superficial – yet also something to be feared..
so in my search i had found myself looking for ways of learning how to think less about myself.. this does not mean however, that it is everybody’s good to think less of self.. some.. are biased towards perpetually giving themselves to external purposes, may find their necessary balance in an opposite direction..
as for the method which led me to these discoveries, let no one think it is an easy way because it is concerned w moments of happiness rather than w stern duty or high moral endeavor. for what is really easy , as i found, is to blind one’s eyes to what one really likes, to drift into accepting one’s wants ready made form other people and to evade the continual day to day sifting of values..
and finally, let no one undertake such and experiment who is not prepared to find himself more of a fool that he thought
london 1934 (preface)
1 – first questions
then psycho analysis was inevitably suggested. but at that time i did not see how it could be arranged, and also it seemed to me too privileged a way out; i though ti wanted to find something that was available for everyone.
was there no intuitive sense of how to live.. though i knew such an idea was looked upon w suspicion i felt it was a possibility not to be ignored.. perhaps such a sense would make itself felt thru one’ spontaneous wants.. or perhaps such a sense, thou it did exist, had become dulled by our present ways of living so that some wants were idle, mere imitation, but underneath were a diff kind having a real relation to one’s fundamental needs..
then it struck me that perhaps being happy might really be the indication for such a sense.. perhaps if one really knew when one was happy one would know the things that were necessary for one’s life?
i was suspicious of my own power of reasoning.. i decided it was not good trying to answer these questions by sitting down and thinking them out. neither would i read what other people had said,.. i decided to look at the facts of my own life. to see if i could find out what i wanted to know simply by observation and experiment..
observe my wants and whether i got them and whether it made me happy or not..
public reality, what was agreed fact about the external world, did no seem able to tell me wha twas importan for me, or what to do in order to live in accordance w the laws of my own being..
but might there not perhaps be a private reality, a reality of feeling rather than of knowing, which i could not afford to ignore? as far as i knew science had not considered this other domain..
virginia woolf: ‘this soul, or life w/in us, by no means agrees w the life outside us..’
finally, i decided only to read books that would keep my heart up, books that would give me the mood i wanted rathe than info..
2 – keeping a diary
about this time i came upon many new experiences. up to now i had been determined to examine my experience in order to find out where and why it was inadequate. now, new things were beginning to happen to me, i seem to have felt, for a time at least, that the experience was enough in itself and that it was better simply to live it, since looking at it too deliberately might spoil it.. so, although the diary continues somewhat intermittently, it becomes more a simple record of external happenings than a deliberate attempt to evaluate and understand them
some of my new experiences were physical ones, and i think i was particularly reluctant to record these for two reasons. first, i found words so inadequate to convey the quality of what happened and that they even sometimes had the power to destroy what they could not express.. seconds.. these moments of physical happiness were emerging from a new direction..
i used to trouble about what life was for – now being alive seems sufficient reason..
when i did come to look at it (diary) i did not know what to do w it, because for me there were two separate things.. 1- day to day experience.. vague chaos 2- theories about life.. i did not know how to link the two.. ie: so that i could see more by knowing where to look
3 – exploring the hinterland
though some of thee discoveries were not entirely pleasant, bringing w them echoes of terror and despair.. at least they gave me a sense of being alive
4 – the coming and going of delight
in these days i began to understand that my powers of perceiving could be altered, not by directly trying to look or trying to listen, but by this special internal gesture
(on learning to play ping pong w a loose arm when used to the idea that if something is difficult.. try harder) as long as i could hold myself back from meddling.. what surprised me was that may arm seemed to know what to do by itself, it as able to make the right judgements of strength and direction quite w/o my help. here the internal gesture required seemed to be to stand aside
(now on darning socks) i found i could make some internal act while darning, an act of detachment by which i stood aside from my hand, did not interfere w it, but left it to put in the needle by itself.. at first i found great difficulty in restraining my head form trying to do my hand’s work.. but whenever i succeeded the results startled me.. for at once there came a sense of ease and i was able to work at max speed w/o any effort.. .. henceforth sewing was something to look forward to, a time to enjoy the feel of movement in my hand instead of a tiresome task to be avoided as often as possible..
suddenly i noticed that i was trying to think and that i seemed to have taken it for granted that i would by happy if only i could think of something.. not that i had any special problem that needed solving at the at particular moment, it was simply the feeling that one ought to have thoughts, ideas, something interesting to say about all one had seen/heard.. .. my body simply wanted to do nothing. of course as soon as i became aware of this idea that one ought to have thoughts i realized how silly it was and i stopped trying to do anything. i simply ‘let go’.. at once the whiteness of sun lit ropes against the sea leapt to my eyes and i was deeply content to sit and look (same to earlier with wanting to capture – perhaps by drawing – the forest.. until she let go and just *fully took in the trees.. then felt no need to capture it)
let go ness
*spreading self.. making self fat
another ie of the effects of passivity.. i was interested in pictures.. but worried because so often i could not say what i liked; i never seemed to know how to decide…
except on a few occasions .. i simply sat and looked, too inert to remember whether i ought to like it or not.. slowly then i became aware that something was pulling me out of my vacant stare and the colours were coming alive, griping my gaze till i was soaking myself in their vitality.. gradually a great delight filled me.. yet it had all happened by just sitting still and waiting..
if i had merely given a cursory glance, said: ‘isn’t that nice’.. and drifted on w the crowd, always urged to the next thing, i would have missed it all
another experience when i was too tired to think (up all night).. at once i slipped into such a happiness as i had never known till then..
i no longer strove to e doing something.. i was deeply content w what was..
there were many questions.. which of the things i had done shad been important int eh awakening of my sense? or was it nothing i had done, but some spell from the forest and the sun? could i repeat the experience and so have a permanent retreat for the cure of amy angers and self pity”.. if just looking could be so satisfying, why was i always striving to have things or to get things done
i had never suspected that they key to my private reality might lie in so apparently simple a skill as the ability to let the sense roam unfettered by purposes.. i began to wonder whether eyes and ears might not have a wisdom of their own
5 – searching for a purpose
it seemed then that i was not incapable of strong purpose. the problem was really how to bring such energy of desire into relation w my everyday life..
curiosity from inside.. first thing.. everyday
(after sharing her list of all things she thought she wanted).. i had never been able to decide which one of these could be made the central purpose of my life.. because in one mood one would be important,,,, in a diff mood another; i had never followed any of them whole heartedly..
(another writing of attempt to find main purpose).. i want, not knowledge, but experience of the laws of things.. knowing is not good unless you feel the urgency of the thing. maybe this is love; your being becomes part of it, giving yourself to it
i had been continually exhorted to define my purpose in life, but i was now beginning to doubt whether life might not be too complex a thing to be kept w/in the bounds of a single formulated purpose, whether it would not burst its way out, or if the purpose were too strong, perhaps grow distorted like an oak whose trunk has been encircles w an iron band
‘i want to change my attitudes; it fills me w restlessness that i am always striving after something and i don’t know wha tit si.. i envy people who are artists chiefly.. i want to achieve the play attitude.. by this i mean concentration in an activity which has no apparent use just for the delight of doing it..’
‘..play means to me freedom – freedom from fears. it is an expression of the dignity of the soul, enslaved in no bondage of justification.’
i walked down 5th ave in the sparkling sun, impelled to be idle, but impelled to find some justification for my idleness.. i was always full of purposes, always driving myself to do more things – to read more books, to learn more languages, to see more people, not to miss anything..
‘..the social self which wants everybody’s approval? i think her master is a fear in hell’
guessing that i must give up something, i could not tell where might lie the crux of the surrender.. only i had a suspicion that my constant worry over the worthwhileness of what i did i was concerned w some dominating fear hidden in the dark hinterlands of thought.
her attitude also shows the way she was trying to get it – by intense effort, determination.. although at the time the drawing meant nothing to me, i could now see it as a graphic expression of the fact that i did not know that i could only get the most out of life by giving myself up to it..
it seemed then that my purpose in life was to get the most out of life. and because i was not capable of more than very muddled thinking, i still assumed that the way to this was to strive to do more and more things; and this, in spite of my intuition about the need for surrender, here then was a deadlock.. i wanted to get the most out of life, but the more i tried to grasp, the more i felt that i was ever outside, missing things.. at that time i could not understand at all that my real purpose might be to learn to have no purposes..t
let go of the things you have to cling/grasp to
‘this is really what i want. i want to discover ways to discriminate the important things in human life. i want to find ways of getting past this blind fumbling w existence’..t
then came another attempt to express my main purpose: ‘but this is what i want. to make discoveries about human beings, to know what they are. and i suppose my trouble is that i am not convinced that intellectual study of the human being is the way to it.. maybe to be a complete human being oneself is the only way.. and how does one do that?..t
to run the risk that if i had a preconceived idea of where i was going i might ‘miss the many splendoured thing’
now concentration began to possess a quite new meaning. the word had always in the pasts been connected w the dull and burdensome, it was like having a purpose in life, it meant missing things, shutting out the unexpected; just as being ‘good’ at school meant turning form the lovely things, whipping oneself away from lazy moments in the sun and from changes of escaping the classroom into glorious loneliness.. but now, concentration, instead of being a matter of time tables and rules, was a magicians’ wand. by a simple self chosen act of keeping my thoughts on one thing instead of dozens… i had found a window opening out across a new country of wide horizons and unexplored delights..
6 – searching for a rule
‘all this never resting constant effort to think about something that will get you on – which will make you the sort of person you want to be – is but another way of trying to escape surrender – trying to be what you are not’
but i did not understand what i had to surrender to.. i wrote: ‘the secret of lack of concentration seems to me to be fear, guilt, a continual running away, escaping, hiding – a sense that what one is doing at the moment won’t save one, but something else is better – always the thing you are not doing is going to be the only thing’
perhaps wrong focus.. not what is keeping us from it/us.. but rather.. what would make those things keeping us from it/us irrelevant
ie: focus on curiosity inside.. everyday.. first
but i did not know what i was running away from.. i wrote: ‘what i think happens is this. your conviction of being a miserable sinner makes you alway son guard to avoid being found out, so everything you do is restrained, cautious, half hearted and of course, rather a failure.. which hits back and agin convinces you of deficiency, of weakness/inferiority, a vicious circle
then i began to see a connexion between the vague feeling of guilt, of inadequacy, and the intense preoccupation w wha tother people thought of me
i had found that my best moments, moments that i counted as successes, had not followed the toothgritting keeping of resolutions which i had been taught to believe was the only way of getting things done..t
it seemed as if i had been used to treating thought as wayward child which must be bullied into sitting in one place and doing one thing continuously, against its natural inclination to go wandering, to pick one flower here and another there, to chase a butterfly or climb a tree.. so progress in concentration had at first meant strengthening my bullying capacity
and just as i had once wanted to teach children but had given up the idea because i felt sure i had not the strength of will to force children to sit still
why had no one told me that the function of will might be to stand back, to wait, not to push
7 – two ways of looking
slowly i realized that the facts were not separate thins which were there for anyone to pick up, but never changing pattern against a boundless background of the unknown, an immense kaleidoscope changing constantly according to the diff ways you looked at it.. things which changed completely according to what one said about them or the way one looked..
two diff ways of perceiving: 1\ narrow attention – the automatic one; 2\ wide attention – questing purposes held in leash.. then since one wanted nothing.. there was no need to select one item to look at rather than another.. so possible to look at whole at once.. to attend to something and yet want nothing form it.. in ordinary way .. if we want nothing from something we ignore it.. but if by chance we should have discovered the knack of holding wide our attention, then the magic thing happens..
zoom dance ness
it now occurred to me that there were many experiences which had meaning only when they were considered whole..
as soon as the fear of making a mistake rose in my mind, then the act of wide attention became almost impossible
8 min – discovering that thought can be blind
i had come to the conclusion that what mattered most to me seemed to depend on my powers of perceiving, and that these were, to some extent, under my own control. but the greatest obstacle in the way which was continually preventing me from being fully responsive to my surrounding seemed to be free of difficulty. i thought then that my next task must be to look for reason why i was always expecting things to be difficult distrusting my own ability, fearing the criticisms of others
i began to realize what a lot there was to be learnt about the unrecognized parts of oneself from observation of unhappy children.. ie: crying for help.. when often you are only one to solve.. now i found myself unwilling to admit i was happy because of a vague sense that i might thereby forgo some advantage, might give up my claim to that special attention (crying for help) which seemed to be the prerogative of the miserable
9 – watching the antics of blind thinking
(via narrow thinking.. i ended up mean et al)
10 – the escape from blind thinking
emotion did something to one’s thinking.. i could not see beyond the magic circle of my own rage, so everything that others did referred to me alone.. i had long ago learnt that what at night appeared to be an irretrievable disaster would probably shrink to a quite trivial mishap by the time i woke up
i could see that once an idea was stated it was exposed to the light of common sense, and whatever absurdities of childish thinking it might contain would not remain long unchallenged, if not by myself, then sooner or later by others..
? – danger here
obviously, i could not indulge in convo w/o very soon discovering that my remarks did not find social acceptance.. as long as based on assumption that my own mind was all there was.. so .. because of the instinctive desire not to be shut off from contact w other people, i was forced to realize the private nature of my own thinking. i was forced to stand back from it in order to fashion it into terms which had more than an accidental and private meaning, terms which took into account the common interests of the people i was talking to
if my main aim in talking was mainly sociable – to get on w other people, to make friends – quite clearly there must be a lot of things which i did not talk about.. what then would happen to ideas on matters which were never talked of because i should feel too ashamed.. i had never asked myself this question before, for i had grown up w w hatred of having my personal affairs discussed. when i listened to the personal talk of others i used sometimes to go hot all over, feeling it utterly impossible that i should ever talk like that about myself. i had thought that private affairs should be dealt w privately. what i had not realized was that usually, if i could not bear to deal w them in public, then they were also too painful to be dealt w in the privacy of my own mind.. ..unless it was very clear what i was about, i tried to hide the painful thought just as urgently form my own eyes as from those of others..
i now began to understand why it was not good arguing against obsessive fears or worries, for the source of them was beyond the reach both of reason/common-sense.. only way to deal w them was to stop all attempts to be reasonable and to give the thoughts free rein. in dealing w other people this meant just listening while thy talked out whatever was in their minds.. in dealing w myself it usually meant letting my thoughts write themselves..
11 – fear of a dragon
i had found it was fatal to be afraid of any skulking thought, for the more i looked the other way the wilder grew my ideas of its terror; it seemed to collect all the other ideas i had ever feared and org a massing of ghouls behind my back. but if once i would look it in the face it shrank into everyday size and shape.. till my fears seemed incredible and ludicrous
and then i began to see it as a fear that my personal id would be swallowed up and then, gradually, i began to feel sure that i was really this fear which had made me purpose driven. i felt i had been continually distracted w a life and death issue, i had the desire always to be getting things done to prove to myself that i existed as a person at all.. so it was only very rarely that i had felt safe enough to give up striving,
norton productivity law et al
12 – more outcasts of thought
and all the time you have the feeling that words are quite incapable of conveying the actual experience of the dream; since it seems to take no account of logic, one person can be several diff people all at once, a room can be both upstairs and down in the street at the same time
beyond words ness
gradually i became convinced that my outcast thoughts were in fact seeking expression for themselves quite apart from any effort of mine, but that they could find only an indirect and symbolic language in which to cloth themselves
what language isn’t symbolic?
i had begun to wonder wether my truant mind (wandering thoughts) might not possess a wisdom of its own..t
i saw that to see only the ridiculousness of humanity was just as misleading as to see only its dignity, that what one said or thought about a thing must always be a distortion, that the mistake was to believe that any one expression could be the last word, for experience was always bigger than the formula..
if only i cold remember to distinguish the formulation from the fact, and not assume that because it was said it must be true.. , then i would be able to know that their laughter did not always prove me futile..
and as long as i took the formula for the fact i was at the mercy not only of other people’s flippancies, but of my own..
i who had so often kept silence for fear that others might scoff, found a scoffer w/in myself whose laughs were just loud enough to cast a shadow of anxiety over my delights..
another aspect of this in my attitude to people.. i was always wanting people to be either all lovable for all hateful.. and it was only be recognizing my thought as thought that i could remember to look deliberately for the reverse side, and remember to express it, so that i could widen my attention enough to view the irreconcilable opposites both together..
now i was being made to recognize that w/o any doubt i also had needs which might be quite diff from those my everyday conscious self regarded as important.. at first i had not known at all how to distinguish between things that i thought i ought to want because other people did and those that were fundamentally appropriate to my own situation and nature..
it was not until i discovered how needs perhaps quite unsuspected by me seemed to be striving to make themselves known.. that i saw the matter in quite a diff light.. i saw it then as an imperious demand which, for me at least, if denied by an arrogant intellect, had power to take its revenge in quite unguessed at ways.. in fact.. so great was the conflict, that even after i had actually fulfilled this need my intellect continued to play tricks w me, and i quite failed to recognize the obvious physiological signs of what was happening.. when i did finally understand.. i suddenly found myself standing quite still, .. and a flood of contentment welled up ..
in spite of all this, i could not understand why such an obvious and universal need could also be a blinding terror
13 – relaxing
by relaxing body and focusing on ie: where the ball needed to go.. trusting body to take care of rest (para).. attend to the watching of movements rather than the pushing of them
i kept my attention fixed on this mental image, and let my hand draw as it would..
same w singing.. as soon as my attention slipped back to the problem of trying to sing (rather than just listening to it).. then my voice wandered off the note
it seemed that i had always tried to keep in tune by attending to the muscles in my throat which felt as if they controlled the sound, just as i had tried to play tennis by the deliberate placing of my limbs. after this i found that i could keep in tune whenever i chose, so long as i thought only of the melody and forgot that my throat existed..
i next began to realize that not only must i not try to drive my muscles, but also i must not try to drive my sensations.. i found that if, when i was wanting to perceive, i stood back and let my eye take its own course it ha d may thing to tell me..
i was finding that my eye had quite definite interest of its own, that when it was not driven into being the slave of my desires, or browbeaten into providing me w into, it liked looking at things for their own sake and saw quite a diff world..
and i thought i understood what being blind to ugliness meant. it meant that the eye was enslaved to thought, and that one was valuing things for what they made one think of, not for their own sakes..
also.. more general results.. the widening mental focus which seemed to follow muscular relaxing brought a twofold deepening of experience.. from present and past.. not that i turned away from present in order to think of the past but that the past gave added richness to the present..
when going my ways w contracted body and narrow focused mind i always felt i was missing things, a feeling of the glory that had departed or that belonged to someone else.. .. i would plunged into aching envy of others who were where i would like to be.. but whenever i could remember to relax, then the glory of my childhood had not departed.. time and place did not matter any more..
experiencing the present w the whole of my body instead of w the pin point of my intellect led to all sorts of new knowledge and new contentment.. i began to guess wha tit might mean to live form the heart instead of the head, and i began to feel movements of the heart which told me more surely what i wanted than any making of lists.. i began to see all sorts of possibilities in the effect of deliberate and controlled imaginations
14 – cart-horse or pegasus
it struck me as odd that it had taken me so long to reach a feeling of sureness that there was something in me that would get on w the job of living w/o my continual tampering.. i suppose i did no really reach it until i had discovered how to sink beneath the level of chattering thoughts and simply feel what it meant to be alive.. t.. when i had really learnt how to do this, the excessive busyness of my thoughts no longer worried me.. at least not as long as i was vigilant enough to prevent blink thinking bolting along its old trails.. as long as i remembered the need for that activity which was required to produce inactivity..
15 – discovery of the ‘other’
i had just begun to ponder over the fact that all the things which i had found to be sources of happiness seemed to depend upon the capacity to relax all straining, to widen my attention beyond the circle of personal interest, and to look detachedly at my own experience. i had just realized that this relaxing and detachment must depend on a fundamental sense of security, and yet that i could apparently never feel safe enough to do it , because there was an urge in me which i had dimly perceived but had never yet been able to face.. it was then that the idea occurred to me that until you have, once at least, faced everything you know – the whole universe – w utter giving in, and let all that is ‘not you’ flow over and engulf you, there can be no lasting sense of security
only be being prepared to accept annihilation can one escape from that spiritual ‘abiding alone’ which is in fact the truly death like state
i realized now that as long as you feel insecure you have no real capacity to face other men and women in that skill of communication which more than any other skill requires freedom from tension.. i was now finding that i chiefly reckoned each day’s catch of happiness in terms of my relationships w others.. of this, wordless understanding seemed to be particularly important..
beyond words ness
before i had been inclined to judge the value of meeting w my friends largely by what was said. now it was the unvoiced relationship which seemed of more concern.. t.. though this was perhaps partly the result of having for 18 mos shared the life of someone who had not yet learned to talk
here also i began to discover new world of direct communication.. not thru symbols of words and actions and gestures, but what seemed to be an almost direct interchange of emotion which came w this spreading of invisible feelers.. i could ‘feel the necessities of their being‘..t.. they also seemed to receive something.. for in no other way could i explain the changes in their behavior
not yet scrambled ness
ie: helping an elderly from chair to be .. but resistant.. till i noticed her helplessly obstinate feet.. which drew me out of myself into her problem.. and her obstinacy vanished..
ie: trying to persuade my baby to go to sleep.. i often wait beside him, absolutely motionless, but my own hear till ed w peace..
to do things for the expectancy of happiness was generally fatal
i had envied those who were always doing things for others.. but as i grew more observant i began to see that this by itself was not sure way to peace.. for as long as you expect results from what you do there are here even more sources of exasperation once you assume your right to interfere in other people’s problems ..they become in some ways more of a worry than your own.. and.. implicitly putting self above them.. rather.. sacrifice self for others.. the giving.. enough in itself..
so came to see what great delights were to be found in those moments of detached seeing when i could recognize another mind and yet want nothing from it.. t
16 – retrospect
montaigne: ‘whatever it be, whether art or nature, that imprints in us the condition of living by reference to others, it does us much more harm than good; we deprive ourselves of our own utilities, to accommodate appearances to the common opinion: we care not so much what our bing is, as to us and in reality, as wha tit is to the public observation’
i had set out to try and observe moments of happiness and find out what they depended upon. but i had discovered that diff things made me happy when i looked at my experience from when i did not.. the act of looking was somehow a force in itself which changed my whole being
(when i had beyond ‘enjoying myself’ moments): these were moments when i had by some chance stood aside and looked at my experience, looked w a wide focus, wanting nothing and prepared for anything..
not only had i found that i enjoyed diff things.. but i also wanted diff things
why we won’t get to equity until everyone is alive/awake to this.. otherwise we waste resources/energy/ourselves on things we don’t really want/need
i also became aware that happiness in the sense i have describe does matter.. i was as sure as that i was alive, that happiness not only needs no justification, but that it is also the only final test of whether what i am doing is right for me.. only of course happiness is not the same as pleasure, it includes the pain of losing as well as the pleasure of finding..
root cause of all roadblocks/blindness: fear
i found there was a perpetual self centered chatter which cam between me and my surroundings, and me and myself, and till i had learnt how to silence it ..i was liable to live in a world of distorted make believe.. cut off from any vital contact between my real needs and my real circumstances..
also realized science’s role..ie: story of lady in window from train.. and wanting to know her.. which science can’t ‘put into words’ (written about in intro)
asking wrong questions.. ‘what must i do’.. rather.. ‘what have we the power to do’.. i found there were certain things i could do by effort, but others i could not.. i could make myself move.. but i could not make myself move skillfully just by saying ‘i will’.. i could sometimes force myself by will to hide an emotion; but i could not by will force myself to feel one. i could not by direct effort feel love towards someone, or by direct effort make myself happy.. what then was entirely under the control of my will? it seemed to me that the only thing that was even potentially so controlled was my attention..
i couldn’t control what i saw.. but i could control what direction i should look.. whether i let it wander unobserved or held it still and expectance, whether i spread it in feelers beyond my body or narrowed it to a pin point of brightness w/in my brain, i twas this which determined what i saw
the only way to escape from this kind of thinking (ie: selfish) was not by willing but by understanding its nature.. i must learn to observe my thought and maintain a vigilance, not against ‘wrong’ thoughts, but against refusal to recognize any thought.. further.. this introspection meant continual expression, not continual analysis.. i must bring thoughts/feelings up in their wholeness, not argue about them and try to pretend they were something diff from what they were
i learned that if i kept my thoughts still enough and looked beneath them, then i might sometimes know what was the real need..t
really then, i had found that there was an intuitive sense of how to live..t
i can only call it wisdom.. and it certainly wasn’t a reasonable wisdom..t.. for as soon as i tried to argue and split up my experience into logical ideas, then this sense of what i wanted was destroyed.. to reason was to be actively assertive, and apparently it was only when i was actively passive, and content to wait and watch that i really knew wha ti wanted.. though of course once i knew that then the more good reasoning i could use, to discover how to get what i wanted.. the better..
since i was now clear enough about my own findings to be no longer afraid of being confused in my search by other people’s theories, i decided to find all i could form books/convos about this fresh approach
on binary ness
apparently the natural bias towards maleness of femaleness in a child (which does not necessarily correspond w the sex of his body) can be utterly distorted by the adults around him, by the extent to which they continually draw upon him for love or try to impose their will and personality upon him..
relexion is discussion carried on inside one
i could say that my failure to reflect, my inability to know what i liked or what i wanted or to draw any conclusions form the welter of my experience, was due to letting my musings remain in the form of an unconscious monologue.. .. i had certainly failed to recognize the truth of weininger’s contention that ‘duality is necessary for observation and comprehension;.. on the difficulty of allowing the internal male and female to interact’
i decided to keep a diary and write down what i thought was the best thing that had happened during the day, in the hope that i might find out what it was that i really wanted..