“Homeostasis” = a tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium, especially physiologically.
If you know anything of physiology, you understand this is a complex activity, depending on thousands of continuous micro-adjustments at a cellular level. If you aren’t, imagine standing on a big stability ball, on a tightrope, and think of what is required to stay there.
Put simply, homeostasis is the opposite of doing nothing, it’s just not an intellectual activity.
This article is for anyone who was told, as I was, that our psychology naturally comes back into balance when left alone – like a snow globe that isn’t being agitated. No one used the word homeostasis, or I might have twigged sooner that the metaphor was severely limited.
Here is the biggest limitation of that metaphor: what homeostasis tends towards is a conditioned equilibrium, not to some ideal state. Apply this to psychology, and if you have a conditioned habit of anxiety, of looking to change yourself, or of seeking happiness – this is the equilibrium to which you will return. Anything in the interim is just those micro-adjustments, or a temporary swing.
That is why “do nothing”, “when you know it’s just your thinking”, “don’t act from a low state of mind”, “it’s not the circumstances” and “don’t resist ‘what is'” are the cruelest things to say to someone feeling pain. Even worse than “that must be terrible”.
There may well be temporary relief. And there is nothing wrong with a release of tension. But if we’ve fortified a further belief in the one who is suffering, we’ve set them up to fail.
Sure, when someone is in crisis, we naturally do what we can to get them somewhere stable. That’s why I send distressed people to talk to a non-dual therapist before they continue their exploration.
And if someone isn’t distressed? If they are merely displaying a conditioned habit of anxiety or seeking? Well, we explore – in self-inquiry, logic and experience. More of that in a moment.
As an aside, we might also establish some escape hatches. Temporary practices–yoga–to break old, conditioned habits. Versions of “I’ve got a call on the other line”. Why? It gives the seeking something to do, and it challenges the equilibrium. It releases attention from the situation, the anxiety, to turn to the exploration. And we make it really clear it’s not a plan for lasting happiness, just a way of loosening the impact of conditioning in the short term.
What are we exploring? We are exploring the essence, the nature and identity of the one who suffers. Or rather, the one that knows suffering. Taking the suffering out of the seeker is impossible, but reclaiming our identity as Awareness, exploding the myth of the imagined seeker, is the collapse of the suffering.
This is indivisible. We can’t simply declare that who we are is not the seeker, so everything is perfect. We can’t describe the nature of Awareness and miss out that the “I” of every person is the same Awareness.
What happens when we don’t do this?
- We consider knowing Awareness to be only when we feel ourselves to be the witness of experience;
- We believe we experience Awareness only in bliss and picture-postcard moments;
- We claim the moral high ground while stamping on someone else’s head;
- We try to reject our response to a situation while accepting the situation, like they were two separate things;
- We relentlessly pursue the thing or person that we think will fulfil us;
- We repeatedly try to fix what looks broken (thinking, relationship or world).
These could equally be the answers to “What does resistance look like?”
The only point of the non-dual exploration is to take the sense “I am” and bring it home. To reclaim ego, our sense of self, for the Self. To know the nature of our Self as happiness, love and freedom. To know that Self is not lost in the appearance of the world, body and mind. To know that Self is not lost in full engagement with the activity of the world, body or mind. Because the world, body and mind are an expression, a description, of Self.
Home. Not homeostasis. Not a tightrope act. Go live it.