“For nature it seems knows nothing of this world of opposites in which people live.”
At the center of “No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth” lies Ken Wilber’s idea that we draw boundaries where none exist in reality and that these boundaries lead us into internal and external conflict; that the “map is not the territory” and we tend to create a map of opposites.
At 140 pages the book is nice and short, and quite unlike Ken Wilber is highly readable. In it he shows a path of how we may release these boundaries to gain equanimity and enlightenment.
We mistake our artificial Boundaries for our Identity
First we draw a boundary line between self (Wilber calls it Centaur) and not-self, between our body and its environment.
Then we draw a boundary between our body and our ego, we cultivate an image of being the rider of the stupid beast that is our body.
Lastly, we deny our undesirable, unwanted, unacceptable tendencies and aspects and draw a boundary between our persona (the person we’d rather be) and our shadow (the person we’d rather not be)
Thus, we create a “battle line of the individual as persona against the environment, body and unwanted aspects of one’s ego.”
“To this day, our lives are largely spent in drawing boundaries.”
“Thus we can start to see that the reason we live in a world of opposites is precisely because life as we know it is a process of drawing boundaries. It is the boundary line itself which creates a pair of opposites. And a world of opposites is a world of conflict.”
“We always tend to treat the boundary as real and then manipulate the opposites created by the boundary. We never seem to question the existence of the boundary itself.”
“Each time a new boundary is drawn, the person’s sense of self diminishes, shrinks, becomes less roomy , more narrowed and restricted. First the environment, then the body, then the shadow appear as not-self, as “existing out there”, as being foreign objects and enemy objects at that, for every boundary line is a battle line.”
“Our language is a language of boundaries.”
Wilber goes on to describe how the Greeks played an important role in deepening our distance to nature. “Our language is a languate of boundaries”, each word we use describes an idealized, abstraced category of things.
With the advent of numbers we learned to draw meta-boundaries, boundaries on ideas. 5 apples and 5 oranges became comparable categories, leading to distinctions of abstract vs. concrete, ideal vs. real.
With calculus we further abstracted from immediate experience, we drew meta-boundaries on numbers, developing theories, laws, principles. “Man had gained control over nature, but only by radically separating himself from it.”
“The fact that you can concentrate and thus attend to ‘one separate thing’ at a time is liable to make it appear that reality itself is composed of a bunch of these ‘separate things’, while in actuality all these separate things are merely a by-product of your own superimposing boundaries on the field of your awareness.”
Exploring Environment, Time and Projection
Wilber goes on to describe how each of the three main boundaries (body-environment, body-ego, persona-shadow) developed, how the ego came to live in time with boundaries around past-present-future and how enculturation leads to a split of desired and undesired aspects of our ego which we then go on to project onto our surrounding.
“In other words, we assume time is real, and then try to destroy it.”
“Man will not live with his body, for that is corruptible, and thus he lives only as his ego, a picture of himself to himself, and a picture that leaves out any true reference to death.”
“The wise individual then whenever he feels some sort of pressure learns to use those feelings of pressure as a signal that he has some energy and drive that he is presently unaware of.”
Releasing our Boundaries
To release the boundaries he proposes different approaches at each level (centaur/environment, body/ego, persona/shadow) that the higher level can perform with ease but which tire out the aspects at the lower level:
“[...] as an individual descends from an exclusive identity with the persona to a fuller and more ccurate identity with her total ego, she does not lose access to the persona – she is just no longer stuck to it.”
“Every major level of the spectrum is actually constituted by a particlar mode of resistance.”
“Therapies of each and every level impose special conditions upon the individual.”
“Each type of condition frustrates a type of resistance.”
- At the persona/shadow level he suggests a method like free association that frustrates the censoring persona. The ego can easily free associate, but the persona quickly tires of checking associations for social acceptability.
- At the body/ego level he suggests a method that keeps you in the Here and Now. The “centaur” has no problem to be in the Here and Now, but the ego quickly grows frustrated because it exists mainly in time.
- The most difficult boundary to overcome is the boundary against our environment towards unity. Here the insight to be gained is that “everything he does is a resistance. His separate self always seems to be resisting because the sensation of the separate self and the sensation of resistance are one and the same thing. That inner feeling of being a separate self is nothing but a feeling of moving away, resisting, contracting, standing aside, looking away, grasping. When you feel yourself, that’s all you feel.”
A fantastic read with great reading suggestions, a superb pointer on the way to becoming whole.