The Power of Words....
'Words are such gross machinery, so primitive and ambiguous' - Frank Herbert
It isn't a rare thing at all for me to be sharing a concept or idea on a weekend of 'training' and to suddenly start laughing out loud because i can see that half the room have this amazing look of concentration / bafflement / total confusion about what Im trying to say. The problem is that words, not least of all being a subjective means of conveying ideas, simply don't cut the mustard when it comes down to describing the reality of how things are - which is inherently indescribable!
Most of the 'content' that we absorb and indeed deliver - in books, on courses and trainings, podcasts, discussions and exchanges, even our very thoughts are largely constructed from words. Ironically it is also our attachment to words and language, and our belief in the 'solidness of their meaning' that limits our own understanding of an existence that we are constantly trying to explain through language.
There is no doubt about it, language is a great means of communicating and processing on a gross level. It is a big step up from hand signals and gestures, it allows us to efficiently deal with the other actors in our own personal movie, permitting us to explore, describe, instruct, actions, objects, past, present and future.
However language is simply too limiting to convey more profound concepts. Often on weekends of training both myself and the other participants find ourselves searching for words to explain unexplainable concepts; tripping over our tongues in an effort not to say what we don't mean or to trap ourself into a corner that we didn't mean to construct. Using words to explain things beyond explanation is like desperately trying to untangle ourselves from the knot of duality by using another knot!
The fact is, when you begin to explore deeper truths, real understanding of how things are, language always comes up lacking - words -whether thoughts, written or spoken, can't say enough and yet they also say too much.
If language was such a great means for directing the thinker, reader or listener to awaken from the dream reality that almost all of us exist in, then by now, in some language or other there would have been a text, which simply by reading it would have the power to unlock our minds from their matrix like prison.
Instead all texts that aim towards such lofty ideals can only allude to their purpose - from the Bible, to the Tao Te Ching and innumerable self-help books - the truth is only to be found through the reader not understanding the text itself - for to understand language is to miss the point altogether - but instead to feel, sense or experience non-verbally, what is being hinted at verbally.
What is not being said is just as important if not more so than what is being said.
This assumption that words can somehow free us leads many people ever deeper and deeper into a search for the next thing, the book that will make them finally happy, the yoga teacher or style that can unlock my suffering, someone somewhere must be able to explain what this is all about. Maybe I can talk or think my way out of this cycle of suffering, if i can only find the right words to explain it, suddenly everything will make sense!
Often accredited to the Buddha, but quoted by many from zen teachers to Bruce Lee, maybe the following analogy works best:
'It is like a finger pointing to the moon, don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory!'
The finger, that is to say the words or the thought process ,has no power whatsoever to free you-it simply hints at the way, it isn't the way in itself . Become tangled in semantics of the finger at your peril and join the long line of academics in dusty rooms and lecture halls trying to unpick the ultimate meaning of words and language - a meaning that can't be unpicked. All the while wasting the real opportunity to live the 'feeling' , the 'energy' of those verbal intentions or suggestions.
Of course we can see that it is easy to fall into this trap, it is so much easier to a mind that thinks primarily in words to to imagine that it will find the answer deeply hidden within yet more words. It is only the unthinking mind that realizes that the answer lays not within the words, but in a place way beyond language , a place that can only be explored by your own light, not by your own descriptions of that light.
Of course the irony of this entire blog is not lost on me - it is an imperfect attempt to describe the indescribable; to point the way with the vaguest of gestures; to show something that can only be seen out of the corner of your eye, in a brief glimpse that vanishes if you try to focus o it too forcefully. Using words to explore the fallacy of words! Ha
I often say just allow things to simmer, try not to give them too much thought, absorb the sentiment but not the description, you will take exactly what you need from them and that will rise to the surface exactly when it is ready.