Someone shared with me a quote pulled from a post on the Meditation Insights blog, in a description of the book “Face to Face with Fear: Transforming Fear into Love”. In it, the author describes three concentric circles of meditation – the outer (defensive) circle, the middle (vulnerable) circle, and the core (true self). I will riff on this insight below…
Our ignorant habits occur on the outer circle. This includes defensiveness, posturing, avoidance, clinging, and the like. We often skate on the outer circle till we might reach a tipping point – some sort of suffering, frustration, dissatisfaction with how we’ve been living all along.
At this point, we shift gears to seek great change in our life. We now try to directly tune into our core. We take great efforts to ‘be equanimous’, ‘be still’, ‘be present’, ‘be in-the-moment’, ‘be honest’, ‘be aware’, ‘be noble’, etc. However, sooner or later this effort also falls apart, and falls apart hard.
Experience has taught me time and time again that ignorance leads to great suffering. However, tying to life with full passion, honesty, awareness and presence also is great suffering. Why? Simply because such an effort is based ultimately on chasing our imagined idea of such ideals, bringing dissatisfaction to the states and situations we are currently in.
So then, where do we go from here? Well, the answer is the middle circle. The brilliance of this insight is that it’s the middle circle, not the core, where optimum life is lived. That’s where life works. That’s where grace exists. That’s what we tune into, and tune from.
The middle circle is just vulnerable enough, just safe enough, just sharp enough, just painful enough, just comfortable enough, to be ridden. This is sustainable everlasting transcendence. The middle circle provides the tangible gradient through which not emotional joy but transcendent joy springs forth.