#145: Edge / Centre (from Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness)

Taken from Personal Revolutions:  A Short Course in Realness by Oli Anderson

Force yourself to the edge once in a while, so you can get a better view of the centre. Feel the fear of living beyond yourself, but don’t be afraid of it; push yourself to the very limits of who you think you are and what you think you know and understand in order to find out for sure. Look for similarity over difference so that you can create connection, but seek diversity over sameness so that you can broaden your horizons. Sharpen your perceptions by stepping away from the bubble of what is ‘safe’ and familiar and seeing how far you can go without popping it. We can either grow complacent or grow strong, and to grow strong you have to force yourself to move in a direction that may initially be uncomfortable in the eyes of the ego. Allow yourself to go to the edge without necessarily being edgy; allow yourself to force yourself there; the truth resides at the edge, not in the centre, and the end of who you think you are is where you actually begin (see #143: Strength / Confidence).

Much of what has been said in Personal Revolutions about the state of the world and its reality is fairly bleak. It’s a place of infinite boundaries and fragmentations between things and people; a place of masks that are either forced upon people, or ripped off of their faces when they least expect it; a place where you will be dragged onto the dance floor, whether you’re prepared to dance or not; and where, at the end of the game, you’ll be swept away and forgotten about whatever happens. Everything preys on everything else; everything is dead, or dying, or trying to die more quickly, and, so, it’s hardly surprising that, with these conditions to contend with, we try to build cocoons for ourselves to live in. But, in reality, a cocoon is only really worth a damn if it allows a butterfly to emerge; anything else is just a bubble waiting to burst.

The only thing that can keep you from ‘flowing’ is your ego, because the ego is unreal, and reality is constantly flowing; living on your edge is the product of riding out the wave of momentum built by diving into the sea of creative tension that arises between awareness of your current reality and the passion for your future self and reality. The edge is the tipping point that pushes you out of what you think you are and into the state of flow that energises all that you do, allowing you to grow more fully into realness of yourself within a better version of your world. Much of this has been discussed in other Revolutions, such as in #59: Vision / Blindness or #119: Potential / Present; indeed, one of the major themes running throughout this whole ‘Course in Realness’ is that for us to keep growing in the direction of our values and who we are in our ‘heart of hearts’ we have to keep pushing through our comfort zone, breaking through the edge of who we think we are in the illusory stasis of symbols, so that we can become who we want to be in necessity (see #140: Broken Heart / Closed Heart).

Much of what is relevant here is linked to the way that we communicate, both with ourselves and the world around us. To get to your edge, you have to realise that what you cling to as your ‘centre’ – if you listen to your ego, at least – is really just a collection of conceptual patterns that have helped you to survive and make sense of the world previously, and as concepts are removed from reality, you are clinging to nothing. Learn to manage your ego; learn to see it as a house that is constantly undergoing renovation, rather than a perfect palace that has been completed. To move in the right direction, we must be able to let go of the wrong one when the time comes. What is phenomenal, or unreal, about us must be like water that moves around a rock, whereas whatever realness in us observes this unfolding must be like the rock itself (see #52: Wholeness / Fragmentation).

Learn to detach yourself from what you think you know by exposing yourself to the things that you either don’t know or that stand in direct opposition to your current conceptual knowledge base. Learn to detach yourself from what you think you can do, by exposing yourself either to competition from those that are also skilled in the same area, or by forcing yourself to do the things that you are currently unskilled at and want to grow into. None of this will be easy; much of it will be downright painful. But whether you win or lose is irrelevant, all that really matters is the sensation of being fully-immersed in yourself and the world as you influence a creative tension that arises from forcing both yourself and the world to its current edge. Refuse to conform to the pressure of ideas about what already is; create new pressures both on yourself and the world to make them real. This is edge and edge is where the healthiest growth takes place (see #1: Physical Laws / Sociocultural Laws).

Accept nothing at face-value. Promise yourself that you’ll always dig a little deeper and that you’ll always look beneath the surface. When everybody else is discussing the words on the page, promise yourself that you’ll tap into the subtext, and read between the lines. All of the surface level details of daily life and experience, all the codes and conventions that we are expected to follow and conform to, pull you back into the centre of the cultural narrative. Refuse to buy into the empty symbolism, the false modesty, or the shared mask of etiquette. By all means, follow the crowd when that’s what you have to do, but avoid the mistaken belief that moving into this centre is what is essential for you to be fulfilled. If it isn’t real it can never fill anything.

We are all born on the edge and, for us to live real, we have to learn to accept the lessons that the edge has to teach us, and to share the fruits of these lessons upon the great banquet table in the centre. The centre is forever changing, as is the edge that we may happen to be viewing it from. It is naïve to expect an invitation to the banquet each and every day that the festivities unfold; sometimes, you might be invited but unable to make it; sometimes, life will sneak up on you and kick you back to the edge of the arena, forcing you to crawl back. Just make sure that you are unattached to your place in the centre whilst you do have it and that, when you are thrust back to the edge for a while, you are able to learn what you can on the way back. The vicissitudes of life are ups and downs, but they are also ins and outs; sometimes, we will be deep in it and seated at the table with the best of them; sometimes, we will be left to stand in the cold and look in through the window. Never take anything for granted, always be ready to bear the brunt of the cold (see #83: Solitude / Loneliness).

Diversity is the key that opens the door to the edge; constantly be working to expand your social networks, seeking out the edge of yourself whenever you can. If all of your friends, allies, and associates share the same opinions as you then seek out some additional friends, allies, and associates. If most of the people in your social circle share the same limits to their levels of self-belief, then start to broaden the circle. Associate with people from different cultures and religious backgrounds, talk to your enemies like human beings, and see what makes them tick. Seek and sniff out the basic similarities between all human beings, by avoiding the trap of being surrounded by people that feel safe, but lack incompleteness and distinction; remember that the people who can teach you the most are usually the rawest as hell and the most rough around the edges. Seek out and sip the new wine of diverse views and shared experiences that lead all of us closer to the shared truth our human situation; get into a dialogue with yourself and the whole of the world, see where it takes you, because it can only take you towards reality (see #32: Dialogue / Debate).

We all have limits prescribed by our current skill levels and experience. What makes a difference in our lives is becoming aware of these limits and pushing back at them instead of having them push us down – this process of pushing through is to live at the edge. Many of the limits that we impose upon ourselves have been predetermined by the ego’s assumptions and expectations about ourselves and the world, much of which comes from the misinformation of cultural conditioning, or opinions, of others. If we want to change ourselves, we have to change our experience of ourselves, and the only way to do this is to provide ourselves with evidence that we can find the edge, push it, and integrate it with the rest of our realness. And, as is true with ourselves, so can be said of the world: those who are currently pushing the world to its limits have usually pushed themselves to the limits first (see #100: World Class / Local Hero).

Don’t fear the edge, embrace it. This is the place where we are either made or broken into pieces, but it is always the place where we find ourselves and what is most real. The centre may feel like a safe haven and, yes, we all need this at some time in our lives, but don’t become so consumed by the comfort offered that you become complacent and lock yourself in a cage of your own design. Push yourself out through yourself, into, and then through the world. There is fear that comes with the uncertainty, but there is also a buzz thrill of being alive that can infused into all that you do.  Life is lived at the edge, and made manifest in the centre; live as much as you can, and allow yourself to bring the world around whenever possible. Acknowledge the cycle and know where you are within it: go to the edge, crawl back to the centre, share your lessons, then return to the edge again. Life is for the living and you live real on the edge (see #129: Comfort / Complacency).


Self-Guidance Questions

  1. How close have you been to the edge? What’s the furthest away life has taken you from what is considered to be ‘normal’, acceptable, or mainstream? What have you seen of the centre from taking yourself or being taken to the edge? What did you learn from this experience? What other edge can you take yourself to? How can you get there without hurting yourself? What do you need to learn to grow into realness in yourself and the world?
  1. Be real with yourself: What do you think you know about yourself and how can you actually find out? What experiments can you undertake to take yourself to the edge of your ideas about yourself? What skills or qualities do you take pride in and how can you test yourself to polish them or make them stronger? How can you burst your own bubble? What connections can you build by switching to a stance of similarity over difference? How can you broaden your horizons through diversity? Who can you meet? What can you do? What can you learn?
  1. Look at yourself and your life: Where are you growing strong? Where are you growing complacent? What is the difference between these two processes of growth? How can you reclaim more influence over yourself in areas where you may have become complacent? What new edge can you find? How can you move through it or at least back into your current centre with more understanding?
  1. What control structures have you built for yourself? What routine have you locked yourself within? What do you do at the same time in the same way every week? What automatic responses have you collected to use as stock phrases throughout the day? What cocoon have you created for yourself and how can you ensue that when you push through you fly out free and into the sky?
  1. What waves are you riding? Where are you being carried by the momentum that arises of the tension between where you know yourself to be and where you consider yourself to be headed? How is your vision and passion allowing you to push through edge after edge? What do you need to know about yourself and your world to keep pushing through? How can you stay motivated? How can you prepare yourself to grow real in strength as you push through the pain? How can you make the most of each moment by winning the war with yourself as the lowest parts of yourself tell you that pain is always a bad thing? What qualities do you need to develop to stay self-directed within the process?
  1. Look again at your ego: How do you manage it? When does it hold you back? What kind of trouble does it get you into? When do your insecurities lead you to make stupid or irrational choices and behaviours? How has your ‘centre’ served you in the past but where might you have become complacent about it all? Where does your centre only exist in the past? Where have you convinced yourself that the palace is already complete when all that you really have is a house under renovation? What walls do you need to knock down so that you can build something new?
  1. Look at your skills: How can you test yourself on the things that you think you can already do? What can you put out there? What can you reveal to the world to be scrutinised? What competitions can you enter? Who is your greatest challenger and what can you learn from them? What skills do you currently have that are underdeveloped? What new skills can you learn? How can you refine them? What process needs to be worked to get you where you need to be? What qualities?
  1. How can you push your world to its edge? Instead of reacting or responding to pressure how can you put some pressure on the world for a change? What do you seek to bring into the world and how can you do so? What change needs making? What do you no longer accept about the world? What can you do to make amends? What higher level human values, virtues, and qualities do you share with others and how can you work together to bring more of them into the world?
  1. As an experiment: Where are you facing pressure to conform to something unreal? Where are you being pulled into the centre of the accepted cultural narratives that surround you? What stories are you being sold? What values? What ideas are you being forced to accept by the mainstream? Where can you draw the line between what the world at large thinks and what you actually think? How can you live out your own edge instead of just the edge of what is currently acceptable, standardised, or mainstream?
  1. What can you do to diversify yourself and your life? How can you extend your social circles to meet new and interesting people and learn from their worldviews? How can you become aware of your own limits so that you can push through them or learn from? How can you detach from results and enjoy learning from processes? What can you do to benefit from the knowledge that observing your process changes it? How can you sharpen the blade of your edge to maximise your realness overall?

Taken from Personal Revolutions:  A Short Course in Realness by Oli Anderson

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