Where Should We Look for Our Own Emergence?


“We’ve discovered that the universe is not a place; it’s a story, a story of an irreversible sequence of emergent events. For a long time we thought that the universe was an established realm that had its major creativity happening only at the beginning of time. We now understand that the universe is an ongoing creative event. Stars came forth, galaxies came forth, planets have emerged, life burst into existence. This power of emergence could also be called ongoing creativity. In some ways, it’s the greatest discovery in the history of the human sciences—that the universe as a whole, and each being within it, is permeated with the power of emergence.”

– Brian Swimm, Cosmologist

How can we tap into our own power of emergence, move toward our great potential, and live a vibrant life of joy and practical advantage? Swimm gives us the answer when he tells us that emergence in the universe is always given the energy it needs. Further, he says, anything that blocks emergence is destroyed. If we are “permeated with the power of emergence,” then we will be given the energy we need, unless we resist our own emergence—obviously a dangerous thing to do.

Head for the Trouble

So, how to tell what wants to emerge within ourselves? How can we find where our greatest potential lies? What needs changing? What must we learn in order to emerge? What path must we take? It’s really pretty easy to find the answer to what wants to emerge: go straight to the trouble, the people and situations in our life that we reject.

Hopefully, the list of people and life situations that we reject is a relatively short one at this point, but we need to know what is on the list. Make the list now.

  • Who disturbs you? Name the individuals or groups and describe what it is about them that you reject. Who haven’t you forgiven?
  • What situations disturb you? List them and identify what you are rejecting in these situations.
  • What are the triggers for your anger, irritation and impatience?
  • What can make you unhappy? Is there anything that can throw you into a funk or even depression?
  • What are you afraid of? What do you avoid, even though there is no imminent danger?
  • What outside yourself would you like to eliminate from life? What about life seems imperfect to you?

Self-pity Blocks Emergence

Now you know what makes you feel sorry for yourself currently. We can’t emerge as long as we feel sorry for ourselves. The pattern of self-pity goes like this:

  1. I have a strong visceral reaction to someone or something, a feeling of anger, irritation, and impatience. I suffer.
  2. I feel sorry for myself. I reject what is happening. My self-importance is pricked. My ego cries out in anguish.
  3. I create a victim story to explain my suffering. Someone or something is doing something to me. Of course I feel bad, I assert: who wouldn’t feel bad when outside forces assail them unfairly!
  4. I seek support and rescuing. I tell my victim story to people who will agree that I have been mistreated by life.
  5. I obsess, roiling the problem over and over, rehearsing what I might do in response, maybe even plotting revenge, but at least imagining that justice will be done and my tyrants punished.

This universal pattern saddles us with a bad explanation for what is going on and keeps us stuck. Now we circle in an eddy, with the feeling that we are going somewhere, but actually just going round and round. We lose our poise with regularity whenever the rejected elements of our life appear again, all too predictably.

Embracing What We Reject

The great teacher, Krishnamurti, said that the secret to his life was that he didn’t mind what happened. Many people will find this attitude maddeningly passive or morally obtuse. But Krishnamurti was a poised soul who said yes to life, no matter what it presented to him. Not minding what happens is the path of emergence.

Ram Dass put it this way:

“We now recognize that if there is anything at all that can bring us down—anything—our house is built upon sand and there is fear….Thus we become motivated to confront the places in ourselves that bring us down—not only to confront them, but also to create situations in which to bring them forth.”

– Ram Dass with Stephen Levine, Grist for the Mill

Real learning takes the heart of a lion, and its challenges cannot be glossed over. We won’t find this path to emergence intuitively correct at times. We want to avoid the dark places in ourselves. We want to move away from suffering, and we may be convinced that avoiding pain is the sanest reaction to challenges. Once we understand, however, that our emergence and its vast rewards will result when we turn to our discomfort, we will be more and more willing to do what is required.

Our suffering is our potential trying to get our attention. Once we turn to face it and embrace it, the great adventure of emergence is underway.

This is part one of two-part series. Part Two will explain how to win the battle with self-pity.

Photo by AlicePopkorn

8 thoughts on “Where Should We Look for Our Own Emergence?”

  1. Recently, I’ve been noticing that there is a negative thought loop that’s been running my life: “Poor, me”. I would always feel sorry for myself and then made me feel special in some sick way. But playing the victim doesn’t help me or anyone else

  2. That was intense Gary. In a good way. I think people are okay accepting that the universe is an ongoing creative event from a physical and biological point of view. But when applying the same rational to their personal lives find it hard to accept. I’m with you on it, but it still can be hard to go with the flow sometimes in practice. These are excellent tips though to help with that. Looking forward to the next part.

  3. Thank you for sharing this great tips and advices. I agree with what you said on Self-pity Blocks Emergence, This is true we can’t emerge as long as we feel sorry for ourselves.
    We need to have the courage to let go of that pity, and embrace the truth that in life it has ups and downs, it’s an adventure! It is a learning process and in the end it will be a success. Just believe in yourself.

  4. The last responder showed great insight into his issues and equally great courage in revealing that. We all have the ability to eliminate the types of disturbing things he describes. Some recommend first understanding at a deep level why such things upset us, and that is fine, although it may take a long time and possibly therapy. I believe that another course is available. We are all afflicted by unpleasant emotions and thoughts (and the two prey on each other). The simplest method to deal with these, though certainly not the easiest, is to acknowledge and accept them, and then to move our attention gently to more positive things. For example, if I am irritated at the older woman in the check-out line who is taking so long, I will say calmly to myself, “Ah, there is that criticism again.” Then, I will move my attention elsewhere. No suppression, no condemning myself, no guilt—only acceptance, and then movement. The more we focus on the issue, and the more upset we become about the issue, the more energy we give it, which then allows it to continue to invade and upset our life. This tactic works (I can testify that it does), but it requires that we accept and acknowledge unpleasant thoughts and emotions many hundreds of times. Gradually, though, the intensity of the unpleasant thought or emotion subsides, and at some point the whole thing disappears totally.

    1. Acceptance and then movement is the most powerful statement i have heard lately and a great mantra. Although it takes practice and for me even more due to the cynical and negative thoughts that are always swirling in my head. I am working to improve myself and this is a great beginning…How do you deal with family that continuously hurt you? Do you just passively accept their behavior and move on and then see them at the next family gathering?

  5. while Larry thinks that he is ‘moving on’ by focusing his attention elsewhere he is ineffect doing little more than stuffing his negative emotions. You can only stuff negative emotions you are trying to bury for a limited time but when the pressure begins to build you become enraged. Instead, try a little empathy. A better approach would be to realize that it is unhealthy and unfair to judge others. Doesn’t Larry realize that one day he will be that elderly person standing in line with a row of impatients standing behind him.
    I was at a major retailer recently where they were having a big sale. I waited patiently while the fellow in front of me was taking forever to be processed. Finally I realized it was the fault of the cashier because she didn’t know any of the prices and when the customer told her the price she didn’t believe him and spent valuable minutes searching through a sales flyer trying to find the item. When it was my turn the same thing happened only worse because she had me step aside while another clerk was sent to the basement to try and find a like object to get a price from. The guy behind me was livid because unknown to me he only had 2 or 3 small items. When he passed by me after going t hru the check-out and while I was still waiting fot the price from the basement I tried to apologize to the man’ because had I known he had only a few items i would have let him go infront of me. He shoved rudely passed me and gave me asnarling dirty look and didn’t acknowledge the apology at all. So Larry it’s not always the old lady’s fault.

    1. Thank you, Marie, for you observations, which give me a chance at clarification. You are certainly right that judging others is a big problem, and the source of a lot of suffering, as it is for me when I do not deal appropriately with my issues. It really has nothing to do with the person in line, only my own attachments to getting through the line quickly and so forth. That has surely been piece of self-inflicted suffering that I am working to overcome.
      The technique I recommend, a staple of Eastern thought for thousands of years, is not about stuffing emotions or thoughts. It is the opposite: a welcoming of them. Stuffing is a conscious effort to deny the existence of or push away unwelcome emotions or thoughts. In this technique the idea is to acknowledge their presence without beating oneself up, accepting their presence, and then gently moving one’s thoughts in another direction and giving the unwelcome elements no more energy, which is what happens when we try to stuff them. Many people far more advanced than I am have used this technique to great benefit. I have benefited greatly from it. Now I teach to others and have observed beneficial results for them in their search for inner peace..

  6. To Jenna,

    You shouldn’t be expected to accept you family members hurtful behavior but rather accept that you cannot change their bad behavior.. Also, it is important to remember that you are not responsible for what other people think. Not ever. If you were, this would mean that you can control their thoughts which you cannot do.. Your family members are only able to hurt you because you care about them which is a good thing. You can still continue to love them even though you dislike their behavior. All you can do is hope that one day they’ll figure out for themselves what their problem is and stop acting out in a negative way because you find it offensive. Then just say a little prayer for them and be happy!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *