4 – Our Original Relationship to Life
Before we relate to any human, our primary relationship is with life itself
‘I am nourished by the great mother.’ – Lao Tzu
Jez: Now that we’ve talked about Duality we can look more closely at the human manifestation of it in the form of a baby. As I’ve said before, by looking at a newborn baby we can see clearly how we all begin this life before the Relative Level starts to influence us and develop our Personality. How does Oneness look, in the form of a baby, when it’s still untouched by the world of man, by family, society and culture?
You can see how this is a logical, even scientific approach to the question of who we are. We’re examining the evidence under a microscope to answer the question: ‘What is our essence as human beings?’
Matthew: So, according to you, what’s the answer?
Jez: I’m proposing it can be summed up under two headings: our Original Relationship to Life and our state of Being. Our Relationship to Life is the set up and dynamics of how humans exist in the world; our State of Being is how those dynamics actually manifest in the life of a baby.
Matthew: You’re going to have to explain that a bit more.
Jez: Let’s start with the Original Relationship to Life. Relationship requires Duality, because to have relationship you need two things which can relate to each other. There’s no such thing as relationship in the Absolute Level, there’s only Oneness; but in the Relative Level of manifestation, things are different. A baby is Oneness manifesting in the Relative Level, but it’s not just appearing within the World of Separation – it’s also interacting with it. The baby splashes water in the bath and the water makes the baby wet. That means there’s a relationship between the baby and the water.
Duality is manifesting as the subject (the baby) and the object (the water). Between these two there can be all sorts of activity: The water can be seen, felt, moved, tasted etcetera. So in the World of Separation, there’s the arising of an apparent difference between the splasher and the splashed, the seer and the seen, the experiencer and the experienced.
Matthew: OK, so to summarise, in the Relative Level there’s Duality, and from that arises relationship…
Jez: Exactly. So having set that up, I’ll explain what I mean by our Original Relationship to Life. This is one of those subjects that’s so obvious, it’s difficult to describe. It’s like asking someone: ‘How do you breathe?’ It’s a difficult question to answer. We all know how to breathe, but the knowledge is instinctive, it’s before thought. In the same way, our Original Relationship to Life is there before the formation of the mind, so it’s not something we’re usually conscious of. But it can be seen clearly in babies because there’s nothing obscuring it; the baby embodies it fully.
Matthew: When you use the phrase ‘Original Relationship to Life’ I immediately think about the relationship between the baby and the parents, but that’s not what you’re talking about, is it?
Jez: No, that’s the first human relationship of course, but with this phrase I’m pointing to the relationship a baby has before that. It’s a relationship to life itself, to the entire manifest world.
Matthew: That sounds very grand!
Jez: It may sound grand when I try to put it into words but it’s not at all; it’s the most obvious, simple, natural thing.
Matthew: I can’t get away from the feeling that a baby’s relationship with its parents is their Original Relationship. On a physical level, without the mother’s womb there’d be no baby, and without her breasts there’d be no natural milk to feed it. On the emotional level there’d be no love to nourish it.
Jez: This is a bit like when we were talking about Oneness and I raised the question: ‘Where does the baby comes from?’ At first you said: ‘The parents’, then I asked you to go back one step, and we approached the question from a more metaphysical level. So that’s what I’m also asking you to do now.
Everything you said about the mother’s fundamental relationship to the baby is of course true, but I’m proposing that, if you go back one step, you’ll see that our Original Relationship is to Life itself.
Matthew: Go on then, convince me.
Jez: Let’s start at pregnancy. The baby manifests in the womb, it’s receiving oxygen and nutrients through the blood of the mother. That means there’s a relationship with its environment.
Matthew: Yes, a relationship with the mother!
Jez: But if you move back one step, did the mother create the womb which so perfectly protects and nurtures the baby? And is the mother wilfully sending blood into the baby in order to nourish it?
Matthew: I see where you’re going with this; you’re kind of trumping me by going meta.
Jez: I am, but this is not just a game of one upmanship: I’m making a vital point. Through that most intimate human relationship with the mother, the baby is being nurtured by Life itself. Our parents and family are simply manifestations of Oneness in the Relative Level. They may be the physical source of our own manifestation, but ultimately, we are children of the infinite.
Matthew: I understand the broad strokes of this but I think you’re going to have to go into it a bit further for me to really accept it.
Jez: When something is confusing and difficult to grasp it’s always good to try approaching it from different angles. Let me give you an analogy: For an apple to grow on a tree it’s given everything it needs; all the nourishment and energy is freely provided by the tree.
Matthew: So in this analogy the tree is the mother and the apple is the child?
Jez: Yes, there’d be no apple without the tree, but going one step further, there would be no tree to produce the apple without life, in which the tree grows.
Matthew: By life, in this case, you mean the earth, oxygen, carbon dioxide, rain and all that’s necessary for the tree to grow?
Jez: Yes, so although the tree ‘grows’ the apple, the tree is not ultimately the source of that nourishment which allows that growth to happen; it’s simply an instrument, a structure that passes it on. So from the Relative perspective you would say the Original relationship is between the apple and the tree, but from the Absolute viewpoint, the Original Relationship is between the apple and life itself.
Matthew: Let’s bring this back to the human world. You’re saying that in the bigger picture, as babies, life is supplying everything we need to survive, and our parents are just a part of that process.
Jez: Yes, in the mother, life provides the womb, the nourishment through the placenta, and the breast milk after birth. Then, as we grow, our parents teach us to be a human being, to eat, to bathe etcetera. But before all that relationship, we’re already interacting and relating with life through the body. You could say that this begins with the baby’s very first breath; life is filling its lungs and bringing energy into the body on a physical level. This is why yoga techniques use the breath: It’s our primal connection to life, quite literally, because, in the exchange of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, we’re kept alive.
Then we have our relationship to food: Life produces the milk in our mother so that we receive the nourishment we need from the breast. But our Relationship to Life is not only found in what’s necessary for our survival, it also manifests just in the experience of being a human in a body; it’s functioning in everything we perceive through our senses. For example, light is entering our eyes, stimulating our optic nerve and producing vision, temperature is affecting our pores and skin, regulating heat. Life is interacting with us continuously.
Matthew: And we don’t play any active part in this…
Jez: Exactly! All of this relating and interacting with life goes on without any conscious input from us at this stage. We don’t need to do anything to breathe; the autonomic nervous system makes sure we keep breathing. Even when we’re asleep, life breathes us. Likewise, we don’t do anything to perceive light and turn it into an image on our retina, we don’t need to concentrate and will our stomachs to digest. This Relationship to Life is just flowing through us, living us and it doesn’t require our minds.
I met up with my nephew Tim and his one-year-old son Flynn yesterday. Flynn sat on Tim’s knee but kept crawling off to explore the café we were in. I watched Flynn relating to, and interacting with, everything that appeared around him: the wooden floor he crawled on, the can of drinks he reached for in the freezer cabinet, the bowl of water left outside for dogs. In a sense, everything he encountered fed him. By stimulating his brain cells, by the touch, texture and temperature of his experience, life was flowing through him, nourishing him and growing him.
Tim, who kept having to retrieve Flynn from his wanderings, was just a part of the world he was relating to. A central part, that’s vital for his safety and development in the world, but as far as Flynn was concerned at this stage, just another part of it.
The point is: Our Original Relationship to Life exists before any human relationships; it’s our intimate connection to this life, which fulfils and sustains us. This is something most of us lose touch with as we grow up. As the Personality develops we start to think we’re important, that we are running the show, which is as ridiculous as the apple thinking it’s in charge of the tree.
By observing a baby we can see this Original Relationship to Life clearly; we can see we’re totally at the mercy of life to breathe us, to make our bodies function etcetera.
Matthew: Isn’t this perception at the root of most religious experiences?
Jez: Yes, to understand this as an adult changes the whole way you live, you no longer adopt a position of fighting life; you fall into a natural relationship of surrender to it. Religious people might substitute the word ‘life’ for God. I favour the way the great Taoist sage Lao Tzu put it:
I am nourished by the great mother.
This sums up the Original Relationship to Life – the reality of our existence is that we are all children, and Life is the mother. This is our true place in the scheme of things, and the only natural response to knowing this is a position of surrender. This Original Relationship is, in the end, the only thing that can fulfil us because through it, we are receiving Love.
Matthew: What do you mean?
Jez: This brings us back to our discussion of the Absolute Level. If all is made of Love then our interaction with the world is an interaction with Love in other forms. By relating in the world of Duality, we’re receiving Love. Flynn was filled up and fed by his relationship to life because he was receiving constantly; he was receiving Love in the form of whatever he encountered: the cold drink in his hands, or the mud on his sock.
Matthew: How lovely to be fulfilled by such simple pleasures…
Jez: It’s a kind of passive receiving; the sky or the tree we look at doesn’t have to do anything or give us anything to feed us, it just has to be what it is. In the adult world we’re estranged from this feeling of being fed by life itself. Such ‘passive receiving’ is usually replaced with ‘active receiving’ in the form of stimulation of our minds.
Matthew: You mean in the way that most of us, like me, are technology junkies, always on our phones?
Jez: Yes. It wasn’t always like this. If you look back at the start of your life you’d see that you didn’t crave any mental stimulation, you were just able to look at the sky and be nourished.
Matthew: There’s a backlash now against always being on our smartphones…
Jez: Yes, when people go off communing with nature it’s this Original Relationship to Life they’re seeking to rediscover: The sound of a campfire crackling, the stars at night, the dawn chorus and the dew sparkling on the grass in the morning. All of this is prior to any human relationship; it’s our Original Relationship to Life, a nourishment that most people have lost connection with.