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  • Writer's pictureJulen Murguia

What Is This? 🤯

Updated: Mar 5

By virtue of an odd combination of events — a meditation on a koan, getting laid off, and a hot shower — I was thrust into a revelation with the startling clarity of a psychedelic vision, like some sort of ontological lubricant that allowed me to slip past the cracks of my ordinary existence and viscerally experience the universe making sense of itself.


I think we’ve all heard the expression, or some sort of variation of it: “we are the way for the cosmos to know itself”. It’s a really beautiful idea, but, unfortunately, it often suffers the fate of most platitudes, namely, they become drained of their meaning like a dry, shriveled sponge. Fortunately, we can rehydrate this sponge with juicy meaning until it’s dripping all over the floor, so mind your step and maybe bring a towel!


Let’s see... where to begin? 


It started off with an unexpected Slack message first thing in the morning. The CEO of the company I worked at announced there would be another round of layoffs — great way to start the day! Fast forward a bit, and I’m settled into my morning meditation. This session, guided by Henry Shukman, a Zen Master in the Sanbo Zen lineage, focused on the koan: “What is This?”. And as any koan, the objective is not to try to answer the question, but to savor it. As I let this question sink, a vivid sense of profound unknowing washed over me. Observing all the sensations – the sounds, the feelings in my toes and arms and face, the swelling of emotions, strings of thought, narration, resistance, release — all of this… what is this? (Again, don’t try to answer!)


Cut To:


The day continued and, alas, after a toasted bagel and a brief meeting, I found myself without a job.


It was quick and painless. I harbor no resentment. I bowed to my workstation (a corner of my living room) and felt a profound sense of gratitude for all the wonderful experiences, lessons and people that came into my life from my time there. 


Later that evening, as I was delightfully pummeled by hot pellets of water, smothered in steam, that cheeky muse came to visit. The symbolic ingredients of the events of the day had been simmering at the back of me mind like some sort of hearty, subconscious stew, and were now ripe for the first taste.


I found myself reflecting on the significance of this loss.


Having a Job — having this job — meant a lot. And not just in some trite, sentimental way, but rather, amongst many other things, it provided a sense of structure which I most desperately needed. 


Before this role, I was going a bit bonkers, tbh.


I struggle with creating my own systems of structure (deadlines, schedules, etc.), because of my weird, neurodivergent (thats what the kids call it these days) mind — I say that lovingly though.


The relativity of existence was painfully apparent back then, and I struggled to find any sort of firm footing. 


Nights fraught with dread shed light on an important realization: a large portion of the anxiety stemmed from a lack of trust in myself. A lack of confidence in my competence at dealing with the unknown. The looming prospects of undisclosed responsibilities, the realization of the frail foundations that sustain my lifestyle, the ever watchful gaze of oblivion… how, I wondered, am I to bear the weight of existence?


Turns out a lot of this is just called overthinking :)


So now, after getting laid off, I was very attentive to how I would respond to being sent back out “into the wild” with one less tether, so to speak.


And to my ongoing surprise, I’m noticing somewhat of a significant shift in self-perception. I am recognizing a palpable sense of newfound confidence in myself — dare I say, courage? All the inner negotiation and tireless re-orienting and recalibrating would appear to be yielding results.


Whats more, the universally dreaded prospect of losing a job has proven to be significantly more tame compared to the thoughts I had about it. A good reminder of how our ideas and expectations are the cause of much of our suffering...


And now, in the privacy of my 'water closet', the dynamic interplay of active ontological recalibration was taking place. I could almost see my thoughts bouncing off the green tiles: What dreams am I now free to pursue? What fears are shaping my identity? What am I holding onto that's holding me back? What new traits am I discovering about myself? How have my values shifted recently?


– Anyway.


All of this this snippet of phyco-symbolic acrobatics in action that I got to gleam amidst the steam – This is it. Existence itself. A continuously evolving understanding, an ever shifting perspective. Amidst the infinitely unknowable cosmos, there is a relentless, insatiable “sense-making-tendency”. There is no ultimate place at which we'll arrive where it all makes sense (sorry), rather, an incessant push and pull of order and chaos. A constant need to reframe and re-consider our identity.


Since all is ephemeral, the passing of certain events or other beings (people, pets, etc) challenges our ongoing narratives, especially if these stories significantly rely on a particular relationship to those entities. 


The doubting voices within, and the guiding one's, this continuous living rhythm, the dynamic, self-referential spiral – this is literally just nature doing it's thang – "natura naturans" as Spinoza might say. All this subjectivity, the endless role-playing, all this pondering and emoting and dreading and adoring, rejecting and embracing – this process seems to be as natural as the blossoming of a flower. This unrelenting attempt to make sense is simply something atoms do, given enough time.



Really...


What Is This…?



FINAL THOUGHTS:


  1. Reminder that what we often dread are ideas.  

  2. How can we keep building trust in ourselves? Remember that we often are more resourceful than we give ourselves credit for.

  3. I would like to suggest you entertain this Koan from time to time: "What is this?" – if anything just for the sheer aesthetic value of shattering our ontological paradigms every now and again. 

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2 Comments


sho.melissa
Mar 14

Ooh and jajaja. Thank you for shariiing. Indeed living this life can be overwhelming.


Last year in a spiritual workshop I learned about being confortable with uncertainty. I understood that the events of life and the beings in it are simply how they are, not how I want them to be or how I think they should be, and it is a good idea to let them be (I appreciate when they let me be). And as simple as it may seem, it is true. Then it will be easier to let go of what might be considered bad and make room for change and growth.


Additionally I learned that we can choose to stop forming thoughts about who we…


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Javier Busquet
Javier Busquet
Feb 29

This reminds me a bit of that phrase "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". It's always (at least for me) the thought of what could happen with that unknown path that scares me the most, and when I finally face it there's a sense of naivete for having felt scared about it at all. I also like that koan, I'm gonna start using it when I meditate! 😎

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