Looking Away

“‘In exchange for the promise of security, many people put a barrier between themselves and the adventures in consciousness that could put a whole new light on their personal lives.'” – – June Singer

Although I am not familiar with the work of Jungian analyst June Singer (1920-2004), I did discover a personal anecdote that reveals a woman who walked her talk. When asked her impression of the Internet, she responded: “`Well, I’ve just had my eightieth birthday, and I thought that if I don’t keep trying new things, I’m liable to get brain-dead. I thought, this will be a breeze! That’s what I thought.’”


A recent daily meditation with Mark Nepo introduced me to Singer, adding a Jungian dimension to my current consideration of archetypes within authentic ancient traditions. As one whose life has been characterized by rampant naïveté, I prefer “adventures in consciousness” over security any day. For me, curiosity is an integral component of consciousness and therein infinite.

As Heraclitus said, “No matter how long you probe and how far you look, you’ll never encounter the boundaries of the soul.” I find that immensely satisfying for “the pull into the truth of things is very strong” (Nepo) but it is not without its challenges, as the foray into the unknown has no consideration for what is safe or what is treasured. Consciousness just is, and it is ever expanding.

Consider how easy it is to look away—not to grow–to maintain the status quo in the hope that all we are and all we love stay the same. That’s the human being in us but our spirit, as the Isa Upanishad says, “’is swifter than the mind.'” Our spirit is always in motion whether we are or not; it provides a whole new light on our lives if only we will look.

According to the Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa, if we deny our spirit by deliberately looking away from someone or something that we recognize as truth, it is “… a grave act of denying what is already conscious…a crime against the essence of things that costs us dearly” (Nepo). We attach to what we know, and we don’t let go. Paradoxically, by clinging to the “promise of security,” we risk all that we are and all that we love, for we deny the spirit of life, the only constant that creates and re-creates.

Sometimes, it is hard to know whether we are clinging to or letting go. Attachment is sticky in every way, requiring us to know our hearts before we act with our heads. There is such a gap between the two, it seems, for there are times when we look away in true innocence rather than deliberately avoiding a direction. It takes practice to recognize this “…inner knowing that determines whether we live like a dog at the end of our leash or whether we run free” (Nepo).

As one who believes in becoming a lake, I am grateful for my life of rampant naïveté, and I do not see that changing—ever.  On some days, I narrow the gap between heart and head but then, there are those other days that are not so clear.

Here is a suggested meditation from Nepo on narrowing the gap:

         “As you breathe slowly, try on the in-breath to sense your spirit. Feel where it is living in you.

“On the out breath, try to feel your place in the world, where you go through the days.

“As you breathe, keep sensing your spirit and feeling your place.

“Simply notice any difference and throughout your day look there.

“Your simple and honest looking will lessen the gap.”

10 thoughts on “Looking Away

  1. I see that notion of safely adhering to comfortable beliefs as being like a leaf swirling down a river that along the way gets caught in the weeds by the bank. The journey is arrested, sometimes briefly until something dislodges the leaf and sends it back into the current, sometimes forever.


  2. Karen! Great post. When I deny what I know is true in favor of what is popular, or accepted, or safe, I take two giant-steps back. I think sometimes that’s necessary. The disappointment that results makes me more determined than ever to find the courage/faith to move forward.

    Fearing risk is okay as long as I don’t let it stop me.

    Love the advice on paying attention to breath. I think it is a non-verbal voice that guides if we allow it.


    1. Hi, Deb!

      Your comment addresses what I think is a critical aspect of day-to-day living, meaning that if we will immerse ourselves in each moment, we will appreciate what each one provides for us. Some moments do seem to require much more than others but as you say, that may be just a matter of perspective. Excellent points! Good to see you here, Deb.



  3. This is a great way of putting things, Karen. I have noticed that my world shrinks when I don’t push up against my fears on a pretty frequent basis and the world opens up when I do. Thanks for the reminder.


    1. Hello, Ann!

      As you say, it is amazing how the world opens to us, so often in almost the opposite way we expected or hoped. One of the concepts I’m beginning to explore is the idea of attachment to outcome, which your comment addresses so succinctly. Always great having you drop by, Ann.



  4. I am with your 80yr old lady – I have been saying for some years now that my definition of brain dead (although I refer to it as brain sleep) is not to learn something new each day. to the rest I have found over the years that security within oneself (which in my case has grown through the years) is a good base to go forth and look at and maybe explore newness – ‘life’ in reality of course needs to be attended to first but the possibilities for exploration are always present when ‘life’ can be tucked away for a moment. I have conciously and unconciously (the latter I beleive being a natural inherited or nurtured trait) been filling my lake – it is pretty full now – has water lilies and frogs – dragon flies and soft breezes (a few mosquitoes in the shallows)


    1. Whenever I consider the become a lake post, you are one of a few who come to mind. I agree that security lies within oneself and therein may lie a great secret for tending to what life requires. Always appreciate your comments, Alberta.



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