Language uses words to capture and convey images and ideas. A butterfly captured and pinned under display glass is not the same as the butterfly that flits from flower to flower and dances in the air with others of it kind. As soon as the word is formed, the essence of the idea is deadened. The word and the idea cannot be the same.
'The Impersonal Life' is a book and for many a way of seeing and living. Some have dedicated their lives to its practice. I have read the book twice and am still contemplating its words but am not in a place to make informed comments on its application by others. Neither have I captured butterflies or pinned them. Still, it feels an apt metaphor.
What I can write from a place informed by a lifetime of spiritual adventures is my present feelings about 'The Impersonal Life' and such practices in general. Certainly I still resonate with the essence of its message, which I interpret and re-word. For example, whereas the book says, "Be still - and know - I am - God," I relate more to "Be still - and know - I am - One Being."
God is a charged word in my experience. My mind associates it with a superior being separated from humans. The word 'God' has a male energy to me. The One Being is gender-less, with qualities which humans attribute to male and female. When I think or say, "I am One Being," I feel the border-less, universal consciousness which inhabits and unifies all that is, including the human Gary through which the One Being seeks to express itself. I feel I am the One Being in Gary form.
The significance of the 'be still' sentence is found in its practical application which continues to challenge me. I am the One Being in human form but my daily actions and responses to life are not yet consistent with this truth. The realization has been stuck in my head for over forty-five years since first reading 'The Impersonal Life,' and hasn't yet made it to abide in my heart and cellular structure. That is my present work, moving the knowing from intellectual knowledge to embodied actuality. All the while being relaxed, playful and participating in the fullness of life.
Any over-emphasis on a single focus grows into an imbalance, whether it is the Christian life, the Catholic life, the Buddhist life, the Hindu life, the Sufi life, or the impersonal life. Life is too complex and dynamic to be captured and pinned to a single focus. How impersonal do I really want to be?
Impersonal means not relating or responsive to individual persons such as "an impersonal corporation"; not influenced by, showing, or involving personal feelings, e.g., "the impersonal march of progress" and not existing as a person; having no personality as in "he gradually came to believe in an impersonal God." Its synonyms include neutral, unprejudiced, objective, detached, disinterested, dispassionate and without favoritism. I relate in the context of the impersonal life with neutral and objective. I can accept without favoritism as well as it recalls the definition of mindfulness as being without preference.
Of course, practitioners of the impersonal life do not necessarily aspire to have no personal feelings or personality or to be disinterested or dispassionate. For example, Sun Center "is a spiritual organization created ... by a group of dedicated students who have been silently practicing the Impersonal Life Teachings for years." The students have published two additional volumes of 'The Impersonal Life' book and are writing study courses. In a few brief e-mail exchanges, I found responses from the Sun Center to feel warm and personal in the common sense of the word personal. It never pays to get hung up on words.
As a way of understanding and applying the impersonal life, I sometimes refer to it as the non-possessive life or the essential life. Those terms and my applications may or may not be aligned with the intentions of the teachings. But as the book says, the divine Self, the One Being, is the only true teacher. Listening to that voice within and acting in its flow is the whole of the practice.
This practice of the impersonal life of course becomes more complicated in a group, where each person listens to God within and acts accordingly. Inevitably, personalities become involved. As 'God' I am border-less, as Gary I am defined. I have not found in sixty-three years an escape from my personal imprints. Perhaps those of the Sun Center are finding ways to proceed with living the impersonal life, harmoniously and without hierarchy. That would seem miraculous to me.
Following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of 'The Impersonal Life.'
The Impersonal Life, Chapter II BE STILL AND KNOW
NOW, in order that you may learn to know Me, so that you can be sure it is I, your own True Self, Who speak these words, you must first learn to Be Still, to quiet your human mind and body and all their activities, so that you no longer are conscious of them.
The fact is, this “I” is yourself, your Real Self. Your human mind has heretofore been so engrossed with the task of supplying its intellect and body with all manner of selfish indulgences, that it has never had time to get acquainted with the Real You, its true Lord and Master. You have been so interested in and affected by the pleasures and sufferings of your body and intellect, that you have almost come to believe You are your intellect and body, and you have consequently nearly forgotten Me, your Divine Self.
I AM not your intellect and body, and this Message is to teach that You and I are One. The words I herein speak, and the main burden of these instructions, is to awaken your consciousness to this great fact.
You cannot awaken to this fact until you can get away from the consciousness of this body and intellect, which so long have held you enslaved. You must feel Me within, before you can know I AM there.
Sit quietly in a relaxed position, and, when wholly at ease, let your mind take in the significance of these words: