By NANCY REDWINE (Santa Cruz Sentinel staff writer)
Someone asks a question and nobody knows the answer. That moment of uncertainty before someone makes something up can be excruciating. Steven Harrison, author of The Question to Life’s Answers,says this moment of not knowing is where true humanity is found. “Not knowing allows an investigation into life that is unobstructed by our conditioning, uncluttered by our information,” Harrison wrote. “It is the absence of knowing that allows the discovery of the new.” Spending years looking for answers from politics, psychology and spirituality, Harrison followed teachers from East to West and discovered that what he was searching for was right in front of him in his day-to-day life. Harrison is the founder of All Together Now International, which aids homeless children and the destitute in Nepal, Tibet and India. He talked to us from his hometown of Boulder, where he is helping to create a democratic learning community called the Living School.
You advocate for a spirituality beyond our ideas of what’s spiritual, beyond teachers, beyond prescribed practices — yet you’ve written a book that will most likely be bought by people searching for answers. Why did you write this book?
Steven Harrison: I wrote the book as a question to short-circuit the celebrity expert viewpoint we’ve taken on. We all have access to life if we choose. It’s important that we find the qualities we’ve been searching for outside of our lives locally, in communities, in family, in our relationships. Spirituality has taken a wrong turn in disconnecting us from our lives. There’s a lot to do right where we are.
The whole book is a dialogue. Who is the dialogue between?
Harrison: These two voices reside in us looking for security and creativity. Sometimes when those voices see each other, something new comes about.
You’re saying there’s a way to touch the experience beneath thought without any kind of spiritual practice. But don’t you think your years of engaging in various spiritual practices helped you get where you are?
Harrison: I’m not instructing anyone to not do something. I think if you’re drawn to a spiritual practice, then investigate it fully. I’m just trying to describe what I see in what we are doing. There’s a limitation to spiritual practices. We become involved in the form, the process, the symbology, and then we forget what the whole point is. Spirituality becomes pressure, stress and neurosis. We don’t need to do anything. In the realm of opening the heart, we need to know less, not more. Really we need to come to it knowing nothing.
If you’re on your own, how do you know you’re not just deluding yourself further?
Harrison: You will always be in relationship and that will bring in information. If you’re living in conflict, you’ll feel it. If you’re living in complexity, you’ll feel the weight of it. Life keeps feeding back to us the intelligence we need if we are attentive to it. We have the ability to move consciously now. Not a hundred lifetimes later. This is where it’s the rubber meets the road. Do we want this, or do we want our idea of it?