Alexander: A subject I have been exploring lately is how we as humans make meaning. The last few weeks I have been thinking about the ways in which we can engage with non-symbolic frames of meaning making and expression. Can we? Yes, clearly, we can engage in non-symbolic forms of meaning making, all I need to do is make a gesture, and I communicate without using any particular symbols or language … well there is a language, but it is not the language of words. This exploration comes from my self-admonition to learn how to live beyond words. What does it mean to live beyond words? I have been feeling recently that words are often a straitjacket; that they constrain our realities. We tend to put them into well-worn channels.  The language of the trees, of the birds, of the waterfalls – there is a language there, and I want to learn to speak that language, to listen to and hear that language more. It is learning Gaia talk.

Shae: As an educator and writer, I am immersed in words. Your subject makes me think of the use and misuse of words, and the limitations of English in particular, and to thinking of direct engagement with the world around us, and with other species. Through our bodies and hearts, our entire being, rather than the one part of the mind that is our constructed knowledge about the world, which is our word- and category-based descriptions. Do we need the curiosity of a beginner’s mind, an open mind, to perceive with relational sentience, rather than coming with what we already know? There is so much communication that happens beyond words, between people as well as between people and the deeply complex and dynamic world all around us. I wonder if the problem is when words are used to limit what we can be aware of, what can be perceived and expressed.

Australian Indigenous peoples have a word, ironically, for such direct relationship of engagement and exchange with Country, with more-than-human beings and life-forms. The word is Dadirri, a way of being and knowing expressed in the work of Ungunmerr-Baumann Miriam-Rose and colleagues [see ref. below]. It means deep listening. Even more, it is a suspension of wording, to engage, to feel, but deeper than the word feeling suggests, it is a way of being-with, that opens us to hear and feel what is beyond the usual use of the individual human senses of seeing, hearing, and feeling. Dadirri is deeper, wider, somehow into and beyond. In my understanding it is opening to meaning that exists between people, and between people and Country. In the world of the Australian Indigenous peoples, the term Country includes multidimensional time, being and becoming, not just the place we a may be, in the western sense of the word. Words just don’t seem to describe it well enough. Especially when I’m trying to describe this Indigenous Knowledge concept with the reductively material language of English!


There is an irony there for me. From when I was living closely with Country for many years, and experiencing the language of the trees, as you say, of the wind and of life generally in terms of resonant flows of energy, information, matter and its own meaning, which I then made meaning of through a visual language using patterns, to my life now, in the word-centred world of academia and education, soon to be writing curriculum to enable young people to feel and relate to the world, and use patterns as a sense making language, beyond the descriptive and representational use of words! I want to bring other ways of knowing into being visible, other than the descriptions and definitions of life in the standard curriculum, and give young people words for diverse ways of engaging and relating to all of life.

Alexander: Yes, everything we are doing at the moment is all in words, and I was thinking about whether we can live beyond words, and that brought me to the question of whether we can live beyond thoughts? There is something liberating in that question, to live beyond thoughts, for me.  What does that mean to live beyond thoughts? So much of the time we are wrapped up in the “monkey mind’, the incessant chatter of our thoughts, and trying to make sense of our world, to formulate the representation, as you say. So here is what I was thinking, if the human brain is a transceiver that bort sends and received information through the holoflux – the in-formation flow between the Implicate Order and the Explicate Order, which is what David Bohm and Karl Pribram called the holomovement or the holoflux – then we as whole systems are transducers between the implicate and the explicate. Like, you can take apart the television but you are not going to find little people in there acting things out, even though you see it on the screen. 

In the same way we are finding, and it is no longer even new, that in our brains we don’t actually have thoughts or keep memories. They’re not located there; they are accessed since the brain is a transceiver, it’s a read/write transceiver sending and receiving information into and out of the Akashic field, or the implicate order, if you prefer. However, the brain is only a transceiver – an antenna – and life requires our whole being to transduce what is received into embodied expression. As a specialized transceptive organ, the brain can “tune into” different aspects of the Akasha, acting as a kind of rheostat, not like a fixed transceiver, but more like one with range of reception and transmission, allowing us to tune differently, like a variable tuning fork. I realize I am mixing my metaphors a bit here. Anyway, it’s not literally like an antenna, but the metaphor is still about tuning into the resonant frequencies that derive from the Akashic dimension, or from the implicate order, or however we want to put it.  So, how do we tune?  For me, the challenge of humaning well is that of being a conduit for the cosmos to flow though me with the highest fidelity and the lowest noise and static. Noise and static derive from my preconceptions, or if I am distracted, or if I have a fixed model for what it is I am trying to figure out. If I am trying to figure out something rather than letting it inform me, and if I am second-guessing things and not allowing them to flow, then I am blocking information flow from the cosmos or clouding it with ego, with expectation, with judgement.  Then I am not humaning well; not being a true conduit for the cosmos to express. There is obstruction there since my expression doesn’t have the highest fidelity of transmitted flow due to this blockage or clouding by ego. 

Shae: Interesting. As an educator, I teach thinking. I like to do so as thinking with, rather than the illusory objectivity of thinking about. That is, thinking with discernment, thinking with awareness, and thinking with relationship; a deep complexity approach to thinking. 

So, for not thinking, I understand that many spiritual traditions include meditation and other techniques to quieten the mind, to then be open to relational engagement with life in the way that you are describing. Many diverse cultures have practices for moving beyond everyday individuality to participate in broader patternings of mind, with each other and the more-than-human world. If we can open our capacity to be-with the world, maybe we can hear and feel energy and information from a range of sources. Yes, so for me it is a differentiation between thinking about, and thinking-with – a kind of being-with; a relational syntony.

I see it as a deeply embodied way of being and way of knowing. I also think it is in fact a natural way for human beings. There was a narrowing of allowable perception that occurred during the Enlightenment in Western thinking, with neocortical reasoning and representational thinking as the only accepted loci for reality formation – you know, as with Descartes’ I think therefore I am. And yet, many great thinkers, philosophers, and scientists have described ideas coming from intuition and creative pondering. So, if we are engaging with the whole of our own being, with heart, and skin, and emotions and all of our subtle capacities for listening and knowing, we may be able to engage without words and categories dominating our experience. 

My daughter surfs in Australia, and we have talked about how surfing can generate this kind of experience. With body, heart, mind, and soul in flow with the dynamic motion and life of the ocean. I believe you need to let go of thinking and move with it, pattern-with. More like I am being-with, therefore I am.

Royalty free image ‘girl-5662898_1280’ by Digitallife, Pixerbay.

Bohm, D. (2005). Wholeness and the implicate order. Routledge.
Ungunmerr-Baumann, M.R., Groom, R.A., Schuberg, E.L., Atkinson, J., Atkinson, C., Wallace, R., and Morris, G. (2022). Dadirri: An Indigenous place-based research methodology. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 18(1), 94-103.