Building community in a changing world

April 28, 2022

Recognizing the “Edge States” in Our Lives

Recently, I’ve been reading Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Standing at the Edge.” The premise being that when we recognize the Edge States in our lives, we can stand on the threshold of change and see a landscape abundant with wisdom, tenderness and basic human kindness – but at the same time, seeing a desolate terrain of violence, failure and futility.

The Edge States are: altruism; empathy; integrity; respect; and engagement. You can lose your footing with any of these and go over the edge. The destructive side of the Edge States. But as Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “no mud, no lotus.” You sometimes have to take the risk of going over the edge in order to achieve psychological transformation. Our suffering can feed our understanding and be one of the great resources of our wisdom and compassion.

I love Roshi Joan’s analogy of the Edge States to a red-rock mesa. It’s top is solid and gives us a vast view, but at the rim is a sheer drop-off. The edge is an exposed place where a lapse in concentration can cause us to loose our footing. We have to work the edge, expand its boundaries and find the gift of balance. It’s at the edge where we can discover courage and freedom. The Edge States are all about how we see things, a fresh way of viewing and interpreting our experiences of those States – and their shadow sides. To help us better understand when we are standing on the edge – and when we are in danger of going over…