The Middle Ground, by William Segal

William Segal

A portrait of William Segal from the autobiography of William Segal, entitled A Voice at the Borders of Silence, edited by Mark Magill. (The Overlook Press, New York, 2003), p. 234.

William Segal (1904-2000), painter and writer, met P.D. Ouspensky and G.I. Gurdjieff in the 1940s, and later spent long periods at the main Rinzai and Soto Zen monasteries in Japan. He is the author of numerous works, including Openings: Collected Writings of William Segal (1985-1997). This poem is from The Middle Ground, (Green River Press) and appeared in the Home Issue, Winter 2006 (Vol. 31, No. 4)

There is a middle ground, a basic Reality embracing self
and Self. It may be called my true nature. To discover what
prevents me from the experience of it, I have only to look
at myself, just as I am.

It is so simple.
At this moment, what is my state?

I let my attention embrace the whole of myself, from the
top of the head through the torso, solar plexus, the entire

I am very still in the body. I follow the breath. I watch
the movements of thoughts and associations. The feelings
become quiet, and the activity in the head diminishes. I
am more. I perceive the whole of my world, just as it is.

I remain very still, refusing the mind’s inclinations to reach
for anything.

Thoughts and feelings come and go like floating clouds.
They are not me.

The experience is at one and the same time, both active
and passive. Through sensation of the body, I perceive that
I am. Yet, I do not know who or what I am. I am witness to
my existence.

I am aware of a feeling which suffuses the interior of myself.
It is a choiceless, an accepting awareness. With it comes a
sensation that extends to and envelopes all the parts of the
body. I am very still, relating to the silence that is both
inside and outside.

Nothing is lacking at this moment.