Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lifting the Veil

¡Hola! Everybody...
Not feeling well these past two days...

* * *

-=[ Behind the Curtain ]=-

Information crashes against our eyes at the speed of light, slams onto our eardrums at the speed of sound, and courses through our mind/ body as fast as an electro-chemical signal can flash from one neuron to the next. How do we deal with this sensory onslaught without getting overwhelmed? By blocking out most of it, and putting the brakes on what little is left.

The brain freezes the world into separate mind moments, each containing a barely adequate amount of information, and then processes these one by one in a linear fashion. The result is a world compiled more or less by what’s “out there,” but mostly organized around the limitations of the machine constructing it. It’s as if the brain and its senses quickly take a series of snapshots, and then weave them together into a movie -- our stream of consciousness. The Buddhists have a pretty good way of describing this system: delusion.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor does it mean that we are stupid, it means that the mind/ body is designed (in a way) to distill or distort reality in a fundamental way. For one thing, this helped us survive as a species. If we were to take in the totality of reality, we would’ve long ago joined the ranks of extinct life forms.

First, creating this “shorthand” of reality allowed us to make decisions quickly (Do we fight, or do we run? Do we fuck it, or eat it?). Secondly, each mind moment creates an artificial center of stability out of a reality that constantly changing and almost impossible to capture. Like the rapid unfolding of the individual frames of a film, these mind moments give the illusion of movement. As the films plays, we create all kinds of stories about the way things are, filling in the blanks of discarded data with assumptions, projections, and aspirations. Taking this process as real, we go seek gratification and security to a level that the system cannot support. The inevitable disappointment is centered on the idea of “me,” who is both the one who wishes things were different than they are and the one who suffers when they are not. In other words, we are hardwired to misperceive reality by ignoring the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of it all.

There is another way we filter out information at any given moment. Most of what comes in to the system doesn’t even reach our consciousness but is relegated to our unconscious. This is because the precious resource of conscious awareness is used to carry on the important daily activities of living. Information, for our awareness, is on a need to know basis. Take the experience of learning a new task, such as learning to play a musical instrument. At first we have to “think” about it and consciously try to make our fingers go where they are supposed to go. Eventually, as the right connections are made between the brain and the muscles of the fingers and hand, the patterns disappear into our pre- and subconscious and, after a while, it feels as if we are playing automatically.

This is a very efficient process, and before long, most of what we do in our lives is accomplished without having to be very conscious about it. One would assume that this process would work to free our psychic energy to do some creative things, but this is often not the case. More often, our awareness is spent looking for ways to find pleasurable experiences and getting more of them, or it is used to bitch and moan about unpleasant experiences and finding ways to avoid or destroy them. We use our creative energy -- our conscious mind -- to find new ways of wishing things were different from what they are, and our unconscious mind is relegated to maintaining the habits we have accumulated previously. The Buddhists have a good way of describing this state of mind: suffering.

The best definition of meditation I have encountered is “learning to stop arguing against reality.” We spend much of our lives and mental energy in conflict with reality. Our unconscious has been conditioned by all kinds of unhealthy patterns and these patterns help guide our behavior. We are not aware of most of these and, ironically, the only way we can change what we are not aware of is by changing something else first. We may not be able to see the unconscious conditioning, but we can become aware of the suffering they cause. By training our awareness in a methodical way, we strengthen its ability to open to more of the information available to the senses in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is the art and practice of being present with whatever is happening here and now: when it is strong, we are not stuck arguing with reality. With less liking and disliking, there is less stress coming from the narrowly defined sense of you that keeps you separate from the rest of the world. As the influence of your terminal uniqueness decreases, suffering deceases also.

We are always working with an imperfect model of reality. What makes the difference, however, is to understand the limitations of our constructed world. To see more clearly how our perception is being used in skillful and unskillful ways, and to use that awareness in the service of creating well-being for ourselves and the well-being of those around us. The Buddhists have a word for that too: they call it wisdom.




  1. So to make a long story short, our brains operate on autopilot which explains us being able to go to the bathroom in the dark without bumping our toe. But even still, we cannot decide whether to fuck or eat, it.


  2. LMAO. Yeah, that's another way of putting it.

  3. I just can not wrap my mind around so much of the bullshit and fuckery that is spewed forth on a daily basis lately. I find myself tuning out the politics and I never thought I would do that as politic's have been a part of moi since I was 15 years old and protesting the war in Vietnam.

    I have wrapped myself in sports..I don't have to think much to watch a baseball or football game..and it's what I need lately as I have health issues.

  4. Dusty: You're allowed a break, but I need a ral funk warrioress like you to stick around. Believe me, sometimes I look at the apathy, and, in many cases, the sheer stupidity of the American voting public and I have to throw my hands up in frustration. But we, people such as you and many many others, need to keep up the fight.

    Take a breather, kick a dog (preferably the blue kind), do what you have to do to regenerate, but I expect you back on the frontlines pronto, mu amiga. You got more cojones than a busload of neocunts.

  5. sigh ... yep get it all and have been very present these last few weeks how well we train our mind to live in denial of the above basic fundimental truths ..... and boy have i suffered for it

    back on track now, and its good to come across this to remind me what its all about


  6. Well, it's good to see you back!


What say you?


[un]Common Sense