Who is this me that thinks it’s the whole thing? It’s the self born of the brain, right? Born of the brain and projected into the world to live and explore, maneuver and interpret. It is the self of length, breadth, width, and time. It’s the self of measurement, comparison. It’s rational on its best day, irrational on its worst. And this is how the brain moves through the exterior world and creates aspects of it.
But what happens when the self turns inwards? Does it not find much to explore? Is there not an interior apart from what we imagine?
And what happens when the self stops completely? No more searching, no more comparison, no more measurement. That means no time. A timeless moment replaces the self in all its active glory.
Here’s the thing: you can do various meditations, prayers, yogic postures and so on that will bring you to interior domains that are new to you but familiar to those who have gone before you. And you can refuse to do even that as you refuse the exterior world–refuse the self altogether because you see its limitations. In that moment something truly transformative occurs. Don’t take my word for it–drop everything and find out.
I have a question for materialists that believe consciousness exists in the brain and that’s it, end of story. Their story is that the little self is the only self and it is a function of the organism. If that story is true, why would the organism need to invent meditations, yogic postures, breathing exercises, and so forth in the first place? Why would the brain delude itself into believing there is more to learn internally if the internal does not exist? What would be the evolutionary necessity that would program the brain to deceive itself thus?
Here’s Ken Wilber in an interview for Salon talking about just how scientific meditation can be:
These meditative disciplines have been passed down for hundreds of years, sometimes thousands of years. Much like judo, there are actual techniques that you can learn and pass on. In Zen, you have the practice of zazen. You have to sit and count your breath for up to an hour and concentrate on an object for at least five minutes without losing track. The average American adult can do it for 18 seconds. Then you have the data, what’s called satori. Once you train your mind and look into your interior, you investigate the actual nature and structure of your interior consciousness. If you do this intensely enough, you’ll get a profound aha experience, a profound awakening. And that satori is then checked with others who’ve done this practice.
So again I ask with concrete example in hand: if there is no interior life beyond the delusion of one or beyond the strengthening of self sense through will and rationality, then why, oh why, would the brain invent a practice that has you sit and count breath for up to an hour while concentrating on an object so intensely that nothing else enters the mind?
An hour? Really?
And why would twisting the body into pretzel positions have positive physical and mental effects? What happened to jogging? Or, you know, any of the healthy body movements we did as animals or hunter-gatherers? Why did the brain turn to “unnatural” movements and postures and why do they work?
I think the fact that dreaming exists is a clue. Dreaming occurs when the brain is at rest, right? Someone define what “at rest” means. Class? Anyone? Why does no one ever say that what we mean here is that when the brain isn’t actively engaging the world with this facade, this tool, called “the self,” it relaxes. Therefore relaxation–rest–is taking a break from the character one plays in waking hours to be one’s true self. The actor stops acting and gets real when the character “falls asleep.” (Heck, some of you are doing a version of this this right now, daydreaming while your eyes are reading these words!)
And so, the true self is not the constricted brain creature of time–that is an act. The true self is this fluid, timeless perceiver dampened by the very brain it perceives through. (Or something akin to that.) Looked at from another angle, you can’t hide from that which you have repressed when you dream. Therefore, dreamtime you is a better representation of who you truly are than the smile or scowl you wear when you greet people.
So, materialists… explain all of this away, will you? Because your logical, rational position doesn’t make sense. And I don’t see neuroscience having the ability to tackle these issues of interiority.