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February 20, 2013

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Great insights from Watts. I have recently been reflecting on the inanity of my lifelong predilection with my self-importance and the supposed need to "be someone" and to "change the world." These are deeply ingrained habits of thought.

But living the way I do, when I get a pang of the reality of my unimportance, it simply serves as a reminder that those pangs come from my early conditioning. The fact that it takes everything I am to change myself causes me to laugh at the idea of changing "the world." Not gonna happen, and reviewing the track record of world-changing people, that is fine with me.

---------------

I totally agree that mindfulness practice is practical, and leads to a stronger person in many ways, psychological, social, and physical.

But I disagree that mindfulness equals morality. If morality is important to you, if you are in fact already aspiring to be moral, then mindfulness practice will definitely improve your morality.

On the other hand, if you want to exploit people more efficiently, find better ways to rip people off without them knowing it, if in fact you want to be a better killer -- mindfulness practice will also help you do all of those things better. Be careful what you are asking for, and don't expect any golden flying carpets to lead you a morality that you are not already pursuing.

Brian, I have read your post here over and over again with lingering interest. At first my mind said to me, there will probably be few comments because the subject of compassion is rather boring to our ego's intellect. Then I read it a few more times and started to get to the beautiful essence of the subject.

I came up with this;

The more dogmatic a person is, most likely that person becomes intolerant to others. Turn up the volume of dogma and this intolerant-energy will snowball into violence. Our present and past history regarding religious dogma demonstrates this.

Belief seems to bring about a more solidifying feeling, though illusionary, that our ego-self is real. In other words, belief is the pillar built in the air of fantasy, that supports and gives us a sense of self.

To strengthen a sense of self our belief needs to be strengthened. This strengthening can be witnessed even on this blog via differing views. Though not always, when one pokes at another view it gives strength to our self's view (belief) thus strengthening the sense of a self. Please keep in mind, beliefs run deep, even the belief in no beliefs.

The root and real battleground of a philosophical debate is not the surface argument whether the subject matter is right or wrong but rather it is our survival of a sense of self. While we think we are in a philosophical debate we are actually working and servicing the pillar in the air of fantasy thus reinforcing the sense of a self.

Meditation can bring light to our belief structures and initiate a process of dissolving them. The more we allow this objective view to do its work the more our beliefs begin to thaw, melt, and waste away, along with self.

With self not appearing so solid anymore, self doesn't sense any threats since there is "nothing" to defend and loses its need to be intolerable and argumentative towards others. Through losing self one then finds our intrinsic self.

Thanks for the lovely post Brian.

Shawn,

Good above comment.

You mentioned,

"Meditation can bring light to our belief structures and initiate a process of dissolving them. The more we allow this objective view to do its work the more our beliefs begin to thaw, melt, and waste away, along with self."

---How would meditation bring such light? Some very simple harmless beliefs are OK. In addition, a little ego is kinda sorta needed in daily life living. A realization of an illusionary self can be obtained without meditation. Shawn, if you engage in a meditation, could you describe what kind? Your comments are OK with me.

No one has ever called you a hipster but I'm pretty sure you've heard Hippy before

Shawn,

I have also been enjoying your questions and the responses you've garnered to them from other readers. I am glad that you are participating here.

Roger,

The paragraph that you quoted from Shawn matches my own experience of meditation as well. The way that it "can bring light to our belief structures and initiate a process of dissolving them" depends upon an initial understanding of the goal of putting the ego into its place as the chauffeur of the body/mind rather than its master.

As you say, it is necessary for the ego to exist if only to preserve the sense of a solid self for purposes of navigating the world in our bodies. But anything more than this -- especially the lies that the ego weaves to convince us of its permanent existence and importance -- and the ego is out of bounds and leading us on a destructive path.

I have known people who practiced some form of meditation for decades but feel that they have made no progress. I would say this is because they thought it was a magical ritual that would pay off like a time clock, if only they continue to punch in regularly. (Don't be late! Don't punch out early! heh)

In my case once I began to practice earnestly -- meaning my life revolved around the practice for a period of time -- I was also already aware of the basic goal. So my meditation discipline is one of recognizing egoic (neurotic) thoughts and distinguishing them from the simple fact of the conditioned being of my body and its mind. Knowing this, then learning to still those thoughts, created a perspective in my mind by which I could observe my thoughts as they happen and evaluate them, understand them. It works, but you need to have a goal in mind and not wait for a magical payoff.

Something about the internal perspective obtained by mindful meditation does indeed weaken the ego, allowing us to demote it to servant rather than master. And with that, our tendency to neurosis begins to subside as well. But during that process, the ego conjures evils to dissuade you!

I recently watched a most fascinating movie on this topic -- taming the ego, that is, not meditation. It looks like a typical Hollywood shoot-em-up -- Ray Liota and Jason Statham (!) in Revolver. Simply amazing. If you are aware in the beginning that there are two layers in this film and watch and listen carefully, you may be able to watch it only once and get it. I had to watch it twice, and it was two different films! It is a picture of taming the ego, believe it or not.

The root and real battleground of a philosophical debate is not the surface argument whether the subject matter is right or wrong but rather it is our survival of a sense of self. While we think we are in a philosophical debate we are actually working and servicing the pillar in the air of fantasy thus reinforcing the sense of a self.

Excellent insight, Shawn. You have done some hard work on your "self" it seems.

Gee Roger, what a homework assignment you are giving me with such mind stretching questions.You are asking questions that if I answer will probably find out in a later time and place as being absurd explanations. But such is life. If we cannot look back at life and see what total fools we were, we most likely have been only engaged in superficial religious mediation.

I am a believer in "meditate without ceasing". This is a spin off of Paul the apostles exhortation to pray without ceasing. Though I have my morning time of what might be considered as a meditation, I am not a big believer in separating a time aside for meditation. The mental conception of no-self during these dedicated separate times of meditation doesn't really get to the root of the matter. Meditation and mindfulness needs to become second nature to us in every breath that we take. We need to bring our meditation into where the rubber meets the road of everyday living. This is where the really action is. To often we cleave to only stilling the mind instead of taking a hard look at what mind is saying to us while in a state of action. Self is a squirmy elusive animal. It needs to be ferreted out through lives struggles accompanied with meditation. Self is constantly playing "catch me if you can" and needs to be found out. It is difficult to shoot a rabbit dead if you cannot see it. It has been said that adversity doesn't build character, it reveals your character. Through the action of real life moments accompanied with a life that meditates without ceasing, it increases the chance of success of this daunting endeavor.

And yes, we need some ego to do this. We can't get traction without ego. That would be impossible. And beliefs can have their timely purpose but after they have served their goal, they need to be discarded similar to when we are finished using toilet paper. Chuang Tzu once said, “The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words".

Higher consciousness is not experienced through the efforts of postulating higher consciousness. Elevated consciousness is the dust that remains after our untruths experience demolition. This is similar in spirit to when Einstein said, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school." The inner workings within the principles of a Zen koan are an attempt to bring about the fruition of this type of untethered consciousness. Hey, hold on there, please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that these moments are God consciousness. Who knows, maybe these encounters are latent powers of neuron manifestations.

This deconstruction of ignorance that creates a vacuum for the buoyancy of consciousness to occur can be demonstrated in the mundane earthly dysfunctions of human life. Remove the historical bias from a racist and he will embrace the conscious awareness that arises of our common humanity. Likewise, spiritual consciousness arises as a result of us backpedaling through all of our belief structures and invalidating them.

Solving this problem is easier said than done because our beliefs are what artificially support us. It can become a very "emotional" struggle to let go of what we think as being true because in so doing we also have to let go of our self-identity perception. If we do not have a perception of who we are via our belief systems, what are we left with? This is not just a mental image problem but it is also a deep rooted emotional problem.

Our imagined rightness of our beliefs bring solidity, though illusionary, to our sense of self. It isn't the hatred within a racist that motivates him, but rather identity-survival that drives him to remain in ignorance. If he dare to let go of his belief he would be letting go of who he thinks he is. The fear of experiencing the nothingness of self urges him on. Hatred is just the fuel and is not the engine and the gears of what motivates him.

The shedding of our beliefs is not found through meditating in a closed closet door and sitting on our comfy paisley colored yoga pillows. Meditation needs to consume every second of our life and brought into our "living room of living". Damn, did I just see an enabling belief elephant go by? What does that elephant in this room that has arisen mean to the me that I seem to be?

Shawn, I agree: good comment. However, I don't like the solipsism that comes with saying "believing in no belief is a belief." It's like saying "not seeing a pink elephant in my living room is the seeing of no pink elephant."

No, it isn't. Word play is different from reality. There really are real things in the world. There really are false beliefs about non-existent things.

It isn't possible to live everyday life without believing that some things are true (the traffic light is red) and other things are false (there is no traffic light; its an illusion).

As I quoted Alan Watts in tonight's blog post, once we get into talking about the past and the future, about making statements about causality linking this and that (such as "the soul survives bodily death" or "consciousness continues beyond the physical"), we enter the realm of having to justify beliefs.

They aren't all equal. Believing there is a God is different from believing there is no God. The first belief is a scientific sort of statement; the second statement isn't.

No one wins a Nobel prize for claiming the discovery of the absence of a truth. At least, I'm not aware this has ever happened.

Brian,

I actually 100% agree with what you are saying. There is an obvious truth-basis of not believing in a Santa Claus.

My problem I have with so many of the non-belief herds is that something else is occurring underneath the truth of their non-belief. I think I have mentioned before that psychology precedes philosophy. I find that we humans look for any means we can to keep us off the hook of accountability to relative reality. I wino drunk living in the gutters of a street surely would embrace the premise that nothing matters and there is no purpose to life. The belief in the purposeless of life would help him feel better about his wasted life. I have said over an over again that it matters more to why you believe what you believe than what you believe.

So I agree with you Brian. I don't believe in Jesus. But at the same time I believe that belief and non-belief both can be used as a mean of escapism.

Let me take this thought further. The real issue at hand is how truthful is my perception of myself. What is the truth about who I think I am and how I express that image of myself around in life. That is where the focus of attention needs to be centered around on what is truth or not. The belief in a god or not is not necessarily the real issue at hand. Though the issue of whether there is a god or not may come up during times of self-discovery, those are sideline truths/non-truths. This is about me, not God. What is the truth about me?

I remember back in my Haight-Ashbury days that the truth arose and I embraced was that society had become too materialistic. Is that a truth? Maybe so but the real truth about myself was that I was a lazy pot numbed-out hippie that was unmotivated in life and was latching onto this truth about material idolatry as an excuse for my state of mind. Again, the truth should be centered around about me, not what is the truth about the subject of materialism. One is a sideline truth and the other is the truth about me. The one that is a sideline truth can easily be used as a distraction of looking at the truth about who I think I am. The right question to ask oneself is why do I believe in what I believe. What is motivating me to not believe in a god or believe in a god? Then the subject at hand becomes not about god but about me. What is true or rather untrue about me?

Thanks Shawn and Scott,

Enjoyed your comments.

Regarding meditation, nothing wrong with such. I do have further harmless questions.

--- What is it that makes a person decide to engage in medtiation, or conclude its value? Is there a place in the brain that decides to do such activity? Is this ego(divided) mind?

---True results or experiences from one's meditations is going to be subjective. No really good way to relate to another person.
However, could either of you two possibly explain the mechanism of how meditation reduces the illusionary self? Or, whatever is going on, as you have described.

---I can see one having a realization(?) of illusionary self and a supposed moments of reduction of such. But, the mechanism as to how that is done is, for me, a mystery.

---Finally, I have no problem with religion. I have never experienced any harmful results from such. And, have no problem with belief and non-belief with various things and issues.

Damn Roger, you ask very good questions. I will give you some short inconclusive thoughts of mine as I can't really answer your questions with any surety. I will have to defer these questions to Brian.

What is it that makes a person decide to engage in meditation, or conclude its value? Is there a place in the brain that decides to do such activity? Is this ego(divided) mind?

I am not sure about a place in the brain that causes an individual to engage in any spiritual endeavor. If the hunger and desire for a better understanding of who we are was universal, I might be tempted to say that it is our calling within but it is not universal. Some people give a shit and some people don't.

---True results or experiences from one's meditations is going to be subjective. No really good way to relate to another person.
However, could either of you two possibly explain the mechanism of how meditation reduces the illusionary self? Or, whatever is going on, as you have described;

I have come to view that meditation can be like going to a psychologist. I don't know if you ever have been to a good counselor before. I have. A good one will gently try to take you out of the drama story in your mind. When I encountered this with a counselor, it felt like enlightenment. I realized that everything I was seeing was a complete misunderstanding of what was really going on. The sky wasn't falling. Similar, through much practice, meditation can have the same affect on an individual. I am not sure how the mechanism within our brain works during this time.

---I can see one having a realization(?) of illusionary self and a supposed moments of reduction of such. But, the mechanism as to how that is done is, for me, a mystery.

Agreed. It is a mystery. Here is something you might like listening to about a lady's observation of a realization. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jill-bolte-taylor/neuroscience_b_2404554.html

---Finally, I have no problem with religion. I have never experienced any harmful results from such. And, have no problem with belief and non-belief with various things and issues.

You might not have experienced any harmful results with religion but humanity has. Don't get me wrong, I am somewhat of a perennial philosopher, pulling from great thoughts wrought from many religions.

Thanks Shawn,

Very good message. Maybe, Scott will add to the meditation discussion, when he comes around too.

What I find fascinating, regarding this topic(meditation), is that a supposed "self"
as subject is initiating the desire to engage in mediation, whatever kind it is. The results of meditation are objectified by the self, or whatever, into a result or accomplishment. The accomplishment being a reduction in the ego or illusionary self. All this is a good thing.

But, what is this "self" and where is it located, that starts the need for meditation? This discussion, I find a fascinating topic.

Thanks again, you are a good guy. Best wishes.

Roger,

It sounds like Shawn and I have had very similar life experiences where religion and philosophy are concerned.

-- What is it that makes a person decide to engage in meditation, or conclude its value? Is there a place in the brain that decides to do such activity? Is this ego(divided) mind?

This part about the brain is a better question for a neuroscientist maybe! I have no idea, but I relate to what Shawn said about a calling. I don't know why some care about this and others don't.

I began practicing meditation seriously only as a result of unhappiness. When changing my external circumstances didn't help, I went inside. Call it a yearning for freedom, maybe. That's what it felt like.

--could either of you two possibly explain the mechanism of how meditation reduces the illusory self?

Roger the brain seems to work on loops. Feedback loops, thought association loops. If we had the ability to record our thoughts, most of us would probably shocked at the repetitive nature of our mental dialogue.

Have you ever known anyone who was down and out and blamed someone else? They are hard to listen to, because when they speak what comes out is the mental loop that is prosecuting their case against whomever. Over. And over. And over.

This looping is the nature of the brain's activity; neural networks made by humans imitating the structure of connections in the brain are not "programmed" but rather "trained" by repetition. That is a fascinating topic but too technical for this discussion I think -- I mention it because it has to do with the importance of repetition in our mental experience.

Of course it isn't necessary for the brain to be looping through "emotional legal cases" -- we can still our thoughts if we train. That is the part of meditation that is involved with concentration and releasing thoughts.

This can be difficult to do -- you have to pay a lot of attention, and when you stop paying attention, the loops start right back up again. So, many meditators never get past this part of the training.

If you do learn to still your mental loops, then over time and practice you will find that there are times when your mental chatter ceases, even though you are not "meditating" with intention.

At this point, when a still and focused frame of mind is readily available to you, then you can begin to -- the image that comes to mind is operating a clutch! Using stillness, you can engage or disengage the chatter and analyze it. Once you see it, you realize, "I'm being an idiot with this looping condemnation." or whatever -- it gives you an internal perspective that is still and not controlled by the loops of thought. You can begin to control them, then you can begin to see them more clearly; and then the ones that don't serve you, you can replace with others that do serve you.

So again, I agree with Shawn; I've just described a kind of psychotherapy. But rather than "talk therapy" this is "stop talk therapy".

---I can see one having a realization(?) of illusionary self and a supposed moments of reduction of such. But, the mechanism as to how that is done is, for me, a mystery.

The illusory nature of the self is, I think, a purely analytical construct. It's the best truth of the situation regarding myself that I can see, even though we don't want to believe that we don't have a permanent existence. It takes courage and maturity to look the annihilation of the self straight on and remain calm and centered. The mechanism for this is familiarity with the inevitability of your own death. Thoughts of the future (heaven or whatever) are merely distractions for us, so that we don't have to look at stark death without hope. The self truly is illusory in the sense of an "eternal soul" -- this becomes clear when you face death without neurotic avoidance.

Also, renunciation is one way to realize the illusory self; take away the ego's toys and distractions, and it will rage. When it rages, it weakens itself. There is a good reason that monks often give up ownership of many possessions so that they can strip away the ego's defenses. Not easy...

You are lucky not to have experienced harmful results from religion, Roger! I don't know what to say about this, except that some mountain trails are better than others, but they all come to a dead end. That's religion. What you do when you get to the dead end, if you do get there, is spirituality.

Haight-Ashbury, Shawn, the Greatful Dead.
Orange Sunshine, Kona Gold, Tai Sticks.


Quicksilver Messenger Service (I saw them live ) The greatest song of all time.
Listen to the words !!!!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBvjXhUSUpU

Mike i liked the song, you coloured my ideas i am searching for future music,thanks,bro

Yea, me old Haight-Ashbury days are full of memories, good and not so good. From hanging out at Golden Gate Park listening to the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg, to going to a small cafe, called The Matrix, there sitting two feet in front of Marshall speakers blasting out the thumping sounds from a group called The Sparrow, who
eventually changed their name to SteppenWolf.

One time I was drawn to a crowd on a corner of Haight street. They were all circled around a beautiful voice that I could hear. As I drew closer and closer to this spectacular solo voice singing the blues from such heart of passion, to my astonishment, I realized that I was in the presence of Janis Joplin. Wow! What could be better than experiencing the grassroots of listening to Janis pour out her heart and soul on this corner of Haight street!

Sadly, the opening words of Ginsberg's poem "Howl" became a reality for my good friends and myself;

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix...

Fortunately for me, I was able to escape the vise gripping arms of heroin addiction but not so, for many of my dear lost buddies.

Hi gentle moongoes.

You have not lived yet. Living
is the ultimate experience. you
cannot imagine what its like.

I therefore challenge Blogger Brian
to throw away his paper acid ..
and go for the Purple Haze.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTpuWlxO-ts

oh my Mike i lived i lived many times, an old soul wandering around,Peace to you my friend
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQLdztuMd1g

Thanks Shawn and Scott,

Enjoyed your messages.

This was mentioned,

"Of course it isn't necessary for the brain to be looping through "emotional legal cases" -- we can still our thoughts if we train. That is the part of meditation that is involved with concentration and releasing thoughts.

This can be difficult to do -- you have to pay a lot of attention, and when you stop paying attention, the loops start right back up again. So, many meditators never get past this part of the training."


---What is the "we" that can still the thought, through training? Is it the "self" that through training can still and/or release a thought?
---Is the Ego, a separate something, separate from the mentioned... we?
---Is the brain activity(looping) generated independently from the "we" and the Ego?
---I understand, Ego is just a word pointing to something. But, what is it, through meditation, that stills or reduces the Ego?
---In mind, is the "we" and Ego fighting with one another?

Thanks again guys for the continued messages.

Hey Roger,

I am going to have to defer these questions to Brian since they are mainly in response to his comment and I think Brian is better at dialing in and pinpointing things better than me. Besides that, I am a busy right at this moment. I will be busy tomorrow too.

I would like to say though that meditation or mindfulness is a utility of the mind. It is typically in a latent state, being buried under the dust of thoughts and a bit rusty. It is not like having a third eye or anything hocus pocus like that. It is the development of a lost skill in the mind. It appears that there are those that are hostile to this type of thinking on this blog. Cheers to them. Let'm rant and preach. I will be watching from a distant pew.

P.S. Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it.

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