Yesterday Jesse left a comment on this post which asked me:
May I ask if you ever had a subjective experience in meditation that you found to be meaningful or that revealed something of value to you, personally? Not necessarily a RS [Radha Soami Satsang Beas] meditation or any specific lights or sounds but just something that left you in a state of deeper self reverence or lasting tranquility.
Good question. Not an easy question to answer. It's a question that got me thinking more about the question than a possible answer.
Meaning, after pondering for a bit how I might respond to Jesse, I realized that it wasn't as simple as that, because what he asked threw me into a frame of mind outside of straightforward question-response.
I felt like his comment was a mobius strip which led somewhere -- yet also nowhere.
Thus all I can do is offer up some observations which are similar: ideas that strike me as lying on the mobius strip that is Jesse's question, but which, if laid end to end, don't point anywhere particular.
While perusing my Twitter feed a while ago I came across a link with an intriguing title: "8 Great Philosophical Problems That We'll Never Solve." Each of the eight bears some relevance (and also irrelevance) to my mobius strip answering.
This excerpt from Can you really experience anything objectively? appealed to me.
Another way of saying all this is that the universe can only be observed through a brain (or potentially a machine mind), and by virtue of that, can only be interpreted subjectively. But given that the universe appears to be coherent and (somewhat) knowable, should we continue to assume that its true objective quality can never be observed or known? It's worth noting that much of Buddhist philosophy is predicated on this fundamental limitation (what they call emptiness), and a complete antithesis to Plato's idealism.
I've blogged about this notion in several recent posts. Emptiness, Buddhist variety, is all about how things exist, including experiences, not about what things exist. So what's truly meaningful, and this makes sense to me, isn't a particular thing, such as a particular experience, but an insight into the nature of how all things exist.
Interdependently. Through consciousness. Thoughts without a thinker. Actions without an actor. Creations without a creator.
Grokking that, wow.
I've had some wow's in my life. Don't know if they were/are genuine emptiness wow's. Since emptiness isn't more of a thing than anything else (emptiness is empty, say Buddhists), I suppose "genuine" doesn't apply here.
My wife and I don't travel far afield very much. We detest long airplane flights. Also, being away from our dogs for very long. So we've never been to Paris, Glacier National Park, the Caribbean, lots of places friends and relatives have been.
Thus we're short on seeing-the-world experiences. But we're always seeing something. Just like the folks who go on cruises, tour Europe, trek the Himalayas, and such do. We enjoy what we see. So do they, from what I've heard.
Each to his/her own, when it comes to experiences. Inner or outer. I've never had an experience, inner or outer, which has deeply changed me. I've never known anyone else who has been deeply changed by an experience.
But maybe I have my own understanding of "deeply changed."
I've become (and maybe always have been) a first there is a mountain, then there isn't, then there is sort of guy. I don't believe in deeply changed. I don't believe in enlightenment. I don't believe in supernatural divinity, in becoming god-realized, in changing into someone more than human.
I do believe, provisionally, vaguely, uncertainly, in the possibility of us Homo sapiens being capable of sapien'ing the world in a radically fresh fashion. My psychedelic experiences back in the '60s (decade, not my age) showed me that consciousness can have its channel changed, so to speak, with the flip of a neurological button.
Same world. Fresh way of looking upon it. My fascination with Buddhist/Taoist emptiness relates to this.
Some of my most meaningful experiences, the ones that stick in my mind as wow-like, have been seemingly utterly mundane. Much of Zen strikes me as bullshit. The emphasis upon simply chopping wood and carrying water, wisdom.
Jesse asked about "lasting tranquility."
Not sure if I'd recognize this if it hit me over the head (which admittedly doesn't sound very tranquil). After all, something lasting isn't very observable. If it is unchanging, like gravity, I just take it for granted, because it's always been with me, or part of me.
So the way it looks to me on the part of the mobius strip that I'm focused on now, it's the most unmemorable experiences I've had -- both in and out of "formal" sitting meditation -- which have meant the most to me.
Saying anymore probably takes me away from from what I'm trying to say. But hey, since we're on a mobius strip, taking a step anywhere leads back to the same place, so what the hell? Words are cheap. My laptop charges me nothing for every keystroke.
In my current churchless state I feel like nothing is important, and everything is. No experience is special, and every experience is. It all depends on how, not what. You know, that amorphous quality stuff talked about in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
Which stimulated a Google search that led me to a not-bad You Tube video which seems to be a decent way to end this post. It's got some spelling errors, but who knows -- those could be the key to understanding quality.