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October 09, 2013

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When we're not being pulled into the past or future, we can relax and begin to genuinely experience the present moment.

There is no past or future to be pulled into. Everything is present and all experience is genuine...and not necessarily relaxing.

cc, you're right, there is no ontology of past and future. What is meant here is the experience of being pulled in to thoughts/memories of the past and anticipation of possible futures (imagination.)

The more we resist this type of mind activity, the more we experience the ever-fresh flow of sense experience. As Brian points out, it has a lighter more peaceful tone to it. But it's no big deal, nothing spiritual or anything like that - just a different networking of the brain.

The mind can't help but make sense of sense experience, even when resisting its tendency to do so. It's impossible to avoid imagining what the present promises or forebodes because the past (memory) is responding. All the mind can do is acknowledge the bias of its response.

The point is that there is a world of difference between 'being present' and being lost in thought.

Of course both involve mentation/memory - but of differing degrees and complexity.

Being present with sense experience involve types of short term memory. Sensory and working memory are the means by which we interface with the ever-fresh flux of present experience.

Being lost in our stories, on the other hand, involves the storing and recalling information over longer periods of time for which we require long-term memory - together with the neural activity involved in projection, planning, obsessing, musing etc.

The fact is that the less complex experience of being spontaneously present is of a markedly different character than the heavy tone of being lost in the maze of stories and narrative.

"The more we resist this type of mind activity, the more we experience the ever-fresh flow of sense experience."

----Who is the we? Resisting a particular mind activity is a fascinating topic. To resist may involve a particular type of free will.

The enlighten "few" are the only 'higher up" persons that can experience the ever-fresh flow. The rest of humanity are the non "enlighten" many, you know, those other lower form of people.

Hi Roger. I just use normal language when talking about these types of things. You could say that resistance occurs through a particular organism - or something like that.

My particular view (or the view that arises here) is that the concept of free will is utterly incomprehensible. Will seems to occur (obviously) but it belongs to no one or no thing - it is a product of complex conditions as are all phenomena.

"The fact is that the less complex experience of being spontaneously present is of a markedly different character than the heavy tone of being lost in the maze of stories and narrative."

---The "markedly different" character sounds interesting. This "being spontaneous" sounds like another relative mind experience activity. Oh, in that maze, one can find a "heavy" tone and being lost from something.

If we only use the term 'mind' to refer to that aspect of the brain that houses all our memories and experiences - which is what is re-called when perceiving something through our senses - then that leaves an awful lot of brain capacity for some of it to experience what Brian calls 'now'.

I get the impression that even through these blogs and comments we are all searching for - - something, even if that something is some sort of vindication of our opinions, our rightness and hopes.

There may come a time when after all our chasing around our mind realises that it is too limited to understand that which we appear to be chasing after. Whatever new knowledge, theory or information we absorb, we still seem to be searching.

This blog of Brian's seems to be describing where we are when the brain's attention is not on the contents (all the information which is the mind) but on the moment as it is now happening - through the senses. The mind will (does) no doubt come in and start to analyse the sense info, but it can only do this with reference to the past. Now, is not a feature of a mind constructed of the past.

Of course, the mind is very important (we could not survive without it) but to assume that it is the whole story and can answer all our questions is a bit arrogant for something that is after all just one aspect of what the body/brain does.

Brian says, "Now is the simplest place and time to be", and I say it's the only place and time there is. So what is the best way to be here now? Buddhists say it is to quit pulling yourself into the past and the future with recollections and projections. I say it's to pull those buds out of your ears.

The mind will (does) no doubt come in and start to analyse the sense info, but it can only do this with reference to the past. Now, is not a feature of a mind constructed of the past.

It sounds like you've been influenced by Krishnamurti. His assertion was that there's a gap of time between "pure" or "direct" perception and the response of memory, and that the brain must undergo a transformation which prevents this faulty response and allows for perception that "bypasses memory. He believed in and promoted this notion because he believed that his brain had undergone a "radical transformation".

I don't know what neuroscience says on the subject, but as far as I can tell, memory is constantly updating itself, adapting to new circumstances - transforming, if you will - so as to respond appropriately. It's a limited and fallible process, and that's why the brain devised the scientific method.

If you, like others, think the brain can free itself of conditioned response and see things "as they are", you have another think coming.

I think there is more to the human brain than just the mind, which after all is just the repository of information elicited in the form of memory.

There is still a lot of discussion regarding the 'direct perception' issue. For me, direct perception is an object is perceived as it appears and then the mind arrives to evaluate/analyse it - in the from of memory. To limit the brain's capacity to just memory is a bit presumptuous.

Have a look at a Psychology Today issue where Mindfulness from a Neuroscience Perspective is discussed. It talks about the brain's 'Default Network' centred in the prefrontal cortex along with memory regions. These areas deal with the (mind - my word) narrative we impose on perception.
It also talks about a 'Direct experience network' that becomes active in different brain regions.

The gist of the article as I understand it is that we should not limit ourselves to just one aspect of the brain to explain our perceptions.

Heaven forbid that Krishnamurti may have a point - along of course with Zen, Alan Watts et all.

For me, direct perception is an object is perceived as it appears and then the mind arrives to evaluate/analyse it - in the from of memory. To limit the brain's capacity to just memory is a bit presumptuous.

I'm not limiting it to "just memory" - obviously there's more to the mind. What I'm saying is that perception involves recognition, and that without memory there is no recognition.

Perhaps you can enlighten us by explaining what exactly the "direct experience network" is and how it works.

cc, you are correct. There is no such thing as "direct perception." The brain does an amazing amount of processing before we become aware of some perception. Check out this interesting overview about how perception works:

http://www.academia.edu/494434/How_Perception_Works_and_Its_Role_In_Creating_Engaging_Design

Some excerpts:

"Our understanding of how we perceive the world around us has changed a great deal in the last two decades. The concept of the eye and brain as passive receptors of visual stimulation has been replaced with the knowledge that perception requires a constant
interaction between the mind and the environment."

"Each of the three stages of visual processing, along with the biological functions of the eye, are very important to the understanding of how any visual composition becomes aesthetically pleasing. The repeated sampling required of the world around us makes any visual experience one that is interactive.

Rather than imagining the world washing over our senses, the examination of a design is an ongoing and active experience. Through these repeated samplings the mind is trying to identify areas of importance, highlighting and directing the vision toward certain goals."

This blog of Brian’s and the latest one both attest to the virtues of experiencing the present moment – which is what I would call ‘direct experience’ – are we perhaps using different terms?
Anyway, to continue my understanding, there is still an on-going debate emanating from J. J. Gibson’s ecological approach to perception where he argues that the perception of the environment does not reside in a person’s mind. There is a lot of modern literature on the subject (look up Ecological Perception).
In the ‘Psychology Today’ article I referred to David Rock talks of Norman Farb’s study where Farb and six other scientists examined mindfulness from a neuroscientist’s perspective. The Farb study talks of different areas of the brain used in experiencing. One uses the frontal lobes and memory (the default or narrative network)the other uses the insula and anterior cingulate (the direct experience network)- to do with switching attention and it is this area that they are calling direct perception.
I do a bit of ‘Zen-like’ meditation and have seen that it is not always the case that thoughts, memories and imagination are present (Sorry c.c. – sounds a bit ‘gappy’). But, David Rock’s article on mindfulness suggests that the more mindful you are the more you are likely to feel what he calls real time rather than continually be immersed in thinking.
I don’t think there is much doubt that the modern theory of the mind is that it is the library of information from where we draw our concepts of the world and also where the concept of ‘me’ emerges. And I wonder that because the mind is such a dominant and indispensable feature of our brains we do habitually operate from its perspective. At least we can agree that the mind is part of the body/brain process and not some separate soul-like entity (which incidentally is what Descartes thought along with the notion that as a separate soul-like entity all experience came via that).

If the brain were capable of the kind of objective, impersonal perception Krishnamurti believed his supposedly transformed brain was capable of, we wouldn't have had any need to invent visual and audio recording devices to compensate for the fallibility of perception as we know it.

Those of us who don't have eidetic memory always defer to what the (untampered with) recording shows because we know from experience how unreliable our own perception is. But even those who do have eidetic memory have their biases, so perception is always questionable and subject to scrutiny.

"But, David Rock’s article on mindfulness suggests that the more mindful you are the more you are likely to feel what he calls real time rather than continually be immersed in thinking."

----The "more" mindful you are, the more you are likely.......

The problem is, I am the "most" mindful, which is far better than you people that just have a more mindful. Being the MOST mindful entitles me to be part of the few enlightened DIRCT experiencing great ones.

My question....Why do I waste my "real time" with you little thinking people?

Don't take on so Roger. Being mindful is not a competition. Anyone can practice mindfulness, it's just a type of brain exercise that interests me and feels natural - I don't know why.

Other people perhaps have a natural aptitude toward music or maths (I have neither) but I guess if I practiced I might gain some ability and improve my understanding a little - but I have little inclination.

There are plenty of secular mindfulness classes about these days. Many universities and businesses are taking up the practice for all sorts of reasons.

If you have the inclination, why not have a go.

Thanks Turan,

Nothing wrong with being mindful. Nothing wrong with practicing something. True, one could get better, if they practice. Nothing wrong with a type of brain exercise that interests someone. Something that feels natural is okay. Likewise, nothing wrong with gaining some ability and improving ones understanding a little and then some.

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