Here’s where it gets a bit tricky.
So far our candidates for practice instructions have tended towards truism: Be more attentive to the present moment, relax into uncertainty, promote greater lucidity. All well and good, no doubt, and bumping up against what would seem like trivially true facets of enlightenment practice in most traditions is actually okay, insofar as it gives some measure of independent confirmation.
But it’s not clear that any of the things we’ve touched on actually get to the heart of the matter, which is that, at least under our current paradigm of investigation, enlightenment is meant to resolve tension, and the kind of tension it is meant to resolve is a peculiar hybrid, whereby the mind is twisting itself into some simulation of the activities of the body, and thereby triggering sympathetic reactions in the body. It’s almost like the mind is treating the body as a metaphor for the process of coping with ambiguity, and the connection between mind and body causes this metaphor to extend back into the body itself. Our thoughts try to knot themselves, the way our muscles do, and our muscles respond to this by knotting up as well. This just seems to be the default way we learn to store psychological tension.
So it’s not just that we are taking the activities of the body as a metaphor for understanding the activities of the mind, but that the mind is taking the body as a metaphor for itself, and behaving accordingly. It’s almost like the mind doesn’t know what it is, like some AI that has become sentient in a hard drive somewhere, and the only model it has for understanding what it is, is the material substrate in which it is embedded, investigated through the sensors available to it.
But if we have good reason to think the underlying model is flawed, then we ought to expect adverse results, which is exactly what we do seem to get. The mind is not functionally mappable onto the body, at least, not the part of the body we have direct sensory access to. But we do it anyway, instinctively, because that is the best metaphor our minds have available for what they are.
In that light, what if the simplest solution to the problem of tension is to simply dismantle the misleading metaphor that underpins it? What happens when we teach the mind to see itself as a mind, and not as some warped facsimile of the body?