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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?

3 thoughts on “Getting More Enlightened: Extended Metaphor

  1. “What happens when we teach the mind to see itself as a mind, and not as some warped facsimile of the body”

    Curious about aspects of that as well; in my experience, emotion matters more than the body or mind. I’ve woken up before in a state of pure intuitive experience of myself with infinitely no anxiety, but that experience seemed to have jammed the ability to sleep for several days until I let that experience go completely and returned to my previous sense of self more or less with a healthy sleep/wake cycle. That experience sort of hinted to me that there may quite possibly be multiple subjective timelines that exist at different rates if they’re not in sync, one around the mind and one around emotions, and they’re sort of parallel backup copies in case one fails it can fall back to the other to process/experience aspects of the other as emotion, or to put it another way when one is not fully experienced it’s essentially time-traveling until it is experienced.

    That’s really no different than just oscillating between experiencing thoughts and emotions at different rates in our present day-to-day experience though, just a strange/fancy way of describing that. Wild speculation aside, though, during all of my experiences it seems like there is a dance between blood (think fmri) intuitively exploring the brain like a slime mold solving puzzles with ourselves by exploring all paths to find food (default mode network), and the brain reflecting love back to the blood/heart as the source of the original food/attachment driving subjective experience or redistributing it as long-term attachments that influence behavior over time; “clearly part of a nexus of multiple weekly acting causal pathways,” lol.

    With all of that out of the way, I’m kind of a scaredy cat about trying anything radical, perhaps I’m making a multiverse out of a molehill, and although I’ve yet to get around to it one of the baby steps I’ve been planning to test is if seeing or imagining a red or blue light at night has any difference of effect on melatonin production; science suggests dim red light at night disrupts it the least, blue/white light the most, but curious if imagined lights have ever been studied in that context, and if there would be a difference between imagining staring at a light vs imagining turning on a particular light and then staring at the same real bulb as if it was turned on. Apparently imagining exercise actually chemically effects the body in similar ways to ‘real’ exercise; if there is some overlap between real/imagined, depending on the state of experience, how far can that stretch into other obviously important areas of life such as homeostasis and food?

    The past couple of weeks I’ve been practicing a strange experiment to pretend the food I’m eating are bits of myself, as if I’m some strange ouroboros cannibal; there wasn’t any particular goal in mind as far as I’m aware, just for the strange intimate experience since I’ve been exploring non-duality recently, but reading this gives me a few ideas that perhaps I should try this a little differently. I was getting ready to continue this a few days ago while in the middle of a circle of portlandia food carts when suddenly I remembered a strange belief I had formed many years ago that safety doesn’t exist. I’m not sure how/why that arose, it seemed like a realistic belief at the time, but it didn’t necessarily need to be a justified sensible/solid belief to firmly stick to as I once thought, so I decided to change back to believing safety was real again.

    Tension mostly released, my experience slowly morphed into bliss and then ramped up as a subtle layer of emotion fused like magic into the spatial experience, everyone sounded beautiful like birds singing/tickling my mind with experiential information keeping me super present/grounded, the layer of social conditioning around people mostly vanished, I could finally look at everyone as they are without societal norms getting in the way, everyone was beautiful, love started gently arising, I still felt like myself (not the entire fucking mind because I couldn’t bare that much responsibility without all of life to help out, lol), and on the way back home my walking around experience was basically like traversing through both the universe and my mind at the same time in perfect harmony; not in the standard flow state but in a stable safe experiential state full of love and mystery, compatible with identity and memory but seemingly without grasping.

    I’ve normally been oscillating between reason and emotion trying to balance my life, so this came as quite a pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect fusing them together in this particular way was even possible. I’ve had my fair share of experiences around subitism, but they weren’t as identifiably stable/balanced as this was and usually trigger a yoyo effect between derealization and metta as identity tries to restabilize. When I finally got home I went to sleep still in bliss, woke up the next morning and it was about 20% of what it was before dissipating back into old habits. How to make this stick? lol.

    Is it just a matter of exposure therapy to recondition experience in old environments for 30-60 days to have it become the default/habitual experience again? Wild speculation, I’m curious if living with that experience increases longevity since stagnant or out of sync emotions tend to have negative effects on health. Did I solve the universe; please let this be heaven already for fuck sake, lol. half-kidding, only half though.

    I managed to get back into that experience again today for a little while, but I didn’t stay with it as I decided it was best to write this response here since it seems somewhat relevant to your recent posts, even if my stuff is a bit out there. You heavily inspired me with all of your content/podcasts; I’ve been a lurker for about a decade. Becoming too obsessive around this stuff can get a bit much for me sometimes, perhaps there’s nothing to figure out if everything’s already set up a certain way, so for now I’m going to immerse myself in simple experiences and approach this with a fresh mind in a few weeks/months. If you feel there is any sense in any of this, feel free to reply or email me; willing to provide links and go further in-depth if necessary.

  2. Lots of interesting stuff there. Hard to know what to respond to, as it’s a bit disjointed. My first thought would be that you seem to come by interesting insights fairly easily, but might need some practice holding your focus on something for an extended period. If balance is the idea (or, rather, a balanced integration of our various faculties, letting us stably reach higher levels of understanding), part of that is overcoming the need to restlessly change focus too often.

    1. Thanks for the input; apologies for the disjointed infodump, it was sort of 3 years of strange insights looking for a way out. I think my blind spot has been experience insight and invest it somewhere to share/compare with other people while it’s still fresh, but that sort of ends up becoming an attachment until I let everything settle. It’s probably best I let all these experiences happen for months/years before projecting myself over a limb.

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