Slain by Our Own Minds?

We were discussing this yesterday, how we can be slain by our own minds. I don’t mean killed or murdered, I meant prevented, stopped, stymied and otherwise screwed up by our thinking. We can big something up until it is bigger than Everest, we can complicate beyond all reasonable complexity, we can convolute and imagine. Depending upon our levels of paranoia and natural suspiciousness we can see plots on all sides, even when there are none. As a rule of thumb, the more manipulative we ourselves are the more we imagine and see this in others. If we play a lot of games, they are everywhere.

And so, we screw up a situation which might have benefitted us because we have built a great wall of made-up shit around it. We are slain by our own minds.

We can say can’t and thereby prove ourselves right, we can create excuse and justification after justification for our own failure. We can compare ourselves to others and deem ourselves wanting and so pack something in. When something doesn’t happen to perfection in a nanosecond, we get impatient, frustrated and give up. “See, I told you it would not work!!” Being slain by mind can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Having cued this up:

Have I ever been slain by my own mind?

Have I ever allowed made-up shit to ruin a situation for me?

In fact, is one of my many “enemies” my own mind?

Is that true mind or simply my incessant internal dialogue?

The Corporeal Observational Instrument

The noise inherent in our corporeal observational instrument is determined by a number of factors, primary amongst these is our internal dialogue and our biases. The more internal dialogue we have the more synapse firing occurs, all the time, we have a high dark current. If we cool our minds down by developing our mindfulness and heading towards a zen state, there is less dark current, which means that we can observe things better and with enhanced dynamic range. Most minds are “hot”, always firing. Indeed, there is a saying hot-headed. Hot-headed people do not think clearly.

The way the brain-current flows is dependent upon the applied bias. Things start firing at lower temperature when there is a bias, if something confirms our bias we get all excited.

A really quiet mind could be metaphorically at liquid Helium temperatures ~4K. That is not really practical, we could however have our own Peltier cooler, which we can switch on as and when.  It is called meditation, the practise of which cools the mind and reduces the dark current. If we can’t turn off our corporeal observational instrument, then we do not understand its workings all that much. No matter how clever we are, if we can’t turn off our mind, we are not in control of it. Maybe we should call in an engineer or read some manuals?

Selective Perception

Having cued up this with some quotes from Patanjali translations I am now going to turn to a favourite topic of mine. To kick off, if you do a Google or Bing image search for yoga, who will get images of young, white, lithe and perhaps attractive women in various poses. If you search for yogi, you will get images of Indian men in orange robes, yogi bear or somewhat emaciated older Indian men with beards in poses. You will not get a hefty middle aged white guy, I don’t have a groovy beard, and I cannot do any but the most basic asana. If you get my drift, even by naming the blog in the way I have done, it is in slight contrast to the search engine perceptions. There is a perception, a view of what yoga is.

According to Wiki:

“The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), although the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.”

This brings things perhaps a little more in line with what I have been banging on about here.

With some inevitability, each of us carry some preconceptions. This statement is logically accurate, for all but genuinely omniscient or liberated beings. Yet most forget or act as if they have no preconceptions whatsoever. The inevitability of preconception is neglected and remains not factored in to world view or world-version. This means that because there are preconceptions, the perception is likely to be coloured by these and therefore selective. Semantically any selective perception cannot cover all the set of possible perceptions and is therefore not objective. Selective perception looks at only one part of the wider picture.

People can feel affronted if one suggests that their perception is selective and not comprehensive. It is somehow an attack on intellect or something else, maybe their self-image, in which they have sage-like neo-omniscient understanding. Maybe they are expert and erudite scholastic geniuses who are clever and smart. To be affronted at a suggestion of selective perception is to demonstrate the validity and applicability of the suggestion in the first place, Q.E.D.

I don’t believe it possible for a human being to live and not to have at least one episode of miscommunication. In this someone might say something, and we take it in an entirely different way than it was intended. We get the wrong end of the stick, so to speak. We have selected the wrong perception and maybe gotten all huffy or sad. Selective perception is all around us. And there is no guarantee whatsoever, that I am effectively communicating here, because you as the reader will select some perception or other from what I am writing. I cannot control this sat here this windy November morning.

It is not possible for the human mind to hold all possible perceptions. Even were we able to hold many, we would still have select some operative perception, in order to function. Cognitively we would have to act from a perception of the world, which if we are honest, might be our best guess as to what is transpiring. What we can do is to try to develop our accuracy and acuity of perception by being inclusive and by understanding the observational instrument, which makes the perception, ourselves. Even should we do this we will still have to select a perception from which to operate.

The more open-minded we are, the greater our self-knowledge is, the better that perception is likely to be. If you are awake you will notice that I used the word better which is slightly conditional as opposed to the less coloured, accurate. I did this to demonstrate how comparison and ranking is introduced by our cognitive and social apparatus. Who is to say what is better? Is it consensus?

Our perception is filtered not only through our preconceptions but our baggage, our emotional baggage. It is also coloured by mood. If we are anxious then a simple word can send us into fight or flight mode. If we are self-righteous we can become indignant and offended at the drop of a hat. None of which may have anything to do with what is transpiring. If there is at least some detachment, then the emotive colouration can be lessened.

Pure awareness is just seeing, itself; although pure, it usually appears to operate through the perceiving mind.

I like to think of the perceiving instrument, which is both our biological apparatus, the sum total of our experiences and our own personal predilections. Each instrument has a cognitive apparatus and an intellect, the ability and capacity of these has variance in the population. Accurate perception is the signal and everything else is the noise. To extract the signal one has to work at increasing the signal to noise ratio. How does one do that? Well by calming the mind, reducing the chitta or internal dialogue and by becoming much less attached. Strangely in being less attached one can perceive more accurately and in greater depth. If we are prone to fly of the handle, our perceptions are unlikely to have acuity. Though we may demonstrated our love of drama, sometimes for all to see.

When you buy a computer or some other device, they can go wrong. The favoured method of fixing something with software is to turn it off and reboot. This means you have one control parameter. If you can’t turn off your mind, what can you do about any wayward software running? Not a lot. But if you can silence your mind, turn it off, you at least have a chance of a reboot and the ability to treat again whatever is transpiring

When one can select, with awareness that one is doing just that, selecting, one from any number of perceptions, there is a modicum of control over how we choose to interact with the world. Choice has more freedom than Pavlovian reflex or reaction. More choice in behaviour, leads to more freedom, which will point at moksha in the fullness of time.

Some Equanimity

One can become fully absorbed in any object, whether vast or infinitesimal.

As the patterning of consciousness subsides, a transparent way of seeing, called coalescence, saturates consciousness; like a jewel, it reflects equally whatever lies before it – whether subject, object, or act of perceiving.

The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali translated by Chip Hartranft

Modern living is more than a tad dramatic, we can lurch from one drama to another. It would be nice to experience some equanimity in the day to day. That is to unify meditation practice with actual living and sustain that state. Complete absorption {or zen} is difficult whilst the ‘phone rings, the text messages arrive or the kids nag. In order to do this one has to unplug both in physical terms and mentally. There is no point turning off the ‘phone or computer if your chitta is always concerned about what you might be missing. This patterning of consciousness towards what is or might be occurring, is a modern impediment and related to the fear of missing out. To start to let go of this patterning is to start to change life and even the perception of the world we live in.

It would be good to be open-minded and free of prejudice. To have clarity in life and perception thereof. Complete absorption in the task at hand develops concentration. And in this concentration minutiae, hitherto missed, can be seen. Patience increases and the “I must rush” mentality slowly fades, but not without fighting many a rear-guard action. There is a lot of drama associated with rushing and slapdash actions do not bring equanimity. It is socially acceptable to be rushed and stressed and hectic. Some consider it a badge of honour, the mark of a successful being. Unless one simplifies life, it is difficult to stop this whirligig living. One must choose between equanimity and being hectic. Being spread too thin prevents complete absorption, because the next beckons and one never finishes the current.

What patterns your consciousness?

Can these patterns be broken?