Being two sides of the same coin, a strange loop, impaired individual potential implies an impaired society and culture. The root of impaired personal development, and therefore impaired society and culture, is a misuse of memory created by reflexive and often mechanical feeling-images percolating in the human brain. Let’s call this ‘the dream’. Similar to Goethe’s, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, once set in motion these images trigger and spawn more and similar images, like that metal ball bouncing around in a pin-ball machine, with lights flashing and bells ringing. At some undefined point a critical mass is created and the human brain, not realizing what it is doing, reifies the swirling, flashing mass, falsely dreams that the constellation is an independent reality. Based on autobiographical experience, social conditioning and belief, images of ‘dream me,’ our ego, the social-self, with its implicitly selfish world view, is born.
Theistic religious traditions, and much of western psychology, fail to penetrate this false identification by more-or-less accepting these swirling images as a phantom or spirit-entity. Failing to recognize what the brain is doing this personification reincarnates, generation after generation, as endless personal conflicts and collective wars, which enslaves humanity evermore deeply in chasing its own tail, believing it is chasing something other. For the few, rare individuals, that perceive directly what the brain is doing, it is obvious that humanity is caught in a self-generated dream which is both; a complete waste of human potential and increasingly dangerous and destructive. Being perennially self-enchanted and therefore crippled, technology, the power to destroy the world, grows, and exponentially, rests in the hands of those caught in the illusion.
The inner inquiry of the Buddhist tradition begins by gathering the energy and attention wasted in this false and destructive identification. Mindfulness is the term often used. The deeper questions remain; is mindfulness waking up from the dream or dreaming that we are awake?
Giving complete attention to the present experience implicitly negates both the formation of the social-image and the assumption it is an independent reality – in that moment. With compete attention there is no observer. To be active the social-image-observer, with all its entanglements, requires an investment of energy and attention. If the social-image is active it must be a distraction, the result of fragmentation, with some energy being invested in perceiving and relating to the present and the remaining shunted into the formation and preservation of the social-image-observer – the one dreaming they are doing. Mindfulness is a practice of negating this fragmented, wasteful and dangerous investment of energy and attention. Mindfulness is also just the beginning of true sanity, intelligence and right action. After all, not being mindful for most of our lives fills the system with all sorts of false images that are rattling around like marbles in a jar.
With the insight that mindfulness invites; that each of us, society, culture and all of humanity are caught in this self-generated delusion, comes the next practice, that of deconstructing the false images of self and other that not being mindful produced. Using the energy and attention now, not wasted blaming others while we destructively chase our own tail, we use the source of our delusion to negate the illusion, somewhat like seeing through a magicians trick that we are playing on ourselves.
What we call thought and language can be seen as a system that spawns feeling-images, and also, as process of organizing present and past feeling-images; memory, conditioning and beliefs is some rational order. Mindfulness, or its absence, is the difference that makes the difference. Not being mindful implies the reflexive nature of thought-memory is, more-or-less, running free. Mindful-thought can be compared to proper science, where underlying, and even hidden assumptions are reveled, questioned and brought to order by the light that mindful attention brings. By not wasting energy and attention chasing false feeling-images, and by distilling, thereby intensifying that energy and attention, one’s entire collection of not-mindful, selfish and destructive feeling-images are perceived for what they are, images, and dissolved, negated, no longer given energy and attention. Great. Good Job. Now what?
For the heart-mind distracted by all those marbles, there is no answer. In fact, the question doesn’t even exist. But, we can imagine. Imagine, experiencing this vast universe, and everything in it, moment by ever-changing moment, without being distracted and wasting attention chasing after an endless array of phantom images we falsely imagine to be real. Imagine not even having an observer observing this unfolding creative miracle. No self-other. Rather, simply and explosively, there would be a force, a movement towards wholeness, wellness and order for everything, because you and everything are the same.
What you now think of as ‘you’ would simply be this highly energized and focused empathic, compassionate, intelligent movement, and every action would express and expand this universal force in new, unique and creative ways. Now, imagine that you were not alone but that everyone saw the same thing. What a wonderful world that would be. That world is our birthright. It is the world nature designed us to be. This new begins with mindfulness, that original, compete state of attention driven with childlike awe and wonder, now in its most mature, wise, intelligent, empathic, and compassionate form. Mindfulness, always awakening from the dream.
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