Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Path to Peace: Separating Conditioned Belief from the Direct Experience of Reality

A correspondent wrote: You seem to suggest something like a neutral way of experiencing the world (that "what is").

I answered: 

I'll jump on this particular interpretation because it opens to door to the old belief-vs.-reality issue you seem to be dealing with in your disquisition here better than the others.
I am coming from the fundamental p.o.v. of the mid-century cognitivists like Broadbent, Chomsky, Hayakawa, Korsybski, Neisser, as well as -- further back, the arguments of Berkeley, Locke and Kant; and even further back, the positions taken by Lao Tsu and Siddartha Gautama -- that most people do not see reality or "what is."

What they see is their appraisal / evaluation / interpretation / assessment / judgment / attribution of meaning according to their (mostly) unconscious -- and introjected -- beliefs, ideas, ideals, assumptions, presumptions, convictions, rules, regulations, principles, codes and requirements.

If one can acquire the means and methods to look, listen and tactily "sense" what is occurring in the continual stream of passing, momentarily present moments, one will observe one's own cognitive conditioning (as described above) attempting to "explain" or "make sense" of the as yet uncontaminated reality... and contaminate / corrupt the pure sensory perceptions into "codified," "belief- and requirement-fitting appraisals.

And depending upon the relative accuracy -- or inaccuracy -- of these more deeply embedded cognitive constructs of belief, idea, ideal, etc., the resulting appraisals, evaluations, interpretations, etc. will be closer to truly -- but never actually -- representative and accurate... or (at the other end of the spectrum) grossly mis-representative and relatively in-accurate. (Sz-ish "paranoid delusions," aural hallucinations and visual projections appear to be extreme manifestations of these cognitive distortions.)

Even if visual, aural and tactile images are embedded in memory -- as opposed to mere verbal/lingual, or mathematical, symbols -- they are subject to environmental influence (e.g.: neurochemical, later input, stress) that distort the sensory memories and resulting appraisals, evaluations, interpretations, etc. thereof. The words are never the thing itself, and after some time -- beginning immediately after the original perception actually -- neither are the memories.

What the vipassana-style mindfulness meditations used by the the various MBCTs like MBSR, DBT, ACT, MBBT and 10 StEP do is attempt to jump the institution of cognitive conditioning and the construct of appraisal according to belief by allowing the practitioner to have repeated experiences of momentary direct perception that are uncontaminated by conditioned belief, idea, ideal, instruction, assumption, presumption, principle, code, etc.

Having such experiences, the practitioner begins to actually see, hear and interoceptively sense how his cognitive mechanisms mislead him or her into mis-appraisal, mis-evaluation, mis-interpretation, etc. of reality. If one continues to practice the meditations, they will come to experience that so doing provides them with direct, "trans-verbal" experiences of what is that produce immediate grasp of what to do about the circumstances they have more directly perceived.

What I have described is the essence of Tibetan, as well as Japanese Zen Buddhist "action-taking."

Another corespondent then wrote:

You seem to be saying that by being fully aware of your self by default you are aware of your limitations.

I answered:

What I am saying is that one can acquire (or more accurately, RE-acquire) one's self-awareness using the methods in the mindfulness-based cognitive therapies that are built on the Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist meditation practices.

Though decidedly NOT on many of the southern Asian point-of-focus / distractive meditations like those in Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation. Those meditations will "relax" the ANS and bring it back into sympathetic vs. parasympathetic balance for a while, but they will not produce observant self- or environmental awareness or transcendence of unwanted stimulii.

If you are curious as to where I picked all this up, you can start with Daniel Goleman's, Charles Tart's and Arthur Deikman's books in the 1980s. As well as Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Jean Klein, Jiddu Krishnamurti, S. N. Goenka and Chogyam Trungpa further back. And Stephen Batchelor, Stephen Hayes, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Marsha Linehan, Tara Brach and Pema Chodron more recently.

A correspondent wrote back:

It's much easier though when the mind isn't always looking for that next thought.

I responded:

Which is the product of doing the Vipassana-style mindfulness meditations on a regular basis for a while. I don't do them that regularly anymore. As Krishnamurti and his pupils Joel Kramer, Alan Watts and Charles Tart all reported -- and as I have experienced for several years now -- up-out-of-the-box mindfulness becomes conditioned, habituated and normalized over time.

A mantra that may be useful to help one get to "neutral experiencing"

And very much worth reading with respect to insight meditation to see what the likes of Deikman, Klein, Tolle, Krishnamurti, Goleman, Trungpa, Batchelor, Levine, Kramer, Siegel, Watts, Maharshi, and Goenka himself have to say:


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I clipped the list at the half-way point for the sake of trimming the file to fit this blog's parameters; I will provide the remainder to any legitimate requestor.

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