Monday, July 18, 2022

Of Two Minds

     When feeling 'torn between' two very different yet seemingly valid choices, we might realize that "we are of two minds." We might have difficulty deciding between buying a nicer car for ourself - vs - help our adult child pay for much-needed renovations to their already heavily-mortgaged house.

    We operate at 2 very different but complimentary levels of consciousness:
        1) The common, default, symbolic egoic level (discursive rationality, personal-verbal processing):
            - ideal for: basic self-preservation, practical & scientific matters, manipulating the material world
            - our basic DOING mode – filled with talk & action
            - symbols = language (regular & “self-talk”) & images (real & imagined)
            - egoic = self-referential – centered around a separate “me, myself & I”
                (A quiet ego {“hypo-egoic”} is healthy & necessary; a “noisy ego” is problematic)

        2) A post-symbolic transpersonal level - known to meditators as “awareness”:
            - ideal for: life's most fundamental concerns: love, meaning, depth, values, aesthetics, constant change, aging, sickness & death
            - BEING mode – characterized by silence & stillness
            - post-symbolic = does not use language & images - these get in the way
            - transpersonal = having shifted from primarily egocentric separateness to
primarily hypo-egoic, allo- & ecocentric (oneness) way of relating to life

    A healthy, balanced, meaningful life clearly requires that we learn to shift effortlessly between either level of consciousness, to most appropriately serve the needs of the present moment. This is an important skill we learn - directly, experientially - during meditation practice.

     Our practice (formal sitting meditation AND informal normal daily life) is basically remember-ing to be intimate with our self, others, life itself. And we do this by learning to "let go of patterns in our mind & heart that violate love & violate openness.
    ... if we sit in meditative silence infused with love, the state of wonder, we intimately taste directly for ourselves for which no words can be found. That’s why we long for the experience to which our words are alluding to, and how to stabilize in it, and how to share it with people.” James Finley PhD

    • Many fear & rigidly resist change, resolutely clinging to their egoic (illusion of) control. It's very easy to identify completely with ego, misinterpreting any shift from this as life-threatening.
    • Some evolve / mature to high levels without any apparent formal practice.
    • Many are helped by meditation practice - watch Louise Kay's video below.
    • Some “break down to break through” via severe trauma followed by post-traumatic growth. Severe trauma, particularly when it involves "moral injury", can also result in PTSD.
    • Some experience severe psychiatric (existential) difficulties requiring therapeutically-administered entheogens - watch: "How to Change Your Mind" Michael Pollan’s 4-part documentary on Netflix.
    Taking these medicines under optimal conditions (“set & settings”) as illustrated in this documentary, helps “lift the veil” between our ordinary egoic mind & how things actually are (“ultimate reality”). At the same time, these medicines also diminish or eliminate fearful resistance to this fundamental shift in consciousness. Of course the patients with OCD, existential terror, etc in the film felt the urgent need to transcend their current troubled state, which certainly encourages bravery & curiosity.
    I have no personal experience with any of these medicines (entheogens), but recognize that they can provide access to the same path that serious meditators have patiently traveled for thousands of years.

Louise Kay's wonderfully gentle, skillful, very practical approach: 


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