Consciousness & happiness

Monday, October 30, 2006

Make Me One with Everything

Sometimes when I'm meditating, I'll have an experience of
spaciousness, when it seems that Barry is no more, there's
just everything else, the entire universe, a vastness of
oneness, absent this particular being. Sometimes there's a
light—white light, blue light, filling up my entire being.
Sometimes there's absolutely nothing, no sensation, no
thought, no body, zero. Sometimes it seems as though I've
broken through to an entirely new and unexpected realm of
consciousness, where there is no ‘I’, no difference between
the seer and the seen.

I believe it’s all mindgames. Of course it all mindgames.
Whatever it is that is experiencing (and something is, by
definition, else there would be no awareness) is
intrinsically no different from that which is being
experienced.

Titling a book (as Mark Epstein did), Thoughts Without a
Thinker, plays into the folk-wisdom idea that it is possible
to experience in the absence of a thinker or a self, that is,
nonduality. But what use is a thought if it isn't perceived?
What is an unperceived thought? Is such a thing possible?

I don't think so. While it may indeed seem (to me!) that
I’m having thoughts without ‘me’ being present, the
question, “What, then, is perceiving this absence of a
perceiver?” leads to absurdity. To perceive or to know or to
be aware is to come from the position of the perceiver, the
knower, the one who is aware, however seductive the
experience.

So I have these far-out experiences, and there's this feeling
that comes, expressed in words by something like, “Wow!
How cool is that?!” with the inevitable undercurrent of,
“How cool am I?” (Even writing this, how cool am I to see
through all the promises and teachings? And cooler yet to
acknowledge it...sigh.)

***

If you’ve gotten this far with me, you know how much I
admire Sue Blackmore, the British writer, teacher and
interviewer on all things to do with consciousness. Our
paths diverge over this crucial issue of no-self, or non-
duality. In the very last chapter of her Consciousness: An
Introduction, after a crisp and engaging overview on the
science of consciousness, she goes woo-woo on us. After
decades of both studying consciousness from the outside
and, as it were, experiencing it from the inside--that is,
meditating--she wonders if the problem of consciousness
might be solved by knowledgeable people who have no-
self experiences.

She writes, “Might the psychologists, philosophers and
neuroscientists working on the problem of consciousness
see non-duality directly for themselves? ...This way the
direct experience of nonduality might be integrated into a
neuroscience that that only knows, intellectually, that
dualism must be false.”

My contention is that there can be no ‘direct experience’ or
‘nonduality’ or ‘thoughts absent a thinker.’ And that all the
teachers and teachings and hours spent meditating and
drugs and spirituality and austerities and practices bring us
no closer (but no farther away) from ourselves.

***

Here's what I believe: No thoughts are better, none are
worse, none are more or less spiritual or aware. The
thoughts of someone who is meditating for the first time--
his or her very first minute--are essentially no different
from those of the devotee who has spent thousands of
hours on the cushion. Thoughts about thoughts are still
thoughts. Awareness of an absence of thoughts, or of self,
when perceived, is a thought. Perception is dualism.

All thoughts are the same.

Everything else is bullpaddies.

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