[Featured image by Bob21 at Pixdaus]
With a series of not too long posts, titled Scientifically Spiritual, I’d like to clarify a bit about what it’s like to be a “scientific meditator” – after all, what’s scientific for a meditator? Doesn’t he just sit and stare into a wall, or what?!
As it turns out, this meditator’s science is highly dependent on a strict scientific approach, and the conventional, physical way of investigation doesn’t work very well. Therefore a new science has to be developed.
Although there is a difference between the sciences of the physical and the mental (spiritual, if you will), the insights discovered with the meditator’s science, seem not to violate any conventional, physical, scientifically derived insights. Whew! What a relief!
But first off, let’s be clear about what the meditator actually does! Many people I’ve talked to, put meditation into one single category in their minds (maybe along with yoga, veganism, religion and just in general “weird, mystical stuff”?). The truth is, that there are vast numbers of kinds of meditations and even the type of meditation that I practice, Vipassana, varies in its specific technique from teaching to teaching.
A “scientific meditator” observes in order to gain insight into the mind and body and the way these interact. In this way it is similar to the way a physical scientist gains understanding, by objectively observing reality. But the science of the meditator is not like the science of the physical. It is a science of what I’ll call an inner reality, wheres the physical sciences are of an outer reality. The difference between the sciences of an inner and outer reality lies in the way these can be observed.
What I refer to as an outer reality, is observed in the way in which we do in science all over the world right now, which we know so well: We see something and proceed to characterize it in terms of weight, size, shape, properties and so forth. And only when many different scientists repeatedly have made similar observations do we consider it solid science. The science of the outer reality is, as you may agree, the favored and most well known with respect to the meditator’s science. In other words, the science of outer reality is the science of how we normally tend to grow wiser about this world.
Inner reality is the field of the meditator, and cannot be observed as having physical properties at all. Hence, it is a different type of science altogether! This inner field consists of what we are able to experience directly, without making any conclusions, weigh-ins, concepts or ideas about it. For this reason the meditator’s science is of no use in physics, biology or any other physical science. The sciences we have for that already are perfectly well suited for what it is that they do. But keep in mind that neither is the physical science of any use in the meditator’s science. They are different: Outer reality can be weighed, calculated and measured. Our direct experience, the inner reality, cannot!
The types of direct, raw experiences that we have that make up the inner reality become observable to us through the six sense doors. And the six sense doors are where we directly experience the following:
- Bodily feelings
These constitute the domain of the scientific meditator! These sense-doors are her playground, her laboratory and her inner reality! Since we all know these sense-doors from our direct personal experience, we can already start talking about what kind of wisdom is learned, when playing around in the inner reality.
The first thing a meditator may realize by direct observation, is that nothing she ever experienced in her life, was ever anything but any of these types of experiences! Please be careful to let this sink in properly. It isn’t something which we usually have accepted, simply because we are not used to experiencing the world directly where it originates – at the sense-doors. Rather, we usually experience the world in terms of the tangible, calculable, concept-based things that we encounter. So be sure to verify that the following is true:
We humans are incapable of experiencing anything other that seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and thinking.
The world of concepts, ideas, conclusions and the whole outer reality, are but a vast number of these raw, sense-door experiences all at once. That means, that the meditator goes from seeing the world as a bunch of these sense-door perceptions all at once, as an integrated experience of concepts and things, to viewing each sense-perception in detail.
If you try to do this right now, it becomes clear quite quickly, that the appearance of the world changes. Objects goes from being objects – to mere sense-door perceptions. For example, the screen you look at right now, goes from being an integrated experience of a screen, which has text, images and other things on it – to being little, independent lights of different color and intensity. Each little light that you observe on the screen has no meaning on its own. And by just looking at one little light at a time, you have no way of determining if you are looking at a screen, or if the screen displays an image, some text, a video or some other object.
By doing this, you lose some practical and necessary understanding of your reality. Seeing the whole world in it’s little parts, each sense-door impression individually, makes us unable to recognize objects. And essentially we wouldn’t be able to function as human beings…so don’t try to do that!
But the good thing is, that we can go back and forth between observing the subtle, and observing the gross, integrated. We can function as humans and we can function as hard-core meditation machines! And lastly, we can visit the inner reality and the outer reality. And we can do it at will!
But what is gained, by visiting the inner reality? This is a vast subject for one of the next posts, but I will just briefly touch upon it here:
Inner reality offers insights into the details of what makes the outer reality. Inner reality is the fine-structure of the outer reality! This fine-structured inner reality turns out to have different properties than the outer reality.
- Inner reality seems to vibrate, never staying within reach of direct experience for more than an extremely short moment at a time. Then it just passes away, and reappears again a short moment later
- Inner reality cannot be interpreted, but simply experienced. For this reason, inner reality makes no sense! Nothing can be concluded or derived from it. It is not this, and not that – it simply is! It is clear that it is something, since we are experiencing it, but we cannot call it anything – Because it is nothing other than what we are experiencing! And then what else to relate it to than itself?
With this introduction to what the field of the meditator is, and what can be gained by following the meditator’s path into the inner reality, you may wonder:
“BUT CAN YOU REALLY OBSERVE WHAT YOU FEEL WITH THE OBJECTIVITY OF A TRUE SCIENTIST?”
A #1 rule of any scientist, inner or outer, is that all observations must be made 100 % objectively! In normal-day, outer reality science, there is the condition that a lot of other people must observe the same things in order for them to count as truly accurate observations. For the meditator, working with the inner reality, this is impossible. As all directly experienced phenomena at either of the six sense-doors can only be experienced there – at the six sense doors, which only we can be aware of ourselves; truly, a subjective experience! …Or is it?
“Subjective” actually just means that an observation is influenced by personal beliefs, opinions or ideas. But such things hold no place for a serious meditator, as the aim is to observe these phenomena as they are, not as one would like them to be, and not how one believes them to be.
The physical sciences need to be backed up by many people because observed physical phenomena can be interpreted differently and hidden measurement errors may tamper with the measured. This is not the case with a sense-perception: A taste is simply tasted, a sight is simply seen and a touch is simply felt. And so on…
All of this could be interpreted in a subjective way after the experience has taken place. But then we are back in outer reality, and no longer simply experiencing – but interpreting, concluding and guessing! And these actions which are all conceptual, which means they exist as a vast amount of sense-perceptions all at once. I.e., not inner reality anymore.
With this it becomes clear, that if the meditator sticks to her inner reality, she actually cannot be subjective! It is impossible to perceive any sensory perception through any sense-door in a subjective way. It is what we may do with it afterwards that can involve a subjective interpretation. And this is where the scientific discipline and spirit must perservere, even with the meditator! The absolute worst way to ruin your meditation-gains, would be to conclude things about what you experience, and then take that as an absolute truth. And this happens! And in my personal experience (yes, I have made that mistake) nothing good comes from this.
I am sure you’re still left wondering what can be so great about observing the inner reality – even though you may understand the distinction between the inner reality and the outer. I can hear you say “So what if my sense-door perceptions vibrate and flicker in and out of reality? And so what if experienced reality doesn’t make any sense on the level of sense-door perceptions?!”
Well, if you indeed feel like that, “So what if…?!”, then I must say that I like your skepticism! You’re gonna need it on the meditator’s path, should you ever choose to come along.
For now, I will leave it be as is, for an introduction. I think I have made my point, concerning the inner and outer reality, and that this is where the scientific meditator visits, when on a quest for some detail-derived wisdom of this wondrous experience of life!
This post should at least have made it clear to you, that the Scientific Meditator doesn’t just sit and stare in to a wall and gets caught up in airy-fairy-dreamy land. No, she works hard to sharpen her perception to view the details of life! At the same time, she must stay scientifically correct in order to not screw herself over in the long run.
Said differently, you now know that the Scientific Meditator is scientific, and a little bit about how he meditates. The next post is already up – so give your senses a short rest, if needed, and go enjoy that one as well !