[Image taken from DailyGalaxy.com]
Finally! The moment everyone has been waiting for has arrived. It’s time to reveal to the world what exactly the Scientific Meditator works so hard for: Insights!
In the previous posts in this series, Scientifically Spiritual, it was made clear that our experience of life is clearly different whether we observe it at large, in a gross, integrated way (outer reality), or if we pay attention to a high level of detail (inner reality).
Both ways bring insights, but very different insight! If you spend most of your time in outer reality, you get insights that will help you with surviving and fitting into society. This kind of insight could be ‘if I cry when I’m hungry, I will be fed‘. Or ‘if I talk harsh to people they seem not to want to help me as much as when I speak politely to them’. Or ‘this tool works well for this task’. These insights both are important for a baby and for you and for a craftsman or anyone! Furthermore, they are the kinds of practical insights the physicist and neuroscientist are experts at obtaining.
When you look into inner reality with a high level of detail, you get insights that are not very functional in a conventional sense. You do not learn how to use tools, drive a car, run your business or how to interact in society. But you do get an essential benefit that is even cooler: You become happier and feel less dissatisfied!
The insight helps us realize that we are not truly satisfied, and with the insight we can begin to change the way our mind works in a conscious, intelligent manner..so that we do become satisfied, happier, more balanced people!
So allow me to spill the beans already! What insights?!
The insights that allow for this increase in happiness are:
- All is impermanent
- There is no self
- Unsatisfactoriness results from not truly knowing the two previous insights
Each of these are highly complex to get into our thick heads, but here I will briefly go over each one:
All is impermanent
Looking into the details of what makes up our experience of existence itself, that is the six sense-door phenomena, we see that they never last. Thoughts appear in an endless stream, the one replacing the other, which is replaced by the next, and so on, and so on..forever! The same goes for any emotion, feeling on the body, sound, smell, taste and sight. They all arise as they are, and immediately are replaced by another. Sometimes the following perception is very similar, so it looks like these sense-door phenomena may stay for a while, as if they were continuous entities.
But the insight Meditator can see that each perception actually flickers: It appears, and goes away, appears and goes away….Many times every instant! The reason why it may seem like some of them lasts longer, is simply because many sense-door phenomena may be completely identical to the previous ones.
We know the same is true for a light bulb. It may seem to be lit all the time, but fact remains that the AC electricity that powers the bulb, makes it turn on and off 50 times every second. But our perception is too slow to notice any change that happens more than once every so often – 50 times a second is waaaay too fast for what we can perceive! So it seems constant. But as my teacher said: If it’s the same light, how come the electric company sends you a new bill every month?! The answer is naturally, that it is not the same light, but 50 new lights ever second.
The impermanence can be observed in every detailed sense-perception as well as in all gross, integrated things! For instance, in our experience, both as scientists of outer and inner reality, we experience a car 🚗 as consisting of our sense-perceptions about it. And there are many sense perceptions involved in this car-experience. Many optic fibers and neurons in our skull work to create many single visual sense-perceptions, and altogether they create an over-all visual impression that we recognize as a car!
Both the little signals from each little neuron, and the integrated impression of it all, will appear and go away again all the time. If we look for long enough, we will see that the car starts falling apart. At some point we will not know whether we should even call it a car or scrap metal anymore. This change doesn’t happen instantly, but gradually. Every instant the car is actually another car, slightly different from before. Some atoms will have left, others will have come. Rust molecules will have formed.
Only to the very observant person is it this gradual change clear every moment. To most people, it may seem like the car is the same, year after year, until it finally breaks down and has to be scrapped. So in the end the impermanence will become clear to everyone: The car has turned into scrap metal!
Seeing the impermanence in all things frees us because we become less attached to things when we know they only live for a split second, only to be replaced by something similar in the next moment, and ultimately to be totally different or gone sooner or later.
A person will get very sad if he believes his car will last forever, but one day it breaks down for good. The meditator will not make this mistake. She is observant and intelligent, and sees that the car she bought was gone the instant she bought it! Another one appeared which seemed a lot like it. And another one after that, and after that… After a week it wasn’t even like the new car anymore. But never was there any disappointment, because the faculty of impermanence was so clear to the meditator all along.
Seeing impermanence in things is very different than simply reasoning that all is impermanent. Anyone can do that in a split-second. But actually seeing it takes razor sharp perception and attention! And this only comes with dedicated practice.
A full post will follow, explaining more about why seeing this impermanence actually is freeing. Usually people can understand that it would make us less disappointed to see our car break down, if we never were attached to it, and always saw the car as something which went away, only to be replaced by another every instant. These people normally object, saying “we need to be attached to things in order to enjoy them”. This is not true, but more on that later.
There is no self
We sure do feel like we are a self. A soul or spirit perhaps? Perhaps we don’t know what to call it, but our everyday experience is that of a self. That gradually goes away for the scientific meditator, thanks to her insights!
The way this happens, is by looking closely into the experience that we all have of being selves. That means, looking closely into the experience of living life! As the meditator investigates her mind and the six sense-door phenomena, she realizes that these are all there ever was. In her own experience, she will start to see that there never was anything else! And even her sense of self consists of these kinds of phenomena – and she starts to wonder: What’s so personal about them, anyway? Can I really call any individual of them, or any combination of them, “me”?
The thing is, we can’t call these sense-perceptions ourselves. Our direct (meditation) experience contradicts this belief when we look closely! The meditator sees that there is nothing that indicates any self in the eye-sight. Nor is there any sense of self in the thoughts that go through our heads, or the smells that pass our noses. None of the senses have any self-like properties to them. And this is only clear to the meditator, who breaks her experience of life into these fragments of sense-door experiences. What she is left with is a wondrous experience of dancing phenomena of various kinds – none of which is her.
It doesn’t matter if she knows what she experiences. It is up to the modern scientist to name things. The meditator simply experiences! And in this experience there is simply consciousness and the phenomena which this consciousness wraps itself around. This dance, is what life is!
This knowledge is in part shared with the meditator by modern scientists. Neuroscientists have practically laid out a map of the brain and which functions each part is responsible for. It seems that even our personality and sense of self can be narrowed down to mainly some left-brain hemispheric sections. How impersonal, right?!
The difference between the scientist and the meditator, is however, that the meditator experiences no-self to be a truth – the scientist derives it logically and then thinks about it. That is also great, but only the experience of seeing no self in any little part of what comprises this experienced existence, can truly free us. The scientist may believe it from his logical reasoning, but as one good friend of mine told me: Belief?! Leave that behind you when you leave the church! In other words, beliefs are useless for anyone that want’s a different experience of life!
The thing with this sense of self that we all have, is that it really only exists in our limited experience. Going back to the issue of impermanence, described above: Notice how you feel that you are the same you as you were when you were a kid, or 10 years ago – or yesterday! It feels like these earlier versions of us, are us, doesn’t it? But as the meditator learns, nothing is permanent. Even the sense of self, which is something we are left with when we don’t see the detail of our experienced reality clearly, is impermanent! What is our sense of self, after all, but a mix of thoughts, memories and emotions? All of which are observed by the meditator to vibrate in and out of existence, in their little fragments of our experienced life.
Strictly modern-scientifically speaking also: There is nothing permanent about your self, should there be one! Every atom in your body (including brain) will have been exchanged many times in your life. Yet we feel like we are the same us, year after year! And how absurd to think that these atoms that make up our bodies are the same for everyone: Same electrons, neutrons and protons. They are identical, yet everyone feels like they are a special soul? Scientifically speaking, we are nothing but a blob of hydrogen atoms that have been brewing in the universe for 14 billion years – this is what the big bang left, and the configuration it all happened to agglomerate into, is you, me and all of your memories and ideas about yourself!
If you truly consider yourself a scientific person, then get your experience of life up to date with this empirical truth! If you don’t feel like you are just a natural self-less phenomenon, but a “self”, a “soul” or a “spirit” – then your experience of life is outdated and modern quantum mechanics and neuroscience is laughing at you! In short, true science demands for us to start meditating, otherwise the truth of impermanence and no-self will remain theoretical, not experienced!
Seeing the impermanence in all things allows us to see that we are not selves. Because our sense of self is permanent – something which we witness first hand not to be true when we become skilled meditators!
So what are we, if not us (LOL!)? We are the universe, which has packages of matter and consciousness that exist according to the laws of nature. Those things exist, quite evidently (after all, we are experiencing it directly right now!). But souls do not exist. And if you believe they do – realize that it is a belief, and that you have yet to experience it directly! Where is this soul? In the bible? In your brain? Your heart? Where? I double-dare you to go and feel it! The way of the scientist, modern or spiritual, is to go look for empirical truths, not to take words of old books, or theories of others as truth! We must all see with our own eyes, before the seen becomes our experience, our wisdom.
Acquiring these insights make us happier because we become free. Free from the fears, insecurities and other dissatisfaction in life – these are all associated with the sense of self! In turn, the sense of self is directly associated with an illusory sense of permanence in things. By sharpening our perception, we may just learn to see that the light bulb actually flickers 50 times every second – but you can be damn sure that if no one ever told you that it did, you would believe that the light coming from it was ever constant! That’s why the meditator’s path is long and hard. When we meditate we train hard to see these things.
And every time we realize something new about our experience of life, we loosen up a bit, become a little more relaxed, happy and balanced. We see that life is just happening in front of us as a movie on a screen. And we see that we can influence the movie, and make ourselves the star of the night! We can work hard, play hard, make big money or go travel the world. By no means does seeing these truths make us happy vegetables – we are literally more involved with life, when we pay attention to all the details of it. Just think about it!
I cannot tell you why these things are the way they are – after all, I’m an experimental mind-scientist. And I intend to stay scientifically spiritually happy and balanced! And personally, I will continue to do the work of a true scientist: Make objective observations about the experience of life!
And what is an insight by the way? Other than a repeated, objective observation? By this standard, there is nothing about which I have written in these four posts, Scientifically Spiritual 1-4, that you cannot go experience for yourself right now!
Life is so goddam amazing, just tell me WHY NOT experience more details of it? At least, I truly hope that these posts have changed your perspective about what this mind-science really is. All the mumbo-jumbo about chakras, mystical experiences, out of body and incense-light and I don’t know what..?! All that, whatever crap you may have heard of, and put in the same category with hippies, meditation and so-called “spirituality” – forget about all that!
True meditation and true science is one and the same in this game. They are both about knowing what life is.
And the good part is that all it takes for us to know this is to get really good at feeling. When we feel something, that something is undeniably a part of our life. And there is nothing which makes up our lives that we cannot feel. So it’s just about doing it.
Good luck, my friends, with acquiring these insights for yourself. They are truly worth it!