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A Meaningful Absence

Updated: May 20, 2019

A meaningful absence of “I”, “me”, “mine” leads to happiness.

It is the incessant attempts to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want that leads to unhappiness.

It’s a closed system cycling around and around. Until we interrupt it.

There’s a catch. The construction of our mind becomes how we identify who we are. How will we know who we are if we interrupt that construction?

The constructs aren’t a problem if we see them and they serve something connective like tissue that allows the system to move forward. We need them to navigate the world. But if they are automatic and habitual without choice then we live in reactivity and limitation.

The shift needed is to move from the value for escaping experience in our wants and not wants, to the creation of new value in discomfort. Discomfort of uncertainty is a risk of consciousness for the reward of true aliveness in constant movement versus biological survival by fixed boundaries. The discomfort of staying. Not immediate gratification in the moving away from a perceptual cue, but a willingness to contemplate its impact, dismantle the ‘system's’ interpretation as good/bad, transforming the memory of a biological imperative to survive by avoidance.

Let me share with you a quick example for exploring this in real time

I recently had the pleasure of sitting with John D Dunne, a Buddhist Scholar, at a gathering of interdisciplinary dialogue on 'the science of connection, complexity, and emptiness' steeping in the perspectives of buddhist, biomolecular, neuroscience, psychoanalytic, and astrophysics thought-leaders - in essence, exploring how we alleviate suffering.

Seeing from various templates of how we construct and deconstruct suffering allows us to see more. It is a courageous act to let go fixed ideas of how we think 'our' theory is 'the' theory, and let emerge a new way that might lead to greater understanding and better outcomes. As a psychotherapist I have to always be on the lookout for my bias in how I think about what is health and how to create best environments to connect each of us to it. The only way for me to become more conscious of my implicit assumptions is to stay aware of my present experience, bottom up and inside out, and to be aware of the direct experience of the person or people in front of me, catching every time I lockdown around emergent experience that does not conform to my assumption. It is then that I might have a chance to dis-cover something new.

John led a morning Meditation and experimented in small segments of steadying the mind with interrupting experience to study how the mind constructs itself.

Imagine you are settling into a meditation, letting body be known directly through touch, letting the touch of breath arise and fall, eventually able to let go the buoy of breath as object and just ‘be’ – and bam! John let’s go a loud sharp yell – enough to make you jump out of your skin. Ow. Now what? What has happened? See the cascade of Awareness of Perceptual cue – loud sound – Activation – physiology to act on what is salient – Appraisal – interpretation of threat or safety – Action – to approach or avoid. How historical memory determines assumptions such as, meditation = this not that – no yelling please. Loud noises mean danger. How quickly thought interacts with emotions, fearful, sad, angry. The seduction of story about preference, about what is right, what is wrong.

And then there is just a sound and the sensation that ensues, the rest is all made up. Ah, this is where freedom lies. To see the quick constructing of right and wrong, the immediate interpretation of perceptual cue, and the habits of behavior we get caught in to fight or flee.

The shift is to stay, a little longer, to reconfigure how it’s all made up, interrupt the habit, let the arising of all parts, thought, imagination, memory, emotions, attitude, urges, just be known.

Absent of my story this body sat in a room, breath came and went, sound arrived, body sensation of contraction, narrowing, alertness, and then just breath came and went, body sensation expanded, widened, at ease – Nothing more, nothing less.

The system open, dynamic, complex, emergent able to shift in relation to the present – happy.


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