Tuesday, January 25, 2011

consciousness of spine and ear

We have been speaking about the problem of thought, the possibility that conscience acts as a factor for increasing consciousness and the function of the body in relation to consciousness. And I'd like to expand this last idea a little more. As part of this discussion about the body contributing somehow to consciousness, we may include the possibility that we exist in a simulated reality. A little later I'd like to propose that sound (particularly music) possibly functions as an anchor of self in psychological time.

I am standing on the S-Bahn immersed in associative thought, passively content as one is content in sleep. And something in me becomes aware of this low level of consciousness and, for some reason, begins to struggle. I think to myself quite clearly "I exist" and then "the world is real - this is an actual train, the passengers are real" and, at that moment, everything changes. The world comes into focus. I feel my existence as a sensation in the spine. I am no longer trapped in my head but have expanded into the network of nerves and muscles in the body. But I can't hold it for more than a few seconds - I fall back into reverie.

I am left with several strong impressions - firstly that thought can act as a trigger for the experience of non-thought. Or, in other words that, at that moment, thought functioned as the tool of being and not the other way around. Secondly, the experience consisted of an intense feeling of being-in-the-present coupled with the sensation of the spinal column, a feeling of embodiment. And thirdly, the notion that the world was actually real and that I existed in reality created a shock sufficient to jolt me out of semi-consciousness.

Perhaps we accept our semi-conscious level of being because we do not experience the actual world but, rather, a simulcrum - an image that overlays the world. And part of that simulcrum is our own self-image - we imagine ourselves as alive in a vital world but what we actually experience is more like a dream state. Sensation in the body can help to still the thoughts and bring us into the present - but this alone is not enough, we must also know that we exist and that the world is real. By this we bring the thinking mind, the emotions and the physical senses together in an effort of consciousness.

The idea that we occupy an artificial reality has been philosophically explored by Baudrillard in his Simulcra & Simulation. Sensation in the body does not occur automatically or just through wishing for it - it must be developed. There are daily exercises for increasing sensation in the body - most of you will know of Gurdjieff's sensing exercises, a description of them can be found in transcripts of his eight meetings in Paris.

Tonight I tried an experiment with music - I loaded my ipod with songs that had been important to me at various times of my life, beginning with songs I'd loved as a teenager and moving forward chronologically. I listened to the entire collection of songs while walking along the river. With each new track I felt myself actually become the person I had been when the song had had the most effect on me - different personality traits rose up and were submerged again like waves, an array of two-dimensional 'I's each lasting only 3 or 4 minutes.

The striking thing was that it didn't feel as though I was remembering past selves in the way that, for example, I might remember a good book or a holiday. I actually became these previous selves in real time - one after another, memory without thought. And it occurred to me that music, at least (and maybe other things too - smell?) may function as anchors of the self in time - an imprint in the brain that bypasses thought (or emotional thought without verbal thought).

Witnessing these previous false 'I's appearing and disappearing further impressed on me the possibility that we exist as simulations in a simulated world. Each music-triggered self felt as real as the next, just as the world feels real until its actual realness eclipses the simulation like the sun erasing the morning moon.

To clarify a few points:
1. An experience of being requires the conscious knowledge that one exists and that the world is real - this should not be taken as given
2. Sensation in the body, when combined with intelligence and feeling, can prolong a flash of consciousness
3. Sensation in the body must be developed through daily practice
4. Music might function as memory without thought - and anchor of one's various selves in time.


  1. links to the two texts mentioned in this post:

  2. First Hello to Levi and everyone.

    I agree with all the points above. I believe sensing the body is key and a doorway. Sensing the body takes energy away from thinking.

    As for music and false "I's", I think you have made a great observation. Music seems to have the ability to connect us to what seems to be a point in time, complete with emotions, etc. Other senses I believe might have the ability also, as you mentioned smells, but not as strong it seems. This brings me to another point and that is what about creation, for me music can be important to the creative process. However in this case it is not nostalgic but music that touches me or I connect with deeply. This type of music does not dominate me or demand my attention but is more of a vaporous, misty, enveloping kind of feeling. It sometimes allows me to channel or connect. It is how most of my writing is accomplished. Most of my writing is what I call streamed, once it starts I can hardly keep up with it. I have to type as fast as I can to keep up. When it does not come and I try to force it, it has a stale, mechanical, manufactured feel to it. I would assume this is also true with painting. True art has an energy, or essence in it that speaks to people on another level. Manufactured art may be beautiful but will not have that essence. People can push and create something clever but it will not possess that something. To take this a step further, certain words or sounds might very well have the ability to center us, or position us in stillness. Music through the ages has been used for prayers and ceremonies. Certain sounds seem to reappear and propagate to different religions. Chanting in one form or another is probably one of the oldest methods of 'connecting'. The American Indians, Catholics for that matter, Hindu's and Buddha's. I think often the words or sound is considered the most important but I will submit that I believe quite often it is the gap between the sounds that is also powerful. That gap of stillness repeated and contrasted against the sound makes it even more deep but you have to be aware of it. I think most people ignore the gap of stillness. Just think of the chant Ohmmmmmmmm (gap) Ohmmmmmmmmm (gap Ohhmmmmmmm,etc. I believe you are focused in on the right points. Very interesting.

  3. Thanks to everyone for contributing to this discussion!

    Anthony, what you say about your writing practice is exactly paralleled by my composing practice. It's more like channeling something than creating something - as though a door in the mind opens and the music pours through. It's all I can do to keep up. But then, other times, when the door is closed, I can spend hours and hours trying to write couple of seconds of music and only produce lifeless bars. There is, as you say, a special energy in art - for one thing it messes with our perspective of time. Also, at least with sound and possibly with light too, we are immersing ourselves in a vibrating field that must surely alter the electricity in our bodies - waveforms adding themselves to other waveforms to become more complex. We can feel this when standing next to a loudspeaker - sympathetic vibration in the blood. There is so much we don't understand about sound.

    Loplop, I think we need to differentiate between 'sensation' and the five senses. We use the five senses, as you have said, to gain information about external things in a passive way. But bringing sensation to the body is altogether different. If I sit very quietly and turn my senses inwardly I can direct my attention to my arms, legs, spine, face etc. I become aware of the prickly sensation on the skin - that sensation which is always there but which I normally override with my externally directed senses. In time I can begin to sense my bones, inner organs. I become aware that I inhabit a body - I feel its limits from the inside, where the skin ends. This kind of sensation, the movement of attention in the body, must be very active - it cannot be passive or we fall back into reverie. After a while, I can escape from the tyranny of thought by bringing sensation to the body in the midst of life - it can bring me into the vital present when thought would trap me in the past-projected-into-the-future. So we can think of sensation as sense directed inwardly and concentrated by attention. I think you're more or less saying this anyway but it's worth expanding your point.

    Thanks very much to both of you for enriching this little blog!

  4. Loplop, In my observation mans thinking is uncontrolled or more accurately out of control. Watching my thoughts leads me to believe that thoughts are collective and not mine. It would seem to me that identification with thought is ego. Thought would possibly be a handy tool if it we there when we need it instead of an uncontrollable stream. Thought to me is of mind and ego. The difference to me between thought forms and thinking versus the source is that with thinking you can only know about things because there is separation/duality. With the source there is a knowing. There is a big difference between thinking and knowing. So rising above thought would in fact be to me advantageous.

    As for the discussion on sensation my understanding would align with Hsien-Ku's statement "So we can think of sensation as sense directed inwardly and concentrated by attention". I also think her point about not confusing the senses with 'sensation' is more clear for me. Drawing attention into the body I have felt the sensations mentioned, with focus on these sensations you can in fact escape the bondage of uncontrolled thought. The duration can be lengthened by practice. The difference being normally we are always thinking and can't stop versus being/stillness visiting thought when needed.

    As for spiritual predators I'm not sure why we would need that warning here. I have nothing but respect for the members here.

  5. Thank you Loplop, my own experience of sensation is one of willed attention. It makes use of the senses but cannot be mistaken for them. The difference is not semantic and can be clearly experienced - I am not speaking of a highly subjective or intangible kind of experience here but something quite pragmatic. If you try the exercises in sensation provided by Gurdjieff or the ones described in many Buddhist and Yogic canons you can see this for yourself - no need to take my word for it. Yes, there are many kinds of predators in the world - gurus are often like that. This is why we have begun this discussion so we can find answers without gurus or priests. Their language is religious or mystical - ours is pragmatic. So in many respects our interest is not in spiritual things so much as unfolding a question of being. Spiritual issues arise out of our question about our own being and not in any other way. I hope that make sense.

    Thanks Anthony, again you make some very insightful points. And I am in total agreement with your statements that thought is collective, that it is not mine (and this seems very important to me) and that we create false selves through identification with thought. And I think you've hit the nail on the head when you speak about the difference between thinking and knowing being one of separation - we are intellectually and emotionally fragmented, and sensation in the body goes some way towards recreating connections between these fragmented parts. You have explained this perfectly, much better than I could. As for your last statement, I agree. We're not trying to delve into spiritual matters except for where it is necessary to our question. Spiritual predators wouldn't find much nourishment here I expect.

  6. Good discussion Loplop. First, I don't have the answers which is why I'm part of this discussion, secondly I have no emotional ties to being right. I'm happy to hear all the points being made here. I would also like to add that this is not merely a discussion for me, this is critical. It is of the utmost importance and a pleasure to be among friends who share in this dialogue. I can not afford to not have an open mind.

    As for thought, I would think that identification with thought/ego is responsible for most of the bloodshed that litters our history pages. The ego's fear of death permeates the false self to the point of having to be right, being ready to kill anyone that would dare think differently. I have experienced the pain of my thoughts and daydreams. The reoccurring thoughts that would have you thinking, "I'm not good enough", "I always fail", "they probably don't like me", "I never win anything", "Some people are so lucky", etc. The constant thoughts that drag you back to the past, or into the future that have a direct impact on your body. When I think of what I will say or do to someone in a mock argument cause my body to tense, heart to race, blood pressure to rise, adrenaline to flow but yet nothing has happened. Thought can keep you in a dream state of past/future forever. As for everyday thoughts, I don't believe the source is concerned with what one of my false "I's" thinks at any given time. I believe that unbridled thought keeps us from seeing what is real, clouds our vision to the point where we don't really see at all. If I'm in traffic and a Mercedes cuts me off and pulls in front of me, I could look ahead accepting that a form is now in front of me, instead I might think "oh, this guy has a Mercedes, I bet he thinks he's above the law an can do whatever he wants, the nerve of that guy to pull in front of ME". Who is offended? Who did he pull in front of? The many I's we have could have a field day, and in the end might incite me to road rage, and at the least an upset stomach, or even let it ruin my day. When I observe my thoughts I see all kinds of crazy things, things that mean absolutely nothing or don't even seem to be connected with anything. I don't believe these to be mine. My guess is ownership is tied to ego, my car, my house, my etc. Basically again I think ego is tied to identification to thought leading to duality. To say its good or bad I suppose I have been guilty of saying that, with reflection its better said perhaps it is what it is and if it pushes me inward toward God, then good. Again, only my thoughts as we move forward in this discussion.

  7. H.K, firstly, you explain everything so much better than I ever could on these matters--what that says about me as a writer, I do not know. But, jest aside, I am thrilled to read all of this despite my lack of commenting. It is a gift to read of others who have experienced the same things as I, and am grateful for those here who are sharing their experiences and results.
    So, firstly, Hello to all, and thank you.
    H.K, what a brilliant idea regarding music and time. This is one of those things I have felt--and upon hearing it, it makes perfect sense and rings true. How many times lately I have opted to not listen to music for this fact alone? I am trying to eliminate associated feelings, negative emotions, false I's...so why subject my self to music which puts me in the past.
    But hanks to you, I experimented at work today with the radio...and right away I was another, feeling something from another time that, for the most part, made me either sad or left wanting. Needless t say the "hit's" radio station at work is not the best tool for experimenting. :) or perhaps it is, as he point was made.
    but then, as Anthony said, there is the music that geos deeper--creating a sort of ripple effect into the center; a direct channel, like writing (I am like anthony: all my poetry and writing is streamed, all written like a wind, devoid of thought.)It is curious that it is the steamed music I gravitate towards as well, that reaches that same place, objective music is hard to come by.
    so wha is that space from which the streamed writing and music comes? what is it's purpose if not to try to connect back to itself? the snake eating his tale. it is a great tapping in--and will find whom it is searching for. I picture it like clouds rolling by--same with thoughts, all thoghts, story, poetry--streaming past waiting to be caught by the one who either sees it, or is open to finding it.
    Stephen King described writing like archeology: dusting off bones one inch at a time until what was already there is exposed: the whole story told. but we can only see one piece at a time of that which is already there.
    I always liked that thought--it makes sense.
    the body was built for housing being, why wouldn't it respond to such remembered sensations?
    As for collective thought as opposed to personal thought, can it not be both? I am brought back to the cloudimage...thoughts going past from everywhere and everything, slipping in and out--perhaps in and out of time as well. our bodies have different degrees of electromagnetics, so what is attracted to our bodies might not be the same as our neighbor. and wht of those who can stand beside you and know their thoughts exactly? do we emit thought somehow? or is it that they can reach in and grab our thouhgts after we are done with them--after they are back to clouds?
    Thank you all for this--wonderful discussion all.

  8. P.S- I just want to say I echo Anthony's statement above, about this being of the utmost importance, and also keeping an open mind. I am just happy to be here and a part of this.
    Thank you all for listening to my ramblings. :)

  9. I have been so overwhelmed by the responses to this post - and so grateful to all of you for sharing your insight with me, and I just wanted to thank you one more time. There are so many exciting points that have been raised in these comments - so many avenues to be explored. It would be so easy for me to indulge in intellectualising - but the truth is that I need some time to let these really amazing ideas sink in if I am to contribute something to them. At the moment I am just so grateful to you all - Anthony, Loplop, Kristin, Lianne - without you guys I don't know if I'd have continued past the second or third post.

  10. Hello all -
    Well I must say that this is an extraordinarily vibrant discussion and at the same time acknowledge that a good deal of it is either over my head or beyond my capacity to process at this particular time. But I did want to say that I vigorously concur with Loplop's final comment here, particularly as it relates to the ego's function in terms of discernment and integrity.
    I also agree entirely that there is a great deal more to the idea of "streaming" in regard to writing or music composition or art. I have never truly been able to write that way - as if what I wrote came from some place outside myself and I am just a "channel." I know many fine writers and artists who describe that as their methodology but I think that as Loplop has said that there is far more to it and a great deal of foundational preparation that lies beneath that "stream of consciousness."
    Sorry to add so little to this amazing discussion and insight - I just wanted to be a little part of something so enlightening.

  11. In response to Loplop and Lianne. I once again want to say I appreciate the discussion and the opportunity. You mentioned pride and righteousness which to me is still ego, one of the many I's. If the ego is identification with thought this would be yet another identification. It would seem that position being described here is 'although the ego can cause pain and pretend to be us to the point of being lost for years, there is a good side'. I would have to discribe that as an argument of the ego. In the context of discernment, would this not be yet another "I"? The good "I", the I that knows still duality, right and wrong, good and bad, etc. Would you agree that the source, the one "I" would not see this distinction, would not know? What it would seem that you are creating is 'a better, good false sense of self'. Still a deception, but a better one. Who is it that is better? Who is discerning? The one 'I' in my opinion would not need to discern, there would be no other to do bad to, no other to wrong. I would not want to put yet another false "I" in front of me, even a good one. To experience oneness with all that is, there could be no other. It would only exist in a world of false selves and ego. Who am I doing wrong to? Who is offended? Just some thoughts.

  12. In my last response I was in earnest trying to ask if we could look closer to see if we were not creating yet another facet of false self. This seems all to easy to do and I have done it many times. Good ego vs Bad ego. If it did not come out that way I apologize. I suppose I must reiterate again that I do not know the answers but feel this opportunity to really ask ourselves the deeper questions. I personally feel the need to get closer to the answers a ultimate task, something I must do. It could not be more important. If this discussion is only valid if discussed by Guru's then I'm in the wrong place. I suppose I am at somewhat of a disadvantage in that I don't know you. I do however believe that the other people here know for a fact that I don't know the answers, we came together to find them.

    I personally find it hard to put my thoughts on these subjects on paper. If I try to really find the right words it would not be ridding ourselves of ego, but increasing the awareness of our true essence, thereby losing the identification with the ego/false self. I don't think that finding 'stillness/no thought' you have to retire to a mountain top. It must be here in us (I believe) so going to a mountain top I would only take it with me. In the end I don't think I'm going to say it right enough and I definitely will not be able to say it like Ramana Maharshi. It is the answers that are important. I think it is entirely possible that in the end you could through awareness realize the one source without ever understanding it.

    Thank you Hsien-ku for this unbelievable opportunity to participate in something so important. I will be listening on the sidelines.

  13. Dear Anthony,

    Please don't only listen on the sidelines. You are needed here. None of us know where we're going - we are all in complete darkness and this blog is only an attempt to light a match. The ego talks and talks and talks. It is the expert on everything, has an opinion on everything. It occupies the mountain-tops of the gurus and the great philosophers. Perhaps there are people who also breathe that rarefied air but I am not among them. I don't want to indulge in abstractions or talk as though I know something. Because I only know confusion - and I'm trying to unravel that confusion. I need your gentle honesty here - we all do.

    If, as I suspect, consciousness requires one to see and accept oneself absolutely honestly, in all one's contradictions and imperfections - then perhaps we can practice here by seeing and accepting each others contradictions and imperfections.

    You are needed here.

  14. Hsien-ku, not a problem. I so appreciate what we are here for and I know its bigger than me. Whatever we need to do to keep this alive I am in total agreement with. I totally agree with your statement, we do need to accept with honesty all of our contradictions and imperfections as well as others. Good centering message. I look forward to where we go from here. Thank you for starting this wonderful blog.

  15. Hi guys,
    I suppose i missed something...but Anthony, I am very glad you are here--as I am all of you. :) I may not understandhow to trulylove, but of what I do, i love you H.K, A and L.
    So...I don't have much time just now, but wanted to pop on here to say something before other thoughts come and erase this little one:
    I am finding more and more what I write--the ideas, specific ideas (one example, I just wrote of a stop sign in a wheat field with one man standing before it)are caught by other artists and explored. I am finding this at least twice a week, writings that came from that in-between place were also caught by others. the same thing goes for the inventors who invent things at the samw time from even accross the globe. I just wanted to mention it and hear your thoughts, for me, this is some sort ofproof that these type of thoughts are already there. I know this is nothing you haven't hear before, but thought I'd mention it as it seems to be happeningto me more and more.
    thank you for listening to my confused ramblings.
    I am glad to have you all to stumble around in the dark with.

  16. I've struggled with the idea - and the caution - that Anthony mentions here, the notion of the false but "good" ego and I believe that he is right to a much greater degree than I am. I fear, though, that even in my attempt to find and center on the one "I" - to find the "me" that knows no duality - that I too, am carrying those other "Is" up the mountain with me. But for me it begs the question - is my "being" somehow something totally apart from these other "Is?" Is that possible? Is the key to discovery not in acceptance and integration - a recognition that at the core I am all these and more? I don't know the philosophical language truly to express what I mean and I'm stumbling about in the dark, too. Perhaps I remain too much a creature of thought rather than spirit.
    @Anthony - please don't sit on the sidelines. The discussion is far too important and your insights, your questions, your challenges provide so much that is essential to the discovery. I can't thank all of you enough for reawakening in me some sense of urgency or H.K. enough for recognizing the critical need for such dialogue.

  17. I just wanted to let you all know that the comments that have been removed from this thread were deleted by the author himself and not by me. Discussions of this kind can often lead to misunderstandings - we cannot hide behind the normal academic abstractions. And I hope we approach any future communication difficulties with as much courage and sensitivity as I have seen in this thread. Thanks to you all.

  18. @Lianne, I will just answer briefly in respect for Hsien-ku has added our next topic. Just my thought but I believe you are right, you are so much more than the false I's would have you believe. I believe since we have identified with mind/thought we believe we are the thinker which just keeps us trapped from finding our true being/essence underneath.
    All is good and I thank everyone as well as we continue on.