Monday, May 30, 2016

Consciousness, Breath and the Perceptions of Experience

It takes great restraint to contain oneself to the boundaries of just this present moment.  The mind rebels and fights to reach backwards and forwards in time.  It’s so funny how that works.  It takes some understanding of the mind to know that it prefers to be anywhere else but here in the present.  It also takes a great deal of awareness to understand when the mind is leaving the present and weaving its way back and forth into former and potentially alternative future realities.  We are just wired for safety and security seeking.  In a world as crazy as ours with humans at a full spectrum of development and also, lets be realistic, seeming lack of development who seem to plunge helplessly into the darker parts of existence, it is difficult not to worry or move ahead, compare to the experience and see where we are and if we can feel safe.

But what is feeling safe?  How do we know if that is real?  How do we know that not being safe is real?  One could argue that whatever is perceived is the only reality there is but is that sufficient enough an argument to make it true in terms of the totality of reality?  I don’t think we can say that with certainty and yet at the same time, I fully understand how it is that we just cannot ignore the perceptions of our experience.  It just seems so very real.  But then, I cannot help but ask, “Why are we wired like this?”  You see, I believe that we are perfectly designed to our tasks and that it is quite possible that we misunderstand just how big of a game we are participating in.  How do we know what is real, what is perception, what has been horribly skewed through the filters of our own psychology and what stands independent with 100 percent certainty?

The theories are abundant, vastly different and some so very similar.  I’ve read them, taken them in, tried them on to see how they feel and every time the only thing I can say with 100 percent certainty is “that may be possible.”  I’m not so naïve as to proclaim that the reality I see is real because I perceive it because I know that is not necessarily true.  And, I know that isn’t necessarily true because I understand the unreliability of perception.  One tiny example from among a million might be the application of something very cold to the skin that gives the perception of burning.  But burning in our common understanding requires heat.  There is no heat in icy cold. There is, however, sensation and there are certain hot and cold sensations that occur at such a degree that they seem similar but in reality they are not.  You can take two individuals and put them on a city street.  One person may thrive in the moment feeling the exciting energy of city life, the hustle and bustle of their present surrounds exclaiming they love the city and its splendor.  Another soul may take in the very same scene and proclaim it horrendously noisy, dirty, crowded and energy draining.  Who would be right?  If perception can be considered the truth then one must deal with the idea that one person’s perception over anothers is correct and the rest of us are faulty and wrong incapable of the right perception.  How many arguments would we put to rest of everyone understood that perception was unique to the perceiver and to argue over it with another who perceives is a ridiculous waste of energy?

There seems to be an interesting challenge when we try to label a thing with certainty.  Is a table a table?  What if someone experiences it as something else?  Is an experience invalidated by a different experience?  We can contemplate these inquiries and come up with all sorts of answers that we might term plausible or implausible but I don’t think we can come to certainty for everyone equally.  So, to me that means our experience, our perception and everything we take in is very unique to the make up of our person or being.  Maybe we are like a computer processor that merely takes in information and processes based only upon that data we are able or willing to recognize but not necessarily with the ability to fully contextualize reality.  So, how do we feel safe and secure in that?

If you can close your eyes and calm your thoughts by merely focusing upon the breath as it comes in and then out, over and over again, you begin to move into something not dependent upon labels to exist.  There is a void at the top and bottom of each breath.  That space is not dependent upon experience and everyone has this space whether long or short equally – that pause between breathing in and breathing out.  That is one thing that is definitively consistent across living humanity in that it exists independent of our thought about it or not.  That tiny little span between the in breath and the out breath or the out breath and the in breath is something spectacular.  In that tiny little moment, I think that we can free ourselves from the concerns or worry about any perception or experience we consider ourselves to have taken into our processing systems for the seeming span of our lives.  In that tiny little pause lies the totality of our existence not jaded by experience or tainted by sketchy perception.  It exists until we no longer are physically existing and then, seemingly, we move into the space of that pause.  From there, I cannot say what happens as I’m only there fleetingly with every breath.  In between my last breath when my heart stopped many years ago and the first breath when they brought me back, I was in a place I cannot define, or label or even fully describe other than it was eerily similar to that pause between breaths with eyes closed.  Words are meaningless to define what was more of a feeling.

It made me more curious about life and less afraid of death and I suppose in that, there was a bit of safety and security because it meant no matter what happened in my life, through my perceptions and my experience I judged only to determine safety and security.  I will wonder about that some more as these thoughts develop more into understanding.  I share them now only as more food for thought.  So, can we attain safety and security?  I think yes in fleeting moments and the rest of our lives will likely be wavering between other moments and challenges that compel us to continue seeking that safety and security.  I guess, that is the way we learn.  Fear and complacency or boredom creates in us the need for change to get to a place where fear, complacency or boredom no longer need to exist but these sensations or observations are so different for all.  So, we have this wealth of life on planet Earth with so very many different situations to create experiences to get us to move into a space of safety and security or even for some, the opposite.  I’ll stop before I dive into another tangent about psychology and drivers. 

Consider spending some time noticing those moments in between the breath.  What do you observe?  How do you feel about it?  What is different about it compared to your daily existence?  What you notice is something truly shared by all physical beings, how does that make you feel?  There are many things we can explore and the beauty of life is that we are given that.  I seek to bring understanding to life so that we can live better no matter what we perceive, so that we might understand each other better no matter what our experience.  So, we breathe. The safety and security will be left to what we allow ourselves to perceive.

Rev. J.L. Harter, Ph.D. (Editor/Contributor)  See Bio section for more information.