By Tom Bunzel, Collective Evolution
I have been searching for “answers” most of my life and have written about an epiphany in 2007 when I watched a TED video in which geneticist Juan Enriquez spoke of DNA not as “like” software, but as encoded instructions.
At that time I was struck by the reality (as opposed to the abstract notion) that there must be or have been some “higher intelligence” in Nature (“Who was the programmer?”).
I remembered trying Transcendental Meditation after college and receiving a mantra that had no intrinsic “meaning” but simply pointed me back inside to silence. Recalling the mantra, I decided to try using it for a few months.
I knew that the premise of TM was that one would begin to notice changes in one’s life over time but that they might not be obvious or make any sense; and indeed my life went through some tremendous gyrations and I emerged from the rabbit hole through some intense therapy, and then working with Michael Jeffreys and in his Eckhart Tolle group (now a weekly satsang) in L.A.
I needed a lot of naps and quiet time and continued to meditate regularly every morning, deciding that this was the one way to manifest my commitment to a connection to whatever IS as opposed to what “I” thought should or might be…
Starting to see myself more and more in terms of “software,” I said in the group that my naps were a way to “reboot” and flush the “cache” from my brain.
And being left brained I wanted to also do it “right,” so I remembered the work of Jon Kabat-Zin who had been interviewed by Bill Moyers decades earlier and who still was regarded as a premier spokesman for mindfulness.
What I discovered was an entirely different way to look at life and the practice of meditation.
In our group Michael always stressed, and I picked up on, the need to actually perform inner inquiry on “who” is really thinking or thinks they are “in control,” and this inquiry had made me question everything. It opened up the entire vista of dropping out all that was “conceptual.”
And then what I took from Kabat-Zin’s videos — which were “instructional” — was an amazing idea: YOU CAN’T DO IT WRONG?
How is that possible, my formative mind recoiled?
Kabat-Zin’s view of mindfulness was just that — watching the mind go through its shenanigans and remaining in stillness. There was nothing to “get” either in terms of receiving or understanding — merely a connection to a deeper level of mind would unfold.
What about proof?
Proof was exposed as another “concept” of the Egoic mind (now I was reading quite a bit of Eckhart Tolle).
Eckhart also talks about mindfulness and suggests that during meditation we also try to find exactly “who” is thinking or seeming to make decisions. At each level of discernment of a “who” it becomes clear that that’s not “it” because this level is exposed as another thought — and yet another faculty is still noticing…
So you go deeper. As neuroscientist Douglas Hofstadter describes in his book I Am A Strange Loop.
When I did this inquiry I could only find sensation — which as Michael Jeffreys points out is merely a “feeling” and can’t be “you” because if one is honest one must then ask, “who” notices this?
So deeper you go – with more discoveries…
But the other salient “thing” I found was seeking energy and the “Planner.”
I discovered that my mind had a task which it reveled in — trying to control life by making plans — and I began to notice this as an activity in the same way that one uses any tool — reminiscent of the great saying that the mind is a wonderful tool but a terrible master.
Now its mastery was becoming abated and it felt quite calming and in fact circumstances in my life improved.
In addition to the planner I noticed much physical discomfort at time, and one other trait: Impatience.
I found my “self” negotiating how long I had to sit. Is ten minutes enough? Must it be 20? How was I doing?
But going back to Kabat-Zin I remembered the overview — you can’t do it wrong. I decided that sitting quietly and watching my inner world for fifteen plus minutes would be a reasonable commitment daily and I have kept it “religiously.”
I also take to heart Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion that it’s not about how long you can “sit with your eyes closed” just as it’s not about “the next retreat, workshop or seminar.”
What it’s about is minimizing the interference of the “should” mind and relaxing into spaciousness — and allowing one’s inner world to be what it is — and one’s outer world to unfold with minimum interference.
I saw Kabat-Zin “live” at Wisdom 2.0 several years ago and since then it is amazing how mindfulness has become a buzzword in business and education — all for the good in my view.
But science continues to make significant connections between findings in neuroscience and the practice (as opposed to the study) of meditation.
Dr. Joe Dispenza writes in his blog:
“When you can completely relax your body and remain conscious, this is the realm where the unknown and the mystical happens.”
Here is what’s happening according to Fast Company: “Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button—Here’s How To Use It.”
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain — they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?
Of course, a better question might be, “who is doing the pruning?”
This brings me back to the Michael Jeffreys group and he would quote another teacher (Paul Hedderman) who would say, “The party doesn’t start until you leave.”
What I think is happening during meditation from a scientific perspective is that the brain is reworking its neural networks and eliminating extraneous trash; particularly that related to a fixed self or any deeply held conceptual truths and allowing for an openness to be created for anything NEW.
If the universe is in fact conscious and expanding this puts one in alignment with this conscious expansion — it is intelligent evolution and perhaps responsible for the encoded instructions that express the immense intelligence that runs our physical bodies without “our” participation (as Eckhart says).
The “explanation” is really antithetical to the PRACTICE — which is the essence of the nondual teaching of Michael Jeffreys and others like Paul Hedderman that reduces identification with a “self” and affirms an acceptance of what IS.