Originally published in Connect Magazine November Edition.
Where do we go when we are reading a novel that we just can’t put down?
At some time in our lives we have all found ourselves so thoroughly engrossed with a good novel that we put our own lives aside to read on. The characters, the action, the scenery, and the experiences described by the author create a convincing and compelling fantasy realm where we can lose ourselves for hours at a time. We forget about the room we are in, our need for sleep, our daily life and enter into the realm of the authors imagination. We bring our own powers of imagination to the words they have written, and we create images in our minds of the scenes described in the text. Sometimes we become more interested in being in the story realm than we are in living our daily lives. This is an example of escape from reality through fantasy fiction which effects the real life mainly by moving the person from focus in the outer world, to focus in the story realm. It removes the readers attention, but does not significantly alter their brain state. Where we go, effectively, is into an altered state of consciousness, another realm within the mind.
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In my considered opinion, conscious, collective alignment grounded in non-duality, which undeniably underpins reality in its totality, will remain beyond accessible usefulness to the complexity and diversity of the lived experience of collective myriad beings – just as knowledge (realisation) of the integrity of the individual self aware entity is beyond the reach of the myriad contributing systems that participate in the process of animating its life form.
“The whole system” in its undivided wholeness is quite literally beyond the capacity of any given individual, embedded, emergent mind to grasp, describe, or understand beyond acknowledging that it exists, that we exist, and that these are not separate phenomena.
I find it useful for my limited human mind to break the big picture down into cognitively manageable parts, without losing sight of the fact that it is a whole living system that these parts combined render functional. The full details of knowledge of any one of these parts represents a huge information set, which takes whole communities of practice in order to be processed and applied effectively.
Systems of value and material exchange such as the human engineered economic system, can be understood from this meta-perspective as analogous to the metabolic process of a complex species of biological organisms taken as a collective, with all the relational dynamics and combined basic needs of the myriad individual members included.
This insight can provide clues as to how ‘we’ could approach building a “system that works for everyone”, which needs to be built on the premise that it IS ALIVE.
Where this basic insight is lacking, what ever is designed to render the “whole living system” WILL fail (die).
According to the ubiquitous wikipedia ‘Inner peace refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with, happiness and contentment‘. Many spiritual practitioners and mental health professionals would agree, however, do we know how this desirable, mystical state arises, or where it come from? Why does it disappear so easily, and when it does how do we find it again?
Many great teachers of time honoured spiritual traditions have spent their whole lives mastering the stable state of consciousness required to maintain equanimity under any circumstances. There are numerous proven techniques which can bring the dedicated practitioner to this attainment, and whole cultures dedicated to ensuring continuity of practice and access to the state of inner peace. Most of us live outside of such conducive circumstances, the world in which we find ourselves is often confusing or distressing, we are pressured by circumstances, by social expectations, by responsibilities and by the choices we make. Because we perceive a limited range of choices, we can become stressed, anxious, and exhausted. Often we attempt to find a bit of peace for ourselves in mind numbing activities or substances. Remaining functional appears to be the best we can hope for, true happiness and inner peace seem like a fantasy in today’s fast paced world.
What can we do to help ourselves access the state known as inner peace?
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Times of great change involve cycles of endings and beginnings. For there to be new life in spring, autumn must strip the trees bare and winter kill off that which does not belong to the seasons to come. With the longer cycles of the earth, we know from the sciences that this planet has been through many periods of flourishing when myriad creatures emerged and evolved only to disappear again when conditions changed. Times of warmth and fertility have been followed by periods of icy desolation, and when cataclysmic events have occurred which left only small traces of life on the planet from all life as we know it has evolved from those small beginnings. So it is also with human scale cycles, such as the evolution of civilisations. We can see in the example of the Roman empire, how a flourishing collective life form reached an unprecedented level of technological and cultural sophistication, only to move through the cycles of decay and decline that led to its eventual demise. More evidence of ancient civilisations from prehistoric times comes to light every year, and we can only surmise that they too had their cycles of growth and decay before their collective lives disappeared. An interesting read along these lines is a book called “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, which brings together a lot of evidence and creates a compelling narrative around the topic of endings at the scale of human civilisations..
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I realise as I move forward that I have choice – I can choose to assume knowledge and thus inadvertently affect incoming information in the form of pre-judged experience to which I pay selective attention >OR< I can simply allow perceptions and experiences to arise and observe them as they are while recording details using only as much pre-existing data as necessary to do so. The results of these choices will render differently experienced states of consciousness.
Choice 1 – assumption of knowledge applied to selectively attended experience results in a more or less “as expected” resolution or rendering of received information, as well a general tendency to discount or deride alternative perspectival possibilities. Applied assumed knowledge allows me to remain in a comfortable relationship with the flow of information as I have already judged it and categorised it, and I protect it’s familiar form through application of further assumptions and denial or ignorance of proposed or possible alternative insights. My experienced conscious condition in these instances tends to be easily agitated and I tend to become somewhat defensive and contrarian. The quality of attention I experience in these conditions is tightly focussed on what I think I know.
Choice 2 – allowing and observing the flow of information/experience using perceptual faculties in full awareness of the possible effects that these have upon the information itself and monitoring those effects to ensure adjustment of said faculties in order to apprehend the information in as unconditioned a form as is possible given initial conditions. This approach allows an open reception to insights and new ideas about what the information stream may contain, how I may be influencing my own perception of it and thus rendering my own experience of it. The quality of the conscious condition I experience arising in such instances is one of curiosity, gratitude and humour, with a pervasive sense of patience, and inherent respect for revealed aspects of the observed. The quality of attention in these circumstances is diffuse and often quite naïve.
Graphic commentary on the human-planet interface as analysed through the cognitive lens of meta-perspective.