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    Hi Thormas, Sorry, it's been a busy week, and I wanted to give some due consideration to your questions. It's not easy to put into words, but I'll try to give you a sense of where I'm coming from at this point in my understanding, even as it changes and evolves and departs from logic... if the self searches for self but it actually doesn't exist ("beyond the fear of its non-existence and coming to terms with 'not self'") what or who is doing the search?  if self is illusion, what is the reality (at least in your present understanding)? why is there the illusion of self in the first place? why (in your understanding at present) is there anything? If whatever is beyond the illusion, manifests (or creates) in or through illusion, why? In discussing the search for self, it seems logical within the structure of language to name what or who is doing the search - there must be a subject to go with the verb, otherwise the structure of language fails and we are unable to communicate in clear, logical sentences. Because I work in communications, words are an essential tool of my trade (not that I'm particularly skilled, mind you). My day job requires me to communicate to specific audiences, reducing the possibility of confusion, misunderstanding, ambiguity or raising more questions than answers. So I understand the reluctance to discuss a 'search', without a searcher, for an object - the self - that doesn't even exist. But I think it's also challenges like this that draw me to these types of discussions in the first place... Because what if there really isn't a subject? What if there really is just the search? Lately I've been intrigued by what appears to be a convergence of thought around quantum theory, consciousness and this idea of not-self. What we are left with in each of these areas of thinking is an action without a named subject: being, suffering, consciousness, wave, potentiality...in these spaces we have looked closer and found no-one, no-thing, that acts. We like to think there are no limitations to language as a tool to communicate awareness and experience - yet there's a reason why myths, stories, literature and poetry are enhanced with music, art, theatre and film. And lately I've been getting the feeling that we're using an ineffective tool here - that it's not just my own limitations, but something in the structure of language that gives the impression of trying to enclose smoke in a cage... In my present understanding, God, the universe, consciousness, energy, oneness, etc all seem to be alternative, limited descriptions of the same universal action or process, for want of a better term. From the limited experiences of this element of the process that is 'me', I can develop awareness and get a sense of the enormity and pervasiveness of the action, but I struggle to grasp it fully as a concept and be confident that I have all of it contained, because the more I develop awareness, the more I become aware of the gaps and limitations of that awareness. When I get conceptually beyond all boundaries as illusion and the idea of God as a being, I imagine this action or process as a 'dance', where consciousness may simply be the overwhelmingly complex interaction of potentiality waves. I think the more we become aware of and understand this process of interaction that underlies our 'reality', the more we can contribute to the dance. And in those incredible moments when we are most aware of the complexity and beauty of this process in which the All is eternally intertwining, interacting...then the 'self' and all of the apparently separate elements, including their supposed reality or illusion, fade to insignificance - because only the dance is. why is there the illusion of self in the first place? I'm not entirely clear on this, but I have a strong sense that it has a lot to do with fear and lack of awareness, but that's a much longer discussion. I'll just mention the studies with split brain patients, which show that when consciousness divides it loses awareness of the 'other', and must discover it anew, including any recognition that the two parts were initially one. How this can be applied to the idea that 'all is consciousness' I think is an interesting area to explore in terms of the illusion of self. And, how do you see yourself, which 'philosophy' speaks most powerfully to you: Christian, Buddhist, a combination or other? I try not to attribute a value or hierarchy to terms such as Christian, Buddhist, etc. - it collapses too many potentiality waves. That sounds really kooky, but it makes sense to me at this point in my understanding. So my answer would be a combination, because I find most philosophies 'speak' to me in different ways, although I am most familiar with Christian, and most recently drawn to Buddhist. I may be wrong, but it seems you have a strong belief in the existence and importance of the self, which is tied very much to your understanding of Christian philosophy. I don't disagree as such - I can see how that makes sense. But from my understanding, I no longer see the existence of the self to be as essential to Christian philosophy as it has made out, and I sense that this difference might have something to do with the word 'self', and how we each understand it from different perspectives. But I'm not suggesting that settling on a succinct definition of the term will help, either - all that does is confine our awareness even further. I'm guessing you don't see the possibility of someone prescribing to both Christian and Buddhist philosophy on this topic, and you apply the structure of language to 'the search for self' in order to challenge the Buddhist perspective. It's a logical approach. But in my view it's the structure of language that collapses this potentiality into either/or, preventing awareness of the both/and possibilities. In this sense I think language is far from the perfect tool for the job, but it's the one we're using, so I'm acknowledging its limitations here in communicating the experience of not-self. The ultimate aim of communication, in my current understanding, is to share and interconnect subjective experiences - to interact and recognise in the 'other' a single, divided consciousness, an element of the dance... So when the words fail and communication appears to break down, we can try to connect to the subjective experiences that give rise to the words, to recognise the possibilities of both/and when freed from the constraints of language, and to strive for that sense of oneness that brings beauty to the complexity and diversity of life... ...and then try to work our way back from this experience to find some way of communicating it without losing too much in the process - recognising that this will be far from perfectly achieved. I hope I'm making some sense here.
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    The Sparrow and Children of God, both novels by Mary Doria Russell
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    I don't think meditation is about self-love, either. And having slept on it, I understand that the practice of meditation is engaging in attention to self as a search for self, and in the process of that search, looking beyond the fear of its non-existence and coming to terms with 'not self'. I have read Susan Blackmore before, and I highly recommend her writings on Zen Buddhism - she describes this process very well. Most commercialised western yoga and meditation practices (in my experience) stop short of this, however - they seem content with 'glancing' at the self illusion in a way that only reinforces its existence, like a comforting, absent-minded pat to reassure ourselves it is still there, functioning as expected. This chance to focus on 'me' is all people are chasing for the most part, so it sells really well in this form. Most people who have a go at meditation or yoga will pull back as it gets confronting, uncomfortable or challenging beyond the physical. After all, it's all inner experience from this point, and unless you're working one-on-one with a guru, no one else is going to care that it's as far as you're willing to go. As long as you keep paying for classes and telling everyone how 'centred' and 'peaceful' you feel after it...
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    Interesting discussion, as usual. As someone who has looked into Western yoga and meditation practices from time to time, I think the Buddhist practice of attempting to quiet the ego does not seem to be their aim for the most part. The focus is very much on the self: self-love, self-care, taking time out for oneself, centring oneself, improving oneself, etc. The only link to Buddhism is the word 'namaste' spoken at the end of the session - which is taken to mean "we're finished, thanks for coming, you can go home now." That's just my personal experience of the participants' attitudes before and after these sessions, the words spoken by instructors during the sessions, and the way these sessions are promoted. I might be a little cynical, but I certainly wouldn't associate Western yoga and meditation practices with the tenets of Buddhism. That's like saying that attending church every Sunday is living the life of a Christian. As for DPD, I think the feeling of disconnect associated with this disorder suggests that it is not the same as the Buddhist concept of 'not self' - which seems to be more a perception of interconnection that renders any sense of self irrelevant, rather than this sense of disconnection from a self that one still believes is essential. Just thinking out loud...
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    Greetings! My name is Miriam, and I have only recently come to reclaim the Christian label in my spiritual life. Coming from a more fundamentalist background, I have had to take time to reflect on my experiences of Christianity from a safe distance before re-engaging with organized religion. The writings of such authors as Rob Bell and John Shelby Spong have been a valuable support in that process. I am grateful to have recently found a local church group that accepts and supports me as an eclectic, progressive Christian, and I now hope to build on that experience by connecting to wider discussions of faith online. I am also in the process of developing a blog that focuses on engaging with faith through questions, so I hope that learning from fellow members will help to better inform my writing in the future. I look forward to taking part!
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