The big re-boot

From previous posts, you’ve probably come across my interest in the virtual world. This is not the computer/cyber world, though we’ve built computers to mimic the processes of our own brains. The virtual world I’m interested in is one constructed from our own mental projections. It’s the waking lucid dream we refer to as reality.

Jane, stop this crazy thing
Jane, stop this crazy thing

I’m not so much interested in a metaphysical debate on the nature of reality as I am in gaining conscious control over what we are creating. Most of us can’t be bothered to think too deeply about what is real, because people around us all seem to agree with us, so why strain our brains? More and more frequently I hear, “it is what it is”, to describe a failed outcome or less than ideal situation. This resignation and complacency helps us to justify things as being out of our control or unchangeable. But quantum physics points to a very different world, one where “it is what we say it is”, that our interpretation of events define their very existence.

None of this requires any special training or experience to grasp, it requires a clearing of our buffer; our residual representation of the world. If you read last week’s Who looks inside, awakens, there was a brilliant description of learning from infant brain researcher Sylvain Sirois, who said, “From brain-imaging studies we know that the brain has some sort of visual buffer that continues to represent objects after they have been removed–a lingering perception rather than conceptual understanding. So when babies encounter novel or unexpected events, there’s a mismatch between the buffer and the information they’re getting at that moment. And what you do when you’ve got a mismatch is you try to clear the buffer.”

For most of us, the pace of life does not allow us to deal with cognitive dissonance – the resolving of mismatches. We go with what we know, what past experience tells us. So our perception is based upon how we have long assumed things to be. In my training programs, I like to use the phrase, “we don’t believe what we see, we see what we believe”. That is, what occurs to us as everyday reality is a residual projection from our past, stored in our buffer and quick to reject anything different.

Every moment of our day is occupied with things to do, and in sleep our unconscious entertains itself with dreams. The problem is constant agitation of the conscious mind, which occupies all our mental bandwidth and keeps us in a steady state of distraction. Our consumption-driven world compels us to seek out these distractions through television, shopping malls, fast food restaurants and the like, which saturate us with colors, light, sounds, motion and smells, all designed to distract us into buying stuff we really don’t need. It’s like a mini fun fair. It’s exhausting.

So how can we hit the reset button on all this and give our perception a chance to experience something fundamentally different? We need to turn down the volume, find a quiet place and like an overloaded computer system, execute a ‘memory dump’. I’m talking about meditation as a way to dump our current program state and reset our system. This doesn’t mean trying to escape the past or block things out, it’s a way to clear our cache and optimize our core programming by becoming more mindful, monitoring the data without aversion or attachment.

I learned to meditate from a great teacher at a retreat in Sri Lanka over 20 years ago, but you can learn it right here, right now. As my teacher said, “enlightenment is right under your nose.” It’s nothing more complicated than mindfulness; focusing on your breath and letting thoughts come and go, without attachment or avoidance. For the skeptical, there’s plenty of scientific data to show that meditation has real practical benefits like reducing blood pressure and improving concentration. Through meditative choiceless awareness, we can restore focus and centeredness to our system, improving it’s overall functionality.

The way my teacher explained it to me was that the constant churn created by agitating thoughts makes the waters of perception murky. We can’t easily perceive what’s really going on around us. When we still the waters of our minds, we can see right through to the bottom. We experience insight and gain wisdom into the true nature of our being. We realize that everything and everyone is connected in a vast sea of consciousness, that reality is a collective reflection of our minds and that we are free.

If you’re interested, I only ask that you not get attached to the idea of having to travel to an exotic destination or pay a lot of money to learn it. Like it’s cousin yoga, there are many kinds of practice and many people who are happy to take your money to teach you something you already know: how to breathe. To get started, take a look at this Vipassana Meditation Guide, which is short and easy to read. The author is a Sri Lankan monk who got his advanced degrees in the U.S. and taught Buddhism at Georgetown. There’s no religion or ceremony in here, just practical instruction along with some mind-blowing truths. This simple guide is one of the most powerful things you will ever read. It has really confirmed to me how important meditation is in ‘clearing the cache’ and opening up new pathways of experience.

Because we separate
it ripples our reflection
— Radiohead, Reckoner from In Rainbows