Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 4: An invitation to explore the dynamics of discomfort & feel another being

Linda here.  

The oddly long and silent(-ish) check in

There was about a half an hour in which very little was said. There were large gaps of silence into which different people would say something. 

Roger asked, "What do people hear?"  "Is there a pattern to the check ins?"

People offered a few observations. Someone noted that even what people were offering was from a perspective that the individual was predisposed to, sometimes in a self-professed way. She wondered if our minds are so powerful a filter that we tend to see the internal state, regardless of what is happening. 

Roger asked about how we attempted to respond to his question. What we noticed was that people largely attempted to recall the words that each person said, then attempted to look for patterns in the content of the words. There were other observations about how one's internal state gets unconsciously and inseparably mixed with what is perceived and how it is interpreted, with an observation that "objectivity" is impossible, although often not believed to be so by those who are self-identified as "objective" in their points of view. 

Roger was fascinated with his own process during the oddly long and silent check in. When he asked,  "What did you hear?" he was really wondering about where our attention was during the oddly silent check in. Perhaps it was the entailments caused by the metaphor, "hear," but he noticed a prioritization of the cognitive content of what was said. There were many things going on, yet what we report is the stimulation of our tympanic membranes.  This is the thing we are comfortable with.  In the absence of these longitudinal pressure waves (i.e., sound), what is it that we do?

At that point, many people confessed their relief when Roger asked the question, thereby breaking the silence.  

Then several people offered an analytical look at what they were thinking during this oddly long and silent(-ish) check in. This detour (not really) also contained a question about what it means to express solidarity in the midst of someone else's suffering/oppression.  

Roger mentioned that he was really inviting people to watch the dynamics of comfort and discomfort; what might we choose to do in the face of discomfort?
  • Example: we can't stop thinking about "x" and "x" has no relevance in our lives;
What is happening?  He is interested in the things that we "turn away" from. 

Someone mentioned that the turning away was a coping mechanism to deal with the genuine heartbreak of all that is happening in the world. Roger noticed that we get a great deal more information about the heartbreak than we do about the joy.  He also noticed that we don't ever get our fill of "joy" and then find ourselves having to turn away from it. 

Roger asserted that we often don't feel things when we encounter them them.  

I will say that this struck a chord with me. I find myself suppressing a lot of what I feel when I first encounter things, particularly the heartbreak. That is, I spend energy doing what I imagine is "pushing it away."  I don't think this is working for me.  I am probably just storing the emotion somewhere as pent up energy in my being. When I slow down enough, the sadness is immediately accessible. But I find it funny that the joy and peace is not as accessible. Why? 

When he used the word "feel", he made a distinction that this does not just include the emotional content, but is more about apprehending something. 

Confusion about what it means to feel something

Then Roger confessed that at the beginning of each meeting, he goes around and "feels" everyone in the room.  (By the way, I realize this sounds funny in my re-writing of this). Then he "feels" the whole. There is a "being" to it. 

He said that the things that we say is not what is going on.  To illustrate, he said that people often report feeling "heard" by Roger. Paradoxically, it is not anything about him engaging in some importance of what they are actually saying. (That is the irony, they feel "heard," but this phenomenon of feeling "heard" has nothing to do with what was said.)

In the "feeling" of the moment, we often delete what is actually "felt" and have a structure in place that allows us to functionally delete it. (I'm not sure what this means, but I wish I understood it.)

Roger is wondering about "feeling" another person.  As an example, imagine you encounter a dog or a cat. Of course, you have no expectation of having a conversation with them, but it is clear that they "feel" a particular way as a being. 

However, in encountering one another, there is so much layered over our unprocessed "feeling" of their being. What would it be like if we could encounter each other more like we encounter a cat or dog? Our own mental activity  in our regular way of encountering people might become more evident to us. 

At this point, we jumped back to the conversation about solidarity and whether or not we felt solidarity with someone. 

There is a theory called "prior unity"; this is the idea that the nature of reality is unified, intrinsically without separateness. If this were the case, how could we in fact feel anything but solidarity with another human being? 

What Roger is suggesting is that we are actively creating separation between our "selves" and each "other" in our cognitive processing (e.g., "I am not like him.")  If you could stop all that, would you encounter things in a different way? 

This of course reminds me of that Ted talk by Jill Bolte Taylor where she talks about her "stroke of insight." If you haven't seen it, well, I feel it is highly worth the 19 minutes that it takes to watch it. She, having been a neuroscientist, had a stroke where she lost the functioning of the left hemisphere of her brain. She was conscious enough that she knew what was happening and could describe the experience. By perceiving the world only through her right hemisphere, she was unable to differentiate her "self" from the "world" around her. She felt expansive and deeply at peace. Her experience is consistent with MRI studies done on monks who meditate; they indicate that when monks are in a state of "nirvana", their is a high degree of activity in the right hemisphere of their brains. 

Her experience really calls into question that nature of human perception and whether or not we are somehow filtering out a greater reality of wholeness through the activity of the left hemispheres of our brains.

Put another way, and referencing the questions of solidarity, Roger is wondering, "What am I generating that has me in a state that I don't experience solidarity?"  The underlying premise here is that the universe is a continuous, interconnected whole. To experience it otherwise would require action on our parts.

Is there something I would suspend or fast that would allow a different ground of action? Suppose you were just sitting and "feeling".  What if you related to what was occurring based on that, interacting at that level of reality?  What would change, if anything, about how you were? 

Homework: Attempt to directly interaction with the being of a moment. Start where you are. Feel what you feel. See if you can encounter reality and whether you would make different choices. 

Pete remembers the homework this way: "See if you can identify a structure you invoke by which you are able to prevent solidarity."

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