Dr Mark Vernon's talk, A Revolution in Attention

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  • Dr Mark Vernon's talk, A Revolution in Attention

    Posted by Mary Attwood on October 7, 2022 at 3:05 pm

    Dr Mark Vernon will be here in this discussion forum for anybody who attended his talk last night and would like to continue the discussion or ask Mark questions.

    Mark’s talk:

    A Revolution in Attention: perceptual awakening in the work of Iain McGilchrist

    The work of the psychiatrist and philosopher, Iain McGilchrist, draws on broadly two types of perception. Both required for a right relation with the fullest of the world, which is so often lacking in our times. So what might that wider perception of reality reveal? How might it change experience and stir spiritual awareness? In this talk, Mark Vernon will bring such possibilities into dialogue with insights from some of the great wisdom traditions. Drawing liberally on Iain’s work, he will consider the role of limits as pivots to knowing more, the sense of relatedness and intuiting the whole, and the centrality of letting go to the awareness of eternity.

    If you missed Mark’s talk you can find it under Lectures in the Library tab but here is a link for ease. https://members.channelmcgilchrist.com/1844813-2/

    Don Salmon replied 1 year, 1 month ago 12 Members · 36 Replies
  • 36 Replies
  • Joseph Woodhouse

    Member
    October 15, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    I found Dr. Vernon’s talk to be an illuminating synthesis of key insights into what we are calling, “attentional freedom”. Thank you for the revelations of Blake’s and Dante’s contributions. I loved the images that were shown during the talk.

    To cut right to what I see as the essential thrust of Dr. McGilchrist’s gift of wisdom to our planet in this time of ultimate crisis and I believe that Dr. Vernon is amplifying this wisdom, I pose this question: How do we free attention from its imprisonment in the left hemispheric mode of inhabiting the world when most of our efforts to do so, only make the walls of the prison more secure? I offer the following Sufi tale as a potent tool in this Great Work. I am interested in connecting to anyone who has escaped the prison… even if it was just a glimpse.

    The Indian Bird

    A merchant kept a bird in a cage. He was going to India, the land from which the bird came, and asked it whether he could bring anything back for it. The bird asked for its freedom, but was refused. So he asked the merchant to visit a jungle in India and announce his captivity to the free birds who were there.

    The merchant did so, and no sooner had he spoken when a wild bird, just like his own, fell senseless out of a tree on to the ground.

    The merchant thought that this must be a relative of his own bird, and felt sad that he should have caused this death.

    When he got home, the bird asked him whether he had brought good new from India.

    ‘No,’ said the merchant, ‘I fear that my news is bad. One of your relations collapsed and fell at my feet when I mentioned your captivity.’

    As soon as these words were spoken the merchant’s bird collapsed and fell to the bottom of the cage.

    ‘The news of his kinsman’s death has killed him, too,’ thought the merchant. Sorrowfully he picked up the bird and put it on the window-sill. At once the bird revived and flew to a near-by tree.

    ‘Now you know’, the bird said, ‘that what you thought was disaster was in fact good news for me. And how the message, the suggestion of how to behave in order to free myself, was transmitted to me through you, my captor.’ And he flew away, free at last.

    • Mark Delepine

      Member
      October 16, 2022 at 12:50 am

      Good question: “How do we free attention from its imprisonment in the left hemispheric mode of inhabiting the world when most of our efforts to do so, only make the walls of the prison more secure?How do we free attention from its imprisonment in the left hemispheric mode of inhabiting the world when most of our efforts to do so, only make the walls of the prison more secure?”

      This gets at why I think we have to question the desire to seek a path that will enable us to access and exploit the presented world directly for reasons conceived from within our predominantly left brain focused perspective. Acquiring more personal power and control in the hopes that will lead to wisdom puts the cart in front of the horse.

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        October 16, 2022 at 5:11 pm

        Hey Mark: Have you explored any meditative or contemplative practices?

        It seems to me there are just about endless types of practices which address all the issues that Iain brings up (and address many he doesn’t bring up).

        I’d love to see more discussion on this site about practices that can radically shift/transform attention:

        recognizing stillness, spaciousness, silence underlying our mind’s constant chatter.

        practices that directly enter into the “heart” – loving kindness, gratitude, etc

        practices of Presence, which seems to me to go beyond LH/RH, though perhaps when we live with the RH as “Master” we have more access to Present

        present moment practices, which seem to me to shift from LH to RH dominances

        shifting from the “Story” of the LH to sensory awareness, particularly sounds, which I find the single most rapid and easiest way to shift from LH to RH dominance.

        • Mark Delepine

          Member
          October 20, 2022 at 1:24 am

          I have always engaged in contemplative activities but have never engaged in any instruction or organized group practices. I’ve always walked in nature. I still do but now I also have been making a garden for the last thirty years. I used to draw and but now I mostly take some photos from my walks and garden. I’ve never pursued any of it with any result in mind but rather just to provide an opportunity to notice what arises when I leave room for something that doesn’t reflect one of my own conscious intentions.

          PS: Now I’ve turned alerts on for this thread too. Thanks for the reminder earlier.

    • Samuel Ford

      Member
      October 16, 2022 at 1:39 am

      Haha very good, I’ll try that trick if I get locked up!

    • Nic Hartshorne

      Member
      October 18, 2022 at 6:51 pm

      A really interesting talk. I’m a Psychotherapist, just about to embark on a Professional Doctorate, which has been influenced by Ianis work.

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        October 18, 2022 at 6:59 pm

        Well, as someone who finished the doctorate in psychology around 1999, my deepest sympathies.

        I remember around some time in the 2nd year, a group of 8 of us were sitting around and we all had the same feeling: “Doesn’t it feel like we’ve spent our entire LIVES in this program!!”

        So since I graduated, I’m often in touch with people about to do or in the midst of the doctorate and I always like to say, “Hey, really, there IS life after the doctorate.”

        Your term “professional doctorate” doesn’t sound like you’re from the US – British?

        And good luck. It’s a lot of work but well worth it. TIP! Many people go for the doctorate primarily to be therapists. If you can learn to enjoy evaluations, it pays VERY well – and I would urge you, even if you’re a little computer phobic, to get very very comfortable with online evaluations. I’m quite certain that neuropsychological testing, with precise measurements of galvanic skin response, brain waves, and many cognitive functions, is going to be the wave of the future. If you learn this stuff your job will never be outdated and you can earn enough to work just a few days a week if you live relatively simply.

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    October 15, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    It’s interesting. The kinds of attention associated with the right and left hemisphere are “functions” of a greater awareness (what once upon a time was referred to as “Spirit” with a capital S.

    If Mark stops by, I would be fascinated to hear how he relates the process or function of attention to that greater, boundless, luminous, vast, all encompassing, all permeating and all transcending Spirit (or Awareness, or Consciousness or Sat-Chit-Ananda, or whatever words you wish:>))

    • Mary Attwood

      Member
      October 19, 2022 at 4:11 pm

      Here is a message from Mark Vernon that he asked me to post here in the discussion forum:

      Thanks very much for the thoughts and comments. At heart, I think that attentional freedom, or moving from left to right types of perception, might be summarised as a process of receptive opening. So any moment or experience or practice that presents such a possibility, without trying to possess or fully understand, is valuable. Included in that are moments of breakdown or ordeal, too, which might with time become known as undergoings of transformation.

      For myself, I’ve pursued a mixture of practices, including my own psychotherapy, which was much to do with my own suffering and resistances, as well as meditative and yoga practices, and increasingly at the moment, practices of devotion – Bhakti yoga, in Indian traditions, or worship, in Christian/Sufi. I’m finding freeing lighting candles, bowing before images, singing, talking about loving the texts or figures in Christianity and elsewhere – not fully understanding why, but letting the devotion do its expressive and liberative work. Studying figures like Dante and Blake are guides in this, deeping my sense of devotional possibilities: they help me see how sadness, suffering, even raging, as well as longing, delight and communion are part of the letting go to let loose and let in the more.

      I sense it’s important to pursue what feels genuinely at the edge of opening – that sweet spot of yearning, risk and love – which might vary substantially from person to person, and also across time for any one individual. We might need to practice and stick at something, so as to settle any knack required (like learning to use the breath as a support in meditation) and exploring the riches, which take time coming because they only come as we change and are able to receive them. But we also need to feel free too, so any practice or religious activity keeps its essential quality of vitality (which can be a subtle matter to discern because all the spiritual adepts tell us that dryness can be part of the process).

      Mark

      • Clea De Vries

        Member
        October 20, 2022 at 3:22 am

        I’d like to offer something to Mark, and I can’t work out how to post this as a separate comment. I’d love his response, however, even if not, I’d appreciate it if this could be forwarded to him. I understand this is a bit lengthy and I do not wish to waste his time.

        I have been experimenting with techniques to gain access to soul memory and eternity. They are based on what I think I know about right and left brain (which admittedly isn’t much). However, my methods have brought me into surprisingly deep and direct contact with beings I now consider to be “soul family” and my own place in eternity. So, I’d like to share how I did this and a comment about how my emerging understanding of eternal systems is changing how I think about absolutely everything.

        How I got there began with an idea. If the right hemisphere is our interface with eternity, then to work meaningfully with its experiences, we’d need to be willing to meet it on its own terms. In other words, we’d need to accept that our encounters with eternity are likely to be impressionistic, associative, emotional, sensorily rich, and personal. They may feel very vivid and real and still be metaphorical, imaginative, and dream-like. They may not initially make much sense, especially if they involve recollections of lifetimes in places other than 3D Earth. They might also be very difficult to express in words.

        My method began with open-focus meditation (a simple one, just resting my awareness in my inner 3D sensory landscape). On a hunch, I added bilateral stimulation (hand tapping, as used in EMDR) to my process. (It seemed to help.) From there I started feeling my way into some key questions about myself (e.g., my earliest impressions of myself, what I had brought with me into this lifetime, my “soul purpose”, etc.).

        I was very careful about how I opened myself to the spiritual realm. I was clear on my intention to communicate only with beings whose expression is undistorted love. Each time, I started with something I knew well (such as an early experience of love) then felt my way into the positive associations. Gradually (over the course of a few months) I became aware of the presence of beings around me. I sensed them first as loving energies, each known to me very personally and each quite unique. My ability to sense their thoughts came in more slowly. I had to recognise that we were sharing at the place where thought is formed. And yet once I realised this, I quickly learned to distinguish their thoughts from my own.

        What feels like soul memory has also started emerging, but it is not a coherent narrative. It is more of a diffuse sense of knowing about my relationships with these beings, their personalities, impressions about our home, our shared history, the system I come from… It all feels so familiar to me, and yet, my ability to comprehend it and work with it meaningfully is frustratingly limited. My current theory is that there are two factors at play. Firstly, my own soul development (we can only comprehend eternity at our own level). Secondly, the brain and systems of human thought that are specific to this incarnation (e.g., science, philosophy, religion, mathematics).

        It would be logical to assume that we process our spiritual experiences the same way as any other lived experience. That is, our right brain “beholds” them (the experiential encounter) and our left brain turns them into a workable narrative.

        This brings me to a remark on Dante and Blake. I’m not a scholar, but I’m wondering if understanding the work of such visionaries might be usefully informed by the idea that they were operating within the same limitations of brain and culture. That is, they had direct encounters with eternity and highly advanced beings, but they could only interpret these with systems of thought available to them at the time.

        You made a short youtube video in which you summarised ten key insights from Dante. What stood out to me was that they were so similar to insights I have reached myself after glimpsing eternity. I interpreted my own experiences differently. Mine are more informed by science and science fiction – we are not alone in this physical universe, which is far more richly dimensioned than we realise or are currently able to perceive. Ultimately though, we don’t come to the truth by becoming attached to a particular paradigm or an addiction to empirical data. My opinion is that facts should be in service to truth and not be mistaken for it. Truth is found in themes, resonances, and insights, and tested by its capacity to trigger deep and lasting personal transformation. Working from this perspective would also seem to offer a useful way of gathering and working meaningfully with subjective material (e.g., themes vs facts).

        I believe we are sitting at a very important juncture in human history. Understanding the right hemisphere and how it handles information could be where science finally meets spirituality. Then perhaps we can also start thinking intelligently about eternal systems, such as how souls navigate countless lifetimes and epic stories, and how this changes the meaning of absolutely everything – from our interpersonal relationships to different “types” of soul groups (e.g., animals and plants) to philosophical problems that have plagued humans throughout history (such as the meaning of “evil” and what we do with it).

        These are just ideas, but my personal
        experiences have been so vivid and as real as anything I have experienced
        during this Earth lifetime that I felt I had to share. I’d love your thoughts
        on this, Mark. I hope it made some kind of sense.

        • Mark Vernon

          Member
          October 23, 2022 at 6:53 pm

          Clea, Thanks very much for sharing what you describe, which reminds me of a number of things.

          One is how we learnt to work with the countertransference in psychotherapy, which is the feelings that you get from being with someone, and how to differentiate them from feelings arising from within your own psyche. Also, how to work openly with them, which is to say not treating them literally but as indicators of possible next steps that need testing as much as following. I remember when Iain’s “Master and his Emissary” book came out and how warmly it was received amongst psychotherapists because his explanation resonated so well with their practice.

          Second is that I increasingly think worldview matters immensely when interpreting these type of experiences/encounters. Worldviews can close possibilities down, of course, as is the case with scientific materialism (for all its benefits, too). But they can be held more lightly as a kind of map, or set of maps, that are not regarded as absolute but can suggest how to respond. Your example of discerning the presence of love might be an example of that in practice: with the conviction that love is basic, following lines of love makes sense. I also wonder if you know the discernment practice of the Ignatian spiritual exercises, between what’s called consolation, meaning soul-expanding and so eternal or divine, and desolation, meaning soul-diminishing and so not eternal or divine. The habit of testing any perception, experience or feeling, almost moment by moment, can be very helpful.

          Third, I think that both Dante and Blake teach learning to follow what, at first, seem subtle, almost ignorable, lights – seen with the mind’s eye. These at first faint lights, that are also somehow compelling, become brighter as we orientate our lives more around them. Another way of putting that is the left-style attention learning to give way to right-style reception.

          I hope some of that makes sense with what seems to be a tremendous path that you are on.

          • Clea De Vries

            Member
            October 27, 2022 at 12:45 am

            Thank you so much for your response, Mark. You have such a beautiful writing style.

            What I am taking from this conversation is the importance of learning to tune into our subtle awareness and how this should inform everything we do. In counselling, it elevates psychotherapy from techne to healing encounter. In everyday life, people who once seemed problematic, small-minded, and adversarial suddenly look more like bright souls on a long journey. Even the substance of physical reality seems brighter and more alive. But no amount of reading and thinking about this idea creates the experience of it. One has to be willing to spend hours sitting with the maddeningly elusive until finally, those “subtle, almost ignorable, lights” (love the way you phrased that) start to expand. Then we discover the lights are not subtle at all. They never were. It was only a matter of where we were placing our attention.

            I’m not familiar with Ignatian spiritual philosophy but I will definitely explore this further, thank you.

            A final comment. I love the way you are working with Christianity. I had to walk away from the religion myself, not least because I could not accept the idea of eternal damnation, which equates to permanent removal of choice and any option to grow and change. I also struggled with the crucifixion and the idea of a god who requires repentance and obedience rather than self-determined growth based on reflection. My personal feeling is that all souls eventually reach point of realisation that any behaviour not driven by love inevitably leads to extinction. This is more or less what you have lifted from Dante (if I understand you correctly). However, we cannot hope to grasp this idea without some understanding of the sheer enormity of eternity and how souls grow and develop in such an arena. I also liked a suggestion you offered in one of your videos on Dante about the meaning of the crucifixion, which seemed to be that it may not have been strictly “necessary”, but rather a dramatic way for God to get our attention.

            It has been wonderful
            connecting with you. I will keep following your work. Thank you.

  • sjahari hollands

    Member
    May 15, 2023 at 11:53 pm

    After listening to Mark’s talk, I got his book on Dante’s Inferno on Audio and am working my way through it.

    Dipping into the Paradisio it seems clear to me that Dante must have experienced a kind of ascension of the soul like both Jesus and Mohammed experienced. There are many stories in the indigenous cultures that describe something similar. The spiritual guide of my spiritual practice also experienced this and it was the basis of Subud (that practice). the unique thing about Dante is that he had the ability to approach the experience poetically.

    Now Iian in his work skirts around all this but does not address it directly.

    I see the RH as a tool for the soul, just like the LH is. But it is not the soul itself. It seems that the soul has access to that realm of all the primal stuff (unus Mundi?) And that there is a life in that realm which Dante and these others experienced.

    ANy thoughts?

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      May 16, 2023 at 7:14 am

      What if “soul stuff” and “primal stuff” are the “same stuff” – in the way that waves and the ocean are the same stuff? And what if that same stuff isn’t really stuff at all – more like water currents than water per se? Maybe the RH and LH are also made of the same stuff through which the same stuff flows, like intricate ice caves constellated by a filigree of eddies and pools – and, of course, shaped by them?

      Just a few thoughts.

      • Lucy Fleetwood

        Member
        May 16, 2023 at 11:27 am

        I find this thread very interesting. I am a Buddhist (Tibetan), and in Buddhism there is not a belief in a soul. Rather the view is that life in samsara has various realms that we cycle through until we awake to the true nature of reality, often called buddha nature or dharmakaya, which is beyond conceptualisation or elaboration. I have also studied Ayurveda, and in an incredibly small way, I’m aware of the Vedic view that we are making our journey back to source (if anyone knows more and I have got this wrong please correct me). I don’t have a good understanding of this, and don’t know if the Vedic pathway has a belief in soul. For Tibetan Buddhism, the Vedic Gods are still part of Samsara (cyclic existence based on karma and dependant origination), all the 6 realms of Samsaric existence are viewed as states of mind, but not a mind that belongs to a ‘person’, rather a mind stream. I am interested in the words we use in different traditions, to frame our journey of understanding through life.

        • Don Salmon

          Member
          May 20, 2023 at 8:54 pm

          Hi Lucy – do you know Robert Thurman? He is the first American, I believe, to become a monk in a Tibetan Buddhist order, and was chair of the Dept of Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia U (I saw this not to say he’s right about anything in particular, just that he may be worth listening to:>))

          He speaks of a “Self of Selflessness,” referring to a commonality in the Tibetan and Vedic traditions. I think someone else here, I don’t recall who, referred to the ocean and the waves. Knowing myself as the ocean of infinite consciousness doesn’t negate the value of myself as a wave; in fact, there’s a continuity of shape and form of a wave, and knowing my connection to the ocean may even be considered as giving me more value.

          But the above paragraph is conceptual. I can analyze the Buddhist vs Vedic traditions, yet there’s a feeling, in spite of anything I think or read, of individuality. So right now, if I let the verbal thoughts fade away into complete silence, there’s a sense of the “same” vibration animating all, yet the trees and the cat next to me shine with their own brilliant, radiant luminosity while at the same time shining with the same vibration.

          I don’t know if that makes any sense. This is only recently becoming clear – experientially – and I suppose I could say it in Buddhist or Christian or even scientific language, I’m trying to learn to write in more childlike language. Hope it makes a little sense.

          • Joseph Woodhouse

            Member
            May 21, 2023 at 2:45 am

            Hi Don, For me, uncovering our wholeness, is an experience that you clearly point to in your posting. Not through any intellectual effort or arrangement of words, but by simply noticing that we naturally and always have this ability to experientially connect to all of life, we can come to be grounded moment by moment in our wholeness. Attention is freed from the need to explain and the flow and vibration in our bodies resonates with all that is.

            • Don Salmon

              Member
              May 21, 2023 at 12:11 pm

              Thanks Joseph, much appreciated.

          • Lucy Fleetwood

            Member
            May 22, 2023 at 11:51 am

            Hi Don,

            Thank you for your reply. Another concept of Tibetan Buddhism is the idea of relative and ultimate reality. The view is that at the relative level, we exist, and experience ourselves as separate beings that truly exist, but at the ultimate level (true nature of reality), we don’t, anymore than the person we were last night in our dreams actually exists. The reason it is so hard to articulate this, is because it is beyond elaboration, as soon as we use language, we can only point in a direction. And we do all our thinking through our sense of being a person. Suffering for Buddhism is this mistaken identification with a self. The ego is a process that we assign a self to. We do a similar thing with ideas of ‘soul’. It’s fascinating. In Buddhism there are the two vehicles (pathways), hinyana and mahayana. They each have skillful ways to create the conditions withing the mind that will allow for enlightenment, except the hinyana retains a subtle sense of self, that prevents enlightenment. The mahayana vehicle which focuses on traveling the path for the benefit of all beings, aims to cut through this. Someone on the mahayana path will also practice the hinyana pathway that creates right moral conduct and addresses the disturbed emotions, which then gives space to practice the mahayana practices. And these practices teach how suffering is due to this mistake sense of self. And so, from this perspective, if we cling to the idea of a soul, that ‘I’ exist beyond dependent origination, then we stay stuck in samsara living our the karma within the mindstream. I am probably not explaining this very well. I wonder about the LH and RH, does the sense of ‘self’ belong to the LH and no sense of self with the RH, or have I got that wrong?

            • Don Salmon

              Member
              May 22, 2023 at 1:29 pm

              Hi Lucy:

              I’m an outlier here – I love Iain’s work but I don’t think it applies literally in a kind of one to one way. There are many ways of “self-ing” and I suspect they involve the whole body as well as vast realms of non-physical realities that neurologists know nothing of. I suppose if one must, you might way the verbal self is related to the LH, but there is definitely a different kind of ego-self in the RH (if you examine Jill Bolte’s writings, you’ll see a sense of separate self VERY much present even in her silent mind. Spirituality is not so simple as we like to make it these days)

              As far as the Self in Buddhism, I fear that words get in our way as well. In fact, there are numerous of the most ancient Pali writings in which the Atman is described using exactly the same terms as the Upanishads, and is considered a core Reality.

              Besides that, there is simply no question in Tibetan Buddhism that all 4 major schools, Nyingma and the others whose spelling I don’t recall) accept continuity of consciousness from life to life.

              There’s also no question that nobody in any contemplative tradition – Christian, Jewish, Taoist, etc – accepts the reality of an inherently existing separate “self.”

              I think really, most of the problems modern people have talking about individuality in spiritual contexts is that we have an underlying physicalist view which prevents us from seeing clearly. I remember quite vivid details from other lives, but those lives were not “Don.” I’m not Don either in that sense.

              Sri Aurobindo, in his chapter in the Life Divine, on the Eternal and the Individual, describes this better than I’ve ever seen anywhere. When we hear the word “individual” our ordinary minds almost always make this into a thing, something separate. But it is THE DIVINE only, the only existent.

              Now, people who only vaguely know Asian philosophy as “illusionist” or “world denying’ think that somehow denies multiplicity. But it is the Divine radiantly, playfully, ecstatically appearing in an individualized form, never separate from the cosmic nor from the transcendent. I don’t know if Rodney is here, but I’m sure he’ll recognize this as the Trinity.

              The same Trinitarian view is in Tibetan Buddhism in discussion of the Dharmakaya.

              You see how impossible words are! This is why except here on the McGilchrist channel, I’m practicing writing for teenagers. Let’s see if I can close this with simpler words.

              The birds are chirping, and the trees outside my window are very very subtly shifting in the wind. I hear Jan in the other room doing Qigong, and I also hear the sound of my Time Machine backup humming.

              There is hearing, seeing, thinking, feeling. There is a radiant, joyful Presence and awareness of all this. As the mind gets quieter and the heart starts to open, it feels directly like Presence/Awareness hearing-seeing-thinking-feeling-itself, but an itSelf which is boundless, infinite, timeless, yet dynamically alive.

              Still too complicated! I’ll keep trying:>))

  • sjahari hollands

    Member
    May 20, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    what is the “it” that cycles through the various stages. Or what is the “I” within the “we”? What is the identity that does this work? Couldnt the word soul be used for that?

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    May 21, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Rodney:

    I hope you’ll forgive me if I dodge the “right or wrong” question. My motto is, if we’re talking about spiritual matters and we begin to argue right or wrong, we’re already off track.

    You’re right, I’m right, and we’re both “wrong” if we think words can bring us any finality in regard to anything about an infinite, boundless, ineffable, trans-conceptual reality (ie God:>)

    As far as specifics, I like Marilynn Robinson’s take-down of positivism; and the view of Buddhism she describes is one version of the Theravada school (there are others which accept individuality and rebirth, etc).

    But this post I just wrote in response to Mike might be helpful:

    Very interesting discussion. I personally have no idea what idea is correct or not, but I just wanted to add to Mike’s comment, there have been discussions of individuality vs no-individuality in Eastern and Western contemplative traditions for thousands of years, so I’m guessing we won’t reach any resolution here!

    I just wanted to share two views that are different from Ramana Maharshi’s (David Godman, who Mike linked to, was a disciple of the Maharshi)

    SRI AUROBINDO

    The Aurobindo Ashram is about 3 hours down the road from Maharshi’s Ashram in South India. The Mother (Mirra Alfassa, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner) used to joke with disciples, saying, “If you want peace, drop by Maharshi’s Ashram, if you want to work for evolution, you’re welcome to stay here.”

    The Aurobindo folks around the world tend to set up a conflict with Maharshi, saying he’s “part of the old yoga” and claiming they are practicing “at the edge of evolution.”

    A very interesting story – Kapali Sastry was a disciple of Maharshi’s in the early 1900s. Around 1920 or so, he left and became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. A few years after that, he wrote a commentary on one of Maharshi’s writings (Maharshi didn’t actually write – people took notes on what he spoke, but that’s a small side matter).

    The interesting thing is, Sastry’s commentary celebrates the soul, describes it as persisting from life to life, and there are numerous other aspects of the commentary that are almost completely in line with Sri Aurobindo and what David Godman would think of as radically opposed to what Maharshi taught.

    Yet the Maharshi went over Sastry’s commentary line by line (it was a LONG commentary) and said he fully approved of every sentence.

    Just something to ponder.

    MARK VERNON AND OWEN BARFIELD

    I don’t know if Mark is stopping by here. I just saw a wonderful interview he did with the “Transcendent Psychotherapist” https://www.youtube.com/watch?<wbr>v=Kxt8jBYWwoU

    He speaks of Owen Barfield’s view of the fundamental importance of the individuated “I AM” not only for humans but in relationship to the very purpose of the existence of the universe.

    No right or wrong intended here – just sharing that some of the greatest contemplatives in history have had radically different views (despite the Sastry story, Sri Aurobindo himself stated numerous times his radically different views from those of the Maharshi)

    Meanwhile, I’m hear enjoying the gently moving branches of the trees outside my window, the dance of light on the leaves, the sweet interplay of the chorus of birds, the hum of my Time Machine backup, and the reflection of light on the timer on my iPad which is keeping track of my steps on the mini trampoline. Am about to heat up the ginger drink for my wife, Jan and make my own iced coffee, after which I’ll be editing several audio tracks for videos we’ll be uploading in a while.

    Radiant, luminous, divine play continues timelessly, from timeless moment to dynamically moving moment.

    • Rodney Marsh

      Member
      May 22, 2023 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks Don

      V wise and knowledgeable as usual and interesting stuff about Aurobindo.

      I hope Robinson has read McGilchrist… and vice versa. I’m sure they would both inform the other.

      My own uninformed opinion comes from my intuitions informed by the Christian faith and the affirmation that it provides (through the central doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection) of the importance of ‘matter’ (the body) as part of the process IMG describes and affirms as God and the importance of mythos in understanding and celebrating becoming.

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        May 22, 2023 at 1:16 pm

        Hi Rodney – gee this thread is getting long!:>))

        Apart from the Tantric traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism, I’ve always related most closely to the mystical Christian tradition, particular with regard to the incarnation and the importance of matter. I think we’re “one” in this:>))

  • Mike Todd

    Member
    May 21, 2023 at 4:38 am

    Hi Sjahari,

    You could use the word “soul”, of course, but I wouldn’t, because one meaning of “soul” (which appears to be its assumed meaning) is “immortal self”, and this entails that individuation has some ontological purchase. I don’t believe that individuation has any ontological purchase: I don’t believe I am an immortal self but rather a timeless Self that has also been referred to as “Essence or Impersonal Real”:

    https://www.davidgodman.org/bhagavans-self-realisation/

    Also:

    “Questioning ‘Who am I?’ within one’s mind, when one reaches the Heart, the individual ‘I’ sinks crestfallen, and at once reality manifests itself as ‘I-I’. Though it reveals itself thus, it is not the ego ‘I’ but the perfect being the Self Absolute.”

    https://www.davidgodman.org/i-and-i-i-a-readers-query/

    I consider “I-I” synonymous with awareness of awareness, i.e. foundational consciousness. I believe that this foundational impersonal consciousness individuates into higher-order personal consciousness which untimely returns to the ground, perhaps – and this is highly-speculative – in order to know itself better (Gnothi seauton): the whole divides – differentiates, to be precise – in the process of becoming more whole; Dr. McGilchrist describes an individuated analogue to this process, the right-left-right hemispheric cycle, in his books

    • Don Salmon

      Member
      May 21, 2023 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Mike and Sjahari:

      Very interesting discussion. I personally have no idea what idea is correct or not, but I just wanted to add to Mike’s comment, there have been discussions of individuality vs no-individuality in Eastern and Western contemplative traditions for thousands of years, so I’m guessing we won’t reach any resolution here!

      I just wanted to share two views that are different from Ramana Maharshi’s (David Godman, who Mike linked to, was a disciple of the Maharshi)

      SRI AUROBINDO

      The Aurobindo Ashram is about 3 hours down the road from Maharshi’s Ashram in South India. The Mother (Mirra Alfassa, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner) used to joke with disciples, saying, “If you want peace, drop by Maharshi’s Ashram, if you want to work for evolution, you’re welcome to stay here.”

      The Aurobindo folks around the world tend to set up a conflict with Maharshi, saying he’s “part of the old yoga” and claiming they are practicing “at the edge of evolution.”

      A very interesting story – Kapali Sastry was a disciple of Maharshi’s in the early 1900s. Around 1920 or so, he left and became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. A few years after that, he wrote a commentary on one of Maharshi’s writings (Maharshi didn’t actually write – people took notes on what he spoke, but that’s a small side matter).

      The interesting thing is, Sastry’s commentary celebrates the soul, describes it as persisting from life to life, and there are numerous other aspects of the commentary that are almost completely in line with Sri Aurobindo and what David Godman would think of as radically opposed to what Maharshi taught.

      Yet the Maharshi went over Sastry’s commentary line by line (it was a LONG commentary) and said he fully approved of every sentence.

      Just something to ponder.

      MARK VERNON AND OWEN BARFIELD

      I don’t know if Mark is stopping by here. I just saw a wonderful interview he did with the “Transcendent Psychotherapist” https://www.youtube.com/watch?<wbr>v=Kxt8jBYWwoU

      He speaks of Owen Barfield’s view of the fundamental importance of the individuated “I AM” not only for humans but in relationship to the very purpose of the existence of the universe.

      No right or wrong intended here – just sharing that some of the greatest contemplatives in history have had radically different views (despite the Sastry story, Sri Aurobindo himself stated numerous times his radically different views from those of the Maharshi)

      Meanwhile, I’m hear enjoying the gently moving branches of the trees outside my window, the dance of light on the leaves, the sweet interplay of the chorus of birds, the hum of my Time Machine backup, and the reflection of light on the timer on my iPad which is keeping track of my steps on the mini trampoline. Am about to heat up the ginger drink for my wife, Jan and make my own iced coffee, after which I’ll be editing several audio tracks for videos we’ll be uploading in a while.

      Radiant, luminous, divine play continues timelessly, from timeless moment to dynamically moving moment.

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    May 21, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t know if Mark is coming back here, but I’d love to here more of his take on Owen Barfield’s critique of materialist science.

    I think the opening chapter of “Saving the Appearances” is one of the clearest and most brilliant expositions of the fundamental misunderstanding of materialism.

    here’s a lovely short cartoon illustrating the basic view of that chapter:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dHO1Qgy7C8

    • Joseph Woodhouse

      Member
      May 21, 2023 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you for posting these insights. I am resonant with your flow on the Way. What is interesting to me is the quality of moment to moment awareness. Studying the work of Mark Vernon, first his new book on spiritual intelligence and now his Divine Comedy exploration has resulted in noticed shifts in the quality of awareness which could possibly be described as a thawing of attention from frozen contracted states into the flowing wholeness. I just got the same effect from watching the Owen Barfield “cartoon”. There is immediately within us something inconceivably enormous, energetic, mysterious and totally alive…whenever we notice it, words become trivial…

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        May 21, 2023 at 2:57 pm

        Hi Joseph:

        You make such interesting points. The one that moved me most was the insight that it’s not techniques per se that lead to the shift in attention; that ANYTHING can serve as an inspiration to open to a new way of seeing, of being, being with God, or Brahman, or the Tao, or what you wish.

        I notice in much of the discussions on this channel, there’s a lot of ambivalence about techniques. And in many modern circles (without being aware how much this ambivalence owes to the Protestant Reformation!), there is a similar ambivalence.

        I myself felt this for about 6 years when I first came across contemplative practices. Finally, in 1976, I said to myself, “just do it.”

        As far as I’m aware, even including Krishnamurti, perhaps the most radical anti-practice speaker of the modern age, there isn’t a single genuine contemplative – from the most ancient Vedic sages to Christians, Jews, Sufis, etc – who hasn’t at some point engaged in practices.

        In our modern LH age, practice is seen as somehow mechanical, artificial.

        But even basic breath watching (Thich Nhat Hanh teaches it this way) can be a celebration of the Divine, of a sacred all pervading reality.

        it’s not the technique but the attitude we bring to it. No doubt, all techniques are left behind ultimately, but as a meditation teacher friend of mine said to a student who decided to give up all techniques – my friend responding in a thoroughly non intellectual, “Dr. Phil” kind of way: “how’s that workin’ out for you?”

        Not so well, it turns out. For me personally, the struggle between effort/techniques and surrender/grace has been one of the most fruitful of my life. Once you get it, you can use any technique as a means of surrender, letting go, no techniques. This goes so far beyond the LH/RH distinction, too.

        • Don Salmon

          Member
          May 21, 2023 at 2:59 pm

          Hi again: Literally seconds after posting the previous comment, I got this in my inbox, from meditation teacher Chris Willard. It speaks to exactly the points about practice:

          Can I Be A Mindful Parent, Without Meditating Every Day?

          It was about nine years ago that I went to the meditation center to ask my teacher how I could possibly practice once I had started a family. Her answer was simple and surprising, and in many ways the basis of my new course.

          “You don’t!”

          I was stunned! Everything I thought I’d learned from my teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach and others made me think that if I wasn’t meditating, I was somehow doing it wrong!

          “Your practice is now off the cushion,” she explained.

          “This is the real practice, real life, dealing with change, and there’s nothing more real, and nothing that changes your world and you faster than kids. What you want to practice now”, she explained, “is cultivating in yourself and your family qualities like generosity, equanimity, wisdom, ethics and so much more.”

          After my teacher threw down that gauntlet, I began studying the neuroscience behind mindfulness, child development research, as well as the spiritual wisdom from around the world, all to create The Science and Spirit of Mindful Parenting/Caregiving.

          This is a ten week, twenty hour, course that can stand alone or supplement my previous course: Growing Up Mindful.

          Graduates are calling it deeper and more profound than my other offerings, and I can’t wait to have you join and learn in community with other parents and caregivers, as we learn to embody and cultivate generosity, wisdom, honesty, ethics, hard work, equanimity, and ten spiritual values that we can all agree on.

          Click through to see how the program works, get the early bird price, register today before it fills up!

          Yours in mindfulness,
          Chris Willard

        • Joseph Woodhouse

          Member
          May 21, 2023 at 3:41 pm

          Greetings Don, I think you and I are making a very interesting connection here in which we can discover and amplify the process of “thawing” or “unfreezing” attention. I hear you on your thoughts about practice and technique. I would add classical Sufi stories as another “technique”. These techniques all can easily “freeze” attention and just as easily “thaw” attention.

          As a sidelight, many years ago, I attended in person Krishnamurti’s Ojai talks. No doubt about it, he led the audience to an encounter with wholeness though, at the time, I was unable to understand the pattern well enough to move freely within it. Still, I realize as I am writing this that the encounter was essential to the metamorphosis that people are seeking.

          • Don Salmon

            Member
            May 21, 2023 at 4:04 pm

            Hi,

            Perhaps you can do me a favor? Over at our website, http://www.RememberToBe.Life, we’re inviting people to shift attention with rather little reference to conventional practices (we do some simple things like breath watching or what we call “breathing with words,” but for the most part we’re inviting people simply to look more closely at their everyday experience).

            I took some recent neurological findings about different modes or states of the brain and tried to put it in VERY simple everyday language. It’s the 2nd video on the home page, if you scroll down a bit, the one on effortlessness.

            In Iain’s language, it’s contrasting LH and RH attention – but as I’ve said a lot in these forums, my experience, in practical terms, is that you can’t really separate out LH and RH this way; in our actual experience, it’s always mixed. It’s very helpful, I think, to make these distinctions, but after you’ve made the distinctions I think it’s good to forget about them.

            I think the distinction of effortful/tense attention vs flow or effortless attention is much more helpful. LH and RH, to some extent, depend on conceptual understanding, whereas you can feel very powerfully right in the moment the extent to which you’re exerting stressful, effortful, tense energy or allowing (and again, you’ll find in experience that there’s always a lended mix of effort and effortlessness).

            If you have the time – I think the video is about 8 or 9 minutes – I’d love to hear your reflections.

            • Joseph Woodhouse

              Member
              May 22, 2023 at 2:17 am

              I checked your website and watched the video. You come across as a very compassionate and experienced psychotherapist. It would seem to me that your courses could be very helpful to people who have had a glimpse of wholeness or intuit that some metamorphosis is possible but are stuck with the emissary usurping the role of master, to use Ian’s metaphor.

              By the way, to bring in Dr. Vernon, which is the original inspiration for this particular thread; his commentary on Dante’s “Divine Comedy” has provided me with some very powerful metaphors. I would suggest that you are trying to attract clientele to your programs who are stuck in purgatory. Dante described, 700 years ago, people whose attention is frozen in the first three levels that you describe in your video.

              Perhaps the challenge is to help people notice exactly where they are before they are able to free attention and enjoy the effortless states that you are teaching. By definition, those folks have been unable to see themselves as they are with non-judgemental, non-interfering, witnessing awareness and may have much of their lives invested in the contractions of denial, distraction, fear, hatred, anger or sheer struggle to survive. Hard to break through those prison walls. Here is another Sufi tale that addresses these issues:

              Prisoner by Idries Shah

              A man was once sent to prison for something which he had not done.

              When he had behaved in an exemplary way for some months, his jailers began to regard him as a model prisoner.

              He was allowed to make his cell a little more comfortable; and his wife sent him a prayer-carpet which she had herself woven.

              When several more months had passed, this man said to his guards:

              ‘I am a metalworker, and you are badly paid. If you can get me a few tools and some pieces of tin, I will make small decorative objects, which you can take to the market and sell. We could split the proceeds, to the advantage of both parties.’

              The guards agreed, and presently the smith was producing finely-wrought objects whose sale added to everyone’s well-being.

              Then, one day, when the jailers went to the cell, the man had gone. They concluded that he must have been a magician.

              After many years when the error of the sentence had been discovered and the man was pardoned and out of hiding, the king of that country called him and asked him how he had escaped.

              The tinsmith said:

              ‘Real escape is possible only with the correct concurrence of factors. My wife found the blacksmith who had made the lock on the door of my cell, and other locks throughout the prison. She embroidered the interior designs of the locks in the rug which she sent me, on the spot where the head is prostrated in prayer. She relied upon me to register this design and to realize that it was the wards of the locks. It was necessary for me to get materials with which to make the keys, and to be able to hammer and work metal in my cell. I had to enlist the greed and need of the guards, so that there would be no suspicion. That is the story of my escape.’

            • Don Salmon

              Member
              May 22, 2023 at 1:19 pm

              You’re very sweet. Thank you SO much for watching, and I appreciate the comments.

              I LOVE Shah’s Sufi stories. I’ll share with you one of my favorites:

              Mulla Nasruddin made yearly trips across the border. As he pushed his wheelbarrow full of straw across the border, the guard would stop him and search thoroughly, convinced he was smuggling something.

              Over the years, the guard was convinced that the Mulla was up to no good, but could never figure out what he was smuggling.

              Finally, one day after the guard retired, the Mulla happened to meet him at a cafe. They sat down as friends to share coffee and the guard said, “Ok, now please, can you tell me, what was it you were smuggling?”

              The Mulla replied, “I was smuggling straw.”

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