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..:: Messages ::..

By

Alan Schneider

                                                                      

              “What do Communications scholars study? They study messages.” This simple quote, from Dr. Paul Monjeaux of the ASU Communications Department, conceals a complex human social reality – we are what, and how, we communicate on Shakespeare’s world stage. We are the messages that we express to each other, as our roles in the production change, or, perhaps, do not change, but our understanding of those roles does. It is the phenomenon of change that is mirrored in our communication decisions and choices. We touched on this phenomenon in the last article on “Time” – it is the progression of change in the world that creates our perception of time and linear existence. And this condition of linear perception is the direct result of our sensory biology – essentially, we can only attend to one event at a time – in  a universe of infinite simultaneous events, themselves unfolding into an infinite complex of more universes through the action of our perceptual “decisions”. These decisions occur quite rapidly – on the order of every 0.1 second, too rapidly for us to even notice in most cases, yet we still observe and decide, frequently unconsciously, but actively nonetheless. The ultimate conclusion that any intelligent observer must come to in this matter is that we are barely capable of conscious perception and deliberation at all, and any action we take is suspect in terms of its immediate and long range consequences. We can barely know what we do, let alone what our actions will cause, locked as we are in the perceptual moment. Our form of consciousness seems to be of the most primitive order, yet also seems to be the apex of consciousness on the planet, and, as far as we can scientifically determine, in the universe. Truly, we are all so like Plato’s men in the cave – we see our shadows cast upon the wall in the firelight, and take this for the fact of existence! 

            As I additionally noted in the last article, it is possible to exceed our standing perceptual limitations through the application of certain admittedly less than scientifically sound procedures, notably meditation practice. The validity of meditation as a method of consciousness exploration rests on the Jungian model of the Psyche, itself something not subject to scientific verification, although intriguing as a theory. If we wish to know the mind, we must somehow step outside the mind, and science says this is impossible – the mind is subordinate to the physical organ of the mind – the brain. I must flatly assert in response to the arguments of physical science, that science cannot give us the answer that we need to solve the riddle of life. We yearn for connectedness and meaning, and these can only come from spirituality, not the sterile, mechanistic objectivity of science. This is why meditation is such a powerful tool – it opens the doors of perception directly by boldly disregarding science, and the ego that is enslaved to linear logic. Even as limitedly sentient creatures, we must strive for the ultimate meaning and purpose of life as we know it, both within and beyond the senses. Science cannot supply that meaning. 

            To understand the total perspective of our “messages”, we must use the extended frame of reference that is implied in Jung’s model of the Psyche. We can only know the final truth of our statements from the viewpoint of this model, because it postulates the center of consciousness as something integrated apart from, and beyond, the Freudian personal ego.  If Freud was right, then we are all doomed to communicate only as effectively as our cultural conditioning will permit us to – anything occurring beyond the definitions of this or that culture will not even be subject to recognition. This makes us all perceptually blind and deaf, and, in fact, so we are. 

            At the center of the Jungian sphere of the Psyche is the Logos, the Soul, the Self, the evident seat of all knowing of every possible kind. No matter how subtle it may be, a given culture cannot possibly express this level of experience, even if it is commonly “known” and accepted – it must be contacted directly somehow, through extra-personal investigation. Meditation is one such method of investigation, whether scientific or not. When we have begun to be released from the senses and their perceptual restrictions, we have also begun to attain successively deeper levels of understanding of all the messages that we send and receive in the world. In truth, we are not communicating anything, the Self is communicating through us and to us at the biological level of consciousness. Our supposed existence is a mere reflection, a shadow image, of what really exists – the Logos at the center of the Cosmic Experience, and the fleeting nature of our little personal messages mirrors this truth – gone almost as quickly as they are expressed.

            An individual life is also a message to the world on many levels. This “message” is perhaps more enduring than an act of personal communication, a message about and from the Soul and the extended Karma associated with it. All of the little personal messages that I express are ultimately reflections of my Soul and Karma, manifest as the great messages of the Logos.  The lives that we live on the world stage tell stories – extended messages describing personal struggles and experiences in dealing with destiny – Karma, by another name – and confronting the Soul as the personal center of existence. This is the ultimate meaning of life, even for those who do not know about, have never heard of, or do not accept the existence of either the Soul or Karma. Even if I deny that I have a spiritual essence apart from the ego, the body, and the sensory experience, the fact that so many others among my fellows feel that they have such perceptions means that they do exist on some significant level, and must be at least seriously considered and debated about. 

            This debate, this argumentation, can never be resolved on the level of the ego’s limited understanding of its condition. It is simply imperative that we do something to step outside of the “box” of logical limitation into our extended perceptual capabilities. The process of meditation achieves this requirement for the logic-free conscious exploration of consciousness. Because this methodology is so important in achieving a fully functional experience of the Psyche, I am going to initiate an ongoing discussion in exploration of this matter in the weeks to follow, beginning with the initiation of the initial trance state through Mindfulness Meditation now.  

            Nothing is more central to zoological existence than breathing. In fact, even plants “breath” in the obverse sense to most animals – consuming carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Continuous gaseous exchange is one of the essential requirements of life as we know it. In the “higher” animal life forms, such as human beings, respiration is also linked to organismic arousal and relaxation – heightened and reduced sensitivity to stimuli, respectively. So it is that the focused, relaxed breathing techniques of meditation also initiate the relaxation of ego-focused attention, and the ego process itself. As this relaxation is initiated, the normally acute focus of awareness becomes diffuse, and this is diffusion is accompanied by the onset of first-stage trance – the entry into an altered state of consciousness characterized by the relaxation of the perceptual inhibitions held in place by the ego. This is the Golden Gate to all of the experiences of higher consciousness to follow, culminating eventually in the experience of the non-dual perception of the Logos at the highest level attainable to beings still constrained in physical bodies. 

            But, initially, most people do not experience this state of Samadhi with God. Initially, most people experience more or less limited visions in stage one trance having symbolic content of mixed personal and universal – i.e. collective – nature. The habitual influence of the ego is still quite present at this stage of things, and bleeds over into the trance experience. This is complicated by the fact that there is a “coral reef” of personal repressed unconscious material surrounding the conscious ego, and this region is necessarily the first thing encountered in meditation. This is also true in hypnosis, a fact that Freud clearly appreciated through his use of hypnosis in therapy as a means of probing repression. I have heard the theory expressed that meditation is simply a variety of self-hypnosis, one that is relatively more controllable by the subject than the externally induced post-hypnotic trance of the therapist. I personally feel that this is one of meditation’s benefits – the enhanced level of personal control places the practitioner in a role of responsibility for the outcome of the process. I always advise participants in my meditation classes to maintain an awareness of the content of their trance experiences, and come back to normal, ego-focused awareness if they are becoming too uncomfortable in meditation for any reason.  

            A variety of responses to first meditation occurs. Some people cannot meditate at all; their ego-dialog – referred to in Hinduism as “the chattering of the monkeys of the mind” – will not allow them to enter trance to any extent. This is probably just as well – such individuals frequently harbor a pronounced degree of personal trauma and repression, and relaxation in those cases is the precursor to emotional explosion. I also tell people in my classes that it’s OK not to meditate, as long as they can avoid disturbing others present who wish to.  

            Most of the time, most people can attain some extent of trance on the first attempt. This may be characterized by a variety of reported experiences. Some practitioners report an uneventful “blank” consciousness. Others report assorted feelings of many inflections – anxiety, moderate relaxation to states of bliss, curiosity, dissociated fear, occasional anger, love, compassion, and grace. These feelings may or may not be accompanied by auditory or visual “hallucinations” – things perceived without evident external causality – a probability, since there is usually darkness present in the meditation room (or the practitioners have closed their eyes), and this darkness is accompanied by as much quiet as possible. These “visions” of perception are often of mixed content as previously noted – both personal and collective, but frequently referenced to memories of life experiences in this life, or perhaps a past life, in the more collective cases. The practice of meditation requires persistence to bear fruit. The initial experiences are often disturbing as the “reef” of repression is encountered by the practitioner. 

            The symbolic content of the visions experienced in meditation is the real essence of the experience. When the ego is relaxed, whatever comes up next is bound to be of premier significance. Even on first attempts at meditation, I have heard emotional reports of profound personal insights gained through the symbolic expressions experienced. The symbols involved can be literally anything in nature. A flying pink giraffe is completely feasible in meditation trance, and, as preposterous as this sounds, such a vision can be of intense personal significance to the practitioner under the right circumstances. There are no rules other than “accept your experience” in meditation! As a rule, I invite the participants to voluntarily report their experiences upon returning to “normal” consciousness, and may comment on their observations only to the extent that such commentary does not invalidate their perceptions. The individual is the first, best judge of the meaning and importance of experience in or out of trance. I will also invite the others present to contribute their knowledge with the same proviso noted above – this contribution must enhance, not disparage, the experience reported.  

            The process of trance is inherently healing, with the proviso that there is still such a thing as “too much too fast”. The meditative condition should not be “pushed” on anyone, or by anyone, any faster than the natural capacity of the individual practitioner to accept change dictates. The gradual contact with symbolically repressed memories allows for gentle acknowledgement and release of much personal injury while practicing meditation. After all, practicing and experiencing love and compassion is what we are all here for, and meditation assists these developments in human affairs. 

            Occasionally, certain verbal directives can be given to guide the process of trance. There are many primary Jungian archetypes that constitute the building blocks of consciousness, and any one of these can be mentioned as a focusing device prior to the entry into trance. This practice represents a departure from traditional Mindfulness Meditation techniques, and I tend to use it very sparingly. Some of the primary archetypes are fundamentally negative in character, and caution is necessary in employing them as directives. I generally will make a statement like “Tonight we will meditate with ___________ as our focus. If anyone begins to feel uncomfortable with this, please come out of trance immediately and simply sit quietly until the interval is concluded”. The voluntary nature of meditation makes such an “escape clause” very practicable, and I have not had a problem with anyone using this method to make a premature exit from trance.

            I use a more or less fixed format for initiating meditation. First, I invite all the participants to attain the most comfortable position they can. There are schools of meditation that are for “discipline freaks”, featuring a variety of uncomfortable positions, but I have found these to be counterproductive for most people. The only “requirement” here is that the participants be encouraged to remain upright, but this can be waved as well. Next, I invite the participants to close their eyes and take three long, deep breaths, as far in as possible, holding briefly, and then fully releasing. I always participate myself in this process, reciting “relax”, “release”, and finally “let go”, after each breath. I have learned how to casually monitor the class from my own trance state over the years of my practice. As the class drifts into trance, I will suggest that they simply note any distractions that may occur, either internally or externally, and then allow them to pass by, as they continue to simply observe their breathing. The final act that I perform will be to chant “OM, peace, peace, peace” quietly as the group trance deepens. At the conclusion of the interval, which varies from ten minutes to hours, depending on the level of experience of the participants, I will call the group back by softly saying “Now, return to the sense of the room, the world, the Maya, and, when you feel ready, open your eyes”. The post-meditation discussion then follows, at the group’s exclusively voluntary discretion. 

            The Logos is the source of all inspiration, of all the “messages” expressed by all of the players on the stage of life. As we communicate with each other, we are sharing these messages among ourselves, and with the personal and collective Soul within us. As the Logos sends me inspiration in the coming weeks, I will continue to expand on this central topic in consciousness investigation. Apart from much more invasive approaches, such as near-death experiences, hallucinogenic drug use, and external hypnosis, meditation is the only way “out of the box” that I know will work for most people, and is far less problematic than those others just mentioned. I invite you to return to these pages in the weeks to come for more adventures of the Mind!

           

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                                  (CR2008, Alan Schneider)

 

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