What does a life full of meaning feel like? What does it feel like to be authentic inside your skin? How do you know when you are living a full, authentic life? How can you quantify the sensations joy you feel in the entirety of your being when, say, your child wholeheartedly laughs out loud with no inhibitions whatsoever? Can you recount and represent that sensation from the order and unfolding of events so that another may make sense of it, or is it simply a felt sense of something inherently indescribable?
I’ve recently been playing around with notions of ‘explaining’ what moves through me, and the truth of it is, I can’t. Every tool I have at my disposal feels so inherently limiting.
All Meaning is Context Dependent
Expanding the Context for Living
Anyone who has studied any form of science will tell you that numbers are meaningless unless they are contextualized. It doesn’t matter if I know information about something when I am unable to put it into context of what it all means. So what? are words a scientist hears a heck of a lot. As is often said in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) “all meaning is context dependent”. All meaning.
Everything that exists does so in relation to something else. When I feel into that statement, I wonder: what is the relationship between paradigm/structure of reality and our notions of Self?
What I know from my own lived experience and scientific revelations is that the context from which we live our lives necessarily determines the way we think about our experiences. When we see ourselves as deterministic, predictable, machine-like beings, we think we can quantify and account for the entirety of the human experience. This is absolutely impossible to do, because the totality of what makes a human is so much more than we currently conceptualize as ‘real’.
Just look at the fascination around living “forever” as a computer chip that imitates the sensations of what we think it means to be alive. And yet, re-presentation of an experience can not to be confused with the experience itself (presence in the moment). When I see a breathtaking image on television, no matter the HD / 4K / 5G capacities of the viewing tool, I know that is not the same sensation as actually living the experience. Simply watching from my couch cannot possibly compare to actually being present in that place. And equally as true, when I am present in the moment having , the lived experience is simply indescribable. Few poets and artists may have the capacity to re-present a specific majestic aspect of their experience through words or mediums so that the receiver also senses the bit of the experience re-presented; and still, that is not the same as having the experience itself.
My point here is that the way we have conceptualized ourselves in relation to the rest of the world is in opposition to it rather than a part of it. Just have a quick read at the Oxford dictionary definition of nature. In our current deterministic, reductionist, individualistic paradigm we are taught from moment one to see ourselves with a particular framework that contextualizes what a human being is as a puny, insignificant, resource-hoarding machine. We are taught the more we accumulate, the better we are at succeeding. The more we deplete the earth and others, the more we are Winning. The more we disconnect from notions of spirituality/god/gaia/mother nature the more sane we are. Go ahead and ignore all the evidence to the contrary. The pain, disconnect, longing …well, there’s a pill for that. When we perceive ourselves as such, we put ourselves in a scarcity, war mentality and therefore act accordingly. It’s quite simple, really.
The more I am convinced that I am but like a machine in opposition to everything else out there, the more I come to know myself as a disconnected, disembodied, existential being . If my lotus of attention is on actively looking only for all the ways in which I am like a machine, I will necessarily find all the ways in which I am like a machine and ignore all the evidence to the contrary. In our current culture, we are very good at tunnel vision. We become so fixated on proving the thing we think is the correct way of thinking that we actively ignore everything to the contrary. Ex: Just last year in the US, thanks to the Innocence Project, 11 people were freed after being wrongfully convicted and collectively spending a total of 298 years in cages. And that’s just the people we know about…
I know within myself that our story of who and what we are is incomplete. That’s why for most people in our society there is such unease in the way people live their lives. Buying into that conventional story sold to us from every angle has meant that most of us spend a lifetime accepting that suffering is the natural state of human beings; even though anyone who has come across a young child can tell you joy is readily abundant (until we condition it out of us with all the ‘shoulds’).
If we are willing to let go of external notions of what reality is for just one moment and ask ourselves some bigger questions, perhaps we’d begin to shift the perceptual filters from which we experience the world. For me, these are the questions at the forefront:
- How much is out there that I don’t even know that I don’t know?
- What is the structure of my reality?
- What ideologies have shaped my perceptual filters and the way I experience life?
- How many of those ideologies are mine, by choice?
- And how many simply run the show of my life in the form of habits or fears?
- How do I know what’s real and what is not? What are the voices I allow into my consciousness daily, and how do they serve my well-being?
- Does my well-being even matter?
- Or am I here to simply fulfil my biological duty to procreate and cultural duty to consume?
- What is the source of meaning in my life?
- Is meaning in my life externally imposed or internally sensed?
- What is the role of the feminine/crucible/yin/right-hemisphere of the brain in my life?
- In a world where the left-hemisphere/male/spear/yang dictates reality, how willing am I to allow myself to have a different experience?
- Most importantly, am I willing and able to choose to see the world through different perceptual filters?
What Am I?
If I am not my body…
The truth of the matter is that at the end of the day, how we see the world and ourselves in it is all a choice. It could be a habituated choice or a mindful one. Our habits are very difficult to notice because they are automatic; and yet that’s exactly where the possibility for transformation begins. Unravelling the magic of who and what we are is an ongoing process. So long as curiosity and courage lead the way, I know personal transformation is possible, because I am living it…
When I chose to really delve into what I am, I discovered that everything I knew about myself at the intellectual level was incomplete. Through Kundalini yoga and spirit-altering drugs I had had visceral experiences of what it’s like to know “I am the godForce” manifesting through a physical body. I knew it experientially and yet I had no way to live it because I was stuck in the muck of consumer culture, victim mentality and fault & blame. I was unable to own that if I am indeed the Force of Creation manifested, then I am the creator of everything that has unfolded in my life (past, present and future). I AM the Life Force that drives the bus of my existence. I am not separate from my body, nor am I separate from the entirety of Life on this planet and elsewhere. I am a part of it; I am the whole of it; I am IT.
I belong here.
Yes, I am manifested through a physical body, no doubt. And I am not my body. The story that ties me only to my mere mortal existence is incomplete. Not inaccurate; incomplete. I clearly live in a physical body, as do all living beings within my limited realm of awareness. I am not merely mechanistic; though the functions of my body are predictable. We already know DNA is programmable…But the fact that my body is programmable and predictable does not mean I AM my body. It means my body takes its instructions from somewhere else…
Unlike what we often hear in yogic environments, breath is not what I am either. It is not the life force. It is not what I AM. My breath is the vehicle by which the life force that I AM communicates with the body, but it is not the thing itself.
The thing itself that I know myself to be is a stream of consciousness, manifested. What is that? We can get a glimpse into this through the fascinating world of quantum science; yet, how can anyone possibly describe it, when it is merely a felt experience of being? The moment we try to put words to it, it loses it’s magic. The moment we try to quantify it, we lose the experience of it. We simply have no way to explain consciousness to another who has never allowed themselves to have that visceral experience for themselves or who thinks something as profound as consciousness is limited to “brain activity”.
I know it is incredibly difficult for most people living from the conventional paradigm to step out of their intellect (aka conditioned mind) for just a moment and let go of all notions of what they believe is ‘real’ and be in the stillness of their being. It is incredibly challenging to the intellect to let go and allow the totality of the Self to have a different experience that is deeply rooted in the core essence of who and what we are. In my experience, that is where Truth lives. That is where the voice of wisdom resides. That is where eternal beauty and grace can be tapped into. That is where I know myself to BE that which I AM. And that is the space I wholeheartedly trust in guiding my way, because I know experientially how my life transforms when I listen to that wisdom that stems from that experience of simply being.
A voice of wisdom and a voice of reason
I know which one I trust…
For most of us living life as normal, it is incredibly difficult to tap into that voice of wisdom and trust it. “How do you know?” keeps coming up. “You can’t possibly know that.” What I hear there is the profound distrust of the internal cues/intuition/voice of wisdom that present through the body. Most of us have been taught the best way to move through life is to accumulate knowledge and reason/intellectualize/logic/manage our way through whatever presents. That’s how we get to control the outcome of our lives. Yet what I know so well is that reason/intellect/logic/management can never process the sensations presenting in the body. It is only the body that can do that (this is fairly simple to grasp when we think of digesting a banana; if the intellect had to direct the body how to process food, we’d die). I think this analogy really puts into perspective the role of the intellect in processing sensations — get out of the way!
And yet, that’s the hardest thing for us to actually allow ourselves to do: get out of our own way. Because the voice of reason (fear/scarcity/conditioning) is very strong and quite persuasive. It has a long list of reasons to guide our decision-making. It has numbers. It has graphs. It has spreadsheets and formulas. It has information galore! Content, content, content. It is overwhelmingly loud and pervasive.
Instead, the voice of wisdom/intuition/sensory cues is gentle. Quiet. Simple. It does not try and it does not impose. It does not reason. It has no content. It incorporates the larger context, without the need for concrete knowledge. It simply lets us know ‘yes’ or ‘no’, in this moment. It does not argue; it simply persists.
In the instant that we go against that voice of wisdom, it finds ways to stagnate and manifest dis-ease. How many people do you know that live disembodied, anxious lives? How many people feel so strongly into the dismay of our planetary predicament that they lived depressed lives? How many people have psychotic breakdowns? How many are addicted to some behaviour or chemical substance? How many simply live to escape the mundaneness of their daily lives? How many absolutely dread Monday and live for the weekend? Is it a wonder then, that we are terribly unsatisfied and unhappy when we are constantly living on-edge because we have come to know only a fraction of our whole Self?
I know well that “those who seek, shall find”. In this world we live in, it is up to each individual to raise their own consciousness/awareness so that their life holds meaning to them. The collective is clearly unable and unwilling to hold space for anything different than what it currently knows. This seems to be historically true. In my own life, though, I know that personal empowerment comes from noticing my habits and patterns, stopping, and choosing. I have options: I can fill my head and body with numbers, knowledge, objects which ultimately hold no meaning and/OR I can have an experience of what it’s like for me to be me in each unfolding moment and in relation to whatever it is I am experiencing. In my world, that is where Life lives!
This interview I am attaching here was the catalyst for this blog post.
If you’re curious about the role of the brain in it’s ability to shape the way we perceive the world, check out this incredible life-altering and life-affirming interview with Iain McGilchrist, a psychiatrist, writer, and former Oxford literary scholar. Truly one of the best interviews I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing…