Friday, January 23, 2015
The missing minds, part I—in which we don't mind
A reader recently sent me a link to an article questioning the efficacy of mindfulness.
The most amusing and appropriate, if irreverent, title (McMindfulness) casts light on the fact that anything and everything we encounter in today's world becomes, in one way or another, a product for consumption; yet the article also raises some real questions about just what mindfulness consists of, and what it does.
Yes, my little droogs, mindfulness ought to do something, oughtn't it?
Yet OMG, it doesn't; and this is the overall thrust of the article: despite mindfulness practice, which is ballyhooed as a panacea for what ails the soul, people who meditate and are mindful (or, at the very least, think they are mindful) still feel bad about themselves. They still have issues... and for God's (or, if you may agnostically prefer, goodness') sake...
...why bother engaging in any spiritual practice if it doesn't ultimately get rid of the issues?
One of the difficulties the authors—and all those who struggle with this contradictory question—tend to overlook is that inwardness (mindfulness, meditation, and so on) and outwardness represent two different aspects of consciousness, which cannot be effectively conflated without, from the beginning, misunderstanding the nature of consciousness itself, and all the attendant properties that arise as a result of its fundamental nature.
There are, first of all, not one but three minds in human beings; an emotional, an intellectual, and a physical mind. If one begins to speak of mindfulness, one must first and foremost consider which of these minds is mindful; for to leap forward into the presumption of a unity of mind, the conjunction and harmonious integration of these three very different minds, is to presume a great deal indeed. The very idea itself is notably missing from Buddhist (and other) teachings; the mainstream religious practices we encounter speak very generally of a single mind for man, and (if they acknowledge a God) a mind of God, which is ineffably higher. If God isn't invoked, at the very least a transcendent "higher" mind is; no religion really works if it doesn't present a higher ground of some sort or another. Who would, after all, want to make the necessary sacrifices (there are always sacrifices) just to stay where they are?
...not I, said the pig.
But I digress. The missing minds are forgotten; an (absent) inner unity is from the outset presumed, and layered onto that profoundly inaccurate template, in the offending article, are the ideas that (a) mindfulness can somehow emerge from this picture and (b) it isn't enough.
In order to understand ourselves better, I think, we need first to see how our intelligences—each one of which is, on its own, a formidable and perhaps nearly unstoppable force—manifest in us; hence Gurdjieff's self-observation. Then we need to see quite clearly how these three intelligences form, in a general sense, a conjunction of experience which is outer; that experience interfaces with the outward aspects of being and forms a "thing" (actually, a continuum of experience that is much more wave than particle) called personality. This "thing", this quantum wave of missing (read, unappreciated) minds isn't so accessible to mindfulness, as it's an outward thing, and steely hard. You can hammer it all you like; it does not dent easily, if at all.
Inside us, in a hidden place, is our essence: a kernel of Being which can be very mindful indeed, since it forms within the heart of Being itself, and not in the mechanical tools of the three outward minds, which are specifically designed to deal with the world and what is in it. Essence is designed to deal with ourselves and what is in us; it is in a very different space than that of the world.
As I explained in my essays on the cryptography of Being, these parts are in some senses encrypted from one another; and one ought not, therefore, expect actions in one to fix the other. They are complementary; and therein lies the rub, as I shall discuss in the next essay.