Saturday, May 13, 2017

On three brained Being, part four: Helping each brain find its own right food

Buddha statue 
Metropolitan Museum, New York

I’m pretty much oblivious to the fact that each of the minds in me needs a certain kind of material that’s going to support my work. Because the minds cooperate with one another (or, at least, they should) they need each other’s help to get the material for their own work. 

Yet this often doesn’t happen.

When we speak of mindfulness, which is a bit of a vague word that gets used all the time to describe attention, the kind of mindfulness that is actually needed is an attentiveness to the question of what material each brain needs for its own work. 

The sensation of the body, for example, needs to feed on its own kinds of food — its own kinds of impressions, of relationship, of contact — in order to remain healthy and function properly. The same is true of the emotional part, my feelings. Often they’re starved of what is needed for their own work and end up being frustrated an angry because of it. They don’t have verbal ways to express this, so they do it in other ways.

If each of the brains doesn’t receive the right kind of nourishment and find the right kind of stimulation, it can’t do the work it’s supposed to. As it turns out, it’s quite easy to feed the intellectual mind, because it stands in front of everything that comes in monitoring it. There are books, media, and so on. But what feeds the body and what feeds the feelings may not be at all so obvious. While it’s understood that sensations cause pleasure — and that people seek sensation for that reason, such as the taste of food, or the touch of a loved one upon the skin, or drugs — and that feelings also bring such types of satisfaction, if they are stimulated by enjoyable inputs such as music or art — none of these things have been developed, in modern society, into formally organized forms that represent a proper “diet.” Traditional societies sometimes had such types of form, but they are largely dying out in the midst of the cacophonous chaos of modernism.

It thus becomes necessary for each human being to take personal responsibility for understanding, from an intimate point of view, that is, from within the core and essence of their very being, the mind of sensation and the mind of feeling. This means that we need to practice intelligent discrimination in terms of what comes into us from both of these brands; and it also means that we need to be quite present, quite attentive, as these two brains are working, because this helps them to find what they need. In point of fact, sensation and feeling are quite intuitive in terms of understanding how to feed themselves; but when they are masked and misdirected by impulse, personality, and prejudice, they don’t have much room left to move.

When we speak about the need for a practice of presence, for a mindfulness, for an attentiveness to our Being, we speak in general about helping each mind to find exactly what it needs in terms of support in order to do its proper work This is a practice that takes many years.


Note: this essay is an excerpt from the book Being and Impressions.

The entire book is available in the Apple iBooks store, or as a pdf at the following page link:

Being and Impression

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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