Blindsight & Group Efforts

Blindsight & Group Efforts
by Art Ticknor

                     
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Self-inquiry for the purpose of self-realization, of becoming with full awareness what you already are, is an extreme sport. The contest takes place within the mind, where the pretenders to the throne of Self – the various desires and fears, the prides and paranoias – vie for supremacy. Eventually a sole contender emerges: ego … "I am" … the individuality-sense. That "one" is extremely elusive, however, remaining always just out of view.

A group of people coming together forms a temporary organism. An organism has a purpose or objective, which can be explicit or adventitious. For example, a business organism may be created to produce profits above wages for its owners. If the workers become owners, then the goal becomes a mutual goal, assuming the employees are working to make as much money as possible in return for their labor.

What about an organism of spiritual seekers? Ideally its goal would be to help the members, the participating human organisms, reach their deepest goal. The deepest goal of the human organism is, in my opinion, to find permanent wholeness or completion, which can only be found through recognition of its oneness with That Which Is.

What is your conscious goal for wanting to participate in a temporary organism for spiritual seekers? "I don't know" may be true from an objective viewpoint, but the spiritual seeker is mired in a subjective view, where "I don't know" reflects a lack of introspection or lack of honestly admitting one's motivations. Our motivations aren't generally pretty, but they become refined as we progress within.

Do you have a conscious life-goal? What are you trying to achieve if it's not in the context of an overall life-objective? Are your actions in response to a deep desire or want? Could satisfaction of that deep desire or want become your conscious life-goal?

Getting down to business in self-inquiry begins with a solitary daily practice that occurs in silence. It includes reading of material that's related to your life-goal; thinking about what you've read, what you've heard, and otherwise experienced; and meditating on your goal. Many people read and think about their life and where it's going, but a directed meditation practice is, I suspect, rare.

Self-realization may occur during a period of intense introspection or during a period of relative relaxation that follows. The first satori, or partial opening of the mind that results in a profound but lesser realization, that I experienced was at the end of a day at work following a weeklong group retreat. My eventual breakthrough occurred when I was sitting, doing nothing, on the final evening of a weeklong solitary retreat. The mind-lock will open when you're not expecting it. If it occurs during a retreat, then you're done with the seeking phase of your life. If not, what can you take with you that will strengthen your inner-directed vector?

If you've participated in group retreats before, it's valuable to look at what you took away – gained or lost – from them and how the experience affected your ongoing work. Back in the 1960s and 70s, encounter groups were popular forms of group retreats that encouraged increasing awareness of oneself in the moment through intensive discussion, close relationships between group members, and the expression of feelings. Participants often went away from the encounter weekends feeling better about themselves.

Most of us seek True Happiness through incremental happiness and seek True Knowing through incremental knowledge. That approach works to some degree or extent, and may be a necessary prelude, but the process of self-knowing is one of seeing through illusory beliefs about the self … in other words, a process of disillusionment. When those illusion balloons burst, there's often a sense of relief but also of deflation. Regardless of whether a group retreat is inflating or deflating, the spiritual seeker wants it to strengthen his inner-directed vector, and the serious seeker, I believe, wants it to strengthen his solitary daily practice.

If you are thinking about or planning on a group retreat, you may want to ask yourself some questions along these lines:

  • What is your conscious goal for wanting to participate in a temporary organism for spiritual seekers?
  • Do you have a conscious life-goal? What are you trying to achieve if it's not in the context of an overall life-objective?
  • What do you want to work on during the retreat? What do you feel unable to do on your own that you want help with? What help do you want from fellow participants? What help from any coaches or teachers who are participating?
  • Do you have a daily practice that you want feedback on? Do you want help establishing a daily practice?
  • What difficulties do you predict will occur for you during the retreat?
blindsight In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert described the phenomenon of blindsight, where patients with certain kinds of brain lesions have no awareness of seeing, and they report truthfully that they are completely blind. Brain scans show diminished activity in the areas associated with awareness of visual experience, yet show normal activity in the areas associated with vision. When researchers flash a light on a particular spot on the wall and ask the patients if they see it, the patients reply "of course not." But when the researcher asks the patients to take a wild guess and say anything randomly or point at the likely spot, they guess correctly far more often than random chance would indicate. He tells us it's like their eyes are projecting the movie on the theater screen in their head, but the audience is in the lobby getting popcorn.

What are you seeing that you're not consciously aware of?


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