Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In and out with the rational mind

Watching myself sleep makes me even more aware of the limits of

  • Thought

  • Speech

  • Words

The book The Head Trip by Jeff Warren is a good review of information and research on the various states of consciousness.  We normally have a state of wakefulness, a hypnogogic state of shorter duration leading into sleep, several different states during sleep, and a hypnopompic state leading back to wakefulness.  I have read that Thomas Edison figured he was especially imaginative in a productive and valuable way during the transition states and purposely napped to give himself good ideas on the way into or out of sleep.

I have been inquisitive all my life.  I was attracted to philosophy as a subject since I viewed it as an attempt to answer questions that come up in our lives: what is the purpose of life?  What is most valuable to learn?  Questions such as those.  I have read quite a bit of philosophy and religion but it wasn't until I was 35 or 40, that I grasped other approaches to examining life besides questioning and trying to answer those questions, which involves the use of words.  I had heard the passage from Psalm 46, "be still and know that I am God" but I hadn't really tried being still.  

I know now that a living being is never still.  Even neglecting the movement of the earth through space and other such things, a living being has a beating heart and steady muscle movement that brings air into and out of the body.  Nevertheless, I had not run into any demonstration of shutting up, stopping the yapping, the blabbing, the chatter.  Yes, words have great power.  Yes, thoughts allow me to plan, to clarify, to savor.  But meditation has given me a view of the value of ceasing thought and speaking and writing.  I know now that my mind is a thinking, meaning, expressing machine that keeps at its favorite activity.  But I have learned that it does many parts of me good to be still and gently return my attention to a non-thinking, non-communicating target over and over for a short period of meditation.

Of course, when I figure in Daniel Kahneman's fast thinking and slow thinking, the sort of trance that I go into watching tv or engrossed in a story, daydreaming out the window, the state of wakefulness can be further subdivided quite a bit.

Now, contact with Warren's book, sleep technicians and sleep physicians, hearing about apnea but other sleep difficulties as well, such as sleep-walking (which can be very serious) and narcolepsy (constantly falling asleep too often and at dangerous and inappropriate times and places), I feel as though I am getting a glimpse of more of me.  I am getting a glimpse of all humans and the various mental and physical states that I didn't know about.

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