Thursday, July 18, 2013

The mindsphere

We have the atmosphere, the globe of our air, and the blogosphere, the globe of blogs around the planet.  The "biosphere" refers to our globe of life, plant and animal.  But humans like me spend much of their time thinking and communicating with other thinkers.  Through the medium of print and electronics, we deal in written and spoken expressions.

Human minds are wonderful.  They can posit themselves into the past at any depth and can transport themselves into a projection of the future.  Since we use our minds so much, it can be helpful to practice noticing when our thinking involves stones, food, moving around on the planet and other aspects of the physical world.  Often, our observed reality involves only ideas: likes and dislikes, desired goals and feared possible events, peoples' feelings and opinions.  

If I am feeling out-of-date, it is likely that my negative feeling does not actually involve my chronological age but more my current slate of friendships and social events. If I think I have been quite clever or very diligent, I am mostly dealing with concepts and labels, not "things" in the actual world.  Sure, we can start getting more particular and remind ourselves that we all only know rocks and trees through our senses in further workings of our minds, but in a practical sense, there is a daily, fundamental difference between my actual face and my opinion of my looks.

Our mental worlds are so large and full that we can be shocked when we see their limits.  The Zen teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, points out the shocking news that "New Jersey" doesn't exist.  Her news applies to your city, state and nation, too.  She was flying in a plane and she looked carefully for some indication that she had left a neighboring state and moved above New Jersey but there is no indication at all.  She had to conclude that New Jersey is a concept but not something in the world.  To use their concept of New Jersey, humans have many tools, agreements and measurements which can answer questions such as "Am I in New Jersey?"  The state has its own government and flag and state police, all of are used in a way that supports the use of the concept.

But I can imagine someone living near the border of New Jersey deciding that they were tired of the place and bored with it while actually being in Delaware without realizing they had inadvertently crossed the border.  The Wikipedia states that Native Americans lived in the area of New Jersey for 2800 years, many of which were years in which those poor Natives had no idea that they were New Jersey residents or pre-residents.

It can be quite refreshing to quiet myself for a few minutes, just looking and sensing but avoiding the mindsphere as much as possible.  One of the most common complaints of those who try to meditate is that they can't quiet their minds.  That will be true of all of us with minds, since minds are constructed to think, recall, inquire, etc.  But focusing your eyes on a single spot and concentrating on your breath for a few minutes can assist you in travels into the mindsphere and out of it.  If you try but find that you have wandered into the mindsphere without realizing it, just quietly return to focusing on your breath.

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