Monday, February 7, 2011
A mind expansion technique
"Man is asleep; for compared to what we are capable of, our normal waking state is more like sleep-walking"
One of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, the Russian philosopher and mystic P.D. Ouspensky, spent almost half his life devoted to overcoming the trance of everyday reality, our encultured, conditioned, and acquired consensus state of consciousness. Ouspensky and his contemporary, Gurdjieff's notion that out ordinary states of consciousness function poorly, and that we live in a state of distorted perceptions with mechanical habits. The current scientific view of human consciousness is that we have no direct perception of anything, but we merely simulate our world. Our moods, emotional situations and physiological states of our brain alter these simulations of the world. The information of the world perceived through the 5 senses is sent to the brain in a series of nerve impulses, and triggers various electrochemical reactions. These signals are processed in ways that are still not fully understood. It is the activity of the brain that creates our experience (simulation) of the outside world. For anyone who has experienced the world in other states of consciousness, whether it be psychedelic, meditative, hypnagogic or through lucid dreaming, this view should make some sense. The lucid dreaming state is of particular interest as the state involves the conscious awareness that you are dreaming. We can learn to become conscious during dreams by using techniques devised by such people as the Tibetan dream yogis and through use of technology with lucid dream machines. Just as we can become conscious during a lucid dream in which we 'wake up' and have a fresher, cleaner and higher perception of the dream state, we can also alter our state of consensus consciousness to become more lucid. Ouspensky used a number of techniques to access states of 'wider' consciousness, in particular the self-remembering and self-observation exercises taught to him by Gurdjieff. But here we will deal with a variation of these exercises, a form of 'looking, listening and sensing', a technique that can be an effective means of awakening the sleeping senses. (Ouspensky used nitrous oxide for a period but felt that people should be able to access higher levels of consciousness through more natural methods)
To begin, sit in a relaxed setting whether it be in an outdoor or indoor environment, or we even begin (as Ouspensky suggested) by walking down a street. Now focus your attention on what you see, really using your eyes - not merely looking at one particular object, but slowly scanning the surroundings while concentrating you attention on what you see. Look intently at the variety of objects and colour the surroundings provide, and take on a mental attitude of being open-mindedly curious about everything you see - a bookshelf, a tree, an ornament, cracks in the wall, whatever. But there is also no need to label what you are seeing, to name objects and colours and reason them away - see them vividly, solidly, just as they are. Then , when you are as fully aware as possible of your vision, concentrate on what you can hear. Again, don't label the sounds but hear them freshly, as they are. Deliberately concentrate your attention on all incoming sound, whether it be a bird, the roar of a plane, voices, without rejecting any of the auditory stimuli. Now, while being careful not to lose any of the sensory stimuli already flowing through your eyes and ears, bring in the sense of smell, notice the odours coming from your surroundings. Again, don't become obsessed with the source of these scents, just accept them as they are. Next, to broaden the focus of your attention even further, incluse the sensations of your skin, the sense of touch, where do you feel warm or cold? notice, if you are moving, how your clothes brush against you skin, the impact of your footsteps, how the wind blows on you an eventually the feelings of tension, or movement, in your muscles and joints. You can also bring in the sensation of taste by eating strongly flavoured food, mints or chewing gum. Since vision and hearing are our dominant senses, most of your attention will go into looking and listening, but don't ignore the other sensations. Now, having focused your attention on all your sensory input for at least ten or fifteen minutes, maintain the best degree of attention you can manage and count your breathing from one to ten, then continue repeating this. If you go through Ouspensky's exercise conscientiously, you will experience an altered state of awareness known as generalised hyperaesthesia - an increased sensitivity to stimuli - a form of mind expansion without the use of drugs. Providing you make a serious effort, and regardless of how successful or unsuccessful you are in focusing all stimuli, you will realise that it is possible to expand the boundaries of our awareness, and that our senses really are asleep. In its most general form, this exercise means paying more attention to everything in your environment through deliberately concentrated attention. Even the most ordinary things can gain a subtle quality when you deliberately observe them. Through this exercise you may also experience a more 'present to reality' or here and now feeling. As a further step trying this exercise once a day may incur beneficial changes, and help improve the quality of your sensory experience of the world and to overcome the trance of everyday reality.
The Awakened Mind, Maxwell Cade & Nona Coxhead
A New Model of The Universe, P.D. Ouspensky
Tertium Organum, P.D. Ouspensky
Waking up, Charles Tart
Open mind, Desriminating mind, Charles TartThe Strange Life of P.D. Ouspensky, Colin Wilson