Pic of the day: Being caught unaware is unpleasant, even dangerous. That is also true on the inside.
I would love to think that I have unlimited time to get this point through, but I cannot be sure of that. I have talked about many peripheral things, but I wonder if I have yet said all the words that should be spoken, before they are lost forever. This is one of them.
Two days ago I mentioned Bill Harris and his company Centerpointe, which sells CDs which can induce certain types of brain waves in normal humans. Among these are brain waves associated with various stages of sleep, and of deep meditation. The technology has been known for over 30 years and reliably fulfills its basic claim, to establish certain dominant brainwave patterns (though it may take a few minutes to take hold, especially in the beginning).
The website makes other, more speculative claims. For instance, it assumes that the effect of delta waves induced by binaural beats is equivalent to - or even better than - actual deep sleep, which produces these waves naturally. This is not a given. The delta waves may be a by-product of the processes that also release growth hormone and consolidate memories, rather than the reason for them. Likewise, the life-changing effects of decades of meditation may have other reasons - or at the very least more reasons - than merely producing certain brainwave patterns.
Still, I believe Bill Harris has got one thing right, at least. I have read the last few entries on his blog, ending February 2009 (that's now). Despite the blatant sales pitches here and there in the text and outbreaks of self-congratulation, his main point is important: Awareness gives us freedom to make more and better choices.
It seems reasonable to believe that awareness is the biggest difference between us and earlier hominids, including the Neanderthals and our own ancestors. With a low level of self-awareness, we are bound to follow our instincts and whatever behavior is programmed into us by forces around us, particularly during our formative years. Becoming aware of what we do, while we do it (or preferably before) is necessary to have some control over our own behavior.
Certainly it seems that small children are less aware than older children, and these again less aware than adults. But is this just an effect of the brain maturing? Perhaps so, during the first years. But at some point, the rise in awareness slows down and perhaps even stops, just not for everyone. It almost looks like a game of endurance, like a marathon, where more and more people quietly leave the race but some keep going.
I don't think we need to discuss whether the Buddha was focusing on this topic. Reading the first page of the Dhammapada should drive home that fact. Perhaps less well known is the weight Jesus, the founder of Christianity, laid on the same thing. One of his most solemn and passionate pleas to his followers was this: "Watch and pray!" I am not sure what people read into this, if they don't recognize the "watch" part as a plea to raise our awareness. In Norwegian, the corresponding verb is "wake" (as in "stay awake"), but I think it should be fairly clear even in English. (And may be less likely to make mentally unstable people try to stay awake all night, hurrying their psychotic break.) And tellingly this phrase from the gospel of Mark, chapter 13: "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." In other words, this is not specifically for the disciples (Christians). It is for all humans.
Seriously, this is not higher theology. It is pretty obvious that Jesus is not saying "Watch TV and pray that your favorite football team will win." But more like, "Raise your awareness and align it with the invisible force of goodness that surrounds us all. Then keep at it."
Whether you believe in a personal, humanoid god and knows his name and believes the correct myths may or may not be important for your afterlife - I haven't been there, to the best of my knowledge. But what I am talking about here is something that starts in this life and changes it from the ground up, from the inside out. It is also something we naturally resist, and which takes a lot of patience. And if you detect a hint of desperation in my words, you are not far off.
When I was young, emotions and temptations would come suddenly on me, giving me no time to prepare. I have likened it to the way babies have no control of their waste elimination. It just happened. And so did some things in my life too.
Over time, this has changed, so that with many things I can feel them coming from a long way off. That does not always make as much difference as it should, and that worries me. I find that the problem is often no longer that things just happen, but that I just do them anyway*. Because I like being an ego-pig, at least as long as it does not obviously hurt anyone. But then I think to myself: At the very least I can observe. No excuses, no explanations, no shutting out the uncomfortable facts. "Watch!"
If setting aside half an hour, increasing to one hour, each day to iron out your brainwaves can get you started on that, it is probably a good thing. And if setting aside the same time to write an online journal can have a similar effect, it may be worth considering too. Although I am not sure it needs to be online if I'm the only one reading it... But in case there is someone else out there, I will say to you what I say to myself: "Watch!"
(* Since nothing goes without saying, let me comfort you that I am not actually mugging, raping and knifing down the terrified populace. I'm talking about more subtle thing. Basically the hard part is going beyond the ordinarily human. Well, cleaning is hard too, but I think that is a different issue...)
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.