6. We need a thought sense
The world changes when meaning changes.
To take the crucial step from seeing the world to being the world, we must be aware as to how thinking prevents us from being whole and one.
Without direct awareness we live in continuous conflicts and miss the sacred dimensions of life, those beyond the reach of our thoughts.
The self is not sacred. It is our world, but not the whole world. It is a collection of memories, experiences and knowledge. Psychologically it is conditioned to live in separation, endless conflict and confusion.
The self is the root cause of five fights going on in our minds:
Fight 1 Intellect versus emotions
Fight 2 The self versus self-image
Fight 3 Conflicts between individuals
Fight 4 Human beings and nature
Fight 5 We in the universe
The first two fights take place within us, the third between people and the fourth and fifth, the toughest concern us as a species.
We can win all five fights because they are about concepts: personal, national, religious, political, ideological, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. We love concepts more than we love truth.
We can at any time change our concepts. However, our ego prevents us from changing them, even when they do not give us the results we want.
The fights on these five fronts end when the self moves from the world of concepts to the world of facts. When fighting stops, we feel how the bliss of being enters our mind.
Thinking lives in concepts. Thinking makes everything it experiences into an idea. Thoughts are made-up and collective because they all come from other people. We call them our own because we absorb a slightly different version of the world. Then we start fighting about whose version is right and best!
We need a worldview but we must see the difference between the view and the world! With this we stumble.
Occasionally the fights do end. Then we sense the immensity of being. Looking at the stars in the night sky you know that they are not a result of a committee compromise. Listening to Sibelius you hear much more than the notes played. Reading a good book carries you beyond words.
In direct contact with the world, thinking is in a minor role. It remembers what we have experienced. It may express special moments in words. It can even re-live them in our imagination. But it did not create the connection. It cannot do that.
If you see the world as it is, you are the world.
If you see the world as it is, you are the world. You are part of its creative movement. You inhale the magic and the mystery. There are no words to describe the intense feelings - and you need no words.
When we look through the self, we see images created by our mind. They are thoughts with an emotional charge. They represent the world but they are only thoughts about it.
Thinking cannot connect us with the cosmic.
Only direct perception can solve this problem. Thinking is the wrong tool to create the connection to the cosmic. We need a new arsenal of instruments to 'tune in' to the subtle movement of the world.
These new instruments bring a new dimension into our life. We feel lifted up. We fly above ourselves.
Then life blows through us with a force beyond imagination.
Then we are one with the world.
Because is the last recorded song for the Beatles last album, Abbey Road. Simple lyrics, simple melody, simple instrumentation. When it was recorded in August 1969, all four members of the group knew that the story of the Fab Four would soon be over.
I had heard it umpteen times and liked it. When I heard it in November 2006 I was in tears. It is the opening track of the album called Love, a mix made for the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. In this version George and Giles Martin took away all instruments.
I hear nine Beatle voices singing in harmony. John, Paul and George sang three times each.
Hearing it through a modern home theatre system I enjoy a six channel surround sound, and I hear it perhaps better than the Beatles heard it from the Abbey Road studio stereos in 1969.
As I listen, it is easy to understand why this band became legendary. They touch us on many levels.
The first thing that moved me were the voices. Oh my, how they sing a cappella! The second astonishment were the lyrics. Without the instruments I somehow hear the words better. There are four verses, and 22 words only. That is enough to blow your mind.
In the first verse, John Lennon says that realizing the world being round turns him on. In the second verse, he says that the high wind blows his mind. The third verse says nothing that is new: love is old and it is new, love is all, love is you. Who could argue with that?
In the last verse Lennon states that he cries just because the sky is so blue. If you are sensitive to the world, that is how seeing may affect you.
Those who knew John Lennon said he was not always a nice man nor a good father. But we all know that he was a genius in writing music.
Two steps to being whole
It is amazing how we can hear without really hearing, see without really seeing. In intense and focused hearing or seeing we find something that we did not notice before.
When you totally connect to what is happening, the movement in time ceases. Things just happen. Memory is working but in a minor role.
This phenomenon has many names: elevation, pure awareness or perception, presence, flow, ecstasy, bliss or silence. How does this relate to ego?
Everything that ego experiences is conditioned and limited. It is not direct perception but the noise of ego. Ego lives in time, either past or future, never in the present moment.
Being one with the world and indulging in its powerful movement eliminates the ego and transforms thinking. According to Bohm, direct perception changes the brain cells. This is, of course, very difficult to prove but we can see that every deep experience changes the way we see ourselves.
To see the limits of our ego-system opens a whole new world to us. It frees us from the prison that ego has built!
Experiencing does affect our being. We can only experience something that we can recognize. In direct contact there are magical elements that we can remember only vaguely.
We are on a short ego trip in the universe, collecting personal experiences. Our own life is a petty splash in an enormous sea, but to us it is everything we know.
If you think you see and remember everything you miss the essence of life. Ego shrinks our world. This is easier to see in others than to see it in ourselves.
When you look at small children playing you may wonder where their energy comes from. Not from their ego! They don't rationalize too much. Slowly they grow up, lose their playfulness and become tense teenagers and anxious adults.
Our minds may elevate when we look at the blue or dark evening sky, feel the wind on our skin, touch a tree or watch the colour of stones? We can have this experience when we do something without a personal motive, goal or gain in our mind, just for the love of doing it.
Even a big ego is too small to solve our mental knots. We gave too much power to our ego and it thinks too much of itself. We must mend this mistake.
We must cross two self-made lines: first, from personal to collective. We must leave self-interest behind and unite with other people.
Then we must take the crucial step from collective to cosmic. This will make us whole.
Up where we belong
Thinking operates on the personal and collective levels but it cannot rise to the cosmic. In the cosmic level there is no separation, everything is connected to everything. That is where love lives - not the limited love that ego knows and feels, but the love that makes us feel one with the world.
Thinking cannot connect us with the cosmic.
Love will lift us "up where we belong", as Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes sing in Jack Nitsche's song "Up where we belong". We are born to love. That is our true nature.
There are many ways to love. The most beautiful is to love without object or subject. That is the kind of love we feel when we are one with the world. Everything merges.
The ego acts to prevent this state. It is a subject and needs an object to love. It also needs a motive, invented or real. It wants some reason to love.
Ego's version of love is conditioned and separative. It causes big problems for us. And it means that we split the world. Thinking does it: you and me, we and they, yesterday and tomorrow.
Ego lives in opposites.
Ego lives in the world of opposites, in the either-or world. It chooses its side. It is for and against. That is not love. It is indirect egotism.
Ego's world is based on fiction. When it has a problem, it creates a picture of the desired end.
If you lack self-confidence, you try to improve it by asserting you are okay. If you hate, you say you must learn to love.
That can also be called wishful thinking. There is a primitive mistake in this setting. The mind is not a machine. It is an organic process and self is only a part of it. You will notice this when you try to fix it. In trying to change the self we end up in conflict with ourselves. We need time to change and to create the future.
Ego creates both the trouble and the attempt to solve it. It would be better to approach this problem without the ego. In direct perception there is no experiencer nor the object, only the flowing stream of facts.
This is a tough lesson: how could ego see that thinking keeps its problems alive?
Whatever we believe and repeat to ourselves becomes our truth. We don't take a time-out and ask ourselves: Is it true what I say? Why do I believe in my nonsense?
If you seriously search the self, you find out that it is a movement that manifests in thoughts. The inside movement is not different from the outside movement. They intertwine. There is only one movement. This movement is cosmic, beyond the personal and collective, beyond thought and time.
If you now ask how to get to the cosmic level, it is your ego asking. There are no separate selves on the cosmic level.
The body knows
There may be a biological reason why the ego feels so real and becomes so important to us.
In physics, the measuring device affects the results. The same happens in our mental system. Our ego affects what we see, but it also affects how we react.
Ego is an abstract concept which causes concrete effects. We connect body and ego but identity is mostly in the mind.
Bohm pointed out that we see the input and the output. We see the impulse and our reaction. But we do not recognize the system behind them.
We sense a separate self, but there is only the movement of thoughts. This may be due to what Bohm calls a three seconds pipeline.
We can see in a lie detector device that it takes roughly three seconds for the information to travel in the body. If we lie, our body reacts: our respiration, pulse and blood pressure change and the lie detector reveals that about three seconds later.
Our body reacts to our thoughts, whether we notice it or not. Memories make us feel good or bad.
We misinterpret the body feedback. The origin of our feeling is more our ego than the object. The two together cause our reaction: the object and our feelings.
We think we have a good reason to like a person who offers good feelings to us. We also think that our body proves our thoughts to be right. This is why we are so passionate about our own ideas, including the ones that cause us trouble. I must be right because I feel it in my guts!
Because of this three second delay between input and output our ego reacts to its own creations. It lives in a loop and is not aware that it is doing so.
There is no problem when we are in direct contact with the real world. We react to the information we get from the senses. There is no self. In real danger our body acts without the three seconds delay. If a car or wild animal comes at us we jump without asking permission.
With abstract mental things there is nothing to connect with except the concept in our mind. Yet, our body reacts as if it were real! When our beliefs are attacked or our pleasure is denied the fighter in us wakes up! We don't notice that our ego tricks us into projecting its beliefs onto the object.
The sent and received message differ
Our body reacts all the time, also when nothing special happens. It may be calm, relaxed, bored, frightened or anxious. When we feel good or bad for whatever reason, it sends information to our brain system.
We collect all this information, identify with some parts of it and imagine a centre that orchestrates the whole show. The centre seems to be in our mind and body. Everything we do and experience seems to be a proof of its existence.
Our mistake is that we divide the movement into observer and the observed, 'me' and the world. We make an even bigger mistake when the inner begins to imagine it can reign over the outer. This often happens when we get power over other people.
The biggest problem with the self is that it does not just neutrally take the information. It interprets the messages according to its conditioning. Two people looking at the same object see a different thing. This may become a problem if they must live together or get something done.
When we talk we assume that other people have roughly the same meaning for the words we use, although often they do not. The message sent is different from the message received.
Two routes to change
The ego pretends it is the boss that makes all the decisions. It likes power. Yet nobody can decide what happens.
If we don't like what we are now, there are two ways to change it: in time or immediately.
The first option means a process of self-improvement. It is based on an assumption that there is a self that can become better. In this option you attack yourself. One part of you tries to change the other part. That seems logical but it is irrational, because the basic assumption is wrong. There are no separate selves.
Consider the second option. Follow the actual movement in your mind. Don't condemn or correct it. Just be aware and learn. Let it tell its story. Just listen like you listen to your friend talking, with affection.
Following the facts changes them.
In doing so, you will witness something amazing happen. Following the facts changes them! When there is no separate self reacting to abstract facts, there is immediate action. You know what to do and do it, or you may see that you cannot do anything right now.
When the self disappears, seeing is doing, they are not two separate things.
Try this now or later. See for yourself how the 'me' operates, tries to be the boss and lead the show. When you watch the inward movement, the division between you and yourself ends. Ego stops moving. There is direct awareness.
This change actually happens when we see a real danger. It does not happen when the danger comes from thought. Then we react to a thought coming from memory, coming from the self. It may be a word, concept, image, opinion, belief, experience or knowledge. None of these are facts, but we react to them as if they were.
The only way to understand this is to do it, to watch the world without the watcher. Then our focus is not on the self but on facts.
Use your tenth sense!
To be directly aware of our inner process, we need what Bohm calls the proprioception of thought. We could call it a thought sense.
The word proprioception means self-perception or self-awareness. Accordingly, the proprioception of thought means we are aware of thoughts as a movement.
A thought sense corrects mistakes before we make them.
We are somewhat aware of our thoughts but in a selective and limited way. A thought sense means that thought is immediately aware of the mistakes it makes and corrects them automatically in the same way that our body prevents us from falling.
It could also be called the tenth sense because in addition to our five known senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) we have four more: thermoception (we sense heat and cold), nociception (we feel pain), equilibrioception (we react to balance and are affected by gravity), and proprioception (we are aware of body movements).
All senses have an important task to protect us, to prevent us from hurting ourselves. Proprioception of the body means that if you move any part of your body, you immediately know that you moved it without having to think about it.
Thinking is also a movement which goes on inside our head. We feel how different thoughts come and go all day and night. But how are we aware that we think?
Our language reveals to us that thinking is something the "I" does. When we say "I think", it implies that there is somebody doing the thinking.
We also think that thinking and our body are separate. We talk about mind and body as if they were two entities affecting each other. The word 'psychosomatic' hints that mind (psycho) and body (soma) are different and that there are two entities affecting each other.
In our culture we place thoughts, feelings and bodily movements into separate spheres. There is evidence that they are very tightly connected. Our body remembers our thoughts and feelings, and feelings affect our body without delay.
Our life would be smoother if we understood how intellect and emotions interact. In a healthy mind neither is dominant, they go hand in hand.
Intellectual people emphasize intellect, emotional people emphasize emotions. In our brain and body they are holistically linked. And we need them both to live a life that is whole. They move together like a couple dancing together.
If we want to be whole, we must end the conflict between intellect and emotions with a thought sense.
Self is a show
We know how important it is to know yourself. David Bohm often used a simple example to illustrate how our mind works.
Imagine you watch a television program and hear a telephone ring. First you think it comes from the telly but when nobody answers it you realize it is your own telephone ringing. The meaning you give to the ringing affects how you react.
The same happens with the mind. When we see something, we react and interpret the information, often wrongly. We do not realize that our thinking caused the reaction. So, we do not actually react to the actual facts but rather to our own perception.
Thought is conditioned to react rapidly. There is a delay between perception and our reaction. The information we get is a combination of perception and reaction but we are not aware which is which.
Our experience is that everything happens to the "real me", but that "real me" is only a concept. Bohm calls it a show. Self is as real as the ringing on the television. It happens, but our reaction depends on the meaning we give to it.
When I meet a woman I meet the image I have of her. Whether I have known her for 15 years or 15 seconds my mind reacts in the way it is accustomed to reacting. Her mind does the same. Our programs react.
Our actions come from a program.
When two people meet, actually two programs meet. Hardly anybody thinks their own actions come from a program.
To be aware of our program we need a thought sense. It would not only reveal the program but it might correct the mistake it is about to make. This does not happen when we are not aware that a thought is only a thought.
Sailing the same stream
The content of our programs separate us. Because of our program we feel we are individual. If the program stops we would not feel separate anymore.
We have come to a crucial point. We either see other people as separate individuals or we feel that we all are in the same boat. If we actually feel that we are in the same boat, our focus is then on what actually happens.
The self is the problem here. Recognizing that actually changes our being. We are sailing in the same boat, living in one world, have one mind.
Intellectual understanding has no meaning. We must feel that everything is connected, that everything has meaning. How we see determines how we react, what we do and what we do not do.
We are aware where our feet take us or what our arms are doing. We don't have to look at every move we make or every breath we take. In the same way, could we be aware of how our thoughts move and produce results outside us?
Most of our problems are caused by our thoughts. Because we are not aware of our inner process, we give another explanation to them. If I don't like my neighbour, it is because of what he is and how he acts. If I get angry or furious, I think I have a good reason. I feel happy talking with my friend but feel as though I am wasting my time watching a bad movie. It is not the friend or the movie but rather the meaning I give to them.
Our reactions come from our mindset, not from the facts. This is difficult to see. To us, the thinker seems different from thought. With a thought sense I could see that I created both. Then the whole setup changes. Then thoughts and moods are one motion and there is no self.
Being free from the self feels absolutely great! However, many people are afraid to live without ego because we assume that we would lose our identity. On the contrary, a free mind is everything!
Memory is blind
Can thought be aware of its movement? Let's watch this in a simple situation.
I perceive that my friend is angry with me. She actually is or I just think so. What I assume is my fact and therefore causes me to act. I can ask her but I don't know if she will tell me the truth.
Thoughts are moving. They also move my body. I notice confusion rising. Did I do something to make her angry or am I just imagining the whole thing? How do I watch this movement of thoughts in my head?
Bohm suggests that instead of thinking about the process that I look at all my immediate reactions. This changes my focus into looking at the actual facts.
Usually we react to our thoughts about the fact. They come from memory. Now I watch the movement without trying to do anything about it.
If I can suspend acting for three seconds, the whole process changes. There is no ego then. My watchful attention "dries" the pipeline.
Many people have experienced this when they meditate. When their mind calms down there is peace and silence. Only the facts remain. You hear sounds outside very clearly. You can almost hear your heart beating and blood circulating.
In that tranquil state one feels a special kind of joy. It is not joy about something particular. It is absolute joy!
Self lives blind in its world.
If we could watch the whole movement of thought in this way, we might see how thought has produced most things we rely on: the self and the society, ideologies, beliefs, concepts and theories.
The self can never perceive the movement of thought directly. It lives blind in its own world and repeats what it has learned.
This is a tragedy! Not seeing how we create our own problems may be the root cause of all conflicts, violence, anger, injustice, shame and suffering.
When you sit in a chair you are tacitly aware of your body touching the chair. You don't have to think about it or make decisions or choices. If we all could this way be aware of our thoughts moving when we think, we might easily solve most of the world problems.
We do not have this awareness of our thoughts because our thought sense is not working. It does not warn us of danger before it is too late.
Meaning is being
As individuals we are different and we must be allowed to be! We are unique.
Our culture teaches us that each individual is separate. We don't notice the evidence which shows that basically we all come from the same pool. We share the basic concepts of space, time society, family, and so forth. Skin deep, we are all the same, as Buddy Guy aptly sings.
There seems to be an element of individuality in our physical, neurochemical process. Our personal package is unique, one of a kind. We can choose fairly freely the road we ride, the food we like or the book we read but we are not free to do or say whatever we like. There are rules and laws that we have to consider because we live together and have to get along. And there are always people who don't care about rules or other people.
Furthermore, we are not free to choose the meaning we give to things. Our conditioning decides what we believe and trust in, what is important, true and right.
To change the world we must change our meanings, check our priorities and agenda. Thoughts are behind them all. If we don't soon change our ego-system our civilization will not survive.
The world changes when meaning changes.
Nobody can destroy the world alone, but together we are doing just that! Planet earth does not need us but we need it! If we keep on spitting in our own soup, we have to keep on eating it. To make our life viable we must change our destructive course.
To do that, we need a new agenda.