Our tendency is to take most of our life experiences for granted. We learn how to walk until we forget that we walk. We learn how to interpret what we see until we become blinded by the familiar. We weave our perception of life using our nervous systems and forget that our perspective is relative. Researchers call this phenomenon learning. I call it forgetting. Researchers say that the ability to perform basic tasks unconsciously frees us up to take on more challenging puzzles. I say that most people stop taking on more challenging, irregular, and innovative patterns of thinking after they get the basics and fall deeper into unconsciousness.
The mindfulness movement emerged as a way to help us remember the basics of how and what we experience. Paying attention to the breath and sensations helps one bring oneself into the moment and away from the traps of memories or future fantasies.
Mindfulness is not new – it has been fundamental to many meditation practices. Mindfulness is a repackaged version of old wisdom, reawakened to lure us out of autopilot. Living on automatic makes life pass by quickly and dims creativity until we are stuck in a box that looks like millions of other boxes. But we are more than this….
Living out of the box is a way of daring ourselves to remain awake. I like to feel awake. The feeling of being conscious liberates me to use my intuition, which moves in sparks and nonlinear flashes. For example, the other day I was reviewing a dream I had, where beings live on a planet that is close to both a bright blue star and a black hole. The light on the planet is a golden yellow that permeates and saturates the experience of these beings – everything is colored by this golden glow. Instead of treating this experience as background music to be filtered, the beings on this planet relate to the golden light as if it were a living presence – the glue between all. How often do we relish our liking of perceiving color? Maybe striking sunsets or sunrises catch our attention for brief moments, but we do not respond to all seeing this way.
Another lesson I learned from this dream is that the nervous systems of these beings are attuned to the strong gravity of both the star and the black hole. Their physiologies interpret gravity just like we hear sound! The black hole causes them to hear and feel a deep tone, droning through their existence. And the gravity of the star produces its own tone. They interpret gravity as sound – amazing! But no more magical than our ability to process light energy as color. The music to which these being are exposed is treated as something mystical and holy, and they are consciously listening to it.
You may say Who cares? Being aware of something as commonplace as light and sound that is always there doesn’t seem very interesting. And yet, as I feel what I see, and truly listen to the subtlety of what I hear, my entire life takes on a more nuanced texture.
Our lives have increasingly become about looking for the next rush. We crave something fresh, invigorating, and otherworldly. I watched some kids browsing YouTube…. They could only pay attention for a few seconds before jumping to the next video. They wanted the punchline without any buildup. They wanted a high on a continuous basis because their perception has become a giant callous. Even if they see something new and creative, they miss it. Their speediness through life is the walls of their box, holding them prisoner of dull emptiness.
If we unlock our ability to slow down and feel how we perceive, we dive deeper into existence and further from repetition. Life is literally countless frames per second, but we skim its surface like mosquitoes on a lake. We can only hear and see a minute fraction because our perception is out of sync with life – our need for speed disconnects us from reality, which gives us much more than we are now capable of receiving.
One last thought…. Have you ever caught yourself liking something and reflected on the feeling without the object that caused it? In my dream, I really liked the golden light and the low frequencies of the black hole. I could not peel away from how differently life consciousness worked on that planet. But then, I stepped away from the dream and just drowned in the feeling of liking. I was completely immersed in that while participating in my life.
We can never hit the bottom of existence because we have the ability to create it, and not to simply consume it. Our consumer culture is now about much more than the obsession to buy things. In fact, we have developed a taste for feeding on existence without creating anything ourselves. We are the vampires and the zombies, dead and hungry. We want to feel full infinity, but are stuck in insatiable hunger instead. We feed off relationships and stimuli to feel alive, but are dead only moments later and already planning the next heist. We are enraged that our hunger only grows. Those who do create cannot create fast enough.
We could stop the hunger completely and live fully, give back, and slow down until we feel the grains in a mirror and the subtle vibrations we call atoms. Wisdom and fullness lies in subtlety, which cannot be rushed. Wisdom cannot survive in a box. We cannot be alive in a box.