Besting Yourself – The Problem [1]

The Problem

In the dark corners of your mind lurks discontent. You want to feel good all the time. That is doable but difficult. There is momentum behind your discontent.

What you experience is a deception. Actuality is an elaborate illusion. You never see the lies that you believe, and you have been believing.

The discontent you feel is the itch that develops from the disease of deceit. An apt diagnosis reveals how the curative works.

There is a glossary at the back of the book which lets us come to terms. My usage of common words is sometimes specific or distinct.

○○○

You feel happy when something goes your way. Alas, happiness does not stick around. Things go wrong, scuffing those jolly dancing shoes. Happiness is not something you can rely on.

You feel bliss when you are calm and quiet within. The dictionary defines bliss as “supreme happiness.”

Is bliss elusive? Does an inner cloud hover too often? The maker of that cloud, the robber of bliss, is your mind. I use the word ‘mind’ only by convention. The idea of a mind is a misnomer.

The mind seems a natural thing. Since infancy, your inner voice has told you that you have a mind inside your body amid a physical world. You likely believe that is the reality of things. Most everyone does.

But a mind is a paradox: an intangible object that renders existence tangible. How could that work? No one in history has ever had a decent answer to that question.

The idea of a mind is misdirection. Perception and thought are processes, not bubbly objects like they appear in cartoons.

A process comprises motions perceived as a sequence set. An event is a process with an outcome.

All is process. Everything you consider meaningful are from events. You like certain objects for what they represent to you or what you did with them, not the objects themselves. That includes what you think you are. Your cherished memories are of what you did.

Despite activity itself holding paramount meaning, our minds present events in terms of objects acting and being acted upon. Our cognitive development and language reflect this object bias. This object orientation is a fundamental falsity.

Process savvy would be superior to the object orientation we possess. Why do we relate to objects so casually whereas processes are more difficult to conceive and take concentration to perform?

The answer is disturbing. Your mind deceives at an elemental level. The tip of this iceberg is a mental orientation toward objects. What is behind the treachery of physicality is explained in the chapter on reality.

In acquiring meaning in your mind, objects are either instruments, obstacles, or the locus of aesthetic attention. All these attributions are functional abstractions, of processes in symbolic form. Beauty is a consumption measured by the attentive time spent on it.

Rather than contort language, we proceed using mind in referring to mentation. When you read ‘mind,’ think mental motion, not mystical object.

What process means in a practical sense is that you can change yourself, and thereby change your world. If self-improvement were not possible, living would have a fraction of its value. This book is a guide to letting you demand full value.

○○○

This instant – now – presents all that ever exists. What exists is what can be sensed. All else that appears to you is fabricated from memory and imagination.

That is not to say that perception does not involve memory and imagination. It most certainly does. But what is happening to you now is all that is perceptible.

Many people are sentimental and/or revere their imagination. Awareness of existence evaporates when you are trapped in the smoky resin of memory or indulge in fantasy.

Living in the past or through ideas is mental illness. In mental health, you live in now, only referencing memory and counterfactual thought to solve problems or entertain others with stories.

◊ ◊ ◊

Every moment you experience is unique. Yet perception does not work that way.

Perception is the process of making sense of what appears in the mind. Perception is a symbolic construal: molding data into information.

The fabrication termed perception is the mind’s main occupation. Understanding how perception works lets you see how glitches occur that lessen perceptivity.

Perception is a multi-step process. That process begins with sensation.

Sensation reaps data. Sensation is a harvest from various inputs – seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting – in a piecemeal manner.

Sensation integrates inputs and turns that mosaic of multimedia into representational symbols. The derived inputs are coarse. Using memory and imagination, the mind smooths rough edges and fills in blanks. The fineness of resolution in sensation owes to your awareness.

Sensation shapes stimuli into abstracted forms for identification. Perception interprets sensation.

Perception arranges sensed symbols, construing what they are and what they mean. The perception process begins by identifying the discrete abstractions from sensation. This first stage is recognition.

Your mind identifies objects and events using memory. Memory is the storehouse of experience by which your mind manufactures knowledge. Knowledge is the door to skill.

Every sensed object or process is unique. To facilitate its work, your mind does 2 things: 1) it stores mere sketches, with precision decided by awareness at the time of sensation and determined meaning, and 2) it naturally categorizes objects and events. The convenience of categorization is crucial to comprehension.

Memory renders sketches of experiences into concepts and patterns. For you to recognize anything, your mind recalls construals and associatively matches them to the perception under consideration.

People with photographic memories have trouble remembering faces because their memory portrayals are too detailed. People look distinct depending on lighting and angle of view. The same problem applies to objects at a distance. Recalling mere sketches abets recognition via pattern matching.

A concept is a symbolic construct which your mind associatively categorizes. Every thought you have, every word you encounter, is an abstraction. Your mind swims in an ocean of concepts that came from its rain of perception.

Concepts are contrivances that are useful because they are generalized. This generalization transpires by the mind discarding what it considers inessential details.

The salient point about concepts is that they do not exist. Concepts are derived from experience yet are outside existence.

◊ ◊ ◊

Mentation is an intricate mix. Sensations, feelings, intuitions, desires, biases, memory, imagination, thoughts, and emotions flow together in a scramble. Though naturally conflated, their sources may be teased apart.

The elements of mentation come from 3 integral wellsprings: coremind, willmind, and nattermind. Presences add their influence.

In making sense of sensation, coremind manages raw perception. Coremind also solves problems. Coremind is your navigator down the stream of living: easing the journey by working past snags to satisfy desires.

Coremind works subconsciously: mentation which does not rise to overt awareness. Nothing passing through coremind is conscious. Coremind itself provokes no thought, no emotion.

Desire and intention are the province of willmind. Willmind is conation, the mental expression of will.

Willmind gets its input from coremind. Paying attention is willmind using coremind. Concentration is willmind in full flower.

Speech fluidly proceeds via willmind. You do not first consciously think what you are going to say and then say it. You just talk. Talking is willmind at work, as is being attentive to any activity.

Thought is useless. It solves nothing. The revered Indian guru Vasistha lived 4,200 years ago. He penned part of the Rigveda, a foundational Hindu text. Vasistha wrote, “Though appearing to be intelligent, thought is unable to comprehend anything really.”

Thought steals awareness away from now. Thinking is an unforced error. You are literally lost in thought. Where does such distraction come from?

Enter nattermind, the troublemaker. Nattermind is also known as monkey-mind, for its proclivity to blather. That blather is thought.

Nattermind is the independent agent within that interrupts your concentration and tries to darken your day with negativity in all its wild varieties. Thoughts you do not initiate, emotions you would like to disown, come from nattermind. Monkey-mind is the source of your discontent. Nattermind is a force of anti-bliss.

Coremind employs heuristics, which are processing shortcuts. Keeping only sketches in memory is an innate heuristic.

Nattermind warps heuristics into biases. Monkey-mind plies biases to enhance its grip.

Biases weaken willmind. Biases create obstacles to accurate assessment, which you need to achieve and get satisfaction.

Belief is the bias of reification: treating abstractions as if they are real. Nattermind wants you to believe its treacherous whispers: to fear, worry, feel anxious or depressed.

To keep its hold on your mind, nattermind lessens skepticism. Gullibility eases deceit. Wile is a nattermind forte.

Framing is the bias of construing a situation from a certain perspective. Expectation is a framing bias of an imagined future event. Worry is a nattermind frame of indulging fearful expectations.

Viewing time or resources spent as an investment is the sunk cost bias. Under its sway, people persist in a fruitless endeavor because an “investment” has been made, and to not continue would be a “waste.” The sunk cost bias is a dark shadow of hope: a misleading spell cast by nattermind.

A feeling is a perceptual reaction to some stimulus that subconsciously incorporates knowledge before making its impression. Left unmassaged by nattermind, a feeling may presage an intuition. But monkey-mind relishes feelings: distorting and amplifying them.

Feelings are rich fodder for the trump card in nattermind’s deck: emotion. Emotion is an assault on awareness: diverting attention away from now to inner turbulence that is ripe with meaning but devoid of insight.

Intuition is (seemingly) instant comprehension. Insight is the fruition of intuition.

◊ ◊ ◊

Mistakes stem from 2 sources: inattention and conceptualization failure.

There are degrees of inattentiveness. The worst is being remiss. The least is a slight oversight, where physics takes on a life of its own. Heightened awareness helps, but the challenge of mechanics never ends.

Faulty conceptualization leads to misunderstanding and confusion. Misstep in symbol management often stems from a belief system breakdown. You can get the wrong idea by assuming a relation that does not exist or works differently than conceived.

Predictability is the utilitarian aim of conceptualization: to grasp ambient physics as foreseeable. Belief that an action yields predictable results engenders expectation. Predictability is the inner armament by which you assault the world to fulfill your desires.

Assumption is an expression of belief. The habit of easy believing under nattermind’s sway engenders conceptualization crashes. By contrast, disbelief keeps you on your proverbial toes.

Ego breeds social faux pas. Stiffly assuming a righteous rightness can ruin relations by being uncompromising: simply to avoid hurting one’s feelings about oneself. Good behavior has no ego.

There is no correlation between severity of error and consequence entailed. A reckless blunder may be of no import whereas a small slip may set off profound repercussions. You can never be too careful.

◊ ◊ ◊

Your mind has been polluted by nattermind. Monkey-mind is the root of your problem. Nattermind is your nemesis.

It was not always that way.

We are born in pure awareness. Newborns are one with their world. There is no distinction between self and what consumes a neonate’s attention. This sense of unity quickly evaporates as the mind evolves.

As altricial animals, our minds develop gradually. Cognitive development and learning proceed from a foundation of inborn faculty and precocious knowledge. Patternmaking, categorization, and language aptitude are all innate.

As with all altricial animals, what sticks in the mind of an infant is an inborn bond with its mother. A neonate regards its mother as unique. An infant seeks her mother’s smell and face over those of other women.

By 2 months, babies begin to think that they are confined within their bodies amid an external world. Dualism dawns.

Within 3 months, babies recognize objects by abstracting visual patterns into mental rules. Sounds become more comprehensible via sonic rulemaking.

Young infants have more difficulty recognizing male faces than female ones. Women are primary caregivers. Being able to recognize their faces helps an infant understand emotive expressions and thereby the moods of the infant’s tether to survival. This cognitive facility is abetted by innate empathy. Women’s faces are distinct in typically being more juvenilized than those of men (neoteny).

Awareness of mental states occurs by 6 months. Tracking others’ moods begins around 7 months.

Intention finds its footing at 8 months, as willmind widens its interests.

Babies also begin to comprehend the permanence of objects around this time. Before then, Nature ranges only as far as can be sensed: out of sight, out of existence.

Along with understanding object permanence comes the concept of loss: this from nascent nattermind. Babies start to form attachments to comforting objects.

By 1 year, willmind is bettering its employment of coremind. Reasoning kicks in. Infants appreciate that others have intentions. Children begin to speak their first words in their 1st year.

Via inborn coremind mentation, our minds portray a world of objects. This object bent is a heuristic, as processes require more nuanced processing to transform procedures into event-based skills.

All human languages are object-oriented. Nouns outnumber verbs in all vocabularies. Infants learn new nouns easier and more rapidly than new verbs.

Just as object permanence and duality are post-natal acquisitions, so too that animate objects have minds of their own. Before then, a baby is egocentric in assuming that others experience the world as it does.

Attributing inanimate objects with lifelike properties is common during infancy. This innate sense of animism lingers to 3 years of age.

Thereafter, children view living beings as distinct from inanimate objects. They implicitly adopt vitalism. Because plants do not visibly move as animals do, children do not recognize them as living until later. Childhood recognition of death as irreversible is also a later comprehension.

Not until 15–18 months do infants recognize themselves in the mirror. Awareness of oneself as a distinctive being emerges between 18 and 24 months.

Nattermind strengthens its clutches when children discover frustration: that circumstances may thwart wishes. Frustration typically emerges around 2 years of age. This phase is often called the “terrible twos,” as the discovery of frustration is itself infuriating.

Contemporaneously, the already well-developed propensity toward possessions sharpens. Frustration underlines that possession cannot be taken for granted. 2-year-olds fight harder for toys they feel they own.

From 3 years on, ownership is a compelling force. A 3-year-old protests if someone tries to take away someone else’s toy. Such is an expression of innate morality, which is object based.

Children begin to develop theory of mind around age 4. By 5 or so, children understand that other minds are different than their own. Theory of mind is the basis for rational empathy: comprehending another perspective.

Children from 5 years on begin to appreciate that what is in their mind is not necessarily what exists in the world. They can distinguish fact from fiction. But, encouraged by their monkey-mind, young children still indulge their imagination.

With fantasy flowering, nattermind has nestled in. Easy belief is a nattermind hallmark.

Monkey-mind becomes a frequent kibitzer. In doing so, nattermind taxes willmind by making concentration more difficult. In thrall to their monkey-mind, many children are easily distracted.

○○○

Belief is faith in concepts. Belief has a seductive allure. “Concepts that have proven useful easily achieve such an authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens,” wrote German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

In their proper place, concepts are mere tools. Ideas do not exist. There is no truth in belief, no reality in abstraction. There never is a reason to believe.

Belief is not just a convenience. Belief molds you. “Once you have a belief, it influences how you perceive all other relevant information,” concluded American scholar Robert Jervis.

Scientists esteem skeptical scrutiny. They still fall prey to their framing. “Familiar ideas sometimes preclude any other avenue. Sometimes the very language of mathematical notation traps theorists within looping blind allies from which they can never escape,” observed American physicist Mark Buchanan.

You are immersed in your beliefs. Beliefs color your world. American psychologist William James noted, “Belief creates the actual fact.” German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe saw, “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”

Nattermind fortifies beliefs by making them self-reinforcing. “The more we examine our beliefs and explain how they might be true, the more closed we become to challenging information,” wrote American psychologist David Myers.

Belief is an instrument of suffering, and symptomatic of slavery to nattermind. Belief, fortified by emotion, forms the chains that bound you to iğnorance.

◊ ◊ ◊

Iğnorance is living in an inner realm where nattermind reigns, with willmind playing 2nd fiddle. Whereas ignorance is not knowing in certain subject matters, iğnorance is the lowest level of consciousness. The breve symbol ˘ over ğ in iğnorance symbolizes the oppression of nattermind.

At this level, stress is normal: part of the grind of getting by, courtesy of monkey-mind. That is not how it has to be. Living the lessons of this book will lift you out of iğnorance.

Enlightenment is not of the mind, but over your monkey-mind.

The Collective are the 99+% of humanity who live in iğnorance. They treat their biological urges as imperatives. They believe.

Perhaps you believe in you. Some praise that as self-esteem. Instead, it is a mental problem.

Any ideas you have of yourself are untrue. You are not a mind-body, not an object. You are a gyre: a dynamic of interaction with your habitat.

Your self-image is defined by your memories. These memories trap you like an insect in amber. You think of yourself as having a personality, of being a certain somebody. Your conception of yourself is a fable.

Ego is emblematic of attachment. Being emotively attached to yourself is clinging to a selectively recalled past. This clinging can foreclose future opportunities, because you’re stuck in the rut of being you rather than making smart moves.

Just as every event in your life is unique, you are unique at every event. Your mental patterns change as experience weighs in and age wears on. That you can alter these patterns is the key to remedy your discontent and what ails you from the inside.

○○○

Many in the Collective try to scratch the itch their monkey-mind makes by self-medicating to dim their awareness. Dimming the light of being is a diminishment in quality of life. The idea of relaxing by becoming less aware is bowing in subservience to nattermind.

You cannot fortify yourself with weakness. Power is a matter of will.

Living well is a serious endeavor. Joy is a byproduct.

Happiness is unreachable as a goal. You cannot wish or think your way to bliss.

Many in post-industrial societies live for creature comfort. They just want to enjoy life. These hedonists are poor prospects to attain enlightenment. The reason is that mental mastery is the supreme challenge: an endeavor beyond those timid of spirit or lacking the will to succeed.

How badly do you want to rid yourself of the vexations that drag you down: to banish the negativity of worry, anxiety, depression, frustration, anger?

Discontent may motivate, but it is not enough to propel you to enlightenment. Running from does not give you the stamina that running to does.

As satisfaction only comes from a job well done, desiring accomplishment is as natural as breathing. Wanting to make the most of your life is the best motivation for enlightening yourself.

Being calm and in control of yourself is the basis for achievement. Pure being begets great doing.

There is a popular myth that mental illness is a disability with benefits, such as enlivening creativity. Nonsense. The most productive mind is one with clarity of intent and the focus to implement quality output at speed.

Monkey-mind can only monkey with you. Inner noise is no inspiration. The dissonance and alienation that passes for art nowadays expresses the crudeness of the Collective in conflating confusion and dissonance with beauty.

Indifference to others’ suffering is common in the Collective because everyone in the Collective is themself suffering. The empathy that readily arises in higher consciousness is harder to come by in iğnorance.

Wanting to empower yourself is magnificent. You cannot truly care for others if you do not care for yourself.

We turn now to the goal of purifying your awareness and thereby realizing your true being.