Immediate Practical Choiceless Awareness
Inviting the Subconscious
IntroductionThis article deals with increasingly focusing attention in the sphere of outgoing 'here and now' or 'uptime' by means of de-energising superfluous thought trains at their inception and thus preventing their flowering.
The effect is to remove, by stages, irrelevant elements, namely certain superfluous and mechanical thinking processes, from consciousness.
The resultant, ongoing state of consciousness is one of increasing internal order, an order that self propagates as the irrelevant thought streams effortlessly die away.
Types of Thinking
In terms of 'thinking' here, the word means to internally process or energise Visual and Aural images including symbolic Visual and (mainly) Aural word or language images, the latter (aural) being commonly known as 'internal dialogue'. Most people believe that their thinking processes comprise only internal dialogue or an imagined 'something' behind internal dialogue (a hidden 'thinker'). This illusion persists owing to poor or incomplete observation. When sufficient attention gets paid (to this admittedly ethereal and difficult to catch process) internal dialogue can be observed to intertwine with purely visual imagery (commonly) and aural tone imagery (more rarely): dialogue can concatenate and form long trains or chains of thought (alone or more commonly) with visual/aural images. For a more thorough discussion of the mechanism of thinking and the illusory nature of the Aristotelian or psychological 'I', see associated page in links.
Practical and Speculative Thinking
When we think, our thoughts may be directed towards the purely practical (e.g. 'To open this door I'll have to turn the handle and pull), and the purely speculative (e.g. 'I wonder how many purple eyed pixies can sit on top of a red hot poker?'). There also apparently exists an in-between stage wherein the practical and speculative appear to merge (e.g. 'When I open this door, I'll see how many pixies are sitting on the red hot poker behind there), but since the subject of such thoughts is speculative, the entirety is defined as a speculative thought chain. Insofar as this article goes, 'practical' thoughts are overtly defined as those thought trains that contain exclusively 'practical' content - content relating to habitual activity and procedure useful to obtaining a measurable objective result rather than theory.
Past and Future
In addition to thinking in a practical or speculative 'object' manner, thoughts may also be directed towards the past (by the invocation of memory) or the future (by imagining/projecting what that future might be). In actuality, past and future do not exist other than as ideation.
A Special Case of the Past
One particularly pernicious form of time based thinking relates to the dwelling upon or spinning out of visual and word images in a stream of 'nostalgia'. During this process, images get selectively revived (and often discussed as: 'this was this', and 'I remember this', etc.) in an apparent attempt to provide a sense of security by reference to fixed points in memory. In fact, memory (or image/illusion) is the only place that such points ever do exist. Since this casual activity of continual reference to the past for no other reason than illusory security serves no practical purpose (indeed it causes harm through inattention to the immediate present), the process is classified as a needless one of 'speculation'.
Loci or Directions of Thinking
The Four Quadrants Model
This is illustrated in Figure 1 above. Noting that the plane of the screen represents possible directions of thinking or attention as defined above, we have the 'x' axis running horizontally and representing the movement of thought in the past, through the present into the future, and the vertical 'y' axis showing thought moving from the realms of the speculative through zero or 'null point' into the realm of the practical. Note that although the model is necessarily static as a two dimensional drawing, in practice the thought processes of a normal human will not confine themselves to any particular quadrant but will jump around like quicksilver from one zone to another as thinking shifts: this is readily observable by anyone who cares to apply the necessary diligence in observation.
Quadrant 1: Practical Future
This quadrant represents thinking directed to practical matters that relate to the future (eg 'what time does the next bus come?', 'what size screws do I need to hold up these new shelves?', 'turn left at the next road junction to get home.')
Quadrant 2: Practical Past
Thinking directed towards practical matters relating to the past. This is essentially attention directed towards historically factual matters that are of some use in or around the present. As examples, one could cite at one extreme the study of the entire history of the laws of motion and the assimilation of its lessons for hiring a fork lift truck, whilst at the other one could recall the length of time it takes to soft boil an egg as and when one needs to carry out such an act. In between, one might have a readily accessible mental map of how a particular type of car engine works. Quadrant two relates to factual knowledge and experience, and the past application of such knowledge (as knowledge) pragmatically in the present.
Quadrant 3: Past Speculation
Here we have speculative thinking directed towards the past. None of us can change the past, that's a matter of hard, physical, universal fact, yet the human mind has the propensity of keeping harping back to it in image form in the 'past speculative' mode and saying things such as: 'If only I'd...', 'I should have...', 'What if I'd done X, Y or Z...' and so on. None of these thoughts change anything, indeed they are the substance of inattention by diverting awaremness away from the practical here and now. The activity of 'nostalgia' rightly belongs in this quadrant since it represents needless (and hence non-practical) reference to past events. Although the (selectively remembered) events may have some factual base, the reminiscing over them comprises an act of speculation.
Quadrant 4: Future Speculation
This area boasts similar properties to quadrant 3, albeit the speculative thinking process now turns towards imagining vast numbers of possible futures from the infinite number available. Because the thinking is SPECULATIVE - i.e. it has no concrete, attainable practical goal (by definition), the mind circles endlessly in ever expanding loops without rest, not realising that an endless number of speculative questions exist. Examples of 'future speculative' thinking are: 'what will happen when I die?', 'what is the meaning of time?', 'how will my boss treat me tomorrow?', 'X is going to hurt me: what shall I do?'
That concludes a general overview, now for one or two more specific observations.
The mathematical Origin (x=0, y=0) on the model represents a peculiar singularity where thinking gets directed neither towards the past, future, practicality or speculation. In a conscious entity, this represents a state of quiescent rapt attention or choiceless awareness .
Point p1, located on the 'practical' axis with zero x, represents urgently active one pointed thinking or deep concentration such as might exist at the 'eureka' moment of solving an original problem - the state of the inventor or innovator.
As for the blue ellipse, this might represent an idealised zone within which the thinking processes of the 'practical' man move. We have a varying depth of practicality with reference to the immediate future and the immediate past: points p1 and the origin lie within the ambit of the zone as equally valid points to the rest - permitting choiceless awareness and 'eureka' as potential states. The essential thing to note about this 'practical man' envelope is that although the ellipse width may vary dependent on the scope of the problem in hand, no excursions whatsoever into quadrants 3 and 4 occur, more of which follows below.
The Ways of Thought
The model portrayed above provides one way of depicting the way in which the human image making process operates. The fundamental ability to create images and model/map/manipulate those images (an ability which mankind has had at least 2,500,000 years) is the great evolutionary gift that separates him from the rest of the animal kingdom. Gift although it is, it is also a curse: the very thing that has ensured man's supremacy and continuing survival in a hostile world of tremendous natural forces and physically superior predators now threatens his downfall.
Practically applied (quadrants 1 and 2), image making is our tool and ally: used indiscriminately in speculation (quadrants 3 and 4) it creates disorder, suffering and chaos.
Gautama Buddha recognised the basic facts some two and a half thousand years ago that: 'Desire causes suffering: the ending of desire is the ending of suffering.' Wise words, words that describe a scientific observation, not some religious dogma, but even given the facts on a plate mankind still seems bent on heaping on the suffering, apparently ignorant as to how and why and where it comes from. The simple fact is that desire, and it's attendant suffering, arise as a consequence of the mind operating in speculative image-making mode - indiscriminate use of the imagination. Put another way, desire is a quadrant 3 and 4 activity.
Example: I want X (where X is an object, a state, an action or feeling, etc.). I imagine myself with X - visualise myself with it, build various pictures and word images. I repeatedly play through these images like motion pictures and then, from these SPECULATIVE images build a further set of 'practical' (rather 'less abstract') images of ways and means of me getting into my desired state with X. Using these mental prototypes, I physically work on my environment to get close to X. Ultimately, if I get it right, I get X (having suffered separation from my imagined goal all the way). In the instant of possessing X, a state of joy briefly exists in me in that I experience desirelessness insofar as object or condition X is concerned: seldom do I realise that I could have had the desirelessness by not wanting X in the first place.
Desire, which can also work in reverse by the want of the avoidance of certain things (see below) is essentially at root a quadrant 4 process in that it usually deals with expectations of the future but, as said before, attention in furtherance of desire can operate in a secondary fashion in all four quadrants.
Guilt is a form of thinking based in the past. Essentially, it roots on remembered past events (which no longer exist except between the ears as symbolic memories) and moves into the past speculative (quadrant 3) realm of 'what if I hadn't done that', 'what if I'd', 'supposing that', 'I should have', etc. all of which are irrelevant, non-productive, insubstantial fantasies which can loop indefinitely. Likewise, the amelioration of guilt (by corrective future action), rather than being a practical and simple quadrant 1 activity is more often a stream of useless, open ended 'what if' quadrant 4 thinking which interacts with the root guilt.
Psychological fear is a particular form of desire, most commonly a desire to avoid an imagined state that comes about as the result of future speculative (quadrant 4) thinking, a state that commonly relates to imagined pain, embarrassment, loss, etc. The process of avoiding a particular image is the same as the process of aspiring towards a particular image. Examples: 'what will happen when I die?', 'suppose that man over there hits me', 'what if I make a mess of this speech?' The reader should not confuse psychological fear (which involves a thinking/imaging process) with the spontaneous, intelligent physical reaction of the body to danger: the former occurs in time, the latter is immediate.
Upon close examination, the mental activity that is commonly referred to as 'worry' will be found to be a quadrant 3/4 biased activity that contains the elements given above in various degrees. As given before, and the reader should bear this in mind for ALL these behaviours, the thinking processes will rapidly switch quadrants as thought trains build, but the essence of the particular trains will lie/originate in particular zones>
The activities of the speculative imagination that initiate and predominate in quadrants 3/4, when led by internal dialogue, will invariably have certain language patterns associated with them, patterns that contain broad, 'open ended' predicates such as: suppose, imagine, maybe, perhaps, pretend, what if, assuming, why, project, fantasise, visualise, surmise and so on (the list is not exhaustive). In addition to internal dialogue, these may be used in detecting speculation in external communications in speech and writing. [As a footnote, many speculative language patterns can be stopped dead by offering a negative alternative such as: 'suppose it isn't', 'maybe not', 'perhaps not', and so on. Also, since we speak here of speculation, it can be easily brushed aside with a dismissive: 'so what?'
Practical Use of Quadrant 4
From the foregoing paragraphs it might occur to the reader that all quadrant 4 activities, since they invariably appear to give rise to pain in one form or another, are of no use and that humanity would be better off without them. The fact is that the facility of image making 'per se' is an essential part of being human and it isn't going to go away. Rather we must become aware of the potential dangers concomitant with the ability and learn to live with them. In the realm of speculation a snake lives beneath every flower: the process that provides us with the capacity to make tools and maps, to design and construct and to create pleasurable fantasy is the very same capacity that also creates fear and pain. We have to understand that, and that being done we might well ask is the future/speculation potential that we possess nothing more than a curse or does it have any benefits?
The answer is that it indeed has benefits, benefits in terms of providing us with the novel, the unexpected, the original and often the bizarre. In short, the future/speculative imagination should be deliberately invited when creativity is desired - for example in composition, free invention, brainstorming and the like. At other times - such as to prevent its abuse as indicated previously - attention needs to be paid elsewhere: when we think, we become progressively hypnotised by the predicated and converging thought patterns and cease to be aware. We go into 'downtime' by negating sensory information & not paying attention outwardly. The beneficial direction of this attention is dealt with in what follows below.
Definition of Practical
The term 'practical' has been used a number of times in the previous paragraphs without any particular definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word means: 'Concerned with, shown in, practice; available or useful in practice; engaged in practice, practising; inclined or suited to action rather than speculation...' In the same source, the word 'practice' gets defined as: '1. Habitual action or carrying on; action as opposed to theory; method of legal procedure, habit, custom...' The discerning reader will note that we might apply this definition to almost anything - driving a car, woodworking, meditation, gas chamber operation, argumentation, and so on, but the definition sought is one related to the practicality of 'thinking' as defined earlier. Ultimately, the definition will depend upon the individual and will depend upon the individual's root intent. The individual's practice in thinking is a secondary activity that depends upon the fundamental intent of each individual: if an individual intends building a table, then 'practice' in woodworking is required: if the intent is to exterminate people, then 'practice' in working extermination. It's that stark, and that basic: the underlying intent determines all.
It is the reader's job to determine what is practical in a particular context. If an overall definition of practicality can be set - covering all circumstances - then so be it.
Huxley addresses the problem, insofar as it relates to the symbolism inherent in language, thus in: 'Brave New World Revisited':
'Language permits its users to pay attention to things,
persons and events, even when the things and persons
are not present and the events are not taking place.
Language gives definition to our memories and, by
translating experiences into symbols, converts the
immediacy of craving or abhorrence, of hatred or love,
into fixed principles of feeling and conduct.
In some way of which we are totally unconscious, the
reticular system of the brain selects from a countless
host of stimuli those few experiences which are of practical
importance to us. From these unconsciously selected
experiences we more or less consciously select and abstract
a smaller number, which we label with words from our
vocabulary and then classify within a system at once
metaphysical, scientific and ethical, made up of other words
on a higher level of abstraction.
In cases where the selecting and abstracting have been
dictated by a system that is not too erroneous as a view
of the nature of things, and where the verbal labels have
been intelligently chosen and their symbolic nature clearly
understood, our behaviour is apt to be realistic and tolerably
But under the influence of badly chosen words, applied, without
any understanding of their merely symbolic character, to
experiences that have been selected and abstracted in the light of
a system of erroneous ideas, we are apt to behave with a
fiendishness and an organised stupidity, of which dumb animals
(precisely because they ARE dumb and cannot speak) are blessedly
In the present context, for 'verbal labels inteligently chosen', and the influence of 'badly chosen words', substitute: 'intent'.
Setting up Negation
In actuality, this process begins when practicality gets defined. The resultant action is to negate thinking that is not practical in terms of achieving the practical objectives. Note the word: 'negate'. That does not mean suppress, but rather nullify or ignore the existence of. Note the definition of the word 'practical' is as defined by the individual. In operation, one 'sets' oneself to simply ignore (and thus not energise the thought trains) any part of the thinking process not matching the 'practical' definition. Once put into operation the process, being in the capable hands of the subconscious mind, works effortlessly (and hence conditionlessly other than as pre-set in two carefully thought out definitions) in negating superfluous thought processes by 'not going there'.
The fact is that people already behave in a manner broadly described in this article - with the subconscious mind reacting to ideas or 'ideals' (ideas/ideals mainly randomly set as abstractions and cliches and mixed up, or set by others with ulterior motive). Owing to the way our cultures are presently organised the various random inputs to the human mind - in terms of symbol, language, tradition, myth, religion, cliche, literature, music, politics, ritual and ceremony, formal education, television and film, commercial interest, common knowledge (or illusion) and assumptions - produce predictably conflicting and confused outcomes. One easy way to identify some of the devices used to set ideas is to take note of those patterns around you that either get used repetitively by others (you may even use some yourself) or involve costumes, and consider how they might possibly be affecting you at deeper levels: witch doctors and shamans learned the effect of repetition and fancy dress on the subconscious mind millennia ago - and it's still as valid now as then.
This article provides you with a way out of this. It gives you the opportunity to consider, deliberately, what your deepest motives are and to set yourself such as to negate distractions.
The concluding quotation offered below restates this concisely in a manner relating to direct and practical moment to moment action and, if followed in actuality, will lead directly and immediately to the point of origin:
"The mind is the result of the past, which is the process of conditioning.
How is it possible for the mind to be free?
To be free, the mind must not only see and understand its pendulum-like swing between the past and the future but also be aware of the interval between thoughts.
That interval is spontaneous, it is not brought about through any causation, through any wish, through any compulsion.
If you watch very carefully, you will see that though the response, the movement of thought, seems so swift, there are gaps, there are intervals between thoughts.
Between two thoughts there is a period of silence which is not related to the thought process.
If you observe you will see that that period of silence, that interval, is not of time and the discovery of that interval, the full experiencing of that interval, liberates you from conditioning--or rather it does not liberate 'you' but there is liberation from conditioning."
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The Prince and the Magician
The Nature of Thinking
Dialogues: Language, Conditioning and Reality
Dan Scorpio NLP Homepage
Consciousness, Repetition, Patterning and Existence
The Epimestology of Knowledging
Language Pattern: Pome and Lyrical
Neologism and Cliche
Dealing with Cults and Index