Awakening a Proprioception of Thought
By Martin LeFevre
Proprioception refers to “the body’s ability to sense movement, action and location.” Though I’ve written before about how this “sixth sense” plays an important part in quieting the mind, there’s a growing urgency for methodless meditation as the crisis of man’s consciousness increases by the week. Close your eyes and hold out your arm in a random position. Being able to locate our limbs with eyes closed is due to proprioceptive cells in our joints, which tell the brain where our body is in space, with or without gravity. Older people often lose proprioceptive cells, which is a main reason why falls occur in older age. But most people have no proprioception of thought, so they don’t know when they’re off balance. (Others feel it but don’t attend to it, which is a different matter.) For most people, the phrase, “the movement of thought” is nonsensical. The movement of thought, along with emotion, is as much a given as ‘Me’ and ‘my thoughts.’ The late physicist David Bohm, who Einstein called his “spiritual son,” first pointed out the potential for proprioception of thought. I was fortunate to dialogue with Bohm, and he changed the course of my life. Sad to say however, that he became extremely depressed near the end of his life, for which, as I grow older, I feel understanding and compassion. I’ve found out for myself, as you must find out for yourself, that once awakening deeply occurs within one, thought becomes a felt movement that one must deal with. After all, thought’s wrongful use, stemming from its fabrications of the ‘me,’ self and ‘I,’ are the source of man’s division, conflict, fragmentation and suffering. To say, ‘I am aware of my thoughts’ is not only redundant; it’s meaningless. What is the ‘I’ except a bundle of memories, images and emotions, signifying nothing but separateness and ego? It’s unsettling not to know what one is however, and to realize that the ‘I’ has no actuality at all. The awakening human being accepts and embraces such disturbance however, rather than avoids it. Disturbances are life’s way of insisting that we not be self-satisfied, but feel and question things, and thereby remain alive and growing. Everyone who is at all aware is feeling overwhelmed, but that’s no reason to ‘numb out’ and join the legions of walking dead. Can thought be aware of its own movement? Does thought proprioceptively perceive its own movement? No, there is another capacity of the brain, completely distinct from thought and the mind, as we know it. The proprioception of thought facilitates the lifelong process of putting thought in order and its right place, and ending self-centered activity. So a proprioceptive awareness of thought’s movement is not by thought or through thought. Nor is it by the self or the illusory ‘Higher Self.’ It’s simply the brain’s capacity to be aware of where thought is at a given moment in the same way it is aware of where one’s arm is when the eyes are closed. Consciousness based on thought — that is, separation, symbol, memory and image — is all we’ve known for thousands, even tens of thousands of years. However there is consciousness not based on thought and self, and it emerges when there is unguided attention and stillness of mind. If you sit still outdoors in a fairly quiet place and watch and listen to every sight and sound as they occur, and then let that same quality of choiceless awareness come to thoughts and emotions as they arise, there is an unforeseeable moment when the brain lets go of the chains of thought. Our chains are forged by the continuity of memory, self and time, which are the shackles of thought. Meditation allows attention to ignite and grow intense, like a welder’s torch without a welder, burning through every thought as it arises without any smoke or ash, leaving nothing but stillness, silence and emptiness. Meditation is the awakening of the state of insight, opening the door to the sacred. It’s quiet in the shade at streamside. The day is pleasantly warm, not oppressively hot as it has been here lately and many other places. The Earth is screaming “fire!” but man is not listening. Even so, there could not be a more perfect day. I sat for an hour and a half beside the lapping creek, with monarchs and swallowtail butterflies drinking the nectar of the spiky white balls overhanging the water. It’s strange how the closer one gets to the essence of life without the continuity of thought the closer one comes to the essence of death without fear. Awareness, beauty, death and the sacred are all one. Martin LeFevre
|David Bohm (1917-1992) was an American scientist whose main concern was to understand the nature of reality and consciousness.|
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