I woke up twice this morning. The first time was the to sprinkler system in the back yard beginning to water the plants. The second time was when the phone rang. Now I am up and feeling better than I have for days.
During the night, I got some answers to the questions I raised yesterday about the foreground thoughts and feelings. I started thinking about what exactly was going on and I remembered two schools of thought about it.
The first school of thought comes from the teachings of the enneagram. In this school of thought, the we function from three centers of intelligence: the physical or body center, the emotional center, and the intellectual center. These are also referred to as the belly, heart, and head center, respectively. Because we function from these three centers, we have bodily based experience impinging on our consciousness whenever we feel a slight pain or discomfort. We have an emotional experience whenever our feelings are triggered. Finally, and probably most of the time, we are bombarded through our mental center with thoughts, memories, plans, images, dreams (really another type of image), and so forth. In addition, we must note that energy follows attention. That is, wherever we place our attention, our energy will follow. If we are focused on a goal we want to accomplish, we may be able to place all of our attention on that goal.
We can actually create pretty much at will each of these experiences. For example, don’t think of an elephant! What happened? You probably thought about an elephant and had an image of one in your mind. So basically, this is the contents of the mind, according to the enneagram.
The Buddhist philosophy about these matters is surprisingly similar, although it doesn’t deal with three centers of intelligence. In The Art of Happiness, Myrko Fryba talks about the four levels of experience on page 88:
- Immediate experiencing of real events, processes, and states (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) bodily taking place in the present moment.
- The bodily experienced meaning of represented (remembered) events, relations, constellations, situations, and scenes (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) that have led to current states of feeling and alterations of consciousness.
- Conceptual thinking related to the flow of immediate experiencing or to the felt meaning of entire situations, which are presently happening. From this thinking are derived matrices and programs for apprehension and action (to the extent that they are consciously accessible and thus also “thinkable”).
- Conceptual thinking whose content has no relationship to the current state of the thinker and thus which has no conscious relationship to experiential reality. This could be a kind of non-reality-related babbling that is unconsciously motivated and directed, or mechanical data processing (for example, calculation), or it could also be wise reflection on rules and programs with the help of the meta-language of Abhidhammic algebra-in other words, planning and coordinating of liberational strategies. The key point here is that this level of experience has no present bodily anchoring in reality.
Later, when describing Satipatthana-Vipassana exercises, he refers to these as the four foundations of mindfulness:
- Contemplation of the body (kayanupassana)
- Contemplation of the feelings (vedananupassana)
- Contemplation of consciousness (cittanupassana)
- Contemplation of mental contents (dhammanupassana)
When practicing mindfulness meditation, one becomes aware of the different categories of experience and systematically assigns what I have called “foreground” material to one of the categories and returns to concentration on the object of mindfulness. If the experience is related to light, color, sound, noise, warmth, movement, trembling, itching, stinging, pressure, lightness, etc., it is assigned to the body. If the experience is pleasant, enjoyable, pleased, amused, bored, sadness, pain, indifference, etc., it is assigned to the feelings. If the experience is concentrated, scattered, tense, greedy, hate-filled, freed, etc., it is assigned to consciousness. Finally, if the experience is thinking, wishing, planning, intending, trust, doubt, knowledge, etc., it is assigned to mental contents. One tries to make the assignments as quickly as possible and return to the object of mindfulness.
My wife and I went to the Center for Attitudinal Healing together tonight. I went primarily because she wanted to go and I am not sleeping well, so I thought I’d go. I was deeply moved by the experiences shared by the members of the group! I felt compassionÃ‚Â and understanding come to the foreground of my consciousness, and I realized that my side effects from chemotherapy and radiation are pretty slight compared to what some of the people are facing. I did a short sharing of my treatment plan, Dr. Halberg’s surprise statement, and a few other things, but I got more out of listening deeply to other people.