Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Value of Meditation as Implosion

We humans are very enamored of explosions.  We flock to displays of fireworks and to films with explosions. We spend billions on building better bombs and then finding ways to test them on or off the battlefield, and sometimes it seems we create a war just to have battlefield to test the next generation of exploding devices.  Most interesting to me personally, is that we have enshrined the explosion at the core--in the inner sanctum sanctorum--of our materialistic post-anthropomorphic creation myth of science and call it “the Big Bang.”

As I see it, our deep connection to explosion comes from the first stirrings of our sensory consciousness when we came into the world with the explosive force of birth and our senses met with the explosions of sound and color, sensations of heat and cold, being moved around in gravity defying positions, etc. Then, to make sense of this explosion of the senses, we sort through the dust storm of sensory data with a slow building explosion of mental distinctions and discriminations that separate, associate, and identify colors, sounds, touches, tastes, smells that becomes a mental explosion of the categorization of things. 

However, because we see the universe as the expression of an elemental explosion, as well as seeing our own consciousness as the most intimate explosion of awareness, we miss something equally as vital: for every explosion there is an implosion.   Because we are enchanted by the explosions of the senses that we perceive, we usually completely overlook that the perceptions are based on the actual fact of implosion: we receive sensory data,  Our usual conception of being a being in a skin bag looking out upon the external universe betrays the actual experience that our senses never “leave” our skin bag, and our “perceptions” never leave the mind.  We naively imagine in our materialistic construction of our worldview, that our senses go out of our body, that we see out into the world, but if we are able to see-through the enchantment of the sensory explosions, then we can note such insight as the fact that “light” is said to “enter” the eye and tickle the nerve cells in the retina that in turn tickle other neurons that they are connected to, which in turn tickle more neurons, until an explosion of neuronal waves of fireworks are swirling around within the grey matter of the brain that explodes in awareness of the outside universe.  But here’s the rub, in this materialistic worldview, this “outside universe” of physical matter is never actually “outside,” because it is completely contained in the grey matter as a mental construction or reflection of what has been imploded into the brain.  If we pay attention, we are forced to confront the idea that the universe is not exploding but is actually the implosion of how it all is received by our specialized sensory patches of skin to be recreated as the world within.

Here’s where Zen comes to the soteriological rescue.  In Zen meditation we “turn the light around” or “take the backward step” of awareness, so that from our usual looking outward at an evolving world, we turn to notice and be aware of this imploding nature of the universe. The technical Sanskrit term for this is asraya-paravrtti, “to turn around at the basis.”   Though it doesn’t roll off the tongue very well, this can be called “involution” in contradistinction to the usual view of “evolution.”  This training in asraya-paravrtti, as the turning around or involution of awareness to its own source, has been derisively called contemplating ones belly button by people who dont know any better and place great value in, and rest their self worth on, the outward show of explosions. 

There are many values of training and practice in sitting meditation (zazen), but the essential value is not in developing explosive force, but in the discovery of the implosive basis of awareness. While we are enamored and enchanted by explosions, we are also entangled by them in our relationships and killed by them in our interactions. The explosions of emotions are destructive to our personal as well as international relationships. We send drones to explode our perceived enemies and yet we refuse to acknowledge to ourselves as a people that we can’t really accomplish that goal without also exploding innocent bystanders. Likewise, this paradigm of international drama is also played our in our personal relationships, in relations of domestic violence where children become traumatized innocent bystanders, in our social and financial relations where people are forced to live in poverty, homeless, and without adequate health care, all because we are basing our social worldview on the perspective of people as beings who have exploded apart into separate entities competing with each other for the finite commodities of the. 

What sitting meditation reveals to us is that this worldview, of an exploding universe expanding into separate units flying apart from each other, is a myth, a false vision of what is actually happening right here and now.  This universe is also an imploding universe, condensing into mutual reflections of itself, revealing the absolute connectedness and unification of the universe, with our own mind and being seamlessly joined to each and every other node of awareness.  

Consciousness is not just the exploding evolution of awareness, it is equally the imploding involution of awareness. The value of meditation as implosion is that it opens us to the realization that awareness is only made possible by both its expansion and contraction, its explosion and implosion, and that this activity of expansion and contraction is the activity of the unified mind. This is why the toroid is the best simple model of conscious awareness as it represents both the exploding and imploding activities of awareness that form the shape of consciousness.*  The sitting meditation of Zen Buddhism, with its elegant simplicity, is the most effective way to come to terms, directly and personally, with this mutually expanding and contracting universe of awareness that we call mind.



[Note *:  For the development of a more complex and comprehensive model for consciousness, elaborating from a simple toroidal model to a multi-faceted Mobius bottle model, see “Zen Theory: An Exploration of Space, Time, and Consciousness via the Cycle of Change Between Binary Opposites.” by Kigen William Ekeson available at his Zen Theory blog.]. 





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