But back to the idea of the duality of polar opposites. This tension between polar opposites described by the mystics, interestingly enough, is reflected in the human brain – or, you might say that because the brain/mind creates these divisions, it isn’t a surprise that the brain is structured in a split manner.
The Divided Mind
Your brain, as you know, is divided into two hemispheres, a left and a right hemisphere, connected by a small piece of tissue called the corpus callosum. And, it’s possible for one side of the brain to be more active, more dominant, than the other at any given time. This is called brain lateralization, and the more the brain is lateralized – the more unbalanced it is – the more likely we are to chop the world into separate things and see the two sides of any supposed duality as being separate and opposite.
On the other hand, the more balanced the brain – the less the brain is lateralized to one side or the other – the more we naturally see how the two sides of any duality are really one thing, and the more we perceive how everything is connected, and that the divisions are created in the mind and are not intrinsic to reality. When we see in this way, we get more and more in touch with that satchitananda I described.
I hasten to add that dividing the whole into separate things is a handy thing to do sometimes. It’s when we forget that we did it, conceptually, and that these divisions are not a part of reality, that we get into trouble. More about this in a later article.
When I say that the mind gets in the way of seeing and experiencing who you really are, it would be more accurate to say that the lateralized mind, the lateralized brain, gets in the way of seeing who you really are: the one timeless energy of all and everything.
When you do see who you really are, you relax. When this happens, there’s no where to go, nothing to get, nothing to fear, and you relax and experience yourself as happiness, love, peace, and bliss.
Meditation is designed to balance the brain, which allows you to increasingly experience who you really are. Meditation, in balancing the brain, helps to get the mind out of the way, allowing you to experience yourself, and reality, directly, and when this happens, everything flows.
The two worlds…
Let’s look at a couple of implications of this description of reality I’ve proposed. We have two worlds, or two ways of looking at things. We have the world of the mind, and all its creations, what we would normally think of as “reality” or the universe. Then we have what most people refer to as the spiritual or metaphysical world.
As a way of understanding these two worlds, consider the concept of foreground vs. background. When you read a book, you look at the foreground, the printing on the page, and you really don’t notice the background, the page itself. The printing is where all the information is, after all. When you drive into a town, you see the buildings, the people, the trees, the cars, and so on. Again, you could consider these things to be the foreground, and everyone would agree that that’s where the action is. You don’t really pay attention to the space in which these things are situated, which is the background.
For the foreground, whatever it is, to exist, there must be a background against which the foreground can be seen. Even though the blank page has no information, the printing cannot exist without it. The page is blank, and contains no information in and of itself, but without it, there can be no printing, no information, no story. In the town I mentioned, there can be no people, no buildings, no cars, no trees, unless there’s the space in which these things can exist. The space, as with the page, is blank, empty. It has no characteristics, in fact, other than its blankness, its potentiality. But without this blank background, there can be no foreground.
Buddhists have a saying when talking about reality. They say, “Form is nothingness, and nothingness is form.” When they say this, they’re talking about the background and the foreground, and the fact that they “go together,” they depend on each other. The foreground is form, and the background – that which the form comes out of – is nothingness. But this is a very real nothingness, in the sense that without it, form could not exist.
Here’s another interesting way to look at this idea of duality, of polarity, of background and foreground. We interface with the world through our five senses. In a way, though, we really have one basic sense, touch. All the other senses are a type of touch. We touch light waves with our eyes, we touch sound waves with our ears, and so on. The neurons that sense these things really notice two things. They either notice “on” or they notice “off” – that the phenomena of being “touched” is happening or not happening.
You probably know that by using combinations of zeros and ones – another form of on and off – computers create very complex patterns of data that can encode and express pretty much any information you can think of, from numbers to music to video – anything.
On and Off, Black and White
We live in a universe where everything is vibrating, and whether we think of vibration in terms of waves or particles (or wavicles, combining the two), no crest of a wave can occur without a trough, and no particle can occur without a space or interval between itself and other particles. There are no half-waves, nor are there particles without spaces between them. There can be no on without off, no up without down.
Our senses are constructed in such a way that when they “touch” something in the world, we notice and respond to the “on” but miss the “off,” in the same way that we see the writing but fail to notice the page. But the fact that we don’t notice the “off” or the background doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential. The dark, the silent, the empty, the off interval, are ignored, but all of them are necessary. Consciousness ignores the interval between one “on” event and the next, but we would be unable to notice the “on” without the existence of the “off.”
Earlier I mentioned the town and the space it occupies, and brought to your attention that we pay attention to the solid objects but fail to notice the space they occupy. With this in mind, consider that the entire universe is the on/off vibration of space and solid, but we notice only the “on.”
This fact is very closely connected to why you feel separate and at risk in the world instead of feeling at one, as you really are. There are two reasons why most humans continue to have the illusion that they are separate egos trapped in a bag of skin. First, we fail to recognize that all the so-called opposites – light/darkness, sound/silence, solid/space, on/off, inside/outside, cause/effect, and especially life/death – are poles or aspects of the same thing.
What you can learn from a cat…
Second, we are so absorbed in a type of narrow, conscious attention that we fail to notice what is real. Alan Watts describes a person who has never seen a cat. He looks through a narrow slit in a fence as a cat walks by on the other side. First he sees the head of the cat, then the front legs, then the body, then the back legs, then the tail. Then, the cat turns around and walks in the other direction and he sees the same sequence again. After a few times, he concludes that the head causes the front legs, which cause the body, which cause the back legs, which cause the tail.
We look at life through a narrow slit of conscious attention, focusing on one thing at a time, in a linear way. This makes each thing seem to cause what follows, making each thing seem to be the effect of what went before. But what if the world, the universe, your life, was all one thing, like the cat?
A scanning process that looks at things one bit at a time makes us think the world is a collection of bits, causing and effecting each other. With this type of attention, we have the feeling that the world is made of many bits and that we are just one of them. We fail to see the space between the bits, and how it connects them to each other. We fail to see the “off” and we fail to realize how crucial it is.
The Game of Black and White
Alan Watts calls this The Game of Black and White – separating the on and the off, the up and the down, the me and the not-me, the cause and the effect, the good and the evil. And then, we add a rule to the game, that “White Must Win.” Good must win over evil. Day must win over night. Having must win over losing.
When the vibration is fast, we don’t notice the “off”, but when it slows, as with night and day, or life and death, for instance, we can clearly see the “off” half of the vibration. When this happens, we think the “on” half must win, we think the light must win, and we fear the dark – as if light could win over dark, when the reality is that the two are really one thing. This is a game we cannot win, and really wouldn’t want to if we could.
And, ultimately, life must win over death.
The mystics speak about attachment causing suffering. Attachment is really nothing more than not realizing that “on” must become “off,” that up must become down, that life must become death, and that clinging to one over the other is futile. When I have discussed the principle of letting whatever happens be okay, I’m really asking you to stop trying to play the game of “White Must Win.”
The only way to achieve what is known as “enlightenment” is to stop identifying with the mind and its creations. As long as the mind and its creations pull at you, as long as they call out to you, as long as your awareness is focused on them, as long as you either desire the creations of the mind or are repelled by them, those creations will be real to you, they will grab your focus, and you’ll stay in that realm.
Once you realize that the realm of the mind is a make-believe created by the mind, you can make the leap into the realm of satchitananda. You can still participate in the realm of the mind, but when you do it’s like participating in a play or a movie. You participate, but behind it all you know it’s just a play. This takes the pressure off, and allows you to enjoy life to the fullest.
Ultimately, nothing matters
Ultimately, none of this enlightenment stuff matters. I hate to tell you that, since I know it’s very important to some of you. Ultimately, you are this background I’ve talked about, this one energy of all and everything, this oneness that is obscured by, hidden by, the mind, and nothing can change that fact.
At the same time, you are the foreground, which is constantly changing. And, even more, you are the relationship between these two poles of the magnet of life, the magnet of existence. You are the “on” and the “off” rather than just being the “on” you thought you were. Nothing you can do can make it otherwise. So ultimately, whether you “become enlightened” or not doesn’t matter, because you are IT no matter what you do. It’s like having a dream, and whether or not the guys chasing you in the dream get you or you get away, it doesn’t matter, because it’s only a dream.
The idea is to step out of the dream, to know it’s a dream, and then, to continue to play your part, but to have it be fun because you know it’s a dream. When you do this, you can play with the dream and make it into whatever dream you want. Or, if you like, let the dream be whatever it is, because you know nothing can hurt you and that everything is fine, everything is perfect.
The only way you can suffer is to think that the creations of the mind, that which always changes, is the only reality, that the “on” can somehow exist without the “off,” that the words can somehow exist without the page, that solid objects can exist without the space between them. The only way you can suffer is to think that White Must Win. I will discuss these things in great detail in future articles because thriving implies NOT suffering.
This series, then, is about how to be happy, and peaceful, and successful, and it’s also about not suffering. My goal is to make this information something more than just interesting philosophy and theory. I want you to really get how to apply this to your life.
For more information please visit: The Centerpointe Institute
It will look like this: The Beginners Mind And The Three Universal Goals II