What is "Mind?"


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Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
Oct 18, 2017 - 08:12am PT
Good one Ed ! That reminds me of a story told to me once by a doctor who had done a rotation in a mental institution. Always, the schitzophrenics were seeing vapors come out of the air vents (along with invisible electronic beams that were messing with their brains) and became quite agitated when told by the staff that there was nothing there.

Then, one day a fire began in the furnace room and smoke started coming out all of the vents. The staff was in a panic as to how and where to evacuate the patients. However, the patients were not at all worried but rather overjoyed, that finally the doctors and nurses could see the vapors too.


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Oct 18, 2017 - 02:56pm PT
To attempt to show that Lovegasoline and I are in some kind of agreement:



Or perhaps Lovegasoline was holding the connectedness ideas up for question or ridicule.

Ice climber
Oct 18, 2017 - 08:41pm PT
Your Brain May Continue To Function After Your Death Long Enough For You To Be Aware Of It, Studies Suggest [headline]

This isn't the wisdom of Da Vinci, but is currently making the rounds on Da Web

Direct comments in the appropriate direction, but remember to keep an "oopen" mind.


AKA: When You Die, Your Consciousness Knows That You’re Dead
okay, whatever

Oct 18, 2017 - 10:26pm PT
So. To distill 6 years of conversation on this topic here on ST, from my perspective.... I have been introduced to many ideas I had not encountered before, heard many ideas interpreted differently than I had interpreted them, but also watched, to my dismay, a lot of insults fly back and forth. Mostly the insults came from Werner, the Supertopo insulter-in-chief. Sorry, but Werner's sorta-word "stoopid" is just junior high stuff to me, though in his mind it is no doubt a very clever and devastating putdown, or piece of wordplay, or something. That said, I genuinely appreciate the links to interesting material, even controversial material, that others have provided.

Ice climber
Oct 18, 2017 - 10:34pm PT

All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart!
okay, whatever

Oct 18, 2017 - 10:52pm PT
But if ALL paths are the SAME, and lead NOWHERE, as you assert, then why do SOME paths have heart ("pick a path with heart", in your words) and others not? What does SAME even mean, in this context? Or is this supposed to be a Zen koan that deliberately does not make sense? Please explain, unless you're just goofing around here in this ultra-earnest philosophy thread :^)

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
Oct 19, 2017 - 02:28am PT
Largo wrote:
"Bullsh#t, Dingus. I have to say it simply, not to be mean spirited, but because you once more have dragged in religions terms that in no wise fit what I have ever actually said.

This thread is nothing but religion.
Orthodoxies and heresies.

Ice climber
Oct 19, 2017 - 07:56am PT
Well alright

Unless you are already dead, your heart will tell you.

That said.

Apparently it all comes down to the importance of being earnest.

“Self-importance is man’s greatest enemy”. –don Juan Speaking to Carlos Castaneda (ditto the quote above)

you apparently don't get it, mister/mz okay comma whatever

try looking behind door number 3, the so-called green door

help here:


Ice climber
Oct 19, 2017 - 08:32am PT
You don't want to spring for tickets to the new Blade Runner film and you have 2 1/2 hours to burn (free):


Oct 19, 2017 - 09:10am PT
This thread is nothing but religion.
Orthodoxies and heresies.

I doubt that as all the meditators here are also gross materialists.

There's no religion at all.

The Buddhists and Zen are atheists.

I'm the only guy with presenting the spiritual angle.

The gross materialists all freak out when spiritual or God is mentioned.

They are clueless that Buddha was a direct incarnation of God himself to mislead the atheists by preaching against the Vedas to stop the animal slaughter.

And what do the atheists do the best? Mass scale slaughter animals with no regard.

They're terrified of a Supreme Being (God) because they've been misled by so many bogus spiritual so called leaders.

It's easy to fall into that trap since the gross materialists are so clueless ......

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 19, 2017 - 09:13am PT
It is somewhat astonishing that your meditation practice is, in part, an attempt to move past perception, but not question the most important issue to that practice: your perception of mind.

I would like to know how introspection gets you around that.

Good question, Ed.

To me, Ed, the most fascinating thing about the question is that, somehow, in some way, you seem to believe that the people involved in the internal adventures have not pondered this question, or worked on it.

This is the very thing that is taken up at some point in the practice: What lies behind perception itself? What is more fundamental than perception and the "I" who perceives.

This is related to the philosophical belief that "what we think is mind" is ACTUALLY something altogether different, that we only "think" or experience mind as this, but in fact it is "that," and we misinterpret the data. Put differently, this angle or metaphysical belief normally implies some verion of this: Our brain is physical machine that sources a 1st person dimension which gives the host the internal impression that it is different from or more than the machine that sourced it. This is part of the "narrative" metaphor I talked about earlier, whereas the machine has a beginning (birth), middle (life), and end (death).

There are two common misconceptions per the internal adventures in this regards: First, that said adventures are only capable of penetrating to the level of a representation of mind, which itself is mistaken, and second, the mistake pertains to what the mind "is," in terms of function and content. Both are mistaken in my view.

What lies beneath and before the data, the map, the perception? Jumping into those deep waters is the work, and part of that work is dealing with the mind that says, "You have it wrong."

To the discursive mind, such a process is impossible, because whatever happens in the process is - from the 3rd person vantage - also a perception. How could it be otherwise, the thinking goes.


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Oct 19, 2017 - 09:23am PT
But what lies beneath and before the data, the map, the perception?

A reasonable answer would be: the brain.

Oct 19, 2017 - 09:27am PT
What is more fundamental than perception and the "I" who perceives.

Yes, this is the root the "I" and NOT the brain as the "I" is pure consciousness.

Not trying to find neurons firing.

That's for the doctors to fix the mechanical parts of the gross material body when we land on our st00pid heads and damage our st00pid brain.

The brain is NOT the source of the "I" (om mani padme hum) "The jewel is within the heart of the lotus".

Zbrown got it right the "I" is within the heart.

St00pid was injected for the "okay, whatever" anonymous poster who just always complains but never really says anyything so he would still feel at home here :-)

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 19, 2017 - 09:39am PT
But what lies beneath and before the data, the map, the perception?

A reasonable answer would be: the brain.

That's the "narrative" answer provided by discursive thinking. There MUST be some basic thing or object that births the narrative.

What lies before the narrative, the birth, the object, and all our conceptions? THAT is incomprehensible to our discursive mind, which only deals with conceptions, illusory or otherwise. But our discursive minds will always go back to a starting point, an object, a source, some temporal "Go" point that was the efficient "cause" for all the stuff in reality.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 19, 2017 - 09:48am PT
I'm not sure it is impossible, and I certainly never said, and don't believe, that the issue hadn't been addressed by practitioners of the sorts of disciplines you have been describing. In elementary meditation practices we are encouraged to adopt the "observer/observed" dichotomy where we draw the line differently than usual, with discursive behavior part of the "observed." But the problem with this is line, it can be drawn anywhere, and at some point that becomes absurd.

My quote of Nasar's relating the 1959 meeting between Mackey and Nash was meant to be illustrative of the difficulty presented by introspection, and the general issue of "believing what we think."

As MH2 points out, the brain may be responsible for a lot of that "nothing" referred to. In Nash's case, his brain changed at least twice in this period, once entering into it in 1959, and once exiting it in the late 1980s, what ever "it" was, taking up 30 years of his life.

Mackey's question is apt, "how could you believe..." and even later in his life, Nash seems somewhat reluctant to "believe" that what was in his mind wasn't real. It seemed possible to him that it was, but that his interaction with the world, and to large part this was both the "objective" interacting and the social intercourse, told him "not to believe what he thought."

Given the identity of the wellspring of his mathematical thoughts and his paranoia, he was confused later in life, to put it mildly, over the validity of his thoughts.

If the basis of his paranoia were so wrong, wouldn't that question (at the very least) the basis of his mathematics.

Nash is an extreme case, for sure, but if we deny the association of our "mind" with the brain (an association that implies that the diseases of the physical brain can profoundly affect our mind) then we are left wondering what it is about "mind" that affected Nash... and other's like him. But more, how would that mind figure it out on its own? Or are we left to conclude that "reality" actually conformed with those thoughts?

We are all affected with the identical conundrum. Where do we draw the line?

How is it addressed in a meditation practice?

Oct 19, 2017 - 10:02am PT
But the problem with this is line, it can be drawn anywhere, and at some point that becomes absurd.

No, you can't draw it anywhere.

Once you come to the understanding of the root, (consciousness itself) then you'll "see" ......
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 19, 2017 - 10:07am PT
how do I come to that understanding?
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Oct 19, 2017 - 10:21am PT
You close your eyes and take a leap of faith with Reverand Werner.


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 19, 2017 - 10:35am PT
Much of what we see on this thread is a kind of last ditch effort to posit naturalism as the end-all, and in extreme cases, the ONLY valid methodology of trying to wrangle down the mysteries of what mind really and truly IS. The bus is slowly but surely passing by this position by proposing a muti-discipline approach that encompasses many fields of inquiry. Such an approach has been popularized by people like Sam Harris and others.

One of those others is Les Fehmi, who completed his postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA's Brain Research Institute, and is a member of the Department of Medicine at Princeton University Medical Center and a consultant for Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, the Johnson & Johnson corporation, and the Veterans Administralion.

While much of Fehmi's work has been grounded in hands on brain research, he's also a long-time student of Joshu Sasaki Roshi, "who inspired me to make the subject of awareness and attention my personal quest as well, and for keeping my will, interest, and effort alive by not accepting my answers to his koans."

Here, then, is a scientist who didn't limit his field of investigation to this or that camp, and explored far and wide in search of answers to his fundamental questions per mind.

John G. has made a pretty concentrated effort to question WHAT, exactly, do the internal adventures contribute to the understanding of mind, and what, if anything, are said adventures good for. Fair enough questions. My answer to this is that they are good for investigating mind directly, and contributing insights that are closed off to the 3rd person vantage. And that's where Fehmi comes in.

To my knowledge, Fehmi stands alone in exploring the fundamentals of perception (attention, focus and awareness) in a manner that is NOT fused with the CONTENT of experience, which normally posits said fundamentals as the output or consequent of content itself. That is, content (processing of thoughts, feelings, sensations and memories) determines if not sources perception itself, and that sans content, perception does not exist, or represents a kind of idle-state of the brain waiting for the next output. What's more, perception itself is merely an aspect of a larger reality that too can be explored - a notion that is non-computable to our discursive minds.

Anyway, what Fehmi has worked up is a technical kind of basic look at some of the fundamentals of perception that demonstrates what a multi-disciplinary approach can accomplish. Granted, this is a baby step, but my sense of it is that Fehmi is working in the right direction. Before we can have a working model of what mind is, we have to have some clear idea per what is involved, and here is a taste of Fehmi's findings. People looking for woo or religions harangues best look elsewhere. So here is a little Fehmi:



Credit: Largo

Credit: Largo

Credit: Largo

Learning how to move out of the emergency mode of narrow objective attention and into the relaxed, alert attention of open focus is a crucial skill. Open focus itself is unbiased-that is, it doesn't favor any one style but supports the full range of possible attention styles, which can be present simultaneously.

Within open focus four main types of attention are possible: diffuse, narrow, objective, and immersed-all of which may occur more or less equally and simultaneously. (These don't necessarily exhaust the attention repertoire but are the distinct forms I have identified.) Each style of attention is unique and, when it is emphasized, has significant and different impacts on our physiology, moods, and behavior, and dept of understanding. Each of the physiological mechanisms that support the different kinds of attention are separate and independent, which means the styles can-and do-exist alone, in combination with others, or all simultaneously.

Figure 2 diagrams the relationship among these types of attention as well as their possible combinations with one another. Each of the four intersecting lines represents a continuum of attention styles, each from zero (at these intersections) to increased levels as the line moves outward.

In narrow attention, we can concentrate our attention on a limited field of experience, excluding peripheral perceptions from our awareness. Narrow focus isn't just a way of attending to visual stimuli. We can chronically narrow focus on any sensation, thought, or problem, to the exclusion of almost everything else. For instance, if we are having a conversation while in narrow focus, we are likely to block out sensory input other than the words being spoken and our own private self-talk. As a result, our physical reactions to the content of the conversation can remain inaccessible to our attention. This lack of awareness deprives us of much of our "emotional intelligence" and is especially detrimental when our conversation requires authentic engagement with the other person. We have all encountered a person who is lost in his head, largely out of touch with reality, and the subsequent feeling that we are talking to a kind of zombie.

Conversely, in the midst of an argument, we may find ourselves narrowly focusing on angry feelings and a sense of being wronged by the other party. In this case, we may not allow ourselves to listen to the other person or to access thoughts and memories that could help to end the fight and preserve the relationship. In both cases, narrow focus constrains the scope of our attention in a way that does not serve our interests.

Another type of attention is diffuse focus, which gives a softer, more inclusive view of the world. Think of attention as the beam of a flashlight. On a camping trip someone might hear a bear cub in a tree. Adjust the light so the beam is narrow, and nearly all of the light will focus on the bear. But if we don't know which tree the animal is in, we can broaden the scope of the flashlight beam so it illuminates more of the forest including the bear-rather than just one tree.

Diffuse focus is panoramic rather than exclusive or single-pointed; in its most extreme form it is inclusive and three dimensional, giving equal attention to all internal and external stimuli simultaneously as well as the space, silence, and timelessness in which they occur. No particular target of attention stands out, and the distinctions between figure and ground are blurred or erased. Walking through the forest and being simultaneously aware of the sound of birds singing, the smell of flowers, the feel of a breeze, the view of the trees, and the space and the silence in which these sensory experiences occur, is diffuse focus.

The inclusion of both narrow and diffuse attention and their balance is appropriate for most daily life situations. Whereas narrow focus concentrates and intensifies awareness and diffuse focus spreads and moderates experience and reactivity, open focus is an inclusive style of attention that admits both narrow and diffuse forms of attention into awareness at the same time. If, while attending in narrow focus, we simply include some awareness of space and of other sense experiences, our attention will be distributed more evenly and our attention will diffuse and dissolve stress.

It's like opening a door from within a darkened room. Just opening the door a crack may permit enough light in the room so that many objects previously in darkness can now be seen. In addition, some air may enter the room, making it easier to breathe. Opening our focus works the same way as opening the door. A little opening can change our perceptual and physical environment significantly.

The axes in figure 2, which run from zero to increased objective attention, relates to the sense of distance or closeness we have to our experience. Flexibility along this continuum is as important to our health and functioning as being able to diffuse and narrow our focus as needed.

Objective attention distances the observer from the object of awareness, enhancing one's conscious ability to evaluate and control it. Different styles of attention are associated with, and
supported by, particular body postures and facial expressions. Rodin's sculpture The Thinker captures the quintessential posture of objective attention, and you can usually tell when people are increasing this style by their cold or judgmental expression and facial pallor. Objective attention has allowed humans to step back from the sense of unity that our early ancestors had with the physical world and to discover the laws of nature. This has given rise to innovations that improve our lives in innumerable ways. Unfortunately, it has also alienated us from an awareness of unity, which perhaps accounts for our failure to be responsible stewards of the environment.

The last axis in figure 2 relates to immersed, or absorbed, attention and is characteristic of someone who enters into union with an object or process to the point of self-forgetfulness or unconsciousness. It usually-but not always-has pleasurable connotations. Common examples include the savoring of tastes and the experience of sexual pleasure. People attending in an immersed way usually have an enraptured facial expression, which reflects the effect upon mind and body of this kind of attention. Picture, for instance, the look upon the face of an enraptured lover, an entranced concertgoer, or a satisfied gourmet. When a creative artist or professional athlete effortlessly performs a well-learned behavior, or a dancer becomes so absorbed in the music and her movement that she loses a sense of self, that is immersed attention, aka, "flow." Both diffuse and immersed attention are organized by the right hemisphere of the brain.

We can pay attention in more than one way at a time. Different styles of attention are separate mechanisms and are not mutually exclusive. One can, for example, combine narrow attention with immersed, objective, or diffuse forms of attention. A fully flexible central nervous system is not biased toward the high-arousal narrow-objective focus or the low arousal diffuse-immersed state. Instead, left to its devices, the nervous system naturally cycles through these styles, along a spectrum, and combines the variety of attention styles.

In open focus our attention is inclusive-sights, sounds, and other sensory information are all taken in along with space in a broadly interested way; no one sensory signal is focused on to the exclusion of the others. Most important, open focus allows us to be aware of how we are attending, which allows us to decide on and quickly emphasize the most appropriate styles to use. Each of the four quadrants (A, B, C, and D) defined by the intersecting lines in figure 2 corresponds to a different combination of attention styles.

Quadrant A is associated with narrow-objective attention, which is the style we favor most. It is an energetic and fast paced activity that engages the brain's high frequencies (mid to high beta) and is organized primarily by the left brain. In narrow-objective focus, we preferentially attend to a limited field of experience-consisting of visual, auditory, and cognitive stimuli-while excluding internal physical sensations, emotions, and other sense modalities. This style accentuates objectification of a figure and apportions little or no awareness to the background. At its extreme it approaches one-pointed attention, for example, objectifying a candle flame.

Extreme narrow-objective attention can be crippling when it is overused or chronic, bringing on anxiety, panic, worry, and a profound generalized rigidity of thinking and body. It is also the enemy of a smooth, fluid performance. For example, a golfer who suffers what is known as the yips-spastic uncontrollable muscle movements when putting-is hyper-focused, and her muscles are tense.

Diffuse-objective attention, represented by quadrant B, occurs when we simultaneously include a wide field of experience but remain objective and separate from that experience. With this style of attention, we perceive an array of objective sensations as being suspended in the midst of a more general diffuse awareness of space, silence, mind, and timelessness. This style is typified by well-learned behaviors, over which we have gained considerable mastery through repetition. Playing in an orchestra, driving a car, performing clerical tasks, engaging in athletic or artistic performance, directing a play-all are situations in which our focus may be broadened to include a number of stimuli while we maintain a distant perspective on our performance.

Quadrants A and B both represent types of attention that depend upon remoteness from experience. The remaining two quadrants, in contrast, represent forms of attending associated with degrees of immersion in one's experience. The extreme form of immersion includes a loss of self-consciousness.

While quadrants A and B emphasize the distinction and distance between self and other, subject and object, quadrants C and D emphasize dissolution of this distinction and union with experience.

The quadrant-C mode, diffuse-immersed attention, is an antidote to the narrow-objective style that our culture seems to demand. It is the most effective attention style in allowing us to recover from the accumulated physiological and psychological stresses wrought by modern life. Diffuse-immersed attention involves both moving into union with experience and diffusing the attentional scope of our experience at the same time.

Awareness of situations that emphasize these qualities are unusual in our culture, and most often we associate this style of attention with extremes of creativity, love, and introspection. Boundaries of time and space seem to dissolve or lose definition when our attentional emphasis is on diffuse immersed styles. While narrow-objective attention supports analysis, diffuse-immersed styles support integration of variables. Conscious awareness and flexible application of the various styles of attention lead to optimization of function.

Quadrant D represents narrow-immersed attention. Associated with a combination of low and high frequencies, narrow immersed attention is a way of attending that allows us to simultaneously savor and intensify an experience. When we become absorbed in a task or lose ourselves in our work, losing a sense of time in the process, this also is narrow-immersed attention. Think of a man who enjoys fishing. He forgets himself for hours as he fluidly casts his fly and sees nothing else as he waits for a fish to bite. Perhaps part of the appeal of fishing is the physiological release that comes from this style of immersed attention.

Narrow-immersed attention also includes intellectually interesting or emotionally and physically pleasant and stimulating activities-any experience we want to move physically
closer to in order to intensify and savor the experience. Part of the attraction of athletic or cultural events is the opportunity to become absorbed or immersed with minimum self consciousness. And it may explain the irritation people have when they are disrupted from such deep involvement.

In addition to the composite styles of attention described by these four quadrants, we can learn to integrate the two opposing poles on either axis of attention. The importance of doing
this with narrow and diffuse focus was discussed above. Maintaining objective and immersed styles of attention simultaneously is a great stress release that can change our lives. Not only
do we feel more fully alive as we merge with the world, but we may find ourselves introduced to creative, transcendent realms and a multidimensional experience of life.

While all of these ways of attending are indeed part of our biological equipment, you can't just look up from a book or article and instantly see in open focus. We are too habituated to living
in narrow-objective or narrow-immersed focus to break out of it that quickly. Open focus is not just about taking in peripheral awareness but also involves rendering all objects and space with an equal and simultaneous awareness-a subtle but crucial and unmistakable difference. It is a skill that typically takes considerable time and practice to learn. With some specialized exercises, however, anyone can learn to change the way they pay attention, and thus choose to reduce extreme attention biases and associated effort, tension, and stress accumulation, and thought distortions.


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Oct 19, 2017 - 12:06pm PT
our discursive minds will always go back to a starting point, an object, a source, some temporal "Go" point that was the efficient "cause" for all the stuff in reality.

You overstep your mandate, and your realm of competence.

Very human.
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