From the Breath, the Observer Emerges
Who What When Where Who How Much and WHY!?
Never mind, no matter
I began this post in February of 2019. Please bear with me.
Somewhat apocryphally, Abe Lincoln tamed the disorder of his Springfield law office with a pile of papers labeled “If you can’t find it anywhere else, look here.” Trying to find a common thread in the research that increasingly consumes me has left me wanting just such an envelope. But, hey, it’s 2019, silicon is the new paper. Why not make it a website?
This site is an atlas for those who ask “Why‽”
Do you remember your first question? I’ll venture a guess that it was wordless, possibly even non-conceptual, which is puzzling. What question can one ask without words or concepts?
The etymology of the word ‘why’ traces back to what seems like a general state of Proto-Indo-European confusion where who, what, why, when, where, whom, how much, comme, query, whither, which, whence, and cheese all come from the
*kwo- tree. In a time before language, there may have been only one question. .
Do we need a word to ask “Why‽”
Some philosophers hold that thought springs from language, or even that mind is language. These tend to be a subset of those who hold humans apart from (and superior to) the rest of nature on the grounds of one factor or ability. Many books have been written on this subject. We devote whole departments of higher education to answering this arguably futile question. Homines sapientes, these feeble philosophers, are devoted to expressing thoughts as precisely as possible. We who think differently but do not clearly articulate ourselves may struggle to contest, but our struggle is as real as Kant’s or Nietzsche’s.
Can we think without language?
Or is that merely feeling? When I think of an apple, I can visualize it, or imagine biting into it. I can remove the word ‘apple’ and still see and taste a projection of the apple. And that projection holds weight for my senses that a word never could.
Let me propose a few exercises in futility and before I get to the point. Take a quiet moment to breathe and stop, and try something potentially new.
- Feel without thinking.
- Think without words.
- Breathe deeply until you vibrate like a bell.
Pause for Self-understanding
It’s taken me a while (nearly a year) to finish this post. Now it is 2020, and I am finally able to practice the exercises above. How did you fare?
Feeling without thinking came first. I had been doing this all along, but was not consciously directing my attention into this mode of being. Instead it would happen by accident. As the observer became the prime mover, I began to notice that when I am feeling free and easy, really enjoying the flow, I am not thinking at all, but feeling and moving and being. Upon noticing this, I started attempting to intentionally experience this state. And with practice it became easier and easier. Now I frequently check and monitor my active modes.
(Remind me to share about Zuul some time.)
Once thinking became intentional and not unconscious and automatic, I began to notice that thinking itself takes different forms or modes. Sometimes I think visually, constructing figures in two or three dimensions. Sometimes my visual thinking draws on visions of the past as memories, or of the future as designs or intuitions. Very often my thinking is literal, made of words, statements, logical structures, questions.
Rarely, but increasingly often now that I have realized the possibility, my thinking is abstract. This type of thinking is not composed of images or symbols, but draws on the unbounded void of all possibility. This is where creativity lives. I will continue to practice and report back once I have a deeper understanding to share.
The third exercise ended up being the key to the first two. To paraphrase @whichlight from his fantastic zine Feeling Great About My Butt, “I lost myself and found my breath.” Focusing intently on the breath provides space for the observer to operate, to see what I am feeling, thinking, doing, and being.
I am excited to introduce and expound upon these Four Modes of Being which map to the suits of the Tarot, the elements of nature, the ba gua of the I Ching, the constellations of the Zodiac, and the chakras of Tantra Yoga. But that will occur in a later post ::)