Posts Tagged ‘senses’

Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness

by William Reed on March 3, 2011

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness.

The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of.

What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core. This can be visualized in concentric circles, as shown in the illustration. These terms were made familiar in Western psychology through Sigmund Freud who studied the seventh level, the Ego; and Carl Jung who studied the eighth level, the Unconscious.

In fact, Jung in particular was heavily influenced by Asian thought on the eight levels of consciousness, which actually date back 1500 years to a 4th-century Indian Buddhist Scholar Monk named Vasubandhu, and the teachings of Yogacara. This is a complex body of thought, with many permutations and interpretations in India, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on how this structure of 8 levels of consciousness affects our awareness, the way we see the world, and how we can make practical use of it with the Mandala Chart.

What you see is NOT what you get

Have you ever been startled by something that turned out to be something else? Perhaps what you thought was a snake turned out to be a length or coiled rope; or maybe you put salt in your coffee instead of sugar by mistake. We are taken in by our assumptions and mis-perceptions more often than we would like to admit.

Our tendency to misperceive, or even to miss altogether, that which is in front of our face is the subject of a fascinating book called The Invisible Gorilla, by Christoper Chabris and Daniel Simons. Their now renowned gorilla experiment can be seen on video, in which a group of students pass a basketball many times among themselves, and you are asked to count the number of times the students in white T-shirts pass the ball in one minute. The students are moving around, and half of them are dressed in black T-shirts, and if you pay attention you just might get the answer right. However, about half of the people who watch this video completely miss the fact that a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the center of the moving students, beats his chest, and then walks off the scene on the other side. Once you know about the gorilla you can’t miss it, but half of the time even very observant people completely miss it when they first watch the video.

The authors argue that this is quite a common phenomenon, that we are taken in by illusions of awareness all of the time in our perceptions, memories, and assumptions. This can cause us all kinds of trouble. Think about accidents caused by inattentive drivers in traffic, miscarriages of justice due to witnesses with selective memories, and aggravations caused by people who think they know when in fact they don’t. At the very least, this book makes you more humble about what you thought you knew about your world.

While this phenomenon is a fairly recent discovery in Western psychology, it has been core to Buddhist thinking for 15 centuries. One of the tenets that comes from this is the idea that the world we know is actually an illusory world, the Maya or veil of illusion of Hindu philosophy, and the Yuishiki (only mind) of Buddhist thought. In this sense, the snake turning out to be a rope, and the invisible gorilla in our midst are not just misperceptions, but profound metaphors for how we see the world.

Accessing the Unconscious

While Buddhist philosophy, depending on which culture, era, and school you consult, delineates a complex set of mindsets, deities, and layers of consciousness, there are several ways in which you can approach this subject. There is enough history and philosophy behind it to have kept scholars busy for the past 15 centuries. Students of Yogacara may approach it as a meditation or way of life, in an effort to deepen their consciousness or achieve some level of enlightenment.

Or you can study the psychology of consciousness, in an effort to better understand yourself and have a higher quality of life. This is the approach that we take with the Mandala Chart. Once you are aware that your perceptions are actually filtered by your preconceptions, and that the world is often not as it seems, then you can begin to explore what are the causes of our ignorance. According to Buddhist as well as Western philosophy, the trouble begins in the seventh layer, that of the Ego, the seat of selfish desires.

We have all met the EGOTIST, who falls for the ultimate illusion that they are the center of the universe. Perhaps at times we have been one. Shakespeare described him in Hamlet, as suffering in a state of madness.

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” – Hamlet

The philosopher Blaise Pascal described God and the universe as a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. This is the ultimate in flexible focus, and in the meaning of the word Mandala, which is Sanskrit for Universe. The Mandala Chart then, can help us through flexible focus to overcome the madness of the Ego-Centric view, by restoring in some measure the flexible focus which is a more accurate perception of the Universe.

However, the eighth level of SEED Consciousness, which some define as basal consciousness, causal consciousness, or universal consciousness, is hidden from us or at least filtered by the seventh level or veil of Mana Obscurity, the Shadow, the Ego.

The Storehouse contains the SEEDs which we plant, and gives them back to us in kind. Whatever grows from this Storehouse, whether a garden or a jungle, the Ego takes for granted and acts upon accordingly, thereby filtering our perceptions of what we see and what we do not see. It determines how we experience and respond to the world, our karma, the cycle of cause and effect, our work, our destiny, whether we experience suffering or experience bliss.

As a Man Thinketh

James Allen (1864~1912), through his book As a Man Thinketh, wrote the seminal work of the self-improvement movement, and a key influence on Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley and Tony Robbins, and others. The central premise of this short volume is that our thoughts create our world. Allen compares our subconscious mind to a garden, which bears fruit according to the seeds which are planted and cultivated. He was most certainly familiar with Indian philosophy and Buddhism, as evident from his writings, and from contemporary accounts of the friends of James Allen.

The lesson we can draw from it, and the practical application with the Mandala Chart, is to cultivate a flexible focus and select positive and harmonious seeds to plant in our unconscious. You manifest and feed what you focus on, so given the choice, why not focus on abundance in each of the eight fields of life?

We know that the Ego can be intransigent, stubborn, insistent on having its own way. How then can we free ourselves from this tyranny of our own making? The solution in Buddhist thought is that the Ego can be transformed from a tyrant into a humble servant through an attitude of gratitude, as we have seen in the article on the Principle of Gratitude.

The more you study the process, the more everything starts to fit. This is truly food for thought.