Conscious Body (&Mind) A lecture given by Deric

Derics Brownds published a summary of a recent lecture on his website
The start of the lecture is setting a very important message

I’ve learned about work that has shown, in just the past 10-15 years, that much of what we thought we knew about how our minds work isn’t quite right, our commonsense notions, our folk psychology that has been around for thousands of years, gets a lot of stuff wrong.


A key idea and background is:

consciousness rises from our biological bodies, our muscles, blood, and guts, to meet their needs. That’s what our minds are for, to take care of our bodies.

The full lecture covers 4 key topics:
– The first topic deals with what we are learning about how our brains actually work,
– the second with why much of what we have thought is wrong,
– the third topic builds a story of how we invent most of our emotional and social reality
– the fourth topic describes how this modern description is in many ways confluent with the insights of ancient meditative traditions.

we don’t analyze and recreate our worlds with every new perception and action, analyzing what is coming in anew each time, from the outside in and then performing a mysterious analysis that generates a reaction. Rather, we take in just the smallest amount of information from the outside that is necessary to match with something in our library of previous perceptions and actions, and then generate a perception or action from the inside out.

Energy is used most efficiently, a key to survival.
If an animal can automatically predict and prepare to meet the body’s needs before they arise based on successful actions taken at other times in similar circumstances, for example managing the body’s response to stresses.
Humans and other animals store past experiences to prepare for future action.
Fast forward to complicated bodies like ours, running hundreds of muscles in motion, balancing dozens of different hormones, pumping two thousand gallons of blood per day, regulating the energy of billions of brain cells, digesting food, excreting waste, fighting illness. Your brain’s most important job is not thinking, it is running all this stuff.
All of our mental thinking capacities are in the service of keeping us well by managing our bodies so that we can pass on our genes.
Our very recent invention of human language and fretting about value, purpose, and meaning is just a thin veneer in the service of this massive background computation that keeps us alive to pass on our genes to the next generation.

Our predictive brains are constantly generating hypotheses and simulations of what we might be facing in the future.
We build concepts when the brain groups together some things and separates others. Concepts are tools our brains use to guess the meaning of incoming sensory inputs.
Concepts give meaning to changes in sound pressure against your eardrums so you hear them as words in a language or as music instead of random frequency noise. 

… findings of modern neuroscience research, is consonant with insights derived from meditation techniques developed over a thousand years ago in several different Eastern religious lineages.
They describe mind states that can sequentially access the same layers of predictive processing in our brains that are being visualized by modern brain imaging techniques.

There is a general consensus that there are three major or core meditation techniques… These techniques form a continuum in which each strategy can influence predictive processing to gradually break down increasingly ingrained expectations.
Each style can draw us closer and closer to the here and now and away from more abstract deep processing of our memories and expectations.

Focused meditation enhances present-moment awareness of one source of sensory input such as the breath. It exercises the attentional brain network. A typical instruction for focused mindfulness meditation might be to pay attention to your breath, and when attention inevitably wanders, gently return it to the simple focus on breathing.

The more advanced technique of open awareness meditation withdraws selective attention in favor of non-judgmental, non-reactive, observational space in which thoughts and sensations appear and pass away.
This progressively disables clinging to expectations generated by predictive processing. Instead of being immersed in thoughts or emotions a more open inclusive seeing presence emerges that detaches from and observes them.
Within this open awareness, the transient appearance of an emotion like anger can be seen, as if from a third person perspective, as a process of angrying, different from being hijacked by the emotion and immersed in experiencing yourself as an angry person.
The open awareness of seeing the angrying versus being an angry person offers the option of choosing between those alternatives. Ditto with being able to distinguish being a fearful or desiring person from observing yourself fearing or desiring.

A further deconstruction of predictive processing occurs in the non-dual meditative process in which the observer present in focused attention and open monitoring meditation, that can verbally report on the meditation experience, that observer vanishes. Subject and object disappear. Awareness means being aware that we are present without being something as such. While it seems like this must be a rarified state accessible only to advanced meditators, there are a few simple exercises that can give ordinary folks like ourselves a brief glimpse of what the experience is like.

This slide shows some summary bottom lines:

Picture 53

Or, more briefly:

Picture 54

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