John Lennon wrote most of the world’s greatest songs, you can’t change my mind on this. I was eight years old when the Beatles landed in the US.
One of John’s eternal messages starts like this…
“Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.
Just as the Genesis serpent was sort of right and wrong when it told Eve, “You won’t die,” John Lennon was both right and wrong about turning off the mind and not dying.
He was right that we’d all do well to turn off our inner critics sometimes and rise above the fears that bind us.
Turning off the inner voice allows the silent parts of the mind to shine. For me, this has become a major goal of meditation: waking up my subconscious gifts by temporarily shutting up inside.
The exercise lets the silent parts of my mind arrange things wordlessly and efficiently, making intuitive and logical connections that would take way more time in the verbal realm. Sometimes, in fact, it’s like a message blinks into my head from beyond like the proverbial “download.” Who knows what this is, really? I don’t.
The wise and occasionally depressed King Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season… a time to keep silence and a time to speak.”
This passage advocates balance, not black-and-white labeling. I like that.
With a little reflection, it’s clearly not in our best interests to always keep a silent mind, focusing only on what the hands and eyes are doing in the present moment.
If you’re depressed, of course you must learn to “live in the present moment,” shutting off that blasted verbal and visual habit of going over past hurts, fights, losses and embarrassments, as well as future worst-case scenarios. This kind of rumination will drown you unless you put in the time and effort to learn inner silence and the skill of stopping and diverting inner “tapes” when they turn self-destructive. Everyone knows this.
But if you’re not depressed, your inner voice can help you with all sorts of nice things.
Like when you’re washing your hair in the shower and your mind wanders. Some of the best stories come directly from heaven to Earth through shower nozzles. Ask any writer.
Some of my blog posts spring into my head in nearly final form while I’m sitting on the floor with my legs crossed planning to focus only on conscious, deliberate breathing.
Just as some academics are misguided in thinking that maleness is inherently evil, so some gurus are confused into believing that inner chatter is inherently negative.
It’s understandable. I’ll admit that my dog, Halo, avoids inner monologue assiduously and she’s the happiest person alive, but still, some of the spiritual and psychological advice I read regarding the inner voice can’t possibly apply to humans.
Not only do they imply that the inner voice is an unqualified negative to be abandoned for the eternal superficial concrete present moment, they also have the obtuseness to equate the inner voice with the total mind.
I’m sorry, but some of these experts are like a mouse with its head stuck in a coke bottle. Myopic but enjoying the flavor.
The inner voice is just a tiny part of the mind, gurus. Come on, the non-verbal parts are the iceberg below the surface. Things like:
1. Free will (the non-physical core).
2. Conscience (molded by the environment but innately sensing fairness).
4. Silent analysis of math, physics and ecosystems.
5. Autonomic and deliberate breathing.
6. Circadian timing of the body’s organ systems.
7. Consciously moving body parts.
9. Doing body-scan meditation.
11. Intuitive self-preservation (for instance, sensing that the guy leading your meditation group is more of a crooked cult leader than a loving mentor.)
That last one is significant to trusting souls like me…
I took a $2,000 online meditation class a few years back from a PhD claiming to be doing breakthrough scientific investigation, the goal of which was ongoing bliss. His success rate was through the roof, he said. And I was “special” for even reading his email ads. Gee.
In retrospect, some of the participants did find bliss by the halfway point. But I wouldn’t call it enlightenment because there were side effects not mentioned until after the money changed hands. After that, he discussed the side effects as if they were trifles and “perfectly normal,” a phrase he repeated often over the weeks as students shared their growing concerns.
Tell me, are these side effects normal?
1. Memory problems.
2. Loss of organizational skills to the point where “enlightened” people from the prior group had to use lists to keep track of simple everyday tasks.
3. Diminished interest in fiction of all types.
4. Loss of interest in other people’s lives and stories. “You’ll have to fake interest.”
5. The showstopper: those who achieve the highest level of ongoing enlightenment would experience the complete loss of emotion, including love.
Would a scientist fail to mention these details until after he had your money? I doubt it, but maybe the pop business literature of the 1980’s was right — suckers deserve to be fleeced. I doubt anyone reading this believes such Darwinian dogma, but who knows?
To be fair, I did sign many pages of legal docs that I didn’t read. The side effects of eternal bliss might have been listed there in the fine print, but it wouldn’t have made any difference because the legal papers were sent to us only after the good doctor had stashed our cash safely in his account.
Anyway, this next part is interesting. During the classes, there were always questions from the students about how one or another of the PhD’s ideas could be integrated into the concepts of other famous gurus.
The doctor’s answer? If you want bliss, such questions miss the point: Forsake all thinking and do the exercises.
“The mind,” he said, would only interfere with the highest possible human goal: obtaining a permanent blissful state of enlightenment. He had his own proprietary words for enlightenment, of course. But the mind must be turned off during this bliss-through-meditation process. We were building new neural pathways, after all. We needed only to stop thinking critically and follow his instructions to the letter.
And so I lay on my back in my bedroom with electrodes on my chest doing endless varieties of body-scanning type meditation, two hours and more each day for eight weeks. Plus online small group meetings and other assignments.
About that time (which was halfway through the course) one of the people in my subgroup on Google Hangouts reported serious memory problems that were getting worse.
Both of my parents died with significant dementia, as you may recall from other posts, so I have zero tolerance for memory loss. And now the “perfectly normal” side effects of this man’s bliss scheme appeared to be real.
I left the program quietly.
He later kicked me out of his Facebook group when, in response to his own request for feedback on how to improve the success rate, I suggested he might in effect pre-screen the participants by telling them the potential side effects of success before taking their money.
This was to imply that a PhD should act like a scientist not a drug dealer. I wish I’d said it that way.
Bottom line, I would never trade my memory, my love for fiction, or my interest in other people’s lives for ongoing bliss.
And I certainly wouldn’t risk my ability to love people. Not for anything. One day when I was a new Christian in a Church-run High School I experienced a sense of God’s love flowing through me to the other students. It was weird, probably the most joyful and meaningful experience of my life.
“Love is all and love is everyone. It is knowing, it is knowing.” – John Lennon
John was totally right about that. I’ll never give up hope of someday revisiting that feeling. I’d never trade the faintest hope of agape love for an emotionless, loveless life of ongoing zombie bliss. “No tanks, uh?”
Although self-love runs contrary to my upbringing, I also wouldn’t want to lose the ability to love myself, even if it feels wrong to say so — and it does. (Some people of my generation were taught that self love indicates there’s something terribly wrong with you. It sounds bizarre, I know, but “correct” thinking was 180 degrees different back then.)
I’m telling you all this to illustrate the danger and stupidity of turning off your mind’s critical thinking and logical objective analysis for the bliss offered by a guru or “bliss researcher.” Not that they’re all the same. I really don’t know. But in some cases, the bliss is real and the cost is your empathy and love. I suspect these methods rewire the circuitry of mirror neurons.
At any rate, the DNA Code Writer would not have gone to all the trouble of coding for the human brain and its transcendent access to free will if the ultimate purpose of humanity was to turn off the whole cognitive process for a flat-affect bliss that kills empathy like an opiate addiction.
I’d guess the severely depressed and suicidal among us might be tempted to trade almost anything for bliss. I don’t blame or shame them for it. Major depression is hell on Earth, often fatal. Don’t cast the first stone.
But I’m talking about seeking a higher spiritual path when your life is pretty much OK.
In that context, it’s unhealthy, stupid and dangerous to shut off your mind. All money hungry cult leaders demand that you stop thinking critically and fall in line. Usually they do it more subtly and artfully than my PhD friend with his little ongoing-bliss scam.
So be intelligently careful and balanced. If you’re depressed, use inner-silence meditation to deal with rumination. If you’re fine and seeking a more spiritual life, try inner-silence, slow breathing and yoga to discover the gap between your free-willed self and the brain-fixed aspects of your mind and body. Use your silent techniques to connect with your highly efficient subconscious creative talents. And probably I’ll meet you in a non-physical realm of agape love someday. Stranger things happen.
Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD
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