How do we avoid the ‘moral defeat’ of our Egos? Well I guess it's by not letting the ego get beyond itself, and perhaps the balancing trick between ego and unconscious is the point referred to as ‘enlightenment’. Enlightenment seems to be the place where we decide that we’ve got enough stuff and anymore is just going to rot in the double garage; time to chuck-out any useless facades and use our unconscious ‘knowing’ to guide us.
To do that we have to be aware that our mirror reflections are continually reinforced by the conversations of our brains: ‘…the brain is never truly resting, but spontaneously active and constantly switching between different resting state ‘networks’.
This is where the time honored method of slowing the brain with meditatative techniques lends credence to Pantanjali claims of superpowers. Get on the ground, turn off the phone, and stop the self evaluations of reflected glory for just a little while.
While we keep promoting the myth of ego dominance we prevent the power of the
universal unconscious from playing its proper role, we become automatons of societies preconceived expectations. T he purpose
of life is to realise our own potential and to follow our own understanding of truth, but while our
obsession remains with the exterior shell we can only leave shallow philosophies and tokens of personal glory for a humanity
which is clamouring for our true worth.
he purpose of life is to realise our own potential and to follow our own understanding of truth, but while our obsession remains with the exterior shell we can only leave shallow philosophies and tokens of personal glory for a humanity which is clamouring for our true worth.
The finite world may be an illusion since philosophers cannot conceive of finite objectivity in a universe that is scientifically infinite; so perhaps the value of meditation comes from its ability to tap into the knowing of the collective unconscious, which probably includes creation itself, that mother of all things that showed its hand 13.8 billion years ago when it started with a ‘Big Bang’.
Ask someone living on the street and you’ll get a definitive answer, but at the other end there must be a level beyond which more stuff eats into our happiness by way of chores, worry and responsibilities. Of course really rich people are not so much concerned with happiness as they are with egocentric notions of prestige, purchasing power and influence. ($1,600 US for a hamburger – really!)
A survey (450,000 people) of emotional well-being and family income done in 2008-2009 came up with an optimum family income of $75,000 US. The researchers concluded: ‘...high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.’
A more recent survey ups the ante and shows differing happiness incomes for differing cultures, with the average being $161,000 US.
And then the article goes on to the ‘feeling wealthy’ category where the global average was $1.8 mill, with Singaporeans needing the most at $2.6 mill followed by Hong Kong with $2.46 mill, which may be saying something about repressed societies. ‘Hong Kong has witnessed slow erosion of the rule of law in recent years, exemplified by increasingly strict police controls on assemblies and processions...’by comparison, in the relaxed environs of Australia, rich seems to equate to an annual income of anything more than $200,000 AUD.
Money seems to be important for happiness due to its ability to create the environment in which we are happy and in neuroscience
that sensory ‘happiness’ can be measured by neuroimaging. So whose the happiest person in the world?
So far tests have shown 69 year old Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and son of a French philosopher, to be the happiest man in the world, and Matthieu reckons: "If you can learn how to ride a bike you can learn how to be happy."
Here are some of Mathieu’s tips:
· Look for happiness in the right place.
· To be truly happy we have to get rid of hatred, obsession, arrogance, envy, greed and pride.
· Happiness is not the pursuit of an endless succession of experiences, that's a recipe for exhaustion more than happiness. Happiness is a way of being, unlike pleasure, which exhausts itself as you experience it.
· Everyone would be helped by meditating for half-an-hour a day.
Just suppose that there were no dichotomies of finite and infinite, ego and unconscious, male and female, yin and yang, wrongs and right, black and white. Imagine what a boring place it would be; you couldn’t get your juices going over inequities, justice, jealousy and same sex marriage.
Sexual reproduction started half a million years before the brain was invented and prior to that humble bacteria were quite happy just splitting up and being themselves. But you know the rules of warfare – ‘divide and conquer’ and if we didn’t have all our modern day vexations then there’d be no headlines, just the same old bacteria Joe making it to his 3.8 billionth birthday with fungi, algae and sponges ruling the land; no familial duties, no hierarchies, no egocentric behaviour.
The question is still out there – why did sexual reproduction gain prominence? One of the main reasons given is that ‘this reproduction process [asexual] does not produce varying offspring, which means that the entire group can be wiped out by a single disease, or when the environment becomes unstable’. But hang on, hasn’t Golden Staph taken over hospitals?
In these days of health enlightenment with healthy fats and healthy gut flora, it would seem that clean dirty hands are part of a healthy life while household cleaners, sun screens, repellents, fumigants, and all the other crap we use to ‘protect us from the microbes’ has been of dubious value. Bacteria win, as they always have, since they don’t have to put up with whinging partners.
But then imagine the dichotomous opposite where two people have understanding and respect for each other’s differences whilst sharing the essential task of bringing the next generation into the world, surrounded by a neighborhood that provides caring none-judgmental support and inspires each of us to build the rainbow arch over a better and brighter future. Nah stuff the bacteria, I think I'll go with the dream.
Victoria Horner and her colleagues placed two chimpanzees in neighboring cages where each could easily observe the behavior and reactions of the other. One of the two animals had 30 plastic chips in a pot: 15 blue ones and 15 red ones. Outside the cages, in full view of the two chimpanzees, was a tray on which two bowls of food were placed. The chimpanzee who had the chips was trained beforehand to exchange chips for food. But this time, if he gave a blue chip, he’d be the only one to eat, and if he gave a red chip, the food would be distributed to both chimpanzees.
In the beginning, the one who had the chips gave them at random, but soon the two chimpanzees realized that with the “selfish” chips, only the chip-giver chimpanzee would feast. In this case, the chimpanzee who received nothing showed his disappointment and appealed to his colleague with cries and body language. The experiment showed that most of the chip-owner chimpanzees ended up choosing mostly the “altruistic” chips.
One might think that the first chimpanzee made this choice not by altruism, but in order to be able to eat calmly, without having to put up with a frantic companion expressing his disapproval noisily when the chosen chip brought him nothing.
But if the fact of attracting the attention of the chip-owner clearly influenced the choice of the latter, on the other hand, when the frustrated chimpanzee expressed his desire too vehemently (by spitting at the former, aggressively passing his fingers through the bars, shaking the cage, etc.), the other chose the “altruistic” chips less often, as if these intemperate demands made him unwilling to share with his fellow.
It was the moderate reactions, the ones that seemed simply to have the aim of attracting the other’s attention without harassing him that led to the largest number of prosocial choices.
‘…spiritual progress, especially through meditation practice, directly leads to the emergence of what we commonly call psychic ability (PSI). And these traditions also warn the seeker not to be distracted or side-lined when it happens because the spiritual path’s goal is Truth or union with the Universe…’ – Ellis Nelson
As I noted in my previous essay on The Nature of Sex, the reward pathway works via the chemical called dopamine which mediates our desire for sensory, cognitive, social, aesthetic and moral pleasures. Then the memory apparatus of our brain records the trigger processes of the reward pathway for the sake of future repeats, and we do this to the extent that ritualistic behaviour has become incorporated into human evolution.
But strangely enough wanting doesn’t always equate to enjoying which is something ‘generated by a smaller set of hedonic hot spots within the limbic system’. You may want a cigarette, a cream bun, a bit of a chat, some honky tonk or even a prayer session in a giant cathedral, but whether it does the trick, as far as being pleasurable, is another thing.
And if it does there may still be a difference between your subjective measure of how good it was and the objective firing up of your brain cells. You may have enjoyed the film because you thought you wouldn’t, but someone else who thought they would, was a little disappointed. But who actually enjoyed it more? Who was buzzing and vocal and wanting to follow up with drinks?
The objective response of who actually enjoyed it more can be measured by neuroimaging and surprisingly - ‘Pleasures of food, sex, addictive drugs, friends and loved ones, music, art, and even sustained states of happiness can produce strikingly similar patterns of brain activity.’
And to complicate matters further the same centres that mediate wanting and liking are also involved in the mediation of pain, fear and disgust. That scary roller coaster ride was fantastic, and the fear I overcame facing the crowd made it all worthwhile as the trepidation of a dark night awoke in the brilliance of day.