A little theory the supports the mindfulness / Constancy practice, which starts by pondering about the inside and outside of us. None of this is required to practice mindfulness / Constancy but can help, especially over the longer term and when extending awareness to how feelings are layered . . . . . .
We think inside our heads. We look out from behind our eyes. We can identify a sound as outside but when all is quiet we can hear our heart beat inside our chest and ears. We touch something we see as outside but feel hunger inside our bodies.
In so many ways, we can identify an inside and an outside and between them is a boundary – our skin. We look out from our skin vehicles, riding on top of them, our heads like cabins that our pilot-minds and it’s helpful auto-pilot, sit inside.
Memories, thoughts and feelings – all these are inside the boundary of our skin . . . . . . . or are they? Are all of them on the inside of our skin? I would like to explore this a little.
Feelings, emotions, can be seen as being two aspects of the same process, the sensations that are bodily based and the emotions we are aware of mentally. (For a description of what feelings are, please see the footnote at the end of this section). These are the same process, the same event; we say ‘I am angry’, we do not say, ‘my heart is beating faster, my eyes are narrowed, my face is getting red and neck is getting stiff . . . . . I feel angry’. We do not even say, there ‘is anger in my body’. We say, ‘I am angry’. This convention is perhaps hard-wired into our makeup and is obviously more convenient than adding a fuller bodily description every time.
However, we loose something by minimising the role of the body in our emotional life. The body and mind are not separate things co-existing but each are intimately bound together. We have an external boundary which is our skin but we also have an internally held sense of that boundary, dynamically held as a perceptual marker. The body-brain-mind system with its sense-of-skin boundary, seems entirely to be living behind the skin and that commonsense view is the most prevalent – yet it may not be the whole story.
Crossing the boundary : from ‘out’ to ‘in’
We experience ourselves as inside our bodies, as being on one side of the boundary of our skin yet that boundary is crossed repeatedly every second of our lives. Light enters through our eyes, sound waves enter through our ears, sensations from stimuli to our skin tell us much about the changing state of the environment we are in.
We also know that our skin boundaries have things that cross them we cannot directly experience. A virus is too small to see but it can kill us. Some sound waves are too low to hear but we can sense some of them. Neutrinos are subatomic particles that constantly pass through our bodies, apparently undetected.
Our commonsense view sees consciousness as being inside the boundary of our skin and this is a very powerful perception. This allows us to manipulate our environment to our advantage, we can judge where we are and where other things are in relation to us.
Yet this very successful feature overshadows something not so important from the point of view of survival but nonetheless of great interest to many humans. Some of us have noticed that some deeper feelings appear to originate from outside the skin boundary.
Before going on to explore this we need to frame these experiences and check them by looking at them from different angles. It is a significant step to say that some of the deeper feelings, or parts of them, come from outside the body – perhaps the person experiencing this has just made a mistake? The person might be deluded, insane or being driven by needs that are too easily met by an implausible theory. Perhaps there is a brain malfunction? We need to explore some more.
If you sit in a room at home and close your eyes and just listen to any sound that arrives, what is actually happening? You might hear some distant traffic noise. You have identified that sound as coming from some distance away. You judge the distance or may not know it exactly. The sound (sound waves) on which that judgement is made has travelled from the sound source, (the traffic outside) to your ear and then is transmitted to various places in your brain where perception and recognition takes place. The source of the sound may be outside your skin boundary but the perception and then recognition, takes place inside the skin boundary.
The emergent discipline of neurobiology is producing ever more complex maps and descriptions of the brain. Much of this fascinating effort is framed by studying those who have sustained brain damage of one kind of another. The impairments can be complex and yet subtle, they can leave a person fully functional in some ways and yet suffering bizarre gaps in their abilities, for example, not being able to recognise your own arm. Some sufferers have become very upset that the thing attached to them, their own arm, suddenly as a result of a stroke, is now perceived as on the “outside” of their boundary and not “theirs”.
Clearly, the boundary that separates the world “out there” from the self “in here”, is one maintained by the brain and can be subtly changed or profoundly damaged. With these sufferers the skin boundary may be intact but its mental equivalent is not.
We also know that the mind can generate a perception that is not derived from an outside source. People who are mentally ill may report hearing things that are not audible to anyone else or any recording equipment – an experience very real to the perceiver but incomprehensible to anyone else. The brain/mind can deliver overwhelming certainty and maintain it even when no one else agrees.
I am aware that I am not the only person to have experienced feelings that seemed to have crossed the skin-boundary. Although my perceptions cannot yet be “falsified” in accordance with the classic scientific method, nonetheless, my experiences are testable in one way, in that any can use the technique and have similar experiences themselves, (and indeed, they have done, as far as we can tell at this time).
Eventually, I seen no reason why a brain/mind cannot be mapped as comprehensively as anything else and perhaps we will then be able replicate experiences in real time from one brain/mind to another. Perhaps at that stage others may experience the feelings coming from ‘outside’ their skin boundary without the need for years of rigorous practice or some chance mental or external event.
The Deeper Feelings
There is a reason why I call them feelings or emotions and not just signals or stimuli, because that is what they feel like. With the Deeper feelings there may be a trigger but I am having a feeling that I experience as arriving from “outside”. I use a capital “D” here to indicate that special group of feelings. I detected them first as a result of the Constancy discipline, where the practice eventually shows that emotions are layered.
I noticed that with complex feelings, the layers were initially related in an obvious way but the “deeper” you looked, the stranger and less obvious the relations became. I used to laugh at my description that some feelings were “underneath” other feelings but that is exactly what it feels like.
I realised that my memories, thoughts and feelings happen in a place – my body – but this place is also a mental creation. There is sensory data going to my brain/mind that maintains this body place and it has depth to it. Depth and distance perception must frame my experience of the Deeper feelings in a similar way to how my toes feel further away than my nose.
In a very similar way to sound being identified as outside my skin boundary and sight involving the identification of an object visibly outside my skin boundary, so, the Deeper feelings, or parts of them, some of their layers, were ‘perceived’ to come from outside my skin boundary. The body/brain/mind therefore creates a mental sense of the body that is informed by that body but not necessarily exactly coterminous with it. This mental sense of the body is called the Sensorium.
Things cross this boundary and I was surprised to sense that some of the Deep feelings do as well. A feeling requires an ‘experiencer’, in this case, “me”. How is it possible for “me” to experience a feeling coming from outside of the sensorium boundary, with qualities of “distance”, just like hearing a sound from far away? In some cases, the Deeper feeling was both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ as well.
I might hear my heart beat and identify that as “inside”. I might hear distant thunder and identify that as “outside” and far away. I might hear the clock ticking in my room and identify that as “outside” but near. So I eventually came to recognise that some Deeper feelings, or parts of them, were arriving from “outside” my sensorium. Processing the experience still happens inside, in a similar way that a sound comes from outside but is processed “inside” by the brain.
The Deeper feelings presented as emotions but not in any I could name easily. I thought that this was because they were more primal, up-welling unconscious forces like a substrate of emotions that will underpin other emotions. Some of the Deeper feelings seemed to fit this description – others did not.
My experiences would indicate that, after sufficient practice, it is possible to identify something that enters the Sensorium from outside of its boundary. I have defined that “something” as a Deeper feeling. Proof of this in the scientific sense is probably a long way away, when we can literally map and “read minds”. Till then, there is always the chance that this is not Deeper feelings crossing the Sensorium boundary but illness or malfunction. I do not experience this to be the case and my “findings” can be replicated by any who want to try. We are our own laboratories.
Meaningful comparisons can be made with other disciplines and this would be a fruitful line of enquiry though limited by cross cultural and linguistic difficulties. My own readings of mystical states and altered states of consciousness in many western and eastern traditions, indicates that my experiences are far from unique. Proofs notwithstanding and giving me the benefit of the doubt for now, what does it mean that “some things” – Deeper feelings – cross the Sensorium boundary?
Beyond the Sensorium : where is the “me” boundary ?
What does it mean, that some of the Deeper feelings are not localised inside the body? This is the crucial distinction because if my experiences were just a signal, from outside, crossing the boundary to inside, then what is inside (“me”) might remain all there is.
A signal, like a sound or a beam of light, comes from outside, crosses the skin boundary, is perceived and accessed by the brain/mind – but my experiences show (as long as I am not mad or malfunctioning) that the experiencer is not just inside the skin boundary, that means aspects of me are “outside”, because, they present as emotions.
I experienced Deeper feelings crossing the sensorium boundary, and they are not just signals, because I am feeling them. The feeling itself was mobile and crossed the boundary. A feeling requires a person to experience the feeling. It was not just that the feeling was mobile and crossed over “into me”, the boundary of “me” was not as I previously believed it to be. I accept that I might be mad though I do not believe I am. I have been as rigorous as I can in checking my perceptions and their products; that is part of the discipline of using Constancy. We are certainly skin-encapsulated beings, that live and then die in our skin vehicles but Constancy (and some other mystical events) hint at a tantalising perception, that we are simultaneously connected to some larger more dispersed field.
Patterns and Nodes – experience into words
If we start from the place that some of the Deeper feelings do come from outside, cross the Sensorium boundary and then are perceived by the brain/mind in some way, it means that consciousness is not solely restricted to the body/brain/mind, or at least some aspects of it are not entirely localised “inside”.
Another assumption is, that the act of reasoning itself, thought, is localised inside. I have not experienced thinking as arriving from outside, only particular (Deeper) types of emotions. Thoughts certainly happen spontaneously, some not generated consciously by me but they are still “inside”. So rational thought and its components are a product of the brain/mind, ordinary feelings are a product of the body/brain/mind system but some Deeper feelings arrive from outside.
The Deeper feelings are only experienced by accident or by by-passing the normal perceptual routes; (accident here would include medical malfunction). Prolonged spiritual practice and things like meditation, side-line the usual perceptions. Sometimes (but not always) this side-lining allows the Deeper feelings to surface, or rather, we “see” them in-situ in ways not possible when the normal perceptual processes are dominant, filtering and controlling all experience.
The Deeper feelings could be called a mystical substrate . I would speculate that this mystical substrate is the basis of all religious experience and that it is like a field with wave-like properties, (the term ‘field’ explained in the notes below).
Science is showing us that electricity, magnetism, light and gravity are expressions of the same thing. This understanding has been slowly established over the last 200 years or so and the barriers of that understanding are being stretched all the time. There is a lurking principle in all this which has a strong resonance for me, that being, the consciousness in our heads is a localised intensification of, but not separate from, a widely dispersed field.
In a nutshell, we might say this : the field behaves differently in differing circumstances. One part of the field is intensified and corresponds to what I feel my identity is, this is located and thus ‘ framed’ by the body/brain/mind system. The other part of the field is a “weaker” dispersed system that nonetheless feels things.
In the right circumstances the field feelings surface in the body/brain/mind frame, the intense node of being that temporarily buzzes inside the sensorium. Deep feelings appear to propagate across the field in a similar way that feelings can flood across the body; they move through the body and are detected, in some circumstances, by the frame. All feelings can have wave-like properties but my experiences would show that dome Deeper feelings also move like waves and so enter the sensorium from outside the skin boundary.
We cannot see what happens outside our mind and beyond death perhaps because of the intensity of the local skin-bound consciousness. Through the application of techniques, like Constancy, it is possible to experience non-localised consciousness, that is, to become aware of something always there but lost in the ‘glare’ of our own heads.
There is an associated danger. The field of dispersed consciousness that exists outside our skin-bound selves is hard to see for a reason. Evolution produced the kind of attention we have to increase our chances of survival. In tampering with it, we potentially undo some of that protection. Yet this dynamic hints at another perspective we might speculate about. Perhaps we are evolving into different kinds of human beings that require more knowledge of the mystical substrate.
The emerging model informed by my experiences is of a dispersed field of consciousness, that is localised and intensified “inside” our skin-bound selves and shaped by the biological and cultural circumstances of this frame. The demands on how the frame is structured put limits on interaction. We get only glimpses of the field and often do not recognise what we see. In a similar way that a wave passes through water, the Deeper feelings exhibit movement, they are indeed wave-like.
If we say that consciousness is a field with waves passing through it , through the medium of the body/brain/mind, the waves are then disturbances of component parts. Whilst that holds true easily for the body-frame with its biochemical transmission along nerves and synapses what happens to this model if we extend it to Deeper-field feelings?
This model makes sense if the proposed dispersed field of consciousness is one of the fundamental structures of the universe, like light, magnetism and gravity – these being all different aspects of the same ‘unified thing’. This difference between the aspects is therefore in perception; how we perceive large underlying structures.
so far summing up
The significance of the sensorium boundary is, that common sense would indicate our consciousness is found on only one side (the “inside”) and apparently not on the other, (the “outside”).
There are experiences that point to consciousness or a form of it, being outside the body and although some of these are clearly the result of malfunction, (that being mental illness and/or brain damage) we should hesitate before assuming that all such experiences are of this kind. Eventually, science should progress in mapping brains and minds far enough to be able to “read” an experience from one person, then “load” it into another so they have the same or near enough experience.
The experience should go on to be replicable in real scientific terms; until then we must share as best we can and build helpful theories and models to aid research design. We must also offer help and advice to those who choose to explore their own consciousness.
Rational logic, based on our bodily bound experience must hold the position that we cannot be both a discrete individual (frame) and a dispersed collection (field) – we cannot be both the pilot flying through the air and the air itself at the same time. Whilst conceptually we can see ourselves as an individual that is simultaneously part of a crowd our identity remains individual – we see the crowd, we do not become the crowd. Yet the Deeper feelings show we are simultaneously both crowd and individual; we are the pilot, the plane flying through the air and the air itself.
How can we be all things at the same time? The dead do not talk to us because individual identities do not survive bodily death. When the individual (frame) winds down (dies) the structure that temporarily held it together dissipates – the frame goes. We believe ourselves to be the frame but perhaps we are the feelings that the frame contained, both local and Deeper. Those feelings continue as waves in the field. The dead do not talk to us because the field does not need to communicate. Communication is a skin-bound frame activity based upon the frame’s needs, based upon being separate. The field may have no needs, therefore, does not need to communicate . . . . .
For those interested in philosophy, the ponderings above might be labelled by some as panpsychism. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panpsychism
(ii) Constancy, the main technique used.
(iv) perception of layers
(v) more on Fields
(vi) more on Waves
(i) Definition of Neutrino: “An electrically neutral particle that is often emitted in the process of radioactive decay of nuclei. Neutrinos are difficult to detect, and their existence was postulated twenty years before the first one was actually discovered in the laboratory. Millions of neutrinos produced by nuclear reactions in the sun pass through your body every second without disturbing any atoms.” From Answers.com .
(ii) The technique used by me that informs this work is Constancy. There are many methods. To explore these matters experientially, it is best to use a technique of one kind or another, sooner or later.
(iii) “The term sensorium (plural: sensoria) refers to the sum of an organism’s perception, the “seat of sensation” where it experiences and interprets the environments within which it lives. The term originally enters English from the Late Latin in the mid-17th century, from the stem sens- (see: sense). In earlier use it referred, in a broader sense, to the brain as the mind’s organ (Oxford English Dictionary 1989). In medical, psychological, and physiological discourse it has come to refer to the total character of the unique and changing sensory environments perceived by individuals. These include the sensation, perception, and interpretation of information about the world by senses, perceptual systems and minds (MedTerms 2001).” From Answers.com
“Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiae or synaesthesiae)—from the Ancient Greek σύν (syn), meaning “with,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), meaning “sensation“‘—is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a three-dimensional view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise).
While cross-sensory metaphors (e.g., “loud shirt”, “bitter wind” or “prickly laugh”) are sometimes described as “synesthetic”, true neurological synesthesia is involuntary. It is estimated that synesthesia may be as prevalent as 1 in 23 persons across its range of variants (Simner et al. 2006). Synesthesia runs strongly in families, but the precise mode of inheritance has yet to be ascertained. Synesthesia is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, or as a consequence of blindness or deafness. Synesthesia that arises from such non-genetic events is referred to as adventitious synesthesia to distinguish it from the more common congenital forms of synesthesia. Adventitious synesthesia involving drugs or stroke (but not blindness or deafness) apparently only involves sensory linkings such as sound → vision or touch → hearing; there are few if any reported cases involving culture-based, learned sets such as graphemes, lexemes, days of the week, or months of the year.” (from Wikipedia.com )
(iv) When I first noticed that feelings were layered, I wondered, was I really seeing layers (depth) or was I seeing a feeling mass that was just changing, creating memories? Perhaps I was not seeing layers, I was seeing a feeling that then created a memory, which grew into series of successive memories, not layers (depth) but “horizontal” sections (width). After many years my original observation was confirmed; each time a memory was created, it had layers itself. Closer examination did reveal “depth”. Although I could see a series of feeling events, (a horizontal progression), each event had vertical layers too, hence depth. This depth is as real to me as any 3D visual though I do not “see” it like I can “see” an imaginary apple. There are differential aspects to it that are spatial, there is a “near” and a “far”, very similar to the sense of hearing something from a near source next to me or a far source like thunder in the clouds.
(v) Fields : “Physics. A region of space characterized by a physical property, such as gravitational or electromagnetic force or fluid pressure, having a determinable value at every point in the region.” ( from Answers.com )
“The region around a charged body within which it can exert its electrostatic influence may be called an electric field. In principle, it extends to infinity, but in practice it falls off more or less rapidly with distance. We can define the intensity or strength E of an electric field as follows. Suppose that we place a small test charge q in an electric field. This charge will then experience a force. The ratio of the force to the charge is called the intensity of the electric field, or, more usually, simply the electric field. Thus I have used the words “electric field” to mean either the region of space around a charged body, or, quantitatively, to mean its intensity.” (JB Tatum)
“Unified field theory is sometimes called the Theory of Everything (TOE, for short): the long-sought means of tying together all known phenomena to explain the nature and behaviour of all matter and energy in existence. In physics, a field refers to an area under the influence of some force, such as gravity or electricity, for example. A unified field theory would reconcile seemingly incompatible aspects of various field theories to create a single comprehensive set of equations. Such a theory could potentially unlock all the secrets of nature and make a myriad of wonders possible, including such benefits as time travel and an inexhaustible source of clean energy, among many others. According to Michio Katu, a theoretical physicist at City College, City University of New York, those in pursuit of a unified field theory seek “an equation an inch long that would allow us to read the mind of God.” James Clerk Maxwell proposed the first field theory, for electromagnetism, in the middle of the 1800s. Early in the 20th century, Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity – dealing with gravitation – became the second field theory. The term unified field theory was coined by Einstein, who was attempting to prove that electromagnetism and gravity were different manifestations of a single fundamental field”. (Whatis.com)
“The weak-field approximation in general relativity is used to describe the gravitational field very far from the source of gravity”. (Answers.com)
“Because of this interdependence of the electric and magnetic fields, it makes sense to consider them as a single, theoretically coherent entity — the electromagnetic field. This unification, which was completed by James Clerk Maxwell, is one of the triumphs of 19th century physics. It had far-reaching consequences, one of which was the elucidation of the nature of light: as it turns out, what is thought of as “light” is actually a propagating oscillatory disturbance in the electromagnetic field, i.e., an electromagnetic wave. Different frequencies of oscillation give rise to the different forms of electromagnetic radiation, from radio waves at the lowest frequencies, to visible light at intermediate frequencies, to gamma rays at the highest frequencies.” ( Answers.com )
(vi) Waves : . . . . “Wave motion is the process by which a disturbance at one point in space is propagated to another point more remote from the source with no net transport of the material of the medium itself. For example, sound is a form of wave motion; wind is not. Wave motion can occur only in a medium in which energy can be stored in both kinetic and potential form. In a mechanical medium, kinetic energy results from inertia and is stored in the velocity of the molecules, while potential energy results from elasticity and is stored in the displacement of the molecules.
In a free travelling wave (as distinguished from a stationary or standing wave) one part of the medium disturbs an adjacent part, thereby imparting energy to it. This portion of the medium, in turn, disturbs another part, thereby causing a flow of energy in a given direction away from the source. More technically, wave propagation is the result of kinetic energy at one point being transferred into potential energy at an adjacent point, and vice versa. The rate of travel of the disturbance, or velocity of propagation, is determined by the constants of the medium. A stationary wave is the combination of two waves of the same frequency and strength travelling in opposite directions so that no net transfer of energy away from the source takes place. A standing wave is the same but with the returning wave (toward the source) being of lesser intensity than the outwardly travelling wave so that a net transfer of energy away from the source does take place.
Wave motion can occur in a vacuum (electromagnetic waves), in gases (sound waves), in liquids (hydrodynamic waves), and in solids (vibration waves). Electromagnetic waves can also travel in gases, liquids, and solids provided that the electrical conductivity of the medium is not perfect or that the imaginary part of the dielectric constant is not infinitely great. By current usage, elastic waves propagated in gases, liquids, and solids, regardless of whether one can hear them or not, are called acoustic waves. ( From Answers.com )
the following are two ‘sketches’ I doodled to help me think about these matters . . . . .(please click on them, to open them and make them more readable).
Footnote : What are feelings?
They are internal to the body, biological events, most likely to be originating from the workings of homeostasis, which is the body’s system of self-regulation. Homeostasis involves the whole body, the brain and the mind. Feelings can be triggered by external events or by internal neurological events or by very rapid interactions of both. A memory can trigger a feeling or sometimes, feelings emerge with no discernible cause. With the latter, it might be the subconscious mind initiating a feeling the causes of which, we are unaware.
Some hold that feelings and emotions are related but different things : the author of this site holds that these terms are interchangeable.
That feelings are biological events, triggered by internal bodily workings and external events perceived by the bodily workings, does not minimise their impact. The author of this site holds that they are the beginning and the end of everything. He also believes that some feelings may be more than bodily originating or only bodily located.
An excellent description of feelings/emotions can be found in the works of Damasio :
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