This practice actually works at subtle physiological and ocular levels, to once again show us how perception is creation. In the spirit of tantra, we’re trying to transform our greatest perceptual vice into our greatest perceptual virtue. In other words, vision is by far our most dominant sense neurologically and phenomenologically (as we will see in Part 3 of this book – we live in a sight-centric, photo-centric, and wake-centric reality, all in the service of ego-centric agendas). Sight is the most dualistic, speedy, and superficial sense, “giving me cheap confidence that one quick look at things can tell me what they really are.” We’re literally trying to change the way we see things, and that’s not easy.
This practice works with what the philosopher Evan Thompson coined quantum phenomenology, which is the cultivated ability through mind training to see things at extremely refined (quantum) levels. To literally see things you’ve never seen before. The Jewish mystic/scholar Svi Ish-Shalom writes, “The spiritual path is more perceptual than actual . . . Reality is reality even before we “arrive” at it and come to perceive its true nature. It always was, is, and will be exactly what it is. But on this path, the way we perceive reality undergoes a transformation.” That transformation is radical, and extremely subtle.
As we’ll see when we talk about enactivism in Part 3 of the book, you don’t passively represent the world “out there,” like an objective camera. You actively co-create it, enact it, moment-to-moment, in a fiercely subjective way. Every single time you look at something you bring it forth. Perception IS creation, at the most astounding levels (developmentally, neurologically, you name it). You have god-like powers to bring forth your world, and are then victimized by your own creations. We’ll have a great deal to say about all this as we continue.
For now: you may notice that when your mind and your eyes (and the subtle winds) really settle into this visual investigation, the object literally shape-shifts, or can even briefly disappear. If this happens, notice what you feel, and the lightning fast reference to self (a reference that literally creates the sense of self). Is it unsettling to see the object shape-shift or disappear? Is it kinda cool? Your eyes are constantly flickering, an extremely subtle and fast (the quantum phenomenology thing) ocular flutter that enacts the object (and by immediate implication, the subject – you can’t have one without the other, they co-emerge, or co-create each other). This is called microsaccades or micro-nystagmus, and it serves on one level to “figurate” the object (in the figure-ground Gestalt sense).
What you may eventually dis-cover is that this relentless background flutter of the physical eyes also operates analogically at the level of the mind’s eye, which then generates the mind’s “I”, ie., not merely the object out there, but the sense of subject in here. In other words, you may notice a lightning fast, super subtle, and virtually constant flutter of contraction (reference back to self) that creates the subliminal sense “ I am seeing that. ” No you’re not. It just appears that way. Appearance is not in harmony with reality. We take that dualistic view as axiomatic, a given, but it’s a construct. And as such, it can be deconstructed. That is precisely what this practice eventually does – supported by the material in this book. Over the course of our time together, we will make the extremely subtle but earth shattering transformation from “ I am seeing that ” to “ I am that .” To get from the former to the latter, we simply need to remove “seeing” – or at least improve our sight dramatically.
Don’t worry if none of this lands yet. It takes time, patience, effort, and some humor to remove the cataracts of confusion and to see in entirely new ways. Don’t let all this information obfuscate the practice. Don’t tie yourself into knots thinking that you must now see all this. This data is meant to support and encourage you. Read it. Contemplate it. Meditate on it. Then drop it entirely, and do the practice with a spirit of curiosity, playfulness, and adventure. Have fun, really. Look at the object with a beginner’s mind, the mind of eternal youth that sees everything with “fresh vision” (a term we’ll return to when I refer to a scientific study on all this).
Again, in the spirit of stealth help, there’s a whole lot more going on with this practice then meets the eye. Let’s refine that eye, improve our vision (in the year of 2020!), and come to see things the way they really are – the way a Buddha sees.