Do you think with your internal voice, or with pictures?
Posted by xsplat on December 8, 2013
I’ve just discovered youtube interviews with Feynman. I like his animated speaking style – it’s a performance art that is intriguing. I’ve had mentors from whom parts of their personality rubbed off on me through the imprinting of long association, and there is something about this guys speaking style that also seems worthy of paying attention to.
In this interview he details a fascinating meditation he did, regarding counting at the same time as performing other mental functions.
I’ll assume you watched the interview and won’t summarize.
The video points out a theme that’s been ongoing in my life. When asleep I can have extremely vivid lucid dreams – much more vivid than regular wakefullness. This is possible because when we are awake what we see is not actually a camera representation – we are visualizing with our eyes open, using the noisy signal from our eyes. Our peripheral vision and blind spots and shaky cam are all smoothed out and we mentally piece together a whole coherent picture. In dreams for some reason my visualizing capacity is greatly increased. I can’t visualize when I’m awake. I’ve talked to many meditators who practice Tibetan style visualization techniques, and they simply don’t believe me, as my experience is so different than theirs. When they close their eyes they can see clearly a candy apple. I can’t. But if I’m dreaming I can see the apple, the tree behind it, the field of flowers that the tree is in, the sky above, my hand holding the apple, and on and on, clearer than if my eyes were open.
So clearly my mind has this capacity to visualize. It’s just not integrated with how I habitually use my mind when awake.
Well, I’ve been working on that, in a tangential way. Instead of working on visualizing, (which is more successful in twilight sleep, late at night or early in the morning), I am trying to generally increase overall brain function cohesion, especially through making new synapse connections through the multi-brain-function taxing task of playing piano. I suspect playing piano will make my brain more generally integrated overall.
You see, this creative visualization part is always there working, and talking to me, but it comes at me through verbal space, I believe. I’ll have a big coherent Vision-Logic image where all the facets of many myriad pieces of information come at me all at once in a fully coherent picture, but I get it into awareness in vague imagery and translated into concepts, which are more verbal than visual. I don’t see clear pictures. Just as if I try to imagine a candy apple, I don’t see it – but I feel an idea of it. It’s extremely vague. Like an idea of a candy apple that has a shape. I suppose ideas are somewhat visual. But in twilight or dream sleep the image generator is not thinking – it creates visions with enormous amounts of info in them all at once, through massively parallel processing. It’s stunning and startling the amount of not only information, but insight, and even more stunning how incredibly FAST it works.
Lately when I close my eyes, I see stuff. If I was out flower shopping, I might see flowers. I intuit that playing the piano regularly is influencing this integration of the vision generator into regular awareness.
It is my intention to foster this. There is much untapped potential, and I really love this aspect of myself. I consider it nearly a separate self – someone I can talk to and listen to. Although he’s partially integrated, the visions he gives me are often quite a surprise. But I can work with him, in a dialogue, and for instance do eyes open visualizations of “auras” between my hands. We both understand it’s just an eyes open visualization – I’m no longer afraid of becoming delusional and fooled into believing in hallucinations. I have to literally have a dialogue with him to get him to participate, as he has somewhat of a mind of his own.
Update: Intriguingly, I cant seem to be creative on the piano while at the same time paying much attention to the visual field of seeing my fingers. I can see my hands and where my fingers go, but my visualization capacity is mostly being used up in understanding the geometrical relationships between the keys in various chords, so I can’t “rest my mind” into the visual field, the way I do in vipassana meditation. Also worth noting is that when I do much vipassana resting-the-mind-into the visual field meditation, dreams become more lucid. This should be no surprise as the visual field is in actuality a visualization, and so practicing being aware of much of the visual field at once IS practicing visualizing. So as the Feynman video shows, we use some components of our brain for different tasks, but we can’t seem to use those components for many tasks at once. For me my visualization component is in some ways locked away and/or caught up in other uses during regular daytime awareness, but is more and more lately starting to poke it’s head out with the type of visions he shows me in night time dream visions. Various meditations and mental habits of mindfulness may gently transform my internal experience to include more info from the visualizer. Which is great – I really like him and he has a great sense of humour.
Update: When I play the piano with my eyes closed I notice I can use two systems to find my way around the keys. Number 1 is muscle memory and the kinesthetic sense, and the 2nd is visualizing the keys. My default is to just use the kinesthetic sense, but if I only use that it’s easier to lose place. So now I’ll start to practice more with eyes closed. That should work some brain muscles. Hopefully that will help develop perfect pitch as well. By the way I was once able to carry a perfect pitch for one note around with me all day, so I know that should be possible for the whole piano. In theory I should be able to see and hear the whole thing, all in my head, with enough practice. That’s how some teachers teach and say it’s a crucial skill to develop.