Some festivals feature men in trance pierced with staves. Some ceremonies have people speaking in tongues, channelling dead people, or being overcome and “born again”.
To counteract the plasticity of mind on the shifting raft of experience, many people hold fast to firm beliefs. Faith, they reason, is needed for sure footing in life.
We can abuse the idea of “I’ll see it when I believe it”, and choose what to believe in order to try to create our world. Or we can abuse the idea that we understand well enough what is what, and that what doesn’t fit what we think is outside the bounds of the probable.
There is another, more experimental, yet quite workable way. Let the mind be plastic, try on various hats, map a wider territory, see a bigger picture. Loosen up, let go, dive into ignorance and unknowing. Die a little in order to live. No faith required to be curious, and it isn’t hazardous to anything but what you are.
Late last night I tried to meditate, trying to use up the rest of a good caffeine buzz on just resting, on my bed. Strange thing, how perfectly natural and yet how difficult it can be to just rest, open, doing nothing at all, but appreciating and watching. It can be very engaging, and peaceful at the same time. For most of us doing that is called “meditation”, and takes training and repeated effort to be able to slide into. Head habits distract. Meditation is a type of diving into unknowing – the more refined the meditation, the less concepts are used to understand experience, yet strangely, the greater the sense of immediately cognizing the world, without filter, more directly, and more of it. The saying is “meditation; it’s not what you think”.
But filters function in subtle ways. Recently, the effect of writing an article about chi-kung, was to empower my mind to believe in, or at least to allow, the perceptions of chi as valid. So they became stronger and more defined.
Buddhists are notorious for talking about ego-lessness, or that the mind is essentially non-centralized in nature. This can dramatically open up the possibilities for vast awareness – visualizations can get extremely vast, when you no longer filter consciousness through the bottleneck of a central processor.
The Vajrayana Buddhists like to use the “I’ll see it when I believe it” logic, and while I appreciate the pragmatic power of that approach, I can’t agree with it. It isn’t wholistic, or integral. It makes good powerful use of data, but must exclude or hand wave away some facts.
I think we can have mental stability at the same time as openness and plasticity. Because consciousness is not, in fact, routed through a central processor. Our experience can integrate and include a lot.