Chapter 11: Discovering our Physical Nature
I’ve spent quite a bit of time examining how our subconscious and conscious minds (Systems 1 and 2) interact. That’s because of the difficulty of exploring their relationship. I used visual perceptions for this effort and the work continues. It is very slow going; it isn’t easy to develop connections between parts of our brains, but progress thus far suggests that it is possible.
UPDATED RESULTS ON VISUAL QUALIA
First, I’ll give a brief summary of progress in controlling and creating visual qualia. I reported on multi-object visual qualia in Chapter 9, six weeks ago. As of this date, I can report slow progress in controlling and initiating visual qualia. I have learned that there are two preliminary steps: 1) clear my mind of all qualia (thoughts, visual, ear worms, etc.); 2) create a symbolic representation of the object I’m trying to visualize. This is a lot easier than going straight to a pictorial representation.
I sometimes create the blue sphere object, but not often. Usually, it appears as a globe (with the wrong continents) and is usually spinning. I can stop the spin sometimes but can’t hold it in my visual field for long. As far as picturing my face, no luck with a pictorial representation but I’m getting better at symbolic representations. This seems very strange to me. I don’t know what it means not to be able to picture yourself.
PHYSICAL NATURE THEORY
So far, this blog has discussed integrating the conscious (humanity from DDJ) and subconscious (earth) minds through the creation of intentional pictorial representations (visual qualia). Keeping in mind that I’m applying the concepts presented in the Dao De Jing to the three-part entity we call ourselves, we can look at what the DDJ says about the body (Heaven). It isn’t much.
From DDJ 10: In nourishing your physical nature and caring for the One can you integrate [them]? …
This is the starting point, integrating the physical aspects of our person with the ambiguous One. The One indicates Being, existing as opposed no Nonbeing, whatever comes before birth and our lives. In other words, we must take care of our body as well as the mind. The relationship between the body and mind has been discussed by many authors and is a basic tenet of most spiritual systems. That’s not what the DDJ is talking about. The DDJ is referring to something more fundamental.
DDJ 11 presents an interesting metaphor:
Thirty spokes together on one hub, but it is vacancy [in the middle] that makes the cart useful. Firing clay makes a vessel, but hollowness is needed to make it useful. Cut doors and windows in walls to make a room, the empty spaces are needed to make it usable. Therefore, Being serves the purpose of benefits, Non-being serves [as a resource] for use.
Equating Being with the One (from DDJ 10) implies that integrating the body with Being requires nurturing the body in an iterative process.
Recalling that Being creates Yang and Yin (what I’m treating as emergent pseudo-forces); these unknown forces create our bodies and thus minds as we physically develop. Science can’t answer the question of when we become alive, or what causes the metamorphosis from a collection of embryonic cells into an organism. Thus, unlike studying visual qualia in previous chapters, we can’t identify a proxy for this process; however, we can attribute this process to whatever force causes our cells to continuously regenerate. In other words, Yang and Yin are the unidentified mechanism for cell growth and regeneration.
Returning to DDJ 10, the integration of our physical nature with Being is a life-long process that keeps us alive. The ancient sages who compiled the DDJ understood this while not knowing how it works any better than modern science. It is mostly an autonomous process but, like controlling visual qualia, we can influence it through our behavior.
One last word about DDJ 11: These metaphors reveal the importance of the impenetrable Being. It is more fundamental even than Yang and Yin, which can be treated as biochemical processes. Some have called this the “spark of life.” Some call it the “soul.” I’ll just stick to Being. No matter what we call it, this foundation of existence is as empty as a wheel hub, a clay jar, or a room. It is an abstract concept that is critical to making use of physical objects. Thus it serves as a “resource” for our use, even if we can’t identify it.
There are a number of ways to promote the regenerative processes that integrate our physical nature with our Being, our essence. The DDJ doesn’t say much about this, but here’s a starting point:
From DDJ 12: …The five flavors ruin a person’s palate…This is why the [ancient] sages were for the belly, not the eye. They let go of the one and took hold of the other.
The five accepted flavors are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. These are what we can taste. Obviously, we enjoy tasting food, so we pile these on our bland cereals and vegetables. We should be eating for sustenance, not taste. As we eat more sugar, fat, salt, and spices, we lose our sense of taste for food itself. This is an endless cycle if we don’t curtail it. Stop chasing the short-term pleasure of strong flavors. This is reinforced in DDJ 53:
…taste what is without flavor…
Learn to enjoy food for what it is, rather than what has been added.
We can add a complementary act to this: stop eating so much. Food including fat, spices, etc tastes good, so we eat more of it than we need. This problem is compounded by the fact that it takes about 20 minutes before we become aware of our stomach being full.
Overall good health allows the body to function better. It’s that simple. Good health requires moderate exercise, enough sleep, lowered stress, etc. All the things nutritionists encourage us to do.
One final (I’m sure there are plenty more) thing we can do is spend some time during meditation focusing on our body. This is recommended by most meditational techniques. It works.
ACTION AND RESULTS
Turning again to my test subject (me); since I started this blog, I have stopped using any seasoning on my food, even salt. I have also reduced the quantity I eat, measuring the total food with a scale, not individual food groups (e.g., meat, cereal, vegetables). Consequently, I have lost 35 lb. and 3 inches off my waist. I enjoy what used to be bland food: e.g., spinach, rice, beans. I don’t go hungry either. My stomach has become accustomed to not being full after every meal. I still eat meat, mostly salmon and chicken, with a little beef once in a while.
I’ve started doing light weight training and stretching exercises, as well as increased my walking to 1.3 miles every day, which takes about 35 minutes. I walk four times a day because I have to take it easy with the walking due to lifelong issues with my knees; however, the lower weight has decreased the occurrence of discomfort.
I’ve decreased my drinking substantially. Now, I average 8 cans of light beer (~100 cal, 4.2% alcohol) per day, and consume no wine or distilled liquor. I don’t inhale when I smoke, but still…
I’ve got a long way to go, just as in controlling anomalous qualia.
The Original Wisdom of the Dao De Jing, Translated by P.J. Laska, ECCS Books, Green Valley Arizona, 2012.