O’Brien’s turnaround

 

I still enjoy finding lessons in science fiction movies, and the simpler the stories are, the clearer the lessons, which makes Star Trek great material.

For instance, the episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine called whispers is a great example of reversals. O’Brien returns from a mission, notices that everyone treats him with a great deal of suspicion, and is eventually cornered by his former friends. The story is told from O’Brien’s perspective until we in the last minute of the episode realize, along with him, that the O’Brien we have followed is a replica so perfect that he himself thinks he is the real O’Brien.

For him, and us, everything is turned around. The one we took as O’Brien is not O’Brien. The one we took as our hero is really an assassin. His former friends, who turned against him and became the bad guys, were the good guys all along.

So where do we find this in our own lives?

Well, it happens all the time when our stories encounter reality and we realize our stories were way off. Sometimes, our new stories may even be reversals of our old ones.

It happens when we do The Work and find the validity in the turnarounds of our initial story. We explore the reversals of our habitual perspective, and find the genuine truths in it, which may make everything look very different.

From being identified with one particular story, denying the truth in its reversals, we find ourselves as that which holds the validity of stories and each of their turnarounds, releasing identification with any one of them.

It happens when there are glimpses of soul level or nondual awakenings.

We took ourselves to be an object in the world with solid boundaries, and now we find that we are one with God, Spirit, the Universe, Life. It is all made up of God.

We took ourselves to be an I with an Other, and now we realize that what we are is already free from both of those.

Discovering what we really are is the most radical turnaround possible, and one that has many different aspects to it.

From being a thing to finding ourselves as a no-thing. From being an object in awareness, we are awakeness with objects in it. From having a beginning and end, a birth and death, a boundary and lifespan, an inside and outside, a life in the world, we are that which all of those happen within. From it all appearing as a life-and-death matter, we realize we were never harmed by any of it.

Tuvix and what it means to be an individual

 

tuvix2.jpg

Science fiction is great for nudging us into questioning our assumptions and ask ourselves questions we didn’t realize we had.

One of these questions is what is a person? And the next question: who, or what, am I?

The Tuvix episode of Star Trek Voyager brings these questions up when Neelix and Tuvok, through a transporter accident, becomes one person, Tuvix. When the doctor finds a way to bring Neelix and Tuvok back, it brings up questions of the rights of this new person, and also of the two he is made up of. Is it OK to “kill” Tuvix so Neelix and Tuvok can come back? Is he a person in his own right? What about the rights of Neelix and Tuvok to live? Where did Tuvok and Neelix go? Where did Tuvix go after Tuvok and Neelix came back?

Other Star Trek episodes also explores this question, for instance when a duplicate of Riker is found, and when the whole crew of Voyager is duplicated by a sentient ocean.

It all brings us back to the underlying questions: What does it mean to be an individual. Who, or what, are we really?

From the view of the unmanifest and manifest, of awakeness and its content, the basics of this is not so difficult. The awakeness or awareness is always the same, just pure awareness. But the content change. First it is Neelix and Tuvok, separately. Then a new person called Tuvix, and then back to Neelix and Tuvok separately. And whatever memories and traits are transmitted through these transitions are transmitted through the world of form, through whatever memory patterns and traits continued through the transitions.

180px-neelix-tuvok-caretaker.jpg

If Neelix took himself to be Neelix, a portion of the content of awareness, then he would experience himself as dying in the transition, or at least being mixed up with another person. And if Tuvix took himself to be Tuvix, he would experience the transition back to Neelix and Tuvok as a death, or possibly as continuing only as a memory within Neelix and Tuvok.

But, if awareness was awake to itself in both Neelix and Tuvok, it would look a little differently. Awareness is awake to itself as awareness, independent of its content, and realizing its own content as itself. First, there is Neelix, then Tuvix, and then Neelix again, a little changed. Or Tuvok, then Tuvix, and then Tuvok again, also a little changed. But all of this happens within and as awakeness itself. It all has the same basic identity as awakeness.

There is no “I” inherent in either of them, only the play of awakeness itself, manifesting in always new and different ways as it always does.

Sci-fi and spirituality

 

Gort

I visited the sci-fi museum in Seattle this weekend, and was reminded of how sci-fi is an especially fertile ground for examples of and analogies to what is explored in psychology and spirituality. There are probably books out there exploring that theme, and if there isn’t, it is waiting to happen.

Some topics and examples that come to mind…

  • Who am I? The Tuvix episode of Star Trek Voyager is especially interesting here. Two individuals, Tuvok and Neelix, are combined into one in a transporter accident. So what is happening here? What is individuality? If I am first this human self, and then a different human self, what happened to the first one? Who is here now? If we take ourselves to be content of awareness in general, and this human self in particular, it becomes an almost impossible conundrum. But if we find ourselves as awareness, as this awake void, which is both the seeing and the seen, both the awareness of form and the forms themselves, the questions fall away. The content of awareness is always in flux anyway, so this is no different. First, one particular human self arises in awareness along with everything else, then another human self. And that is how it already is anyway. Whatever arises is always new, different, fresh. And there is no inherent I with an Other in there anywhere.
  • Sentience. What is the difference between advanced robots or holograms and humans? Are they alive? Conscious? Sentient? Again, if we take ourselves to be content of awareness, the question is almost impossible to answer to our satisfaction (which is why it is such fertile ground for so many stories). But if we realize we are awareness, we realize that there isn’t really such a difference. There is awake awareness and then phenomena arising within, to and as this awareness, and these phenomena may be a human self or a robot or a hologram or a cloud or whatever else. In any case, there is no inherent separate self in any of it. In that sense, it is all equal. Of course, this doesn’t quite solve the question at a conventional level, because here, there is still a difference between a biological lifeform, robots and holograms. The question helps us find ourselves as awareness and all phenomena as awareness itself, and it also leaves a great deal of room for different views on a conventional level.
  • Time travel. It is the nature of our thoughts to move freely between (what appears as) past, future, and present, so why shouldn’t we be able to do so physically as well? But when we look more closely at what is happening, we see that any thought is about the past (thoughts about what appears as the present always lags a little behind perception, and thoughts about the future have only the past as their source.) And we also see that thoughts, along with all other content of awareness, arises here and now, within this timeless present. All there is, is this awake timeless present within which all phenomena arises, always new, fresh and different, including any thoughts about past, future and present. The past and future exists only within a thought. So we see that time travel is already happening, whenever attention goes to the content of a thought. We see that the past and future only appears in the content of thoughts, and these thoughts arise within this timeless present. And seeing this, the desire and any perceived need for time travel falls away, and the whole idea of time travel is seen as only that, an idea. The appearance of possibility of time travel itself can only arise when we believe in thoughts, making past and future appear substantial and real.
  • Parallel worlds. If we pay attention, we notice that there are innumerable parallel worlds right here, and as attention goes into one after another, we live in a succession of them. There is what is alive in immediate perception, here and now. And mimicking these sense fields (vision, sound, sensations, taste, smell) our thoughts create a wide range of worlds parallel to perceptions. Sometimes, when attention is wrapped up in thought, we are absorbed into these parallel worlds, while the world of perceptions goes on on its own. Other times, we are aware of both, one besides the other. And sometimes, attention goes to what is alive in immediate perceptions, and a thought is recognized as just a thought.
  • False memories. False memories, and various degrees of false identity based on those memories, is a common theme in science fiction, from Star Trek to the Matrix to Blade Runner. When we look here now, we see that any memory and any identity is just a thought arising here and now. That is all it is. Ephemeral, insubstantial, transparent, arising within this awake timeless now. Different thoughts give rise to different memories and identities. It is always changing anyway, whether subtly or dramatically. It is a precarious situation. But in the midst of thoughts and identities changing, something does not change. What is that? We may find that there is an awakeness here that does not change, even as its content changes. And that this content, whatever arises here now, is this awakeness itself. Finding ourselves as this awakeness gives a freedom to allowing content to change, to live its own life, on its own schedule, as it does anyway.
  • Appearance of solidity. The holodeck in Star Trek (I have watched mostly ST lately!) is an example of how a very vivid reality can be created by something as insubstantial as photons and force fields. In the same way, we take something as insubstantial and ephemeral as sensations, sights, sounds, tastes/smells, and thoughts, and create a very vivid and apparently substantial reality for ourselves. But as soon as we notice this, and how the gestalts are created by conglomerates of perception and thoughts, it again is revealed as insubstantial and ephemeral. The matrix, in The Matrix, is another example of how the rules change when we see it for what it is, and get intimately familiar with the mechanisms of samsara. There is a freedom from being blindly caught up in the gestalts and the appearances created by the gestalts.
  • Center of gravity. Some stories exemplify the difference between having the center of gravity in our human self, or at the soul level or Ground. What we find ourselves as, in immediate awareness and outside of stories, determines how we experience and filter what is. For instance, the Star Trek TOS episode Errand of Mercy shows the difference between finding oneself as this human self (fear, contraction, drama, struggle) and as soul (as alive timeless presence, and absence of or greatly reduced fear, drama, struggle). It is quite caricatured, but still gets the basic difference across.
  • Processing. A part of the path is processing of unresolved issues and memories. They surface, and we have a chance of relating to them in another way, allowing them to resolve. In Tarkovsky’s Solaris, an ocean planet brings to life whatever (or whomever) we have an unresolved relationship with, inviting us to resolve it. If we identify with resistance, as many in the movie do, there is drama and despair. But we can also take it as an opportunity to resolve the relationship, as the main character does. In real life, this process includes being with whatever emotions comes up, inquiries into the beliefs around the situation, and also heal and resolve our relationships in daily life.
  • Duality. In The Matrix, Neo and Agent Smith are reversals of each other, and in their final encounter, annihilate each other. This is also what happens when we explore beliefs. First, a story seems true and good and its reversals appear false or not-so-good. Then, when they are more thoroughly investigated and wrestled with, we see the truth in the reversal and both as only relative truths, so the whole appearance of a split and duality falls away. And this, as in the Matrix, allows the world to start anew, this time without (or even with) a belief in stories. The experience is of a struggle (sometimes), and then a falling away of duality, although all that really happens is that we see what is already more true for us. We see the stories as just stories, each with their own limited, practical and relative truth, and what is as inherently free from both, although available to be filtered through either or both.
  • Big Mind. Many sci-fi movies is an invitation to shift into Big Mind… for instance through the cosmic scope of the stories (cosmos as a stage which includes and goes beyond all polarities), and the sheer intensity of what is happening. For me, Contact is a movie which does this, through its opening into a larger whole far beyond what we are normally familiar with.
  • Awakenings. Some sci-fi stories are about awakenings. We take life as it appears to us as real, and do not question it. And then something happens which reveals it differently from the way it appeared to us, and opens up a larger and different world to us. Matrix is one example, the Truman Show another.
  • Meditation. The Vulcan meditation is an example of the art of resistance, and this has a tendency to break down as many Star Trek stories show. “Real” meditation is a disidentification with content of awareness, including resistance, so there is an allowing of what is. This allows what is to reveal itself without the filter of (identified with) resistance, including the stream of quiet bliss that seems inherent in awareness and experiencing, and emotions as a sweet fullness. And it allows Ground to more easily notice itself, since it is less clouded up by the dust kicked up by resistance.

Then the ones shared by any stories, sci-fi or not…

  • Mirror. Whatever we see in the wider world, including in any story, is a mirror of what is right here, in several ways. The qualities we see in the wider world are qualities we recognize because they are right here, in this human self. What is, as it appears to us, is filtered through our stories about it, so what we see out there (our stories about the world) is a mirror of our own stories. And as Big Mind, what arises is this I without an Other.
  • Shadow. A subarea of the wider world as a mirror is the shadow. We take stories as true, so their reversals are in the shadow. And we identify with particular identities (formed by beliefs), and these too have shadows. Whatever arises that trigger aversion and dislike in us tends to point to our shadow, and sci-fi stories are not short on these. Alien is a good example here, where the adversary is a completely dehumanized monster. Watching these movies is a good opportunity to see what happens when our shadow is triggered, how it tends to lead to dehumanization of the shadow object, an opportunity to find in ourselves what we see out there, and when empathy comes up through recognition, also explore how we would have dealt with the situation in the movie from this new space. It may even be that our actions would be quite similar, but our experience of it quite different (empathy rather than fear and reactiveness).

Vulcans, and walling and allowing experience

 

In watching movies, I cannot help being curious about what processes they may reflect, both within each of us and among us. Often, it is quite simple and basic such as with the Vulcans in Star Trek (I have been watching some of the original episodes for the first time).

Walls

The Vulcans have learned to suppress and control feelings and emotions, and rely on cool intelligence. And this reflects the common view in our culture, at least in the 60s: we either have to act on our feelings and emotions, or we have to suppress them.

Either way, we do battle with them. They are an Other that either controls or is controlled by us. There is a space where I am here and emotions there, and when they get strong, they either flood and overpower me, or I am able to erect and maintain a wall that keeps them in check.

The skill of the Vulcans is to be able to very effectively erect and maintain these walls, although they do break down sometimes (sometimes with scary results, and other times to the glee of Kirk and Bones.)

Trapped in this mode, the sense is that if I allow myself to fully experience something, it will take over, it will overpower me, I will loose control. And this fear is the motivation to keep holding it at bay, whatever it is – grief, sadness, anger, rage, pain, joy, pleasure, love, bliss.

Space

But this is only one option. The other is to allow ourselves to fully experience whatever we experience, to be with it, to allow resistance to the content of our experience to fall away.

Here, there is a sense of spaciousness, of holding and allowing any content. And there is a sense of release, and we realize that the pressure that we thought we were erecting a wall and fighting against, was created by the wall and the fighting itself. Without the wall and the resistance, there is no pressure. There is just whatever is experiences, unfolding within and as awareness and space, and that is it.

There is no sense of being overpowered, because the whole sense of I and Other becomes more transparent and spacious. They are revealed as part of the same space.

Intense experiences may be unfolding, but unfolding within a much larger (actually infinite) space. There is only pressure when the space is walled in. Without walls, no pressure.

And without pressure, any experience is revealed as bliss itself. For me right now, giving a sense of blissful smooth expansive quiet fullness,.

Becoming whole: Star Trek, women and brains

 

As part my cultural education, I watched Spock’s Brain from the Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) last night.

Common themes: what to do with powerful women, and rationality and sentiment

From the few episodes of TOS I have seen, there seem to be some common themes.

In Spock’s Brain, it is powerful (although sometimes vacuous) women, and how to relate to and deal with them. In The Galileo Seven, the relationship between rationality and sentiment as played out between Spock and his shipmates.

Fascination with polarities, and how it looks in daily life when embraced

In both cases, and I am sure many others (which I would discover by watching more episodes), there is a fascination and curiosity with polarities, and an active attempt to reconcile the poles with each other.

What is the relationship between men and women, and the masculine and feminine, when women gains more power in society, when men must learn to share power with women, when women find the masculine in themselves and men ind the feminine in themselves? What is the relationship between rationality and sentiment, between head and body, and how does it look when both are included? How does it play itself out in real life? How does it look in the grittiness in our daily interactions?

Mirroring at cultural and individual levels

This is pretty obvious: those themes, and many others from TOS, were very much alive in the mid and late 1960s, at both collective and individual levels.

As a culture, the leading edge in the western world of the 60s was at green, shifting into the postmodern, pluralism, a widening circle of concern that includes women, other ethnicities, and the Earth as a whole. It was the larger scale birth of the ecology movement, the human potential movement and deepening feminism.

And along with this, as a rough parallel on a personal level, there was a shift into the centaur level, finding ourselves, in our own immediate experience and daily life, as the whole beyond and including body and psyche. This was the larger scale birth of the western fascination with and exploration of mediation, yoga, projection work, and innumerable (other) mind-body practices.

Star Trek picked this up, which may be one of the reasons there is still an active interest in the original series (apart from nostalgia, and its quirkiness and humor.)

Shift: found and worked at

Any shift from having the center of gravity in one end of a polarity to embrace the polarity as a whole, has two aspects.

:: Found

One is the discovery and the noticing of the polarity. It has always been there, it just looked fragmented when there was an exclusive identification with one end.

Men and women have always had both masculine and feminine qualities. It is just that culture and gender identity has filtered these qualities so that some come out and are embraced, and others remain hidden and excluded.

And there is always the whole of psyche and body: of rationality and feelings, of feminine and masculine, of persona and shadow. It is always there, although again may not be noticed if the conscious identification is with only aspects of this whole.

All that is needed here is just to notice what already is. Nothing needs to change, apart from this noticing.

I can just notice that there are indeed feminine and masculine qualities in me, independent of my biological sex and cultural gender. I can notice the whole beyond and embracing my whole human self, including psyche and body, the feminine and masculine, persona and shadow.

:: Worked at

At the same there, there is an aspect of exploration, discovery, testing out, seeing how it plays itself out in real life.

How does it look in society when women and men are more equal in terms of power? How does it look in my life if I find myself as the larger whole which includes the feminine and masculine, the rational and feelings, persona and shadow? What are the roles of these aspects in this new situations? How does it play itself out? How does it change and mature over time, as I become more familiar with all of these aspects, these ways of being in the world?

And this exploration is what some of the TOS episodes seem to mirror: how does it look at collective and individual levels, when we embrace more of what we already are?

Have you been a borg?

 

I recently re-watched First Contact, a Star Trek: Next Generation feature movie featuring the borg.

When I first saw the borg – cybernetic organisms with one mission: to assimilate any species they encounter into their own collective – I was struck with the power of this image. They seem to have the same clear and resonant archetypal quality as classic creatures from ancient and more modern stories, such as cyclops, the centaur, dragons, goblins, witches, wizards and dracula.

The borg qualities

Exploring the borg image for myself, I notice that I see them as cold, inhuman, machine like, relentless, twistedly rational, single-track, without concerns for the views or interests of others.

Attachment to ideas

Where do I find these qualities in myself? When I strongly believe in an idea… When I am absolutely dead certain it is true, that I am right, and that the world does not conform to this idea.

That is when this same cold, inhuman, twistedly rational and persistent quality can arise, and the more seems to be at stake, the stronger these qualities may come up.

When it comes up

It can come up in daily life, whenever there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform. It can come up in small, apparently insignificant, situations.

It comes up in our culture, and maybe especially clearly seen in politics and religion. I see it in some progressives relationship to Bush. In Bush’s attitude towards terrorists. In some scientist’s view of religious fundamentalists. In some religious fundamentalists relationship to science. In some Americans view of United Nations.

The borg is right here

There is a strong conviction, a world that does not conform, and the ideas become more important than just about anything else. We become single-tracked, cold, relentless, machine like, with an absence of empathy and the willingness take other views.

The borg is right here. And when present, it assimilates and cover up our more human qualities. Our receptivity, flexibility and empathy. A creature emerges that is part human and part machine: relentless, cold, single-track, without concern for the views and interests of others.

Inquiry

That creature is any one of us, when we believe strongly in an idea. Fortunately, there are many ways to soften or disarm the borg.

We can distract ourselves with something more pleasant, temporarily shift attention away from it. We can come to the breath and the body, shifting out of the contraction.

Or we can find the thought we believe in – that which we are so attached to, that we see as so clearly true, that which holds us in its grip – and we can inquire into it.

When a belief is inquired into with some sincerity, it loses its grip. It becomes just another thought, and we are free to shift fluidly among multiple perspectives without holding any one of them too tightly. In a way, we become more human again. More organic.

Organic

It is interesting that in the Star Trek universe, the only species the borg has no power over is species 8472. They are all organic, including their space ships, which may represent a more fluid and flexible approach, more organic in a wide sense of the term.