Magic tricks

 

Off and on since childhood, I have been fascinated by magic tricks and how they are done.

First, there is the enjoyment of being baffled. Then, of learning how it’s done. And with the best performances, the enjoyment of recognizing the skill with which it is done.

In addition to this, magic tricks tells us something about the mind.

Good magicians are experts on certain ways the mind works and they use this to entertain and fool us. And when the secrets behind the tricks are revealed, we also get some insights into how the mind works. (See, for instance, Teller’s Seven Ways to Fool the Brain.)

Mainly, the world of magic tricks shows us how our minds operates on expectations and assumptions about the world, and that these are not always accurate. Most of the time, they are accurate enough and very helpful to us, but sometimes these assumptions break down. Assumptions won’t always be accurate, and magicians take advantage of this and – if we allow it – reminds us the fallibility of our assumptions.

Some even think that magic tricks are “real” magic, and that too shows us something about the mind. It shows us how our hopes and fears can hijack a more rational and down-to-earth view, and what happens when we don’t do sufficient research and lack knowledge about a topic.

A few sources I have enjoyed:

Hiding the Elephant by Jim Stenmeyer.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us – in addition to some googling.

A range of YouTube videos explaining certain tricks.

And there is also an increase in psychology articles on the topic these days.

Leaving no stone unturned

 

There is an important difference between mainstream psychology and inquiry: Mainstream psychology leaves many underlying assumptions unloved and unquestioned, and inquiry leaves no stone unturned.

Of course, it depends on the practitioner. I know psychologists who addresses even the most basic underlying assumptions and identities, and I am sure there are people using inquiry who don’t.

I assume that as inquiry and Buddhist practices keeps influencing psychology, there will be a change in how mainstream psychology operates. They may soon recognize the importance of identifying and questioning our more basic assumptions and identities.

What are some of these basic assumptions and identities?

I am X. (My name. Gender. Nationality. Occupation etc.)

I am X. (Personality traits.)

I am X. (Thoughts. Emotions. Awareness. Love.)

I am X. (A body.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (The world. People. Objects.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Thoughts. Emotions. Sensations. Awareness. Love.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Space. Time. Past. Future. Present.)

There is a findable threat. There is a findable compulsion.

And more. Whatever we can name, which we usually don’t question.

Why is it important to leave no stone unturned? To leave no assumption unloved and unquestioned, even the most basic ones? It’s because these too are stressful beliefs and identifications. These too are limiting. These too are out of alignment with reality. These basic and underlying assumptions are what most or all of the other (stressful) assumptions and identities rest on.

Questions and their assumptions

 

Any question rests on assumptions.

So one resolution to the question is to (a) identify these assumptions, and then (b) examine them.

There are of course many other types of answers too, each one potentially helpful in its own way.

One question may be why did I lose my awakening?

Assumption: It’s lost. Question: Is it true it’s lost? Is it true it’s not here now? Can you find it in immediacy? (Even if it’s perhaps less strong, more in the background?)

Assumption: It belonged to me. Question: Is it true it is yours? Is it true it was yours in the first place? Is it true it belongs to a person?

And there are other types of answers. For instance….

It’s a very common experience. It’s here, then apparently gone.

Also, it may appear gone for a couple of different reasons.

(i) It’s here, but doesn’t look the way you expect. You associate it with how it appeared initially…. perhaps in the foreground, extremely clear. It may still be here, only more quietly and in the background.

(ii) As soon as identification (beliefs, velcro) returns, the clarity may appear to be gone. This is not a bad thing or wrong. It shows you what’s left. It is an invitation to meet these identifications with presence, love, and curiosity.

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He (she, it) doesn’t love me

 

When I trace back beliefs, I often arrive at a quite basic underlying belief:

He doesn’t love me.

She doesn’t love me.

My body, the weather, life, God doesn’t love me.

My room (where I am staying) is cold. –> They should provide heat. –> They don’t care about me. –> They don’t love me.

Noticing their love for me (whether they know it or not), it takes the edge of whatever is going on for me. They may notice they love me or not, they may do something about the lack of heating or not, and I may do something about it. And all that is OK, when I notice their love for me, and my love for them.

I also notice something else related to this.

When I meet parts of me with rejection – whether they are emotions, fearful images and thoughts, or physical pain – these parts, given a voice, tell me they feel rejected, isolated, lost, unloved, and not at home. And I feel that way, since these are part of me.

When I notice this, and instead welcome these, thank them for protecting me, thank they for their love for me, then these feel welcomed, understood (to some extent), recognized for what they are (protection, innocence, devoted to me, loving me), and loved, to the extent they are. And I feel that way, since these are part of me.

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