Chess and image-creation

Since I am watching the world championships in rapid and blitz chess right now, I am reminded of how chess – and especially the elite chess world – has built up an image for itself.

THE IMAGE-BUILDING OF CHESS

The elite chess world intentionally built up this image by, for instance, having a dress code, organizing relatively glamorous chess world championships, finding sponsors that make large money prices possible, and so on.

And the chess world and the general culture have presented chess skills as a sign of general intelligence, presenting chess as a mysterious game with an exciting history, and so on.

Some of this image-building has been intentional, and I assume much of it has happened more organically.

PROJECTION OBJECTS AND PROJECTING MIND

There are always two sides to this.

One is the projection object, which in this case is chess. This may be a person, an organization, an activity, a religion, or anything else. It can be something existing in the world or something imaginary. Someone may set out to intentionally build up an image for it or it happens more organically. And we all do it, to some extent, with ourselves. We build up an image about ourselves and for ourselves and others. (AKA persona.)

The other is the projecting mind. We all project. We all put a mental map overlay on the world. That’s how we orient and function in the world. (Mental field overlay.) And we all, sometimes and in some areas of life, see characteristics out there in the world that we are not so aware of in ourselves, or the reverse. (Blind projections.) The first one helps us function, and the second one is an invitation to find in ourselves what we see out there in the world (or see more in the world what we are familiar with in ourselves).

HAPPENS A LOT

This image-building happens a lot.

We see it in many sports, perhaps especially sports like formula one, football, chess, alpine skiing, and so on. These are sports we tend to see as somewhat glamorous, and that’s no accident. It’s often because someone has built up that particular image of the sport.

We see it in Hollywood. They intentionally build up a certain image around fictional characters, stars, movies, and movie production.

We obviously see it in brands – clothing, watches, alcohol, cars, and so on.

We see it in religions. A big part of religion is image-building. They create an image for themselves to attract and maintain followers. (We can save you. We have the answers. We are your ticket to eternal salvation.)

We see it in spirituality more in general. Certain spiritual traditions have built up an image around enlightenment, awakening, and so on. Often for the same purpose as religions.

And as mentioned above, we all do it. We all build up, maintain, and present certain images of ourselves. We do it for our own sake so we know who we are in the world, and often so we can feel better (or worse) about ourselves. We do it to fit in with our culture and certain subcultures. We do it to get something from others. And mainly, we do it to find a sense of safety. If we know, more or less, who we are and have built up an identity, then we can rely on it even if we don’t always like everything that’s there.

This is relatively well-known in society, at least to some level. For instance, we see it when people talk about branding in a general sense. We all have our own brand. Religions have their brand. And so on.

GOOD TO BE AWARE OF

As usual, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. Much of it is inevitable, and having our own identity and brand helps us function in the world.

And it’s good to be aware of. It’s good to be aware of how people, organizations, businesses, religions, and so on build up a certain brand, and often do it so they can be good projections objects for you and others. They make a brand that it’s easy for us to project wishes, dreams, and sometimes fears onto.

Why? Because those types of projections act as a kind of glue. They glue our attention to the projection object. We often want to get something out of it.

And what we really want is to get to know those sides of ourselves. We want to become familiar with what we see out there – the characteristics – in ourselves.

It’s also helpful to explore the brand we have built up for ourselves. What identities and stories are there? Are they peaceful? Stressful? What do I find when I explore them in more detail?

And it’s especially helpful to see all of this for what it is. These are images. They are created. Often, people want us to buy into these images so we can project wishes and fears onto them, and so our attention gets glued to them.

And none of these images are really true. At most, they have a limited validity. What they are put on top of is different from and more than these images. Reality is different from and more than these images.

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Examining my images of God

Hence do not wait until rawly bungling hands of men hack your God to pieces, but embrace him again, lovingly; until he has taken on the form of his first beginning.

– Carl Jung, The Red Book, pages 283-284

If I hold onto certain images of God, they can be hacked to pieces since reality always is more than and different from my images of it.

I find it fascinating to examine my own images of God and find what’s more true for me.

Piece by piece, it softens or removes places where I hold onto images. Where I make myself stuck. Where life can rub up against these images, and I may find myself struggling in the gap between the images and reality.

POSSIBLE IMAGES OF GOD

Our images of God obviously largely depend on our culture and subcultures.

We may have an image of God as male, leaving out the feminine.

We may have images of God as a being, or perhaps nature, or perhaps all there is.

We may have images of God as emptiness, oneness, love, and so on.

In each case, it can be helpful to examine our images and find what’s more true for us.

EXAMINING OUR IMAGES

How do we examine these images?

We can do it more informally.

Or we can use structured inquiry to guide us and help in the early phases of these explorations, or any time to go a bit deeper into unfamiliar territory.

I find exploring my sense fields helpful, especially using Living Inquiries.

And I have also found The Work of Byron Katie very helpful

Made in the image of God

In the Abrahamic religions, we find the idea that we are made in the image of God.

What does it mean?

It can mean that…. To ourselves, we are awake emptiness full of the world. Our true nature is this awake no-thing full of our experiences, and that may well be the true nature of existence as a whole. If so, we are made in the image of God. We are what God is. We are made of the same.

We can also look at it from the other side: we make God in our own image.

If we take ourselves as ultimately an object in the world, then we tend to imagine God as the same. God is a being as we are a being, just a different kind of being. And if we find ourselves as capacity, as awake no-thing full of the world, then it’s easy to imagine God – existence as a whole – as that.

Images of the divine: holding onto images of awakening and Spirit for comfort

We all have images of the divine, and we relate to them in different ways. We can recognize them as images, or we operate from them without noticing what’s happening. We can use these images to comfort or scare ourselves or we dismiss them as fantasies. We may think they reflect something out there or use them as a mirror for what’s here now.

The most obvious images are the ones we know from the different religions. God is a blue boy, an old man with a beard, a fertile woman, and so on. Sometimes, we recognize these as metaphors and images and as reflecting what’s here now. Other times, we take them more literally.

Images of the divine in the awakening process

In an awakening process, we also have these images.

Our images may be of awakening and Spirit as something particular. For instance, we may imagine awakening will solve our challenges and discomfort. And we may imagine Spirit or the divine as what we at a personal level like (peace, joy, insights, clarity) and not so much the rest (discomfort, illness, confusion, challenges). We may even know it’s not like that, and still cling to some of these images – almost without noticing – as a kind of comfort and promise of something better in the future.

The awakening process is, among other things, a process of continued disillusionment.

One of these disillusionments is recognizing we are holding onto hopeful images of awakening and the divine, that we hold onto them for comfort and to avoid what’s here now, that this doesn’t work in the long run, and that there is a way that’s kinder and more aligned with reality.

How do we work with this?

A good start is recognizing the images we have and partially operate from. For instance, that awakening means that we arrive at a place without discomfort, challenges, and unpleasantness. And that although Spirit is all, it’s not so much the discomfort, pain, and suffering.

I using these examples since this is something I am looking at for myself these days.

Just by looking at those images, we may see that they don’t quite make sense. For instance, if Spirit is all, then it’s ALL – including what I at a personal human level don’t enjoy so much. Including what’s here right now that my personality doesn’t like.

How would it be to embrace all of what’s here as the divine?

Can I say YES to it as it is?

Also, how would it be to intentionally change my images to include all?

And what do I find when I examine these images, for instance through Living Inquiries?

Wait a minute, are you saying you recognize all as the divine and don’t at the same time?

Yes. I can easily recognize all my experience as happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as this awakeness.

At the same time, parts of my personality sometimes struggle with my experience – with certain scary thoughts and sensations, and the life situations triggering these. And this is supported by the images mentioned above, which are sometimes conscious and sometimes less so.

It’s part of the messiness of being human and the embodiment process.

We see our images

I imagine that famous people or people who are in the public eye are more aware of this than most of us.

Other people don’t see us. They see their images of us. And sometimes, they put a lot into that image that’s not exactly how we experience ourselves.

And that’s how it is from our end too. We put our own images on other people, and also on ourselves, situations, and the world.

We see our images, not the person in him or herself, not the situation in itself, and not the world in itself.

Thoughts give sensations meaning, sensations gives thought charge

Through inquiry, this can become quite clear:

Images and words give sensations meaning.

Sensations give images and words charge.

Images and words give sensations meaning

Sensations in themselves are simple sensations. They are bodily sensations without any inherent meaning.

When images and words become associated with them, these images and words gives the sensations meaning. They label the sensations and may also tell a more elaborate story about what the sensations mean.

The simple label may be pain, hurt, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, discomfort, joy, elation, threat, craving, or compulsion. The more elaborate story may be a story about me or the world, for instance that I am not good enough, unloved, or superior. Or that the word – or something in it – is dangerous, or welcoming, or anything at all.

The mind tells itself what the sensations mean with the use of images and words.

Sensations give images and words charge

When images and words become associated with certain sensations, these sensations lend a charge to the story told by the images and words. They lend the story a sense of substance, solidity, and reality, and gives it charge.

There is a story, and the sensations the mind associates with the story lends the story a sense of reality, substance, and solidity, and gives it a charge.

Temporary and chronic bodily contractions

In order for the mind to take it’s own stories as real (substantial, solid, with a charge), it needs to find sensations to associate them with.

And in order for the mind to reliably find sensations, it needs to contract muscles in certain areas of the body to create sensations that these stories can be associated with.

These contractions can be temporary and created “on command” as needed.

If the stories are more core and recurrent, the contractions can become chronic and very familiar to us.

Inquiry

Inquiry can help us recognize how stories and sensations come together. It can also help us separate out the stories and sensations, so they become “unglued” and the sense of solidity and charge of the stories soften or fall away. This can help with anxiety, depression, compulsion and just about any other stressful experience the mind creates for itself.

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Looking at mental images

Here are three ways to look at mental images:

  1. See it out in front of you. Move it out in front and slightly up. (Viewpoint stays and what’s viewed is imagined moved out in front of you.)
  2. See it where it is. See a body image where it is on the body etc. (Viewpoint and viewed stays where they are.)
  3. Step back and look at it where it is. (Viewpoint changes and the viewed stays.)

The first one may be easiest in the beginning, and sometimes the third (when looking at body images). The second may the most natural and easiest with time and experience.

We can also do several things to help the mind “get”in a more visceral way that it’s a mental image:

Change the size of the image. Change the location of it (move closer in, further away). Imagine touching the surface of it. See it in a frame, a book, a screen etc. Look at the elements of the image, one at a time (lines, colors, shapes, texture). Look at the space around the image, and between you and the image.

Basic images about nature, animals, our body, gender, future generations etc.

In our western culture, we have tended to see parts of our world as inferior – nature, animals, our bodies, women, children, future generations – and treated it accordingly. We split the world in our minds, take this imagined split as reality, see one part as less valuable than the other, and then take this imagination as true as well.

There are historical, cultural, philosophical and religious reasons for this.

More immediately, it’s about the images we have in our own minds. Images transmitted from our culture, and that are there whether we consciously agree with them or not.

So it can be very helpful – and illuminating – to explore these images, for instance through the Living Inquiries.

When I bring my body to mind, what images do I see? What words? What sensations are connected to these images and words?

What do I find when I bring animals to mind? Animals vs. humans? Women? Women vs. men? Children? Children vs. adults? Future generations? Future generations vs. our current generation?

I see this as an important part of illuminating the stereotypes we all carry with us, and – at least somewhat – live our lives from, whether we are aware of it or not.

Note: In our western culture, influenced by a certain version of Christianity, we tend to split the world into good and bad, less valuable and more valuable. And the dividing line has been drawn between body and mind, women and men, children and adults, nature and humans, future generations and the current generation, with the former of each of these pairs seen as less valuable, less important, less respectable. And that’s behind many of the troubles we see today. For instance, we couldn’t have developed such a deeply unsustainable way of doing business, economics and production if it wasn’t for images in our minds telling us that (a) there is a split between humans and nature, and (b) humans are more important than nature. This is what has allowed us to pretend, for a while, that we operate separate from (the rest of) nature, and that we can mistreat nature without mistreating ourselves in the same way.

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God

It may be obvious, and yet perhaps not completely for most of us. It may not be seen thoroughly, felt thoroughly, and lived thoroughly. There is always more to explore and let sink in.

God is a projection. God is an image that’s here. The qualities and characteristics it refers to is here. The image of me and God is here. The image of here and there is here.

And the same with the world. That too is a projection.

My world is a projection. My God is a projection. The image and what it refers to, and all the other images it rests and depends on, they are all here.

And the same with time and space. And me and I. My perception of time and space, my perception of a me and I, are all filtered through my own world of images. Whatever image I have of it all is my images. The images are here. What they refer to is here.

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Imagining sight

I am still exploring what happens when there is identification with the image(s) of a doer and/or observer.

There is obviously identification with a story, in this case the doer/observer images.

It is localized in space, in my case in and around the head area. The sensations here serve as “anchors” in space for the doer/observer images.

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Own world of images

The world I see and relate to is my own world of images. It is what happens in the sense fields, with an overlay of images to help this human self orient and function in the world.

This mental field overlay creates a sense of extent (space) and continuity (time) and places whatever happens within that sense of space and time. It creates images of a me as this human self, and images of others and a wider world. And it creates images of a separate I as a doer or observer.

All of this is my own world of images, helping this human self to make sense of and function in the world.

And I can notice it as it happens. I can notice that overlay of time and space. Of a me relating to other people and the wider world in general. Of an I doing as this human self, or observing as awareness itself.

I also notice how all drama happens within this world of images. It comes from images of me/I relating to images of others and the wider world in a certain way. It comes from relationships between images of me and the wider world, when these relationships do not align with images of how it should be.

It is amazing and beautiful.

And I notice how I see myself in three ways here…

I see and relate to my own world of images, whether I recognize them as an imagined overlay or take them as true.

I see qualities and dynamics out there, in the wider world and the past and future, that are also here, in this human self.

And all I see is awakeness itself. What happens in the sense fields and the overlay of images, including the images of me and I, is all the play of awakeness.

There is a great freedom in noticing this, especially as it happens in daily life. I notice that all I relate to is my own world of images. So I can make use of it a practical way. I can use this world of images as a temporary guide for this human self in the world. But I don’t have to take it seriously. I know it is only my own world of images. There is no truth in it.

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A world of images

Exploring the sense fields, it is pretty easy to get a sense of how we imagine the world.

The mental field creates an overlay of images of what is here (in the other sense fields) and what is not here.

And that world of images is – in a very real sense – my world, when they are taken as true.

Whatever drama I experience all comes from the characteristics and relationships among these images. It comes from the characteristics of each image, and how it relates to all the other images.

In the beginning, it may be easier to notice this through a sense field exploration session. Sitting or lying down, and notice how the mental field creates image overlays on each of the other sense fields (interpretations), and also how the past and future is imagined in the same way.

After a while, this happens throughout daily life as well. As I go about my daily life, I notice the image overlay on the other sense fields (interpretations of what is happening) – and also the image overlay that is free from the other sense fields. (Images of past, future, what is not present in a physical sense.)

Again, it is pretty simple, but can have a profound effect when recognized throughout daily life. I notice – in an immediate way – how the drama is created and happens within my own image overlay.

It is, quite literally, imagined.

If it is not recognized as imagined, there is a sense of being caught up in drama. The image overlay – including that of a doer and observer – seems very substantial and real.

When it is recognized as imagined, the layer of drama tends to weaken or fall away. And what is left is the image overlay as a very helpful – and essential – tool for my human self to function in the world.

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Hdr examples

Here are a couple of hdr examples which do not look the way most hdr images do. I used the hdr image as a starting point for creating a more expressive image, and chose to lose information in both light and dark areas to serve that purpose. Hdr images are useful here for allowing a wider range of exploration.

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img_6938_6_7_tonemapped-cropped-bw-colorized-v2b.jpg

img_6938_6_7_tonemapped-cropped3-bw-reversed.jpg

img_6938_6_7_tonemapped-cropped4-bw-reversed.jpg

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High dynamic range photography: a simple how-to

I haven’t used my film SLR camera for several years, and one of the reasons was my frequent disappointment with the limited dynamic range of the photos. Very often, details in the light or shadow areas were lost, merging into a flat white or black hole in the picture. The only remedy was to get out my camera only in low contrast conditions such as overcast weather, or just before sunrise and after sunset. Even then, the shadows or highlights would often lose detail.

With digital SLRs, it is now easy to take high dynamic range photos, provided the subject doesn’t move too much. Since I got my first digital SLR a couple of weeks back, I have experimented some with HDR and am surprised of how easy it is to get decent results.

The hdr workflow is simple:

  1. Take three or more differently exposed photos of the same scene, respectively exposed normally and for details in highlights and shadows
  2. Import them to Photomatix or Photoshop CS2 or other hdr software and output the result through tone mapping
  3. Edit in Gimp, Photoshop or other image editing software

Here are a few more details:

  1. Taking the source images
    • Since the source images are combined into one, it works better with subjects that don’t move much. Some movement within the scene is usually OK.
    • It is helpful to use a tripod, but handheld works fine as well.
    • The easiest is to set the camera to auto-bracket the exposure, keeping the aperture constant and changing only the exposure time.
    • Feel free to break the old rules and choose high-contrast images: shoot into the sunset, include a bright light in the scene, or a backlit subject.
  2. HDR processing
    • Photomatix is free for most of its functions, and about $100 for a full featured version. Photoshop CS2 also has an HDR function, but is more expensive.
    • When importing, remember that the resulting image has a tonal range far greater than what your computer screen can deal with, so it may well look awful on the screen. Don’t worry. It is supposed to.
    • Experiment with the tonal mapping to translate the raw hdr image into something that can be shown on a screen or printed on paper. Try several settings and choose the best one. Save it as a 16 bit tiff file.
  3. Final editing
    • Import the tone mapped image into your image editing software. GIMP is a good choice since it is free (open source) and does most of what Photoshop does.
    • Edit as you would any other image. Although you have a wide dynamic range in your image, don’t be locked into the idea of having to preserve all the detail in the highlights and shadows. Some images work better when the contrast is a little higher, and you have more freedom to play with this when your source image has a high dynamic range.

Here is a scene that normally has too high contrast: a wall in the shade with a bright sky in the background.

I took three handheld exposures of this Portland street scene, using the auto-bracketing feature on my camera. The first image is normally exposed, and the two following under- and over-exposed two stops. (Three exposures and two stops either direction is the maximum on my camera, which is OK but a little limited for hdr photography. Five exposures and three or four stops cover a greater range and may be needed for extremely high contrast scenes.)

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Normally exposed image with good details in the mid range.
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Underexposed image, with details in the sky and clouds.

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Overexposed image with information in the darkest shade areas.

I then imported them to Photomatix, and got this result on the screen. Moving the cursor over the image shows the area details in a separate window. (I have included two examples, one of details over the door and one in the clouds.) Photomatix automatically align the source images, and does a good job even with handheld exposures.

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The hdr combination of the three source images, with information in the lightest and darkest areas.

And tone mapped it using the tone compressor option, and experimenting with the different settings to include as much information in the final image as possible.

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The tone mapped output, ready for final editing.

The colors on the tone mapped image can get a little weird (it depends on the settings you use), so for the final editing, I like to keep the normally exposed source image up on the screen as a color reference. I used level, curves, color balance and hue adjustment layers for this image, and also masks to treat the sky slightly differently from the rest of the image. The final editing in Photoshop gave this result:

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The final image, after editing in Photoshop. I went for a vivid but still relatively realistic look.

If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my (very limited) ability. Just post them below.

Here are some resources I found helpful when I first explored it:

Visual on visual

During the most recent CSS retreat, the teacher mentioned how thoughts are most embedded in the visual field, as opposed to the other ones (sensations, taste/smell, sound).

When I explored it for myself, I found that thought seems equally “embedded”, or rather laid on top of, each of the sensory fields. In my case, and I assume this is somewhat common, there is a layer of visual thought images put on top of each sensory field: There is a sound, and a faint image of a car is put on top of it. A taste, and an image of the nose/mouth/throat area and an apple. A sensation, and an image of an ankle with a mosquito bite.

This is the same for each sensory field.

What is different, is that with the visual field, visual thought images are put on top of visual perceptions. There is visual on top of visual, which can make it more difficult to differentiate the two.

One way to differentiate, which we did during the retreat, is to close the eyes and become aware of, for instance, the visual thought image of the body, particular body parts, and how they move in anticipation of a movement of the body, or to keep track of current movements of the body. Then, we can open the eyes and get a sense of how the visual thought images are placed on top of the visual perceptions. With some practice, they become quite distinct.

Images of self

Some thought-images of self I notice through choiceless awareness…

  • Images of a particular identity at human level, used to differentiate this human self from other ones (coming up in contrast to what I see in others)
  • Body image(s), placed on top of sensations, and used to interpret sensations and guide attention
  • An image of a separate self, which…
    • Is located in the same general area of space as this body
    • Creates a sense of center here and periphery out there
    • Creates a sense of a hearer, seer, senser, doer
    • Is split into a separate self as an seen and seer, object and subject, which are located in slightly separate areas of space (for me, as seen a little ahead of the body, and as seer in or a little behind the head)
    • Is anchored in certain sensations in the body, generally in the head area
      • The exact sensations may change, especially if attention is brought to the one currently used as an anchor (another sensation may then become an anchor)
      • If an appropriate sensation is not available, or needs to be intensified, muscles tense up to create a clearer or stronger sensation
      • These sensations are “projected” to the appropriate area of space. For instance, an image of self as seer, hearer, doer may be located in the center of the head, but in the absence of sensations there, the closest sensations – for instance in the neck and throat, are used as anchor and now appear to be located in an area of space corresponding to the center of the head. Another thought is placed on it saying it is in the center of the head.

Something completely different: slideshow!

Glass spheres

I recently went through some old photos and decided to make them into a few slideshows. The page is especially designed for stimuli-seekers (actually, it was just more convenient to put them all on one page.)