There’s a concept in science fiction books and films that’s also a hypothetical future development called Mind Uploading, or Whole Brain Emulation, where someone has the contents of their conscious mind uploaded to a computer so they can live forever in a virtual world.
There is a philosophical thought experiment that explores Mind Uploading. Imagine that you are in a special laboratory where people in white coats connect electrodes to your head. At one point the operator announces that your consciousness has now been successfully uploaded into computer memory. As you are still conscious in your body, how do you know whether or not this is true?
In fact, a US start-up is actually working on making this a reality, based on a process from their work on rabbits. They promise to upload a copy of your brain to a computer. There’s only one catch – the process is fatal as they need to freeze all of the neural connections in order to take a copy.
Partly driven by our quest to develop artificial intelligence, there’s a vast amount of research into understanding human consciousness. One useful distinction is between the content of consciousness, for instance, the words that you are processing reading this, and broader conscious awareness – the background awake energy and aliveness that you wake up with each morning before thoughts come streaming in. Another distinction is that there is an objective reality in the world, and the thoughts and perceptions we have about it. We can look at an apple on a plate and think “I see an apple on a plate”, but there is always much more to reality than we think. For instance, the amazing and subtle range of colours on the apple skin, the sweet and sharp tastes of the fruit, the arrangement of seeds within its centre, and so on.
All of these limitations arise from when we become caught up in the content of consciousness, which can be summarised as our tendency to:
- Experience the content of consciousness and conscious awareness as the same thing.
- Skim over the surface and miss the rich beauty and wonder of reality.
- Identify with our thoughts, even though they come and go, so cannot be who we are.
So how can mindfulness help us overcome these limitations? Given that our minds typically wander around half of our waking lives, bringing ourselves into the present moment to notice the thoughts we’re entertaining is a good start. We can then shift our focus and attention and awareness away from our thoughts into a different mode of experience, by coming into being, which is conscious awareness. Simply being means resting in the expanded space and stillness of awareness that includes all the thoughts, emotions and sensations (content) that come and go within that space. If thinking is directing our attention inwards, then being is about turning our attention outwards through the body towards our feelings, sensations, and senses.
You can bring yourself into being mode by:
- Letting go of holding onto thoughts and beliefs about “me and my situation”.
- Disengaging your attention away from thoughts and turning it out towards your body and senses
- Fully accepting whatever is happening in your experience
- If thoughts and feelings arise, acknowledging them and allowing them to come and go
- Bringing openness, kindness, and appreciation to your experience
Our busy work and personal lives are often so full of responsibilities, activities, and deadlines it’s no wonder that our minds become agitated and that we spend so much time in our heads. By developing and practising mindfulness, we discover that there’s a different mode of experience, a hidden resource that’s always available in the background. Coming into being connects us to a more open, flexible and direct experience of reality that has the power to free us from our mind-made limitations and transform who we are in that moment.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then close your eyes while this meditation plays to explore and experience coming into being.
Suggested weekly practice
- Notice the difference between doing and being, where your attention is consumed in content (doing) or broader awareness (being) of what you are doing
- Explore the space of background awareness as you walk, turning awareness out to the broad soundscape as sounds come and go, the movement of your body, thoughts that arise are acknowledged and pass away as you rest in being while moving
- Try resting in awareness as you move into activity – doing from a state of being, For example, extending the walking practice above into other areas of activity, like listening in a meeting, etc.
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