I was talking to a friend about eightstep me. The conversation naturally shifted over a few of the topics I’ve covered in my blog posts, like motivation and fulfillment, growth and stagnation, and paradoxical self-reference.
They seemed confused about the concept of life coaching in general. At one point they said that they didn’t see a need to actively seek out improvement — they are content with where they’re at. Not that they couldn’t empathize with someone who was in a worse place, but they just don’t personally feel like their situation, or their ‘self’ needs any improvement or help.
I respect that.
But ultimately, I believe that there is always room for improvement. As another friend puts it: ‘discomfort is a good thing.’
If you find yourself at an opportunity for self-betterment and think “eh, I’m good” maybe you should examine your comfort levels.
In a weird way, leaning into discomfort is quite the same as accepting your body and all the tensions and stresses teeming within. Having a body hurts. If you don’t use it, it will atrophy: your muscles melt away as your body eats itself. On the other hand, if you use your body for a lot of things without rest and recovery it will breaks down quickly. Even rest and recovery can be a very painful process–think deep tissue massage or post-surgical care full of opioid prescriptions. For these reasons it can be much more comfortable to simply not feel at all! Inhibit the control our bodies have over themselves by shutting down communication. The left brain (read: structured linguistic consciousness) can more thoroughly do its job as long as the right brain (read: inexplicable holistic consciousness) isn’t constantly sending indecipherable signals like sadness, or nausea, or a tension in my shoulder.
Since our right brain is strongly inhibited our left cortical hemisphere, it can feel so much like balance to completely occupy one half of our ‘selves.’ This seems to be a near-universal bias of humans. In addition to making language a dominant force in our lives, this neuronal organization also causes us to favor our mind over our body. These are somewhat misleading terms, because its really not our ‘mind’ that we favor or our ‘body’ that we neglect. These are just two representations of our body’s current state: one is a self-referential representation of our brain activity and cognition, and another is a sensorimotor representation of our body’s current state. This conversation can get confusing though, since everything we ever experience is a sensorimotor representation of our body’s current state, even the brain activity and cognition — this is essentially consciousness, and its all we can ever “know” (be aware of?). But that’s a topic for another post… or maybe even a book. Wow, as an aside, I wrote this blog post almost exactly 1 year ago (July 27th, 2017). Today (July 31st, 2018) something compelled me to come back, edit and publish it. In the last year, I have written a book on this topic!! (the intersection of epigenetics, evolution, and consciousness) Stay tuned for it in early 2019.
Anyways, this friend who sees no need for improvement also saw no difference between ’embodying yourself’ and ‘knowing your body,’ or ‘your mind knowing your mind.’ And I appreciate this particular phrasing of ‘your mind knowing your mind’ because its so very clearly zoom. There is nothing more zoom than studying your reflection and proclaiming to understand the mirror itself. Mind cannot be understood. Not in a ‘hard problem of consciousness’ kind of way, but in a Wattsian, ‘the tip of your finger cannot touch itself’ way.
As Alan Watts says:
“We are told to stand aside from our thoughts and feelings, to realize that they are not the Self and learn that the Self is not the actor in action but the Spectator of actions. But why not stand aside yet again from this first standing aside and perceive that it is not the Self that stands aside, for the Self performs no action? This may continue forever.”
And while this infinitely regressive self-definition seems impossible to avoid, I believe that it is possible to representationally ‘map’ the self, because that is what I am doing with eightstep me. But it is not about trying to fit the world in a box of description–trying to explain everything and understand it all–it is about self-embodiment: grounding yourself into your body and letting go of your ego. Again, as Watts says:
“[To attain enlightenment] let yourself be free to be ignorant, for fools are also one with God.”