Your limitless capacity for self-deception

A student asked:

If the blind spot can be so convincing, and so can the illusion of separateness, how do we know connectedness and oneness is not also an illusion? How do we know that ‘it’ (if I have even the faintest idea of what I am talking about, I think you call it the ‘nameless’) is actually a thing? How do we know it’s not yet another fabrication of the mind, especially my mind that longs to feel connected?

I have often said that the human capacity for self-deception is limitless. This may suggest that attempts at getting a glimpse of any kind of encompassing truth is hopeless. If that is the case, we might as well give up our inquiry into reality, stop our explorations in mindfulness and mindsight, go home and smell the decaying roses of a fleeting lifetime with as little awareness as possible until we vanish six feet under. In fact, if you approach life from a purely left-brain problem-solving perspective without a good dose of defensive protection against the complex stirrings of your unconscious, you might well find yourself in such a hopeless pickle.

Now see what happens when you reflect more deeply on your limitless capacity for self-deception. What I mean with ‘more deeply’ is an engagement of your right brain in connection with your left brain, guided and harmonized by your master integrator, the middle prefrontal cortex (MPC). Practically speaking, this means experiencing this statement (the limitless capacity for self-deception) with the full array of your potential for experiencing reality fully, including your thoughts and intellect, your fantasies and images, your memories, your feelings, your somatic sensations, your five external senses experiences, your sense of relatedness to the large context of social relationships, your sense of embeddedness in the large context of ecology, geography, our planet, and the universe, and your awareness seemingly holding all that jazz like a loving mother holds her baby in her arms.

What happens is that even our limitless illusions reveal a mysterious spaciousness around them that dissolves all noise and activity into a vast stillness of unspeakable depth. Imagine looking at a long stick in an aquarium, partly submerged in water, partly sticking out on top. Because of the refraction of light it appears broken, and yet you know it is not. The illusion is real and inescapable, and yet your mind in this case knows a deeper truth that is not accessible through the senses. Our situation with ‘ultimate truth’ is not dissimilar. Awareness reaches beyond the appearances created by the mind, revealing reality beyond the categorizations of our mind, beyond the either/or’s of our intellect, beyond our cherished words and stories that need to capture in order to understand, and cannot know without capturing.

So here is the thing: The nameless is not a thing. Let me back up for a moment. Everything we know is a thing in the widest sense of its meaning. The universe is made of things, and not nothing. Even nothing is a thing we can conceptualize, that thing called complete absence of things. Our cognition is made of bits of information flow called thoughts, which are also things. We think with things called thoughts, and each thought points to another thing elsewhere in the universe. A chair is a thing, an atom is a thing, energy is a thing, freedom is a thing, a black hole is a thing, dark energy is a thing, everything is a thing in its widest sense because our mind thinks with a currency (our thoughts) that is also a thing.

When I then say that the nameless is not a thing, I make a very simple, although somewhat surprising statement. Without waxing esoteric, I simply say that the nameless is no thing. It is not a thing, and since ‘nothing’ is also a thing we can conceptualize, it is also not nothing. In other words, the nameless cannot be conceptualized, therefore cannot be thought, imagined, named, described, or intellectually known. It’s that simple. You needn’t look any further. You just have to give up thinking about the nameless, trying to figure it out – you can’t. So if you just surrender that way, something shifts in your level of awareness, and you quickly realize that the nameless is a reality outside the purview of the mind.

The flatland example makes the challenge clear: Imagine being a two-dimensional being in a flatland. A sphere moving through your flat world would first appear as a point, then grow into a line up to a certain length, before decreasing in length again to become a point and finally vanish. It is as if the mind was this 2-dimensional flatland, unable to ever see the sphere. It only sees the size-changing lines. Our mind cannot see the nameless. In order to see it, an orthogonal shift is needed, where we can gain access to a further dimension, much like a vertical shift out of our two-dimensional flatland would suddenly open access to the 3-dimensional world, in which we can see the sphere for what it really is. Mindfulness and mindsight training do exactly that, give us access to dimensions of reality that are always there, but never seen or realized.

How do you KNOW that THAT is not also a fabrication of your mind? Because you REALIZE that THAT is beyond mind. This realization is as clear as day and far more real than the partial truths of our story-telling mind. What makes it so clear is its independence from senses and mind, and ironically we find exactly that so disconcerting. The nameless is this non-graspable nameless luminosity that reveals to us an unshakable truth of peace and serenity beyond all movements of mind, time, world, and circumstance, in which all suffering simply stops. The orthogonal shift from line to sphere is as real as when you wake up from a dream. How do you know that when you have woken up from a dream you are not in the dream anymore? You just know. Mind you, you may then be in a new dream you need to wake up from, and that is exactly the goalless journey of awakening – there are levels and levels of increasingly refined awareness, each level shedding completely new light on the previous level. This is why the direction is clear: The path is the goal!

When you are grounded in this truth, no matter how you slice it, all appearances reveal the same nameless essence as their core. And in this core, if you really live from there, humility and love converge to allow you to accept the limitless illusory constructions of your embodied existence with equanimity, KNOWING in a non-intellectual, non-dual sense of wise contemplation, that your embodied existence is just a temporary movement of timeless, nameless and unfathomable potential, always about to be born, to emerge, to pass and to vanish, only to be reborn into another form. This is the famous I AM or I AM THAT I AM beyond the ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ that all spiritual traditions talk about when they refer to who you really are. As they would say in Zen, the nameless is neither a thing, nor nothing, nor both, nor neither.

Enjoy the new vista!

Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.

Learn more about self compassion »