Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Make a Watch Disappear

Times Square, New York City
June 2009

Quote of the month:
The mind craves for formulations and definitions,
always eager to squeeze reality into a verbal shape.
- Nisargadatta Maharaj

By the end of this month's post….. I will make a watch disappear! You will, then, also be able to make a watch disappear, if you want to! I must give credit to Tim Freke, author of "How Long is Now?" He is the one who taught me!

Going back to August of 2009, we talked about the voice and the ego. We talked about how we learned English, but that of course is only if you were born in the US, England or a few other places. Had we been born in China, we would have learned Chinese. This is how the voice started, how it is formed...but it then continues by each experience life brings our way, in school, our family, the media, church.... or our interactions with others. In our struggle to make sense of the world, our brain categorizes…. our ego makes judgments about what is good and bad, and assumptions about why things are the way they are and why things happen.

This is necessary to function in our world. Look at the picture of the month above, taken on a summer day, in June 2009, in Times Square, New York City. Notice how many people, shops, lights, etc. When one is walking through Times Square, it is not possible to go into each store or every shop.  You cannot eat at every restaurant. It is not possible to say, “Hello” to each person you pass. I recall a study from my Sociology days that found people on a crowded city street do not even make eye contact with each other. It is too much input for the brain to process. 

Our brains must categorize and make assumptions in order for us to function. In doing this everything becomes a concept - an idea - something conceived in the mind. This is something that is basically made up that we have all agreed on together. When we see other living beings that look somewhat similar to us, we have all agreed that we will call them “people,” (unless you are in Spain and then you call them “gente” or in China…. “da zhong,” etc….)  In Times Square, I knew that “people” were passing by me on the street, but I did not know that Joe Smith or Nancy Brown passed by. I might have noticed a color of someone’s clothing as I passed by but I did not notice if I saw a pair of Hollister jeans. I saw “people” wearing “clothing” and passing by “shops.” Aside from someone who might have a photographic memory, this may be a somewhat similar experience for many of us.

Here is a different example of a concept we have all agreed on.  I heard that “Staycation” was added to the dictionary. Who had heard of a “staycation” five years ago? We have all agreed that a vacation spent at home or nearby will now be called a “staycation.” Maybe it is simpler to see with this newer concept and how it is basically something we made up and agreed upon!

So, what does this have to do with the watch? Maybe you can guess by now what I am going say. “Watch” is a concept. Most of us know what a watch is and some of you may be wearing one right now. More and more, people depend on their cell phones for time, but I think most of us have grown up knowing what a “watch” is. If I say I am wearing a wrist “watch,” all of you will know what I mean.

So picture me taking off my watch and holding it up in the air. Then I declare, “I am going to make this watch disappear.” Then as Tim Freke explains, “Actually, I’m going to show you how to make the watch disappear using no more than the power of your imagination.”

Can you see the watch in your mind’s eye?

Ok, now I want you to take a moment and imagine that you don’t come from this culture. Imagine that you have been born in the deepest jungles of Borneo and don’t know anything about Western civilization. Then you inexplicably find yourself here with me standing in front of you, holding something up in front of you.

What do you see now? Do you see a watch? 

You only see "watch" when you know the concept “watch.” If you came from the jungles of Borneo, you’d see whatever you could conceptualize. You might see “leather” or “bracelet” or “round metal object,” but you would not see a “watch.”

We are conscious of what we can conceptualize. If you look around you now, as I am, you will see that you have a concept for everything. I can see “computer”…… “keyboard”…… ”mouse”……. ”cat”……… ”paper”……. Look around where you are now.  What do you see?

We experience this moment through a filter of concepts. We’re living in our ideas. This month, I'd like to make the Simple suggestion that we’re telling ourselves a story, nearly all of the time, about who we are and what life is…. [For further reading on this topic, please see "How Long is Now?" By Tim Freke]

Further, I want to suggest that much of what the ego/voice is telling you is basically made up. Much of this is necessary to function in every day life, but this also can prevent us from truly living fully. I would further suggest that you try to take off the ego/voice glasses and see the world through unfiltered eyes. Tim suggests stepping out of the conceptual mind and entering into a state of "not knowing."

You have probably heard the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This applies, but I am suggesting that we try to take it a bit further than books. Think about all the judgments and assumptions you make every day. Think about people you see at work or in a store. Some you don’t know at all others you know a little. Do you make assumptions about their lives? What they do when they aren’t at work? Or who they might be spending their time with? Or if they might be taking a staycation this year?

It really goes much further than this…. The way we then interact with those people is based on our assumptions. We are not really interacting with them so much as interacting with our idea about who they are. And guess what…. They are interacting with their idea of who you are too. Do the two of you ever really meet?

The ego, the judgments, the voice, the assumptions won’t go away. Elizabeth Lesser says that the ego is a part of us. It’s like having an arm. It is part of being a human being. What I want to suggest here is that hanging out in the observer mode (see blog post from September 2009) allows us to notice when we may be making some of these judgments and realize that there is a lot of made up “stuff” out there. If we can recognize it, it gives us the choice if we want to go along with it, or get to know Nancy Brown for real.

I’d like to suggest that it puts the wonder, the magic, the flavor and the mystery back into life. Try it for yourself and see what you think! See if you can make your own watch disappear!

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any comments or questions you may have.  You can do this in by clicking the “comments” link below, at the end of each post. If you prefer, you may also send comments to me directly at . 

Until next month….
Keep it Simple!

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