Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why I Am Here - response to your questions.

(I think this may be too long for a comment, so I'll just make a new post)

I'll try to touch upon them all in some comprehensive fashion.

Studying cognitive science has certainly enhanced my personal work with consciousness. It is particularly beneficial to understand that whatever mind states arise are, in the cog-sci paradigm, temporary patterns of neural behavior. When exploring your mind, you are likely to come across your own deep-seated and hidden fears, expectations, presumptions, ways of perceiving, etc. It can be very frightening to encounter these, but it is necessary if you really want to work on yourself. Dealing with these states as they arise can be made easier when you consider that they are only temporary, and that they are not as solid as they may seem. It is said that the space between the atoms in our bodies is on scale with the space between the stars. Neurons are, of course, made of atoms. If you can keep this in mind as you experience powerful and perhaps negative emotional states, suddenly they don't seem so intense and concrete, and you may be able to let them go and allow healing to take place.

Furthermore, an important aspect of cognitive science is that of the computational analogy. In working on your consciousness, you are the programmer - and the meta-programmer. In other words, with some practice and skill, you can design yourself and your experience to your liking, within certain limits (to be discovered by you). You can also design how you design (meta-programming). As an example, suppose you have a habit of saying nasty things to people sometimes (we are all guilty of this on occasion, yes?). At some point, when you are alone, feeling calm and relaxed, you can say to yourself "When I get the temptation to say something hurtful, I will refrain, and instead say something kind." Say it to yourself three times, and then let it go. You will find, the next time you are about to say something mean, that you remember your wish to be kind. This is programming your mindfulness, and it can be used in all sorts of ways. It's fun to experiment.

Concerning meditation - I think it is extremely useful for exploring consciousness, and it can and should be combined with whatever other techniques you may employ. Ideally (and this takes patient practice), in meditation you stop moving your body around, you stop planning for the future or thinking about the past, you stop all this incessant mental activity (fantasies and whatever else), and you enter into the present moment. Here you find incredible freedom, as you are no longer burdened by the weight of your thoughts. As you practice and develop this stillness and letting go, you will find your mind is much sharper and more capable of doing deeper work and shining light on itself. You will also find (with patient practice) that you are generally happier, more peaceful, humorous, kinder, gentler, and spontaneous. Like I said, at one point it was all I wanted to do with my life, because the bliss it yields is just so tasty. Ultimately, through meditation, the body and mind become so still that your sense experiences begin to disappear - there's no sound, no sight, no form, no smell, no taste, no touch, no thought. This may sound strange or scary, but it is really quite natural, and thoroughly enjoyable. After meditation you come back to your senses with incredible vigor, joy, and energy.

I like cognitive science as a major and career path for a few reasons. It provides a medium for spreading the good news about consciousness exploration in a scientific context that could be more easily accepted by the public. Religious and esoteric schools of thought have been encouraging such exploration for thousands of years, but in today's world people seem to be more skeptical and reluctant to pursue a particular spiritual path, so I think as the scientific evidence builds up about the benefits of meditation and yoga people will be more inclined to practice them, because now we have facts that demonstrate how beneficial they are. I am considering a few options for after I get my degree - I may work in a home for adults with disabilities, or I may further my education, or I may go into music therapy...I don't really know. I enjoy the uncertainty though, and I recommend you don't freak out if you're not sure what you'll do with your life yet.

Concerning law enforcement - I definitely think an understanding of cognitive science would be useful. When you know more about the brain you know more about what motivates people to make decisions. You also grow more compassionate and forgiving, because you see how people are conditioned (by culture and their life experiences) to act as they do. A criminal is no longer some sort of dark entity, but a human being in an unfortunate position. You consider that they must be suffering immensely if they are motivated to do harmful things. And so you are able to deal with them in a compassionate (if strict) manner that may facilitate real rehabilitation. I know there have been experiments with teaching prisoners meditation, and that the prisoners who do learn meditation are far less likely to commit further crimes.

Here are a few links you guys might enjoy - (Transcendental Meditation website) (The 8 Circuit Brain Model...somewhat esoteric cognitive science...very good read) (Check the navigation bar on the right for Buddhist teachings and guided meditations.)


  1. Hey Dylan,
    I loved that you talked about meditation in dealing with cognitive science. I was just curious, I know there are a few diffent types of meditation out there; is there one that you favor among others?

  2. Dylan,
    Is there anything you can comment on specifically regarding Music Therapy? i.e. Where is it gaining steam in the US in terms of jobs and/or research?