Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Paper II

Self-conscious mind would like us to think that deep mind doesn't exist. But when the mind is working optimally, there is free flow between these two aspects of mind with a slight predominance of deep mind. Reading poetry, engaging in one-pointed meditation, and repetitive manual work engage both parts of the mind simultaneously, to cite just three examples.(5) The process of shifting the attention to deep mind so that both aspects of the mind work together is simple but not easy; self-conscious mind must learn to subvert itself in order to open to the gifts of deep mind. For example, in some forms of one-pointed meditation, one uses a word to silence words so that one can listen to the Word.
The self-conscious shift of attention to deep mind is what I have called the en-Christing process or the work of silence. It is described in Phil. 2:5-11, the central text for the Easter liturgy. Many authors, but especially the Gospel of John that refers to Jesus as the way, along with Pseudo-Denys, Eriugena, and the Cloud-author, understand that Jesus was a human being and that Christ is a process, the en-Christing process, which Jesus came to teach. This may be one reason that Pseudo-Denys appears to avoid the static word 'Christ' in his corpus. Another may be that he follows Ephrem in his understanding that it is blasphemous to talk about the nature of God. This reverence, and the notion that the highest praise of God is silence, found in both Ephrem and Denys, may be one of the main motivations behind the rejection of Chalcedon by two-thirds of Christians at that time. This understanding of Christ as process is one factor in the naming of Christianity and particularly monasticism as 'philosophy' until about the 12th century.
The shift of attention this process entails is fundamentally the same across the human race, but attempts to describe it and to communicate the methodology by which the mind's optimal flow is engaged are culturally linked. However, because there is a neuro-psychological foundation to the work of silence, it is the opposite of the so-called perennial philosophy, which is interpretation of interpretation—i.e., interpretation of experience, often written experience. Experience is always interpretation—and writing about experience is many steps removed from the originating event, and always self-referential, in contrast to the work of silence which is progressively self-forgetful.
(5) Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (New York: Harper Perennial, 1997), 35-36.


Anonymous Matthew said...

Can anyone share any other practices that assist this shift of attention? Daily life just seems to be always dragging us/me back into the world of the voice. I like the sense that the work of silence/en-christing is work and doesn't just arrive at the door like a takeaway pizza. The paradox is that it's a work of faith not a work that we/I can manipulate/control/grasp.

12:29 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The shift from self conscious mind to deep mind is not a self conscious action, it is no action at all. So, there is no specific or particular activity which is better (or worse) than another in this processing. It all counts.

Be faithful to solitude. Listen to silence. Seek out stillness. Notice what ever comes, look it over, and then let it go. Over and over and over do this.

As Maggie has said, avoid mass media and television. One can not over emphasize this avoidance.

Deliberately correct any self referential commentary. When it is noticed, stop it, and find another manner of expression.

Do anything which erases the sense of time's passage.

Listen to chant until it is so deeply known it rises when it will and keeps company.

Sit down at a piano and "doodle" with the keys until some sequence becomes a melody. Then play it cleanly.

Just play, in other words.


3:56 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

Thanks Mike. Can you give an example of what the shift in expression might sound like when 'deliberately correcting any self referential commentary'?

4:30 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the sound ... very quiet!

In responding there was no usage of I, me, mine, myself words nor was there usage of you or yours words.

In conversation, do the same thing. Say what must be said without an ownership condition applied. Takes practice but it works and it is amazing what an effect this has on engaging in no-stops-in-the-talking encounters with others.

Hope this is helpful.


7:32 pm, May 06, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

The problem is that this can be too artificial. It's not the words that effect the shift in the psyche. Specific exercises can make one MORE self-conscious. Just having the intention without evaluation or expectation is enough.

7:38 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too much words.

When a hug speaks, hug!

it sounds like this.


7:40 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

Thanks folks...

7:49 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Yes. Yet meditation, like prayer, can be a very specific exercise. Doing such as a means is worthy. Doing so as an end is worthless.

Prayer is the intention towards. I like that!


9:03 pm, May 06, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 Good Voice in the Wilderness posts to review re practices.

Comments Worth Forwarding posted on August 08, 2011

How to be Quiet posted on January 17, 2012

4:56 am, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

The first line of the second paragraph comes a little confusing: "The self-conscious shift of attention to the deep mind..."

Why qualify this shift as self-conscious when the self-conscious mind elides into self-forgetfulness?

5:50 am, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

By extension, "the mind's optimal flow are culturally linked" could also be read as the mind's minimal flow being culturally blocked.

In addition to the neo-platonic perennial philosophy which is primarily an intellectual of self-reflexivity, perhaps, to be added also in the list seeding more confusions rather than help us understand the work of silence are positivism pioneered by Comte, American pragmatism by James, and consumerist capitalism - all lusting for self-conscious evidences on how the "deep mind" or silence works from measuring meditations in a laboratory to the fad of being "spiritual but not religious".

6:05 am, May 07, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

But meditation is the opposite of self-censorship!

7:01 am, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

Hi Mike,
Maggie's comment on meditation appears vague to me, but if i read it right by way of a question - why describe the means as either worthy or worthless, or amazing or engage in deliberate self-correction?

7:57 am, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

@ Maggie
Could we have a word more weighty than "intention" as a significant password for this shift to the deep mind? It sounds overly cognitive. How about desire, or hunger, or longing?

8:08 am, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Given science can now begin to explain and authenticate the neuro-psychological underpinning of this very human "God is ..." phenomenon, what do you hope such information might do, as it disseminates into religious institutions based on

"Well, it's REALLY a MYSTERY, ... is it not?"

For that matter, might undo?


5:28 pm, May 07, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Very late at night after a very long day so these are only squibs.

To desertfisher: yes of course; I have been using mnimalist language, sort of starting from scratch. And you are correct about my comment on meditation.

To Mike: science doesn't really prove anything beyond its own parameters: that is to say, it's interesting correspondence but it doesn't "prove" anything about the mind.

What it can help institutions do, however, is to realize that we need poetry more than prose, silence more than noise, good music as opposed to pop music, and a liturgical trajectory that leads us into the apophatic at its climax. Also that the institution might realize that laity are on an equal footing with clergy and the latter could use quite a bit more humility as regards the former!

11:20 pm, May 07, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


re: deliberate self-correction

This has Zen context. In Zen one aim is to extinguish the ego self. The words I, my, me, mine, myself and you, yours, yourself are expressions of this self and all have an "owned" flavor in what is referenced, can't help but be so.

As Maggie notes, establishing a new behavior will entail much self-consciousness. In beginning, it is an effort one undertakes.

In doing this, however, what mattered in the longer term is this. The nature of communication with others "moves into" a more neutral space, and it becomes more and more open ended. This effect is noticeable. This facilitates the surfacing of (in Zen called) true nature. In Christian terms (IMOO) it is called deep mind.

This practice is not prefect and there is no expectation of such. This was not an expected becoming when it was begun. Now, it's just a welcome part of my day.


5:32 pm, May 08, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What is worthy moves toward self-forgetfulness. What is unworthy is towards self-reflectiveness. Eventually, it is said, the "aim" of all of this is "what separates has no presence" and such words fall away. Someday stuff.

I suspect en-Christing may be this process.


5:48 pm, May 08, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Mike I have never heard of such a practice in Zen Buddhism; in a way it only magnifies the problem of self-consciousness. In addition, in the West, too many people are full of self-hatred. It's not a practice I can recommend.

In the first convent I was in we did this practice. It was a kind of play ("our toothbrush") but also already an artifact. In the Christian West there is too much negative history about "annihilating" the self that has been horribly damaging to people.

All that is needed is to behold. And I wouldn't be surprised if a zen master would agree.

6:15 pm, May 08, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Remember what Eckhart says: If you're doing anything special you're not seeking God.

I get the feeling in the last week or so that we're getting too analytical about what has no phenomenology.

6:17 pm, May 08, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah, ... and to think I almost did not include that suggestion when writing to Matthew. To think this reply for some reason twice deleted itself!

WAY too much thinking. Just sit. Thanks for the reminder.


7:21 pm, May 08, 2014  
Anonymous abigail tingman said...

Dear All:

Less is best.

What does that mean?

As your self conscious mind accuses

Deep mind recuses.... then laughs.


8:21 pm, May 08, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William Stafford put it well in these words from what turned out to be his final poem... 'You don't have to / prove anything,' my mother said. 'Just be ready / for what God sends.'

1:00 am, May 09, 2014  

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