Friday, June 15, 2018

"I have no time." But how much should you believe your mind?

A bit delayed, but this blog is about the slogan "Examine the nature of unborn awareness". Where the previous slogan was about investigating the nature of reality, this slogan is about investigating the mind that perceives that reality. From my perspective as a neuroscientist I can of course say an infinity of things about this. Our mind feels so real when we think about it every moment. However, an interesting exercise is: how would you draw the mind? As a neuroscientist, I would draw the mind probably as a nice brain picture with colorful blobs. But also as a neuroscientist I know better than anyone that these blob-pictures are highly-processed statistical pictures, that actually say very little about the lived experience of our mind. They only say something about how large numbers of trials in one condition differ slightly from a large number of trials in another condition. So when you come to think of it, our mind does not really have a form.
busy in India (where I am now)

Even worse, we think we can control our minds, but actually, most of the time we are not even aware of what it is doing. In a very interesting article, Thomas Metzinger analyzes how little time we actually have agency over our minds. So much of our thinking is just driven by all kinds of habits, which we repeat over and over again without questioning. My personal favorite habit is "I don't have time", which I have been practising quite a few times in the past weeks (hence no blog). The more I practise it, the more my mind feels tight and my life feels like a heavy blanket. Sometimes, when I can see this is all just a construction of my mind, I can actually develop some agency. And even if not, at the very least, considering for a moment that my mind is a construction that seems much more real than it really is, creates a tremendous sense of space. At least for one moment I can take "I have no time" less seriously--because time too is a construction of my mind...

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