Our time spent online is increasingly being eaten by forces that care naught for our authentic selves. The web is mostly a world of projection and drama, where hyperbole, fear and catastrophic narratives are pumped into us, such that our consciousness can be fed into their machines. Much of the internet is the imaginal gone wrong. The more we bury ourselves in that, the more lost, angry and alienated we become; because we have unwittingly betrayed our authentic selves. Because we have betrayed our own spirit.
Learning to listen to the heart may take a lifetime. Even longer. Or just a moment.
In Ginsberg’s rendering of the Machine, our intrinsic joy or “Heaven” has been consumed by the ravenous Moloch, along with our innate spirituality and embodied presence. We have become “loveless,” chasing “unobtainable dollars” like dumb mules stumbling towards carrots on a stick, not seeing what lies beyond the desirous thing dangling immediately before us.
Recently my wife decided to begin letting them out in the evening. We had to chase them back after and hour or so, but they never wandered too far away. Then two nights ago Baxi didn’t come back. My wife was frantic with worry, as she loves Baxi as dearly as her own child. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the huge compound (remember, almost 100 buildings) calling Baxi’s name. At 11.00pm, I told my wife I had to go the bed, as I had to get up early to work.
Mark Zuckerberg says he intends to develop an “embodied” experience within the metaverse. This is web 3.0, an all-immersive internet where you can plug in and, if you prefer, never leave. Horizons Workrooms, an immersive tele-conferencing platform which is Facebook’s 3D challenge to Zoom. Using this program, users morph into their avatar equivalents by wearing an Oculus VR helmet, and interacting in a virtual office space. Mark Zuckerberg sees Horizon Workrooms as potentially launching us into a utopian future. He says:
“Five years from now, people will be able to live where they want and work from wherever they want but feel present when they do it.”
Integrated intelligence is a fuzzy human cognitive skillset which can be developed with practice. It is also my belief that such human cognition will eventually flourish in societies and learning environments that are open to its expression. The problem is, our current science and establishment institutions are either ignorant of integrated intelligence, or are simply hostile to it.
As we spend more time online, it is very easy to lose track of what is important. It is very easy to lose our mindful, bird’s eye view of the world and our lives, and instead get caught up in earthbound cat fights. Often the squabbles and projections are with people we barely know, or do not know at all. I’d like to think that the Oath to Power and Presence, whatever version you make of it, can inspire you to keep your life on track, an dto affirm the higher values that we humans share as a collective.
Over time I have come to the conclusion that we need a framework and a simple descriptive language to identify and discuss this problem. This is why I came up with the following dichotomy: expansive mode online content versus constrictive mode online content. The most salient distinction is that expansion mode is generally constructive, creative and perhaps uplifting. It grants a sense of expansion of the spirit, as if our boundaries are shifting outward and upward. The constriction mode of expression, conversely, is depressive, fearful, angry. In its essence it is mean-spirited.
Those beginning a meditative or mindfulness practice often have a false expectation that they are about to become magically transformed into an awakened being, or perhaps even enter an exalted higher state of consciousness. Perhaps they might be thinking that they can tolerate a few weeks of mindless meditation, a few hours of dull, cross-legged sitting, or even staring at candles in the evening, if that means accessing the Bliss of Being. The petty inconveniences of modern life will all be forgotten once the divine light descends from the heavens, rendering us impervious to pesky feelings and inconvenient negative emotions like anger, sadness and fear… Alas, such people will be disappointed.
Mindfulness is often most potent when combined with other practices. We shouldn’t employ mindfulness in our lives, naively assuming it is the most powerful problem-solving tool ever invented, while excluding other practical and useful methods and behaviors.
This strong tendency of the mind towards rumination is today a far bigger challenge than it was for mindfulness practitioners of yesteryear. The Buddha didn’t have to struggle with a daily dose of Twitterous twits constantly attempting to trigger him into emotional reaction. Lao Zi’s attention was most likely inward much of the time, aligned with the Dao, not battling opponents on Reddit. The ancient Chinese sage was quite happy to permit the dramas of king and courtiers to carry on as preferred. And Christ’s daily prayer sessions were not interrupted by smart phone alerts, notifying him to the urgent “breaking news” that he just had to read in order to stay informed and on top of his game.