(I love this photograph, so here it is again…)

I think the idea and image of dark flow streaming out of our universe has also been resonating with me because of the work I’ve been doing using Vipassana teacher Shinzen Young’s system of mindfulness training. Young is one of the most erudite and intellectually rigorous teachers of Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation, having synthesized decades of training in Zen, Theravadan, and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions along with what seems a voracious appetite for languages, into an “algorithmic system” that takes what, in other places, seems a morass of mutually incommensurable terms and makes it thoroughly coherent and applicable.

Many meditation teachers teach ways of developing clarity, concentration, and equanimity, but none of them — at least none of those I’ve come across currently living (and, of all places, just down the road from me, when he isn’t traveling) — draws in so many different traditions, East and West, into a system that is very approachable, practicable, and yet somehow thorough and complete. (See links at bottom to his talks and writings.) More than that, his system resonates with many of the ideas I’ve been exploring on this blog, including the process-relational and Naturphilosophical streams of Continental philosophy, and in some respects the Lacanian-psychoanalytical (as I’ll point out below), not to mention, of course, other Asian field-theories such as Daoism, western traditions of Hermetic philosophy and Christian negative theology, and the like.

Shinzen describes human subjective experience as phenomenologically distinguishable into three primary “fields,” “spaces” or “elements”: Feel, which are bodily sensations experienced as emotional; Image, which are internal forms of visual thinking; and Talk, which are internal forms of monologue/dialogue/talk or “auditory thinking.” The three subjective “spaces” in which these arise develop in sequence from infancy: first we learn to feel with our bodies, then we start to see things (once our eyes learn to focus on them) and “image” the world and its relationships through imaginal fantasy, and finally we learn the words and the linguistic-discursive constructs that come to shape both our subjectivity and our world for us. And over time the three kinds of elements (distilled, for simplicity’s and usability’s sake, from Buddhism’s “five aggregates”) become densely entangled and knotted into emotionally-laden force-fields.

In a very interesting sense, these three spaces correspond with Jacques Lacan’s tripartite analysis of the psyche into the Real, a kind of nondual state of nature from which we become separated as we take on the qualities of socially defined subjective experience; the Imaginary, the image-based world of self-other relations and fantasies that emerge through the “mirror phase,” when we learn to recognize the body that appears in a mirror as the same one that others see when they see “me”; and the Symbolic, which is the language- and narrative-based world that “interpellates” or “hails us” into being the kind of subject that would fit into the social world.

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