The Brain Tease of Pure Experience

Here’s a little brain tease my sweets, or perhaps it’s a mind tease…

The Limited Domain of the Conscious Mind

Did you know that your conscious mind is housed in about 10% of your brain? That precious fiefdom of “me” and “I” mind is really just a pittance of your brain power. Scary, huh? The currency of communication of this conscious you are words. You’d think that with a half-a-billion or more words in the English language, you might be able to come up with the right words to adequately describe, say, a heated, 10-minute tête-à-tête with your significant other. But instead it takes four sessions with your therapist as well as a three-hour wine-flowing lunch with your bff, and it still feels like you couldn’t convey the real oomph behind it. Such is the limited power of the limiting medium of words—and by extension the limiting, limited medium of your conscious mind.


The Sprawling Subconscious Realm

The rest of your brain and your whole body are the domain of the subconscious, a vastly more powerful processing and communication engine than the conscious mind. It communicates with images, pictures, sensation, emotion, feelings, and metaphor. Truly, if picture paints a thousand words, then emotion, which is dynamic and ever-changing, would convey in a moment what ten thousand words could not. A single surge of emotion can change the trajectory of your life, and often can’t be explained by or even understood consciously by the person doing the changing. It just is; the internal landscape simply no longer holds what had been true before and the shift supports a new truth—words are too clumsy and cumbersome to explain, and your conscious mind is too limited to process, that kind of shift in its entirety.


Pure Experience and the Playground of YOU

Your You dwells on the vast playground of pure experience, when, because of the intensity, the focus, or some other magical tweak, there is no reflection or self-awareness in the moment. In pure experience, You (and you) are the moment. It’s most often experienced this in times of crisis, when time disappears and you expand to respond out of the totality of you (this is in contrast to slipping into fight or flight, which is the other general response.) A month and half or so ago, I was with two other family members at the death transition of another family member. The event wasn’t unexpected, but the timing was, and it was eventful enough that in the wee hours of the morning we were all out of bed and present. It was immediately evident that he was dying—and that he was I that place of pure experience. I then, too, slipped in and out of that place of pure experience over the next I don’t know how long (I really don’t—time in this state is entirely different than ordinary time) as we moved through the poignancy of his passing. Where your body can contain, for the most part, your personal emotional transitions, pure experience goes beyond the body into your whole being and beyond.


The Deep Bond of Pure Experience

Pure experience is not personal, meaning that it is not confined to only you. You can be in your pure experience, but you cannot own it. It is larger than your body can contain or process, especially when it’s cluttered with limitation, definition, identity. Pure experience is part of the collective consciousness, it belongs to all of us. Words simply trivialize the enormity of this sort of experience, which is why most people don’t even try. Shared pure experience runs deeper than the conscious mind can express. It’s the silent bond of brotherhood of battlefield soldiers, the immediate solidarity of peace workers, the glue that hold together a hospice team.

And it’s a shame that you probably associate it mostly with those times it is thrust on you, in times of a crisis so huge that there is no room for anything else. That association can make you label it uncomfortable when you experience it in bliss, in joy, in the peak moments of life, and so you rush to dampen them down into something containable, controllable, describable to you and others rather than savoring the enormity of the You experience.


Have Your Own Pure Experience

Game to play with your You and pure experience today? Take a shower (a bath will do if you have to, but a shower is a bit more “sensational”) and from the time you enter the bathroom until you are clothed again, let your mind focus on nothing else—no words, no commentary—simply the motions, feelings and sensations—the pure experience—of the shower. Feel of the air on your unclothed skin, the pressure on your hands as you turn on the water, the feel of the mist and the water, the scent of soap, the texture of your towels, etc. No words—the mind is always trying to contain your experience with commentary or taking you out of experience by directing your attention elsewhere. Be One with the shower, you Jedi, you.

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