Monday, January 9, 2012

Mental Objects

Mental objects: A sound, smell, feeling, emotion or thought registers as a mental process. Each sense event or ideational occurrence can be seen as a mental object. A mental object is like a package. Normally, when you receive a package, you take off the wrapper to see what is inside. You might say you interpret or tell a story about the contents. Part of the process of interpretation is judging whether the contents are likeable, dislikeable or neutral. In the meditation experiment, the package is not unwrapped. Since there is no interpretation or judgment, there is no reason to see the package as likeable, dislikeable or neutral. The package is just the package. Without deciding the plus or minus value of the contents, there is no fear of losing or desire to gain from the package. There is no response such as clinging or repulsion. There is no real reason to hold on or push away because it is just another package. It is possible to pay attention to your entire experience, but the minute you begin to interpret any part of that experience you will become mindless in relation to the rest of the experience. You will have made a choice. Mindfulness is paying attention to your entire experience without opening the mental objects up to interpretation.

I began to see my meditation experience as a series of mental objects or packages. When I hear the bell sound, my idea-mind turns the sound into a mental object and so I say, "sound," and let go without further penetration. Letting go prevents the package from becoming an object of desire or aversion. It is the positive or negative story we tell about the contents of the mental object that cause us to hold on or to push away. This does not deny the experience of the sound. On the contrary, the experience is the experience whether I think about it or not. It is like seeing an object in a mirror. You could say our mind is like a mirror, reflecting objects, in the same sense as our mind creates thoughts. The mind, like the mirror, records an image of a passing moment. The light bounces off the object and then is reflected in the mirror. When an object is reflected in a mirror, the nature of the mirror determines the quality of the reflection. In a fun house, tall mirrors stretch the reflection while short mirrors shorten the reflection. And so it is with the mind.

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