Robert Anton Wilson uses the phrase ‘reality-tunnel’. I like its visual metaphor that our realities are restrictive and channeled. I tend to favor calling the same phenomena ‘maps’. They are essentially the unique way in which we see the world or interpret a story. Perhaps we also owe a heavy nod to the philosopher Emmanuel Kant for pointing out how all minds experience the world only in their mind, and so we all only ever have our experience. This is what maps are for me, and how I use the word.
There are at least 6 components for creating healthy maps:
1) many maps
If we are looking at a story and we can only see a singular path for a given character, we aren’t being creative enough. seeing more maps, means seeing more of what could possibly be.
Additionally, maps are created through lenses, preferences, illusions, perspectives. Seen in this way, it’s generally best to create maps with the least number of lenses.
2) less sensitive maps
components 1 and 2 pair nicely in that the first encourages to stretch and be creative in supplying ourselves with a high number of probable maps, and component 2 encourages us to create maps that are the least conflicting.
Unhealthy maps are best demonstrated by the areas of conflict they have with other presenting maps. These areas can also be talked about in terms of sensitivity. For example, if I’m presented with maps that conflict with my own on the idea of procreation and my response is that of outrage, animosity, or even that I’m simply uncomfortable; then, here we see that I have parts of my maps that conflict with others and my response is more or less an indicator of how sensitive my maps are. Extremely sensitive maps then create a violent response often paired with irrationality.
Note: the creating of healthy maps then means that we create many maps using a low number of lenses in addition to limiting the areas of conflict and associated sensitivities.
when we strengthen component 1 and 2, we essentially create the begginings of component 3–flexibility. If our maps are well-constructed (healthy) they obtain a certain kind of flexibilty that allows us to modify our maps to new information while keeping simple rules, instead of adding more complex rules (a sign of unhealthy map creation).
There are many ways to increase flexibility. One of my personal favorites is to always hold an agnostic stance. Another way of putting this is to say that one never gives all of their belief to anything. This can be seen as a safety measure against producing brittle, unflexible maps–a belief buffer. Generally the concern is over confidence in a particular lense or map or such.
note: one rule that seems to aid component 1 and 3, is that no two maps can be the same. This idea, held consciously, serves as a reminder that new information can only be modeled off of an existing map, and that we ought to be wary of keeping it that way. New information should have room to shift and settle as we come to a greater understanding–building a distinct map.
Paired very nicely with component 3, is Optimism. You know how Buddha is always flashing that ear to ear grin that seems permanent? That’s the kind of optimism I’m advocating. As with all these components, I believe this takes practice.
5) Pre-fabricated Systems
We want to build fast, strong, flexible minds/maps. One way of aiding ‘information uptake’ is to have a prefabricated system that we can use to map new information onto. Religions and political parties capitalize on the idea of prefabricated systems. They offer maps that are quick and easy, brittle and sensitive. Alone, the ideas they represent can be powerful, but they are usually taught and/or absorbed as described.
This is where esoteric systems come into play. I use them extensively in my own life. Along with the other 4 components, esoteric systems combine to produce maps that are diverse, creative, and prolific. I like to think of esoteric systems as being primarily pneumonic devices.
Imagine being able to commit a significant amount of your belief in some idea and have that idea attached to many other similar ideas. Your ability to recall the idea is now stronger because it’s attached to other similar ideas that can all fire when any related idea is touched on, and because you believe in an odd piece of information, you can attach importance to the information you’re currently receiving.
Seen in this way, tarot cards are not tools for divination, but quests and stories meant to be tied to a symbolic value, much like the pictures of christ with a crown of light emmanating from his… crown.
Other esoteric systems are numerology, astrology, alchemy, the qabbalah, the chakras. I can suggest picking one, using it till you gain some proficiency, and then moving on to another.
It takes time to develop esoteric systems. And when all is said and done, each of us develop personal esoteric systems modeled on some theoretical model.
Like component 5, meditation can vary greatly in its application from person to person. So, here are some general thoughts I have on practicing meditation.
–I highly recommend regular ‘identity-detachment’ sessions. Essentially this is just ‘meditating to nothingness’. An example would be: closing your eyes, drawing your attention towards one of your senses for a period of time. Then moving your focus to another sense. All the while trying to not get ‘caught up’ in your thoughts. It’s not ignoring them so much as allowing them to appear, nodding, and just watching, little to no participation in driving your thoughts. Once focused on breath, I try to sit and watch my thoughts for several minutes before slowly coming out the exact reverse way that I went in.
–Take something with you. Maybe not every time, but most often when I meditate I come out with a picture in my mind that I’ll try to draw. Ocassionally I might write something down. I often meditate down to nothingness, and then marinate on something I’ve pre-selected to ponder, allow thoughts to come, and after some time draw or write down something. My average meditation plus drawing session is about 15-20 minutes.
–you make the rules