Letter to Daniel Siegel

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Metaphors for the Fields that We Are

  

Dr. Dan Siegel,

Mindsight Institute

 

Dear Dr. Siegel,


In March of 2011, I enjoyed your presentation on the Neurological Basis of Behavior, the Mind, the Brain and Relationships, at the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium. Later we met in Jonathan and Diana Rose’s Manhattan apartment where you spoke about your book, Mindsight. I asked, “As matter is latent in and/or emergent from energy, and as information is embedded in and transmitted by energy, is it your experience that the capacity for awareness of information, matter, energy, and of awareness itself is inherent in and/or emergent from the energetic universe of which we are a manifestation? Further, are people’s reported experiences of empathy, intuition, telepathy, synchronicity and clairvoyance (clairaudience, clairsentience, precognition, etc.), evidential observations that awareness, like energy and information, is universally pervasive?” 


For two minutes you explained to the gathering why it was a brilliant question, and didn’t answer it.  It wasn’t appropriate for you to answer yet -- you are a scientist not a speculator. You stepped into answering it at the Science and Non-Duality 2018 conference when you shared what you said to your dying father about returning to a 

field of infinite possibility.

 

I salute your careful observations and deliberate systematic description of awareness, free of jargon of particular religions, cultures or professions, a description useful at many levels of exploration in which practitioners and “pilgrims” engage. In your recent book, Aware, one sees lineages of the mindfulness movement, psychology and physics. It is clear you have explored ancient sources (that is what you call them), including Buddha’s Anapanasati and Satipatthana teachings.  The later tetrads of the Anapanasati, those of mind and of impermanence of objects of mind seem so abstract to novices that several Dharma teachers I know teach experience of the breath, body, sensations, and perhaps mental formations . . . and stop there. With your wheel of awareness, you venture onward in a way to which people in our time and culture can relate. 


Le Ciel dans un Tapis (Heaven in a Carpet)

The evening before our brief chat with you at the Science and Non Duality salad bar, my friend, photographer Mike Mitchell and I were talking about our experiences of the conference. We talked about the high level of synchronicity and a steady stream of so-called coincidences that we were experiencing in and between the sessions. 

I told Michael it reminded me of an exhibition I saw at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 2005. At “Le Ciel dans un Tapis” the dazzling carpets were mounted vertically, front lit in dimmed rooms, and seemed suspended in space. Masterpieces from Iran and Turkey were metaphors for the relationship between the observer and the universe.  Many presented an immediate sensation that one could walk or float right into the swirling, intricate patterns whether they were geometric designs or variations on the Tree of Life. 


Becoming absorbed in a carpet, a moment of “lift off” occurred with an experience that the patterns of energy in the carpet, in the room, in the observer, and in the world outside the building, were all interacting subsets of one dancing, ever-present, ever-evolving pattern. The sense of an individual self as a solitary point of observation was subsumed in a  realization (i.e. becoming a real experience) that not only were energy, material and information patterns moving and transforming everywhere at once, but also, every point in the pattern was a point of awareness with both a manifestation of shape, texture  and color (form) and as one among an infinity of points of awareness throughout the pattern — formless in that they are far beyond defining by the five senses or by conceptualization.  


Forbidden by their religion to depict images of the Prophet or images of sacred or human forms, some gifted Islamic artists with profound experience found deep expression in the art of carpets, ceramics and calligraphy. Because the symbols and metaphors are non-verbal and beyond conceptualization, they have the potential to touch us at a fathomless level. 


Michael and I felt a “lift-off” in our conversation and gazing around the room where we sat, we experienced patterns and resonance everywhere we looked including in the carpets. Certainly, this reality was always present yet not usually noticed or experienced. During that wonderful multidimensional conversation, I told him of the brief conversation I had with you in New York and your presentation at Science and Non-Duality earlier that day. 


Later that evening I got a message from a friend responding to an email I sent a few days before coming to the conference. As I read the note, I suddenly remembered that this was the person with whom I had visited the exhibition of Le Ciel dans un Tapis in Paris thirteen years prior. 


At breakfast, Michael also reported more experiences of amazing patterns of interconnection and awareness. During the morning a continuous stream of high speed multileveled connections, coincidences, synchronicity and pattern awareness was . . . the opposite of stunning – I can’t find an English word for “luminously-clarifying-interbeingness” or “acceleratingly-transcendentalizing” or “ongoingly-liberating-from-a-stunned-state.” I hope we have words for these experiences in our future. The South Asian Theravadans, Himalayan Vajrayana Dharma practitioners and mystics of many cultures including Christianity, Judaism, higher Yogas, Islamic Sufism and indigenous peoples have words or other symbols for such para-perspectives. 


This flow, rather than “state” which implies “static”, is not limited to the interweaving of phenomena or objects such as sights, sounds, meaning, occurrences and people. It is like a living carpet in which every knot or node is a point of evolving awareness and experience. All the bundles of notions we were taught in our childhood to call “I” are each among and part of an infinity of points, all threaded together in an ever-changing pattern. The knots would not exist without the interweaving threads.


At lunch, Michael and I were soaring as we walked into the food area. I had been thinking that I would like to share this series of “recognitions” with Dr. Dan Siegel . . . and there you were approaching the same salad bar I was. I said “Hi, I’m happy to see you.” And you said “I’m happy to see you too.” Then I said “I enjoyed your presentations on the Neurological Basis of Behavior, the Mind, the Brain and Human Relationships . . . “ but we’ve just gone through that part of the loop of the carpet once already. . .

 

David Berry