It started with pain. I’ve had an ache in my low back for about a week and it has gotten tiresome. But it reminded me of a remedy I once discovered for pain that doesn’t involve drugs. It’s a mind game, if you will. I thought pain is a sensation. Why are some sensations pleasurable and some unpleasurable? A physical sensation can be neutral. What gives it value, positive or negative? I focused on the sensation to try to zero in to what quality makes it “painful.” The more I focused on it, the more it receded until it disappeared. I realized I had just discovered a way to make pain disappear. The trick is, for it to work, you can’t be trying to make it disappear. You have to be wholeheartedly trying to feel it completely. This discovery of mine had implications. Deliberately focusing on a sensation or on any experience, for that matter, can only be accomplished if one is totally in present time. That means no future or past. Just here and now. That led me to a new definition of pain (or any unpleasant feelings). It is a denial of the present. Full acceptance of the moment is the antidote!
To get rid of pain, getting into present time is necessary. Suffering involves rejecting the moment. The body experiences the sensation of pain. Normally, one doesn’t like it. You want to escape it. You want to escape the present moment. The way out is to accept it. Accept the moment which includes accepting the sensation. But when you truly accept it, the sensation is not pain. It is neutral, like the shit on the beach and the rotten food in the oven. It was such a revelation to find this out.
I have experienced the state of being totally in present time several times when I wasn’t doing the above exercise. Once it was through meditation. I was at work and decided to focus on a single spot in the room and making no motion whatever. I suddenly had a sense of having woken up. Everyone else in the room was asleep. It was a heady feeling, being the only one in the room who was awake. (Of course, they weren’t literally asleep. it was a relative state of awareness.) The other times were through drugs, once LSD and once heroin. What I noticed was a complete absence of disgust. One of the experiences was on the beach. There was shit in the sand. I guess a dog let loose. But, what normally would have disgusted me was completely neutral. The other time, I was in a kitchen where the oven had something rotten. Gross. Or it would have been normally but it didn’t bother me at all. Speed never gave me that imperiousness to disgust but it put me in a more rational and freer of emotions than otherwise. As a psychopath, I am already less emotional than the average person as well as less attached to sentiment. But the state I achieve on speed is more so. The consciousness I have achieved on speed is illustrated in the following video.
The TV series, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, had a humanoid monster created by an evil scientist. This monster, named Adam, was a perfect example of someone who was constantly in present time. The video shows his detachment, his lack of emotions. He tells a human, Riley, that his creator, Maggie, also “created him.” Riley reacted emotionally with aversion to the suggestion. A man tries to control Adam the way one would control another person. He said, “Maggie would have wanted you to stand down.” Adam replies, “I seem to have a design flaw.” When Riley continues to emote, Adam says, “That’s pain, isn’t it? Why? Because your feeding schedule has been interrupted?”
Buddhists value detachment from emotion. They say, for the unenlightened, “life is suffering” due to attachment. “Desires are endless. I resolve to end them.” Being in present time, one is free of attachment. The consciousness of psychopaths is said to be close to Buddhism. That makes sense since psychopaths are detached. Our detachment involves a lack of empathy which seems to drive the rest of the world crazy as Adam’s detached statements drove Riley crazy. We are not free of desire, however. The reward center of our brains is very active. Dopamine feeds the drive for reward.
I know two psychopaths who have said psychoactive substances don’t really do it for them. I suggested my above theory to one of them. Perhaps, I hypothesized, you don’t get high from substances because you are already high in your normal state, by virtue of being in the moment. But he pointed out that such a possibility is inconsistent with boredom which is notoriously our Achilles Heel. He’s right, of course. Being in the moment is an antidote to boredom just as it is to pain and other forms of malaise. I confess, I cannot, at this time, explain the paradox of how we can be so detached and, at the same time, so averse to boredom and so driven to thrill-seeking. If anyone reading this has an idea, please share it in your comments.
I tried consciously embracing the here and now yesterday. I didn’t do very well. Detachment from my back pain was difficult to achieve. Then Life intervened. I had a problem with my Smart Phone and needed to call Technical Support. I hate having to deal with Technical Support. The first “expert” I talked with was pretty clueless and too stubborn to let go of his rigid ideas which were wrong. I called again and got someone much better. Eventually, we solved the problem. But I let annoyance get in. Then anger. Too bad. Better luck the next time. I guess I’m not enlightened yet. I guess I still have things to learn in this life.
“If I told you what it takes to reach the highest high
You’d laugh and say nothing’s that simple
But time and again, you’ve heard before
Messiahs have pointed to the door
And noone’s had the guts to leave the temple”
“I’m Free,” Tommy by The Who