I wish these posts had "like" buttons, as on Facebook.
I agree with you: "I find much more impressive that my brain can do that sort of thing, than it being some kind of supernatural thing."
... and especially agree with your very last paragraph.
I've never been fully sure what people mean when they talk about spirituality or being spiritual. I'm sure I've probably had similar experiences as theirs, but just didn't name that that. I also think that some people are so afraid of being hated ... so afraid of loosing friends ... and whatever other reasons there might be ... that they'd prefer to say they're spiritual vs. religious, instead of saying that they're atheist/agnostic vs. religious.
I am not trained in the proper way of meditating, and have not done much research on it, however I love to have moments of complete piece ... silence (with just nature sounds around me) ... it helps with stress ... it helps to relax. I would guess that there are people out there who do meditation for the same reason (to distress) vs. for spirituality.
I have a model, which we could debate it's accuracy in reflecting reality, but it works in making sense for me.
We have a verbal-reasoning cortex (which is our great advantage, and in some smaller fashion our problem) and we have a non-verbally reasoning more primitive (take your pick:primate, lizard) brain.
The non-verbal is often mistaken for 'the spirit' and is the cause of the nebulous feeling of 'something else' inhabiting us - often ascribed a label of soul, spirit, collective consciousness, intuition sunconscious etc etc ad nauseum.
Meditation is not really about not thinking. Our brain is a thinking machine - it will create thoughts whether we want them or not.
When a thought arises from an external or purely internal stimulus, our amygdala attaches emotions to it, our memory attaches our history to it, and our cortex analyses the bejasus out of it.
Meditation is more an attempt to allow those thoughts to arise, quite naturally, but NOT attach the extra processing to them - the emotion, memory, analysis.
So I would describe it as more like stilling the internal chatter created by our avanced cortex, and allowing the non-verbal, quieter, more primitive brain to be heard.
It's not an exercise in non-thinking, but an exercise in non-verbal-thinking.
I have done it occasionally, and sometimes felt I was close to the 'stillness' that is portrayed. It's not spiritual (in my interpretation) in the slightest, my anecdotes attest only to it's non-supernatural advantages that proper studies hint at.
It's not an exercise in non-thinking, but an exercise in non-verbal-thinking.
Transliminality is a totally new word to me. A quick glance at wikipedia makes me pretty sure its a BS word for a BS concept. The inventor of the word is a woowoo-ist.
My model (again, the disclaimer - it appears to be a reasonable model that works, it's not intended as a description of reality) is based on all I have read, and boils down to this (extremely brief) summary:
Animals have brains. Animals exhibit behaviours which are taken of indicators of thought (eg, they plan, use tools, can imagine different scenarios, can choose between actions and consequences, can evaluate risk and benefits, and can communicate). Animals (outside of humans) lack extensive, structured language. How then, without language, are they representing thought - how are they 'thinking' without language?
You say (paraphrasing) in your experience you only know two ways on non-verbal thinking. In the experience of a gorilla? A dog? An elephant? What is their non-verbal thinking like?
I don't know. But it seems reasonable to suppose that the ancestors of homo sapiens had a similar thinking process - and we modern humans retain that. The 'animal' brain that humans have is overlaid with the verbally-proficient cortex. We retain that non-verbal human brain which is tied more closely to our bodies than the cortex (touch something too hot, and the 'animal' brain will react to take your hand away before the cortex has even started to analyse the situation). Reflexes, instincts, emotions and autonomous actions are all the responsibility of the animal brain.
The human being has 2 brains. OK, that's sensationalist - humans have a non-verbal, non-vestigial brain similar to other primates, and this brain is overlaid with a second brain - a modern, grossly expanded cortex that thinks in language. That's well-known. The primate brain cannot communicate verbally - it doesn't have that capability. The results of it's cogitations are expressed in hormone levels, in serotonin secretion (and so on), and in emotions.
Meditation (as I have been taught, and as I have practised) is a recognition that thoughts appear. And that any thought that appears give rise to huge cortex processing. Think "Mother" - that word alone will give rise to enormous amounts of memory, and depending upon your experience, remembered happiness, remembered love, remembered shame, regret, sadness, pride, longing, belonging . ... These in turn give rise to echoing thoughts and emotions, of gratitude, of love, of despair, anger ... And then will link to similar situations where you've faced despair, other circumstances you have felt love .... and so on.
A network of connections is triggered (then re-triggers in turn a new set of connections (then re-triggers in turn a new set of connections ( then re-triggers and so on...... Each set of connections is weaker and quieter. A mind-map - quite literally.
In meditation, the objective is to allow the word "Mother" pop up if it does, and not fire off those connections. For that word - or any other word or thought - to be evaluated for itself, for it not to drowned out by tree of connections it would normally fire off in your busy head.
This is what I mean by non-verbal-thinking. It brings to mind for me, somtimes. the ludicrous picture of a cow looking at a tractor. She just looks at it. She doesn't load the word 'tractor' with thoughts of gasoline, oil, pistons, cubic capacity, harvesting, big rubber tyres, ploughing, snow-clearing, accidents, farmers and so on. Just simply - 'tractor'.
I hope I have explained well enough to answer your question about non-verbal-thinking. Your limbic system, of which your animal brain is chief director, and your subconscious, are prime examples of thought that is not in words.
Justb a final comment - because I think humans are pretty damn clever. If you look at the language of woo, including meditation, it correctly identifies this part of the brain. You don't go to a 'higher' level - or a left or right place - you go to a 'deeper' level - which is a damn good (but simplistic) description of the animal brains position. Under and buried within the cortex. You don't deal with 'surface' concepts, but 'deeper' truths.
I am not in the slightest 'spiritual'. I will call BS on nearly every meditation teacher, guru, or whatever. The spiritual only exists insofar as the word spiritual labels those subconscious parts of ourselves we don't normally take notice of, because they are overshadowed by our cortex.
Hope I am making sense - and interesting sense at that.
"Transliminality is a totally new word to me. A quick glance at wikipedia makes me pretty sure its a BS word for a BS concept. The inventor of the word is a woowoo-ist."
I'd like to briefly comment
Less difference between animals and humans. Very much so. The difference is language - very much a construct of the enlarged cortex.
Agree to lots of evidence of sub/conscious interaction.
Agree to the meaningful way to access those subconscious bits that float up. Except I think we are aware of them - we just don't recognise it as such. "I know in my heart", "Gut feeling", "Instinct". Aversion to certain foods, attraction to particular members of the opposite genital grouping. Religion. Belief in homeopathy.
We can find lots of examples where the logic, rational, reasoning and verbal part of the human is simply defending a decision, and not making a decision. I would contend these are examples of the subconscious communicating the result of it's deliberations.
Further I contend that largely the 'animal' brain is our subconscious, and that sub-conscious is almost a synonym for 'non-verbal'.
Your reply is conceptually pretty much the one I would have made, except I think yours was much better than one I would have written.