I had a recent experience while meditating. I am noticing deeper and deeper forms of relaxation, softening, letting go of habits of self definition. I was becoming absorbed in the play of a certain form purple colored energy that was rich and vibrant. Then, I noticed a thought being born, as it were, out of the this field of energy. My attention immediately gravitated to the thought creating a split between the awareness of energy and the awareness of the thought about the energy.
As soon as my attention "fixed" on this new thought, the awareness of the energy faded into the background. Why should this be so?
The awareness of the field of energy had much less of a sense of "I am watching the energy". It was much more a sense of being in and part of the energy field itself. Thus, it was less dualistic, less object related. As the thought was born, so to speak, it immediately gave birth, as well, to the I that says or feel "I know the thought".
This is interesting to try and puzzle over. Is there an I or me experiencing a thought, as if that thought was something other than the emergence of a form of the purple field of energy? The thought differentiated itself from the energy, but still was a form of that energy. But the "I" that perceives the thought no longer recognizes the origin of the thought (or itself). Instead, it treats the I and the thought as "other" in relationship to the energy and then the energy as a generative background is forgotten altogether.
From a Buddhist point of view the very origin of our suffering comes from this habit of fixating on the self and the thought as separate from the energetic ground of its arising. This can seem like a terribly abstract way of describing philosophy, but, what I am describing is not philosophy, it is an actual experience arising from meditation practice.
I am interested in this because I am interested in the self and its circumstances, and in the many forms that self experience takes, especially in troubled children.
Here is another experience, this time in the realm of "image". While doing Qi-gong in the morning, and, again, becoming deeply relaxed and following the energy move in my body (not abstractly but tangibly) I "saw" an image that looked to me like what a baby might experience upon being midway through the birth canal (assuming the head is to be born first). This lead to me to suddenly intuitively "see" that the self must have more than one womb it must navigate in order to be born and there are many different forms of caesura that we might cross in our experience.
The hypothesis goes like this: there is the actual womb of the mother and actual development of the fetus. The fetus begins to dream long before its actual birth. After an actual birth moving from womb to a wider world, protected by mother and family and their collective reverie, the infant has several new wombs to grow in.
First, there is the womb of sensation, which has a model of the actual fetal life already deeply activated in memory.
Second, there is the womb of image-making, a kind of self organizing process that Melanie Klein felt accompanied all sensations and that she called "unconscious phantasy". Bion called this activity into question, believing that the image making function of transforming sensation into the building blocks of dreams and meaning was highly variable and profoundly experience dependent in all babies and mother - baby pairs. In other words, he felt there was a greater complexity involved than an automatic capacity to turn sensation into dreams.
Third, there is the womb of language, and of symbols in general. This, of course, is the source of complex description in many theorists (perhaps foremost in Lacan). I will simply note how important it is to learn to make a story of your experience that is coherent and meaningful, and, how, at the same time, on another level, we become trapped in our stories. There is a constructive development of symbol making and at the same time an alienating aspect too. As Lacan has shown, we can become trapped in the stories of others, mistaking them as our own desire.
Finally, what has begun to dawn on me, from experience as much as from anything else, is that we need to be born into the "now-here" of our experience again and again. At any point we can turn away, turn inside, and live in the confined space of a womb of sensations, a womb of images, or a womb of symbols. The "real" birth that comes (or perhaps never is possible) is the birth into the direct experience of what Bion called "O"-- awareness of the vast mystery of life and creation that is completely silent to our own narcissistic, grandiose, determined meaning making selves. That does not make life meaningless (the trap of nihilism). Instead, it puts our lives in a new vastly wider context. It reveals the dimension of what some would call "the sacred" or the mystery that our stories and images too often drain of vitality or trivialize.
Mike Eigen helpfully writes about wordlessness. So much that is important, he said to me once, is beyond what can be put into words. He noted that I love words, and he encouraged me to make friends with the wordless dimensions, not to rely too much on words, in case I miss other more subtle or fleeting elements of my own evolving experience.
One thing I have learned from working with autistic children is that for some children words can be barriers and for other children words can become bridges. But we must not confuse words (and concepts) with experience itself. What Bion means by "O" is all that which is beyond words. But that does not make it unreal, psychotic, or meaningless.
I continue to "practice" for a viable birth into the direct experience of learning how to grow in O because O is not separate, somewhere else. I am O. We are all O trying to know ourselves, fragments of O trying to wake into the wonder of it all.