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One of the weirdest things about the whole consciousness harangue that is our existence and that I rarely hear brought up is that there is a center to our awareness and edges to it. Things can be at the edges of our perception and actively ignored or in the center of our focus and consuming us. I'm conscious of my fingers striking keys as I type these sentences but I am rarely paying much attention to the sensation. I'm seeing a screen with a lot of text on it and the only part I'm really paying attention to is the character I just typed and the one I want to type next and the word they form. All of these things are at the center of consciousness in a way that the tension in my back or the barely perceptible itching on my forehead are not. If I turn my attention inward I can perceive thoughts and concepts that I know extend to other thoughts and concepts across some vast web of mental architecture and I am very dimly aware of its shape.

If it's not clear I've got a atypical fixation on this stuff. I'm this thing inside my mind, inside my body, looking out at the world and I really don't understand how I work. More over there are several things about myself that I've noticed and that I now know but can only barely describe because English just doesn't have the descriptive power for them. A few examples, my (and I assume everybody's) subconscious is constantly burbling a nonsense slurry of qualia that I'm just barely aware of in my waking life. I think this process is where dreams come from in a literal mechanical sense. I know this because I've mixed napping and vipassana meditation and managed to witness the actual transition from just barely awake to just barely asleep and the accompanying pseudo-sensory torrent of sights, sounds, sensations, and pure semantic notions just sort of flowing with no clear rhyme or reason. On one hand it was spooky, catching my mind dissolving into literal chaos, and on the other hand it was very enlightening to see in no uncertain terms what I assume is a major component of creativity and thought usually kept behind the cognitive curtain.

Emotional engagement/reactivity is controlled by a sensation behind the eyes that feels like the homuncular center of consciousness moving forward or backward in the head. You can learn to control this consciously and probably have without noticing that's what your doing. The attention and sensorium is literally pulsing in time with your breathing, getting sharper with the inhalations and duller with the exhalations. This is being filtered out of awareness in the same way that you don't constantly notice your nose in your visual field but it comes through from time to time when you are very still or very tired. You can feel your psycho-motor instruction stack swaps. Any time you deliberately shift your attention from one thing to another there's a single mental tick given over to the transition which as far as I can tell can not be eliminated.

Now if you're anything like me you're caught between thinking those are all interesting claims and Dusty has lost it. The sad thing is I'm in the exact same spot. I can perceive my own mind with fuzzy clarity and I didn't discover most of this stuff until I had certain concepts from mindfulness as a sort of introspective magnifying glass. I can't see other peoples' minds at all; only try to reconstruct them from the bits of evidence and psychological research that I glean from time to time. I'm not a Buddhist but I massively prefer their phenomenology to the castles in the sky built by continental philosophy. Until I get the lexical toolbox for all of the stuff that I've noticed I'll just have to content myself by saying that in between the light of direct attention and pitch black of unconsciousness there are a lot of things experienced but never noticed.

IRON NODER XIV: THE RETURN OF THE IRON NODER