Friday, November 12, 2010

Sound Effects, Conditioning, and Pavlov's Dogs

As a teenager in the late 1950's, I was just on time for the surge in interest in Hi-Fi and Stereo equipment and sound. Stereo was everything, and sound effects records were a big favorite of my older Brother and myself. There were albums with animal sounds, doors opening, and race cars and almost every thing you could imagine. One I remember particularly was called "Steam Railways under Thundering Skies". This album would conjure up images of Trains under dark evening skies, threatening clouds and driving rain. Not only was it entertaining to close your eyes and imagine being at the scene, but it was fascinating to think that this flat, black, piece of vinyl, could produce stimuli that in turn, produced thought in the form of memory.

Memory thoughts contain every conditioned thought we have had since we were told we were a boy or a girl, or that the sky is blue. We have a mother and father thought, and the story begins; the story of us. And in very short order, the slightest stimuli brings up thoughts from the "memory world". Many stimuli bring up both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts. Something as simple as the whiff of turkey roasting, may send your mind to Christmas, and a tree, or a beloved toy that Santa had brought. But it may also dredge up Uncle Charlie's drunken rage at the commercialism of Christmas, or your brother braking your new train set. All this just from a whiff of turkey!

We are surrounded by stimuli that a life in this "world" have conditioned to a defined reaction. Some stimuli make us joyful, and others sad, or even depressed. We have little control over the stimuli, it is part of the unfolding of life. But we can change our attitude about the thoughts the stimuli bring up. The smell of the turkey could be simply just the smell of the turkey without all the added baggage.

It is important to keep in mind that everything appears in consciousness, from your personal self to whatever image you hold of God. These are all thoughts, that appear in consciousness; just reflections of "reality". The memory thoughts are of the same substance as these; being conditioned thoughts that you have learned. Just as an infant eventually "perceives" a divide between it's "I" and the mother, the world and all it's objects arises. All it takes is the mind instructing a "you" it has created out of it's total misunderstanding of what it is. The assumed subject must realize it is simply another object and that the true "subject" is unknowable to the assumed subject.

Some events cause transitory pain. There is hunger, there is war. We cannot dismiss the realities of this world, no matter how illusory. Pain that happens in the moment has to be, and is, dealt with in the moment, be it physical or emotional. It may be well dealt with or poorly dealt with, but there is a response to the stimuli. The response is either a response in line with the moment, or it is a response from memory, or perhaps a response from both. Learning in advance how to respond to a physical emergency makes sense, and will give one the ability to overcome the "panic" response, but learned responses to emotional pain can create false images of others and the world. A drunken Uncle Charlie and some bad memory thoughts, and you live the pain every holiday season. The "event" having arisen in thought, holds the same "pain thought" every time you entertain it. And entertain is the right word, for you invite it in and let it have it's way.

That is the key. In finding what is real, discrimination of thought must be a habit. Just as the daily routine of life requires habit, so that it is not a distraction, the useless thoughts and troubling memories need to be politely escorted to the door. They don't need to be given "the bum's rush", but politely ignored so they leave of their own accord. The best way is to try not to invite them in the first place. At the first notice of stimuli, the first whiff of turkey, simply become aware of turkey. Expand it to dressing, if you dare, but at the first sign of embarrassment at memories of Uncle Charlie, or sadness over past disappointments or losses, see those thoughts as what they are, past memories telling a story. Toothless villains vanishing into dust.

Not unlike Pavlov's Dogs, the sound of a "bell", like the smell of a turkey, or the recorded sounds of a thunderstorm, can bring up memories so real we "feel" the emotions and often physical sensations associated with them. In fact, just as the "bell" is rung, or a "seed" of consciousness arises, the whole manifestation arises with it. The important thing to embrace is the sound, the smell, and the wonder, and not the illusive memory thoughts that arise with them. Don't name them, simply be with them in Love.

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