Accessing the Self-as-Context while having fun

During these idle times, if you are sick of making bread, I invite you to partake in an experience in getting closer to the Self-as-Context, from your home.

The Self-as-Context is a difficult animal to capture, because it doesn’t exist in itself, as an object. In fact, it is a particular behavior of observing— observing that which observes-, which disappears, in a way, as soon as one becomes aware of it. However, there is a simple way to access it in a small way: just plug your ears.

A few years ago, practitioners proposed to their patients suffering from auditory hallucinations to place an ear-plug in one of their ears. It was based on the hypothesis of differential hemispheric stimulation, which was, ultimately, never proven. It has been thought that, rather, plugging one ear led patients to focus on what they heard around them and that this extra attention to the outside diverted attention away from the hallucinations, thus decreasing their frequency a little in return.

This is the simple experience that I invite you to try today: put in ear-plugs (in each ear this time) and continue with your everyday activities. At first, you will probably become more aware of your auditory perception, since this experience will be new and different. Then, little by little, your attention to the sounds around you will decrease and you will become aware of, not what you hear, but who is listening. It is what we are seeking.

By allowing some distance from one of your senses, you are slightly modifying the usual integration of your Self, which is usually done naturally through the senses, through proprioception, and the awareness of it all. By slightly modifying your usual way of perceiving, you can better catch the difference between you and your perceptions. You can thus more easily focus your attention on a Self which perceives everything else (Self-as-Process) and which, more importantly, notices that it perceives, precisely because the perception (auditory in this example) is different from usual. You, thus, have an experience similar to that carried out by a defusion exercise in which language is used in slightly different ways than usual by changing the prosody or the timbre.

Don’t have an earplug? No problem, put whatever is in your hand. A bagpipe or a seashell would work just as well. More seriously, there are a number of ways to slightly modify ones perceptions. You could also, for example, immerse your ears underwater in your bath, wear an eye patch, use your contact lenses for only one eye rather than both (if you wear them, that is), or even experience complete darkness with your eyes wide open, putting your head under the duvet, or spending a moment in a cupboard or cellar without lighting. One of our colleague describes a similar experience during the total solar eclipse of 1999, of which she described as a moment of unity, connection, communion. The experience was so strong for her that she became “hunter of eclipses”, or rather, “hunter of Self-as-Context”!

Translated by Chelsea Davis-Laurin

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