Mirror of Zen Blog

Our Brain’s Best Guess

Our perceptual world alive with colours, shapes, and sounds is nothing more and nothing less than our brain’s best guess of the hidden causes of its colourless, shapeless, and soundless sensory inputs.
We're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality".
Human consciousness is just a tiny region in a vast space of possible consciousnesses.
It may seem as though the self—your self—is the “thing” that does the perceiving. But this is not how things are. The self is another perception, another controlled hallucination, though of a very special kind.
I do see this close alignment between the insights we’re getting from cognitive neuroscience and Buddhism to the extent that things are not necessarily the way they seem. Things can change. There is an impermanence to our experience, to the world, there is an impermanence to the self, and recognizing that impermanence... does open the space for change.
Imagine being a brain. You’re locked inside a bony skull, trying to figure what’s out there in the world. There’s no lights inside the skull. There’s no sound either. All you’ve got to go on is streams of electrical impulses which are only indirectly related to things in the world, whatever they may be. So perception — figuring out what’s there — has to be a process of informed guesswork in which the brain combines these sensory signals with its prior expectations or beliefs about the way the world is to form its best guess of what caused those signals. The brain doesn’t hear sound or see light. What we perceive is its best guess of what’s out there in the world.
It's because we naturally experience the contents of our perception as being real that it becomes harder to appreciate that somebody else might not experience things exactly the same way.
The truth is that all perceptions are acts of interpretation. They're acts of informed guesswork that the brain applies when it encounters sensory data.
We don’t just passively perceive the world; we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much from the inside-out as the outside-in, in a process hardly different from that which we casually call hallucination. Indeed, in a way, we're always hallucinating. It’s just that when we agree about our hallucinations, that’s what we call reality
When the end of consciousness comes, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Nothing at all.
Breathe. Shrink that amygdala, enhance that prefrontal cortex. There is no downside to meditation. 
Long-term meditators also appear somewhat protected from dementia, which makes sense given that meditation causes brain regions linked to complex thought and memory to grow instead of shrink.”

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness

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