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Emptiness of Mental Imagery

emptiness of mental imagery

Nondual Guided Meditation with Michael Taft

Mental imagery is a major component of thinking for a human being. However, How much of this mental imagery is available to conscious introspection varies widely between individuals. Some people see a lot of mental images all the time, some (consciously) experience almost none, and most are somewhere in between. Nevertheless, the brain makes use of mental images all the time to organize aspects of self and world. For example, we have a mental map of our house that exists as a series of images, either consciously or semi-consciously. We reference these images all the time (perhaps unconsciously) when we are remember how to get from room to room, what’s in each room, and so forth.

For complex historical reasons, our society doesn’t reference mental images very much; we tend not to consider them to be “thinking.” Usually, when we say “thinking” what we mean is “mental talk.” This bias is not present in every culture. And there is a case to be made that mental images are a much more important and fundamental aspect of thinking than mental talk. After all, animals evolved eyes hundreds of millions of years before articulate speech, and presumably the ability to generate mental images evolved hundreds of millions of years before the ability to generate mental speech. So it’s probable that mental imagery functions at a much deeper and more fundamental level of the brain, and idea that is congruent with the fact that for so many people mental imagery is only available at a semi-conscious level (before sensitizing themselves to it in meditation).

One of the main goals of nondual meditation is to see the constructedness of our sense of self and world. Because mental images play such a fundamental role in that constructedness, being able to consciously meditate upon them and see their emptiness (i.e. notice their constructedness) is crucial to deepening awakening. In this guided meditation, we dig in and do vipashyana on mental imagery.

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