Websurfing as a meditative practice
|Jan 22, 2006|
Yeah, I know, I am being a bit tongue in cheek. At least I didn’t descend into talking about watching TV as a meditative practice. There is a serious purpose here though; which is to pay attention to how knowledge is embodied. I see embodiment as an intermediate stage of understanding knowing, between two extremes — the first where we think of knowledge as a property of our brains and the other knowledge is seen as an abstract logical entity. So, for example, if you look at the way in which you surf the internet (and some derivative features, such as your bookmarks), paying attention to the websites you visit and so on, you practice a way of knowing. These practices elicit a knowledge that is part of your extended mind, one that can rarely be articulated in any explicit manner but that you can demonstrate implicitly via the clicks you make you’re your mouse.
This gave me the idea that contemplative practice should be like this too — the purpose of meditative practice is to draw out an essence that’s impossible to state explicitly. Given this insight into the embodiment of knowledge, what does it mean to be truly “yourself”, the classic goal of many a contemplative tradition? Just as plenty of implicit knowledge is embedded in your websurfing, your real self may not be amenable to philosophical or theoretical explication, and yet you might have deep intuitions about being “true to yourself” that you can act out in the world in various forms of ethical intervention. Like Gandhi said, “be the change that you want to see in this world”. I think there is much to be learnt by seeing (literally) how obstacles to “being” yourself are themselves forms of “knowing”, tied to coarse mental formations.