Consciousness is a loop and meditation is a positive feedback loop. By contrast, ordinary everyday life, what the Buddhists call “the ego”, constitutes a negative feedback loop; the goal is to maintain homeostasis—adaptive reliability, especially is the office or the workplace. The process can be described in the following stages, adapted from David Foster:
1. Soporific comfort
2. Need (pain)
3. Satisfaction of need (anti-pain)
4. Soporific comfort
This is homeostasis; we seek to return to comfort or normality when we face an external challenge—we do not grow, we return to the stable point. Positive feedback, by contrast, leads to exponential—sometimes uncontrolled—growth: it either leads to explosive developments that “break” the system at that level or it leads to a total block—it runs to infinity or it runs to zero.
In meditation we sit still and observe our thoughts and feelings; then we observe the observer observing the observer observing the observer observing the observer—and so on forever. In other words, in meditation we create a positive feedback loop as opposed to our ordinary “ego state” where we seek homeostasis. When meditation’s positive feedback loop “breaks the system” we experience satori or the Enlightened state—the “explosion” is Enlightenment, it is like a flash of lightning: we experience Maslow’s peak experience, immense joy and a sense that everything is intensely meaningful; just as a mother will see the morning sunlight on her newborn baby’s head and, despite the washing up and other chores, feel immense satisfaction and warmness—joy that overwhelms.
The meditative process makes us aware of awareness of awareness of awareness of awareness of awareness; the exponential explosion represents a “breakout” from one level of awareness to a higher level—suddenly you see the world freshly, you see that everything is interconnected and dependent, whereas as previously everything seemed entirely separate. The sudden increase in awareness constitutes a density in meaning because everything now has a purpose, being connected to everything else—ultimately in some looped way, or perhaps as a bubble grows within a bubble.
The normal ego helps you to navigate the social world—largely a world of lies—and merely seeks to return you to homeostasis to perform functions. The ego-world feels dead and meaningless because it is constrained to very particular functions that require a homeostatic and adaptive state. Awareness is not a priority in goal-orientated behaviour; indeed, goal-orientated behaviour that seeks to satisfy immediate needs will dampen awareness—it will suppress positive feedback loops in awareness.
Hence the basic religious intuition that discomfort is necessary to achieve beatific states is true because homeostasis seeks to avoid pain and return a system to a stable state; however, to grow—cybernetically or otherwise—you must discomfort yourself; hence in meditation you have to sit in a certain position, stare at a blank wall, and become bored—the ego tries to return to homeostasis, to distract you and make you relieve the tedium; yet if you stick with it then you will move to the next level.
The reason why there is little meaning to be found in day-to-day life and goal-orientated thought is that this mostly concerns homeostasis—it mostly seeks to maintain your system and your family system at a certain comfort level; it returns to baseline and does not seek development. Consequently, those people who develop to a higher level—spiritually or otherwise—may appear very abnormal and may take their feedback loop, their desire to reach another level, so far as to seem mad or no longer within consensus reality; i.e. “the genius”, or a controversial spiritual figure such as Rasputin.
There are many possible positive feedback loops: the reason why a feedback loop in awareness increases the meaningfulness in the world is that when you “pop” to the next level you become more aware that everything is connected—hence this is also connected to the poetic faculty where a car’s windscreenwipers and the way the branches on a tree move are one and the same. However, you would rarely achieve this state through everyday goals and objectives aimed to maintain homeostasis—in fact, these activities occlude the insight through a return to baseline. This is why some forms of religious ecstasy use wild dances (the Dervishes) and other methods to derange the senses—some people seek similar effects in drugs, such as LSD and DMT.
As noted, the positive feedback loop can lead to exponential growth or to a return to zero. These different states can be related to different meditation techniques. Zen meditation, for instance, seeks the pond—the zero; hence the frog is a symbol for Zen. The goal in Zen meditation is to reach zero-state by, for example, batting away every thought and emotion with the label “ego”. When the thought arises you immediately say, “Ego.” This continues in an exponential fashion until there is only a void—complete zero, complete emptiness. The empty hole then reverberates—reflects—the cosmos around it. If, by contrast, you observe the observer observing the observer observing the observer then you exponentially grow the observer to total awareness. The result is roughly the same, total awareness and a breakout from mundane homeostasis; however, the mode and nature of the Enlightenment will be slightly different—the one being “hot” expansion, the other being “cold” zero.