This post, written by Gary Weber, is a companion to the July 5 VoiceAmerica interview with Gary Weber, Using Brain Science to Enhance Leadership. Gary talks about our personal mental operating systems and how to replace them with an updated one.
Replacing our current “I”-based, mental operating system (OS I) with an upgrade, largely by reducing the self-referential internal narrative (SRIN), is something I have been exploring for a while. The belief that our current OS has become “maladaptive,” was discussed in the blogpost “Does your nondual awakening benefit ‘everyone’? the world?” and in the video “dysfunctional evolution of the mind.”
OS I developed about 75,000 years ago. (see blogpost “How old is the “I”? How/why did it come into existence?…new science”) Our predecessors split off from our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees, about 6,000,000 years ago; the “I”-based OS 1 has been in operation for about one percent of the time we have been distinct from other primates.
Our brain size increased three times after that split from the chimpanzees until when we developed OS 1. Many structural, organization, and neural modifications evolved before OS 1 could emerge.
As we know, our current OS has many limitations. It is difficult to focus on important “stuff” with the continual interference from our SRIN. “Does insufficient apoptosis cause cancer?” competes with “Why did Jane treat me the way she did?” “I’ll tell her next week what I think of her,” “I should stop eating ice cream—Greek yogurt would be better”; “What should I wear tonight?”, etc.
The persistent SRIN also consumes huge amounts of energy, wastes much bandwidth, and increases negative energy. It also results in emotionally-charged memories that lead to depression, anxiety, dis-ease, worries, craving, attachment, suffering, etc.
The recognition that SRIN was THE problem causing “my” personal unhappiness occurred when I was in grad school walking to campus. I just could not believe that this never-ending cacophony of the SRIN was how we were supposed to live “our lives.” There had to be a better way. So, I set out to see if and how SRIN could be reduced or perhaps even eliminated, while still retaining functionality in the “real” world.
As an empirical scientist “in-training,” I conducted this investigation totally empirically. Every understanding had to be personally validated. There would be no philosophy, theory, or teachings from millennia ago. To make certain that I had the best possible data, I developed some design parameters:
- Any information had to come from sources alive now, or who were alive while I was alive.
- There had to be movies/videos, photographs, and direct transcripts of the information from any of the sources.
- My preference was to personally see the sources, or talk to folk who had.
- The sources would be in first-language English to avoid misunderstandings from translations.
- The sources must have been validated by well-known and credible “experts.”
- Ongoing direct feedback on progress/success was critical for a DIY approach. Good news/bad news, SRIN provided continuously-available feedback…if SRIN was there, more work was needed.
- The process must retain/enhance functional “real world” performance.
- Happiness would increase, and suffering, stress, and anxiety would decrease.
- The result would be a change in life, not just experiences; it would be a new OS.
- It would be scientifically verifiable.
The source that met all of these parameters was Ramana Maharshi. I also drew upon sources who partially met these parameters, like the late Toni Packer (my iconoclastic Zen teacher), J. Krishnamurti, Amrit Desai, Swami Rama, Roshi Eido Shimano, etc.
As described in my book Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening, I did many direct empirical exercises to understand thoughts, how they were constructed, whether they were continuous or intermittent, energetic or not, linked or “stand alone,” how the “I” was constructed, etc. With that perspective, particularly “Who Am I?”, I embarked on an intensive program of self-inquiry and “I” deconstruction.
SRIN occurs when my blood sugar gets low (hypoglycemic) or I am very tired. Some early mornings, there is a short clearing out of some residual “stuff” from the day before, such as “Is this important, or should we dump it?” mode. If you don’t take advantage of the invitation to explore, it just vanishes…the brain gets its answer.
Surprisingly, a loss of self-referential desires and fears, as well as dramatically enhanced functional capability occurred with the disappearance of SRIN/”I”.
What also fell away, which was a total surprise, was “free will,” or “control”—without an “I”, there was no other logical possibility. Despite expectations of chaos and anxiety, it was incredibly sweet. Life without the illusion that one is, or can be, in control is like having the world lifted from your shoulders.
There is also much scientific validation manifesting now, for example in the value of meditation. This is described in the blogposts: “Folk who meditate decrease mind wandering“, “Do your mystical experiences fit with w/quantum physics? neuroscience?”, “What is the Default Mode Network?”, “What is really ‘real’? What does ‘nothing is real’ mean?”.
There is no doubt that much more will be discovered going forward; we are at the beginning of what cognitive neuroscience will find. A big question is whether it is possible to decrease SRIN without extensive meditation experience. We have evidence that it is absolutely possible based on my experience with clients.
As to why more folk don’t reach the state of a decreased SRIN:
- They do not believe it is possible.
- They will not let go of their attachments.
- They will not let go of their suffering (often caused by the SRIN).
I believe we are at a tipping point. If we don’t make fundamental changes now in how we function, our egoic/”I” operating system OS 1 could well destroy us. The change from the belief that the “I” is a constant, fixed, real entity to understanding that it is an “ad hoc,” haphazardly-assembled, mental construct, needs to be as fundamental and clear as our knowledge that the earth is round. And, in my humble opinion, it needs to happen soon.
About the author
Gary Weber, PhD, is a subject/collaborator in neuroscience studies at Yale, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the Baumann Foundation, the Center for Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, at Johns Hopkins, and at Penn State.
From 2000 to 2004 he was an associate vice president of research for Penn State responsible for all technology transfer operations of the University, including angel investing, venture capital, licensing, patenting and start-up support. He was also responsible for external industrial R&D contracts and interfaces with the University.
In the late 1990s, Gary was senior vice president of science and technology for PPG responsible for all corporate R&D with four research laboratories, approximately 1000 engineers, scientists, and technical folk, and a $260MM budget. He was also a member of the Executive Committee.
Since then he has been researching and writing about happiness beyond thought. He is applying his extensive research skills to helping leaders.