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A Circular Autopsy of Absorption

Knut Hamsun wrote: "My soul broods. Mechanically I walk over to a tree, pull my cap low over my eyes and lean with my back against the tree, hands clasped behind my neck. I gaze and think, the flames from my fire dazzle my eyes, but I feel nothing. For some time I stand in this meaningless attitude, looking into the fire. My legs are the first to forsake me, they grow weary, and I sit down stiffly. Only now do I think what I have been doing. Why did I stare so long into the fire?"*

Step 1: "My soul broods" - a problem of mood, a problem of emotional self-regulation.

Step 2: "Mechanically I walk over to a tree, pull my cap over my eyes and lean..." - an intuitive solution of introspection is endeavored.

Step 3: "I gaze and think, the flames from my fire dazzle my eyes..." - an episode of concentrative, one-pointed contemplation ensues.

Step 4: "But I feel nothing" - the mere fact of tracing the origin of the brooding soul, the cognitive narrowing onto the source of suffering, the intuitive "where's all this coming from?" inquiry takes the mind to an orbit of ("nirvanic") meta-cognitive distance, to an orbit of content-less being.

Step 5: "For some time I stand in this meaningless attitude, looking into the fire" - lost in thought or lost in no-thought, in mindful mindlessness, saved by the intuitive "gaze meditation" upon flames. The perennial problem of the brooding soul - incinerated "by looking into the fire."

Step 6: "My legs are the first to forsake me, the grow weary, and I sit down stiffly" - the Body, a homeostatic alarm clock, wakes up the wandering Mind to... an Autopsy of Absorption (Step 7): "Why did I stare so long into the fire?"

These seven steps of absorption seem to be repeated over and over as we go, round and round, lost and found in the ruminative fjords of absorption...

*Knut Hamsun, Pan.

 Copyright, 2008

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.