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The Proprioception of Thought
By Martin LeFevre
Jul 5, 2022, 5:24pm

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Proprioception -- sometimes called the 'sixth sense' -- refers to "the body's ability to sense movement, action and location." It's accomplished by proprioceptors, specialized neurons located within muscles, tendons and joints. Can it apply to the awakening of the human being?

Without proprioception, we couldn't walk without visually and consciously focusing on every step. The ability to touch your nose with your eyes closed is a classic example of proprioception. Sensing the amount of force to apply when writing vs. picking up a brick is another. Older people often suffer from loss of proprioception, which leads the inability to walk straight and to injuries through falling.

I read recently of a Brazilian study that made a high correlation between the ability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds and longevity. Try doing so with your eyes closed; it isn't easy at any age.

So where am I headed in talking about this 'sixth sense' of proprioception? Simply this. Clearly, humans have no proprioception for the movement of thought. Not able to perceive when thought (which, psychologically speaking, is the movement of conditioning) is operating usefully or clouding our perception and distorting our feeling, we're continually stumbling in the darkness generated by thought.

To awaken is to develop, without effort or will, our capacity to be proprioceptive of the movement of thought within oneself.

Pause and think on that for moment. To be proprioceptive to thought means that rather than react from conditioning, we grow in responding from insight and understanding. That's a lifetime thing, whether one 'attains enlightenment' or not.

What is the utility of the emergence of proprioception of thought for the human species? Does it represent an evolutionary leap, enabling Homo sapiens to grow into an authentically intelligent species? Does it distinguish, in perpetuity, the human being from artificial intelligence, however much content AI encompasses and speed it acquires? I feel so.

However the proprioception of thought makes psychological thought more of a problem for one rather than less. One literally has a sense of unneeded and toxic residue accumulating in the brain, mind and heart. That necessitates taking at least a half hour every day to passively observe thought and self into stillness.

To be sure, some conscious ordering is necessary as well. Distinct from methodless meditation, one asks things like: Why did I react that way? How much is the darkness and sickness of society affecting one?

Each person has to grapple with questions like these alone. However no matter how rational one's reasoning process is, reason alone isn't enough, and analysis is paralysis.

We've come to the end of the so-called Enlightenment. True enlightenment is not based on and does not flow from reason and the intellect.

Right observation is non-directed observation that includes the infinite regression of the observer, and thereby ends the ancient separative habit. Concentration is a completely different animal than attention, which gathers unseen during passive observation of thoughts and emotions as they arise in the mirror of nature.

This is where proprioception comes in. The awakened, if not illumined person 'feels' the movement of thought, almost like feeling the movement of one's arm with one's eyes closed. The movement of thought has become, to say the least, problematic for the individual.

We're not talking about functional thought - learning a language, driving a car, building a house, etc. Rather dysfunctional thought - self-centered activity, painful and destructive memories, and emotional reactions from unexamined anger and hate.

Human consciousness has muddled along for tens of thousands of years. However consciousness based on thought, which is inherently divisive in the psychological realm, has become untenable in an increasingly violent, insecure and chaotic culture and world.

When you become aware of the movement thought, you directly and emotionally perceive that you are conditioned, and that conditioning is enslavement to the past, to consumeristic and political propaganda, and to a sick society.

But when you passively observe the movement of thought, without judgment, choice, analysis or choice, the very act of undivided observation acts on the movement of thought, non-volitionally putting thought in order, and quieting it.

That's just the beginning of stepping out of conditioning and stepping up as a human being. Because without implying becoming, which involves time and a separate entity, one realizes that time and thought are the same thing. There is no thought without time, and there is no time without thought.

The residues of the past now so saturate human consciousness that darkness and consciousness as we know it have become synonymous. Observe without the observer separating and the self choosing, and attention acts on the entire movement of thought, quieting the mind.

The proprioception of the cumulative movement of thought is no longer just for contemplatives and mystics, but has become a matter of inward survival for the individual and humanity.


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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