I can only do what my body does. Conscious thoughts are not the cause of what my body does; they are comments. Because the body’s actions, what we refer to as decisions, occur regardless of what we think about, we do not make decisions in the way we presume we do. Actions manifest; thoughts do not cause actions.
This awareness is a huge reversal of mind. It uproots our entire way of responding to our thought patterns that incessantly give us the feeling that we must figure out how to manage our life. It is not true. We only get to find out what we do the moment we are doing it, after we are already acting. Because of this reality, our conscious thoughts are never behind our actions in a cause and effect manner. If our actions happen to please our feeling of will then we assume our willful thoughts were responsible for our behavior. We assume we are causal agents.
If we drop out of thinking, or ignore our mind chatter, we can see that our body moves by itself around the house, in the office, everywhere we go, all throughout the day. Our activities occur automatically. Like everything else in nature, we are moved through life, as put forth by the understanding of determinism and naturalism (see definitions on pages 12 and 14).
I came upon the fields of determinism and naturalism after completing my first book, Body Over Mind, and then realized I was a hard determinist (see definition on pages 13-14) and a naturalist, as my work expresses conditions that fit directly into these ways of seeing life and the world. I focus on what I call our “physical reality” that I define as our continuous physical activity in coordination with the progression of the clock. This mirrors the causal chain that determinists refer to (see definition on page 12). I call my version of the causal chain the “tube,” because of the way it describes our personal, seamless stream of behavior in real time. One action by our body morphs into the next, fluidly, and there is no way to interrupt this flow of physical movement.
This observation, that our actions are involuntarily executed by our body, deems us automatons. We are only our body, as everything of us is physical, comprised of the chemical, biological, and total physiological attributes that make up our material person. We consist of matter made up of molecules, atoms, and particles, no different than anything else in the universe. If quantum physics rules, then we are a manifestation of that as well.
The emphasis in my work is to help the mind recognize that our actions emerge independently of our will. Determinists’ and naturalists’ way of saying this is that we are fully caused. They profess our behavior is necessary, caused by unconscious events in the brain that follow the laws of physics and nature, not our desires. As Daniel Wegner (1948-2013), an eminent social psychologist pointed out, as day does not cause night, though it precedes it, something else causes both (Earth rotating around itself in relation to the sun, and whatever causes that, etc.).11 This is the same as all the things we think we cause in our own life, or in someone else’s, or that we believe someone else causes in our life; something else causes all of it. Human beings have no causal power outside of the whole chain of physically occurring phenomena.
Many eastern practices share this perspective. Aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism place great importance on meditation, which helps people acknowledge thoughts for what they are, witness reality in action, and see the messages in thoughts as an unreliable source for understanding our life. One of my favorite quotes reflecting this sentiment is by Robert Rabbin, a contemporary self-awareness teacher and author, in his book, The Sacred Hub:
We see only our own movie, and nothing we do within the movie will ever impact the situation because they are fundamentally different.12
Meditation can be exercised in any moment as it provides a personal opportunity to watch our life unfold regardless of the thoughts in our head. As we learn to untangle our mind from its thought process, our observation of reality can eliminate the place for blame and guilt (on ourself and others) aside from our anger toward, and disappointment in, life itself. If each of us is having a relationship with anything, it is with life.
In this book, I present my work alongside expressions of a selection of scientists, philosophers, neurophilosophers, eastern and western awareness educators, psychiatrists and psychologists, as I believe most of us are saying the same thing. We cannot change reality; things go the way they do and we must cope. My primary reason for emphasizing that we do not have anything to do with the things we do, or that happen to us, is so that we can dismiss the mental and physical efforts we assume necessary to live. Because we cannot personally influence the things we do, good or bad, we do not need to “muscle up”13 to life, or value our mental commentary, unless it makes us feel better.
My work embraces what I call, “The Physical Reality Principle,” of which I outline some basic points:
(1) Our only tool for action is our body.
(2) We can only access our body in the present moment, as that is where we find our physical self.
(3) Whenever we check in with ourself, we find that our body is already in a state of activity/action (i.e., doing something). This state of action is our natural state of being, which innately encompasses some whereabouts, and an inherent activity, which is simply the relationship of our body to its environment, however we define that status (“I am sitting on the couch”).
(4) Because we only have one body to act with and it can never be in two places at once, the activity of our state of being is absolutely the only action physically possible for us in any given moment.
(5) Following this last statement, at least for now (and it is always now), we can never cater to the interests of our mind when it is suggesting we should be acting differently than we are.
In terms of our past and future actions, at those times it was, and will be, now, and, thus, the same conditions in Number 5 pertain. This aligns with the hard deterministic assertion that one “could not have done otherwise”14 than one did, and that one will never be able to be doing otherwise than one will be doing, as the complete state of the universe is exactly how it is in any particular moment, barring any possibility of occurrence outside of what happens.15