The "microgenesis" of experience

Guy Claxton (in Chapter 3) adopts an embodied cognition perspective to explore how the “microgenesis” of moment-to-moment experience is revealed through regular meditation practice. Using metaphors, he describes how we are generally unaware of the subtle processes by which cognitions and feelings manifest. Cognitions, for example, may unfurl from subtle cues in our environment, so subtle that we are unaware of them. Feelings too may “well up,” building to a point where we become aware of them (e.g., as a lump in the throat during the narration of a tragic story). But through the process of repeatedly paying attention (through concentration and enquiry) via meditation practice, over time we become gradually more aware of these subtle processes as they become conscious, rising to the surface like bubbles. With practice, we catch them earlier in their upward drift and understand more of their genesis. My vague feeling of discomfort is associated with the sound of a distant voice that seemed tinged with anger, which I had barely noticed. And, as a result, my current actions are somehow unfolding in a defensive and anxious way. Guy Clax- ton suggests that our crude binary distinction between what is conscious and unconscious is revealed by meditation practice to be masking what is in reality a gradual slope that we can explore. The practice of meditation changes our awareness by retraining our sensitivity so we break the hypnotic spell that allows us only to see the bubbles when they break noisily on the surface of the water.

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