The Theatre of the Mind, hallucinations and Mindful Presence

“How the theater of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain” – Charles Bonnet (1720-1793)

A couple of articles I have read recently have resonated with both memories of my grandmother and also my current mindfulness practice.

The theatre of the mind quote at the start of this article comes from Charles Bonnet, a natural scientist, naturalist and philosophical writer. In 1760, he described a condition now called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, in which vivid, complex visual hallucinations occur in psychologically normal people. He documented it in his 87-year-old grandfather, who was nearly blind from cataracts in both eyes but perceived men, women, birds, carriages, buildings, tapestries and scaffolding patterns. It is quoted in a TED talk given by Oliver Sacks. To see the talk, click on the link below:

My grandmother, Lorna (born in 1914, who died in 1998) was blind for over 60 years of her life. She was born with perfect sight and for the first 24 years had no problems at all. Just after she and grampy got married in June 1938, she developed septicemia and subsequently lost her sight. She was a fighter all her life; having 3 children; bringing up two of them and trying really hard to lead a normal life. I remember visiting her in her later years and often she would talk about people as if they were there in the room with her. I now wonder if she was impacted with Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Else, it was her fantastic memory. I can still remember taking her shopping and her ability to be able to remember the prices of goods was astounding.

The other article I read concerned mindful presence. In it, the author dissects the phrase into two sections:

Mindfulness is simply a clear, non-judgmental awareness of your inner and outer worlds. In particular, it’s an awareness of the flow of experience in your inner world – an alert observing of your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, desires, memories, images, personality dynamics, attitudes, etc.

Presence refers to the stability of mindfulness, which means the degree to which you are grounded in awareness itself.

Often over the past week I have been caught up in the elements of the day, but, I have also had those moments (and they are getting more frequent) of a sense of calm; of being in the moment; without the rush of thoughts, feelings, emotions. If you have a couple of minutes, you might like to read the full article her:

As always, I leave you with a quote:

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

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