Experience the Eenie-Weenie


chase tail composite

At the heart of anything and everything is a weird kind of spiral movement that is like a dog chasing its tail…


Experience: Table of Contents

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9


“Life seems to resolve itself down to a … squiggling little nucleus that is trying to make love to itself and can never quite get there.”

Like a dog chasing its tail. What is the meaning of life? A dog chasing its tail. What is life made of? What is anything and everything made of? Something that reminds one of a dog chasing its tail.

My preoccupation with the idea of a Möbius spinning stems directly from insights equivalent to Allan Watts’ realization. It is a weird spinning motion that seems to dovetail right back into itself, and arise out of its own center. It closes back on itself, but not in a normal three dimensional fashion. It is not just a closed loop, or a spiral spinning around. It is like a spiral, but it folds back into itself in a non-three dimensional way. And it wells up from its own center.

This idea/insight/perception has implications on many levels. Let’s name a few:

1. String theory. Modern physics has backed itself into a corner called “string theory”. The idea is that electrons, photons and all the other micro-microscopic “-ons” are not points in space, but are extended objects like little strings. This is a contentious issue in physics. Not something I want to get into here (see my two favorite physics blogs, 1, 2, for ongoing bickering). But the contingencies of modern physics seem to point in no other direction.

upaThere is this stringy little something, spinning around, and it does so in a multi-dimensional space. This little squiggle thing that Alan Watts identified, the Eenie-Weenie, was at the base of everything, and might well be the true form of the strings. Just recently, the poor physicists have discovered that are some 10^500 (that is a 10 followed by 500 zeroes for those who don’t know scientific notation) possible forms for the stringy thingy. They don’t have a way to tell which one is the right one: it’s the one that is chasing its own tail and never quite getting there.

2. Kundalini. Kundalini is the metaphorical serpent at the base of the spine. Certain advanced yogic practices “awaken” this serpent. This is a metaphorical way to say that the practices activate a specific type of (extreme) experience in people’s awareness. It is an extreme level of experience with much in common with the states of psychedelic inebriation discussed earlier.

Lakshmi_and_Vishnu_by_anandamayaThe reason Kundalini is described as a coiled serpent is because, when it uncoils, one feels a spiral energy move up and down the main axis of the body, centered on the spinal column. At low intensity, it feels merely like shivers running up and down the back. At high intensity, it feels as if one is literally a slinky (you know, the toy) and that one’s very being is a spiral energy or movement.

Slinky(2)Again, this spiral movement is not a simple spiral or circular spinning motion. No, it has that weird property of seeming to well up out of nowhere and to fold back onto itself. Further, it’s not just a sensation in the skin (called a somatosensation for you neurophysiology aficionados). The spiral sensation is also present in the mind. One’s thoughts, emotions and perceptions also spiral in this weird self-eating fashion; the snake eating its own tail, Ouroboros.

ouroboros-1-1Even if you don’t believe in Kundalini, at the very least, this suggests that spiral patterns of electricity are whipping through the brain synaptic networks under these conditions.

3. Natural phenomena. How many things are spiral-like in nature? Hmmm? Galaxies: young ones. The old ones spiral themselves out and become big giant spheres. I mentioned the subatomic particles above: they all spin too. Solar systems are also spinning around. How many plants have a spiral shape? How about DNA and proteins? Their basic shapes are also spirals. Many of the fibers in animal bodies are spiral in shape: collagen, hair, skin, muscle. Even the pattern of how electricity moves through the heart can take on a spiral-like shape, spiraling around the chambers of the heart and affecting the contraction of the muscle.

Spiraling molecules combine together in ways that make other shapes. Hair appears straight but is made of such spiraling molecules. Sometimes the spirals manifest in the macroscopic form of the hair and people have “curly” hair to various extents. Millions of dollars are spent on products to straighten the hair out: an uphill battle against nature’s spirals.



Spinning Out Of Control

I could keep going with such examples, but hopefully you get the point. Allan Watts’ perception/insight that:

“The whole fabulous complexity of vegetable and animal life, as of human civilization, is just a colossal elaboration of the Eenie-Weenie trying to make the Eenie-Weenie”

is not just some abstract thing. You can see it everywhere around you in living and so-called nonliving matter.

At this point, whether you think I am a raving lunatic or not, let us just grant that this Eenie-Weenie is at the root of things. That the root of things is nothing but a weird spinning motion, not just around and around in a circle, but weirder: it wells up from its center and spirals around and folds back into itself, trying to grab at its own center. But it disappears into itself before it can latch back onto itself: “As I pursue my own tail, it runs away from me.”

What does this have to say about our life and experience? What are the implications?

When one asks: “what am I?”, or “Who am I?”, and probes deep enough, they discover the Eenie-Weenie. It is just a spinning motion. But who or what is doing the spinning? No matter how hard one peers into it, one always gets the same answer: no one, nothing. Nothing is doing the spinning. There is only spinning; round and round forever chasing its tail. Welling up from seeming nowhere and fading back into whence it came, and never quite achieving its goal of touching itself.


17 thoughts on “Experience the Eenie-Weenie

  1. PeterJ

    Six more episodes to go bit I’m enjoying this. This gives me some useful thoughts about Lao Tsu’s dynamic description of Tao.

  2. Hi Don,

    The eenie-weenie then, is at the heart of the sameness, or the force that both drives and stabilizes (to some degree) the behavior of all form, although paradoxically, through motion. Is that sort of how you see it? Perhaps the sameness to all of nature is why what I like to call intuition works and has a universal aspect to it. I suppose you could even liken Jung’s (or Plato’s) archetypes as an intuition of specific formations of irreducible ideas.

    In my early thirties, during a particularly crazy time of my life, I began to practice meditation with a group that call themselves Ananda, Church of Self-Realization. The meditation classes were quite good and I was very drawn to meditating at that time. I was also an emotional train wreck waiting to happen with lots of undigested psychological issues that stemmed way back to the beginning of my life.

    After a few months of meditating I crashed emotionally. I literally cried everyday for a year, although the crying was as much a physical reaction as it was psychological. There wasn’t necessarily a lot of thought involved in the emotion, and when there was, I sensed that what was happening was much deeper than thought.

    At some point, roughly a year later, I started to see a Jungian analyst to sort through, and find words, or other forms of articulation to guide me along a process that I felt had started, but needed something…else.

    During the course of the analysis, a lot of stuff emerged. For one, I became aware of many things about myself that were hard to admit. Fear and stubborness had me habituated to a way of engaging both my thoughts and engagement with others. I needed to relearn how to be. I had struggled with identity issues all of my life, and these issues, it turned out, were not only my ruin, but what led me to a fantastic realization, which is of course, that my uncomfortability with identity was all along a manifestation of a deeper, but hidden, realization that identity is at worst, a sham, or a useful construction at best, albeit a very believable one, and something that most people take for granted.

    At some point during the therapy, I awoke from a very significant dream in which I realized I had been fighting the wrong battle all my life. At that moment in the dream I began to have a sensation in my lower back of being electrocuted. It woke me up as the feeling surged straight into my head. The whole thing only lasted seconds, but was so intense that I remained still for some time thereafter.

    I can’t say that this experience brought immediate enlightenment (whatever that is), but slowly, over the next few years, some primary aspect to my awareness did change. The fear that had kept me from being and engaging with others fell away like shedding a heavy garment no longer needed. I began to read voraciously and found a keen sense of intuition about everything. It continues to this day, although it also continues to take practice to refine intuition with everyday life and to ground the intuitions with the weight of living as an embodied person among others.

    So, yes, ultimately, the flow of awareness is what we have/are and what we need. There’s not much that is static in life. It’s freeing though to not keep trying to:

    A) find oneself
    B) really know yourself or others
    C) cripple ourselves with expectations of how things will turn out
    D) expect others to love us enough
    E) expect and try to make desire to go away

    Okay, on to post 3…great stuff Don!

    • PeterJ

      What an interesting story and thanks for telling it. It all makes a lot of sense. But you know, I’m not sure your ending list is quite right. Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But it sounds like you crossed a hurdle there. Good luck for the future.

      • Hello Peter,

        Thanks so much for reading and leaving a note. In response to your comment about the list, I am left wondering more specifically what you mean. Can you say more about what you are seeing? I ask because it’s possible that I am not being clear in my writing and because I don’t have sense of specifically what you’re referring to. Thank you.

      • PeterJ

        Well, I expect this ail all about what you actually mean by the words, and it may not be what I think it is, but item A is an odd one. It seems to contradict the advice of the Oracle at Delphi to ‘Know Thyself’. I would have thought that a Jungian approach would have required this approach since it is required by his Alchemy. Then item B reinforces this idea of not examining oneself. C and D seem useful, but then E appears to rule out any kind of spiritual practice (which always involves taming desire).

        It’s none of my business, of course, and perhaps this is just to do with the choice of words, but the list looks a little counter-productive as written. It was just a thought, and really the list should include whatever works for you.

  3. Hi Peter,

    Thank you! Your reply helps me understand more precisely your statement about the accuracy of my list. Ultimately, as you suggest, we may at least agree that perceptions of what works come down to our individual natures. Maybe too, the language is just not clear. This business of using language to describe the depths, angles and referents can never accurately convey what is primary to it, but we try anyway, yes? Language, especially in a medium such as we are engaging, is all we have.

    To reach a point in life where one is aware of the tail-chasing nature of a so-called knowing of one’s nature might look like a contradiction to the Oracle, but won’t that depend on where one is? What happens after the story of the Oracle of Delphi? What road is taken after getting the joke and abandoning that road?

    What is there to know about me except what is already being known through me (my awareness)? Who am I? I am that which perceives, in all the myriad and complex ways in which that happens. What more can I add to that by looking for something that is not lost, but immediately available through the act of being aware and using that awareness in whatever way I am currently using it.

    Everything else in the list follows from the ceasing of asking what I consider to be silly questions, like who am I? Sure, reflections come and go, The application of awareness happens and flows for me when I immerse myself in whatever I am attending to. I am as I am. That is not a simplification by any means, but an admission to the vast possibilities in which we turn our attention.

    I love to use the example of practice to compare the difference between reflective acts that participate in relationship and those that are self-enclosed loops, or traps.

    In order to participate in anyway that involves other participants or tools which have their own nature and limitations; learning a musical instrument, understanding the functionality of a database, or relating to other humans or one’s pet cat, our mental states become a bridge, or a relationship between what we know and what we desire to know, and, or do.

    For example, If I want to play the drums, what does that mean? To play what drum, with whom, when, where and for what purpose?

    During the course of practice, and given enough time, those questions will come up. They get answered too, over the course of time, through the limitations of how we approach learning, and the expansion of those limitations. What I have learned through practice is that relationship with anyone or anything is an art. It both requires and fosters devotion, time, attentiveness and a refining of purpose, with small understandable and accessible goals along with a willingness to fail.

    I’m not sure what distinction you would make between what I understand as practice and what you refer to as spiritual practice. Are they similar? If not, how would you distinguish them?


    • PeterJ

      As always for such discussions this has become complicated. I’d agree with much of what you say here Debra. But there’s seems to be something amiss. I’d go along with what you say about awareness, but are you sure that not asking questions about it is the same as having the answers? I think the Oracle was suggesting we should find the answers, and only then we will really know what we mean by ‘awareness’.

      Asking the these questions intellectually is not a waste of time I think, although many do think this, but it is limiting because the answer cannot be found in this way, only pointed at. So to that extent I’d agree with your avoidance of intellectual questions. Good idea. But a spiritual practice would see praying (at its best) or sitting in Zen meditation as a way of asking the questions and finding the answers. Or, perhaps leaving the questions unasked and then waiting for the answers would be a better description.

      I’d see ignoring these questions completely as being a bit ostrich-like. Forget the philosophy and the intellection, all the conceptually-fuelled questions buzzing around in your head, they can be put on hold. But no spiritual practice would settle for not knowing the answers to these questions. A person might settle for less, but either a spiritual practice can answer these questions or other practices are better.

      I’m uncomfortable straying from metaphysics into personal psychology because it’s much less easy to speak generally and much more easy to do damage, so take it all with a pinch of salt.

      • Peter,

        “I’d go along with what you say about awareness, but are you sure that not asking questions about it is the same as having the answers? I think the Oracle was suggesting we should find the answers, and only then we will really know what we mean by ‘awareness’.”

        Yes, then we will really know. Agreed. Then we live through what we really know and we move along and onto different roads. Do we still need the Oracle, if so, we go back and ask a question. But the notion of looking for some idea of a “true self that I am” has been fruitless for me except to discover that I am always in flux and that the use of awareness is more fruitful than any conclusion I could hope to come to about myself, or you.

        Beyond the question of “who am I?”, that bears much fruit for me, is a contemplation of the nature of relationships between just about everything that happens through the comparison and contrasting what I am becoming aware of. In my last reply I offered an example of what the shift in awareness, for me, looks like by providing an example of what practice and attentiveness involves.

        One of the issues that comes up through a practice of attentiveness, awareness, or whatever we might call it, is the issue of an end result. I caution myself of the ever-present possibility of getting stuck into a striving for something that is, not-yet-known. One could perpetuate this dangling carrot, forever out of reach that may not even exist. At some point in my life, I ceased to live out of a constant state of needing to get to someplace I am not, or achieve something for the sake of achieving. The very state of feeling that you don’t have “it” then becomes your state of awareness; forever striving for you know not what. How would anyone know that they have experienced an ultimate state of enlightenment? Like Don says in his essay here, the only way to know of the relative states of consciousness is through comparison of the experience different states. Perhaps you are aware of this trap? I don’t want to presume that you don’t after such a brief exchange. These changes in states of consciousness have happened, and it seems, there’s no going back, but rather, a metaview of layers that contextualize experience into different levels.

        Anyway, I haven’t ignored any questions along the way. I’m not sure why you came to that conclusion by reading what I wrote. Granted, for brevities sake my writing condenses a lot of experience into a few short paragraphs and I didn’t flesh out every particularity of my life in detail. Perhaps words can only convey states of awareness to another where a recognition of a mutuality of knowing arises for the reader from the text.

        “I’m uncomfortable straying from metaphysics into personal psychology because it’s much less easy to speak generally and much more easy to do damage, so take it all with a pinch of salt.”

        You’re losing me here Peter. Who strayed from metaphysics into personal psychology, and how do you know that, what does that look like? If you can define your use of these terms, perhaps I can respond.

        I hope you can trust that I do want to exchange ideas with you, but I am having difficulty at times following you.

        Thank you,

    • Hi Debra and Peter

      Great debate here! If I may interject on this one comment of Debra’s:

      >>Language, especially in a medium such as we are engaging, is all we have.

      On a certain level this has truth, but a big part of what I am getting at in Experience is that this is not anything near an absolute truth. Because language is only the clothes of meaning. Meaning is what is conveyed by language. The words and symbols are arbitrary. It is the meaning that is everything. This is why formalists and functionalists were simply wrong to shift their focus almost exclusively to symbols. I say “almost” because their efforts did give us computers, which are very fun and productive toys that are now serving a very important role as tools in our ongoing evolution as humans.

      But under the words is the meaning. And that is essentially what Experience is about. That is why I keep emphasizing the under-surface of the mind. This is what all those swirling patterns I describe are. Under our words are the swirling patterns of our personal meanings. The real essence of what is trying to be communicated. But under these meanings is deeper impulses. Why do we say what we say? Why do we generate any given meaning in the first place? It is because of the unconscious impulses under our surface mind. These too are meanings. And behind these are deeper meanings. Not deep in the sense of being intellectually deep, but deep in the sense of further down. They are not really too deep from an intellectual perspective. As I call them in Experience, they are the mindless urges of life that propel us on in our endeavors. And behind these, the mindless urges of the Cosmos, or of what Hindus call Prakriti.

      So, to summarize, we have way more than language at our access. We need to use language to convey these meanings at all their different levels to each other, but like computers, words and symbols are just tools whose job it is to convey or give form to meaning. It is the meaning we should be focused on, always. So, even in this medium that is only words, we can still use our words as pointers of meaning.

      As Debra says about practice, the more we practice using words in this fashion, the better we get at it, and the deeper the meanings we can effectively convey to each other.

      Ok, done with my interjection now! Thanks both of you to really enlivening it here!



      • PeterJ

        That makes much sense. I’m not sure a poet would agree that the words don’t matter, but that’s by the way. It seems a good practice. Would it fall under the heading ‘right thought’ and ‘right speech’?

      • Well, both poets and mathematicians play with the form of they symbols. Poets may be more clever for playing with the form of the symbols as a way to convey meaning!

      • Hi Don,
        Yes, yes and yes to your points about language. I brought it up in the context of my exhange here with Peter, and the nature of online engagement, such as this. Sorry, I could have been clearer.

        Language still amazes me for through its use we begin to see the layers and different levels of experience. Language refers to a greater meaning and reality and to the extent that we understand that and open ourselves to the variety of meanings conveyed, we do experience different states of consciousness. It’s a beautiful thing that literalists are missing out on. I know, I used to be one. 🙂

        I spent years despising language because it seemed to so poorly convey anything when compared to what comes through the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. But, somehow, over time, and because I was led by a friend to see that my own use of language was part of my frustration, I continue to see it as a vital part of our nature. Language aids in the art of understanding, articulating and conveying meaning to ourselves and each other, yes? It both conceals and reveals, by pointing to something beyond itself, and its use is, for me, a practice as much as meditation used to be.

        Thanks for your words of encouragement and for hosting this groovy conversation.


      • Hi Debra

        A couple points about language. (1) As a brain scientist, this whole “left brain/right brain” thing has a lot to do with the fact that the brain uses two distinct and different coding strategies to summarize the data of the senses. The left side is about coding the world as symbols. The right side codes it as gestalts, or what you called “sight, sound,…” etc, which is our conscious perception. But symbols are also conscious perception. So we always cognize the world in both these domains simultaneously: the symbolic and the gestalt.

        The point being, these two modes work together naturally anyway. One is not superior over the other. Both are necessary for being a human.

        (2) Regarding words and language. I discussed briefly in Experience, and more so in Beyond the Physical about the art of words. Using words as decorations, once we realize their limitations as carriers of truth and meaning. People who take words literally and too seriously have unripened minds that are like green bananas. I too used to be that way. Some people grow out of this stage and develop a more flexible relationship with words and meanings. What is sad is people who never grow out of the serious stage. It is arrested development: kids in grown people’s bodies. Sad.

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