I’m currently working on a text editing tutorial using the keyboard. I needed a break and I was about to hit my current cheap dopamine hit, Hacker News and Instagram, but—like last night—I decided to write my work log instead.
I hesitate to refer to my inner experience in neurological terms. These are external and observable correlates to inner experience. Writing “my cortisol levels were spiking and my dopamine levels dropping so I needed to take a break” would be like writing “My heartbeat was too high and I was sweating profusely, so I stopped running”. I think a lot people wouldn’t find anything wrong expressing discomfort this way, but this would be because we have become accustomed to a materialist and objective view of ourselves. We are seeing ourselves as machines that exhibit certain symptoms and thus need to change their behavior in order to fix those symptoms.
This perspective is useful, but only to a certain degree. If you observe yourself exclusively in this way you become disassociated from your living experience. You will have no inner world so to speak of. You will miss the poetry of life. You will experience falling in love as a barrage of chemicals which have made you irrational, instead of living through the burning passion of an inflamed heart.
But the inner perspective can also misguide us. If you believe everything you feel, you will lose your center. If i didn’t know this feeling was temporary, I would drop the project entirely because I believed my own temporary discomfort. It would seem we need both perspectives, the inner perspective serves us to feel alive and human, the outer perspective reveals the objectiveness and practicality of situations. Where there is a duality there is a transcending principle, so the transcending perspective is experienced in meditation: you can both experience feeling and observe feeling without becoming identified with this.
This circles back to something I heard on the Huberman podcast: the best way to replenish your dopamine levels and get a rest is to practice NSDR (Non-sleep deep rest), which Huberman himself admits is a fancy name for Yoga Nidra. It’s in the nature of the Tao that a neuroscientist who champions the objective worldview comes back to a deeply subjective practice in order to “fix” something that is wrong with the human machine.
We must understand both perspectives are true and not mutually exclusive:
I’ve been working for a while. My cortisol levels are elevated and my dopamine levels are lagging. Science indicates that NSDR will correct these imbalances so that I can go back to work.
I’ve been working for a while. I’m feeling restless and I’m easily distracted. If I lay down and observe my sensations in order to relax myself, I will be able to come back to work.
Inner and outer perspectives are in agreement.