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The Map-Maker Is Not The Territory: More on Meditation Taxonomies - Elf M. Sternberg
The Map-Maker Is Not The Territory: More on Meditation Taxonomies
I've spoken often of my love for *Illuminatus!*, the book that I discovered at 13 that made me realize life was worth living, if only because life was ridiculous and therefore not too worthy of angsting over. One of the best lessons from that book is Korzybski's "The Map Is Not The Territory." Robert Anton Wilson (pbuh) taught us all just how true that was with examples that, while silly, were also so plausible that they couldn't help but illuminate.

It's also possible to confuse the *mapper* with the territory. In many styles of meditation, what we seek is to understand how we shape the world, how the world shapes us, and to pick and choose from the many possible shifting shapes we may adopt to better fit the world around us. When we succumb to fatalism, when we insist there's no changing "fate's design," we are confusing the territory with ourselves.

Meditation taxonomy calls this "experiential fusion." The purpose of many meditations, some explicitly but almost all of them implicitly, is to separate the map-*maker* from the territory, to make us aware that we are not mere subjects of nature but agents in our own right, agents within our own skin, able to pre-decide how we'll react to stresses and disasters.

It is also okay to allow this fusion at times. Watching a movie or reading a book, it's acceptable to let this fusion happen, to become one with the storytelling, to feel it deeply. We've developed incredible cognitive vocabularies for maintaining a sense of self and other while deeply identifying with others, and learning this is part of the basis of compassion-based meditations. Strengthening that reflex, however, in a conscious and vital way, is as important as strengthening one's muscles and bones for the long haul that is life.

When we separate who we are from the world enough to make choices, then we start to exercise the only real form of free will we actually possess.

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