The idea of symbolic process is familiar to most programmers. The idea is that some things are accessible through symbols. Although we use symbolic processing in technological realms, it is also useful in considering the inner psychological and spiritual worlds.
A programming variable is a type of symbol. It has a name and a value and the value can be accessed or changed by invoking that name so it operates in a type of dynamic metaphorical way.
A common paper road map is another symbolic idea. A road map is a symbolic representation or model of some geographic area. It is not, in itself, the reality of what it represents. It is a metaphor for real world road systems.
I have found, through many years of practice, that some of my innermost being and processes are accessible in a symbolic or metaphorical way. This ranges from a yoga technique of being able to raise my body temperature by focusing on a vision of a fire in my abdomen, to the dream generated intuitions that can bring novel solutions to work related problems.
I practice various forms of meditation. Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve been involved with a lot of meditation dealing with thought and the attempts to detach from my thinking and become more of a non-judgmental observer of my own thinking. As I do this, I often see how my thoughts are often reactions to external things and how my thoughts interact with each other and resonate well beyond the initial content.
For example, I have an alarm clock that offers a 5 minute ‘snooze’ feature. It goes off at the appointed time and press the snooze button, then I practice gratitude for 5 minutes while waiting for the snooze period to end with another alarm. That 5 minutes of gratitude can continue to resonate optimistically and joyfully for several hours. I could not have realized the effect of that practice without an ability to observe my thinking.
Observing my psyche without judgment is also an important component of self-discovery and for providing access to the unconscious components of my being. Judgment will immediately suppress my thinking if I think it is unacceptable. This suppression is sometimes silly as it is not very effective. The thought does NOT go away in the face of suppression. In fact, suppressed thinking can grow just outside of view.
I have have tons and tons of unacceptable thoughts! There is murder, mayhem, X-rated material and stuff practically gauranteed to produce post traumatic stress disorder. That is all mixed in with some generous and uplifting stuff. I suspect most people have a mix similar to mine, but since i don’t actually occupy the space between anyone else’s ears, I don’t know for sure what goes on there.
So, suspending judgment, observing thinking and accessing the body and unconscious through metaphor are simple tools that most people can employ. Great insights can be had doing this. But acting on those insights is a different issue. I recently read an article speaking to the idea of actualizing the discoveries that arise from spiritual practice. It is not so easy!