FIML is a method for generating crystal clear communication between participating partners. Once this has been achieved partners will notice a profound reduction in neurotic feelings–anxiety, worry, fear, suspicion, depression, boredom, anomie, etc.
Following this, many FIML practitioners will also notice that the practice has given them insights into cultural semiotics that parallel changes in art and literature. In designing FIML, we were not originally looking for this outcome, but it is there. Let me explain.
The “semiotics” or vocabulary of all art forms have changed throughout history, but especially since the 19th century. For example, in music the notion of what is dissonant or harmonic has changed from simpler classical forms, which demanded greater conformity between scales and chords, to jazz and modern music that allow for much greater freedom. Similarly, in the visual arts, the modern sense of color, balance, and perspective has changed to allow for much greater freedom of expression than in the past. The same kinds of changes can be seen in literature, chess, math, architecture, design, and many other areas.
We even see these changes in society as many more concepts and ways of living are now allowed than in the past–a more open sense of gender and sexual orientation, for example, are generally considered normal or acceptable in many parts of the world when just a few decades ago they were not. We also have a much broader and deeper understanding of race, culture, history, religion, ethnicity, and so on.
All of this relates to FIML in this way: FIML gives partners the means to understand and reorganize any and all levels of cultural semiotics they can become aware of. By semiotics I mean all signs, symbols, mores, taboos, beliefs, roles, impressions, memories, feelings, etc. that are connected to language and that thereby influence our use of language. That basically means everything in your mind, including language. Semiotics is the water the fish of language and communication swim in. Your mind is filled with a multifaceted semiotics that affects everything you do, say, and hear. Normally, we are only sort of aware of this.
FIML practice will lead many partners to realize that the semiotics–whatever they may be–in which their lives are immersed are as fully open to interpretation and reorganization as the artistic and cultural traditions described above. How partners decide to interpret their shared semiotics is up to them. FIML says nothing about that. What FIML will do is show you in a most intimate and convincing way that your capacity to fully understand your partner can also free you from traditional strictures in how you think about psychology, society, politics, history, art, and so on. If you want to play classical tunes with that knowledge, that is fine. If you want to play jazz or something you make up, that is also fine.
FIML will free you to do whatever you like with the semiotics you share with your partner.
In this way, I think that FIML practice can greatly enhance traditional Buddhist practice. At the same time, FIML may make traditional Buddhist practice more accessible or relevant to people today. FIML shows partners the emptiness of their semiotics in a way that may be more engaging than traditional techniques.
(As a side note, one great concern I have about FIML is ethics. I am quite convinced the ethics required to successfully practice FIML will convince partners that high ethical standards are essential for good living, but I cannot prove that. It does not follow logically and we do not have enough examples of successful FIML practitioners to claim that based on the numbers. No social or intellectual system, not even a strict legal system, can ensure that all members will behave ethically. I hope that FIML will be so powerful and transformational to those who do it, though, that high ethical standards will be a nearly inevitable byproduct of the practice. Time will tell.)
first posted DECEMBER 24, 2011
UPDATE 09/18/22: I have long been convinced since first posting the above that honesty and good ethics all but “fall out” of FIML practice. Surely there will be some individuals who will misuse the practice but the majority will not. Within just a few weeks it will become evident to partners that lying or withholding are completely counterproductive and defeat everything good about FIML. Remember, FIML is not a tell-all game. Partners always have the option to decline to say. FIML is not about discovering personal secrets or using psychological techniques. It is all about becoming very clear about what you and your partner mean when you speak or act. It is an extremely wonderful, refreshing practice. ABN