• November 14, 2019

    Have you noticed how little we depend on sensing? The headbrain is the tireless translator of my experience. I have replacement thoughts for just about everything I experience in my senses.

    I see the vastness of the sky filled with stars and I think about how far away the stars are, that the light I see was emitted billions of years ago by stars now long dead. The sensing lasts only a moment, if at all, and then it is replaced by thinking. Instant translation to the mental sphere. My ancestors had far less ‘knowledge’ of these things but they had a much greater possibility of being in relationship with the heavens.

    Perhaps you think this is not important, that what matters are the facts? Perhaps you think that realism is based in knowing the facts? In my view, this is an enormously limited understanding of our capacity to know and the potential of knowing through sensing.

    My observation is this: sensing engages me in a relationship with what is sensed and that relationship does not arise from thinking. In my sensing, I can relate to phenomena outside of my limited location in time and space. And the extraordinary added benefit to entering into sensation, penetrating it with attention and holding it without mental translation, is that it also opens up the realm of feeling…higher emotions as they are sometimes called. Thinking rarely provides this bridge to feeling unless it first engages sensation.

    Try this at home. Watch an insect or small animal. Sense in yourself how it moves. Notice that it very often responds to your attention if you do not get caught in your thinking.

    How does sensing engage feeling? In my view, sensations have parallel feelings. The sensation of lowering the head may invoke humility. The sensation of remorse may invoke compassion. The sensation of beauty may invoke ecstasy. Can I learn to fill my senses with these sensations? In my experience, learning means to not let thinking interfere. This is a skill that opens many doors.

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  • May 27, 2019

    I attended a concert in which two splendidly trained musicians played cello concerti by Beethoven and Grieg. It was enlightening to experience the difference in the compositions.

    The Beethoven communicated extraordinary order. What do I mean by order? There was a delightful balance between the two instruments, a dialogue in which one unfolded and revealed the other, coherence in the melody lines, evolution of the theme and reprise where it was needed. The concerto unveiled the intimate connection between order and beauty. In classical Indian philosophy, this is sattva (goodness, constructiveness, harmony).

    By order I do not mean the squared off, static nature of modern office buildings but rather the dynamic balancing and rebalancing of the elements which characterize living systems and real creative endeavour. Beauty requires order but not all order is beautiful.

    The Grieg composition was emotional and incoherent. Ideas were begun and abandoned without development. The two instruments were at odds with each other. The pace was feverish and every line seemed to end in higher volume. In Sanskrit, it would be categorized as tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic).

    Perhaps this is a commentary on the possible range of the human condition?

    Do I give too much importance to emotion, by which I tend to mean passion? This rarely amounts to feeling; more often it reflects an intensity of sensation. The ‘higher emotions’ of clarity, order and beauty are perhaps too subtle to attract and hold my attention yet these are the ones most open to possible discovery and transformation. To apprehend these qualities, I must have order in myself. For this, certain music may be helpful.

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  • December 28, 2018

    Perhaps you think that to have a heart means to experience emotion and to sympathize with others…to be an emotional person. Can you consider another view?

    In this work, heart is a faculty, not a metaphor and not a temporary emotional state. Heart is a mirror-like organ of perception able to reflect the finest qualities…of humility, honour, beauty, glorification and truth to name a few…which exist continuously in the realm that is proper to them. Heart makes these qualities directly available to us in their essential formlessness unlike thoughts which stand for and represent something or sensations which vibrate the nervous system in response to a stimulus. Feeling is the nature of the thing itself.

    Sensation, thought and feeling…body, mind and heart…interacting together, make a real human being. Thought and sensation are freely given to each of us but feeling…what some call higher emotion…is not so easily accessed because the heart required for it must be uncovered.

    What covers the heart? The counterfeit of feeling….sentiment. Sentiment, literally sensing-mind, is, like all ordinary emotion, a combination of thinking and sensing. Both are valuable but they cannot substitute for the perceptions of the heart. The thought of love is not love. The sensation of sadness is not deep sorrow. The sentiment of friendship is not the mutual reflection of two open hearts.

    We have learned to indulge in the easy satisfactions of ordinary emotion, seduced by its habit-forming cycle of charging and discharging our biological organism. The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.

    The heart is traditionally thought to be in the center of the chest and is often experienced as if it is located there. But higher emotions are not produced in the body. Feelings are frequencies outside body and mind, although they may be describable in words and gestures which can be used objectively to invoke them if the heart is open. Sometimes the heart reflects the cold clear light of truth, sometimes the exquisite fire of love. For the heart, there is no right or wrong.

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  • May 18, 2016

    Presence is not a dry state. It is the doorway to all the bardos, the spaces that conform to states of being. The ones I can access are determined by the signature of my essence and are therefore not limitless in number but the possibilities are nonetheless immense. Dis-identification remains the initial necessary step. Hopefully, then I am visited by that mysterious aesthetic sense which is the motive power for movement in the realms of being.

    What do you mean by aesthetic sense?

    It is a sensation of connecting to the nameless, to something that is at once familiar and unknowable. It has a dimension of beauty but also poignancy, like the song of night-birds from deep in the forest. Perhaps you could say it is a setting of the nervous system which does not engage thinking but rather invokes feeling and awakens the heart. This sensation is always available to the one who is present and disinterested in the superficial phenomena of the present moment.

    In classical Tibetan Buddhism, there are six bardos.

    Yes, this is the standard religious teaching. But there are many more…it is a house of many mansions. A bardo is a place in-between. It is a space of unchanging permanence separating moments of ordinary reality. We experience a bardo as a point of transition outside of horizontal time. Bardos are like seams of pure being running through the flux of phenomena.

    Think of ordinary reality as a video game. There is a succession of screens in which various characters and events collide within a fixed frame. Moving from one frame to another, there is a moment between when the programming is suspended, a moment of unprogrammed reality. We do not notice this, as we are on our way to the next screen, anticipation fully engaged. We are identified with the phenomena within the frame. Presence makes it possible to cease forward momentum and notice the transitions. The aesthetic sense makes it possible to travel along the seams.

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  • April 8, 2016

    Some spiritual schools emphasize the need to be thankful and that we should practice thankfulness. Does it not have the power to transform our experience?

    By the time you feel thankful, your experience has already been transformed. Acknowledging what you have to be thankful for and saying the words may have some value—perhaps it shifts you temporarily out of your usual whining and complaining—but is this not purely mechanical in nature?

    Thankfulness arises spontaneously as a state of being in conjunction with other states of being. You experience something beautiful—a perfect, luminous winter morning—and a feeling of thankfulness enters you. Then, you may, or may not, acknowledge your state, after the fact of its arising.

    Thankfulness is the being-response to a transformative experience. It does not need our assistance.

    But what about being thankful for a gift that is given to you by your friend or a family member?

    Ah yes. As you know, I do not favour gifts and I will do almost anything to avoid receiving one. That said, of course there are exceptions, not many, such as gifts from small children. Gifts are a burden. Usually they carry with them certain expectations–of a relationship or some reciprocal gesture—which are rarely appropriate to that moment. It may be necessary on such unfortunate occasions to speak some socially-acceptable platitude while deciding where the gift can go that will cause least harm.

    Again, there are exceptions, but most gifts carry too much freight in the form of impressions and expectations. If you are able to give a gift without these embellishments, you are certainly a prime candidate for this work.

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  • March 14, 2016

    Yesterday, you asked us if we could “listen to space, not the sounds within space but space itself”. I had no idea what you were talking about but, oddly enough, when I tried to do it, my state underwent a major shift in a way I can’t describe.

    You encountered the abstract. You had an engagement with the formless.

    What do you mean by abstract?

    The abstract is a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance. In common usage, it refers to a concept or idea, something with no specific physical existence like, say, justice. But I am not asking you to indulge in conceptualism, which is already one of your favourite past-times. I am asking you to experience the abstract, the abstract beyond thought, and it seems that you did, at least for a moment.

    Is it possible to experience something that has no existence in time and space?

    Our most important experiences such as feeling, attention and presence, are formless; they do not exist in the ordinary way. They do not occupy time and space. Our work places considerable emphasis on observation of gesture and the extraordinary power of sensation, experiences which do occur in time and space. Factual experience is a necessary anchor for attention and presence. But transformation also requires engagement with the abstract.

    Our habit is to tie the abstract to a specific. We have feeling but the feeling is associated with something or someone. The specific then takes over through the power of attachment and the abstract is lost. The specific is extraordinarily valuable itself and it can also suggest or invoke the abstract. They are not enemies but they are also not the same. A feeling needs no object, no attachment, no reason to exist; in its essence, it is universal. Even more so, the capacity for feeling does not need a specific feeling; the capacity in itself is an extraordinary reality and to experience it is nameless ecstasy.

    Presence is existence without identity. Existence as what? Find out. Is it the miracle of being? And does it not bring with it a quality of joy and an experience of exactness without any exact thing? This is difficult to grasp and even harder to express in thought. I apologize for being obscure. All I can do is point and suggest that you work with this.

    To listen to space is to direct attention to the formless. Does space have sound? If sound is a physical vibration in time and space, space makes no sound we can hear. If space is not an absence but rather an active medium for presence and attention, perhaps space can be heard. One form of hearing is the attention acting through the ears. Another form of hearing is with attention acting directly but with the same quality or setting as listening with the ears. You may find that the abstract is musical, that it vibrates at another level as the music of the spheres.

    Can you see not only what you see but also see that you are seeing? Can attention attend to itself? These are ways to remove the mesmerizing power of the specific for an engagement with the abstract. They are somersaults into the unknown. The universal is embraced and the personal is overturned.

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