No carrots mummy

Chinese Buddhist monk. 1,050-1,150 CE. Drents Museum, Nederlands

Chinese Buddhist monk. 1,050-1,150 CE. Drents Museum, Nederlands

Faded salmon pink. No longer much give in the wool. Twenty and more years lining these corridors of quietude. Silent, ownerless footsteps. Not even that. Just a delicious, slow, rolling sensation of movement and pressure. Release; airborne. Now reappearing on the other side. Side of what? Subtle intimations of cedar incense mixed with the ubiquitous scent of layers of aging beeswax, each applied watchfully to the old pinewood architraves every winter. Upon the tray I hold, more scents rise from the day’s one full meal. The pealing bells of the church far below the monastery grounds just carry on the stilled autumnal air as I pass the last window before entering my cell. The silence is working now; a few days into the retreat and I can hear it; see the tranquil hush. I set down carefully; cutlery; attention. A last look out onto the closing day of the garden. Bliss in mind.

Many thousands of meals before, each inattentively consumed over chatter or thinking or impatience or just about anything other than the meal itself. The autopilot takes control; I’ve done this so many times I’m bored with the process; the robot is dreaming. This time it’s different. Everything matters. Everything is exquisitely alive and silent. A taster: something – I have no concern for whatever it is – rotates slowly within space. All this thingless something is comprises only colour and form – orange tones and a cylindrical shape with one beveled edge; the whole gaining in size over a slow pirouette. Absolutely captivating. A revolving revolution in perception. What just died within me in these moments, I wonder? It feels as though my past way of apprehending the world is mummified, still within, yet without use. A cognitive skeleton denuded of past meanings.

In Joachim Gasquet’s ‘Cézanne, – a Memoir with Conversations’ (1897 – 1906), Paul Cézanne, during the final years of his life said that “The day is coming when a single original carrot will give birth to a revolution”. He was talking about observing something directly, and then painting it in the very personal way it is seen, rather than by the book, so to speak. You have to be a true artist to do that, and I am not one of any kind. And yet each of us, even those with wits as dull as my own, may observe the world directly at times. What does that mean? It is the act of pure perception, and the purity is the absence of contaminating thought. Most of the time, when we see, the mind brings along a retained perceptual knowledge that loosely fits what is seen. This is the thought that knows the carrot is a carrot. That is mostly useful, as when needing to distinguish perceptual activity conceptually.

CT-Scan reveals mummified monk (possible self-mummification)

CT-Scan reveals mummified monk (possible self-mummification)

This process of verifying what we apprehend with our store of perceptual knowledge becomes ingrained, and we ourselves are imperceptibly released into a world of concepts, seldom to escape. It isn’t that we use probative words, such as ‘this is a carrot’; yet the knowledge that is synonymous with that idea is brought along with the pure perception, most of the time entirely unnecessarily yet without in the least discommoding us. Everything works, even though we remain one step removed from our actuality. And again, much of the time we need to know that the shape and form approaching us across the savannah is a lion; or that the appearances of vaporous clouds above liquid indicate extremes of temperature. By far the greater part of our lives is lived in a stream of mentation, of conceptual referencing. So this is a world of otherness, of ‘carrots’, ‘lions’ and ‘kettles’.

The Pyrrhonists of ancient Greece used the term ‘epoché’ to denote the suspension of this conceptual stream, and in modern times Edmund Husserl popularised the term in his phenomenology. Whenever this suspension occurs, not only do we become freed from the world of concepts, but the running assumptions of subject and object also dissipate. There is only what T.S. Eliot called ‘the still point of the turning world’. In mundane terms, we no longer possess any knowledge that we have a carrot on our fork and are about to eat it; all that comprises the entire world is shape and form, colour and movement, scent and feeling. The very greater part of our cognitive apparatus becomes temporarily mummified, preserved for another world, the world of concepts and ideas, thoughts and memories. The skeletal frame of our cognitive apparatus sits perfectly still.

I return the tray to the trestle table that two tonsured recluses have just erected downstairs beside the kitchen entrance, and walk slowly out into the monastery gardens with a mug of tea. Now resting on a varnished wooden bench beside a large algae-covered bubbling stone, the senses settle into their own slow rhythm, each a delicious presentation of a world that I am neither part of nor separate from. The freedom of not being anywhere. The view from nowhere. A bee, out to collect the last of the summer’s pollen, and perhaps sensing harmlessness, loudly passes inches from my nose and I feel the breeze its wings create upon my face. There is no desire, no aversion, none of the subtle awkwardness of my own self-aware existence. There is just a bee bee-ing. A marble Buddha stands watch in an arched hollow of the honeyed-limestone wall, and we all share smile.

135 thoughts on “No carrots mummy

  1. The Buddha statue featured in this article is currently touring museums in Europe, the first of which was the Drents Museum in the Netherlands. This ancient work of art had never previously left China, and researchers at the museum were keen to learn more about its structure. Accordingly, they organised to have it analysed at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort, where it was viewed internally using a computerised tomography (CT) scanner.

    What they discovered internally was the mummy of a venerable Buddhist monk, known as Liuquan, and who lived around the year 1100. Using further CT scans and also a custom made endoscope to examine the thoracic and abdominal cavities, they discovered that Liuquan’s internal organs had been removed, finding there instead scraps of paper printed with Chinese characters. The mummified body sits on a roll of cloth upon which, in black ink, the monk is identified in Chinese characters as the venerable Liuquan, which name means ‘six perfections’. These are the virtues thought necessary to perfect by any being seeking Buddhahood at that time and in that culture.

    Curators at the Drents Museum speculate that Liuquan may have ‘self-mummified’. Although practised mainly in Japan, self-mummification is an extreme ascetic process which required a monk to diet for 1,000 days on nuts, seeds, fruits and berries alone, whilst exercising vigorously so as to strip the body of fat. The diet then changed to one of bark and roots for a further 1,000 days. Finally, the monk began drinking poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi Tree, and which was normally used as a varnish to lacquer plates and bowls. Profuse vomiting ensued causing the rapid loss of body fluids. This final process of sap ingestion was thought to render the body too poisonous to be eaten by insects, whilst acting as a preservative and killing off bacteria and maggots.

    Effectively now a living skeleton, the monk was then placed within a stone tomb, one barely larger than his body, and which was equipped with an air tube and a bell. Remaining in the lotus position and meditating, the monk would ring the bell daily to confirm he was still alive. Once the bell was not heard, the air tube was removed and the tomb sealed for a further 1,000 days before finally being opened, the entire process having taken over 8 years in sum. If the body was found to be preserved, the monk was deemed to have reached Buddhahood, and his body placed in a temple. Should the body have decomposed, the tomb was resealed and the monk respected for his endurance, though not worshipped. Of the many hundreds attempting this, only a few dozen successfully self-mummified.

    • What a beautiful post, eloquent, expressive, poetic and thought-provoking. Dull-witted you certainly are not. 🙂 How often thought comes between us as a simple, direct experience of reality free of our many filters and lenses. Most people exist in subjective realms, billions of alternate realities intersecting, staring many commonalities but on two quite the same. I loved hearing your take on this. And also about the mummified monks – incredible! I’d never heard of such a thing!

      • Thank so much for your interest and your generous reflections Rory; they both are a great encouragement to me, coming as they do, from a published writer such as yourself; more than that, from one who understands the nature of the subject matter so intimately. As to my dull-wittedness, then without wishing to appear contrarian, I sadly would have to insist that my initial analysis was broadly accurate, though once again, I am grateful for your kindness. Here’s to carrots, good old Liuquan, and the success of your latest title Rory! With deep respect, Hariod.

        • It was an amazing post, and beautifully written Hariod. I look forward to reading more. The past year and a half I’ve been neglecting my blogging and had little time to read other blogs, but I look forward to remedying that. I really enjoyed your comments, and was quite astounded by the mummified monk! Lordy, that’s hardcore dedication to enlightenment! 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend my friend. Lovely to connect with you, and thank you for the kind wishes! And always, here’s to the carrots. 😉

  2. Wonderfully expressed Hariod! I encounter both limitations & potential
    for humans to experience realization of mind & nature’s connection. Please enjoy becoming that carrot, as I hope you’re not offering your body on the 8 year plan into Buddhahood. 🙂

  3. Hello Hariod. Thank you for another beautiful and thought-provoking article and accompanying comment (and another amusing title). I read about this buddha statue recently and was fascinated. I’d seen a Japanese TV programme about monks who starved themselves but it didn’t resonate with me in the same way as seeing the image of the man inside the statue. As soon as I saw the photo at the top of your article I knew I was in for a treat.

    • Hello dear Sarah. I am grateful to you for your interest and for your ever-gentle presence. The title of this piece seems a little incongruous, though I found it hard to resist; how childish of me – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! I must have a look on YouTube for the program you mention, as I would like to learn more about this ancient practice.

      Faith is an extraordinarily powerful faculty is it not? To persist along a path of such horrifyingly punishing self-denial for over 2,000 days is barely comprehendible to me, and I regard the faculty of faith as being quite markedly present in my psychological makeup. In truth though, I think I must after all be what is known as a ‘Southern Softie’.

      Hariod ❤

      • I don’t know how you will find the programme; I haven’t given you much to go on. I had thought it was on NHK World TV but I can’t find anything on their website that looks right. I asked my husband if he could remember the programme – his memory is usually more reliable than mine – but he wasn’t sure which one I was talking about. He remembers seeing something about Tibetan monks in caves with nooses around their necks as an incentive not to nod off (!) but I don’t remember that at all. He also remembers something about Japanese monks starving themselves to save the rest of the population from famine. However, I distinctly remember monks venerating a mummified corpse (not a statue) and a description of the process that led to that mummification. Maybe something more helpful will come back to me later. I will let you know if it does.

        Yes, faith is amazingly powerful. Human beings can bear what we would consider extreme suffering if the mind is appropriately prepared. It makes me think of the self-immolation of monks in Thailand, and of the sadhus in India that hold their arms above their heads so long that they wither away, and, of course, the many Christian martyrs. I suspect that we all, even Southern Softies, 🙂 , could be capable of similar feats, given the right circumstances.

        Asceticism is a thorny issue though. Some people seem drawn to it strongly, and simply for that reason it seems to me to be an imbalanced approach. It’s almost like a destructive or a competitive impulse. I like the idea of the Buddha’s ‘Middle Way’. I think we benefit from a certain amount of restraint or modesty of lifestyle, but too much is as bad as too little. After all, there’s got to be something wrong with a world without chocolate. What do you think?

        • Thank you for attempting to find something that might steer me in the direction of the program Sarah; I really appreciate your attempt to do so, and also for asking your husband for any remembered clues. And yes, asceticism is a thorny issue, and one can’t help but feel that there may often be a very male ‘hard man’ principle at work whenever we see it practised in modern times – I can meditate longer than you, I can fast more easily than you, I can bear the cold more easily than you, and so on. Well, you know what I say, as a fully paid paid-up member of The Southern Softies Union? I can eat more chocolate than you! 😛

          • 😀 I still haven’t remembered anything more about the programme. NHK World tends to repeat programmes quite a few times so I will make sure I get more details if it comes on again. Can you get NHK World TV?

            I’ve certainly noticed more men going down that route, yes. If the women are doing it too then they are being quieter about it. 🙂 As for the chocolate, well, I’m willing to test your assertion if you’re willing to supply the chocolate. 😀

            • No telly in H-land Sarah, but I have a computer and it seems NHK World TV can be had down its pipes. They identified just five links to Buddhism, none of which were about self-mummification unfortunately. You’ve caught me on the hop with your chocolate challenge, as I’m down to my last outer of 48 x Lindt 70%. You will appreciate that shipping even a bar or two to Eire would potentially leave me exposed to a mummifyingly dreadful shortage. 😥

              • I’m not surprised you don’t have a telly. It’s a major source of mental pollution. NHK World can be a bit fluffy but there is little advertising unless you count their covert promotion of Japan as a tourist destination. They have the occasional documentary that can be very interesting. They don’t just cover Japan; for example, their “Asia Insight” series covers the rest of Asia, and “Somewhere Street” took us for an enjoyable walk around Sibiu, Romania, last week.

                I didn’t think you’d part with your chocolate. 😉 Lindt, eh? My favourite is their Extra Creamy, which is a shame because I’m trying to give up dairy. 😦

        • Yes, ascetism is anti-Buddhist using The Middle Way as a yardstick, and as explained by Shakyamuni Buddha himself! Self Mummification! Just goes to show the various forms of delusion – even Buddhist monks can be completely deluded!

          • Thank you for your contribution Erik, I appreciate your interest. Oddly enough, and as I think I may have mentioned to someone elsewhere here, remaining balanced in any ‘middle way’ is generally very difficult for us. One soon discovers this in coming to meditation for example, wherein balancing energy is perhaps the greatest hindrance we face. If we think of mental energy represented on a sliding scale of 1 to 10, then most consider 7 or 8 as being the mid-point between the extremes. We are conditioned to over-exert, to think that more is always better or more effective. Being balanced perfectly between extremes is actually very challenging; it somehow feels insufficient holding to that point of right effort, right concentration, and so forth.

  4. Hariod, I enjoyed this and I owe it a second reading, so deep is its content. Now, I wondered how it is I’ve been missing your posts, for I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime now. Well, I just discovered I was not receiving any email notifications from your site, and rarely do I go to my reader, for which I was just there when I discovered this, your post. This is of no doubt caused by my incompetence, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, being a technical sort of guy. However, the problem has now been corrected. Not my incompetence, mind you, that’s here to stay; but rather the email notification functionality of WP should now let me know of your posts.

    Peace.

    • Many thanks for your interest in this article Peter, and also for your note of approval, which, coming from one such as yourself – an “insignificant speckle” my foot – I value greatly. Whether or not the content is ‘deep’, or merely perplexing, then I feel the safest thing to do is to maintain the noble silence and hope that your suggestion at least in some way approaches a fair appraisal, all the while remaining appreciative of the sentiment in any case.

      Ah, the great mystery that is WordPress notifications, and the trouble they seem almost ubiquitously to cause. I have the same issues you experience, and it seems the only safe option is to check the WP Reader as well as email notifications, which is tedious. I hear this complaint so frequently around and about that one can only assume there is some gremlin that WordPress have not yet gotten around to fixing, as forums have been buzzing awhile now.

      With much gratitude and respect to you Peter.

      Hariod.

  5. This took me back to your writing on ‘presence and being’ Hariod, and reminded me of my ‘miles to go before I don’t sleep’ state. The closest I can recall to meeting pure perception is at the park, alone with the scents and sounds of nature, and even then many times that contaminating thought you talk about seems to be stalking not too far behind. Far from any form of a monastic lifestyle myself, its always interesting to hear and read about the experiences that others have shared. Your retreat paints this picture of a quiet and captivating peace that I’m sure was a blessing to touch.

    • Many thanks for taking some time to consider this article Precious Rhymes, and I am grateful too for you adding some reflections of your own. I can only guess as to what your ‘miles to go before I don’t sleep’ state is, though I believe you may be pointing obliquely to Robert Frost’s work, which has some troublesome ideas amongst it by virtue of the missing ‘don’t’. Are you alluding to the deathless state spoken of in Oriental and Indian metaphysics? It would be interesting to hear an answer, though if you would rather remain enigmatic, that is fair enough.

      As to the matter of pure perception, then it is a devil of a job making it anything like a regular occurrence for most I think. Our minds are so predisposed to dragging in-train the conceptual baggage that corrupts perception, and its pattern-seeking obsession is not easily broken. Exerting effort is far from helpful of course, and it seems the sole recourse we have is to spend time pacifying the mind and gently descending into a natural tranquillity, all of which takes time and the right environment of course – at least, until any proficiency accrues.

      All best wishes and thanks once again,

      Hariod.

      • No, dear Hariod, I was nowhere near to thinking of the oriental deathless state that you make mention of. I was thinking of ‘sleep’ being the normal/contaminated state of existence for the most part; miles to go before I “don’t” sleep was merely a hope that slowly, slowly there will come longer spells of those in between moments of presence and I won’t sleep as much anymore. 🙂 Robert Frost just happened to be playing in the mind when I wrote. Closing with a hug. 💚

  6. I can’t even really imagine having the experiences you describe, although I know of some people who have, for short periods of time. Long ago there were times when I was sitting near Amma or during the singing when I would go really deep into meditative states, some that even lasted hours, but that is long gone too. Now there are only endless thoughts. Hopefully someday I will put in the effort to do the practices that will change that. For now, seva is my path.

    • These things come and go, do they not Karuna? As well you know, clinging to the attainment of certain states is a hindrance, and more or less ensures their non-appearance in any case. And again as you know, it is unnecessary to have a constant stream of similar insights, for once the knowledge they deposit is gleaned, it cannot later escape. As to ‘endless thoughts’, then as long as they are witnessed and not identified with, they really present no problem – I wonder if you would agree? Of course, as a matter of preference, we would all opt for tranquillity and the absence of mental chatter, but we have roles to fulfil in this busy world, you with your selfless service, which is most admirable, and me with my chocolate eating, which is less so. H ❤

      • Thanks for the laugh in your last sentence! I’m with you in regards to chocolate. Especially if it is dark chocolate.

        I’m not so good at witnessing. If a good idea comes, I go for it. I also get caught in worry sometimes, but definitely not as much as I used to.

        Back when I did have those experiences I often felt like a window had opened to show me what was possible, but that I had to then do the work necessary to get back there.

        I definitely don’t know what the future holds. I figure life is mostly about learning to be in the moment!

          • Amma uses that experience in teaching how to reach bliss. She says that if you’ve been craving chocolate that when it first touches your tongue you experience bliss. She goes on to say that if the bliss was from the chocolate you could eat more and more chocolate and get more and more bliss. That obviously isn’t the case. She says that the bliss comes because in that moment you are free from desire. What usually happens afterwards is that another desire arises, and another, and another. In that instant the mind is silent, so I relate bliss to a silent mind.

            For some reason your comment on the magnolia tree disappeared before I could answer it. That happened to someone elses comment last week. I don’t know what is going on. What I was going to say was that the buds will probably be open before Wordless Wednesday next week!

            • Yes, all desire seeks is release from itself. That is so simple, and yet we ignore the truth of it. We seek instead the object of the desire. All our experience tells us this is the wrong approach. Know desire intimately, and desire is extinguished. Again, all desire seeks is release from itself. And a bit of chocolate.

              I just went and made a further comment on your Magnolia post Karuna, this time a single paragraph. As soon as I hit ‘post comment’, it disappeared. That can happen on some themes when comments are awaiting moderation, and yet you do not moderate comments, so it is a puzzle to me.

  7. Love these reflections on perceptions and how one automatically makes assumptions based on commonly held perceptions, or at least that was one of my takeaways – how true.

    Ah, Husserl! I am, as you might expect, a huge fan of phenomenology. I wonder if you have ever come across Robert Romanyshyn and my favorite book of his: Technology as Symptom and Dream. Back in my radio days, I found his work so engaging that I interviewed him twice.

    Blessings, Hariod.

    • Thank you for reading this article Bela, and for your kind words and reflection. I had never heard of Robert Romanyshyn, and so just took a peek at his book, and also found the video below. What a compelling speaker he is, and how very interesting in what he says. I think I shall have to add his book to my implausibly long list of others that must be read during my remaining years. So, you were in radio, as a presenter and interviewer? I would be interested to learn more about that if you cared to share further, or perhaps let me have a link?

      Blessing to you too Bela.

      Hariod ❤

      • Yes, Hariod, nine years as an interviewer. You can follow my website’s link to the shows and scroll down to Robert’s – it is a great way to become familiar with some very interesting folks, if you can forgive the novice interviewer her foibles. 😳
        http://www.belajohnson.com.

        And I hear you on the long list! I’ve always got a hefty stack by my bedside which doesn’t seem to get any shorter.

        I look forward to viewing the video now!

  8. Hariod,

    I loved, and am very appreciative of, the glimpses you provide here – presumably of your experiences in retreat that you have mentioned previously. I know from my own period of immersion into semi-similar practices, by which I mean immersion into circumstances the mind could find extremely discomforting initially, that the eventual settling into the depth and simplicity of the experience is a precious gift. It becomes a well within from which we draw. So, thank you for passing the ladle of water, the gift of experience.

    I was intrigued by the 2,000-day journey into becoming an insect-resistant corpse, and also enjoyed your promotion of the idea that seeking Buddhahood, whether through such travails, or through far simpler means such as experiencing one’s realities of feeling and cognition with as much presence as one can muster, are unnecessary in the ultimate sense. They are equal paths. They are both good for those who walk them. It is this somewhat insidious idea of progress, and a steady diet of Nike commercials, that can convince us to “go for it” and bite off some massive test of will and faith.

    I have found it hard enough to sit still with my own feelings and notions for half an hour, and starting there can be both sufficiently difficult and wonderful. We are not running a race here. There is nowhere to go. We are one step removed from whatever it is all of the time, and yet it works beautifully. I loved that one.

    Michael

    • Hi Michael,

      Coming from a skilled wordsmith such as yourself, your comment gives me good reason to be pleased that my own words found their mark with you, that the dangled carrot, duly trimmed, washed and organic, led your attentions sufficiently to walk this minor life event with me. And yes, this episode was from an early silent retreat, one in which I realised I would never be able to perceive whatever it was that lay behind the veils of appearances, for that would mean that what I am is a percept, and I am not, I can gladly report. That left me with a bit of a conundrum, as you can well imagine.

      You are of course perfectly correct to point up what you call “this insidious idea of progress”, and therein lies yet another conundrum: how to seek without the idea of progression? We start from within the trap of selfhood, and as seekers can only envisage a progression of the self to whatever we imagine the goal to be – God, freedom, peace, nonduality, or whatever. The last thing that occurs to us is that the seeker itself must die, because that sounds dangerously close to giving up – the very thing the egoic self abhors; it instead wants above all to be spiritually advanced, wise and ahead of the crowd.

      As to your closing comments, then what I ascertained from my retreating years was that it may typically take three days of complete silence and the avoidance of pressure for the busy, modern mind to settle into true calmness. Most people do not even know what a deep calmness feels like, and when experienced as it may be for the first time on a retreat, then they realise as much. I ended up being a little addicted to it, which is not so good, as it leads one from the path of understanding to one of indulgence. Avoiding extremes is so very hard for we humans it seems. The middle way sounds easy, and yet it is perhaps one of the hardest of all ventures.

      With gratitude, love and respect as always Michael,

      Hariod.

  9. Hi Hariod,

    I see no point in such self-suffering. I fail to understand the purpose behind it – is it salvation?

    I haven’t heard of such people; probably I avoid all such unpleasant practices. I abhor traditional and compulsive fasting as I fail to comprehend what people accomplish with it!

    All I know is that all return to dust, into the sea of oblivion, to whatever century they belong, to whatever clan or class.

    Apologetically,

    Balroop.

    • Hi Balroop,

      Many thanks for reading this article and for adding your thoughts. There is no need in the least for any apology my friend; you will be pleased to hear that I am not advocating self-mummification. This was a practice that was pursued in some Chinese, Mongolian and Northern Japanese sects and which began around a thousand years ago. It was not regarded as suicide, but rather a progression into the realms of those sect’s cosmology. Nibbana/Nirvana – or what some Westerners misleadingly call ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘Self-Realization’ – is considered a deathless state, meaning that whatever the state of the body, the same obtains. This is a rather abstruse concept, and it should not be confused or conflated with any Pythagorean transmigration of the soul, as the soul is not posited in any of the Buddhist schools. Neither is it the ‘salvation’ which you yourself posit, and which would require a self-like entity for whom salvation is possible. And once again, in Buddhism, the self, as an enduringly instantiated entity, is denied – it has no ultimate reality, and is only ever a construct of the mind, or society. It should be noted that what the Buddha taught, and as recorded in the Pali Canon, was the avoidance of extremes of asceticism and indulgence – you will have heard of Buddhism being described as ‘The Middle Way’, meaning the path between extremes. At the time of the Buddha – roughly 2,500 years ago – extreme asceticism was practised widely in Northern India (Hindu region) amongst religious devotees that were his contemporaries. He did practice them himself for some time, before rejecting pernicious forms of asceticism and discovering a path to Nibbana which avoided all such extremes. Why the practice was taken up in the regions mentioned 1,500 years after the Buddha lived in India, is probably a matter of cultural influence, but certainly does not issue from orthodox teachings.

      With all best wishes and gratitude.

      Hariod ❤

  10. A wonderful post Hariod, and so beautifully expressed. I often wonder if we really want to escape the world of concepts. It’s so defined, so safe, so rational and so knowable. I have heard people describe a world where this conceptual stream has been suspended and I find it both beautiful and frustrating; ‘beautiful’ in that it speaks to something deep in me, and ‘frustrating’ in that I don’t get to experience it. I think there have been moments where I have just touched the hem of it, at least I think so, and have been deeply moved by the experience, but I must confess it remains far off. Perhaps the reason is I try too hard. Maybe it’s in releasing that it happens, but then this in itself is hard to grasp. I suppose I am both victim of and blessed with my Cartesian heritage. 🙂

    • You are too kind Don, and your words are a great encouragement to me in my occasional efforts here. I think you are spot on, in questioning whether we really want to escape the world of concepts, however fleetingly. And we must always return to it in any case, quite obviously. What we regard as the egoic self – the entity that reflects upon itself – most certainly is fearful of dropping the conceptual stream, for it is that which sustains its own existence. If we speculate that the self-entity was an evolutionary imperative, then we can gain a sense of how tenaciously it may cling to its continuation. Momentarily unbuttoning 40,000 years or more of conditioning does not come in the snap of the fingers, but rather seems to happen more often in the deep tranquillity of mind that is so rare to find these days.

      I was mentioning to a commenter just earlier that these odd experiences cannot be mustered by dint of will, as you rightly suggest. You are correct also in suggesting that the opposite is equally problematical, that is, in our trying not to try, in our absurd efforts to think of nothingness, and in our self-defeating willing for the absence of all volition. I was also saying that such experiences leave an indelible mark, and that their impact cannot be undone by time. They do not require repetition in order to alter or sustain the knowledge they bring in their wake. There is no ‘Reality’ outside of ourselves and what we experience is there Don? There is no unicity outside of our duality, nor any duality outside our unicity. ‘Outside’ and ‘other’ are mind constructs; what else could they be?

      With great respect and all best wishes,

      Hariod.

      • You are an extremely challenging person Hariod and I think it’s marvellous. Thank you for this response so beautifully thought out and expressed. May I ask you a question. I would appreciate your thoughts on it. How do you perceive or understand the process of individuation and differentiation?

        • I cannot be certain as to what you mean by the “process of individuation and differentiation” Don, and take it that you are pointing to the matter of apparent subjectivity vs. objectivity, as against more clear and self-evident physicalities. With the latter, then differentiation is perceived and verified by the occupation of a certain amount of space, to state the obvious. With the former, then we are dealing with awareness rather than something we think of as ‘space’. When we are looking out at the world, or indeed listening to it, feeling it, and so forth, we almost invariably incorporate with any knowledge derived thereby a running sense of a locus of centrality, and which, were we to think about it, we would likely refer to as ‘me’ or ‘the self of me’ perhaps. Awareness, we assume, somehow is channeling towards us, or we think we can reach out with it and bring it back to a point of centrality, again in some sort of channeling process.

          So, with this assumed centrality, we localise awareness in the sense that we assume it gathers around or within this central point of ‘me’ as its locus. Now of course, from a scientific perspective, there are all sorts of correlates with the state of the body and nervous system such as would seem to endorse this same localisation, at least to the extent that the body could be thought of as synonymous with this putative ‘me’. What happens in any experience of so-called ‘non-duality’ (Advaita Vedanta) or ‘non-self’ (Buddhism) – it does not matter, we can call it anything – is that this point of centrality dissolves. That is a description that as far as I know, is particular to me, and I have not heard others express it in quite the same way, but I can only be true to my own experience of course. It is a very subtle and instant shift in perspective, and yet it completely turns upside down our past running assumptions as to localisation.

          Your question is about ‘perceiving’ and ‘understanding’ Don. Perhaps we can settle on something looser, like ‘apprehending’? So, how is the world apprehended as being non-dual? I am in the local park, and I look out across an expanse of grass to a Chestnut tree about fifty metres away. In our normal state, ‘I’ am ‘here’, looking out to ‘that’ which is way over ‘there’. In non-dual awareness, the sense of matters is more like ‘awareness is with the tree and my being’. Now, ‘my being’ is only that insofar as it possesses itself, and is not possessed by any ‘self’ as apprehending subject; it is an aspect of awareness which is no more or less relevant or central than is the Chestnut tree, because the awareness now absents the former differentiating subjectivity and the dichotomy that entails. Everything seems perfectly normal and is of course referenced spatially, yet the running point of centrality – the subject of ‘me’ – no longer obtains. The mind cannot ‘understand’ or ‘perceive’ (your words) what now is, because despite the normality, everything is radically different. It feels more like awareness apprehending itself as itself, because of course, there is no longer any apparent subject apprehending.

          I have no idea whether you are asking this question as what we might call a ‘spiritual seeker’ Don, but thought it worthwhile to venture into that territory just in case. So, the seeker of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ necessarily conceives of themselves as an un-enlightened subject – a personal entity of selfhood. This personal subject attempts to acquire an impersonal object, such as God, Moksha or Nibbana. The self-entity subject seeks to absorb into, realize or acquire God, Moksha or Nibbana, as an object of knowledge, or vice versa. The whole construct is predicated on one erroneously imagined category magically morphing into yet another. This is not to say that God, Moksha or Nibbana are erroneous or imagined, but that subject and object are.

          The whole of the seeking construct rests on what ultimately is a false dichotomy of subject and object. The seeker’s mind cannot conceive of anything other than that which is some juxtaposition or combination of these two categories alone. Any third possibility is inconceivable, and must remain a paradox alone to the mind conditioned to conceive in the categories of subjectivity and objectivity. Until the paradox (the third possibility) is actualised, then the seeker remains in a pernicious trap of believing in the possibility of what will always and forever remain a mythic telos. As you can see Don, the whole of this relates back to our experience in the park, though I am not conflating any one non-dual experience with that which others might describe as God-realization, Moksha or Nibbana. There, I think, we get into all sorts of pitfalls as regards the accretions of culture and so forth, and I hope the above goes some way towards answering your question.

  11. I’m definitely the worst about meals – I inevitably scarf [H.B. edit – U.S. to Eng. trans: ‘scoff’] and think of other things. It’s nice to have a reminder of how much there is to experience right in front of us every day.

    I have just a few minutes to go before my appointment, so this will all just be dashed off from the top of my head. I hope you don’t mind that I’m doing it here, but I wanted to say I am still reading your book and I’m enjoying it immensely. Not just saying that. The section on ‘listening’ in particular struck me at a perfect moment when I was in the midst of a bit of despair. The three steps — well, at least the first two of listening and denying energy — seem nearly simultaneous. When you listen to your own bullshit, what you’re more properly calling “chatter” disappears so that there’s not much to listen to. That is, if you’re really listening. The very act of putting up the chatter as something to listen to makes it disappear, except in the memory of it, at least for me. That automatically denies power, but then when I think of denying power, there is still a little bit more remove or distancing.

    While I may not agree in philosophical mode about the self being no-thing or pure potential, I might see it as a kind of binding together, but not in an ego-narrative sense. But this isn’t the point. The point is that nailing the philosophy doesn’t really matter to have the practical benefits. Not for me anyways (could be that I’m already prepared for the non-duality thing from Husserl and phenomenology in general). Sorry – I’m rambling. I think we can all agree that there’s a little ego or whatever we want to call it chattering away and telling itself stories about itself. (For me, definitely verbal rather than images.) This internal chatter likely happens in others in the way they have pat responses to certain cues, as if they spent many a night thinking up ways to project their story. There is an enormous world of benefit in shutting up the chatter from time to time, taking a step back and saying, “this is just a story.” Your steps are very effective in dealing with that. It’s as if you’ve taken a ‘moment’ and broken it down into simpler parts.

    My story: I am a writer. I am an active person etc. (flesh this out in an appropriately egoical way). These things were somewhat taken from me lately and I’ve been forced to think about those activities and what they really mean to me, whether I could really be without them. Of course, such doubts sound incredibly stupid when you actually articulate them, but in day-to-day life we don’t realize this stupidity, especially not when things are going well for us. Deep down, we don’t realize it. What I found in that moment of reading your point about listening was, “Of course, I don’t need those things. I can be happy if I just stop making those things so important. I can watch Geordie try to catch a fly.” [H.B. edit – Geordie is Tina’s dog] There’s a bit of Stoicism in that — a more phenomenologically induced Stoicism.

    Perhaps this is what you mean in saying that the self is potential. I’d agree that whatever the truth may be, the activities that I’ve constructed my narrative around are certainly unnecessary at best, and at worst, clinging to them can be harmful. There are of course things we need, but much of what we think we need, we don’t. What is revealed in giving up the ghost, as you might put it, are the things taken for granted – not gonna say stuff about “being in the now” or any of that.

    Anyways, I appreciate the sincerity of your book and the earnestness with which you tackle these problems, whether I understood them appropriately or not.

    Okay, gotta run!

    • Of course I don’t mind in the least you going off-topic here Tina, and it’s not really that you’re doing that in any case. Besides, it’s always such a pleasure to read your thoughts, and you never fail to put a smile on my face, even when you’re decoding Heidegger and all that other highbrow stuff you do. And I’m delighted that my book isn’t driving you to despair, or appearing overly simplistic for you. I’m also pleased that you’re occasionally finding the techniques useful. It is odd isn’t it, that we chatter away and yet never really listen? It’s as if we have a little moron following us around, one who we can hear chattering away over our shoulder but who we semi-ignore at the same time. Once we pay attention to the moron, she or he gets embarrassed and so mopes off around the corner.

      The little reminder-cum-volition about ‘being space’ can be quite handy, because as I daresay you’ve discovered, there’s a tendency to close down the mental space in the listening, to create a sort of ‘listening funnel’ which is actually quite restrictive in its feel. Oddly enough, simply saying the words ‘being space’ can have an immediate and quite dramatic effect, rather like being released from our self-inflicted incarceration. It may not work for everyone, but for those that it does, it’s a akin to a detonation, or a little ‘big bang’ in the mind; there’s a feeling of incredibly rapid expansion.

      Just to be clear about your opening sentence in your second paragraph, and again what you reiterate in your penultimate paragraph – I am not positing that the self is no-thing or pure potential. Instead, and in line with Buddhist thought more generally, I am proposing that we do away with it as a category to consider as actual, as being enduringly instantiated in any meaningful way. We disagree on this Tina, and you have told me before that your objective, or hope, is to discover what the self is. We may not be so far apart if your putative ‘self’ is nothing enduring; but then, I would argue that ‘self’ is an inappropriate term for a loosely morphing entity – a bit like calling a vapour cloud an object.

      The problem, as I see it, is that once we get past the false narratives, we find there’s no way of describing what remains; so, in a sense, nothing is ‘discovered’, there’s simply a stripping away of falsehood – a bit disappointing for spiritual seekers. Okay, there is your ‘binding together’, but (it seems) only in the Humean sense of a bundle of percepts and sensations. Can we say the body is in fact ‘bound together’? Only very loosely, that’s to say, conceptually. Example: Between 50 and 70 billion cells die each day due to apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in the average human adult. Where is the enduring self in any of this?

      I hope the appointment went well Tina, though I know you are not anticipating any sudden breakthroughs. Are you yet managing to work more on your book I wonder; it must be dreadfully frustrating if you are closed off from that for the time being. Then again, Geordie is a great perspective shifter no doubt.

      • “It’s as if we have a little moron following us around, one who we can hear chattering away over our shoulder but who we semi-ignore at the same time. Once we pay attention to the moron, she or he gets embarrassed and so mopes off around the corner.” – One of, if not ‘the’, best snippet from a comment I have ever read. *laughs a lot*.

        As ever, it’s hard to work out which is more enjoyable, the post or the comments and your answers below. I have not been reading any posts at all since I went awol, but I couldn’t resist yours. Of course. I’m glad I did too. I’ve also tagged onto Tina’s thread as I wanted to tell the (not at all maddening) crowds that I am also very much enjoying your book. I know I have informed you H, but the word(s) should be spread like the letter-filled dark chocolate sauce (minus the ‘carry-on’) that they are.

        (*looks from side to side quickly* – You ain’t seen me right? *nods and scarpers*. )

        – Sonmi away with the fairies upon the Cloud

      • The strange thing is we really like the moron.

        I do get that big bang comparison. I wasn’t sure I understood ‘being space’ quite as well as the others, so that’s why I didn’t have much to say about it.

        “I am proposing that we do away with it as a category to consider as actual, as being enduringly instantiated in any meaningful way.”

        That seems fair enough, especially for these purposes! And especially considering what most people consider the self—enduring personality and traits. And I don’t expect anything spiritual in a ‘finding myself’ kind of way. The binding together I’m talking about would probably have something to do with time, but that reminds me too much of Heidegger, even though I don’t remember what he says. Maybe you might say that this binding within, or of time, is also part of the narrative self, and of course it must be there too, but I’d want to look into the a priori structures aside from this narrative self and any other ‘objective’ self. Anyways, don’t take me up on that, my head’s gonna explode as it is.

        And you must know I definitely wouldn’t look for the enduring self in the cellular/scientific way! How un-phenomenological! 🙂

        Nothing interesting showed up on the BAER test. Normal. So I still have one and only one objective abnormality out of all these tests! And I have to do another MRI in six months and perhaps even a spinal tap. Yipee!

        I haven’t been writing my novel at all. I’ve been mostly blogging. I think with this medication I might be able to sustain my concentration for a spell and I might give it a shot tomorrow. Might. Or I might just fritter my time away!

        • “The strange thing is we really like the moron.”

          Tina, this will sound dreadful, and you mustn’t take it the wrong way, but your own moron is I think particularly delightful, and I love it that you let it off the leash so unselfconsciously. I tend to dress mine with a straight-jacket, then keep it in secure lockdown on the internet, away from exposure to ridicule by the public, though I wouldn’t mind betting that my little moron is more imbecilic than yours. I daresay the little blighter will escape one day soon, and that’ll be the end of what remains of what laughingly we might call my online reputation.

          Many thanks for the update on the dizziness/concentration issue; I suppose one must jump through all the hoops in a process of elimination – it must be something of a drain emotionally though, on top of the already very trying circumstances. So, when you write, does Geordie get jealous and interrupt you? Or do you get guilty and interrupt his fly-catching? I can see this novel taking a bit longer now he’s around. Still, you are young and time is plentiful, so you can afford to do some time frittering; in some ways, perhaps it can even be therapeutic?

          • Thanks for liking my moron! 🙂

            You know, Geordie does get jealous sometimes, but only for a few minutes. I usually have to give him a good five minutes of petting once he jumps up on my bed, otherwise he’ll physically remove my hands from the keyboard and place them on his head. After that, he’s pretty much done, and he wanders to a space at the end of the bed and sleeps, or he’ll look out the window and watch the neighbors. It’s sweet.

            I actually do participate in the fly catching with Geordie by pointing out where the fly is. Usually he knows before I do, but occasionally I can give him some knowledge. (Believe it or not, this dog understands pointing!) I usually say things like, “Oh Geordie, that fly is way too high for you now. How do you plan on getting it when it’s way up there?” Then I imagine what he’s saying in his head in doggie language. So now I have not only my own internal narrative self, but Geordie’s narrative self within mine. “Mommy doesn’t know certain things. She doesn’t know how to hunt, but I’ll show her how it’s done. I can wait here patiently until the fly comes back around again, but I must watch it constantly.”

              • I’m glad I’m not pitted in an IQ test against that crow. I’m not sure I’d have figured out how to get that treat!

                Fascinating study on the puppies. It makes a certain amount of sense. It would be difficult to teach a dog what pointing means, if you think about it. Some really don’t get it, others do. A strange thing indeed.

  12. Yet again, the way that modern technology grabs us at the wrong time strikes again. I read this a few minutes ago, and all the wonderful comments, needing to be out of the door in ten minutes. Wrong! I should have postponed reading it until I had all the time in the world to fully absorb the incredible meanings I sensed were being carried in those words (and the replies). Now the trick is to ensure I do come back to your article and let it really sink into my consciousness!

    • Ha – I caught you Paul! Sometimes I do that, thinking I’ll quickly skim a piece before heading off for this or that, and then finding that I’m stuttering mentally in a bid to absorb what really needs more time to do so. If the mood grabs you, then do please come back and have a second look. In the meantime, regards to you and yours my friend.

  13. Thank you for taking us on this retreat with you. I loved this post and the photographs, especially the CT scan of the meditating mummified monk which was so apropos. I will try to be more mindful when eating, though I am anything but right now.

    But come on, Hariod, “even those with wits as dull as my own, may observe the world directly at times”? And saying “you have to be a true artist to do that, and I am not one of any kind”? Your writing is your art. Your mind is your art, and it is brimming over with sharp wittedness. I won’t let you say these things. You have extraordinary perceptions of the world and it shows all the time in your great appreciation of art forms and in your thoughts and writing. On the other hand, I always feel dull-witted when reading what you write and I am not saying that to fish for compliments. I know some of my many limitations.

    • I am glad you enjoyed the article Ellen, and incidentally, you are the first to make mention of the CT scan which was the thing I thought might provoke the most reaction. Balroop (above) seemed to take exception to this ancient practice of self-mummification, and I can see that were it to be practised in these times there would be outrage. Nonetheless, one can’t help but be impressed – one way or the other – at the sheer force of will of those monks such as the venerable Liuquan. I have always considered women to be the tougher of the sexes, though it is hard to imagine setting a sterner and more terrifying test for oneself than this. As to your rebuttals of my own deficiencies, I can only send you my heartfelt thanks whilst maintaining my stance as before. Still, your words are a wonderful and much appreciated encouragement dear Ellen, and I receive them in the spirit of friendliness with which they were given. H ❤

    • Hello there Howie; thank you very much for reading this piece and for expressing an interest; I appreciate it. And no, this was not a recent experience; on the contrary, it was something that occurred decades ago. Carrots have been coming and going ever since, as carrots do, though this was the first time I ever ate one without realising it. 😉 All best wishes, Hariod.

      • I found the post very interesting and I read it slowly and twice. I’m not sure I’ve ever had any experience even close to what you describe.

        Oh, and by the way, I’m totally with you regarding chocolate.

        • Gosh, that’s a really humbling compliment Howie. This was one that, I think, in the main is best read slowly, as that is how the descriptive passages were written to feel – slow and immediate at once. And to say you have read twice is doubly pleasing and a great encouragement in my efforts. I only post here once a month as I like to read others’ take on things rather than blathering on about my own too much. Still, when I do put something up here, it is very gratifying whenever someone shows a genuine interest as you have. Thank you very much indeed Howie; if I could email you a bar of Lindt 70% in appreciation I most certainly would.

  14. Hi Hariod,

    You took me back to when I was a child and the many times when, with my brother and sister, we would go on what could be called our ‘walk about’ into the Queensland tropical rainforest and lose ourselves in play. Our childish worlds were all about just looking, learning and experiencing the bounty of nature about us. Time seemed to stand still and captivate our imaginations. We spent many hours looking at the blue mountain butterflies, the small flecks of gold dust in the base of the fresh water creeks, and just being in the process of being. These pockets of pure joy became important signposts in our lives as the years passed. To this day, spending time in the bush brings to me a great sense of spiritual peace. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of standing still and just being.

    Warm regards,

    Karen.

    • Hi Karen,

      How lovely to have you visit once again, and as always I appreciate your interest and reflections. Your anecdote reminds me of my own childhood, which I think may have occurred some while before your own, and that same sense of timelessness that you point to, and which seems to become drained from us in our early teen years and beyond. I remember the feel of those endless summer days spent in cornfields and woodlands, when everything was immediate and spontaneous, vital and captivating. Then, slowly and surely, we seem to think of the passage of time, perhaps initially when first having to conform to schooling schedules, timetables, end-points, and ‘free time’. We begin to make advance judgements about which packages of time we will like, and those that we won’t. The sense of urgency builds in early adult years, and we consider how to use time, how to maximise time. And then suddenly, we have a moment – like my ‘carrot moment’ – when we are at T.S. Eliot’s ‘still point of the turning world’, and we find the world really comes alive again, just as it was when we were tender young children.

      With very best wishes,

      Hariod.

  15. The thingless something of this post is wonderful, especially it’s packaged label Hariod. Carrots, lions and kettles seem such a glorious mismatched match made in here-now. Do you feel that the old ways are just packaged within? I almost feel like they have left; but then actually no, because yes they do seem to surface – sometimes I guess.

    Is this about your time at Vipassana [retreat]?

    It’s funny, I half wrote a post the other day called ‘why eating whole fish should be considered amongst Buddhists’, because as I was eating it, like you said, each mouthful demands direct awareness, presence. Touch, feel, sensation, appreciation. Of course you can become distracted, but you wouldn’t want to; it could all of a sudden feel as though some unknown force is playing javelin in your throat.

    Jessie

    • Oh, that’s lovely that you related to this piece Jessie, and I appreciate both your interest and your letting me know as much. You are the first commenter to approve of the title, which my inner child couldn’t resist using. Do I feel that the old ways are just packaged within? Definitely; the brain works as it must and always will. The difference comes in knowing that’s what’s going on, that the brain/mind arrangement has its proclivities and routines; it wants to know that a thing called a face is eating a carrot thing. It seems harmless enough, and I can’t imagine surviving for long without it. So, I think it’s just about seeing the vapour clouds of thought as a largely necessary adjunct to operating functionally in the world, and of course, as a source of creativity and communication. The thing is not to have a dependence on it though, not to believe the stories it weaves in its own bid to sustain itself. It doesn’t realise it can die and be reborn 5 seconds or 5 minutes later; though it’s possible to convince it that it can. It sounds as if you may know much of this, and you must let me know your take if you see things differently; I would be very interested.

      And yes, this was a little experience that came along decades ago when I was heavily into Vipassana retreating. I sometimes include anecdotes here about that lengthy phase of my life because it was both interesting and formative, and there were some unusual experiences too of course. I don’t know if you were pointing to some correlation between Buddhism and vegetarianism in the article you were considering, but that is something of a hot potato in Buddhist circles as you may know. In the orthodox Pali canon, there is no record of any stricture placed upon monks or nuns not to eat the flesh of other animals. There of course are many as regards killing and harming, and yet the Buddha, conscious of not wanting to alienate the lay folk who would give alms of meat on occasion, never forbade the eating of flesh amongst his disciples. The monastery I attended also adopted this principle, and as a lifelong vegetarian, I was often served meat and fish. Retreatants who refused to eat what they were given were asked to leave, as if they were unable to give up their attachment to diet, there was no hope of relinquishing far bigger ideas of attachment.

      Thank you once again Jessie,

      Hariod.

      • Do you feel you have a similar mentality to a child? I mean of course you are more articulate, but yeah I feel very much childlike.

        What a darling the routine brain is, trying its best. And with gentle guidance, or just appreciation for its functions, life can become rather better, or more so something else? I’ve created a video of the brain actually last night, it will be on my blog this morning.

        Vipassana. Yes, defiantly interesting and informative for sure.

        I like this idea, it seems ‘all’ enough, all encompassing to some degree, which I think is something I have acquired along the way of my journey of learning things separately – ‘must do this to do that’, ‘can’t do this, whilst…(etc.)’. They all seemed holy (and not religious holy, think more cheese holey).

        ‘Get what you’re given and be grateful’ seems a wonderful mantra to place on mainstream T-shirts, don’t you think?

        I’ve also a nickname for you, Humble Hariod.

  16. “The day is coming when a single original carrot will give birth to a revolution”.

    I washed an orange cup,
    ‘You only live once’,
    Coffee-stained remembrances,
    Of mindless sips I took,
    And take,
    Until. . . I met in the soapsuds.
    Everything, yes everything has changed.

    Thank you, Hariod. I can’t really say much about chocolate, but I guess that’s why I come to read again and again. As attendants gather abandonded program folders, I am still here. It’s always worthwhile. Meredith.

    • I think this is the first occasion on which anyone has commented with a poem Meredith – how delightful. I must say this is hardly my forte, so you will forgive me if I remain a trifle uncertain as to your meaning. Are you saying that you had a similar experience whilst washing-up?

      Anyway, there is much to discuss as regards both chocolate and carrots, and the surface has barely been scratched on this solitary page. To have you here, rubber-gloved and with bubbles aplenty, makes light work of it all and you are, therefore, most welcome as ever my dear.

      ¡Viva la Revolución!

      • Sorry, but I don’t remember the first work now, but here is what struck me:

        “Whenever this suspension occurs, not only do we become freed from the world of concepts, but the running assumptions of subject and object also dissipate. There is only what T.S. Eliot called ‘the still point of the turning world’. In mundane terms, we no longer possess any knowledge that we have a carrot on our fork and are about to eat it; all that comprises the entire world is shape and form, colour and movement, scent and feeling.”

        [Hence: This orange form, cup, holds and empties, the psalm of bubbles dissipates, kitchen, Vipassanā.] 😀 The chocolate thought was irrelevant since you couldn’t possibly know I don’t eat chocolate, except in mole dishes when I visit Oaxaca, in Mexico. Anyway, my dishes meditation unfolded as I read, and so I wrote. XO

  17. If you’re not an artist, Hariod, I am not a human being 😉 This is a beautiful and evocative interpretation of the human mind when we settle ourselves and allow ourselves to simply ‘be’. I have been bitten by the expectations of my perception on so many different occasions. One of the simplest of these occurred the other evening. Two cups of drink sat on the counter – one mine, and one my wife’s. In mine was a cup of iced tea, in the other a cup of root beer. Both were the same color in the same cup. When I picked up the one that was not mine and brought it to my lips, my senses – my perceptions – were expecting one thing, and yet received quite another. In the way that physical shock is realized by our system, so is the mental and spiritual shock when our perceptions are shaken in the occurrences of our daily lives. These moments of quiet solitude allow us to contemplate and find our roots, and decide to cultivate those roots, or rip them up and plant them somewhere else. And yes, just the thought that we have the choice to do so does indeed make me smile. 🙂 Thank you, Hariod, for a very thought-provoking and insightful offering – I very much enjoyed it!

    • Your kind and generous words are most gratefully received Dave, and I thank you for taking time to consider this, my current offering. I do appreciate that in writing anecdotes such as I have done here, that it is sometimes difficult for others to respond with anything at all, and am therefore doubly appreciative when one such as yourself does, and with such considered reflections. I submit articles here only once a month, though I shall return next time with a little more wind in my sails thanks to your kind thoughts.

  18. Just coming from reading a series of emails between friends about executive pay and quarterly returns. Tempted now to pop into that discussion with something about minding our carrots. What if everyone went on a silent retreat one time in their lives? Maybe we wouldn’t be in such a hurry to rearrange things for our own comfort. Enjoyed the side discussions as well as your meditations. Best wishes.

    • Aha, that is a very good idea, upsetting the corporate apple cart with a carrot or two. And yes, these periods of profound silence can be deeply impactful, as we begin to appreciate the coarseness of our everyday apprehending. It very much sounds as though you speak from experience, and if you felt so inclined, do please let me know if you follow any tradition; I would be most interested to know and learn more. Many thanks for your time and reflections, and I am glad that you enjoyed the comments of others along with my own mindless carrot talk.

  19. Dear Hariod,

    I had not yet seen your post and have just devoured your words. You set the scene within your retreat as you shared your senses and experience. Then you took me upon another journey – the one in which the monk sat within his own experience – one I had never heard of before, and one which I found completely fascinating. I couldn’t even begin to think of what such an experience it must have been.

    What I liked too, Hariod, was how you weaved the past into the present as we each all perceive that which we see. Your words:

    “Everything works, even though we remain one step removed from our actuality. And again, much of the time we need to know that the shape and form approaching us across the savannah is a lion; or that the appearances of vaporous clouds above liquid indicate extremes of temperature. By far the greater part of our lives is lived in a stream of mentation, of conceptual referencing. So this is a world of otherness, of ‘carrots’, ‘lions’ and ‘kettles’.”

    Your writing is deeply thought out my friend, and you have left your imprint upon my mind as I go and ponder some more the ‘carrots’ of this world.

    Love and Blessings,

    Sue. ❤

    • Thank you so very much dear Sue; I am delighted that you found something of interest in this piece, and am grateful for your engagement and reflection. Anecdotal pieces such as this, describing what we can only consider to be rather bizarre occurrences, are difficult to comment upon, I know. It is immensely rewarding to know that these vignettes of my own interiority, so to speak, can hold the attention of kind souls such as yourself and others here. And every time you dig one of your delicious organic carrots from your allotment, you can perhaps now be further disposed to – rather than calling a spade a spade – seeing it only as Cézanne would have done. H ❤

      • Big smiles dear Hariod. I will soon be in my allotments; the ground is being prepared, and my flower seeds have been sown. The veggies are being sorted as to where they go this year and the parsnips and beetroot have already just today gone in the ground. I enjoy my visits here, to dig beneath the words and learn at the same time. 🙂 Enjoy your day dear Hariod, or should I say evening? I do not know where the day went. x

    • Hi Wyrd! I think I’ve mentioned to a couple of commenters above that these anecdotes of slightly bizarre turns of events are very difficult to comment meaningfully on in any case. What can one say when another says they saw a carrot in a different light, then appeared to lose themselves with a mug of tea in a garden? What can it all possibly mean? Nothing really; not to the hearer in any case; such things only have significance within themselves. And actually, the odd thing is, one can’t even lay the experience down in one’s own memory. Of course, the general feel of the event and the circumstances of its occurrence may be recalled, but the true interiority of it – and ‘interiority’ is completely the wrong word Wyrd – simply escapes representation by the mind and memory. Perhaps it was just a dream?

              • ❓ “Exactly” isn’t an answer to “Between [what and what]?”

                The other evening a friend of mine posed an interesting question: What is the difference between a lucid dream and a dream about being lucid?

                It’s an interesting question. Certainly from an ‘after’ perspective there seems no difference, but dreams do have an ‘at the moment’ experiential aspect as well as a ‘what you remember when you wake up’ memory aspect.

                So I think there is a difference. In a lucid dream one has a sense of awareness and will that’s lacking in the experiential aspect of a regular passive dream.

                • It is if there isn’t a dividing line.

                  We could first ask what it is that defines a dream. It’s conscious appearances within sleep we might say; perhaps adding that the functioning of memory is largely switched off. You may argue in addition that the content of those appearances is not measurable or verifiable in any way, that the appearances themselves therefore are not ‘real’. As you know, I try to avoid using that word Wyrd, and to me, all appearances within consciousness fall under one and the same category. If we measured brain correlates for the appearances (percepts) of a chair in a dream as against the same in wakefulness, I wonder if there would be any significant difference.

                  Is the knowing that we are dreaming really any different to the knowing that we are aware in wakefulness? Both are the mind reflecting upon itself in a knowing, which process demands short-term memory – the one thing that is largely absent in ‘regular’ dreams. So by my lights, a dream about being lucid and a lucid dream are of the same category. The fact that short-term memory, will or apparent volition presents more markedly in what you would call the latter could perhaps be seen as a somewhat arbitrary distinction, and certainly not one that we would make in wakefulness of course, wherein the same comes and goes.

  20. Restarting to avoid the extreme indentation:

    “It is if there isn’t a dividing line.”

    I still don’t know what dividing line you’re referring to. Between what and what? Lucid dreams and regular dreams? Dreams and being awake? The experiences you reported in this post and (lucid) dreams?

    You suggested that, “Perhaps [my experience] was just a dream?” I agreed, “Perhaps.” Then you asked, “A lucid one – so where is the dividing line?” I didn’t follow quite what you meant and asked, “Between?” You replied, “Exactly.” And that’s where my train ran off the rails. o_O

    “To me, all appearances within consciousness fall under one and the same category.”

    Yes, I’ve come to recognize that. It’s a topic on which we’ll just have to disagree. 🙂

    “If we measured brain correlates for the appearances (percepts) of a chair in a dream as against the same in wakefulness, I wonder if there would be any significant difference.”

    I think there would be. For example, I’m pretty sure the visual cortex isn’t involved in dreams. The active awake brain and the sleeping dreaming brain are quite distinct in their neural correlates (as far as I know).

    Dream researchers do require their subjects to be asleep (and dreaming!) which suggests the dream state is distinct. (I haven’t done much reading about dream research, but now that I’m having lucid dreams, it’s a topic I intend to explore.)

    “Is the knowing that we are dreaming really any different to the knowing that we are aware in wakefulness?”

    I. . . think so. There seem many ways to test wakefulness against the dream state. I can’t will objects to change their size, nor can I levitate, throw, or crush objects with my will. I can’t fly (in dreams, either, but I’m working on it). Location doesn’t suddenly change. Light sources are identifiable.

    And so far, in the two that I’ve had, I’m not in full control – the dream sweeps me along not unlike a regular dream. There is a definite ‘dreaminess’ to dreams that is absent in wakefulness. (If I’m seriously fatigued or influenced wakefulness can get a bit dreamy. XD )

    “So by my lights, a dream about being lucid and a lucid dream are of the same category.”

    It’s certainly an interesting question. The experience of being actively aware and (apparently) exercising my will (to some degree) seems distinct from regular dreams – which are entirely passive, like watching a movie.

    On the other hand, just as there are different types of regular dreams, it’s hard to prove that a lucid dream isn’t just another type. But they sure do feel like they’re in another class of dreaming – very distinct from regular dreams.

    You recently pointed to history and shared experience in support of the kind of experiences you’re discussing here. Lucid dreams also have a long history and shared commonality, so whatever they are, they seem to be taken as more than regular dreams.

    In any event, if the dividing line in question is between dreams, lucid dreams, hallucinations, or whatnot, and being awake, then, yes, I think there’s a huge difference.

    • When I first said “Perhaps [my experience] was just a dream?” I was ironically suggesting that it is a false distinction, in-line with our earlier conversation elsewhere. In other words, I was bringing the conversation onto territory that for me isn’t ultimately productive – just as a little in-joke between the two of us. 😉 So then when I added “A lucid one – so where is the dividing line?”, I was reaffirming this was just what I had done, and again invited you to clarify the distinction by means of defining what lay on either side of a dividing line that only exists for you, as it is only you who claims that dreams are not ‘real’. You replied “Between?” to which I responded with “Exactly”, because for me what lies either side of your dividing line are one and the same. Phew! [By the way my friend, I am happy to accept that it is only my own obtuseness o_O that causes these sorts of things.]

      I wonder if the neural correlates really are much different between seeing an external object, and simply imagining the same. Both are representations formed by brain function; I think we can agree on that, and one of us really is in trouble if we can’t. 😮 There is evidence to the effect that merely thinking about motor actions of the body traces the same patterns on the motor cortex for example. The input sources for the two visual representations of the chair are different, but are the creation of the representations themselves performed distinctly differently? I think we’ll have to let that one hang Wyrd.

      “Is the knowing that we are dreaming really any different to the knowing that we are aware in wakefulness?” With respect Wyrd, I think you have ignored my very deliberate stress in including the word ‘knowing’ in both cases. As I said, both instances demand the application of short-term memory in order to arrive at the knowing, and I see no reason why the functioning of these memories should be any different in the two situations. The process is, after all, the same: the mind reflecting upon itself in a knowing. You have answered the question as if I was simply asking whether there was any difference between sleep and wakefulness, which I was not.

      As to your point about distinctions between so-called Lucid Dreams and otherwise Dreams, then I am not saying there is no distinction of any kind there, and have expressly stated that the distinction concerns the operation of short-term memory, meaning the mind being aware of its presentations as, if you will, ‘facsimiles’ such as we call ‘memories’ and which are in fact re-presentations. What I said was “Both [awake and in-sleep lucidity] are the mind reflecting upon itself in a knowing, which process demands short-term memory.”

  21. Ah, Hariod! I love this piece; I love the way it started, and I love the concept. I have been thinking a lot on this very subject (I shall not label it. 😉 ) I have been thinking about judgment vs. stating what is – labeling things to make them fit into my conceptual framework that I have spent a lifetime thinking somehow makes things understood, or makes me safe. I have been wondering if my tight control has actually left me missing out on the very things we are supposed to experience here! I love your words; I love your mind. You always make me ponder things a little deeper. I wanted to write my response before I read any of the comments here and will be back to read them. Thank you dear Hariod! I really ‘felt’ this one! ❤

    • Dear Lorrie,

      It would seem that you’ve managed to extract something from this piece and then relate it to your own life; so that appears to be quite removed from others’ reactions, some of whom I suspect may feel I had read altogether too much significance into the absence of a lowly carrot. 😉 I do wonder when I write these anecdotal little pieces as to whether they will have relevance to others, or indeed whether they may be appreciated in any relatable way. o_O Given this, perhaps it invites the question as to why I should bother with them at all, though I continue to do so occasionally because, frankly, they were indeed significant moments in my life (this one happened decades ago by the way), and secondly, they are experiences that others too may well have had, or can otherwise draw parallels with. Such things have been written about down through history as hopefully I make clear in the article; so they are, at least potentially, universal experiences within humankind and which may obtain regardless of time or culture. Given this, then perhaps it is worth doing just as you say, which is to ponder more deeply, and in so doing slowly come to question and deconstruct many of the assumptions we each of us carry through life, and which do not always serve us so well. Who knows, perhaps we all can become little revolutionaries just as Cézanne predicted?

      Lots of love and gratitude to you dear Lorrie,

      Hariod. ❤

  22. Oh Hariod, your thoughts are so enlightening, beautifully chosen, and fall into not only my mind but my heart. I’m very deeply taken by this – thank you, thank you. And all the comments I must come back and read. [I will be in Amsterdam the first 10 days of May]. Love always, Hariod. xxx Meg.

    • Many thanks Meg, for your inspiring and generous words, and I am delighted that you found something of interest in my little anecdote here. You have just missed the opportunity to visit the venerable Liuquan’s mummified remains in Holland, and I do believe he may now be finding himself 😉 in your beloved Bulgaria – the very place where you found yourself too of course. Have a wonderful trip dear Meg. Much love, Hariod. ❤

  23. Love, Hariod. Consider me smiling, at the end, along with all of you on the grounds of the monastery. Was this a recent retreat?

    I was captivated by all you wrote except I must loudly disagree with the part about you not being an artists and your measure of your wits. I can imagine I’m fighting for a voice in a crowd of people yelling in disagreement!

    And I was right about not being right; not Easter related. My apologies, I’ve got rabbits on the brain.

    With gratitude for all the beauty to bring to all of us,
    Lauren

  24. I wonder if when the monk originally was mummified, either by self or others – though if by self, that is a tortuous path to enlightenment – did they know that one day a machine would be able to read inside and see the skeletal remains of an idea leading to enlightenment? I too was surprised to see your second image and read the caption. I wonder what compelled those who embarked on x-raying it, to do so, and were they surprised too? In this world of mystery there are so many unknown things.

    It is a wonderful metaphor for our constant search for meaning – to hide the true meaning of a statue inside the statue only to have it revealed centuries later by humanities quest for meaning.

    • Thank you very much for your interest and reflections Louise, and as we have not met before, then may I also welcome you here most warmly. To answer your queries as best I can, then my understanding is that until the CT scan was performed in Holland, no one was aware that the statue contained mummified remains, and the Chinese authorities lending the piece had no such idea, neither had they ever sought to understand the work’s internal composition. I also know that the curators at The Drents Museum were utterly amazed at what the scan revealed, and as a consequence commissioned the custom made endoscope to explore further with more detailed imagery. It would seem as though at some point during the past 900 or so years, then the significance of the piece was lost on whoever its custodians in China were, perhaps due to its theft during times of war, the lapsing of a Buddhist lineage, or some such upheaval. Thank you once again Louise, for your interest and engagement. All best wishes, Hariod.

    • Oh Louise, I wanted to let you know that I have just this minute watched your TEDx Talk, and found it very moving. You have my admiration and deep respect. All best wishes once again, Hariod.

  25. I’ve read this so late, but I’m glad I have done today. This is just wonderful and inspiring Hariod. I specially love this: “Everything is exquisitely alive and silent.” Being ‘alive’ and ‘silent’ seem antithetical, yet when one experiences this state of awareness, I think it really is the nearest description that can be given. Also: “…of a world that I am neither part of nor separate from. The freedom of not being anywhere. The view from nowhere.” It reminds me of a line from scripture, “In this world, but not of the world.” A moment of overcoming. It must have been an ecstatic experience for you. I wish to read more about your retreats. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this. Now I’m adding ‘Epoché’ to my list of favorite words. ❤

    • I am very grateful to you Satori, both for your interest and for offering your subsequent reflections, they mean much to me, truly they do. Many thanks also for endorsing my choice of words here; I am conscious of the fact that they may have appeared contradictory and nonsensical to many. This was a little episode that happened on a retreat decades ago, though the memory of it remains pristine, and I thought it tied in nicely with the subject of suspending cognitive impulses, such as the overlaying perceptions of sensory contacts: e.g. ‘this is a carrot’ etc. It is all but impossible to convey the true sense of any actual experience such as this, though I suspect that in your case, that is an altogether unnecessary objective.

      With all best wishes and respect to you Satori,

      Hariod. ❤

      • Yes, I agree, it is quite impossible to truly convey such experiences, but you have a lovely way with words, Hariod. I honestly wish I could express myself like you. 🙂 Thanks again!

        • Once again, you are too kind, and I appreciate it immensely, being encouraged to express myself a little better still next time as a result. All the very best, Hariod. ❤

    • Oh Sue, that is so very kind of you, as I know that you are tremendously busy with your various commitments and so forth. I shall be out of the blogosphere for the next three weeks as I am going on a little tour to see family and friends across the country, so will see you towards the end of the month. Have a wonderful Easter break Sue, and much love to you and yours, Hariod. ❤

  26. I found your article fascinating Hariod. It’s amazing what some people have done to achieve Nirvana. Complete re-integration with the elements is possible through the final instructions of Dzogchen practice, so no body remains at all. This is being achieved by practitioners even today, and not necessarily monks – this is beyond buddhahood. I find it very interesting; remaining in the state of instant presence is the key. There are many ways to approach this. Knowing and accepting what we are, I guess, is a good start. For me, recognising that it’s all just stuff, is a start!

    • I am so pleased that you found this article interesting Susan. I wrote it in an anecdotal style from a memory of events occurring on a silent retreat many years ago, and which I hope works on both simple and more profound levels so as to offer something to readers with differing levels of experience. I know very little of the Tibetan Buddhism which you refer to, having been trained in Orthodox Theravadin practices and doctrines. Either way, religious cosmology is not a subject that greatly excites me, though the psychological principles of non-duality, or non-self – call them what we will – are central tenets to be rigorously explored in any soteriological Buddhist practice of course. And yes, ‘presence’, or releasing the mind from its enslavement to conceptual thought, is indeed the key, as you rightly suggest. One might even say it is the beginning and the end of the path, certainly for so long as one believes one is passing along any path.

      Thank you very much for your interest and insightful engagement Susan; with all best wishes,

      Hariod.

      P.S. Many apologies for the delay in responding to your comment; I have been away for the past two weeks.

      • Yes, the release from conceptual thought is indeed the path, and the fruit at the same time. What a relief to know this! Relaxing the mind is a good reminder, and ‘the path’ has kind of disappeared for me; not in a bad way, but just letting go of it, and any expectations. I’m just enjoying things now, whatever that might mean!

        • That sounds really good Susan, and I wonder whether it is ‘the path’ that is disappearing, or the seeker in you? To paraphrase the Buddha: “There is a path, but no one who walks it”. I think the paradox that the seeker lives with is the fact that the seeker themselves (as self-conceived) must dissolve before the goal is actualised. Put another way, the subject must see that they are indistinct from the object, that the world and consciousness both exist and are identical. Either way, it’s good to hear that you’re enjoying things, and I must make more of a point of visiting you regularly at your own place in future, if I may.

          With gratitude and respect,

          Hariod.

  27. Hello Hariod, sorry about my confusion over the other post. I really should have been more kind. Anyway, just to let you know, I have more or less giving up blogging. I could not really write anything that held anyone’s interest, and I think the light just went out. Thanks for the past wonderful comments. Bye for now, Eve.

    • How kind and noble of you to write this note Eve; I do truly appreciate it. We all invest so much in the spiritual search; in your and my case, it has been many decades of course. Alongside such investments can sometimes come a certain overly-sensitive capacity to perceive threats to our position, even though at one level we know that our understanding is not yet complete, and so remains susceptible to requiring reappraisal. I believe that I made numerous further explanations in the comments section as to why the idea of attaining spiritual freedom, by ourselves as an imagined subject, is a misconception, and there is no point in rehearsing them further here.

      In any case, I have no aversion to others raising objections to what I write, and have spent decades being something of a nuisance and contrarian myself in this regard, it being quite a useful way of testing one’s own ideas against the assertions of others. And as we both know, there are a lot of charlatans in the spiritual world, many of whom, for their own benefit, could do well with having their positions challenged by those who are prepared to play Devil’s Advocate, if nothing else. I began this blog as a forum for the exchange of ideas, and not as a mouthpiece for myself as any authority, and am always open to respectful objection and further discussion, from whatever quarter.

      As regards your own blogging, then perhaps you will at some point return with an entirely fresh perspective and agenda Eve? I have a strong sense that what readers warm and respond to more readily are the personal perspectives of authors. It seems there is a reluctance for readers to engage on blogs which tend to focus on disseminating the thoughts of others, however worthy and esteemed those others may be. Many blog readers, I believe, are looking to touch the personality of the author, and are less concerned about whether they are an authority or not. If true, this means the field is leant to equality, is open to all such as yourself who will write from the heart.

      With metta and gratitude,

      Hariod.

  28. I can’t figure out how to navigate my way to your newest posts, confusing really, because I’m usually good at figuring out the net; kindly show me where to go and read your recent entries.

    Thanks in advance,

    Genie.

    • My apologies for any confusion Genie. To access all posts, go to the home page [ https://contentedness.net/ ] either via that link or via the menu tab on your left (PC) or top (Tablet etc.). Then scroll down to just below the ‘like’ avatars and you will see a column labelled ‘A post to stimulate’. There, all posts are displayed chronologically. Many thanks for your interest, and I would be delighted to receive any feedback from you should you feel moved to do so. For your information Genie, I only post one article a month.

      With very best wishes and gratitude,

      Hariod.

  29. This is so beautiful. I love the part: “The autopilot takes control; I’ve done this so many times I’m bored with the process; the robot is dreaming. This time it’s different. Everything matters. Everything is exquisitely alive and silent.” Just like the bee bee-ing.

    • Thankyou Quentin; I greatly appreciate your interest in this article. Odd though it undoubtedly must sound, this little experience at the monastery was quite transformative for me, and was probably my first deep and sustained immersion into pure perception, with nothing mediated by the thinking mind. It is rather shocking now that I look back on it, to think I had lived so much of my life missing this almost magical sense of a full participation – not as a subject apprehending objects, but as awareness apprehending itself, if I can put it like that. I am sure you will have been there at times yourself, perhaps during the Goenka retreat, or at some other time.

  30. I really liked this bowl of carrots! My mouth, tongue, stomach, and brain tell me I need to read it another 2-3 times to fully digest! Forgive me sir, for not being able to say much of anything beyond my primal senses. o_O

    May I beg your patience, again? *wink*

  31. I was just about to type something about enjoying the post, when I noticed your comment giving further details about the statue. That was also fascinating. It must have been a shock to everyone to discover the skeleton inside. I was vaguely aware of the existence of self-mummification in Japan (although not in China) because when visiting a museum exhibition once, I was startled to read that after the Meiji restoration, the government passed a law banning monks from drinking lacquer. It seemed like such an odd think to pass a law about, I went away and tried to find out what lay behind it.

    • I thought that myself, Bun, as regards the moment of revelation; it must have been quite shocking a discovery indeed – rather creepy too, I would imagine. It seems that some of these monks preferred lacquer over liquor, although a few of the Zen Masters definitely stick religiously to the latter! Many thanks for your kind interest and note of acknowledgment; I appreciate both greatly. With all best wishes, Hariod.

  32. So, this is the type of writing I have to do in order to get all sorts of beautifully written comments as well? Sounds like I have a lot of work ahead of me, because you are certainly a gifted writer. For me, this spoke about really being in the moment. What you talk about in relation to perception also seems to fit into the idea that when you are truly in the moment you aren’t accessing the memory part of the thing you see – it’s just the thing you see. We know too much about carrots, that once we become conscience of it, we think of the carrot, the color, the crunch, the vitamin benefits, how their grown, the leafy bit on top, etc. We know it inside out.

    I am fascinated by how we perceive time, and there are those who have researched what it feels like in those perfect moments, where you are truly in the moment. Athletes say they experience these moments a lot, bending every ounce of themselves for a single solitary goal. Athletes also say that time seems to slow down in such moments, and that they are hyper-aware of everything. Of course, what you are talking about here is more meditative and tranquil. In a way athletes have it easy because they have something to easily distract them to experience these moments; but to have the strength of mind to shut out all distractions on your own is hard. I can’t do it. I feel like it’s something I need to practice. I may of course be missing completely what you are describing here, but that’s what popped into my head.

    Coincidentally, reading your writing is good for just being in the moment, so I thank you for this meditative experience. 🙂

    I was also wondering if you would mind sharing your e-mail with me? I know this might seem a bit forward after the conversation we had tonight on JB’s blog, but I have something that I wanted ask you. I am afraid that doesn’t sound any less frightening, but you’ll just have to take a risk. There’s no growth without risk. 🙂 Mine is sgill197@gmail.com in case you minded putting yours out publicly. Just shoot me an e-mail when you have a moment. Thank you!

    • Thankyou so much, Swarn, for these wonderful words of encouragement. It is deeply gratifying to know that one’s best efforts are at least being read by a few, let alone that some kind souls, such as yourself, would offer their support so generously and kindly.

      Yes, it is about being ‘in the moment’, but personally I never use that expression because, of course, it’s misleading. If anyone can tell me how to be ‘out of the moment’, then I’d be curious to know what they mean. Still, it’s tricky, as terms like ‘self-awareness’ and ‘being here now’, themselves present similar ambiguities. It’s about intimacy really, isn’t it – the intimacy of awareness? That’s the feeling of it, anyway, and perhaps we could say it’s awareness knowing itself as itself, rather than the serial representations of mind objects, which is what consciousness is. I make a distinction here on this site between awareness and consciousness, and do so as a means of pointing up the purely illuminative aspect of consciousness, which I term ‘awareness’, and the mentative objects of representation that constitute (what I call) ‘consciousness’ itself. There is no ontological distinction in truth, but I find it’s helpful in a didactic sense. And yes, spot on, it’s memory that is in fact synonymous with consciousness. If we are conscious of a carrot before us, we actually are apprehending a ‘just then’ memory of pure perception that subsequently has a conceptual overly added before being passed to the endogram of appearances, and which we normally refer to as consciousness. We then assume that endogram to be synonymous with the carrot that’s out there – Naïve Realism – “what I perceive is the thing itself, as itself”.

      As for the athletes, then my guess is that there we’re more talking about concentration, aren’t we? Sporting types talk about being ‘in the zone’, and from accounts I’ve heard this really means being deeply concentrated. Cricketers talk about not being able to hear the crowd when facing immediate delivery of the ball, and that’s because they’re attending with such a tightly focused visual concentration that the other senses are negated. This is somewhat different to what in everyday parlance is called ‘mindfulness’, and which itself is rather more akin, but not identical to, what I’ve referred to just above as “awareness knowing itself as itself”. The difference is quite subtle, but concentration hold’s the object as if at arm’s length, and has a rather rigid, unyielding feel to it, whereas (let’s call it) mindfulness absorbs into the object, becomes intimate with the object and is as if both subject and object as categories were non-existent – it’s altogether more immersive, yet not necessarily as concentrated of attention.

      As for communicating off-blog, then of course I’ll drop you a line. You do already have my email address though, as it appears in your dashboard against any comments I’ve left on your site. Just so as you know, then I do very much try to, and actually need to, limit the amount of off-blog interaction I have with blogging friends. This is purely so as to contain the amount of time I devote to blogging and its peripheral demands – and which already has gotten a bit out of hand, I must admit. I do hope this doesn’t appear at all stand-offish, which naturally isn’t my intention, and I’m open to discussing anything at all; I really am. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed how in the past couple of years – that is, since I began blogging – then my book reading has dwindled alarmingly, and even the amount of time I have for enjoying the countryside here has been curtailed through my own doing. This is one of the reasons why I only post here once every 6-8 weeks. I actually enjoy interacting on blogs a great deal, and spend probably 90% of my allotted blogging time elsewhere other than here. But anyway, do please fire away on any subject you like once you have my address – I’ll be as responsive and candid as I feel able to be, if it’s of a personal nature, which I assume is so.

      Blessings on the day, dear Swarn, and thankyou so much again for your kindly generous interest, your thoughtfulness and your acute perceptiveness, all of which I appreciate greatly.

      Hariod

      • And thank you from this wonderful reply. It seems like understanding the mind is a passion of yours, because you not only appear knowledgeable, but are very good at describing what you mean. Part of that is obviously because you’re an excellent writer, but these concepts are not so easily articulated.

        I do agree that the example I gave about athletes is different in terms of what the mind is doing, but more made the comparison in regards to how we might experience the passage of time in the moment you describe and in what athletes experience. Certainly the ‘oneness’ that you describe is a different beast in terms of perception.

        It’s true, of course, that we are always experiencing the present, but I do think it’s possible to be “out of the moment”. People who dwell too much on the past, or who are worried too much about the future, would be, I think, not being in the moment, because your thoughts are in a time period that is not the present, even if you are physically in the present. When that happens I think we often don’t perceive the moment fully. Perhaps partially, but sometimes not at all. At least this has been my experience. Learn from the past, live in the moment, and be mindful of the future. That’s my motto, but it’s easier said than done. 🙂

        • Thankyou Swarn, and I of course accept that this trope of “being out of the moment” may well be helpful in some instances – perhaps mainly as a mindfulness trigger so as not to get lost in thought. Nonetheless, if I actually test the hypothesis, then for myself, it seems something of a hollow device. For example:

          If I think ‘in this moment’ of the mug of coffee which I ‘now’ hold, its various qualities and the sensations it produces, and ‘now’ I smell its scent, and how ‘now’ I feel its temperature upon my fingers, and I if next think ‘out of this moment’ about the time I once walked my dog Nellie, when we were down on a remote beach in Cornwall as a heavy shower came across off the land mass hidden behind the towering cliff face, and how I remember us sheltering in a cave for fifteen minutes, and then recall my smiling at Nellie’s delight as we emerged into the sunshine once again, I don’t detect any qualitative difference in the nature of my thinking. The two sequences are presented in a contiguous stream of mentation, all of which are psychical representations – even the experiencing of the physical phenomena, the one set being ‘just then’ (re)presentations, the other ‘back then’ (re)presentations. All of the presentations occur ‘in the moment’, because that is the only time they can occur, naturally enough, and my subjective experience seems of a very similar order, notwithstanding that some linear and protracted narrative pre-exists (in a sense) as regards the beach episode, and so there’s a greater likelihood that I’ll spend more time fleshing it out and getting ‘lost in thought’.

          Still, what you describe as being ‘out of the moment’ is rather more on the macro-level, whereas my own example is on the micro-level, and it is indeed possible (we all do it) to neurotically ensnare oneself in dwelling in projections of past and future, in the process missing intimacy with the current environment and circumstances. The reminiscing of the past and worrying about the future both deprive one of attending to relative immediacy, yet as the brain is largely an organ of (re)presentation, then all that it apprehends is of one unitary flux of phenomena, outside of which there is no apprehending.

          This then begs the question of how to be truly ‘in the moment’ whilst remaining aware of that, and if I may, I’ll leave you with a thought: When we are truly ‘in the moment’, in the fullest sense of the expression, nothing ever happens. That means letting awareness rest – I mean perfectly lucid awareness – yet with there being no objects of consciousness whatsoever, so nothing is apprehended in the now halted stream of mentation. It’s quite an exalted experience.

  33. Every time I read one of your essays, my friend, I feel like I have encountered a secret garden of treasures! I don’t think there is anyone else I would rather be reading these days but you, along with a very few select poets who also stimulate little sparks of creative energy and self-reflection. Thank you so much for your efforts!

    • I am hugely grateful to you, Bob, for your generous words of encouragement in my occasional efforts here. Coming from yourself, in particular, they carry an added weight that I feel almost embarrassed to bear. Your interest in these words is indeed gratifying, so I thank you in deep sincerity. With mettā and great respect, too, Hariod.

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