Contentedness embodied (Part One)

Old Couple in Kyrgyzstan. By Evgeni Zotov, Flickr.

Contented Couple in Kyrgyzstan. By Evgeni Zotov, Flickr.

As human animals we spend the greater part of our lives apprehending the world reflectively, as if peering through to it by means of psychical mirrors. Our minds evolved to affect this process unwittingly via constantly flowing streams of updating composite imagery, all unquestioningly taken as the world in itself – Naïve Realism made real. Such mirroring is presumed synonymous with our life itself too – all the sights, sounds, feelings, scents, tastes and thoughts that reflect to us, outside of which no phenomena may appear. These mirrored images are, for the most part, accurate reflections of what happens around and within us, and had our species not evolved to apperceive with this level of precision, then we humans may not be here on earth today. To that extent it is a success story, yet could our mirror-gazing existence be enhanced in the evolution of some quality we lack, yet innately intuit? And may we at times glimpse that which we are yet fully to embody?

A digression: a young woman feels she should take up meditation and so arranges to meet the abbess of a Buddhist monastery. The abbess, having ascertained the woman’s suitability for meditative training, asks why she has requested instruction. In response, the woman explains that whilst her life is comfortable, secure, and untroubled, still she senses the absence of an unquantifiable contentedness of sorts. She appreciates that happiness is ephemeral, coming and going in accord with events, though a disquieting lack of a deep satisfaction persists, and she is left pondering if that felt void, and the contentedness yearned for, has parallels in Buddhistic conceptions of human existence. She senses a subtle distancing, as if life were obscured by a gossamer filter, or remained slightly out of focus, enquiring of the abbess if such thoughts were valid. If so, she asks, might evolution fix this ubiquitous glitch? Smiling, the abbess asks ‘how long do you want to wait?’

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Street Seller in Havana. By Jorge Royan, Argentina.

Beyond the essentials of life, we human animals devote much of our time to realising this same contentedness. Rarely do we conceive of such efforts in those precise terms, thinking instead that we desire happiness rather than to dwell in contentedness. This is because happiness is an overt feeling, and the human is a feeling-driven animal by and large. Behind this striving for a felt happiness, however, in fact lies a knowledge that inheres within the body and which understands that contentedness is the supreme goal. To be content is to be utterly beyond all desire, and such a state is not dependent upon feeling in the least; rather is it more akin to a psychological freedom, one which is not subject to the dictates of desire and aversion, nor wrought by virtue of any conditions. The human body knows this; it is far from being any philosophical abstraction. That is why the young woman was accurate in her appraisal before the abbess, and also why in turn the abbess smiled.

Our fallacy is to mistake a mere mirroring of pleasant sensations for true contentedness; it is the inclination of the mind to seek out a vaporous flux of sensory gratifications and think they will satisfy the body’s quest for that which it knows to be within and realisable now – almost as if that same knowledge were a cellular memory. It is a different mode of memory though, one which cannot ever be laid down for later recall as if an object stored in the mind. Rather, it is the body’s knowledge of itself, as itself, not as an image of itself in a certain state, such as a mood or felt disposition, but as itself alone. Contentedness is not any visualised echoing within the mind, something reflected in the mirror of the psyche, and so cannot ever be manipulated into existence by recall, intellect or volition. It is neither a spiritual attainment, nor result of any endeavour, nor may it be invoked by behaviour or genetic birthright, other than that common to all humans.

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Beauty Salon in Havana. By Jorge Royan, Argentina.

After many years of earnest meditative application, the young woman, now in her forties, went for her afternoon stroll in a local park. She felt calmly observant, yet made no attempt at mindfulness and thought of nothing in particular. Suddenly, in an uncaused instant, a radical perspectival shift occurred, as if life had come into focus. The contentedness she had alluded to with the abbess arose, though not in any mirroring. Her mind leapt in so as to make sense of it all, though quickly she came to laugh at the futility of its blunted effort, as what presented needed no qualification, being starkly obvious in its perfected ordinariness. She knew now that the contentedness she had sought in life could never have attached to any subject, nor absorb into any seeker, as that same seeking subject was merely her own mind-creation. It was as if awareness were now unobstructed by past distinctions imposed by the mind, and the waiting the abbess spoke of had now ended.

Contentedness was now embodied, and she knew that whilst her body had realised itself, and with it her mind too, neither were in truth discrete entities standing in contradistinction to one another; they were both existent yet as perspectives of each the other. She saw that subject and object, as apprehended, were only ever psychical creations, so too that the point of centrality which localised her body and self-image was not so for awareness itself. She gazed over at the distant Chestnut trees, her mind enquiring as to what was so different, yet somehow the same, and ordinary. What was it that was imbuing her with this total desirelessness and ease at a perfect ordinariness? The park, the trees and she of course existed as spatially referenced in awareness, yet awareness also saw itself as itself, as non-local. Her self-centricity had dissolved, yet she remained, embodied as pure awareness and the contentedness she always intuited she had been.

160 thoughts on “Contentedness embodied (Part One)

      • Thankyou Esme; I think it does work well too, if a touch tangentially. ‘Stay tuned’ for Part Two being the simplest explanation of its inclusion here. Still, the lyrics are mysterious, and can be read any which way I suppose. One possible interpretation could be that two lovers are separated by circumstance, yet will come together in another dimension, at another time, and so the heart-shaped Cloud seems most apt. It is a Robert Wyatt composition as you may know – one of England’s finest.

        – Hariod perfectly content just knowing the Cloud is there, shape-shifting or not. ❤

        • Thankyou so much for the kind correction and heads-up Infinite One, and also for taking the time to cast your eyes over this offering – I appreciate both greatly. Apologies for the tardiness of my response, but I am struggling with no internet at home currently whilst the telephony services in my village are being upgraded.

          With all best wishes, Hariod.

          • Masodo to the rescue! If only such magic could be woven as regards my internet connections Esme, and here I am in Glastonbury library having completely missed your kind and generous re-blog, for which I am indeed grateful dear one. H ❤

              • I tell you Esme, it is nothing short of a conspiracy is this business. Why? No sooner did I set foot in Glastonbury library this afternoon than the entire network of Somerset County Library Services crashed! Accordingly, I retired and thought how best to outwit my oppressors, returning some hour or so later dressed in disguise with a blonde bouffant wig, high red heels, a small white umbrella and a Mary Quant handbag. It did the trick – bingo! So, here I am, fending off all manner of uninvited and salacious interest as I tap away in full public view amongst the locals of this odd little town, comforted only by the knowledge that somewhere upon a Cloud a pure heart desires my presence for what I am beneath all this King’s Road get-up.

                – Hariod swinging a handbag like Mandy to fend off yet another reincarnate King Arthur and his whopping sword.

                • But what a glorious part of the country! When I was living just outside Totnes in South Devon, and frequently driving up to London, I used Glastonbury as a coffee stop. The vibrations around that place are something else!

                  • The vibrations are indeed something else Paul, and powered methinks by something more potent than a gang of Duracells. Crikey, Totnes then Glastonbury – out of the frying pan . . .

                  • Yes, I do look rather fetching in them, though I say so myself. I have made a different wardrobe choice for my visit today here in the library Esme: the trusty vintage Barbarella outfit with thigh length boots (but of course), and an improbably lengthy string of pearls (real ones – please!). I seem to be going down a treat with the locals (not a euphemism) – if only they knew what lurked beneath . . . *points with two conical restrainers straight up at the Cloud*

                  • Thankyou LSL; I’ve never been referred to as a ‘stylista’ until now, for reasons that are entirely justified. If you were wondering who the referenced ‘Mandy’ is, then just search YouTube for something like ‘Dick Emery – Mandy/Vicar’. It’s something of a private joke I have running with Esme the Cloud dweller, who herself has been known to invite salacious comments from members of the clergy.

  1. Your post is very timely for me. I am in the middle of reading a book, which friends have been encouraging me to read, about a woman’s awakening. She may have reached that place of contentedness, or at least that is what it seems to be alluding to. I need to read more of it. And another friend and I have exchanged a couple of emails this week about dispassion/detachment vs. resignation/avoidance/apathy.

    I appreciate what you have said here. Your words add important aspects for me to be with, as opposed to analyzing!

    • Thankyou for your expression of interest and kind words Karuna; I appreciate them along with your presence too, naturally. My idea just here is to keep the thing grounded as far as possible, even though whilst in writing of what is essentially a paradox – how can both the world and consciousness exist, as they undeniably do, yet be apprehended as identical to one another? None of it makes sense to the rational mind, obviously, and yet just this, or what others point to in different terminology, may be seen, as you may well have done yourself.

      I will attempt to go into it a little further in Part Two in a few weeks, though just here want to be clear that what is being alluded to may be couched in everyday language that can be related to, and ‘contentedness’ is a far more useful starting point as a term than something more abstract and supposedly ‘spiritual’ – to my mind, at least.

      Yes, your final point is a very good one I think, and relaxing out of our obsessional seeking, with all of its comparisons and quantifications of status, is – I would suggest – totally necessary to realise contentedness. The seeker-subject must dissolve, and although we cannot bring this about volitionally, merely recognising as much opens the door to its possibility.

      With very best wishes, Hariod.

  2. This is a beautiful post Hariod. Using the story of the woman and relating her experience brings together concept with reality in such a grounded, easy way. I love it!

    As I read your words my body started to gently vibrate in a warm glow, and soft tears were released.

    This place is known to me and I am grateful.

    “Contentedness is not any visualised echoing within the mind, something reflected in the mirror of the psyche, and so cannot ever be manipulated into existence by recall, intellect or volition. It is neither a spiritual attainment, nor result of any endeavour, nor may it be invoked by behaviour or genetic birthright, other than that common to all humans.”

    It is not in the mind, in our beliefs or thinking, or in our actions; it is embodied and fully embraced into our being.

    Such an interesting video and melancholy song of hope. *Smiling* I wonder what the Kyrgyzstani couple would think of it.

    I’m looking forward to more. 🎈

    • This is such a delightful and gratifying response to my offering Val, and serves as a most kind expression of encouragement for me; so I thankyou, from the heart. It is so pleasing and touching that you recognise what I have grappled with here in words, and feel sure that because of that you well appreciate the failings of those same words too – it cannot be avoided, as you will understand.

      I think you point to the same very eloquently when you say that “it is not in the mind, in our beliefs or thinking, or in our actions; it is embodied and fully embraced into our being.” Unless and until that is known in a non-intellectual manner, then we can only ever conceive of contentedness as if an object awaiting acquisition by, or absorption into, a subject of selfhood – usually the self-image of a spiritually-seeking subject.

      So glad you liked the song and took time to listen, even though it was a tad tangential. Relevant to my mind: “Oh, don’t start searching, I’ll get back to you. Stay tuned”. That is what ultimately must happen: the searching must fade, or rather the seeker must dissolve, and should that happen whilst staying tuned in awareness, then contentedness will “get back to you”. I like that wording, because it suggests a returning to what was, or is, already known by the body. In its getting back, it becomes embodied and embraced as you say.

      With much gratitude and respect to you dear Val.

      Hariod ❤

  3. Hariod, this is a wonderful post. It’s a powerful reminder, beautifully presented, that our seeking can separate us even further from what we already have as a part of our very being. Consensus reality holds us apart from our essence, until it doesn’t any more. Ah – evolution. Looking forward to the next piece.

    • I am very gratified by this response of yours Carrie, as you so clearly know precisely what it is that I am, albeit a little awkwardly, attempting to get at with this piece. What I call ‘contentedness’ is not some object ‘out there’ awaiting acquisition by us as if it were some Platonic Ideal that we could possess or absorb into; it is simply the body/mind recognising itself as itself, as it always was, in its essential and full thisness (haecceity) of being. Many thanks for casting your sagacious eyes over this Carrie, and for your warm words of encouragement.

      Hariod ❤

  4. A wonderful post. The moment of real contentedness doesn’t come from seeking, it resides somewhere deep within, the essence of our existence. As E.Gilbert has said “At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” The story of the woman is beautifully presented. A great read, Hariod. 🙂

    • Thankyou for your kind words and interest Maniparna; I am very grateful for both. I sense that you grasp well the emotional side of contentedness, as well as its deeper significance in it being our fundamental essence too. I had to look up who Elizabeth Gilbert was, being something of a literary ignoramus, although she clearly has a good grasp on the matter too, along with yourself. Your words are a welcome encouragement to my efforts, and I shall carry them along with me when I write Part Two in a few weeks time. Thankyou once again, Maniparna, your presence and response are both a delight.

  5. To be content with life is a challenge living the consumer driven life of the system, and being all too aware at every turn of the competitive lifestyle. We generate a lot of worry for ourselves. The other animals are not preoccupied with this. Seeing how content my indigenous neighbors are – the happiness, the lack of worry, very much like the animals. The only time they have worry is when we drag them into our system. They live beautiful happy lives without all the stuff. Thank you for your thought provoking share.

    • Dear Jim, so lovely to hear from you again; I rather wondered if you had desisted from all blogging activities. Is there some bug at my end – the notoriously fickle WP Reader perhaps? – or have you indeed stopped writing? I have heard nothing from you for a few months now it seems. We share a similar political perspective, as you may recall, so I am with you entirely on consumer culture and its pernicious effects upon our species’ well-being. May I ask of you, was the cultural difference in Panama, with regard to consumerism, one of the main reasons that you emigrated there? You did emigrate, correct? Thankyou so much for expressing an interest and for offering a reflection Jim; I greatly appreciate both.

      All best wishes, Hariod.

      • Panama has been rated as having the happiest people on the planet for two years running. People of the interior are content with very little as their way of the world. They grow most of their own food and have very little money. They live beautiful lives. They don’t worry about much at all, unless they have expensive lifestyles in the city.

        • It sounds quite idyllic in many ways Jim, and I can tell your interest in the country goes beyond exploration of the natural environment and into imbibing the culture and society more widely too. I shall come over to your blog to see if you have been active of late.

  6. Contentedness is, as you say in a reply above, a wonderful starting point, a word that is as accessible as the experience. Most of us, for at least tiny moments, are privileged to enjoy contentedness, and have some insight into what it means. Ironic that we must quiet the story-telling part of our minds, that part that supposedly best measures our intelligence, to reach deepest wisdom. Cheers.

    • Thankyou Julie, for your interest and generous reflection; I appreciate both, and consider myself honoured by your presence. Yes, precisely so, there is nothing terribly esoteric about contentedness, and one of the sayings of the Buddha I always warmed to was this: “s/he recognises Nibbana as Nibbana, having recognised Nibbana as Nibbana, s/he thinks of Nibbana, s/he thinks in Nibbana, s/he thinks Nibbana, s/he rejoices in Nibbana”. Whilst his attributed words in the Pali Canon go on to explain that Nibbana (Pali, or in Sanskrit ‘Nirvana’), is not yet fully understood or realised, he also says that Nibbana is Samsara, meaning that even when we are not apprehending in contentedness, it is still there (so to speak) albeit concealed, typically, by floods of mentation – your well-phrased ‘story-telling’. It is no more than the body/mind in its essence and when we finally manage to get out of the way of ourselves. As regards your ‘tiny moments’, then it was just those which set me off into Buddhism decades ago Julie, which I did after reading either Gurdjieff or Ouspensky – I cannot recall which of them it was. Anyway, one of them was referring to walking by the shoreline and cognising what was described as a ‘perfect moment’. Nothing happened to make the moment perfect, and there was a metaphorical looking over the shoulder, a sort of backward glancing, in an attempt to recapture it (effectively as if in memory), which cannot ever be done. This is just what those ‘tiny moments’ of yours, and everyone else’s, are I think. Cheers, Julie.

  7. A very interesting approach to the dilemma of desire, happiness, contentment and peace. Very clear and almost a narrative explaining waking up to the Self. And fantastic photographs – I loved them. Looking forward to part two. 💜 Ellen

    • So glad you enjoyed the photographs Ellen; I love Jorge Royan’s work (the second and third images), though sadly he passed away last year. As regards ‘waking up to the Self’, then your friend Mooji will have far more erudite and interesting things to say than myself, I feel certain. Quite how one expresses an uncaused instant though, is beyond me, and all I am able to do – in modest ways at that – is piece together some reflections. So, we come back to the mirror of the mind and reflections – what a trap it is! Thankyou for your kind interest and generous comment dear Ellen. H ❤

    • I very much agree with you that as we grow older, it is natural for many of us to relax into the simplicity of a contented life. Contentedness, as an expression of our emotional life, is really just another word for acceptance, and if in our dotage we have not yet learned to accept life’s ups and downs, then we really are going against the stream of life itself, and proven ourselves to be all but incapable of learning from it. Thankyou for your interest and kind reflection thereupon. All best wishes, Hariod.

  8. “Our fallacy is to mistake a mere mirroring of pleasant sensations for true contentedness…”

    Dear Hariod, your wisdom runs so deep. This field of (contented) beingness is all a-tingle reading your words.

    Thank you, and a deep bow to you.

    • Thankyou very much dear Miriam Louisa; your presence here, and your reading of my offering too, is a great honour for me, along with your generous words of encouragement. _/\_ H ❤

  9. Embodied. A powerful feeling word.

    “Our fallacy is to mistake a mere mirroring of pleasant sensations for true contentedness.” – I really like this idea; it couldn’t be more true.

    Desire is a funny subject, because last night I found myself driving to return some DVDs and was saying out aloud “can’t wait for mum’s roast tonight; oh my gosh, I love roast, roast veg, roast . . . Manu, I love roast.” I began thinking about, visualizing, and well, desiring, the entirety of the future roast – my mum’s roast is the best and I’m not biased. Roast is one of my favourite meals.

    On happiness. You’re very right, most people when asked ‘what do you want in life?’ will say, ‘I just want to be happy’. Never have they asked beyond that. Questions are extremely important, self imposed ones especially.

    The images are such a delight, especially the chicken one!

    • Hello Jessie; it is, as always, a perfect delight to see you here, or elsewhere for that matter, naturally. The word “embodied” feels powerful to you does it? Looking at it, I begin to deconstruct it, to see what it feels like to me. Deconstructing and playing with words is one of my interests, and my mind tends to do it without wondering why it ought bother to. Apparently, in the 1540’s, the word “embodied” was coined in reference to a soul or spirit when invested with a physical form; and from the 1660’s was then applied to principles, ideas, etc. I keep seeing the “died” on the end, and as I know someone called Embo, the deconstruction is not yielding happy results yet. Maybe it is a bit of a spooky word, with intimations of Victorian spiritual gatherings and all manner of ectoplasmic shenanigans.

      Roasts are indeed very good, I agree. When I used to eat meat as a child, I always thought my auntie made superior roasts to my mother’s, and that was because she did, no question, even though my mother’s were very good. In my roast-eating world, my Auntie Sylvia was queen, an incomparable roaster and beef-baster, for that is one critical aspect of a good roast beef dinner. I still enjoy roasts, though they now are all-vegetable, yet equally delicious to my own (now dulled?) senses. Are you certain your predilection for roasts is a desire and not merely a strong preference? Perhaps your words confirm that it is indeed the former, as anyone talking to a parrot about food excitations is likely in a state of desire to the point of abject craving – a very human thing to do, though I seem to have lost the knack.

      I am so pleased you appreciate the images Jessie, the second and third of which are created by Jorge Royan, a wonderful gentleman from Argentina who died last year, so a subscriber here told me. And you like the street-seller one in particular; is that because you like roast chicken? I think she has a wonderfully contented look on her face, which is why I chose the image of course. Jorge’s other image of the beauty salon in Havana features a group of four ladies in semi-repose, and seems to be a capture of a perfect moment of pure contentedness. I am about to buy myself a camera, and if I were to capture a moment like that, even with an inevitably poor technical quality, I would be pleased with my efforts. Moments are difficult to capture the essence of it seems, and yet when we see them in video, no sooner are they appearing than they are gone. What to do – video stills?

      • “Naturally” – Naturally causes my brain to think of a grass field. Embo reminds me of embryo. And unfortunately, and hopefully with no disrespect in regards to the amazing photographer Jorge Royan, his name has always, since the beginning of ever stumbling across it here, reminded me of Rogan Josh, the curry. And you said you knew/know of a person named Embo? Was her name Emma? Never saw the word died, until now, but it seems plentiful.

        To be in, as you call it, a state of contentedness, would lend itself to both being dead and alive simultaneously. I read recently, somewhere, just at a glance, that someone found their ultimate lover in death. I totally get that, then forgot, then somehow ‘got it’ again. And by ‘got it’, a sort of understanding that is of the same nature of moments trying to be captured.

        Taking photos of moments is interesting. Personally, I’ve never really tried to capture anything, just felt to do it every now and again. I am delighted you are going to buy yourself a camera. Phones are also pretty good these days. Lately I have been more interested in observing the ‘change’ in essence and/or phenomena when the ‘capture’ button or ‘record’ is hit. Not so much about capturing it, but watching the subtle ripple effect my actions have on the display.

        Perhaps, if I were to record the roast, the chicken may come alive. Disrupting the roaster in the kitchen is most definitely on the back burner in terms of priorities though. I’m sure queen Aunt Sylvia would agree. There should be only one cookie in the kitchen.

        “All manner of ectoplasmic shenanigans” – hahaaa

        “Strong preference” is now a strong preference of mine in terms of terminology, thank you. Absolutely love it and can’t wait to use it amongst daily interactions.

        “My strong preference lies with the sardine”

        In terms of desire though, it depends on how depleted my stomach is at the time. When fairly empty, there indeed is a desire for certain foods, even with visuals in mind. But mostly I never let my stomach get to that point, so it would indeed be more of a strong preference, in such regards. My stronger preference in terms of the photos displayed was the whole scene. The comedy. Although that is what I like most about Jorge’s work. His sense of humor oozes through the images.

        Video stills?

        • We’re going oblique together here Jessie, but let’s run with it. “Naturally”: Naturally causes my brain to think of a grass field type of imagery too, as well as shampoo that’s around 3% natural and industrially produced breakfast cereals – the power of marketing at work eh? Jorge Royan would indeed resemble a Rogan Josh to one predisposed to seeking out curries, as is your and my wont. No, not Emma, but close – Emily = Embo = alive and well. Yes, very astute, both dead and alive simultaneously, though that’s a condition we all are in. You currently have between 50 and 70 billion dead cells swimming around within you Jessie, curry-contented or not – let’s take the mean figure of 60,000,000,000. “Someone found their ultimate lover in death” – I’m not sure I quite get that, but it’s certainly encouraging news for me. I don’t even know what my ultimate lover would do or look like, but I’m hoping it’s not a mortician in a blood-spattered white coat. It’s interesting that idea of the moment being captured isn’t it? The moment never exists of course; there’s only ever the flux. In my initial comment I used the term ‘moment’ in a loose sense, meaning several of these non-existent moments; like when Americans say ‘a couple of’ (something), they really mean a few, or more than two. Or when people say ‘it was a moment in my life’, meaning a period of several weeks of non-existent moments. “My strong preference lies with the sardine” – I think that sounds better than “My desire lies with the sardine”, which may connote all sorts of prosecutable transgressions. Video stills? Yes, video stills. Still bits of video. Bits of video that are still, still. Is ‘video’ an antiquated word these days? I heard there was some software that duplicates the effect of Super 8. This is the worst paragraph I have ever written.

          • My notifications did not alert me to the fact you had replied in the worst paragraph you have ever written. Also, somehow mysteriously, upon my reflection of the conversation, there seem to be semi-colons placed non-obliquely throughout my comments. Strange, as I don’t use them anymore.

            It’s nice writing straight out, without much thought. It is what I tend to do, hardly ever reading back what it is I have written. You always state that my words are ‘oblique’. I find this really hard to understand, mostly I just relay back exact events from my life, in response, without much thought. Hopefully this is okay in this forum of discussion?

            Only ever the flux – that’s a nice title. It conjured images of someone pressing the loo button. Video stills sounds a nice.

            P.S. The music video was beautifully haunting, I loved it!

            • My notifications have been next to useless this past ten days or so, and I keep having to switch to the equally vague ‘comments I’ve made’ section in the dashboard to see if people have responded to my comments. Essentially, neither method works, and the only option is to go to email notifications for all comments, which means I then have over a hundred messages each day, most of which are nothing to do with me.

              Yes, I moderate all comments here as you know. The purpose is not to censor, but to render them more easily readable for others. Pretty much every comment I receive gets tweaked, usually only for punctuation and spelling mistakes. People have a tendency to reply in a stream-of-consciousness manner, with ellipsis’ being repeated time and again – although you do not do that. They’re doing what you say, ‘writing straight out’, which is fair enough. It seems familiar to the subject who’s doing the writing, but can be a touch clumsy for others to absorb, so I just standardise to a convention with punctuation, and semi-colons are part of that process. I never, repeat never, alter the meaning of the words, even if someone attacks me or is unkind; it still gets published, as you can see for yourself.

              Your style is perfectly okay for this forum Jessie; of course it is, and I really warm to it, as others do I know for certain. The obliqueness I refer to is by no means a criticism, but I use that term in relation to you bringing up things like – roast dinners, word associations e.g. “embryo” and “grass field”, Rogan Josh curries, chicken’s coming back to life, strong preferences for sardines, loo button pressing, and all that kind of thing. It really is just your innately creative side coming out in your exchanges, and which to many of the rest of us might appear oblique, or tangential, or whatever such phrase one might choose. I wouldn’t want you to change at all, and am quite certain you wouldn’t entertain the idea anyhow. If you like, I’ll stop using the ‘O’ word and just run with the sardines or whatever.

              Thankyou for listening to Ms. Garbarek’s music and the video Jessie; it somehow seemed to fit the writing.

              • All in all it is perfect. I tend to write my comments back here, firstly in MS Word, just so I can see the whole comment when replying, then copying and pasting it here. It made me go through, and read, some of the other comments. Maybe a deliberate action from the WordPress team? I was going to reference “A ready, open acceptance of all conditions and circumstances” in regards to your comment tweaking, yet it would then fall onto my own self, in regards to why your tweaking wouldn’t be readily, openly accepted.

                Thank you for accepting my style. Thank you also for clearing up the ‘O’ word; I think I am better understanding your views on it now.

                P.S. I’ve left a few commas etc. out, just to keep your tweaking up top notch!

                • “A ready, open acceptance of all conditions and circumstances” – You’ve got me there Jessie, ‘banged to rights’ as we poms say, and I can only readily admit to being a terrible hypocrite in connection with comment moderation for typo-correction purposes. I also curse whenever I bang my shin on a low coffee table; so there’s work to do there too for sure. I need to buy myself a self-help manual I think, and learn how to accept everything that comes my way with total equanimity and serenity, just like all those charlatan gurus do. 😉

    • Too kind SuziCate, and I am left wondering as to whether the deletion was intentional or not? I have done the same unintentionally on occasion, and for some odd reason, it has only ever happened after around twelve entire paragraphs have been offered up! Ah well, no one needs that much of my mind; of that I am quite certain. Your kind and powerful words are a lovely encouragement to me, and I accept them in all humility, but also as a signifier of your own deep understandings. _/\_

    • Fear not, dear David
      For at this point
      Your body knows
      That for which your mind seeks
      And so it is, your essence remains
      Content 🙂

      [Thankyou very much my venerable friend.]

  10. A beautiful and clear piece, Hariod. Thank you for expressing this. I like the story of the woman. Stories make these concepts more graspable to me.

    I resonate very much with the last paragraph about the woman and the trees being spatially distinct, yet awareness seeing itself as itself, as non-local.

    This is the key thing to get. That awareness is non-local. Seeing this is a revolutionary change in worldview, comparable to seeing that the earth is round and not flat, or that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round.

    Again, thanks for sharing this piece,

    Karin.

    • You get to the very essence of the matter here in your response Karin, even though I wanted not to set the same centre-stage, so to speak. It seems we all use different forms of expression in describing these transcendental episodes, and to have my own so clearly understood by one such as yourself is both gratifying and encouraging. I agree with you on the power of anecdotal accounts, which lend the possibility of scene-setting and the placing of the supramundane within the context of the mundane. Thankyou so much for taking the time to look over this offering, and for your warmly appreciative, very insightful response to it.

      With much gratitude and respect,

      Hariod.

  11. Hariod, this is a wonderful and contemplative piece of writing.

    “She senses a subtle distancing, as if life were obscured by a gossamer filter, or remained slightly out of focus, enquiring of the abbess if such thoughts were valid. If so, she asks, might evolution fix this ubiquitous glitch? Smiling, the abbess asks ‘how long do you want to wait’?”

    I would like to think that most of us ponder this very thing, but I think it really only happens as we get older. I am attempting (albeit slowly) to disrobe my life of this referenced “gossamer filter”. It is not an easy process. The question she asks and the response: “how long do you want to wait?” is apropos to this last year in my life. I came to realize that I am not getting any younger; that the years are going by too quickly; that I need to have some semblance of control over my own contentedness and, again, as I am not getting any younger, I do not want to wait very long. Therefore, I decided to take charge now and your post (its timing) is quite fortuitous for me as it, at least in my mind, gives me affirmation that I am headed in the right direction.

    “To be content is to be utterly beyond all desire, and such a state is not dependent upon feeling in the least; rather is it more akin to a psychological freedom, one which is not subject to the dictates of desire and aversion, nor wrought by virtue of any conditions. The human body knows this; it is far from being any philosophical abstraction.”

    I am not sure I completely agree with this, but see what you are trying to get us to understand. I think one must have a desire to be content. If you do not have that desire, then you won’t seek contentedness. Once you do achieve it, you must have the desire to keep it. But, I think I may be interpreting your use of the word “desire” in a context you weren’t trying to convey? Yes, I look forward to gaining that “psychological freedom” in many ways. I am already enjoying a bit of that freedom now with some decisions I’ve made to date; however, I know I have much further to go.

    I look forward to attaining that which she ultimately saw: “her self-centricity had dissolved, yet she remained, embodied as pure awareness and the contentedness she always intuited she had been.”

    Kudos, Hariod! What an inspiring message you’ve presented to us. Thank you!

    • What a marvellously rich and comprehensive response to my offering; it truly is gratifying when a reader is kind enough to make it clear that my words have connected in some way, if only partially. I am very grateful to you for your abundant generosity and deep sensitivity – thank you!

      I think you are perfectly correct, and that it tends to be only after decades of adulthood that we take stock of matters and begin to question what our true purposes are, and whether the directions in which we have been heading have been more conditioned by externalities than by our own innate wisdom. For myself, and although I ignored the matter for some 31 years subsequently, I had an odd experience when I was just 4 years old, and it was quite a profound insight funnily enough. I had a strong realisation that life was somehow out of focus, that I was not quite connecting with it, or as if it were coming at me through some filtering mechanism, all of which rendered the whole slightly insipid even to my as yet undeveloped sensibilities. I finally got around to doing something practical about it when I was in my mid-thirties, and for me that meant going into quietude and the solitude of introspection – for others there are different ways, of course, and all can be appropriate dependent upon the character type.

      I partially disagree with your disagreement! Yes, “one must have a desire to be content”, and it is just that desire which spurs us on in our efforts, although a certain faith may be needed too, that the contentedness sought is actually realisable. Even the great thinkers of our time were blunted in their endeavors by cynicism and pessimism – think Arthur Schopenhauer, for example. Where I would respectfully put forward a different opinion, is in your assertion that “you must have the desire to keep it”, in other words that contentedness is maintained in being by desire.

      From my own perspective, that suggests only a partial or qualified degree of satisfaction, and contentedness is rather like being pregnant – one either is, or one is not. If desire is present, then a sense of lack is present too, it seems to me, albeit that sense of lack may present as a projection i.e. a fear of future loss. Then again, we can get bogged down in semantics here, and each of us is free to imbue any word with whatever meaning we are disposed so to do.

      As a note, then when I refer to contentedness here in my writings, then I mean it as an absolute, meaning a state entirely free of desire, fully satiated in an emotional sense, and also as a condition of psychological freedom in being devoid of both desire and aversion – in other words a complete acceptance of whatever is, whether it be adjudged painful or pleasant. It has nothing to do with happiness or sensory gratification.

      I cannot thank you enough for your gracious, honest and generous response, but please know that I feel the same.

      Hariod ❤

  12. Hariod,

    This is so well written and in itself causes me, the reader, to reflect the joy I’ve discovered in paradox! It’s a weird but settling(?), calming(?) state of mind and existence. What utterly fascinates me about this as I go deeper, go wider, while going further within (the paradox of movement?), [is that] on Quantum levels this is exactly the mechanics as we (perpetual science, evolution) have/has observed. And because of the Law of Conservation of Energy/Mass, there is no deadline, only transition to transition to transition, each infinitely unique. This liberation from fears of traditional “life and death” is indeed the gateway – the door to contentedness! At least for me, this is how I’ve attempted to (poorly) explain it. *laughs like a mad man at himself*

    I realize my comment is a little bizarre, but I am a work in progress. I beg your patience for I do not possess the gift of eloquent writing as you Hariod. Know this: your post here reaches the soul not just my visual cortex! *humbly nods in gratitude*

    • My dear professor, your joy is reflected here to me in full measure, of that be in no doubt good sir. If your comment be ‘a little bizarre’, it is only itself a reflection of the same – a mirroring of the abstruse and slightly outré nature of my own gabbling here. *laughs like a similarly atypical one to my learned friend* For my part, I must bow to your scientific understandings whilst feeling ill-equipped to utter much along such lines, save to say the whole thing is an endless matter of ‘going deeper’, ‘going wider’, and ‘going further within’ – just as you observe through the double-slit of your mind. There is no end point, nought but transition as you so rightly state. To those who claim to have arrived at some final destination, I say, how unfortunate, commiserations, though well done for having arrived thus far. So glad you appreciate the photographs professor, each of which I thought exemplars of contented faces. I feel certain that should you tilt your top hat, the very same would be revealed. *withdraws a respectful distance and offers a vast empty space to the suspected handsome psycho-naut*

  13. New music, Hariod! Thank you, thank you! I’ve listened to her father for years. I imagine hearing the influence of her traveling with him as a child in her harmonies in this piece. My daughter will appreciate her too. Trip hop must be somewhere in our genetic rhythm code.

    Reading your words this morning, Hariod, was akin to looking in a microscope, and with each paragraph, being able to increase the magnitude to a slightly higher degree while watching everything come into focus. You know how much I appreciate the seeming invisible. Beautifully wrought! I look forward to its companion.

    • Oh marvellous, Jana, as is Jan, I agree; though the late Michael Brecker is my favourite tenor saxophonist, and he brings tears to my eyes with such ease, as perhaps Jan does to yours. The song is composed by an Englishman called Robert Wyatt, though I feel Ms. Garbarek’s rendition to be far superior to his own, thanks to a Porcupine Tree and much as I love the frailty of Wyatt’s singing voice. I had no idea that this sort of thing was called Trip Hop, but then I am dreadfully disconnected with much of contemporary music, I admit.

      Your most kind and generous words as regards the text are a great encouragement to me Jana, as I always feel very uncertain as to whether I shall connect at all with readers, and wonder at times if I should drive some away with my oblique renderings. I sense we share a common uncertainty in that regard, and perhaps it can only be that way? The challenge for me here is to present something in short-form that is at once grounded in the commonly apprehendable, whilst pointing to what must always remain a paradox to reason. I fail every time, of course, though if a piece can be read only as a light meditation, not to be hammered into shape upon the anvil of the intellect, then I consider it at least a partial success, and you kindly indicate as much to me. So it is that I remain grateful and respectful of your esteemed presence dear Jana.

  14. Hi Hariod,

    I like the way you have simplified contentment (a very complex term) for us. True, it cannot be manipulated, it dawns slowly, its abundance can be felt deep within and its eternal glow brings blessings of an ethereal nature.

    True, it can’t be accomplished with meditation or spiritual training of the mind; it needs to be nurtured with earthly connections, with thoughts of compassion, self-love and self-control of the premier order.

    Life can never be perfect. Contentment makes it so. I look forward to the next part so as to understand the profound realities of contentment. Thanks for sharing.

    With regards, Balroop.

    • Thankyou very much for taking the time to read this offering Balroop, and also for contributing to the discussion with such sagacity, clarity and generosity. Your presence here is a gift, and I do so appreciate the kind feedback and interest you show.

      With all best wishes, Hariod.

  15. “To be content is to be utterly beyond all desire” – To be free, and find oneself free to ‘be’.

    An incredibly short and lacking comment for such a wonderful post Hariod I’m afraid, but that is how it presented itself to me, in the little nut-shell Esme calls a brain. *smiles*.

    I look forward to Part Two. ❤

    – Esme a being, being upon the Cloud.

    • Allow me to do all the blathering dear Esme, for it is my forté, as well you know – at least in matters of obliqueness anyway. To take anything at all away from this is an achievement, and you have taken, up, up and away to the Cloud, the very essence of contentedness itself. Yes, to be content is to be free of wishing things were other than as they are. We still have our preferences, naturally enough, though all are tempered by what may realistically be chosen in both life and love. I thank you for reading this Emse, and also for letting me know what came to your delightfully asymmetrical walnut as a result.

      With love and gratitude, H. ❤

  16. Dear Hariod,

    I enjoyed the article, and even perhaps more so, I enjoyed the comment exchanges. The images are wonderful, and I had browsed your page with my children looking at the images. Indeed, capturing honest contentedness is not very easy, because, even my littlest ones, starting at about age 4 or so, begin to put on masks and posing for the photos. I feel like paparazzi, sometimes sneaking in the camera just to capture a natural moment.

    I am a newbie in reading these posts, so am here just to get my feet wet, or to stretch my bee wings, so to speak. I very much liked it and learned quite a bit. I am glad you pointed out the difference between desire and preference. That is perhaps where I often struggle and beat myself up for my own preferences. Thank you so much for this write up and support. 🙂

    Kristina

    • Dear Kristina,

      How very nice it is to see you here taking a peek into my little world, and that of some of the readers here too – you are very welcome indeed, and I greatly appreciate your presence. I can fully accord with what you say as regards children, and am currently observing my granddaughters go through those same stages as your own littlest ones. I believe self-consciousness begins to form at around two years of age – is that about right? – although the mask-wearing for the camera obviously takes another two to surface, and a further twelve or so to perfect! By then of course, the image-altering apps are in full swing, and the faces all become exemplars of unblemished radiance, or so the subjects would have us believe. Anyway, thankyou for your interest and kind words of encouragement Kristina; I am pleased to meet you and look forward to exchanges between the two of us in future.

      With all best wishes,

      Hariod.

  17. The more that one seeks better awareness of our own brain (mind), and via that the minds of others, the more that one realises how complex our human brains are. This has been brought into focus as Jean and I have recently started watching the series by Dr. David Eagleman on The Brain.

    [Details here: http://www.eagleman.com/%5D

    The first episode looked at what is reality, and Dr. Eagleman offered the tantalising scientific evidence that our brains create the majority of the ‘reality’ about us, including the colours that we see ‘out there’. Episode Two explained that while we have a very good understanding of how the brain works to deliver the notion of self, as in Who Am I?, there is still a long way to go before human consciousness is fully understood. All of which might explain why contentedness can be a bit of an elusive butterfly.

    • Thankyou Paul, for taking the time to read this piece and also for reminding me about David Eagleman. I had read the reviews of his book ‘Sum’ and always intended to read it, yet never have gotten around to doing so. Your reminder is therefore quite timely.

      The question of ‘what is reality’ is a difficult one, and as I point out in the opening paragraph here, we at least know what it is not once we understand how the world is apprehended by the mind and our own animal sentience. My own view is that the concept of reality, whilst serving a useful purpose in what we take to be a consensus reality – the world we largely all agree upon – does not have any ultimate referent for that same concept. In other words, whilst the mind can create concepts as to what this supposed reality may comprise, not only can it (the mind) never know reality as reality itself, but that there is no base point to any fundamental reality in any case, save to say, the whole thing is a flux of phenomena which themselves are always removed from our apprehending. The closest we can get to such a concept of fundamental reality is, I think, in the experience of awareness seeing itself as itself. Our entire lives are nothing to us but this awareness, so to hope to apprehend something outside of that is a quite absurd objective.

      “A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: ‘What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.’ The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, ‘What is the tortoise standing on?’ ‘You’re very clever, young man, very clever,’ said the old lady. ‘But it’s turtles all the way down!’”

      — Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time 1988

  18. Jiminpanama’s comment resonated with me, as I too see people with little appear to be [more] content within themselves than those of us living in a rich consumerist world. I shall stick to observations rather than connecting with my inner self as it is currently full of vegan sausage, mash, peas, potatoes and gravy, rather than anything metaphysical.

    In my teens I had a desire – or a preference? – to live in Polynesia. Such a simple uncluttered life. To live and to just be. Andalucía was the nearest I got however.

    When asked if he was happy, my father would reply, ‘I’m content’. It struck me at the time, as a child, that it was disappointing he wasn’t happy. But he didn’t say that of course, he replied differently to the question. On reflection, I suspect his answer was more about his lot in life, with which he was content, rather than inner contentment and union.

    But back to consumerism and values – isn’t that part of the problem? That we see ourselves in the eyes of others and can not live within ourselves? [A poor paraphrasing of Rousseau] That we constantly worry about money, status, position, new acquisitions (she writes, looking at the frayed cuffs of her ancient pullover), and whilever we do so, contentedness is but a mythical entity.

    • Thankyou Kate, for casting your eyes this way and offering a reflection; it’s very good to see you.

      Yes, cupidity is a huge obstacle, along with its cousin fear, which, it seems to me, is so often the driver. I don’t see contentedness as being ‘metaphysical’, nor do I recognise any ‘inner self’, but sense you use these expressions in a playful, leg-pulling way; so we can leave it at that, smiling together. Wealth itself is not the cause of our existential problems, and it’s obvious that its opposite is not the cure for any psychological disquiet. Rather, I would say, it’s that we chase feelings of satiation, and chase away feelings of aversion; so the whole is a constant manipulation of desire and aversion, with results judged solely upon felt responses. That’s a game without an end of course, as feelings never last. So, those who don’t play it keenly, like Jim and the Polynesians, at least have escaped much of the futility of all that.

      Contentedness, in its acted-out expression, is no more than to be free of that interplay of desire and aversion; it’s having the psychological freedom from those impulsions. Lots of people would claim to be free in such a way – think New Age nostrums of acceptance and detachment – yet the whole runs at very subtle levels, even at the level of sub-conscious assumptions which are then acted upon at the conscious level, alongside the grosser, consumerist manifestations of cupidity. And yes, I agree, our detestable cultural values keep the whole thing in play, and chronic low self-esteem, widespread depression, and ubiquitous anxiety are the results. All the while the MSM and politicians keep hammering away at the notion we must share – dare I utter the word? – aspirations. No thanks, just leave me alone.

      *nips off to buy a lottery ticket for tonight’s draw* [Hypocrisy is part of the human condition – no?]

      • And yet, don’t you think aspirations for contentment are just another form of desire? And, a middle class educated one at that. I doubt the local crim in UK court hauled up for TWOC, minor drugs, petty theft/burglary can consider contentment. Can one truly achieve contentment if worrying where tomorrow’s meal comes from? Because truth is, neither Yahweh, nor Jesus (one and the same allegedly), nor Allah nor Buddha, let alone every Hindu god, are going to provide that meal for a homeless starving family. Just, food for thought. 🙂

        • Well, yes of course that is perfectly correct Kate. If there is merely an aspiration to realise contentedness, then clearly it does not currently obtain and we are by definition in a state of discontent. That being so, then the game I mentioned previously comes into play, and we chase down feelings by means of desire and aversion – we jump aboard the merry-go-round of becoming, in the hope that we may at some point arrive in being content.

          This is the nub, the rub and the Catch 22 of so-called spiritual seeking – the attempt to transcend the self by re-creating the self in a sort of, new-improved, more wise and morally correct image of selfhood. Or, it’s the absurdity of attempting to realise a unicity in reducing the world to 10,000 things – a lá Buddhism, Pyrrhonism, Husserlian phenomenological reduction, etc. None of these approaches need be pursued if one is already truly content.

          Is all of this a ‘middle class, educated’ preoccupation, you ask. Yes, I think that’s a fair enough typification, in Western societies anyway. I was involved with a Buddhist monastery for much of my adult life, and most of the recluses and lay attendees were former or current educationalists, social workers, painters, musicians, writers, actors, and the like – people who largely lent credence to their intuitions, and had an instinct to explore them.

          The human animal is essentially a creature of survival of course, and so, taking your rather emotive example of the ‘homeless, starving family’, then they are very unlikely to be preoccupied in ascertaining their ontological status by means of arcane methods, such as Buddhist psychology, any more than they might be interested in, say, Radical Feminism – another ‘middle class, educated’ preoccupation?

          *Dives for cover below hatches, donning life jacket and waterproofs in anticipation of a thorough soaking*

          • Oh I don’t know. Poor women lacking health care and education might not spend hours pondering radfem, but I’m sure they might like to receive the basics. Poco a poco. Is it really an intellectual middle class preoccupation to demand bodily automomy for contraception and abortion rights for women who choose so? Or who wish to work? And, horrors! To seek parity with men? Pesky, pesky women with time on their hands.

            • That’s it, isn’t it? Having the luxury of time on our hands to explore such matters, and to promote what’s worthy and relevant to a wider audience, if at all possible. When I think of the artists I know, they’re typically well-healed, and so can indulge their inclinations to their heart’s content. And as most of their friends are wealthy too, and often also artists, they all buy each other’s work – a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating coterie, and very upper-middle class too. To the extent that you and I have time on our hands due to our own privileged status, we promote discussion on Radfem and emotional well-being respectively. We needn’t beat each other up for being middle class and educated though. [In fact, I’m not formally educated, merely a very minor opsimath.]

              Yes, little-by-little with self-exploration for those with little time on their hands, too. Just as there’s a need for a paradigm shift in gender politics, as commonly assumed and conditioned by millennia of patriarchy, so too there’s a need for an understanding of the existential mess we find ourselves in (if we would but admit it), and the causes of it. The fact that neither gender politics nor rational thinking (philosophy) figure at all in compulsory (non-tertiary) education is a failing for society, surely?

              • One has the luxury of time because one is an old unemployable woman. I’m not sure what is privileged about that, but do tell me.

                Must dash though. Got to write a post about animal abuse which is far more important than self-reflection. Laters darling.

                • You’re privileged – alright, I should have qualified it in saying ‘relatively’ so – because you’re healthy (dodgy ankle aside), you’re not starving, you’ve a roof over head, you live in a safe community (not Syria, or some such), you’re educated and have read Rousseau, you’ve a supportive partner, you’re intellectually bright, you’re oppressed by nothing bar the patriarchy you have time aplenty to rail against, you’ve a Podenco companion who shows you limitless affection – you do need a need a new pullover, but in the scheme of things?

                  Self-reflection builds empathy and compassion like nothing else, so don’t knock it Kate; especially as you’re concerned with animal abuse – and we humans are animals too, right? We can’t hope to understand others if we don’t understand ourselves. [Duh. Marx knew this via Hegel.] There’s also a strong case for not being able to put the world to rights unless we get our own house in order. I’m not saying yours isn’t in order, but that for myself, I needed to understand my own conditioning and motivations before I felt in the least equipped to help others in times of need.

                  Anyway, I’ve enjoyed getting tossed around on the High Seas with you Kate, so thanks for stopping by and engaging; you’re hard work, but you’re worth it. 😉

  19. There is something in the countenance of contentedness which your photo choices reflect. There is a picture of Alice Walker that positively pops out of the page. Sometimes staring into such a face reminds me that I am that, too. Your words too have made a puzzle seem a gate – I don’t know how else to say it.

    • I know Marga, those photos are quite lovely, and agree that they’re facial exemplars of contentedness – or contentedness embodied. I particularly love Jorge Royan’s capture of the four ladies in the beauty salon in Havana – such a tranquil and contented atmosphere pervades it. I feel I could just have posted those and dropped the text altogether, maybe just adding “why not look at the faces and feel like them?” – it would probably have been equally ineffective. What can you do? The woman in the anecdote did nothing, it just happened for her. Alice Walker does have an incredibly contented countenance, so is another exemplar. So lovely of you to stop by and spare some minutes to read and respond. _/\_ H ❤

      • The four ladies, I agree, and I want to point out (just since a feeling bubbles up for me) the visual contrast of their setting in the material plane to the mind-set of the participants. In a “Pinterestesque” culture, many are possessed by the illusions of outward appearances, and an image such as this offers such a gorgeous reminder that the beings offer true beauty – shining out from the real deal of the world they inhabit (which is actually beautiful too.) I’ve belabored this point, but I’m just taken with the beautiful way you do you, around here! Love.

        • I already had ‘Pinteresque’ in the cranial dictionary, and now I have ‘Pinterestesque’ too! *acknowledges the aforesaid with a respectful pause* . . . . . . . . . . . . . Quite so Marga, as Jim in Panama (above) has pointed out. Delighted to have invoked such a tender thought within you dear one, albeit vicariously via Jorge. Yes, Love is all.

  20. Ah, Hariod! I’ve been waiting for a post from you and you did not disappoint! I resonate with this post at this time in my life, though perhaps I would not have a few years ago. I will come back to read the comments and responses – I just can’t at this moment. But: “Rather, it is the body’s knowledge of itself, as itself, not as an image of itself in a certain state, such as a mood or felt disposition, but as itself alone.” This sentence intrigues me and I feel it! Yes, the longing I had for something more for many, many years is replaced with this knowledge. And I couldn’t be more happy to read your words and have them resonate back to me the truth I feel. Thank you dear friend, and bit by bit it is so good to see you here! ♡♡

    • Thankyou so much dear Lorrie, for taking the time to cast your wise eyes over this month’s offering, and for adding a reflection, even though you are currently so busy. [I know, The Australian Open, right?] The line you picked up on is quite oblique in some ways, because we tend to think that our knowledge of the body is forever located in the cranial cavity, or in some intentional stance of the body/nervous system itself; yet these are only partial forms of knowledge, and the body in itself, regardless of aches, pains, moods, attitudes, dispositions or whatever, can and does know itself as itself alone, and which by other words could be deemed its own reposeful state – its presence in contentedness. It is always the mind, of course, that forms judgements about the world and our body, most of the while in an interplay of desire and aversion – it either wants to hang on to what it adjudges good, or eradicate what it adjudges bad. So, you have gone to and recognised in my piece something that is very powerful, and which you feel yourself in your own body it appears. So pleased to share such thoughts and reflections with you dear Lorrie. H ❤

  21. Aloha, dear Hariod: Nice subject material. 😉 A few thoughts pop to mind while reading: “As human animals we spend the greater part of our lives apprehending the world reflectively … “ At first, I read this as ‘reflexively,’ for this surely is also the case, at least until we are more self-contained and self-aware. Further, the image that came to me when reading the reflective part (which as a longtime student of Jung and of life, I realize) is the human eye and how it perceives what we see upside-down (until the brain rights the image). Which only sharpens your point, as the human eye at least must depend on the brain to right our vision. Thus it would seem we would have to access a level of consciousness beyond that brain yet wholly within the mind’s ability to grasp. My answer is yes, of course it is possible. And to the term ‘evolution,’ I have often heard this bantered about in New Age circles as something that can almost happen instantaneously. Of course, with great desire and self-discipline, one may access expanded levels of awareness, yet the integration back and into the restrictions of the flesh and culture, or even the collective, seem to demand we cultivate patience when we continually take ‘one step forward, three steps back.’ And with enough of us on this path, the collective enriches itself and makes small movements forward in evolution. As to the concept of ‘contentedness’, it is a far more grounded and attainable state than happiness or ecstasy, which seem to take one on a roller coaster of expectations and disappointments. It’s the sustained feeling of contentedness many of us are longing for when we seek extraordinary experiences. And when we observe a teacher or guru with this state of being, we follow and take notes and draw ourselves like moths to a flame to which we are compelled. Some spend their whole lives following another. But ultimately, that which we seek requires an inner shift wherein we realize it has always been there. On a random note, have you seen the movie Kumare? We found it highly entertaining. Cheers and blessings, Hariod! ❤ Another fabulous post.

    • Thankyou so much dear Bela, for such a marvellously perspicacious contribution to the discussion; you demonstrate a wonderful depth of understanding and acuity in what you say just here. And quite right, ‘reflexively’ is also, perhaps even more moreso, apropos. In fact, I was going to use it, but wanted to keep the theme of a ‘mirror-gazing existence’ running through the piece, so pointing to the fact that the mind models representations of the world in something like (though not actually) a reflective, or one-stage-removed way. ‘Reflexively’ adds the connotation of conditionality, which is always there of course, as the mind is constantly responding to sensory data in a reflexive, non-autonomous way.

      On your point about “one step forward, three steps back.”: I was trained in Vipassanā insight practices, and one of the interesting things about that method is that one passes through a series of insights, only to have to return and pass through them all over again, though this time at a finer level. The process as a whole occurs four times, and at the end of each cycle, one comes back to a sense of having to deal with all the old stuff once more. An excellent teacher once described this analogously as sanding down a piece of wood, using finer grade sandpaper once each sheet had smoothened as far as it was capable. It is quite a leveller, because as a seeker, there is this daft notion running that one is progressing along a linear path, never needing to retrace steps that have been thought to have been covered adequately, and becoming a better, more advanced version of ‘me’. Oh dear.

      And no, I had never heard of Kumare, until just now looking it up on Wikipedia. It sounds right up my street, and in fact I wrote a post a while ago [http://wp.me/s4wkZJ-tartuffe] called Tartuffe (Moliere’s charlatan character) about this very subject. It sounds as if it’s a case of Borat meets Andrew Cohen, or somesuch – a very fine prospect.

      Mahalo Bela. H ❤

      • Yes, whether the sanding metaphor is used or the onion (which I’ve used over the years), it is certainly a circular process rather than linear. I think how people assume the latter is simply the result of living within a patriarchal system built on heirarchies. Or perhaps it’s simply that the mind is conditioned to lines while the heart seems to prefer the inclusion of circles. At any rate, we have both lived long enough to have concluded the same thing.

        Love your comparison of Borat meets Andrew Cohen – you will find there is some basis for that comparison, right down to his looks! It’s a fabulous story without a precious ending. Enjoy, and let me know how you enjoyed it! ❤

        • It could well be the patriarchal/hierarchical conditioning, and also perhaps the effort/reward ethic of our acquisitive, materialistic societal conditioning. Then of course, we have all the charlatans constantly stressing their superior ‘enlightened’ status as against our inferior ‘unenlightened’ status. It’s like they’re saying there is a unicity, but you, poor unenlightened one, are not any part of it – how absurd, a unicity with something un-unified without!

          Yes, if I can find the movie somewhere I shall definitely watch it, and I was trying to remember the name of a chap who used to appear on YouTube and who did fantastic satirical and sardonic takes on his own guru character, having all the traits down to a tee – the long pauses, the see-right-through-you stares, the meaningless phrases. Yes, I will certainly let you know once I’ve seen the film Bela, and many thanks for the prompt. H ❤

  22. A wonderful offering, Hariod. ‘Life in focus’ resonates with me, and your words in the story on how this perspectival shift happened in an uncaused instant, have familiarity with my own experience. Beautiful, thank you. ❤

    • Thankyou very much Tiny, for your much appreciated, gracious words of encouragement. You are alone here in picking up on this mysterious business of the ‘uncaused instant’, and clearly understand why such an odd phrase may seem appropriate. It felt to me a more concise expression than referring to the need for us to ‘get out of the way’, or somesuch. Once again, I truly appreciate your generous words of approval and acknowledgment. H ❤

  23. I am late to the party. Are we able to know ourselves as thing-in-itself or is it always as phenomenon? Does one who has achieved contentment always stay there, or is it possible they vacillate between it and desire? Great post as is known of you.

    • Pleased to see you here OM, and thankyou for reading, as well as for your searching questions. I sense that brevity is the order of the day, so shall keep things concise unless you wish me to expand:

      ‘Knowing ourselves’ does not really apply, as there is no self to know; there is no ‘thing-in-itself’ as regards any enduringly instantiated self or soul. The body knows itself prior to the overlay of mentation, or psychical representations, and so not as an object in the mind which may be recalled as if a memory. This knowing is broadly synonymous with contentedness, because it is only the mind that constructs desires and aversions, and so is accordingly discontent. If you were to imagine awareness stripped of all perceptual activity, then the lucidity remaining would be this same knowing or contentedness. Everyone glimpses this countless times each day, yet never recognises it because it cannot be re-cognised, and that is why the Buddha said that we ordinary folk ‘know Nibbana as Nibbana’ – it is not anything esoteric or mysterious. For almost everyone, this knowing is an episodic affair, and we return to the narratives and conditioned operating of the mind, which as you suggest, means vacillating between desire and aversion.

      Thankyou once again OM; I appreciate your presence and acuity of mind my friend.

      • Thanks again my friend. In the world as will and representation, Schopenhauer argues that we are aware of ourselves as both the knowing subject and the object. I don’t think this in any way contradicts what you have said above.

        • Yes OM, and he would certainly have agreed that there is no enduring self or soul other than as a psychical representation. In other words, the internal model of the self cognises itself egoically (in having access to cognition) and does not see that it is trapped within its own fabrication. In its cognition, it also represents the world and its own entity as subject and object, whereas these too are merely psychical representations. This is not to deny that the world comprises physically discrete entities, which of course it does.

  24. Wonderful reflections here Hariod. We continually are seeking external means to fill us up as we hope to find what makes us ‘happy’, and often, for a short time, we latch onto something that fills that gap and brightens our spirit. Then, after a while, it loses its shine, so we we seek something else to light us up.

    Then we realise that which we have been searching for, all along, we have carried with is from the beginning. Yet we have been so conditioned to find it within the material or by external means.

    Finding our true contentedness, for me, is still perhaps part of my journey, and I am within the process of learning. But daily I feel within that the more I detach and let go of, the more of myself I find. 🙂

    Wishing you a beautiful week Hariod, and I was delighted to find a new post upon my visit. 🙂

    Love to you, Sue. ❤

    • Dear Sue,

      I am so sorry to be tardy in replying to your generous comment; the telephone (and hence internet) services in the village I live in have been down all week, and I am replying here from the library in Glastonbury. I shall accordingly need to keep my response brief, but of course agree with all you say. I very much also agree that we are all within a continuous process of learning, and any who claim not to be would appear to be asserting their own omniscience – something that is not credible for we mortals known as humans. And on a closing note, how ironic it is that after reading of your email inbox with its 1,000+ messages, I find myself in that very same situation only a few days later – oh dear; I’ve got my work out when I eventually get back online at home!

      Lots of love,

      Hariod. ❤

      • 🙂 Sorry to hear you have been effectively cut off from communication dear Hariod. The smile is not because of that, but a smile at how sometimes those very same thoughts come back to us. 🙂 I have now given up even trying to keep pace, and learnt not to stress-out over an inundated email inbox. Many thanks for making such an effort to moderate your comments from the Library. 🙂 And yes, we mere mortals, I think, have not yet gained the capacity of brain power to understand just how complex our progression is as we hop through space. 😉 Have a wonderful mid-week and hopefully your connections will soon be restored.

        Love to you my friend, Sue. ❤

  25. Good evening Hariod, though my thoughts (regarding your post and related comments) are several and varied, I will limit my response. I noticed that “charlatan” is used as a descriptive with “guru”; not that you imply all gurus are charlatans, but I have read this exact word combination in other posts. Is this something of a specific nature, a general condemnation, or a pet peeve, perhaps? I believe we are exceedingly rich in charlatans, in all pursuits and professions. I enjoyed this article and anticipate continued enjoyment when reading Part Two. “He who knows…does not speak, he who…speaks… does not know… “. Lao Tzu 🙂

    • Good evening Robert, and thankyou for reading January’s offering just here. Okay, on the subject of spiritual charlatans, then there can hardly be anything more immoral and pernicious than harming and misleading those who seek to understand themselves and hence become a force for good in the world – loosely, we can say those who earnestly and sincerely follow a spiritual path, of whatever nature. To corrupt such endeavors in taking money for personal gain, or to exploit sexually or in terms of labour and services provided, is nothing short of despicable in my opinion.

      Essentially, we go blind into our spiritual search, not knowing what the end point is, but having an instinct that there is nonetheless an end point. Accordingly, the field is ripe for exploitation by those who would claim to have reached this imagined end point – and it is, widely so. Determining who are the authentic teachers, who undoubtedly do exist, from the charlatans, can be like walking through a minefield – one, thankfully, which I have not had to traverse myself. One such minefield would be the contemporary Western take on Classical Indian Advaita Vedanta, and we have, quite literally, hundreds of living teachers of this Neo-Advaitism, many of whom are not worthy of such a title. A detailed examination of this phenomenon can be found here: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/neo-advaita.html

      The quote from Lao Tzu, as with all quotes, needs contextualising to be understood of course, and he is saying, in a way that Wittgenstein also would have, that the ineffable is just that, and any attempt to describe it in positive terms is bound to fail.

      “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.” Translated: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.

      – Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 1922

      Thankyou for your appreciative words of encouragement Robert; I value your presence and contribution here my friend. 🙂

  26. Concise and brilliant exposition of contentment, Hariod, powerfully elaborated in the story of the woman and abbess. Spiritual seeking is often misconstrued as a search for divine dwelling in an unknown externality, when, in point of experience, seeking is only realizing essential unity and oneness of the universe, through dissolution of self-centricity, as you have rightly put it. Likewise contentment is the similar realization of the innermost state, an appreciative acceptance of our embodiment in the cosmic scheme of things, where sameness dons apparently different enabling and embodiment.

  27. Ah Hariod, such sweetness in finding myself in your words. I greatly appreciate the exploration and the sense of spaciousness I experience as I am delicately touched by the images of the woman’s awareness that
    “… in an uncaused instant, a radical perspectival shift occurred, as if life had come into focus. The contentedness she had alluded to with the abbess arose, though not in any mirroring. Her mind leapt in so as to make sense of it all, though quickly she came to laugh at the futility of its blunted effort, as what presented needed no qualification, being starkly obvious in its perfected ordinariness….”

    In reading “…And may we at times glimpse that which we are yet fully to embody?…” I am inspired to continue diving into a piece that I have been writing on and off (mostly off) for weeks. It is as if “Contentedness Embodied – Part One” is beckoning, urging me to come forward and allow.

    Thank you, Hariod

    • Dear Arati, I greatly look forward to reading your own take on the matter, which doubtless will embrace your uniquely personal – yet ultimately impersonal? – perspective, as surely it must. I do enjoy hearing how these transcendental moments impact upon differing characters, and particularly when I read of some novel way of alluding to events which, ultimately, defy description, or which certainly do without resorting to paradox. I hope that whatever minor encouragement this article has provided you with proves sufficient to complete your piece my friend, and in closing must thankyou greatly for your interest and generous words of encouragement. _/\_ Hariod

      • P.S. Many apologies for the tardiness of my response Arati – the internet has been down in my village here in Somerset for a whole week now, and I am replying to you here from the library in Glastonbury, which is less than ideal.

  28. As I read this post, my frustration at not having as much time as I want to read blog posts and thoughts that I should be getting ready to go to sleep, were replaced by moments of contentedness. If I’m going to read, I might as well enjoy what I’m reading, and so, I did.

    • How very lovely of you to stop by and offer such kind words of encouragement JoAnna; I greatly appreciate your interest and your letting me know your reaction. I do know what you mean about keeping up with all the interesting blogs that we may subscribe to, and I am horrendously behind myself in that regard, having spent the past eleven days without any internet in the village I live in here in Somerset. Once again, my gratitude goes out to you for your much appreciated words of support JoAnna.

  29. I so very much love reading your voice dear Hariod! It’s deeply thought-provoking and I always ponder the meaning for my own life. You challenge and inspire, and I am so grateful and send you love always, Meg. xxx

    • I am very grateful for your wonderful words of encouragement dear Meg. I do know that my posts can be a little challenging in some respects, and I continue to struggle with conveying the meaning I intend whilst keeping the whole down to within 900 or so words – roughly a gently-paced, four-minute read. It is difficult given the subject matter of mind and all that entails, and I greatly appreciate the forbearance of readers here, such as your good self, for staying the course with me. Much love, Hariod.

  30. Sorry to be such a stranger, dear Hariod. I saw your new post the other day, but my spare time was so limited. I have been trying for a month now to sort out emails with ‘likes’, and short posts based on photography, which you can read and enjoy very quickly and respond to. Your posts are not meant for reading, for studying. You direct your readers into the meandering paths of the soul where a train of deep thought starts developing. It’s after midnight here now, and my mind is tired after some serious work I had to focus on, but I felt like visiting your place to communicate with you and find spiritual harmony. A compelling post with aptly selected photos which speak volumes and are in absolute accordance with ‘contentedness’. The video with the gorgeous abstract and concrete shapes and the communicative lyrics of the song, is so meaningful as well.

    Aristotle considered contentedness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself, and he supported [the idea] that it depends on ourselves and on the cultivation of virtues such as humanity, justice, gratitude, and love. Above all he believed that a genuinely happy life required physical as well as mental well-being. Buddha’s theories might be different, but does it really matter if the outcome is the same? You mentioned that the woman spontaneously and effortlessly felt her soul to be imbued with elation and contentedness. I wonder if in situations like that have something to do with a Divine Order or a Natural Order? Is there a possibility of a mystical unity between the ‘Divine’ and the human? Do we need meditative practices or philosophical studies to acquire a long-term and stable contentedness, or does it just occur at an unexpected time? You said it is simply “naive realism”, but does it happen to everybody before they leave this ephemeral world?

    There are so many questions concerning our perception of the world, and our perspective towards the complexity of life, and the multiplicity of our universe. According to Plato’s theory, there are different levels of reality, of illusions, of beliefs, of reasoning, and of understanding, and that the visible world is just a shadow of the invisible world. There is seeing but nothing seen – are all conceivable ideas delusions? What is the essence of ‘Reality’, dear Hariod? What is beyond our world and the world of images? Is non-thinking right thinking? Enlightenment, delusion, dualistic, non-dualistic, are all relatively interdependent; they might dichotomise people’s tendency to reality, but they connect us, we exchange ideas, we interact, and we build up friendships. Aristotle believed that friendship is one of the most important virtues in achieving the goal of Eudaimonia (contentedness).

    I’d better sign off, as soon the first rays of the sun will announce the beginning of a new day. I hope to be able to respond earlier to part II, and I’ll stay tuned.

    Best wishes to you, Hariod, my friend,

    Doda.

    • Thank you so much, dear Doda, for this magnificent response to my offering, and also for taking the time to absorb the same. Such generosity of spirit is a tremendous encouragement to me as I continue in my learning processes and writing endeavours here. It seems many of your questions are rhetorical, and the others I feel less than qualified to answer in any case, yet would offer back some reflections as your words intrigue and stimulate me.

      Firstly, I am so pleased you picked up on my essential idea that when I refer to ‘contentedness’, I allude to something rather more than a mere emotional state. I find terms like ‘enlightenment’ and ‘self-realisation’ misleading, as they would appear to endorse the already erroneous idea in the spiritual seeker’s mind that they, as a subject, have the capacity to acquire an object of knowledge that is ‘enlightenment’. Or, that they, again as a subject, will absorb into such an object. In other words, the conception remains dualistic, always being couched in terms of subject and object, albeit in some magical conjoining of the two. The seeker, by definition, conceives of themselves as an enduring subject, one which progressively ‘realises’ an object, or is ‘enlightened’ by an object (of knowledge). This conception, by my lights, is entirely incorrect, and so using a term such as ‘contentedness’ may help lessen the misconstrual. [Many would, and do, argue with me on this, insisting that they as the self they imagine themselves to be can become enlightened, just like their guru supposedly did.]

      And yes, there are of course many paths to knowledge, each of which needs be chosen in regard to the individual’s innate character disposition. Within Orthodox Buddhism, there are two routes to higher knowledge: the way of the books, which is to go deep into studying the philosophical theories of ontology, phenomenology, psychology, and epistemology, and the way or so-called ‘burden’ of meditation. Critically though, all such methods may only take the individual to a certain point of higher knowledge, and thereafter must be abandoned altogether. All that the individual can do then is to wait. This is the point of waiting, or passivity, at which adherents to all traditions accumulate in helplessness, yet not in doubt – whether they studied Aristotle, or Jesus, or Spinoza, or whoever. A path is only ever that, never itself a destination. So again you are right of course Doda – “the outcome is the same”, meaning the destination is the same.

      Just to correct what appears to be a minor understanding, what I said in the opening paragraph was “Our minds evolved to affect this process unwittingly via constantly flowing streams of updating composite imagery, all unquestioningly taken as the world in itself – Naïve Realism made real.” The meaning here is that rather than just believing that our apprehending of the world corresponds to the world itself, that we also create that believed world in our minds, yet are largely naïve of the fact. So, whilst contentedness may also embrace naïvety as regards many things, the awareness that beholds it (so to speak) is not naïve as regards itself. The awareness knows that consciousness is full of illusions, delusions, hallucinations, and the like, but does not partake of them itself, because it – lucid and objectless awareness itself – cannot believe in, nor create, such objects, they being the stuff of consciousness, the messy business of brain-generated mentation.

      You ask “what is the essence of Reality?” I never use that term, Doda, because I see it as just another human concept. Let me expand a bit if you’ll forgive the indulgence: if there is such a thing or state as Reality, then what can exist outside of it that is unreal? Nothing – even delusions and hallucinations are real in themselves. And again on your reference to duality and non-duality: if there is a unicity, what can persist outside of it? If anything did, then it would negate the concept of a unicity. What we can say is there is a consensus ‘reality’ in which we all agree about the state of affairs by and large, and that is altogether useful and necessary. We can even say that much of science is Platonic in that it operates and verifies its theories by means of mathematical ideas which somehow exist metaphysically ‘out there’. So, our consensus reality also embraces the so-called metaphysical – even within its physics! Mathematics and equations are all mind-constructions though, and we seem always to return to awareness being the only phenomenon that dependably may be deemed a reality – if we must use such a term.

      If you have managed to ‘Stay Tuned’ to this point dear Doda, then I once again must thank you for indulging me here, and I hope I have not prattled on too tediously for you.

      With love, Hariod.

      • How should I consider all your thoughts and your viewpoints on the matter of “tedious prattle”, dear Hariod?

        You almost wrote another post to help me understand what contentedness is. I do appreciate it, but I feel a bit guilty that I stole your precious time. Most of my questions were rhetorical as you said, although they indirectly opened my thoughts to a miracle of life, to the paths of contentedness.

        As for ‘enlightenment’, I cannot confine it strictly to its literal meaning; there is a scale, a gradation to higher concepts. And talking about the essence of reality, I refer to the world as a whole where our personal perception of objects is not the same. You might hear sounds that I don’t; you might see details that I don’t, or we both hear and see the same things but our interpretation differs. The unknown to us, to me, doesn’t mean that it is unknowable to others. True knowledge and happiness are not obtained by thinking, by studying. No theories or practices are going to help us reach the ultimate position, the most desirable destination. But as you said, we reach a certain point where we are left helpless and we simply must wait. Shall we manage to wait unconsciously? What factors determine the length of wait? And might we depart without ever having experienced any contentedness?

        I am afraid I have started repeating myself and am ruminating upon the same things. I turn them around and around a pole and bring them back to the same point where I started. Only one more rhetorical question or thought before finishing off:

        What if we had not been through all the meditation experiences and the study of philosophers and great thinkers, who definitely play an influential role [in our thought]? What if we were simple uninformed people – “unenlightened” – who live without studying and reading anything, who haven’t got a restless mind? Are they unconsciously seekers, by instinct, by nature? I suppose your photos answer my questions. A good example is a character from a classic book written by Kazantzakis, which was filmed as well, Zorba the Greek. We can find in him a “contentedness embodied”. I don’t want to simplify the nature of contentedness, though is it simple of itself? And if it is simple and not complex, why is it so difficult to find? Einstein used to say that the most difficult things are the simplest ones. I don’t really know if I managed to “stay tuned” and to what point, though at least I tried.

        Well, here comes Hariod’s knowledge and contribution to my contentedness.

        With love & respect, Doda.

  31. Dear Hariod,

    Thank you for a lovely post on an important subject. One of the best parts of being late to one of your posts is having the chance to read the commentary, which is always rich and rewarding all on its own. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the spontaneous experience of contentedness that you describe is essentially identical to what I was describing as a miracle previously, and which we discussed. The amazing thing about these moments, which you have described here, is that they cannot be willed or controlled. They are natural and fundamental to our being, but it’s quite a paradox to discover that the experience only arises when we’re not there, so to speak.

    I think sometimes of experiences had as a child in the realm of the imagination. The “I” was lost. I was immersed in some experience – completely given into it so that I was all of it, and not separate from it in any way. You can never ‘will’ yourself to become so invested in a creative act of the imagination that you ‘lose yourself’ like that. You somehow slip into it when you’re not expecting it. You can’t force that. It’s a bit like falling asleep even. These analogies don’t hold up entirely of course, because to a certain extent the contentedness you’re describing is a movement away from a dream of agency and selfhood and all of its attending needs and desires. But it is fascinating to discover it can be equally as simple and as natural. This experience of contentedness I think is one, like the child’s imagination, that we can learn to trust will be there to catch us if we disappear as discrete and willful beings.

    I think it’s like a miracle in the sense that it dissolves or annihilates misperceptions, simply by being what it is.

    Another great post, Hariod! Looking forward to Part Two!

    Peace,

    Michael.

    • The thanks are all due to you my friend, for being such a loyal and generous contributor to the discussions; my blog would feel bereft of something that’s become intrinsic to it without your fulsomely sagacious appearances – a missing ventricle no less.

      Yes, the correlation seems perfectly apt and valid. To my certain knowledge, the woman in the anecdote continued, thereafter the experience described, to retract into selfhood on occasion, yet it came to feel more like the ghost it always was – a closeted entrenchment within the arid narrative of self-centricity, yet known as a thought-construct alone; a spectral haunting.

      I think the two of us, at your place, settled on ‘insight’ as a meeting ground; you graciously acceding to my irrational, pathological aversion to the ‘M’ word. Then again, ‘insight’ rather suggests a subject gleaning an object of knowledge, and the experience in the anecdote was not that. More accurate to say: subject and object were seen as mind-constructs, so that ‘insight’/‘miracle’ itself was not of a subject ‘having’ an insight, or ‘experiencing’ a miracle. One soon finds oneself avoiding all pronouns here, which serves only to irritate. For that reason, I tend to think – perhaps rather obliquely – in terms of awareness knowing itself as itself, which odd construction you must have heard me utter countless times this past year or two. As you say yourself “it’s quite a paradox to discover that the experience only arises when we’re not there.” And yet awareness remains.

      And yes, again, I like your analogy of falling asleep, or of not being there, and paradoxically everything becomes more vital and engaging in the process. Just as attempting to will ourselves to sleep has the opposite effect, so too with these experiences, as clearly you have found. You get it Michael; of course you do, understanding what I mean by using that very ordinary word ‘contentedness’. Somehow it seems more accessible a concept than ‘miracle’, but there we come back to the cultural sensibilities I mentioned at your place. ACIM seems huge in America, though I wonder how it does in Europe in light of the ‘M’ word of the title.

      Thank you for your generous words of encouragement, dear Michael.

  32. I agree with your message, Hariod. First, contentment is far more important than happiness. One can even gain contentment about being unhappy, when the situation warrants that. “I am grieving for my lost friend, but am content doing so.”

    Second, peak moments are not something we deliberately create. They come out of the blue. I once heard a person say during an event at Buddhist Geeks that what we can do is to increase the probability of being struck by one. I think this is exactly right.

    Bob 🙂

    • Thankyou very much indeed, Bob, for casting your sagacious eyes over this offering and also for your generous words of encouragement. I am so pleased that you picked up on this point about states of contentedness not requiring that all be well in the world for us. It seems highly anomalous that we can be content within any grieving process; yet it is so, as clearly you understand perfectly well. In knowing that the world and our situation in it can only be as it is right now, right now – I hope that double-stressing is clear – then to be discontent in that knowing is perverse indeed. You clearly fully understand all that I am trying to convey, in any case.

      I entirely agree with your observations on what you term ‘peak moments’, Bob. For many years I assumed that they required that certain conditions be met – let us say having a deeply concentrated mind, either in meditation or when out in nature. Then I began to have them in the middle of crowded shopping centres, for example, when I was paying no particular attention to phenomena in a mindful way, nor feeling concentrated in mind. Actually, I regard concentration more as ‘concentrated thought’, or as the mind coalescing around a subtle mentative object, and that is not always conducive to any deeper gleaning of insight. I wondered what your views on this were?

      With gratitude and respect,

      Hariod.

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