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Retreat Talks---Sydney Unitarian Chalice Circle, Retreat Held Friday through Sunday, 26-28 October 2012, Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre, ‘Winbourne’, Mulgoa, NSW, Australia.

Retreat Talks---Sydney Unitarian Chalice Circle, Retreat Held Friday through Sunday, 26-28 October 2012, Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre, ‘Winbourne’, Mulgoa, NSW, Australia.



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  • WALKING IN THE ETERNAL NOW Retreat Talks The Rev. Dr Ian Ellis-Jones Retreat Director Sydney Unitarian Chalice CircleRetreat Held Friday through Sunday, 26-28 October 2012 Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre ‘Winbourne’, Mulgoa, NSW, Australia Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2012 All Rights Reserved Ian Ellis-Jones 12A Nulla Nulla Street Turramurra NSW 2074 Australia 1
  • First Formal Group Session ‘The Omnipresence of the Eternal Now’ ‘When the mind is completely quiet there is the vastness of space and silence … This silence is the benediction.’ – J. Krishnamurti.‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.On 2 August 1929, the Indian spiritual philosopher Krishnamurti, in an historic and oft-quoted speech, delivered at Ommen in Holland, explained why religious organizationscannot lead us to Truth. This is part of what he had to say on that momentous day: I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain- top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. You must climb towards the Truth, it cannot be "stepped down" or organized for you. Interest in ideas is mainly sustained by organizations, but organizations only awaken interest from without. Interest, which is not born out of love of Truth for its own sake, but aroused by an organization, is of no value. The organization becomes a framework into which its members can conveniently fit. They no longer strive after Truth or the mountain-top, but rather carve for themselves a convenient niche in which they put themselves, or let the organization place them, and consider that the organization will thereby lead them to Truth. … As I said before, my purpose is to make men unconditionally free, for I maintain that the only spirituality is the incorruptibility of the self which is eternal, is the harmony between reason and love. This is the absolute, unconditioned Truth which is Life itself. I want therefore to set man free, rejoicing as the bird in the clear sky, unburdened, independent, ecstatic in that freedom. … Truth is in everyone; it is not far, it is not near; it is eternally there. 2
  • Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. … Again, you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity. … My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.That is the aim of this retreat---to provide several opportunities to set you free,absolutely and unconditionally. If you have come here to learn some ‘method,’ some‘technique,’ by which you can set yourself free, forget it. There is no such ‘method’ or‘technique,’ so if you are seeking one, or if you persist in so doing, you will never knowfreedom or happiness. Methods and techniques are a form of programming orbrainwashing, by one person of another. That is a bad thing. The conditioned mind cannever know truth. Now, in the speech I just referred to, Krishnamurti spoke of himself asbeing ‘free, unconditioned, whole, not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth thatis eternal.’ Part of being ‘unconditioned’ is having no illusions and no beliefs whichwould otherwise distort your experience of that which is, as it unfolds from one momentto the next. Here are two other gems of wisdom from K: It is the truth that frees, not your effort to be free. The search for truth is the very denial of truth.It was the spiritual psychologist and teacher Vernon Howard who said, ‘Real life is atimeless renewal in the present moment.’ I like that. And Mary Baker Eddy got at leastthis much right when she wrote, ‘Now is the only time.’ I also like these words from theEnglish poet Abraham Cowley: ‘Nothing is to come and nothing past: But an eternalnow, does always last.’ The Genevan philosopher, writer and composer Jean-JacquesRousseau wrote, ‘The moment passed is no longer; the future may never be; thepresent is all of which man is the master.’ In a similar vein, Meher Baba said: 3
  • What happened yesterday? Nothing. What will happen tomorrow? Nothing. All happens now---the eternal Now from the beginningless beginning to the endless end.I think so-called ‘time’ and ‘space’ – which are really one – are no more than mediumsin which all things exist. That was the view of philosopher John Anderson and manyother philosophers and cosmologists, and it makes sense to me. Life is movement---ceaseless movement--- and life itself is timeless and spaceless. That much is clear.Another thing is clear---everything is contained within ‘the Now.’ In Conversations withGod we read, ‘All time is Now.’ All duration – or time – is total and complete in the Now.There is an ‘eternal’ quality about the Now---the word ‘eternal’ meaning not immortal butever-present. The Now is forever present---and forever new. The present moment hasits unfolding in the Now. The past, in the form of memories, inherited characteristics andtendencies, the karmic consequences of past actions---all that is no more than theexpression of a ‘present’ reality, being a present ‘window link’ to the eternity of the Now.It’s the same as respects the future---any ideas about or hopes for the future arepresent ideas and hopes. Yes, the present is simply that which presents itself before usin the Now---so the present embraces past, present and future. Amazing! Here’s whatDr Annie Besant, Theosophist, says about the matter: In the All everything IS always; all that has been, all that now is manifest, all that will be, all possibilities as well as all actualities, are ever in being in the All.My favourite Christian theologian Paul Tillich says as much in his wonderful book TheEternal Now. Tillich writes, The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past areunited in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which wehave "presence." Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of themcarries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is oneanswer to these questions -- the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time -- the eternal ... . Yes, everything is a projection of the EternalNow, which always has been, and always is. It is all that is. It is everything. Everythingis One in the Eternal Now, which is a ‘point’ in relative time that stays constantly in the 4
  • present (regrettably, a time word). Another way of saying that is this---eternity, or theeternal now, is instantaneous. The Eternal Now is the only time in which all things exist.As I’ve said, everything---including the memory of things past and any hopes for thefuture---exist in the ‘now.’ In the words of the New Testament (Jn 7:6), ‘your time isalways ready’---that is, is now. Dr Alan Watts, writer on Zen and many other subjects,wrote: In the Eternal Now we shall find that straight and narrow gate, that needle’s eye, through which we are taken into the infinite life of God. … The eternal life of God is GIVEN to us here and now in the ‘flesh’ of each moment’s experience.Here are some other words I like. They really resonate with me. The words come fromthe influential New Thought minister, lecturer and writer Dr Emmet Fox, who had this tosay about the Now: Has it ever occurred to you that the only time you ever have is the present moment? We have all heard this said many times but probably few of us realize, even slightly, all that it implies. It means that you can only live in the present. It means that you can only act in the present. It means that you can only experience in the present. Above all, it means that the only thing you have to heal is the present thought. Get that right and the whole picture will change into one of harmony and joy. When some students hear this statement they may think, ‘Oh yes, I know that. I have known it for years’; but the chances are that they have not yet understood it thoroughly. When they do, remarkable results will follow. All that you can know is your present thought, and all that you can experience is the outer expression of all the thoughts and beliefs that you are holding at the present time. What you call the past can only be your memory of the past. The seeming consequences of past events, be they good or bad, are still but the expression of your present state of mind (including, of course, the subconscious). What are all the future things that you may be planning, or things that you may be dreading - all this is still but a present state of mind. This is the real meaning of the traditional phrase, The Eternal Now. The only joy you can experience is the joy you experience now. A happy memory is a present joy. The only pain you can experience is the pain of the present moment. Sad memories are present pain. Get the present moment right. Realize 5
  • peace, harmony, joy, good will, in the present moment. By dwelling upon these things and claiming them-and forgetting during the treatment, all other things-the past and future problems alike will take care of themselves.If you are reading this, you are alive---although it is necessarily the case that somepeople are more alive than others. (Sorry, the motivational preacher in me gets carriedaway at times.) Also, where you are right now is where you are---right now. (Deep stuff,all this.) These things must be taken to be axiomatic. Further, we can never escape theNow, so why not live fully---and mindfully---in it ... now! We do not truly live in the Nowwhen our minds are on other things. Unless we are mindfully present, from one momentto the next, we are not truly alive. Our attention---which must be choiceless and non-discriminating---has to be right here---right in the here-and-now. Guy Finley, author ofsuch wonderful books as The Secret of Letting Go, writes, ‘Attention is the anchor ofNOW.’ Without that bare attention to what is, we can never really be said to be trulyliving in the Now. In addition, if we are to find any meaning or purpose in life we mustfind it in the eternity of the Now. The Now is omnipresence itself, the ‘I AM-ness’ of allthings. No wonder mystics and holy ones have referred to God as the ‘Eternal Now’ orthe ‘Eternal Presence.’ God eternally subsists and expresses Itself in Its own Being---inthe Eternity of the Now---in all things and as all things. To quote from the NewTestament: ‘in him we live, move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). We have our beingin God, and God has Its being in us---as us.Scott Shaw, a Zen master and teacher, has written, Time is a scale we created in orderto measure our worldly accomplishments. Ha! Very Zen. Yes, time – as we ordinarilyunderstand it – is a somewhat ‘relative’ construct, but I still think it is ‘real.’ The truth iswe live both in time and eternity. Now, eternity is not something we enter when we die.No, eternity is ‘something’ we are in---right now! You are part of life’s Self-expression,and life cannot die. Your body will die, and, I think, also your mind, but the life in you---well, that’s an entirely different matter. Stop identifying with your body and your mind---they are not you. Stop identifying yourself with time, for the less you think about time,and the less you concern yourself with time, the freer you will be. You cant see time.Even if you watch the hands of a clock move, you are seeing just that---movement. You 6
  • are not seeing time. The fact is that if you live entirely in time, you will be afraid of death.If, however, you live fully and mindfully in the abundance of the Eternal Now, you willknow that you live forever! There’s a big difference.As already mentioned, the disciple asked the master, ‘What is the path?’ The Zenmaster replied, ‘Walk on!’ Yes, the ‘meaning’ of life lies in the living---the ‘walking’---oflife. Life is endless movement, and so we must walk---from one moment to the next.Any ‘meaning’ we find must and will be found in the moment-to-moment experience ofthe Now. Eternity is not the present time plus all the past and all the future, nor (asalready mentioned) is it a postmortem experience. It is a present---indeed, ever-present---reality. In truth, there is no time after time after time. No, eternity transcends timealtogether---and is despite time! The mystics and holy ones have known this forcenturies---there is an ‘eternal’ element to life which moves us beyond spacetime to‘something’ which is the very ground of our being---indeed, Being itself. No wonderJesus exclaimed, Before Abraham was, I am (Jn 8:58). He didnt say, I was beforeAbraham was. No, he said---altering the order of the words---I am before Abrahamwas. He understood his essential and existential pre-existence, and I do not believe hewas claiming that fact uniquely and exclusively for himself. No, he never did that! Thatwas not his way. He never asserted a fact about himself which was not also applicableto---you and me! Never forget that.Vernon Howard is right. The Eternal Now is that ‘present’ which is forever renewingitself in and as each new moment. The Eternal ‘now’ and the temporal ‘now’ are oneand the same, for everything occurs in the now. This Eternity supersedes time itself.Never forget that every moment of time reaches into the eternal---the same eternal thatis ‘before’ our past and ‘after’ our future. To understand the ‘eternity’ of the Now, youneed to know that there is a ‘present’ in the present as well as a ‘present’ beyond the‘present,’ but if you try to chase the next present you will fail. Dont even bother---thereis no need. This concept needs to be experienced as a present reality. Intellectualunderstanding only takes you so far. In a very real sense, the Eternal Now and the so-called temporal now are---one and the same! Everything is---here now! Life is eternal, 7
  • and we are alive in eternity---now! What Life---God, if you like---offers us is the EternalNow, which is anything but a time on the clock.H P Blavatsky, in the first volume of Isis Unveiled, said it all when she wrote, ‘Thehuman spirit, being of the Divine, immortal Spirit, appreciates neither past nor future, butsees all things as in the present.’ No wonder the New Testament says, ‘Exhort oneanother daily, while it is called today’ (Heb 3:11). We live for so long as it is still---today!Here are some wonderful words from the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible: To whom [God] said, This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.’ (Isaiah 28:12) [King James Bible/Cambridge edition]‘This is the refreshing.’ The renowned pastor, lecturer and author Dr Norman VincentPeale wrote, ‘These few words remind us of a spring of cool water because of theirrenewing quality.’ Yes, each new day---indeed, each new moment in the eternal now---is, or at least can be experienced as, a ‘refreshing,’ for that is what it truly is. Each newmoment is a renewal. The moment is so brief---as I speak these words, many suchmoments have come and gone----it is virtually timeless. Time is simply a medium inwhich all things live, move and have their being. So, what we call ‘life’---or reality, truthor God---is nothing other than a timeless renewal in the present moment. Each newmoment is a re-creation---or a refreshing.The only power that can be ours is that which is found in the reality of the presentmoment that is ever-before us ‘in’ the now. That is the only ‘place’---for want of a betterword---in which we can find ‘refreshment.’ Indeed, it is a refreshing. That is the only‘place’ wherein we can find help in time of trouble, for if we seek that help in the past orin the future we look in vain. Indeed, trouble really only occurs when we allow ourselvesto dwell in either the past or the future. True peace and acceptance can only be found inthe calm acknowledgment of the omnipresent reality of the present moment. I have saidas much on so many occasions. Not only peace and acceptance, but inner 8
  • transformation as well. In one of his many classes the spiritual philosopher and teacherVernon Howard, whose ideas about life have had a big impact on my life andthinking, said this: Truth exists at this very present moment. Truth, which is the great power, the only power, therefore exists right now by man-made time, about a quarter after nine, exists for anyone in this room who is no longer living in man-made time, that is in his acquired sense of self, developed from experiences of past and hopes of the future.Truth not only exists at this present moment; it is this present moment---at least whenwe are mindfully aware of what is going on. Awareness---a word I will refer to and use anumber of times. It has been said that pure awareness is ‘the real Buddha.’ Now,mindfulness itself is a refreshing, for it is the choiceless awareness of awareness itself.If we stay fixed and focused, and fully grounded, in the reality of the eternal now---thatis, if our minds are fully and mindfully engaged in what is taking place in and around usnow---we will experience a refreshing, no matter what happens. Yes, we live in the nowwhen we are not thinking of other things, when our mind is not desiring to be in someother place or some other state.Yes, truth is a ‘pathless land’ and you cannot approach it by any creed or pathwhatsoever. Direct perception of truth is, however, possible, when there is whatKrishnamurti called ‘choiceless awareness’ of life as it really is. The important thing islife itself. Whatever ‘it’ may be, it is all here now, and all we have to do is to learn toperceive it here and now. We need to see each thing as it really is---as a new moment.If you really want to come alive, start to experience each new moment as a refreshing.However, this can only be done from one moment to the next. It cannot be done ‘in’ themoment itself---despite the omnipresent reality of the present moment---simply becausethe so-called ‘moment’ is so brief, so ephemeral, that no sooner has it arrived, its gone.Its the past. One cannot experience or live ‘in’ the moment because the moment,although ever-present, is always changing ... into the next moment ... and the next ...and then the next! 9
  • I mentioned Alan Watts earlier. Here’s something else he wrote: The presence of God as the Eternal Now is a truth which … should be able to penetrate our consciousness with ease.And here’s Paul Tillich again: Eternal life is beyond past, present, and future; we come from it, we live in its presence, we return to it. It is never absent---it is the divine life in which we are rooted and in which we are destined to participate in freedom … .You are here---right now! This is now. As the Bible says, ‘Now is the accepted time …now is the day of salvation’ (2 Co 6:2). You are living what you are living---right now!Who you are---in this moment---is what the next moment will be for you. Hear the wordsof Eckhart Tolle: ‘The past has no power over the present moment.’‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master. 10
  • Second Formal Group Session ‘Piercing the Moment with Mindfulness’‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.Here are some words of wisdom from Buddha Shakyamuni: The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.How many times have people said to you, ‘Live in the moment’, or ‘Live in the now’?It is said, quite rightly in my view, that one cannot actually live in the moment. Thereason is fairly simple. The so-called ‘moment’ is so brief, so ephemeral, that no soonerhas it arrived, its gone. Its the past. Quick, catch it! You can’t. One cannot live in themoment because the moment, although ever-present, is always changing ... into thenext moment ... and the next ... and the next! What is ordinarily referred to asconsciousness is nothing more than a psycho-physiological state of awareness fromone moment to the next.Some people criticise mindfulness on the ground that it asserts that one must live in themoment or the now. Not so. Mindfulness is concerned with being present, and livingwith awareness, from moment to moment, that is, from one moment to the next.Existentially, it is not possible to live in the moment but it is possible to live, and be fullyaware, from one moment to the next. That is the important thing.You are alive, but just how alive are you---right now? Mindful living is all from moment tomoment ... being aware step by step, breath by breath, thought by thought, feeling byfeeling, memory by memory, sensation by sensation, and so forth. Such is the flow oflife, for what is life but the ongoing moment-to-moment livingness of living things andbeings living out their livingness from one moment to the next. 11
  • So, dont try to live in the moment or in the now, well-intentioned though such advicemight be. Live, with choiceless awareness and bare attention, from one moment to thenext ... and be fully present while you do so.What is meditation? It is this---living mindfully in the Eternal Now. Mindfulness takesmeditation ... and applies it to one’s whole life. All very good, but how does onemeditate every moment of each day? Well, when I use the word meditation I am notreferring to those types of meditation where one goes into an almost trance-like state asa result of highly focused attention on some object, sound or whatever. I am referring tosimply the presence of a choiceless awareness of, and bare yet curious attention to,whatever presents itself before you as your reality ... from moment to moment.The essence of Mindfulness is to be always in the present moment, for it is the casethat we can only truly learn and live by direct experience, not by the received wisdom ofso-called sacred texts and enlightened teachers. So, how does one actually go aboutliving mindfully on a continuous moment-to-moment basis? Well, a good starting point isto breathe consciously … slowly … and deeply as you go about your daily life. Next,observe everything inside and outside of you. Feel the ‘life’ all around you. Be fullypresent ... here and now ... in the present moment.Here is a must. In order to know what is real you need to disidentify with your so-called‘ego-self’ as well as the various ‘me’s’ within your mind ... indeed, all your ‘mentalnoise’, chatter and ‘movies’. Those things are not the person which, in truth, you are.‘Selfishness is the essential problem of our life,’ Krishnamurti would say to hisaudiences. What was required was ‘self-liberation.’ We must liberate ourselves from‘self-ness.’ Do you want to know something truly amazing and wonderful? We caninstantaneously liberate ourselves from the past and from past conditioning - all thoughtis nothing but memory - if we refuse to analyse the content of our consciousness andwe see things as they really are, without judgment or evaluation. Here is some good 12
  • advice from Eckhart Tolle: ‘Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains,accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.’Watch, almost with disinterest, whatever happens, as if it were happening to someoneelse. Let there be no comment, judgment or attempt to change anything. Note thepresence of any unhealthy, painful thoughts or emotions. Don’t suppress or deny them,and do not ‘resist’ them, for whatever you resist, persists. Whatever you fight, youstrengthen. The law of non-resistance—how very important, and true, that metaphysicallaw is! Dr Norman Vincent Peale writes: The power of non-resistance removes certain blocks and limitations in the human mind or soul. … Stop resisting your problems so furiously in your mind. Stop struggling to solve them yourself. If you do that, a great sense of peace followed by a great sense of power will come to you.Closely associated with the law of non-resistance is another very importantmetaphysical law, namely, the law of indirectness---that is, dont attempt to put athought or problem out of ones mind directly but rather let the problem slip from thesphere of conscious analysis. That is the right way to proceed. Dont try ... instead, let.And please remember this: we must let be before we can let go. Remember TheBeatles’ song, ‘Let It Be’? How very wise---those words!Step back with dissociation from the ‘activating event’. ‘See’ and feel the emotioninstead. Practise willingness … and acceptance. Finally, observe, and be constantlyaware .. only to understand ... for awareness is insight. Remember these wise wordsfrom Krishnamurti: ‘On the acknowledgment of what is, there is the cessation of allconflict.’Now, whatever arises is impermanent. Everything is impermanent, which is really ablessing, not a curse. Sensations (in the form of thoughts, images, ideas, feelings,bodily sensations, external physical sensations, and so forth) come and go. They waxand wane. They arise and vanish. Reality – what is – is that which comes and goes,waxes and wanes, arises and vanishes. Mindfulness enables, indeed empowers, us to 13
  • live in the immediacy and directness of the arising and vanishing of that which is trulypresent in the now.In order for there to be an immediacy and directness about our moment-to-momentexperience of life, three events need to occur more-or-less simultaneously. Those threeevents are ... touch (or sensation), awareness, and mindfulness. If those three eventsare not simultaneously experienced, then the chances are that what will be experiencedwill be nothing but ... the past! Yes, the reality of the immediate experience will subside.Indeed, it will die! Any consciousness of it will be in the form of an after-thought or amemory, as we glance back to re-experience, and (sadly, yes) evaluate, a pastexperience.No wonder we talk about people who live in the past! However, we all do it when we arenot mindful of events in the immediacy and directness of their arising and vanishing.There is one thing – more than all others – which keeps alive and reinforces that false,illusory sense of ‘self’, and that is when moment-to-moment sensation is experiencednot as something which is happening, of which we are mindfully aware, but assomething which is happening to ‘me,’ or which ‘I’ am suffering ... that is, as somethingbeing ‘inflicted’ upon us.Don’t let reality die on you. Don’t experience it as a past event. Let your mind penetratesensation, not by anticipating it. No, that is not the way to go. Nor should you constantlyreflect upon or evaluate sensations as they arise and vanish. That is also not the way togo. Let each sensation arise and vanish of its own accord. Watch it closely, withoutanalysis, judgment, evaluation or condemnation – indeed, watch it, without thinking anythought associated or connected with the sensation. Otherwise, you will instantly losethe immediacy, directness and actuality of the experience.So, throw away what was (the past) and what you think should be (the ideal)---please,no ‘shoulds’---in order to perceive through direct and immediate, and thus uninterrupted 14
  • and unmediated observation, what is---that is, what is occurring from one moment to thenext. Listen to these words of Dr Annie Besant: In [the] eternal Now, no thought, as we know thought, is possible; in that eternal Present, no distinctions as we make them can exist … .The essence of Krishnamurti’s teachings can be expressed in two oft-quotedstatements of his: ‘Truth is a pathless land,’ and ‘The observer is the observed.’ Why istruth a pathless land? Because truth---reality, life---just is, and we are always in directand immediate contact with truth. A path implies a separation or a distance between Aand B. But there is no such separation or distance between us and our direct andimmediate experience of reality. Of course, all too often, our experience of reality isfiltered through the past in the form of conditioning, belief systems, etc. That is a verybad thing. Now, as to the statement, ‘The observer is the observed,’ in a literal, physicalsense---and even in a psychological sense---that is not true, but the point Krishnamurtiis making---or at least one of his points---is that, in light of that directness andimmediacy I just spoke of, there is no separation or distance between the person whosees or knows and the thing seen or known. Further, when it comes to the person whois truly ‘free’, there is always that immediacy and directness about their moment-to-moment experience of life. The three events I referred to---namely, touch (or sensation),awareness, and mindfulness---occur more-or-less simultaneously, hence the import ofK’s statement, ‘The observer is the observed.’Shakyamuni Buddha advised us to observe and watch closely ... that is, mindfully ...whatever is occurring in time and space in the here-and-now, in the moment, from onemoment to the next. Not only watch, but the Buddha went on to say, ‘and firmly andsteadily pierce it.’ Pierce the reality of each here-and-now moment-to-momentexperience. Only then can you truly say you are alive and no longer living in the past.You may ask, ‘How am I to have any insight into what is happening if I don’t reflectupon, analyse, evaluate and judge what is happening?’ I say to you, ‘How will you everhave any insight while you continue to do those things?’ The piercing of reality of which 15
  • the Buddha spoke is itself a penetration into the core and nature of reality, that is, intothe arising and vanishing of each moment-to-moment spatio-temporal occurrence. Thatpenetration is itself moment-to-moment ... but it is insight---that is, perception withoutjudgment, in other words, unconditioned perception---into the nature of reality as andwhen it unfolds from one moment to the next. You can do no better than that! We aretold to ‘seize the day’ (carpe diem), and that is not bad advice, but you can still do betterthan that. I say to you, seize the moment ... pierce it!So, stay mindfully aware, in order for you to have immediate and direct access to thereal. Observe. Watch closely. Pierce the moment!Awareness---that is, choiceless awareness, or unconditioned perception or insight---isan integral part of mindfulness, but mindfulness is not simply awareness, it isawareness of awareness. Yes, awareness of awareness .. a ‘two-dimensionalawareness’.The Pali word sati literally means ‘memory’. The word sati comes from a root meaning‘to remember’. So, mindfulness is ... remembering what is present ... remembering tostay present in the present moment from one moment to the next ... as well asremembering in the present moment what has already happened.In other words, mindfulness is all about remembering the present ... that is, keeping thepresent in mind. Put simply, mindfulness is remembering to be here ... and to stayhere ... now. Describing the simplicity of mindfulness, the Buddha said: In the seeing there is just the seeing. In the hearing there is just the hearing. In the walking just the walking.In an interesting article Dr Dan Siegel, the eminent professor of psychiatry and author,writes: 16
  • Mindful awareness entails more than sensing present experience as it generates an awareness of awareness and attention to intention [sic]. These fundamental aspects of mindfulness can be seen as forms of meta-cognition ...There it is ... an ‘awareness of awareness’. Mindfulness remembers awareness ... aswell as the object of awareness. The work of being mindful, of practising mindfulness, isthe work of reminding ourselves, not just to be aware, but also that we are aware ...indeed, that we are already aware.Many psychologists refer to this activity as being that of a so-called ‘witnessing self’ ... aspecial relationship of ‘self’ to ‘self’, whatever that means. I have trouble with the wholeconcept of ‘self’ – my power-not-oneself is the power of ‘not-self’ – so I like to keepthings simple. (Ha!) In any event, un-self-consciousness (wu-hsin / mushin) or no-mindedness is, for me, the holy grail of all meditative practice – a state of wholenessin which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind orego standing over it with a club (the immortal words of the ever-quotable Zen BuddhistAlan Watts).Now, back to keeping things simple. First, there is the person who is aware. Secondly,there is the object of awareness. Thirdly, there is the act of being aware. It just sohappens that the object of awareness can be awareness itself. Remember, it is theperson who is doing the awareness ... not some supposed illusory ‘self’ or secondmind ... and mindfulness is all about the person that you are paying attention to thatperson ... and not to a self ... within each unfolding moment and from one suchmoment to the next.Yes, there are simply different ways of seeing. That is what the word vipassanā (insightmeditation) means. The word is composed of two parts – vi, meaning ‘in various ways’,and passanā, meaning seeing. So, vipassanā means ‘seeing in various ways’ ... as wellas seeing things as they really are. 17
  • Buddhist meditation teacher, and renowned authority on vipassanā, Patrick Kearneyhas written: Mindfulness, in other words, implies not just awareness, but reflexive awareness, awareness bending back to itself. Normally, we are aware. We don’t have to make any special effort to be aware; we are already aware. We see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think. Technically, we can say that it is the nature of mind to contact an object; to be aware of something. So far, so good. We are already aware. But are we aware that we are aware? And of what we are aware? Have you ever had the experience of driving a car along familiar streets and suddenly realising you have no memory of the previous three blocks? Clearly, while driving through those city blocks you were aware, for otherwise you would now be dead or seriously injured. But did you know you were aware? Were you aware of your awareness? Or did this understanding occur only at that moment when you remembered you are now driving this car?This is mind blowing stuff ... not so much what Kearney has written, which isilluminatingly profound in its own way, but the bit about mindfulness being awareness ofawareness. Is there a ‘three-dimensional awareness’ ... an awareness of awareness ofawareness? What about a ‘four-dimensional awareness’ ... an awareness of awarenessof awareness of awareness? Yes, it’s almost too much.Many centuries ago there was a great Zen master in Japan, a man named TakuanSōhō. He was a great poet, artist, calligrapher, philosopher, and master of the teaceremony. The Shogun called him to the court, where he became a teacher of the greatsamurai warriors. Sōhō was able to teach them well because his mind was so still thathe could help to bring a swordsman into that timeless state where he could be aware ofwhat was happening in slow motion, so to speak, and be able to respond with absoluteaccuracy. You see, he fused the art of swordsmanship with Zen ritual. In so doing, Sōhōdeveloped the concept of the unfettered mind,’ and he had a number of Samuraistudents to whom he was teaching the art of swordsmanship, primarily through themeans of meditation.Now, this idea of the unfettered mind is a very powerful concept. The idea is this---themind must not be detained, that is, stopped, by anything. The mind must remain forever 18
  • free. It must not be stopped. Do you want to know something? The thing that detainsthe mind most of all is the ‘ego-I’ in us. The ego is a series of conventionalized thoughtsthat have an emotional charge, and as soon as we get caught and fixated on any one ofthose charges—any signifier, any self-image, any pattern, any emotion thats connectedto the ego—were lost. So, the ‘answer’ is this---we must remain in the state where wedo not have an ego in order not to have anything that binds the pure and choicelessawareness of what is, from one moment to the next, or prevents the emergence withinus of the full flowering of our creative potential.Here are some pearls of wisdom from Sōhō’s book The Unfettered Mind: ‘It is essential that the mind not be detained.’ In not remaining in one place, the Right mind is like water. The Confused Mind is like ice, and ice is unable to wash hands or head. When ice is melted, it becomes water and flows everywhere, and it can wash the hands, the feet or anything else. ‘The Right Mind is the mind that does not remain in one place. It is the mind that stretches throughout the entire body and self.’ ‘The mind that becomes fixed and stops in one place does not function freely.’ ‘Glancing at something and not stopping the mind is called immovable. This is because when the mind stops at something, as the breast is filled with various judgments, there are various movements within it. When its movements cease, the stopping mind moves, but does not move at all.’ ‘The non-stopping mind is moved by neither colour nor smell.’ ‘The mind that stops or is moved by something and sent into confusion---this is the affliction of the abiding place, and this is the common man.’ ‘Therefore, one should engender the mind without a place for it to stop.’ ‘The mind of attachment arises from the stopping mind.’ ‘The mind that thinks about removing what is within it will by the very act be occupied. If one will not think about it, the mind will remove these thoughts by itself and of itself become No-Mind.’ 19
  • So, in order to be free of a ‘mind of attachment’, observe but don’t stay, look but don’tstop, be aware but don’t analyse, judge or condemn. In the words of Sōhō, ‘Make it asecret principle in either seeing or hearing not to detain the mind in one place.’We always have a choice---at any moment. We can act mindfully---or mindlessly. One‘way’ is correct. The other ‘way’ is not. The rightness and wrongness of each ‘way’ canbe empirically tested by its consequences. It is as simple as that.And, as already mentioned, the one thing that, more than any other thing, that results ina stopping or confused mind is this---a misbelief that we are the innumerable falseselves (the hundreds and thousands of Is and mes) that wax and wane in ourconsciousness. Until we let go completely of this false self---and recognise that it is notthe real person each of us is---our mind will continue to stop and be occupied inuseless, self-defeating ways. Whenever we are troubled by a repetitive or habitualthought, a persistent memory, an obsession, or whatever, if we just let go of thatthought, memory or obsession, the entity itself dissolves because it is only kept alive bythe attention that we give to it. Let it be, let it go, and then you will experience theunfettered mind. Theres freedom, and liberation, and enlightenment.There are many ‘ways’ but only one ‘Way’ as such, according to Sōhō: While hands, feet and body may move, the mind does not stop any lace at all, and one does not know where it is. Being in a state of No-Thought-No-Mind, one has come to the level of the scarecrow of the mountain fields.There is no way to that Way of No-Thought-No-Mind. The Way itself happens of itsown accord---effortlessly---when we just let it happen.Let it happen---now! 20
  • Third Formal Group Session ‘Mindful Walking’‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.‘What is Zen?’ asked the student. ‘That’s it!” was the reply of Ummon, the great ChineseZen master. In other words, forget about wanting a rational reply to a question couchedin conceptual form, which may be meaningless for all that. Truth---that which is, thatwhich unfolds from moment to moment---is not rational. It is beyond the intellect. Itcannot be snared in a net of words. It just is, but it can be experienced in all itsimmediacy and directness. Indeed, it is only in the immediacy and directness ofmoment-to-moment experience of daily life can it be known and experienced.I referred to Zen master Ummon. When Ummon was 85 (or 86), he composed afarewell letter to his patron, the new king of the Southern Han, and gave a final lectureto his monks, finishing with the statement, ‘Coming and going is continuous. I must beon my way!’ (Reminds me of Groucho Marx: ‘Hello, I must be going.’) Well, after sayingthose words Ummon then sat in a full lotus posture and died. That’s the way to go out instyle!‘Walk on!’ we are instructed. Why walk? Well, walking is movement, and life ismovement---even though we cannot see where it came from, nor yet its supposedendpoint. Here’s something else that is movement---learning. Krishnamurti said,‘Learning is movement from moment to moment.’ Of course, he also made itunambiguously clear that you will only learn when you look and observe with what hereferred to as ‘choiceless awareness.’Mindfulness is simply the presence of a calm, alert, steady, open, deliberate,‘curious’ but choiceless (that is, accepting, non-judgmental and imperturbable)awareness of, and bare attention to, the action of the present moment ... one’s body, 21
  • body functions and sensations, the content of one’s consciousness (thoughts, feelings,images, memories, etc) and consciousness itself … from one moment to the next.Mindfulness is awareness of awareness. Mindfulness is training in self-culture, self-improvement and self-help.Although most, if not all, mindfulness instructors and practitioners advocate someindividual, personalised tuition and guidance in the beginning ... for very good (and notself-serving) reasons ... what follows is a very simple or basic form of mindfulnesswalking meditation for use at home, in the office, in the park ... or anywhere for thatmatter.Most people dont know how to walk. Sad but true. ‘Walking meditation is an art!’ writesMartine Batchelor. ‘You are not going anywhere, you are walking just for the sake ofwalking.’ Walking meditation helps to foster calmness, relaxation ... and, mostimportantly, awareness. As with all mindfulness, the ‘key’ is to be aware as you walk.Walking meditation is meditation in action, using the natural movement of walking tofoster mindfulness. It is the bare experience of walking. For many, including myself,walking meditation is the preferred form of mindfulness meditation, and ordinarily shouldprecede a sitting meditation as it centres the mind.How does walking meditation differ from ‘normal’ walking? Well, walking meditation issimilar to ‘normal’ walking but it is considerably slower, as well as deliberate, intentionaland mindful. Now this is important. Walking meditation is not physical exercise butwakeful presence.In order to engage in walking meditation, first choose a quiet place … withoutdistractions. It may be indoors or outdoors. All you need is a short path, which doesn’thave to be a ‘path’ per se but simply one you ‘create’, so to speak, by walkingbackwards and forwards ... or, if you prefer, in a circular fashion. The path should be 22
  • some 3-10 (preferably around 6) metres in length, must have a definite ‘start’ and ‘end’,and its surface should be flat and even.Walking meditation has been described as ‘walking with presence and mindfulness’. It isa wonderful means to connect mind and body with the here and now, for it keeps onecentered in the present moment. Begin by standing at the beginning of your path. Startwith a ‘standing meditation’ (‘Standing, standing’) for a minute or two. The focus is onyour body ... not your breath ... in a walking meditation. Feel the sensation of your feet‘pressing’ against the floor/earth. Does it feel hard or soft? Warm or cold? Feel thewhole body standing … and later slowly and gently turning (‘Turning, turning’) ... withawareness. Focus your attention minutely and purposefully on each action. Remember,you are not going anywhere ... you are just walking.In sitting meditation the focus of attention is the breath. However, in walking meditationthe focus of attention is the moving body. Walk barefooted or with socks only …preferably. Now begin to walk slowly. Focus on each step. Feel each step as it comes.Be fully present with each step. Notice every sensation of the walking process. Walk‘flat-footed’. Place the foot down flat … heal first … toes later. ‘Left, right, left, right …’Steps short … about 15- 20 cm apart.Maintain correct posture in the standing position ... Walk mindfully … eyes half-open ...looking straight ahead (not around). Your pace should ideally be very slow to brisk.Note (and mentally note or label, at least at the beginning) the lifting of the heal (‘lifting’),the forward movement (‘pushing’), and the placing of the foot down (‘putting’ or‘dropping’).Over time, you can build up to noting all 6 component parts of each step ... concurrentwith the actual experience of the various movements ... ‘raising’, ‘lifting’, ‘pushing’,‘dropping’, ‘touching’, and ‘pressing’. Be aware of the contact between your foot and theground. Allow some 60 per cent of your ‘tension’ to dissipate through your feet ... with 23
  • the remaining 40 per cent dissipating in the non-resistant ‘zone of airspace’ in front ofyou, into which you are constantly entering.Feel the airspace in front of you as yours to feel, enter and embrace. Feel its non-resistance, emptiness and friendliness. Be gentle with yourself. Say to yourself,interiorly, ‘Be well’ ... sending out loving kindness to others and yourself. Walk throughthis airspace mindfully but gracefully, effortlessly and without resistance ... for such is itsnature. At the risk of repeating myself, dont follow your breath or abdominal movementsin this type of mindfulness meditation.Observe the movement of your feet whilst engaged in your walking meditation ... butdon’t look at your feet. Feel each step mindfully as you lift each foot off the floor/ground.Feel the sensations in each foot, ankle, leg, knee, the hips, the back, the neck, thehead, the face, etc.Look at a place about 2 metres ahead. Don’t gaze about here and there. Maintain goodposture … straight back. Hands by side, in pockets or clasped in front or at rear ...resting easily ... wherever they’re comfortable. Breathe normally. If backgroundthoughts, etc, arise ... simply keep focused on noting your steps. Be aware of themovements with your mind as well as the sensations throughout your body. If youbecome distracted, and focusing on noting your steps doesn’t help ... stand for a fewmoments, and watch your breath ... until the mind calms. Be fully mindful with an alert,relaxed attention to the present moment. Continue to walk mindfully for 10 to 20 minutes... or longer.At end of walk, stand (‘standing, standing’) for a short while, observing your posture andbreathing … mindfully and attentively. After standing mindfully for a few moments,gently return to your ‘daily life’ ... and dont forget to reflect upon whatever insights yougained into yourself and others as a result of your walking meditation. 24
  • Now I want to say something about walking the labyrinth. The labyrinth is found invarious forms in most religious and spiritual traditions and cultures, including Christian,Buddhist, Native American, Greek, Celtic and Mayan). The labyrinth has been aroundfor over 4,000 years, provides innumerable opportunities to walk with an open heart andmind. In the process of walking mindfully and meditatively, whether in a labyrinth orelsewhere, you gain insight by simply walking ... and observing. Yes, walking can be aspiritual, indeed a sacred, experience, and the labyrinth is a powerful ‘tool’ for psycho-spiritual growth, self-alignment and transformation. The labyrinth brings us back to ourcentre, that is, to the core of our being, which is the very ground of being itself ... thevery self-livingness of life!The labyrinth, with its mandala-like shape and pattern, is a most ancient archetypalsymbol. Now, symbols are very important ‘things’. The Greek word sumbolon (‘throwingtogether’) ‘means really a correspondence between a noumenon and a phenomenon,between a reality in the higher archetypal world and its outer physical expression here’.However, the labyrinth is more than just a symbol. As a walking meditation, thelabyrinth is a ‘living symbol’ – what H P Blavatsky referred to as ‘concretized truth’ – inthat it not only ‘symbolizes’, ‘represents’ or ‘stands for’ something else (the ‘inner reality’and, in this case, ‘inner spaciousness’), it actually is instrumental in bringing about thatreality and, in very truth, is that reality. Life is dynamic and not static. So is the labyrinth.Walking the labyrinth, in the form of Circling to the Centre, is engaging in a nonlinear,psycho-spiritual, transformative ritual.The labyrinth is also a metaphor, and an objective metaphor at that. It is a metaphor forthe so-called spiritual journey. Now, I have written elsewhere that, in a very profoundsense, there is no journey. We are already ‘there’. The so-called ‘there’ is nothing morenor less than the eternal here-and-now ... and it is, or at least ought to be, more thanenough for us! We simply need to be consciously awake, from one moment to the next.That is perhaps why the labyrinth has only one nonlinear path over which you meanderback and forth, and that path is unicursal – that is, the way ‘in’ is also the way ‘out’ – aswell as being operatively multicursal. (So it is with life. I will have more to say about that 25
  • below.) Actually, the metaphor of the labyrinth is not so much the labyrinth but the walkitself.I love the symbolism of the circle. In metaphysics and esoteric spirituality the circlerepresents the whole universe, eternity, infinity, life itself (as well as the continuum oflife), reincarnation or rebirth, God, Spirit, perfection, oneness, the unity of all personsand things ... and so many other things as well. A circle has no beginning and no end,and so refers to what some refer to as the ‘cycle of existence’. Now, the greatmonotheistic religions assert that life is linear – that is, life had a definite beginning, andlife will come to an end at some future point in time. Buddhists and certain others seelife as being cyclical and nonlinear in nature. I lean more toward the latter view, but notin the rather mechanical way it is sometimes presented in Buddhism. One thing I doknow is this – life is a spatiotemporal continuum of moment-to-moment experiences.Life is endless. In that regard, I love these oft-quoted lines from The Bhagavad-Gita: Never the spirit was born, the spirit shall cease to be never. End and beginning are dreams. Birthless and deathless, timeless and ceaseless remaineth the spirit forever.When we think of Aristotle we tend to think of logic, reason and frame-by-frame thinking,but it was Aristotle who said, ‘The soul thinks in images.’ I like that. The soul thinks inimages. We need symbols, metaphors, ritual, myth and legend, for by means of thosethings we find connection.Now, back to walking the labyrinth. There are three basic designs to the labyrinth –seven circuit (being perhaps the most common design today), eleven circuit, and twelvecircuit. More importantly, there are three stages to walking the labyrinth: first, the path into the centre; second, the centre itself; and third, the path out of the centre.As already mentioned, there is only one meandering path leading to the centre andback out again ... and there are no dead ends! A maze is altogether different. It hasdead ends and trick turns. Some cynics will say that life is like that! Well, the labyrinth is 26
  • not like that. If you keep walking, you will reach the centre. In my view, life is like that.Yes, as has often been said, no one is lost who knows the way home. You see, there isno one right way to walk the labyrinth. Being a Buddhist and a Unitarian Universalist, Ilove that! (I have no patience whatsoever for those who assert that there is only oneway to Heaven, God or whatever.) Here, however, are some simple guidelines forwalking the labyrinth.In the Western Christian tradition there are three basic stages to the spiritual path orjourney or the ‘mystical’ experience: purgation (or purification), illumination (orcontemplation), and union. That is known as ‘The Threefold Path’. Outside, or beyond,the Western Christian tradition, we can speak of the ‘three R’s’ – releasing (that is,emptying the mind, and letting go of self), receiving (that is, experiencing an ‘at-one-ment’ with All that is), and returning ... calmer, and with a deeper connection, as well assense of connectedness, to oneself (that is, the person you are), to others, and to lifeitself.The mystic Paul Brunton expressed it beautifully when he wrote, We must emptyourselves if we would be filled. I have found in my own life that walking the labyrinthmindfully is a simple yet wonderfully powerful tool for self-emptying and spiritual infilling.The Rev. Dr Lauren Artress, an Episcopalian (Anglican) priest, is the celebrated authorof several books on the labyrinth including the invaluable Walking a Sacred Path:Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice. Dr Artress, a renowned‘labyrinthologist’, writes that walking the labyrinth enables a person to gather an innerspaciousness inside – a transrational and nonlinear experience that others refer to asentering sacred time and space. Dr Artress writes, We [have] lost our sense ofconnection to ourselves and to the vast mystery of creation. The web of creation hasbeen thrown out of balance. (The great mythographer Joseph Campbell used to saymore-or-less the same thing.)I need hardly say that there is great benefit in walking the labyrinth---mindfully! 27
  • Remember this. Mindfulness meditation is not about stopping the mind or stoppingthoughts. Mindfulness Meditation is about allowing thoughts to be present but not lettingthem run you. In walking the labyrinth, anything can happen ... in the form of, forexample, thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, the physical experience of passingothers, and so forth. Whatever arises, whatever happens, can serve as an insight.Returning from and out of the labyrinth is an opportunity to go forth ... ‘awake’. WhenShakyamuni Buddha woke up, he said, ‘Now all beings have woken up.’ Perhaps theBuddha was saying that, in truth, there is no difference between the so-calledenlightened state and our ordinary life. We live our life as if we were unenlightened. Wesimply need to observe ... and wake up.Walking the labyrinth is a right-brain experience. The insight derived comes not fromlogical, rational frame-by-frame thinking – or any kind of thinking for that matter – butfrom psycho-spiritual intuition, imagery and imagination. The experience gained oughtnot to be talked away or analysed in any way. It is sacred. Like the initiatoryexperiences of the ancient mystery schools, the experience of walking the labyrinth isultimately unspeakable.As I have said before, truth – that is, reality – cannot be grasped by rational analysis orlinear thought. Truth, and the experience of truth, are entirely a matter of directexperience. Once you start analysing truth, you are in the realm of ideas, opinions andbeliefs. You have ceased to be in direct contact with truth itself. Ideas, opinions andbeliefs are barriers to truth. Krishnamurti may have said (indeed he did say), Truth is apathless land. Well, the labyrinth may have a path of sorts, but it is as close as you canget to a pathless land, for the real path of spacious pathlessness is within you ... ininner space.One final, most important, matter. Mindfulness meditation needs to be brought intoevery aspect of ones daily life. In the words of Lama Yeshe, ‘Whether you are walking,talking, working, eating ... whatever you do, be conscious of the actions of your body,speech and mind.’ 28
  • Fourth (and Final) Formal Group Session Walking in the Eternal Now‘What is the Path? What is Truth?’ asked the disciple. ‘Walk on!’ said the Zen master.Here are some insightful words from Ken Wilber, from his book No Boundary: To no longer resist the present is to see that there is nothing but the present--no beginning, no end, nothing behind it, nothing in front of it. When the past of memory and the future of anticipation are both seen to be present facts, then the slats to this present collapse. The boundaries around this moment fall into this moment, and then there is nothing but this moment, with nowhere else to go.What is life? Perhaps these words from Zen Master Keizan, from the book Transmissionof Light, might assist: This [life] is not unchanging, yet it is not moving. It has never been void; there is no question of inside or outside, no separation of absolute and relative. Realize that this is your own original face: even if it appears as ordinary or holy, even if it divides into objective and subjective experiences, all comes and goes completely within it, all arises and vanishes herein. It is like the water of the ocean making waves; though they rise again and again, never is any water added. It is also like waves dying away; though they die out and vanish, not a drop is lost.Scott Morrison, in There is Only Now, writes: There is only now. Everything we call the ‘past’ is absolutely nothing but present memory. Everything we call the ‘future’ is absolutely nothing but fantasy and commentary, that is, present memory rearranged. If we continue to pretend that there is some other time or place to be, besides right here, right now, we are cruelly and pathologically deluding ourselves.We live in both time and eternity. We don’t have to wait until we die to enter eternity. Weare in eternity now. Time is but a medium in which all things exist. In the words of ZenMaster Huang Po, ‘Beginningless time and the present moment are the same. . . . Youhave only to understand that time has no real existence.’ Zen Master Seppo expressedit well, when he said, ‘If you want to know what eternity means, it is no further than this 29
  • very moment. If you fail to catch it in this present moment, you will not get it, howevermany times you are reborn in hundreds of thousands of eons.’‘If not now, when?’ asks Eckhart Tolle.Back to Ken Wilber, who has written some great books on developmental psychology,mysticism and many other subjects. In No Boundary Wilber writes: Eternity is not, and cannot, be found tomorrow--it is not found in five minutes--it is not found in two seconds. It is always already Now. The present is the only reality. There is no other.That giant of the Christian Church, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, said much the samething when he wrote, ‘All temporal succession coincides in one and the same EternalNow. So there is nothing past or future.’In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas Jesus is quoted as having said, ‘You examine the faceof heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence,and you do not know how to examine the present moment’ (Saying 91). Who is this ‘onewho is in [our] presence’? Is it not the very livingness of life itself as it unfolds from onemoment to the next? Is it not the mindful experience of the immediacy and directness ofthe eternal now, when we come to know the Self as One, when the observer and theobserved are one---not in any monistic sense but simply that in the immediacy anddirectness of moment-to-moment experience there is no room for any ‘space’ except aninterior one.What we call the past at any moment is a present concept, or we would not be aware ofit. Don’t intellectualise this. Experience it as a moment-to-moment reality. That is theonly way to live. To walk continuously in the eternal now is a moment-to-momentexperience.Now, whatever exists are ‘occurrences’---or ‘situations’---in one space-time. Things exist 30
  • ‘in situations.’ This is known as situationality. Further, at any ‘point’---for want of a betterword---in space-time there is always (yes, always) a plurality of space-time interactingsituations or occurrences (‘complexes’). Indeed, there are literally countless suchpluralities, and all these situations exhaust the whole of reality. There is nothing else ...or supposedly beyond or above all this. Things may be distinct---indeed, they are---butthey also connected in space-time, and these connections are very real. The Buddhareportedly said: Monks, we who look at the whole and not just the part, know that we too are systems of interdependence, of feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness all interconnected. Investigating in this way, we come to realize that there is no me or mine in any one part, just as a sound does not belong to any one part of the lute.Situationality and plurality---such is the nature of reality. Never forget that!The third Zen patriarch Seng-Tsan described situationality and plurality in this way: One thing, all things: Move along and intermingle, Without distinction.Truth---reality---is never static but always dynamic. In his Meditations Marcus Aureliuswrote: Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.It was the great pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus who wrote, You cant stepinto the same river twice. Everything is in a state of permanent flux and, hence, realityis merely a succession of transitory states. Everything is forever anew. The Buddha isalso reported to have said that ‘things are different according to the forms which theyassume under different impressions’. One could substitute the word ‘situations’ for‘impressions’ without distorting meaning. Here is a typical saying attributed to theBuddha: 31
  • The thing and its quality are different in our thought, but not in reality. Heat is different from fire in our thought, but you cannot remove heat from fire in reality. You say that you can remove the qualities and leave the thing, but if you think your theory to the end, you will find that this is not so.At any ‘point’ in space-time there exists a plurality or multiplicity of interacting factorsthat can, at any time, produce a certain effect. We are talking about a complex, ever-changing, dynamic system whose parts are mutually dependent. In the ‘Fire Sermon’(Aditta Sutta), the Buddha is recorded as having said: The eye, O monks, is burning; visible things are burning; the mental impressions based on the eye are burning; the contact of the eye with visible things is burning; the sensation produced by the contact of the eye with visible things, be it pleasant, be it painful, be it neither pleasant nor painful, that also is burning. With what fire is it burning? I declare unto you that it is burning with the fire of greed, with the fire of anger, with the fire of ignorance; it is burning with the anxieties of birth, decay, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection, and despair. The ear is burning, sounds are burning, … The nose is burning, odors are burning, ... The tongue is burning, tastes are burning, ... The body is burning, objects of contact are burning, ... The mind is burning, thoughts are burning, all are burning with the fire of greed, of anger, and of ignorance.The Fire Sermon presents, albeit in a highly lyrical way, a plurality of multiple situationsthat are in continuous process. That is causation---processes continuing into oneanother. Such is life ... wandering, wandering, waxing and waning. We live and die frommoment to moment. Indeed, in order to experience life fully---that is, in all its immediacyand directness---we must die to self constantly, that is, in each moment. The Indianspiritual philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti had this to say about the matter: Death is extraordinarily like life, when we know how to live. You cannot live without dying. You cannot live if you do not die psychologically every minute.The Vietnamese monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh uses the expression‘InterBeing’ to refer to this state and process of interdependence. Please note, I am notsaying that all things are in reality one. No, that is not the case. Everything is notpresent to everything else in ‘one vast instantaneous co-implicated completeness’ (to 32
  • use William James’ words). There are interrelationships throughout nature, but there arealso cross-currents and conflicting forces. There are partial unities but no one, vast,overarching unity. There is no one system, completely unified, that fuses together tightlyall the subsystems. However, this much is true---a single ‘logic’ applies to all things, forall things exist in the same ‘level’ or plane of existence and observability. Everything hassome relations with some other things. No entity is independent of all other entities.Now, back to this idea of living and dying from moment to moment. That is what I meanwhen I talk about ‘walking in the eternal now.’ Zen Master Seung Sahn elaborated onthis topic in his excellent book The Compass of Zen: Everyone thinks that this is extremely difficult teaching, something beyond their reach or experience. How can things appear and disappear, and yet there is, originally, even in this constantly moving world, no appearing and disappearing? A student once asked me, The Mahaparinirvana-sutra seems very confusing. Everything is always moving. And yet everything is not moving? I dont understand this Buddhism . . . But there is a very easy way to understand this: Sometime you go to a movie. You see an action movie about a good man and a bad man--lots of fighting, cars moving very fast, and explosions all over the place. Everything is always moving very quickly. Our daily lives have this quality: everything is constantly moving, coming and going, nonstop. It seems like there is no stillness-place. But this movie is really only a very long strip of film. In one second, there are something like fourteen frames. Each frame is a separate piece of action. But in each frame, nothing is moving. Everything is completely still. Each frame, one by one, is a complete picture. In each frame, nothing ever comes or goes, or appears or disappears. Each frame is complete stillness. The film projector moves the frames very quickly, and all of these frames run past the lens very fast, so the action on-screen seems to happen nonstop. There is no break in the movement of things. But actually when you take this strip of film and hold it up to the light with your hands, there is nothing moving at all. Each frame is complete. Each moment is completely not-moving action. Our minds and the whole universe are like that. This world is impermanent. Everything is always changing, changing, changing, moving, moving, moving, nonstop. Even one second of our lives seems full of so much movement and change in this world that we see. But your mind--right now--is like a lens whose shutter speed is one divided by infinite time. We call that moment-mind. If you attain that mind, then this whole worlds movement stops. From moment to moment you can see this world completely stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Like the film, you perceive every frame--this moment--which is infinitely still and complete. In the frame, nothing is moving. There is no time, and nothing appears or disappears in that box. But this movie projector--your thinking mind--is always moving, around and around and around, so you experience this world as constantly moving and you constantly experience change, which is 33
  • impermanence. You lose moment-mind by following your conceptual thinking, believing that it is real."‘Moment-mind.’ Elsewhere I have referred to this state of awareness as ‘the mindfulmind of non-mind.’ We are talking about pure, unconditioned, timeless, ever-present,choiceless awareness. A mindful mind is a mind of no-mind (Jpn mushin no shin). Yes,pure Zen, but it does make sense in a Zen sort of way. The doctrine or concept of ‘no-mind’ means no deliberate mind of one’s own. It does not mean the absence of mind, orabsentmindedness, but rather a mind which is non-discriminating, uncoloured, fluid,unbound and free from deluded thought ... indeed, a mind where there is no conditionedthinking, desiring or controlling ... a spontaneous and detached state of mindcharacterised by inward silence and no knowing awareness ... a mind whicheffortlessly thinks what it thinks ... without there being any interference (judgment,analysis, etc) by some thinker or ego within the mind.In order for a mind to be free from deluded thought it needs to be kept fully engaged inthe present from moment to moment ... without there being any subjective evaluation orinterpretation. Once we start evaluating and subjectively interpreting what is, we ceaseto experience life instantaneously and spontaneously. (Trying not to think, as opposedto forgetting to think altogether, is, of course, doomed to failure.) Alan Watts describedno-mindedness as a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily,without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club. Whatevercomes up, moment by moment, is accepted without being embraced ... even non-acceptance.So, a mind of no-mind is a mind which is unconscious of itself and empty of itself (yes,that supposed ego-self which we mistakenly believe is us!) ... a mind which is everimperturbable, that is, undisturbed by affects of any kind ... a mind which is effortlesslyengaged in being here now ... a mind where there is no-effort and no-thought ... a mindwhich is present only to that which is happening now ... a mind which is, yes, ‘empty’ but 34
  • whole … a mind which is nowhere in particular (Takuan Sōhō). Listen to these words ofKrishnamurti: It is only when the mind is quiet that there is light. But that light is not to be worshipped by the mind. The mind must be utterly still, and only then comes the light which will dispel the darkness.A state of ‘no-mind-ness’ or ‘no-mindedness’ ... that is, a state of ‘no-thing-ness’ ...characterised by effortlessness and a constant non-discriminating yet gentle-on-oneselfunbinding of the mind and letting go of all mental effluents and other ‘traffic’. This stateof non-mindness is what Krishnamurti refers to as an ‘utterly still’ mind. Now, stilling themind does not come through such means as thought control or thought stoppage,concentration or any other ‘methods’ of self-discipline. No, never! A state of non-mindedness arises of itself when the mind understands its own processes. In order forthat to occur, you must be constantly and choicelessly aware. Then and only then canthere be that ‘total revolution’ (or psychological mutation or transformation) of whichKrishnamurti constantly spoke. You can be totally free---at any moment. It’s entirely upto you. No one else can do ‘it’ for you. I am not talking here about change as a result ofintellectual analysis or any form of traditional psychology including psychoanalysis. Myview on the latter is encapsulated in that well-known phrase ‘analysis paralysis.’ Themore analysis, structured or unstructured, the more internal division and conflict. Theconditioned mind is, in varying degrees, a sick and divided mind. It is the result of time,and thus the past. Do you think that such a mind, which is the result of the past, beliberated from time, such that it can ‘look at reality directly’ (K’s words), by and as aresult of a process of analysis over time and in time?Self-analysis fails because of the problem of self-bondage---you need to understandthat the analyser (the so-called witnessing and judging self) and that which is beinganalysed (mental manifestations of self in myriads of forms and thousands of ‘I’s’ and‘me’s’ over a considerable time period) are a joint phenomenon. The first mentioned‘self---the so-called witnessing or transcendental self---is just another of those annoyinglittle, pesky ‘selves’ that we all too often allow to run riot through our mind, and need I 35
  • remind you that no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its ownintrospection and machinations. For example, a thought of anger arises in the mind. Thepart of the mind which analyses the anger is part of the anger. There is simply no way,by that means, to free ourselves from the background. So, intellectual analysis and allother forms of introspective dissection are not the way to go. No, true psychologicaltransformation can only arise when one is entirely free of the ‘background’ (or ‘mentalfurniture’). It is a total re-creation of the person we are without dependence on time orany method grounded in or otherwise dependent on time. Look and observe. Be aware---choicelessly. Don’t analyse or interpret. Just look, observe and see things as they are---both the things outside of us as well as the contents of our own mind. The insight yougain will change you forever---that is, if you want such change in your life. This is the‘much simpler … more direct way’ spoken of by Krishnamurti and many other teachers.A state of no-mindedness. You are ‘no-minded’ when you let life live out its self-livingness in and as you ... and as all other things and persons. You are no-mindedwhen you let go of all self-identification, self-absorption, self-obsession and self-centredness. You are no-minded when you let go of all attachments, presuppositions,assumptions and stories ... when you leave the mind empty of all greed, anger anddelusion (ignorance). You are ‘no-minded’ when you cut down the ego at its source.How do you do that? Again, don’t ask how. Just stop generating it – the ego, that is.Heaven forbid, don’t try to suppress the ego. We are talking about its completeeradication – what Krishnamurti would refer to as a ‘total revolution.’All of this is very profound---but also very simple. Delightfully so. Truth is like that, youknow. This very moment is itself the ‘key’ to your permanent and eternal (timeless)liberation/salvation/enlightenment. Dr Norman Vincent Peale, in one of his many books,wrote this about time: ‘The real purpose of time is for the discernment of God.’I have a problem with the word ‘purpose,’ and would substitute for it the word‘opportunity.’ Some of you may also have a problem with the word ‘God.’ If so, you cansubstitute for it any of the following words---life, truth, reality, the eternal. Dr Peale would 36
  • not object, for he himself used those other words on occasions in an attempt to describewhat is ultimately indescribable. So, we then get this: ‘The real opportunity afforded bytime is the discernment of life, truth, reality---that is, to experience that which is eternal.’In the book Krishnamurti on Education Krishnamurti spoke of the ‘religious mind’. Thismind, or mindset, does not hold any specific belief or follow any formal religiouspractice. Indeed, it is a mind that is, in K’s word, ‘alone.’ This mind has seen through‘the falsity of churches, dogmas, beliefs, traditions.’ Not being conditioned by itsenvironment nor the thinking of others, this mind ‘has no horizons, no limits. It isexplosive, new, young, fresh, innocent … It is only such a mind that can experience thatwhich you call god, that which is not measurable.’ Krishnamurti said that when youcombine, in the one person, a truly ‘religious mind’ (in the sense just described) with a‘scientific mind,’ being a mind or mindset that is very factual, intent on objectivediscovery, ever-inquiring and open, when these two qualities are combined, ‘a newhuman being’ is created.I used the word ‘enlightenment’ a minute or so ago. The famous Japanese Zen masterand teacher Dōgen Zenji had this to say about enlightenment: Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water. Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.We are now drawing to a close. These words of the Buddha mean a lot to me, and theyexpress what I have been trying to say to you, in various ways, this weekend: Don’t revive the past, Or on the future build your hopes. The past has been left behind And the future is yet to come. Instead with understanding see, 37
  • Each presently arisen moment Invincibly, unshakably. Today is the day this effort can be made Tomorrow, death may come, who knows? No bargain with mortality can death defy But a person who resides fully present and awake By day and by night They are the peaceful sage.Now---note that word, now---you can perhaps know the true meaning of those NewTestament words, ‘Today is the acceptable time. Now is the hour of salvation’ (1 Thess.5:3).I will finish with these words of Charlotte Gilman from The Forerunner: Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now. -oo0oo- NOTE. Acknowledgments are due to the relevant rights holders whose intellectual property rights are strictly reserved. 38