Grandfather, granddaughter

Grandfather, granddaughter

I was in the local library this week. An old chap was in there with his granddaughter of 6 or 7 years old. He was looking at books from the New In section and she, well, she wanted to help.

She picked up a book without looking at the title, held it to her grandfather and said, ‘How about this one?’ He turned it over to see the cover and said, ‘Oh yes, your mother will like this one,’ which put a big smile on her face. She reached for another in the same fashion, and held it out, ‘And how about this one?’ ‘Very interesting,’ he said, ‘but I’m just looking at these other books for now.’ Not to be brushed off, she immediately picked up a third, held it out and said, ‘Am I on the right road?’

What a lovely question, I thought. How many times throughout my life have I wondered the same, ‘Am I on the right road?’


Riddle me dee

Riddle me dee

You’re not the body, all or part.

You’re not a thought, or thoughts.

You’re not a feeling, or feelings.

You’re not suffering.

You’re not an activity, or activities.

You’re not awareness. #spacecadet.

You’re not consciousness or unconsciousness.

You’re not the universe, or star dust.

You’re not this, or This, or THIS.

What are you?

Precision – II

Precision – II

In response to a question from LoreP:

Nice article John!
I have a question.
When you say “attending with precision” what do you mean exactly?
Being present and participate in every gesture?
Witness the seemingly automatic precision of the gesture?
Something else?
There are many layers to this that reveal as you go along. One thing you notice is how much you hadn’t noticed. How we effectively slide by life, and operate on automatic.
So, in picking up a teaspoon. What could be more trivial? Already the frame is set. This is boring, no need to pay attention. Its a teaspoon. Not a threat or surprise. Ordinary as hell. Done it a million times. You already know what to do. Click, whirr. And you do, and its another blank episode.
But what are really looking at?
Have we seen this teaspoon before?
In that position?
Ever looked at the reflection on the steel? Why bother?
When does reaching out start?
Impulse? Intent? Something else?
Feel and watch the movement of the arm and hand.
Do the fingers move too as the arm moves?
How will the hand know when to stop?
Watch it come to its place with precision.
Watch the gripping of the teaspoon.
Not just any kind of grip.
Which fingers are involved and how?
What’s the first touch like?
Notice the weight?
Notice any ideas of ‘teaspoon’.
You think you know what this is?
So, its fun to play with this in ordinary ways and activities. Especially activities that you wouldn’t give a second thought to. You imbue value where there was none. Ordinary moments become valued explorations.
You become aware of other parts of life where you slide by on assumption and habit.
You notice how you value this and not that. You see how preferences shape actions that become habits.
A moment of being becomes richer with participation. There is more correspondence within to without.

Precision – a magical doorway

Precision – a magical doorway

The ‘self’ is not an illusion. There is no illusion to see through. It is a useful fiction like Christmas and Every Second Tuesday. What you are seeing is how you make an operative truth. But that’s for another day.

The trap of deep inquiry is missing the fucking point. Which is life. And if you say, ‘life just happens’, then that’s your evidence for having constructed your own trap (which are available online at SAND).

It’s no surprise that we feel separate from life. What else would a lifetime of abstraction bring? But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The separation was necessary to develop the abstraction, and now its time to return, boon in the bag. The endless destruction of the planet, war, and McDonalds are all the evidence we need.

Ok, how. How do we pause the relentless abstraction and renew our acquaintance with life? Precision.

I had a teacher for several years who would terrorise us with unconditional love. Precision. Posture. Words. Attitude. Attention. Heart. Intent. Each was a string which when pulled, exposed and unravelled the habits called ‘self’.

The call to precision is a call to re-enter a doorway, an eternal now, an eternal here.

The blackbird eats ivy berries. Precision.

Your entire posture, however it is, is precise.

When you pick up a teaspoon, you might ‘pick up a teaspoon’ and in that abstraction, barely notice the act. Or, you will invite precision to guide the act. It will unveil presence and participation on a whole new level. The teaspoon will scream at you. Reflection, weight, movement, relationship, function, presence.

In attending with precision to the smallest thing, you will indirectly nurture and unfold being. No longer will the obscene abstraction ‘life just happens’ have any place.

Scraping Sound – Unravelling Perception

Scraping Sound – Unravelling Perception

Recently I was ask to share something ‘in layman’s language’ 🙂 about the technique of Scraping Sound.  This technique was outlined in The Faun’s Apprentice by Nesforz – albeit in, ahem, fictional format.

Its an approach to de-labelling – at least that’s one way to describe it.

When you look at some everyday object – cup, tree, pen, cat – there’s a lot that comes with it we don’t notice.  So, along with the visual perception of the object, we have the learned name for that object e.g. ‘CUP’, which as a word image, acts as a symbolic object of the object itself (as it appears).  We also have the sound of that name when spoken, or thought.  So, SYMBOL and SOUND.

Our naive sense is that the everyday object is the OBJECT, and the associated word is just what it is, its meaning.  Scraping Sound looks to make a clear distinction between the visual perception as OBJECT, the word as symbolic OBJECT, and the spoken sound of the word as sound OBJECT.  So, three objects seemingly merged together.

First thing then is to sit looking at an everyday object e.g. a cup.

It’s a cup.  What else could it be?  There’s a sense of assumption, a knowing of what it is, a cup; and its use, function, qualities etc.  This whole bubble of stuff comes with the name, ‘cup’.

So, we look at this object.  And then we see the word ‘CUP’ distinctly ‘in our heads’.  We can treat ‘CUP’ as a distinct object.  We consider these two objects, clear and distinct.  In so doing, we are starting to strip ‘CUP’ away from the visual object before us.  If you look at the object, and it still feels like a cup, then it remains tied.  Now, you can imagine having a powerful catapult in which you load up the object ‘CUP’ and fire it so far into the ‘distance’ that its gone. 🙂

You look back at the object before you.  If it has take on a slight haze of mystery, then it is no longer a cup.

If its cuppiness remains, throw ‘CUP’ away again.

Do the same with the sound of the word, ‘CUP’ as you did with the symbolic image of the word.  Cast it far, so that in coming back to the object, there is less and less known about it.  You’re less sure about its essence.  It may have lost its everyday ‘permanence’.  Maybe shimmers with a will o’the wisp existence.

That would be a beginning of Scraping Sound.  Hope its useful. 🙂

Self, No Self, Without Self

Self, No Self, Without Self

Yueh-Shan Hung-tao was sitting [in zazen], a monk asked him, “When you are sitting immovably, about what do you think?”  The master replied, “I think about not thinking.”  The monk responded, “How does one think about not-thinking?”  The master replied, “Without thinking.”

This has been translated in various ways to show the distinction between thinking, not-thinking and without thinking (sometimes translated as nonthinking).

I want to highlight the correlation between self-inquiry and thinking-inquiry.

In thinking: the object content is whatever shows up.  Thinking of what to make for dinner, how to calm down a friend, and so on.

In not-thinking: the object content is thinking itself.  This is the attempt to stop thinking, which is a common aim of some meditators, under the idea that not-thinking is a correct and useful path to awakening.

In without thinking: there is no position taken with respect to everyday content, or with thinking itself.  It is a meta stance to thinking and not-thinking (which are not a polarity, for operating on different levels, as mentioned above.)

Self behaviour is akin to Thinking.  It operates at the level of everyday, conditioned content.

Not Self/No Self is akin to Not-Thinking.  It’s focus is not on everyday content, but on the negation of self as a persistent separate entity.  Hence its operating on a different level.

Without Self is akin to Without Thinking: It holds no position with regard to self content, or a negation of  self as no-self.  Life is experienced as it is, which includes the positive activities of self, and the negation of self called no-self.  It is outside the game.  All questions of self/no-self are moot.

Championing No Self is to remain inside the paradigm of self/no-self.