The Truth of Inconceivability

Published on October 7, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

What exactly did Jesus mean when he (purportedly) said that “the truth will set us free?” I guess we’d have to ask him! But since he’s not around to discuss the matter, I thought I would offer up an inquiry as a kind of doorway into one interpretation of what those words might be pointing to. Here it is:

Look experientially at and see how your descriptions, definitions, beliefs, interpretations and conceptualizations ABOUT experience diverge from the actuality or felt sense of those same experiences. Take the word, “fear.” We use that label to categorize, convey, encapsulate, and communicate about a particular phenomena that is undoubtedly experienced. However, the question I’m posing here is whether the experience of what we call “fear” actually corresponds directly to what we THINK or imagine that experience to be.

To be sure, the definitions of everything we see, taste, touch, smell, hear or otherwise experience capture something of the nature and essence of things. But look right now at what is arising experientially and see that there is, within every moment of experiencing, an untold, inconceivable number of diverse dimensions, textures, qualities and characteristics that simply cannot be held within the confines of any single definition or linguistic framework. dictionary

That the actuality of experience is forever beyond our definitions and descriptions of it is the truth that sets everything free for ALL things—including each one of us—radically transcend (i.e., are free from) the myriad ways human beings characterize or imagine them to be.

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Science, Spirituality and the Problem of Oversimplification

Published on October 1, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

As part of my work, I teach research methods so I certainly appreciate the value and validity of science as a method for inquiring into the nature of reality. But so often, what we find in science (maybe by necessity?) is a kind of gross over-generalization. For example, the sciences with which I am most familiar tend to paint their explanatory pictures in very broad brushstrokes. Read any headline reporting on some finding in psychology or medicine and what you’ll invariably find are fairly crude, oversimplified descriptions of the phenomena under study: “Eating this food helps prevent this disease; Certain early childhood experiences are correlated with particular late-life behaviors; Practicing meditation or taking these prescription medications can reduce the symptoms of depression; People who experience particular types of emotional reactions show this kind of brain activity”… and on and on it goes.

In all these examples, what the scientific findings are essentially saying, in one form or another, is that on average, if you do this thing, take this substance, practice this therapeutic technique, etc. this will tend to happen. But of course, if you do therapy x or eat food y, you won’t necessarily experience outcome z, because the explanatory models (e.g., “this causes that”) are simply too overgeneralized, unsophisticated, and lacking in nuance. With or without the support of science, we might be inclined to say that on average, if you do this, this will happen. However, describing how things tend to behave (or, if we’re talking about relationships between phenomena, how they might influence other things) says nothing about how and what they actually are specifically, at least not in any definitive sense.

A great example of this type of imprecision is the phenomenon of personality inventories. The myriad typologies that are out there—the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Enneagram to name but two—theoretically tell us something about the way people tend to behave, on average. Imagine for a moment, a classic bell-shaped statistical curve that represents one’s “personality”—the myriad qualities, characteristics, dispositions, etc. that make up who they are. The qualities that person displays most frequently would be illustrated by the midpoint of the bell curve and those areas that lie closer to the center. Then as you ventured out from either side of that central area, you would begin to encounter aspects of the person that diverge from his or her average or “usual” tendencies. 800px-Bellcurve.svg

However, even if the person, on average tends to more frequently display those qualities and characteristics that coalesce around the midpoint of the bell-shaped curve, the complete picture of who they are can only ever be captured by including the entirety of the curve, i.e., the sum total of that person’s qualities, not merely those they are the most likely to exhibit. So if, as we are prone to categorize a person according to some personality typology or characterize them by some other psychological or biological classificatory system, we are, by necessity oversimplifying who and what they are. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve found myself resistant to such typologies as I find them to be terribly unsatisfying in their oversimplification, failing in the end to fully capture the infinitely rich, nuanced, multidimensional creatures that we are.

Whether we are scientists or not, it’s interesting to consider this seemingly insatiable thirst human beings seem to have to want to explain, reduce, and in the process, oversimplify phenomenal experiences. Of course it is understandable that we would search out the possible causes of our physical and psychological difficulties and in turn identify remedies to counter those causal factors. But I wonder why there is this persistent tendency to unquestioningly swallow either scientific or lay explanatory frameworks that represent such incomplete and ultimately misleading renderings of reality, oversimplifications of a realm—human experience—that is exceedingly complex and ultimately irreducible.

As an example of this popular as well as scientific tendency, I was recently reading an online article from Forbes, “The Seven Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.” The authors argue that the “ancient benefits” of these practices are now being confirmed by modern scientific methods such as EEG and FMRI. However, in point of fact the relationships (between meditative practices and brain activity) are tenuous at best. The reality is that meditation practice is associated statistically with changes in different brain regions and networks but only in some people who practice and even in those people, only to some extent. It is so far from actually being a one-to-one correspondence (“do this practice and this change will happen in this particular way in your brain”) that to talk about meditation being able to “change your brain” in specific and predictable ways is, well laughable. [Of course, this issue isn’t unique to meditation—one finds the same problem of oversimplifying cause/effect relationships with other therapeutic modalities as well from psychotropic meditations to psychotherapy.] Despite the amazing contributions neuroscience is making to our understanding of the human brain, the idea that we can take exceedingly complex phenomena such as human thought and emotion and understand them solely in terms of (i.e., reduce them to) basic, neuro-chemical activities and interactions is a prime example of the problem with oversimplification so rampant not just in science but in life.

Not surprisingly, language itself, the very medium through which the myriad forms of knowledge are transmitted is by its very nature, also reductionistic. Regardless of the word—e.g., happiness, sorrow, joy, grief, cloud, mountain, pleasure, pain—language functions as a kind of conceptual shorthand, a way of collapsing exceedingly complex arrays of phenomena and experience into single descriptors. Language has considerable utility in so far as its capacity to convey a general impression of what is being seen, heard, felt, touched or otherwise experienced in any given moment. But the experiences themselves can never be fully captured by the linguistic placeholders used to convey them. Phenomenal experiences we attempt to convey with such words as beautiful, delicious, painful, or infuriating can never actually be conveyed by those words for the experiences are far too vast, complex and multidimensional to be easily or accurately rendered by concepts and the language used to articulate them.

For example, take the state of mind, anxiety. What is it? To be sure, we have a word and regularly employ that word to characterize a particular type of human experience. But what precisely is it that we’re characterizing when we use the label, anxiety? As we look up in the night sky and see that object called the “Big Dipper,” we’re essentially recognizing and then naming a particular patterning of lights. Similarly, we could say that the phenomenon we label as “anxiety” refers to a distinctive pattern of experience, energy and information. But naming that general pattern anxiety doesn’t actually tell us very much about it as it leaves out the specific details, failing to capture (i.e., oversimplifying) the extraordinarily diverse and complex array of energies that constitutes the experience in its actuality.  We try to convey what’s transpiring experientially by generalizing about those experiences, saying such things as, “I went for a walk today and had a wonderful time,” or “I had class tonight but it was really boring.” But while such conceptual/linguistic renderings give us a very general impression about what took place and the nature of it, our experiences are made up of very specific details and not generalities, which are always abstractions about those specifics. When I share that I am “feeling anxious,” I am sharing a generalized (i.e., conceptualized) picture about what is being experienced and not it’s actuality which cannot be reduced conceptually. Our definitions of things and experiences may represent a useful kind of communicational shorthand. But the actual experiences themselves are utterly beyond at the same time inclusive of the concepts used to define them.8001180645_32dc6705c6_b

The bottom line is that human experiences (and their putative causes) transcend any and all explanatory frameworks. The concepts we utilize to point to and describe the presence of specific phenomenal experiences (and their relationships to other phenomena) may be able to convey something about those experiences and relationships but like the aforementioned personality inventories, the frameworks and models will always fall short. In the final analysis, any modeling of reality will necessarily be an oversimplification just as a map of California, no matter how detailed, could never hope to capture the infinitude of qualities and characteristics one would actually find in the territory itself.

Incidentally, this is as true in science as it is in spirituality. For just as neuroscience seems hell bent on reducing the complexity of human experience to electrochemical firings in the brain, so too do most spiritual teachings fall prey to their own brand of reductionism, taking the realm of human experience which is by nature, indescribable, infinite and multidimensional and collapsing it into unidimensional concepts and descriptors (e.g., spirit, light, consciousness, God, awareness) that are themselves, experientially inconceivable and irreducible. california

In the final analysis, the territory we call experience is what’s real; the scientific and spiritual maps, beautiful and elegant as they may be are nothing more than mere abstractions, conceptual renderings of an actuality that cannot, in the end be fairly rendered or conceived.

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The Impossibility of Measurement

Published on September 27, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Even our most sophisticated tools of scientific measurement can only ever approximate the qualities and characteristics of things. To be sure, some tools are more accurate than others. A scale that is broken will be far less capable of capturing my “true” weight than one that is well calibrated. However, let’s say I stand on a very accurate, high tech digital scale and it indicates that I weigh 181.5 pounds, exactly midway between 181 and 182. Now, let’s say we locate an even more precise scale and when I stand on it, my actual weight turns out to be 181.49. Not quite 181.5, but very close. From the standpoint of wanting to determine with greater precision, what I actually weigh, that’s great. But how do we know I don’t in fact weigh a hair more or less than this? What if we developed an even more sophisticated scale and lo and behold, discover my weight is actually 181.489. Not quite 181.49. But again, very, very close.

The point of this example is to highlight that no matter how precise our measurement tools may be, we will never be able to determine with absolute certainty, the true quantity or size of anything for there are an infinite number of possible points between any two numeric values. While it’s possible to get close, the measure of things is quite literally, always just beyond our reach. The qualities and characteristics of things are indefinite. tape-measure

In the same way that we cannot precisely measure the quantitative dimensions and characteristics of material objects, it is also not possible to determine the exact nature of qualitative phenomena. Let’s look at the familiar state of mind we call “anxiety.” Now imagine a horizontal number line, like the x-axis of a graph, that has a midpoint of “0”. Moving right the numbers go up, 1, 2, 3… while to the left, they go down (-1, -2, -3…).

Now, pretend that a feeling described as “non-anxious” or calm falls at “0” on our imaginary line. As we move forward on the line, we begin to head in the direction of less calm and more anxiety, experientially. For purposes of illustration, let us now suppose that +1 represents having arrived at a state we would characterize as no longer calm, but “anxious.” At zero, we’re calm. But as we move toward the +1 value on the scale, we become less and less calm and increasingly anxious until we finally arrive at a point we would recognize and describe as definitely anxious.

But here’s a question: at what precise point do we clearly exit one state (calm) and enter the other (anxious)? Where along our hypothetical number line do clearly move from one way of characterizing reality to a different one? If we say that once we get to +1, we’ve now fully arrived at the state called anxiety and can no longer be considered calm, are we saying that at .99 on the line we haven’t quite moved fully into the anxious state? Well, one might counter by saying, “okay, at .99 we’re starting to feel the faint rumblings of anxiety even if it hasn’t taken complete hold of us.” Starting to feel? What exactly does that mean? Can we not get more precise about this? Imagining the line as representing the passage of time, are we saying that it is exactly at .99 that the first murmurings of what we might call anxiety have begun to emerge? What about .98999999? Were there any faint hints of anxiety at that point?

If we imagine moving experientially from a relative state of calm to one we would characterize as lacking in calmness (i.e., anxious), the question I’m posing here is what exact point on the line do we consider that we have definitely left the land of calm and are now entering a new territory characterized by a lack of calm (aka anxiety)? Can we clearly identify or determine the precise point where calmness has ended and anxiety begun? No. The reality is that whether we’re talking introspectively or mathematically, we are not actually able to determine precisely when a given state of mind ends and another presumably begins since there are, as in the above example of measuring one’s weight, an infinite number of possible points between any ending and subsequent starting point. Infinity_Symbol

The point of all of this is to illustrate that just as it is not really possible to definitively determine the measure of something arguably more concrete such as weight, so too is it impossible to say definitively that we are now abiding in one state (anxiety) and not another (calmness). For if we see subjective states of mind as dynamic (which they are) and therefore as existing on some sort of continuum (illustrated by our imaginary number line), then we’re faced with the same impossibility of precisely determining when a given state has ended and another has begun. We can never pin down the precise beginning, middle or end of ANY experiential state. And this is just as true subjectively as it is neurologically, hormonally or mathematically.

So what does this mean, practically speaking? Well, just look at the immediacy of your present moment experience—no matter how you might attempt to define or characterize it, the actual beginning of that experience cannot be found or determined. In reality, separate or discrete states of mind are an abstraction for everything exists as an ultimately immeasurable, indefinable, dynamic continuum.

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The Impressionistic Nature of Experience

Published on September 1, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

You’ve undoubtedly seen those remarkably beautiful impressionist paintings—from a certain distance, they appear as they do. But the closer you get to them, the more the coherent patterns and forms of the painting reveal themselves to be pattern-less and incoherent points of color and light. Interestingly, we find a parallel in the world of science for when the physicist examines the material world, what appears at first glance to be a solid, material realm turns out upon closer examination to be far more indefinite, ambiguous and immaterial than was initially thought. Unknown

Now just as the scientist might examine the nature of atoms and subatomic particles, we can similarly look at our own subjective experience to see what it is “made of.” For just as one finds with a painting by Monet or Renoir, human experiences that from one perspective appear very coherent and structured upon closer examination disappear into greater and greater ambiguity and incoherence. Look carefully, exploring the nature, structure, texture and form of any experience and you will find that it naturally dissolves into a vast, structure-less field of vibrancy, a subtle dance of information and energy. Every detailed part, every aspect and tangible dimension that makes up a given experience, when investigated closely reveals a seemingly endless array of subtler and subtler wave-like aspects, dimensions and parts. It’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it, that the closer we look at the world and experiences, the less clear, fixed or definite they become?

Ironically, even though our lives are made up entirely of experiences (what else is there, really?), rarely do human beings ask what would seem the most basic, fundamental question: “What are experiences actually made of, experientially?” We’ve tended to take it for granted that we know what things are. But like the impressionist painting, things aren’t always as they appear.  So, that is my invitation, to take another, closer look at the experiential painting you call, your life. You may be surprised at what you find!


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Mindfulness and its Unavoidable, Ever-Present Nature

Published on August 31, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

In the rapidly exploding world of contemporary mindfulness, a distinction is frequently made between living mindfully and being on autopilot. For example, you’ll hear mindfulness instructors talk about those times we’re in the shower but not really there, unaware of the rush of warm water upon our skin, thinking instead about something else, say an important meeting we’ll be participating in later that day. Another example often heard in mindfulness classes is the experience of driving a car and suddenly realizing some minutes (or maybe even many minutes) later that we’ve been seemingly lost in some stream of daydreaming, effectively unaware of the other cars, the road, the surroundings, or the fact that we were even driving in the first place! Mindfulness teachers typically describe this state as “being on autopilot,” emphasizing the value of practicing mindfulness as a way of countering this habitual tendency to be move through our lives with minimal or even no awareness.

While on the surface, the difference (between the mindfulness and autopilot modes) seems a reasonable one to make, a closer looks reveals several ways this conventional distinction is somewhat misleading. Let’s take the example of driving down the road only to realize we’ve been largely absent from the whole process and experience of driving our car: is it actually the case that we were not aware of what was happening during such times? Were we truly checked out, absent from the experience altogether or were we simply utilizing a different, less conscious mode of cognitive, perceptual, sensory processing in order to drive effectively? Suffice it to say, we likely wouldn’t have made it safely down the road had we been say blindfolded, or even worse, suffered a stroke or seizure and been rendered unconscious! So what’s going on here?

Well, rather than seeing this mode of “driving on autopilot” in largely negative terms (i.e., as evidence of our lack of mindfulness), from another vantage we can see it as a quite extraordinary human capacity and mode of intelligence. For example, think for a moment about all that was actually happening with little if any conscious awareness, control, or intention—the incredibly subtle changes we were making to the steering wheel in order to keep the car on a relatively straight line; the almost constant adjustments we were having to make with both the brake and accelerator pedals in order to safely alter our speed in consort with the ever-changing flow of the other cars on the road; and, the effortless and near constant scanning of the visual field for potential obstacles, all without having to think consciously about any of it! Contrary to the autopilot critique, it isn’t that we were unaware of what what happening as our car hurtled down the road at 60 mph surrounded by and navigating around and between all the other cars. It’s just that we were utilizing a different, less conscious mode of intelligence and awareness.

This example of driving can be seen as somewhat analogous to the experience of walking. Like driving, we have the capacity to walk without paying careful, moment-to-moment, attention to what we’re doing, without having to consciously think about how we’re putting one foot in front of the other, without needing to attend to each footfall or having to bring conscious attention to the activity of maintaining balance. And because we do not have to think about or engage in the activity of walking with any sort of intentional, focused awareness (i.e., mindfulness), we are able to walk while we say talk to a friend, plan our day, look at the scenery, or compose a letter in our head.

It would seem from these two examples of driving and walking that we are quite capable of exercising multiple modes of awareness (both conscious and less conscious), simultaneously. True, our primary focus at times might not be on consciously attending to or exercising control over the moment-to-moment experience of walking or driving. But even if there is another object being emphasized or attended to (e.g., reflecting on a difficult conversation we just had, thinking about an important presentation we’ll be giving later that day), some part of awareness is still taking in and processing what is occurring “outside” of whatever other content may be temporarily occupying attention. We could say that in such moments, awareness is occurring in or across multiple domains even if certain aspects of the experiential field are more center stage. For these reasons, rather than saying that if we’re in the shower or driving our car and thinking about an upcoming meeting that we are somehow being unmindful or unaware, we can simply say that in those moments, awareness is focused less specifically on the actual perceptual/sensorial experience of being in the shower or driving the car and is instead, attending more centrally to some other aspect or dimension of the moment (e.g., thinking, daydreaming, imagining).

Apropos this, if we look carefully at the actuality of human experience, we can also begin to question the oft heard distinction made in mindfulness teachings between moments of mindfulness and moments of un-mindfulness. It turns out that this is also a misleading distinction for with the exception of moments of deep, dreamless sleep or anesthesia, there really is no such thing as a moment without some degree of mindfulness or awareness. Let’s take another common example from the mindfulness world to illustrate this.

Students of meditation will typically be given some object to focus attention on, say the breath. The instruction will be to maintain focus there, to remain present with say the sensations of the breath. However, as every meditator knows, what invariably happens is that attention tends to not hold still but instead dances around, eventually moving away from the intended object and becoming engaged with some other aspect of experience such as the stream of thinking or imagining. The mindfulness practitioner is then instructed, once they realize that their awareness has been temporarily interrupted, to return to the original object of attention. However, consider the following question: is mindfulness or awareness ever really lost or diminished? Would it even be possible to know that we’d suffered some moment of inattention (lack of mindfulness) if mindfulness or awareness were in fact, absent? How could we possibly know that we’d been unaware without awareness being present in that moment to know the experience characterized as “being unaware”? How could we possibly know that we’d failed to be present for much of a given meditation session, lost in a whirlpool of thinking, worrying, planning or whatever without mindfulness being present at least to some degree to register the supposed lack of mindfulness and the presence of thinking, worrying, etc.? Are we in fact ever truly lost or entirely absent from the moments of our lives? Are we actually ever completely caught up in or distracted by some current of thinking or fantasizing such that there is no awareness that that is even occurring? Or is some awareness always present, a mode of consciousness that is never completely absent from and is thereby able to report on its own purported absence?

Given what I’m suggesting here—that mindfulness or awareness is never actually absent—rather than practicing to find or develop more of something that we already naturally possess in spades, whatever practice we engage in, we can simply allow it to be an appreciation of the fact that mindfulness or awareness can never actually be lost for it constitutes the unavoidable reality underlying all moments of experiencing. For no matter how experience may appear and subsequently be characterized (e.g., clear, confused, dull, bright, aware, unaware) the very fact of its appearance is, we could say the proof of mindfulness and its ever-present nature.

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No Map Will Suffice

Published on August 31, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

After decades of exploring the nature of reality, I’ve finally figured it. At long last, I have found the answer, uncovered the one, single, unifying framework that pulls it all together, the clearest, most comprehensive map that is finally able to delineate the territory we call life, a way to finally and definitively explain what is going on here, what existence is, who we are and the meaning of it all. A lifetime of searching and I’ve finally found it, the key to it all, the secret code that unlocks the mysteries of existence and consciousness, that reveals all that we have sought to know, to understand and to realize about ourselves and life. Ready? Take a close and careful look for this is what we’ve been waiting for, the holy grail, the sorcerer’s stone…







What do you think? Pretty amazing, huh? Isn’t it the most exquisite, most beautiful, most awe-inspiring map of reality you’ve ever beheld, the perfect answer to every question? Now you finally hold it in your hands, now you know who and what you are, what life is, for the very nature of reality has once and for all been resolved. All that you’ve imagined you are bound within, limited and defined by has been revealed. Beautiful isn’t it, this perfect framework, this final explanation? Look, it’s quite something, isn’t it?








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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Published on August 25, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Allow yourself to consider something quite extraordinary – you have never experienced this moment before. Never!

Sure, there may be many aspects of the present moment that appear to resemble those experiential moments that have preceded it. But each instant, each momentary flashing forth of life contains innumerable subtle qualities and characteristics that are entirely unique to it. And so because what is here has never actually been here before, any interpretive framework, definition or frame of reference we might bring to it is necessarily and wholly incomplete, limited and partial. To paraphrase Dorothy, while we may have been in a state (of mind) called Kansas a moment ago, we are, quite literally, not there anymore! wizard-of-oz-were-not-in-kansas-anymore

Given this, consider the impossibility of ever having a fixed self-definition or identity for what we are is, quite literally, not what we were even an instant ago. And the truth of this radical impermanence applies, of course, not only to us but to every person, place and thing we encounter in life.

Let the reality and implications of this sink in…

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A Universe in Everything

Published on August 25, 2015, by in Uncategorized.
Place your hand
upon anything
and just feel
what is there—
can you possibly
put into words,
the endless display,
the universes
upon universes
of sparkling,
movement and
sensation that
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Many Flavors, One Taste

Published on August 24, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Make the final leap into awareness
without the slightest basis for determining
what is spiritual or not,
this bare state with no reference point
is beyond the cage of philosophy.
Rest in infinite evenness.
Experience the true nature of phenomena
as their equalness.


The equalness of phenomena?  What the hell is Longchenpa talking about? Phenomena aren’t equal, they’re utterly distinct and diverse, aren’t they? No two experiences are ever the same. So what is this equalness being referred to here? The suggestion seems to be that those states we conventionally describe with words such as not awake, not mindful, or deluded are essentially equal to those states characterized as awake, mindful or free of delusion.  But clearly the equalness of everything cannot be found in the way things are described conceptually or linguistically. Sadness is undeniably different than (i.e., not equal to) joy just as excitement is qualitatively distinct from boredom. So in what possible way are they equal?

Well, if we look at the nature of experience, we can see several characteristics that they all share. First, experiences are present. Second, they are known. Third, they are by nature dynamic and unstable. And fourth, they cannot be definitively described or characterized conceptually. Experiential moments described as “clear,” while obviously distinct qualitatively from those moments characterized as “confused,” are at the same time equal in that they are both present and known, they are impermanent and they contain infinite experiential depth—i.e., they cannot be pinned down as being one (de)finite thing. Everything that arises experientially arises experientially, regardless of how that arising may be characterized. This is the “one taste” of everything that is spoken of in some traditions. Every experience has its distinctive flavor. No question. But the fact of its presence, the fact that it is here, that is the one taste, the taste of everything.

We can of course practice some technique in order to move from one experience interpreted as unaware or unenlightened to another labeled as more aware, more mindful or more enlightened. But there is another choice and that is to simply notice that experience, regardless of its label, is always present. That is its fundamental nature, to be present, to arise, effortlessly. Everything, no matter how it may be described, is present. Presence need not be cultivated or developed. Presence—the here-ness of all experiential moments—is already the case. It is inescapable. A moment characterized as not being aware or mindful is just as here, just as present as a moment described as being fully awake and mindful. You see? Clarity is equal to confusion; mindlessness is equal to mindfulness; non-recognition of awareness is equal to recognition of awareness; falling away of self is equal to self-identification, not in terms of their distinctive flavors and textures but in terms of their presence, equal in their existence, equal in their impermanence, equal in their indescribability…

And so, we can relax for reality is already here, presence is already present. A moment of boredom or excitement, of sorrow or joy, it is all the ultimately uncharacterizable, indescribable presence of experiencing. That is the ultimate practice, to see the equalness of everything, the non-difference in all experience even as we savor the lusciousness of all its distinctive flavors.

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Reality: Virtual, Actual or Both?

Published on August 2, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

As we look, not merely at the ideas we hold about things (“that’s a tree, a computer, a joy, a sadness…”) but their sheer actuality, the raw, felt sense or presence of whatever is being perceived, it begins to dawn just how impossible it is to adequately capture or convey anything linguistically. What appears in the field of experience is quite literally, beyond any and all final descriptions or conceptualizations, even if aspects of language are able to hint at the myriad qualitative and textural dimensions of experience.

This may sound like a terribly abstract or overly philosophical way to characterize reality but actually, it’s quite the opposite. For what I’m suggesting is that the way the world is conventionally seen and understood is itself an abstraction— we have in effect, been living in and relating to a kind of virtual world, a conceptualization of experience rather than its actuality. This conventional, consensus (i.e., “virtual”) reality says, “the wind is blowing on my face.” But in actuality, each of the dimensions of this familiar experience—wind, blowing, and face—all contain inconceivable perceptual and sensorial universes within them. Put another way, what is a face, the wind or the activity of blowing, beyond the mere concepts used to characterize or label such experiences?

What if we were to encounter the infinitely rich, dynamic complexity of moment-to-moment experiencing, and not merely reduce its vast complexity to simple verbal or conceptual placeholders, which tends to be our default perceptual mode? What if we were to orient ourselves to reality in another way, feeling or being touched by experiences themselves rather than merely relating to the ideas or abstracted notions we hold about them? We need not negate this all-too-familiar mode of perceiving and describing the different ways reality patterns itself (e.g., as wind, blowing, and face). But we can discover another way to see, one that doesn’t merely collapse the apparent patterns of life into fixed categories or explanatory frameworks but instead, recognizes that the vast, unbounded, infinite nature of every perception cannot, in the end be convincingly reduced or collapsed.

Here are some wonderful words that attempt to capture the more infinite, indescribable nature of ALL experience I’m endeavoring to convey here.

un·fath·om·a·ble - incapable of being fully explored or understood; impossible to measure the extent of

in·com·pre·hen·si·ble - beyond one’s comprehension, beyond one’s grasp

in·scru·ta·ble - impossible to understand or interpret

in·de·fin·a·ble - not able to be defined or described exactly

in·fi·nite - limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate

in·de·ter·mi·nate - not exactly known, established, or defined

in·con·ceiv·a·ble - not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally

breath·tak·ing - astonishing or awe-inspiring in quality

mys·te·ri·ous - difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify

un·im·ag·i·na·ble - difficult or impossible to imagine or comprehend; undreamed of, beyond one’s wildest dreams

ir·re·duc·i·ble - not able to be reduced or simplified

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