Friday, April 29, 2016

THE ILLUSION OF TIME

‘Now, can the mind be free of time? That is the real problem. Because, all creation takes place outside the field of time; all profound thinking, all deep feeling, is always timeless.’—J. Krishnamurti, Collected Works, vol. XI, 169.

Time is an illusion. It's not a real thingThat’s right! No, I haven't gone totally crazy, although some may beg to differ. Time is created by a combination of thought, memory and awareness of the so-called present moment ever renewing itself as the present moment over and over again. As we live we move through a succession of now-moments. The American spiritual psychologist and teacher Vernon Howard said, ‘Real life is a timeless renewal in the present moment.’ I like that.

Edward M Matthews [pictured right], a Liberal Catholic bishop, from whose writings and radio talks I’ve derived much benefit over the years, wrote:

… We cannot see [time] because we are immersed in it. It is like the air we breathe. We are not conscious of it except as a passing element. We notice time moving slowly, or faster according to the circumstance in which we are involved for the moment. When matters are pleasing it moves fast, often too fast. But when matters are irksome, we become aware of time and find that it moves slowly, often too slowly.

Time is the great illusion rather than the material of this world, as many suppose. The material is real enough for the time that it exists. The time factor is entirely dependent upon our awareness of the material. Therefore, the illusory effect is produced by the time during which we are aware of the material. (Collected Works of Edward M Matthews, vol I: The Printed Publications, San Diego CA: St Alban Press, 2007.)

Matthews is right. We cannot see time. We can watch a clock tick, and if the clock be the old-fashioned kind, we can see the hands on the clock move, but we cannot see time. Time is a relative construct. Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity shows that. In truth, it is nothing more than movement, which is life, but it is not a ‘thing’ in itself. We talk about ‘saving time’ but in truth it is impossible to save time. If time were a ‘thing’ we could weight it, boil or heat it, or freeze it. We can do none of those things. In a sense, it is a ‘no-thing’, for all we are capable of seeing is the effect of time, for example, an ageing body, a tree growing in size, and so on.

Yes, movement is the defining factor of time, and since life is movement—ceaseless movement and constant flux—so time must be of that nature. It is only when we are alive can we witness time. Julian Barbour [pictured left], a British physicist, describes time as ‘a succession of pictures, a succession of snapshots, changing continuously one into another.’ Barbour has made the point that change is real, but not time, the latter being only a reflection of time. ‘Isaac Newton,’ Barbour noted, ‘insisted that even if absolutely nothing at all happened, time would be passing, and that I believe is completely wrong.’ The truth is that without change we would have no notion of time at all.

The Indian spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti often pointed out that there is a very close connection between thought and memory and the awareness of time. In a sense, thought and memory create time. Whenever we recall an incident from the so-called past, we have a sense of the effluxion of time, likewise when we project into the future. In truth, everything is contained within ‘the now.’ All durationor time, if you willis total and complete in the now. There is an eternal quality about the now. It is forever new. What we refer to as the present moment is simply the now experienced as such—that is, as a now-moment. The past, in the form of memories, is no more than the expression 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 are present ideas and hopes. Yes, what we call the present is simply that which presents itself before us in the now, so the present embraces past, present and future.

The Christian existentialist theologian Paul Tillich [pictured right] says as much in his wonderful book The Eternal Now. Tillich writes:

The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past are united in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which we have ‘presence.’ ... Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of them carries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is one answer to these questions -- the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time -- the eternal ... . 

There is only now. In the now everything lives, moves and has its being. In the now everything appears, changes and disappears. That is the totality of life. Only the now is real.

Living mindfully means living in the now. It means being choicelessly aware of each now-moment as it both arises and morphs almost instantaneously into the next now-moment, and then the one after that, and so on into eternity. When your awareness is at-one with the object—internal or external—of your awareness, that is, when there is no separation (an unfortunate word in this context) between the two, you are living in the eternal now. It is only then that you have no sense of time, for your awareness is not interrupted and thus broken by thought, feeling or memory.

Shakyamuni Buddha advised us to observe and watch closelythat is, mindfullywhatever is occurring in the here-and-now from one now-moment to the next. Not only watch but, as the Buddha went on to say, ‘firmly and steadily pierce it.’ Yes, pierce the reality of the content of each now-moment experience. Only then can you truly say you are alive and no longer living in time.

Start living in the eternal—right this very now-moment! It is the best way to live.


Note. On Sunday, April 7, 1940, Edward Murray Matthews, then still a priest, began a series of radio talks on KFAC in Los Angeles. This series of talks, later broadcast on radio station KNCR, would continue for several decades. Here is a link to some audio files of taped radio shows of Bishop (later Archbishop) Matthews. The talks are well worth listening to. He spoke so very well, and was a very learned man. 


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

MAJOR NEW STUDY FINDS THAT MINDFULNESS THERAPY WORKS AS WELL AS ANTI-DEPRESSANTS

A new study – the largest-ever analysis of research on the subject – has found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helps people just as much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs and without harmful effects.

People suffering from depression who received MBCT were 31 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse during the next 60 weeks, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Professor Willem Kuyken [pictured right], the lead author of the paper, said: ‘This new evidence for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy … is very heartening.' He added, ‘While MBCT is not a panacea, it does clearly offer those with a substantial history of depression a new approach to learning skills to stay well in the long-term.’

Professor Kuyken stressed that different people required different treatments and mindfulness should be viewed as one option alongside drugs and other forms of therapy.

A study published in the Lancet last year also found mindfulness could be as effective as drugs.


Now, should any readers be currently on anti-depressant medication, please do not stop taking your medication -- and definitely don't stop taking the medication suddenly -- without first talking the matter through with your health care professional. That is extremely important. Having suffered in the past from clinical depression, I did find anti-depressant medication helpful, and I still think that medication of that kind has an important role to play in the treatment and management of clinical depression. (See also the 'Important Notice' below.)

One more thing. So many loved ones say—more out of frustration than anything else—to the person suffering from depression, ‘Just snap out of it!’ This is probably the worst advice anyone could give to a person with depression, other than saying, 'I know how you feel.' To say, 'Just snap out of it,' may even make things worse for the person who is very much caught up in a process that, for the most part, is not amenable to exercise of the person’s will or conscious control. In that regard, clinical depression is a bit like an addiction, where the addict is similarly caught up in a process beyond their conscious control. Will power is captive to both clinical depression and addiction, so forget all about will power. The good news is that the vast majority of people with depression do get better. Recovery may take some time, and may require a combination of different treatments, but recovery is indeed possible and it is the norm. In my case, after about six years of relative misery, and undergoing a variety of treatment modalities, the depression just stopped--just like that! So, hang in there. Never lose hope. Never give up. 


Study: Kuyken, W et al. ‘Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Prevention of Depressive Relapse:  An Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis From Randomized Trials.’ JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 27, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0076.


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IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. In Australia, for immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, and for information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or go online via sane.org. In other countries, call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.




Friday, April 22, 2016

HOW TO CALM THE STORMS IN YOUR LIFE

‘There is a spiritual giant within you, which is always struggling
to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.’

We all have ‘storms’ in our lives from time to time. Of course, I am using the word ‘storm’ largely but not entirely metaphorically, because many people have to endure storms in the literal sense as well. We hear about that all the time.

A ‘storm’ may take many forms, for example, sickness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, financial woes, emotional upsets (eg fear, anxiety, anger and hatred), and so forth. In fact, any of the problems and stresses of life is a ‘storm’, metaphorically speaking. Now, I am not advocating a simplistic, one-dimensional solution to ‘storms’. I try not to dispense cheap optimism. Life is very tough, and quite unfair at times. Depending on the nature of the storm, professional assistance will often be required to overcome the storm or simply 'ride the waves'.

The Bible is a collection of books on the subject of human psychologyboth ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, as we used to saycontaining numerous stories depicting the human condition in all its many forms, some of them sordid and others quite lofty. All of the stories, and the events depicted in them, graphically depict various phases of human experience—the so-called human conditionas well as states of consciousness occurring or capable of occurring within our own minds. Those who seek to interpret the Bible otherwise, that is, literally, are, with the greatest respect, gravely mistaken, but that’s for another day.

Now, the story of Jesus calming the storm is well known, even to many not familiar with the Bible. The story is an allegory—never forget that. For starters, we have a storm over a lake. The reference to ‘storm’ is fairly obvious, but what about ‘water’, in this case, the Sea of Galilee where storms were, and still are, known to arise quite suddenly and unexpectedly from time to time? Well, in scared symbology ‘water’ is a symbol for, among other things, mental movement and, in particular, the emotions. In some contexts, water is a symbol of the human soul. Then there’s the ship, which may be seen to be a symbol of the human body. And we have a voyage or journey in the nature of a trial or tribulation. So many ancient and modern stories and myths involve a journey of discovery—self-discovery.


The story goes like this. Jesus had been teaching near the Sea of Galilee. Afterwards, he wanted a respite from the crowds so he decided to take a boat with the disciples to the opposite shore where there were no large towns. The Bible reports that not long after they sailed, Jesus fell asleep and a storm arose. Now, as already mentioned, the Sea of Galilee was known for its sudden raging storms. We read:

‘The waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion’ (Mk 4:37–38).

The first point to note, other than the fact that Jesus needed to rest just like the rest of us, is that Jesus’ sleep was deep and sound, even through the storm which was ‘already filling’ the boat. Yes, Jesus was asleep on the cushion in the stern of the boat. The disciples were filled with fear and apprehension, but they were smart enough to awaken Jesus. I will have more to say about that matter shortly. So, the disciples woke Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace! Be still!’ We read in the Bible that the wind immediately died down, the storm subsided and, what’s more, there was a great calm. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’


The word ‘faith’ is much abused. I am not in favour of ‘blind faith’ or some sort of ‘leap of faith’ into the unknown. In a practical sense, faith, as I see it, means acting with courage, confidence and perseverance despite what may be going on around you or inside of you. Faith refers to a special kind of knowledge (no, not intellectual knowledge) and understanding that one can ‘ride the waves’, no matter what life dishes out. No wonder Jesus reportedly said, ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32, emphasis added). Faith is not synonymous with mere religious belief. I have seen many people of great faith, in the sense in which I am now using the word, who have no religious faith at all. True faith is knowing the truth about any given situation, and understanding that there is always a solution to any problem that may beset us. Faith is not wishful thinking. It sees the real and the ugly but knows that the power to overcome or rise above whatever may be the problem or issue is always available.

Now, within each one of us is something that the Quakers refer to us ‘peace at the centre’. Quakers cultivate such peace. We all should, whether or not we are Quakers. The ‘peace at the centre’ is calm and tranquility, even in the face of the worst storm imaginable. When a storm calms, say the words, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Saying those words will not make the storm away, but it will help you to get in the right frame of mind to respond appropriately to the storm, whatever it may be. Unless we are still, our response to the storm will be all wrong.

Know this—there is, within each of us, a ‘sleeping giant’. When we awaken that sleeping giant, we find the power to respond appropriately to any storm. This giant of which I speak is an inner potentiality. It is a power and a presence, the very presence of life’s self-expression in and as you, the person that you are. Here’s something else—this presence and power manifests itself as peace and calmness, even in the midst of trouble and turmoil, that is, in the storms of life.


You may not know this, but every character in the Bible—even the person of Jesus—is you, yes, you at some stage or other of your life and psycho-spiritual development. That’s right. Every character in the Bible, whether a real, historical person or not, represents a condition of consciousness and a quality—good or bad—of character or personality. And that goes for the person of Jesus as well, for he is the representative human being par excellence. He is every man or woman on the path of life—well, every man or woman who knows how to master the storms of life. The ‘Christ’ is symbolic of ‘peace at the centre’, the peace that passes all understanding, and the power that makes all things new. The ‘Christ’ is not a person but a principle, a state of attainment, and a presence. The ‘Christ’ is the perfect idea of what a man or woman can be and in truth really is. As such, it abides within each one of us as our potential perfection as well as inner peace and power. The New Testament speaks of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col 1:27). Esoteric Christians refer to this inner presence and power as the ‘Christ within’, for it is not to be found afar off. Now, when we combine ‘Jesus’ with the ‘Christ’, we have a fully functioning man or woman under full sway of their inner potentiality and vital powers—the perfect human being in actual expression. No, I am not talking about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and that sort of thing. That is a gross carnalization and literalization of what is otherwise a very important myth as well as being a misrepresentation and distortion of the true metaphysical position. We are all Christs in the making.

To find ‘peace at the centre’ is more than just finding inner peace. One finds power as well—yes, the power to triumph over any adversity. I will use another analogy. I live not far from the beach on Sydney's wonderful Northern Beaches and I love bodysurfing. I try to bodysurf as often as I can, even though I'm not that great at it. Now, some waves are fairly small such that you can just go over the top of them, as if you were a bobbing cork. Others are bigger, and you must go through the middle of them in order to avoid being dumped. Still others are even bigger, with some being so big that all you can safely do is to go right under the water and head straight for the sandy bottom. There you find stillness and calmness. You can see and sometimes hear all the turbulence above you, but you are safe at or near the bottom, and you simply wait until things calm down before you surface again. Then there are other waves which are just perfect for bodysurfing. Life is very much like that. One wave after another. The important thing is to deal with one wave at a time. Of course, the waves sometimes come in very quick succession. Life is also like that.

Bodysurfing at Warriewood, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Yes, there is peace and harmony at the centre—and power, too. To use one final analogy, it's the power to climb over any mountain, or go around that mountain if need be, or simply go straight through the middle of the mountain. In order to know that peace, and find and use that inner power, you must awaken the ‘sleeping giant’ within you. Then you will have the power to overcome any adversity. Not only that, but the storms of life will not overwhelm you anymore.

‘Peace! Be still!’


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Thursday, April 14, 2016

WHY MOST SELF-HELP BOOKS DON’T HELP

‘Who is the “I” that is going to change it? The “I” is also a habit,
the “I” is a series of words and memories and knowledge, 
which is the past, which is a habit.”
J. Krishnamurti, The Impossible Question.


Go into any book shop, or look online, and you will find self-help books galore. I have bought quite a few of them myself over the years. Most of them are a total waste of money. They don’t work. Why? Because most of them rest on an assumption that is completely false, namely, that what we call the self can change the self. It can’t.

We use the word ‘self’ in two different senses. First, we use the word to describe the ‘person’ each one of us is---the ‘real you,’ so to speak---and that is a most legitimate use of the word. However, we also use the word to refer to what we mistakenly perceive to be our real identity. Let me explain.

We perceive life through our senses and by means of our conscious mind. Over time, beginning from the very moment of our birth, sensory perceptions harden into images of various kinds formed out of aggregates of thought and feeling. In time, the illusion of a separate 'observing self' emerges, but the truth is that our sense of mental continuity and identity are simply the result of habit, memory and conditioning. Hundreds of thousands of separate, ever-changing and ever-so-transient mental occurrences—in the form of our various likes, dislikes, views, opinions, prejudices, biases, attachments and aversions, all of them mental images—harden into a fairly persistent mental construct of sorts. This construct is, however, nothing more than a confluence of impermanent components (‘I-moments’ or ‘selves’) which are cleverly synthesized by the mind in a way that appears to give them a singularity and a separate and independent existence and life of their own. The result is the ‘observing self', but it is little more than a bundle of remembered images from and out of which further thought and new imagesyes, more of themarise.


As mentioned, this ‘observing self’ consists of hundreds of other selves, each of which is an image that we build in our mind over time and in time. There is, for example, the angry false self (‘I am angry’), the jealous false self (‘I am jealous’), the fearful false self (‘I am fearful’), the unworthy self (‘I am a miserable sinner’), and so on. These selves—lots and lots of psychological ‘I's’ and ‘me's’ that collectively manifest as our ego-consciousness) are called false because they are not the real person each one of us is, but we mistakenly believe that one or more of these false selves---which are nothing more than self-images in our mind---are the real person that we are. In truth, all of these 'I's' and 'me's' have been created by thought. Indeed, they are thought--thought images, if you like.

Now, these false selves are illusory, not because they do not exist--for they do indeed exist as images in our mind--but because they have no separate, distinct, permanent identity from the person that we are, the latter being a mind-body complex that is ontologically real (the 'physical "I"'). Only the person that you are---a person among persons---is ontologically real.

We are self-conscious beings, and not only is there this ‘observing self’ in our mindalong with many other mind-invented selvesthere is also an ‘observed self,’ in that the observing self (a subject) is able to ‘split,’ so to speak, and become an ‘observed self’ (an object). So, we have the ‘I’ subject and the ‘I’ object. But that’s not the end of it. Every like, dislike, view and opinion hardens over time into a little ‘self’, so we have hundreds of these selves in our mind at any one point in time. The ‘observing self’ can easily morph into the ‘judging self’, deciding which likes and dislikes we will keep, and which ones we will discard. Ditto views and opinions. The ‘observing self’ can and does also morph into an ‘analytical self’ which analyses our other false selves. At the risk of repeating myself, none of these little selves, has no separate, discrete, or independent existence apart from the person each one of us is. In that sense the ‘observing self’ is false and illusory. Worse, it is the very same self—any other false self---that is being observed. This is what it means to be trapped in the illusion of self---a false self, lots and lots of them, in fact. Listen to what the Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti [pictured right] has to say about the matter. These lines come from chapter 12 of his book Freedom From the Known:

One image, as the observer, observes dozens of other images around himself and inside himself, and he says, 'I like this image, I'm going to keep it' or 'I don't like that image so I'll get rid of it', but the observer himself has been put together by the various images which have come into being through reaction to various other images. So we come to a point where we can say, 'The observer is also the image, only he has separated himself and observes. This observer who has come into being through various other images thinks himself permanent and between himself and the images he has created there is a division, a time interval. This creates conflict between himself and the images he believes to be the cause of his troubles. So then he says, "I must get rid of this conflict", but the very desire to get rid of the conflict creates another image.'

So, I hope you can see by now that self is indeed the problem. The self that wants to change is the very same self that doesn’t want to change. The self that observes is the self being observed. Self is always self and nothing else but self. As a former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple [pictured left], pointed out, ‘no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour.’ The self that wants to get rid of the self that is causing problems in one’s life is the same self as the one causing the problems. Self cannot change self. The only way self can change is by morphing into some other self, but you still end up with a self, and what good is that, I ask you? In any event, a self, being nothing more than a mental image in our mind, has no power in and of itself in any event. That is why we need to rely upon some power-not-oneself.

Let me say it again. Self can’t change self, and that’s where most self-help books go horribly wrong. However, the person that you are can change, but where does the power to change come from if it doesn't come from one's negative, conditioned ego-self? Is it some person, some god or god-like figure who will step in and change everything for us? Well, there are some who assert that is the way out, but I beg to differ. One of the many things I like about Buddhism is that it says, in effect, ‘Only you, the person that you are, can get yourself out of the mess you have created for yourself.’

Here’s some more wisdom from Krishnamurti, again taken from chapter 12 of his book Freedom From the Known:

Any movement on the part of the observer, if he has not realized that the observer is the observed, creates only another series of images and again he is caught in them. But what takes place when the observer is aware that the observer is the observed? … The observer does not act at all. The observer has always said, 'I must do something about these images, I must suppress them or give them a different shape'; he is always active in regard to the observed, acting and reacting passionately or casually, and this action of like and dislike on the part of the observer is called positive action -- 'I like, therefore I must hold. I dislike therefore I must get rid of.' But when the observer realizes that the thing about which he is acting is himself, then there is no conflict between himself and the image. He is that. He is not separate from that. When he was separate, he did, or tried to do, something about it, but when the observer realizes that he is that, then there is no like or dislike and conflict ceases.

For what is he to do? If something is you, what can you do? You cannot rebel against it or run away from it or even accept it. It is there. So all action that is the outcome of reaction to like and dislike has come to an end.

Then you will find that there is an awareness that has become tremendously alive. It is not bound to any central issue or to any image -- and from that intensity of awareness there is a different quality of attention and therefore the mind -- because the mind is this awareness - has become extraordinarily sensitive and highly intelligent.

The answer is self-awareness—choiceless, non-judgmental awareness. You look. You observe. You are alert and aware. When you truly come to see—and know—that all of those false selves in your mind are illusory and have no power over you except the power you choose to give them by identifying with them—note carefully that word ‘identify’—you, the person that you are, will have become free of their grip upon you. 

Yes, you can and will be relieved of the bondage of self when you come to understand that you need no longer be a slave to self. Stop trying to change or eradicate your false selves. Freedom comes when you are no longer for or against whatever self is the supposed problem at the partiuclar time—that is, when you are no longer fighting against that self being in your mind nor are you trying to hold on to it. This is what is known as letting go. Others call it acceptance. Krishnamurti calls it ‘choiceless awareness’. The words don’t matter, only the reality behind those words.

So, what is the ‘power-not-oneself’? It is you—the person that you are—when, to quote Krishnamurti once again, ‘there is an awareness that has become tremendously alive’.

That, my friends, is the only kind of self-help that works.


Freedom From the Known.
J. Krishnamurti. Edited by Mary Lutyens. New York: Harper & Row.
Copyright © 1969, 2010 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Limited,
Brockwood Park, Bramdean, Hampshire, United Kingdom.
All rights reserved.



IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please read the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on or linked to this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere. For immediate advice or support call (in Australia) Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact (in Australia) the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org. In other countries call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.





Friday, April 8, 2016

MINDFULNESS IS SIMPLE: JUST BE THE PRESENT MOMENT

Here’s a simple description of mindfulness, without all the ‘bells and whistles’. Mindfulness is the presence of choiceless awareness of the content of the present moment from one such moment to the next. Here's an even simpler description. Mindfulness is ... you ... as the present moment.

Why ‘choiceless’ awareness? Listen to these words from the Indian spiritual philosopher J Krishnamurti:

Choiceless awareness -- do not condemn, do not justify. Awareness works only if it’s allowed free play without interference.
To understand, surely, there must be a state of choiceless awareness in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about in order to agree or disagree -- don’t start from a conclusion above all.
Awareness simply isn’t awareness when we are engaged in judging, analyzing, interpreting, filtering, condemning, comparing and contrasting. The moment we do any of those things we are no longer living in the now. To live in the now all likes, dislikes, opinions, views, biases, prejudices and predilections must be forsaken. There can be no compromise on that matter.

Xinxin Ming is a poem attributed to the Third Chinese Chán (Zen) Patriarch Jianzhi Sengcan (Chien-chih Seng-ts'an[pictured below]. The essence of the poem is this: our true self (‘true mind’), which is self-existent be-ing-ness, is perfect as it is. 

However, as soon as we form a liking or disliking to some person, thing or idea, or form a view or opinion of any kind, we create a ‘false self’ -- a ‘false view’ or ‘false mind’, in the language of ‘Xinxin Ming’ -- with which we tend to identify, and which we mistakenly believe is our true self. Our ‘false views’ obscure the true mind's inherent perfection. Here are some quotations from ‘Xinxin Ming’ that illustrate the point I am trying to make:

Any degeneration of your previous practice on emptiness [the true nature of things and events] arises because of false perspectives. There is really no need to go after the Truth but there is indeed a need to extinguish biased views.

Do not dwell in the two biased views. Make sure you do not pursue. The moment you think about right and wrong, that moment you unwittingly lose your true mind.

The Great Way is not difficult, just don't pick and choose. If you cut off all likes or dislikes, everything is clear like space.

Now, I do not think that it is humanly possible to give up all our views, opinions, likes and dislikes. However, let’s face it. Do we really need to overlay those things on our moment-to-moment experience of life? The moment we do that, we are no longer living in the now. Instead, we are back in the past and in the mental realm of conditioning. To experience the now in all its directness and immediacy we must look, really look at the right-here-and-now. We must listen, really listen to the right-here-and-now. We must smell, really smell the right-here-and-now. We must taste, really taste the right-here-and-now. And we must touch, really touch the right-here-and-now. We can do none of those things properly—or even half decently—when we are stuck in our own headspace. Being right-here-and-now, and experiencing right-here-and-now requires us to … drop, let go and desist our ‘false mind’.

The Diamond Sutra says, ‘The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable, the future is ungraspable.’ The past is gone. It is ungraspable. The future is not yet here, so it too is ungraspable. But how is the present ungraspable? Well, we are not in the present. If we are, where is it to be found? Point to it, please. Grasp it. You can’t. It’s impossible to measure the present, see the present, or define it. It cannot be pinned down. The so-called present moment, ever so short and ephemeral, has its unfolding in and as the now. The now is the portal through which we experience the present moment, indeed every moment … but only one moment at a time. It is always the present moment. 

Here’s something else that is terribly important—we are the present moment. Yes, the present moment is what, in truth, we are. And the present moment is---our ‘true mind’! In truth, you are the present moment. It is not something happening around you. It is you. The present moment requires your consciousness and awareness in order for it to be what it actually is--the present moment. Without your full and total presence (that is, choiceless awareness), the moment you experience will not be the present moment. It will be a past moment, or some anticipated or hoped for future moment, but it certainly won’t be the present moment.

These are my favourite lines from ‘Xinxin Ming’:

Words! The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

Stop picking and choosing. Abandon your false mind. Just be the present moment.