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January 26, 2009


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One thing I have realized lately is that because I am not in any religious group, all of what I believe and feel has to come through my own perceptions. Being in a group, which I have done, gives a sense of answers that we don't have to figure out for ourselves. When you leave the group, wander in the wilderness, for wont of a better term for it, then it comes down to what we actually 'get' for ourselves. It seems (at least for me right now) that there are less 'firm' answers.

I have not read Watts but right now I don't read any 'spiritual' books because I feel there is this sense of direct connection to self and to what lies beyond that I can't find from anybody else. I am not sure if being in a group gives us more true answers or maybe it's just a security blanket that looking by ourselves doesn't offer.

It is indeed interesting how what seems so true for us at one age will cease being true in another. What amazes me more are those who never change their beliefs, who stay with one truth for a lifetime and sometimes through one generation after another. It has not been my experience.

Hi Rain,

I think the "security blanket" you refer to is a defensiveness against being in the present moment. We get into the chatter because we don't welcome the peace.

All this reading, constant thinking. Understanding? Yes, but with the mind, and knowing? Perhaps a rare glimpse of some inner self. Who was that, is that me? Gone in a flash, then the clinging, grasping mind again, and still the longing to be whole, connected. Perhaps afraid of inner peace? The thinking small self doesn’t want to die.

I read Watts when I was young. I loved him at the time, one of my all time favourite spiritual writers. After I got into Sant Mat he dropped of, but now I have left the Path I am re-reading him and enjoying him immensely again.

Dear zenjen,
Here is a poem for you.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

By Derek Walcott

zenjen, whenever I read or hear a sentiment such as what you shared, I think...

To be proud of having an understanding that others lack, is this really humble knowledge?

To use one's mind to tell other people, "Don't use your mind!" -- isn't this hypocrisy?

To urge release from the "clinging, grasping" mind, isn't this urging a clinging and grasping, a desire to show others that they are ignorant while the urger knows the truth?

Indeed. Quite wonderful. I have never read anything from Mr Watts, despite hearing his name mentioned countless times.


I too am quite fond of Alan Watts. I had read Watts' The Book just after he published it in the latter 1960s. A friend of mine on the east coast had recommended it to me. I think it was the very first one of his fine books that I read. Then, about a year later, I was out at Berkeley (California) and I happened to get invited to come over to an evening party at his houseboat in nearby Sausalito. There was lots of wine, wit, and wisdom shared by him, as well as the psychedelic sacrament that was so abundant around San Francisco in those days. I chatted with him for hours and hours on that occasion. And needless to say, a profoundly "high" time was had by all, myself included. Alan also had a retreat cabin nearby up on Mt Tam. I think he drank too much, and unfortunately for his friends and admirers, he died only a few years later. He was definitely one of my early inspirations. Anyone who has not yet read him or heard audiotapes of his talks, should make an effort to do so. I also came to know his son Mark some years later during the 1980s.

Thank you Obed for sharing a very beautiful poem. The more I read and listen the more I understand the connection I long for is probably my constant companion, the higher self, soul, spirit, higher consciousness, whatever. It is here and now, I just have some barrier which is probably my constant thinking. Like Jayme said the answer is in the present moment.

Brian, I am just talking to myself, urging myself to understand my own clinging, grasping mind and I hope I don't sound preachy. I suppose I am on a spiritual quest and my mind resists. I know that others may say not to strive, to just 'be', we aren't separate, there is no-thing etc and if they have realised this then that is wonderful for them. I am yet to have this realisation so just have to keep going. Sorry, I'm very self-obsessed!

Love to all

Dear zenjen,
You say "the answer is in the present moment."
Have you seen that "time" is fractal?If you do
then your entire life is a fractal of time and
all your life is "the moment".
We all are aware how time seems to drag and other
times goes too fast.This is what I mean that
inner time seems fractal in nature.
This is my personal understanding of " living in
the present moment".My life as I live it is always
my moment.
If you already see this then please forgive me for
saying something which is so obvious.I am not the
sharpest of people.
kind regards

Hi Obed,

I don't understand how "time" is fractal. I'd appreciate it if you could explain. I'm sure you are very much sharper than me, so I'm hoping I will be able to understand!
Thanks for your time,

Dear zenjen,
Thanks for asking the question.I only recently came
to see the fractal nature of time.This is best explained with this story of a Japanese potter.
"People watch me taking a pot out of the furnance.
It all happens very fast,but for me I'm there in
each microsecond,and every moment is different.There is so much happening in that split second-touching the pot with the tongs,taking it out,exposing it to the oxygen in the air.I have to be right there at every moment.You have to be there with it and feel the time inside yourself."
I have always enjoyed the aesthetic appeal of both
naturally occuring fractals e.g mountains and those
developed by the Mandelbrot set so I like the idea of time
being fractal .It gives me a sense of freedom which the linear time does not.I see a uniquness to each inner moment.Of course not all the time.The option of changing my perspective is usualy there.
I hope this explains my point of view better.

Hi Obed,

I like the story of the potter very much, given me a better understanding of what you call the fractal nature of time.

I have just been watching some you tube videos of beautiful images of fractals, this one is called Fractal Zoom Mandelbrot Corner. Hope others will enjoy also:


Thanks again,

Hi everyone,

Just an add-on to my previous comment, the background music for the youtube is the soundtrack from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Cheers from the other side of the world.

Dear zenjen,
Thank you too.Nice video.

I enjoyed Watts exploration into how, possibly, all opposites are connected.

For example, if you are a person who is passionate about a cause, this is ok, as long as you realize that your passion depends upon the very situation you are trying to set right. This allows the person of passion to also be a person of compassion, even for a person or situation that may be on the opposite side.

Dear Brian (et al.),

In re. "[d]ualistic notions," can you (or anyone) cite for me an instance of "awareness" wherein it is not "awareness of ________" (i.e., of some "thing" [or concept]). I can think of none.

Robert Paul Howard

Robert, good question. I keep hearing of "absolute unitary consciousness," "awareness without an object," and so on -- and the notion appeals to me, philosophically.

But where the heck is it, really, in reality?

As I've observed before (I think), if someone had such an experience, they wouldn't know it, since there would be no object (themselves) present to be aware of the pure awareness moment.

So it does seem to be an object of faith, like "God" or "soul."

I beg to differ.

Awareness itself is not dependent upon any perception of object.

Here's why:

For instance... Have you ever been floating in a sensory deprivation chamber? There is NO sound, No light, NO physical sensation... and unless you are engaged in thinking and not simply quietly listening in utter silence, there are NO thoughts or sights or visions either. But you still know that you ARE awareness, without ever having to have any sight sound smell touch or object appearing in your awareness. You can still unmistakably feel or know that you are aware. No sensory perception is necessary for you to simply be aware that you are aware.

Of what?

Robert Paul Howard

Is your question "Of what" directed at me?

If so, I am not at all sure what you mean by "Of what?".

It is not clear as to what "Of what" is referring to.

I suppose I would say... 'of nothing'... or perhaps 'of simply just being aware'... or 'of being awareness'.

This is what I said: "You can still unmistakably feel or know that you are aware. No sensory perception is necessary for you to simply be aware that you are aware." That means only just simply being aware, being conscious.

If for some reason you don't understand that, then there is nothing else I can tell you.

And what I said was actually in response to Brian's comment anyway.

Of course I was directing my question at you. That was quite plain, even to you, insofar as you are obviously directing your remarks/response back at me.

Thus, "that you are aware" is the object of (subjective) "feel[ing]" or "know[ing]."

Similarly, "nothing" (a conceptualized object) or "being aware" (a conceptualized object) or "being awareness" (a conceptualized object [of condition]) are all objects of (one's) "being aware."

Absolutely "[n]o sensory perception is necessary" for any of these objects of "knowing" (or of "consciousness," or of "awareness"), insofar as they are intellective objects: they are "objects" of thought.

Ergo, it appears that the ineffable non-dual (which gives rise to all else) first gives rise to the subject/object phenomenon/condition/situation of "awareness of ________." Thus "awareness" is always "awareness of" some"thing" - whether experiential or intellective (and quite aside from the sensory) in its very being.

Hence the ineffable non-dual precedes the (dually "constructed"/"created") existence of "awareness" ......... which is dual in its very nature.

Further, although I might agree with some of what you sometimes say (and sometimes not), there has never been any need for you to "tell" me anything whatsoever. And your last assertion - although seemingly true - is quite irrelevant to the point.

Robert Paul Howard

tAo, when you say that it is possible to be aware that you are aware without any object of awareness, it still seems that the condition of "aware of being aware" entails an objectification.

Namely, of our self. If I'm simply aware, I'm not aware of my awareness. Sort of like when I'm simply typing, I'm not aware that I'm typing. It's only when I focus on my typing as an object of awareness that I realize "Hey, I'm typing."

So without some sort of reflexive loop of consciousness, how would it be possible for us to be aware of awareness? And wouldn't that loop entail two entities?

This is pretty much what Robert is getting at in his comment above (I think).

Robert Paul Howard,

It would help and avoid much confusion if you would identify who your comments are directed at. That is why I asked you - because it was NOT "plain" and I was not certain... but I also offered an answer just in case your comment was in fact directed at me.

Now I don't agree with you that awareness is an object of feeling or knowing. Awareness is knowingness... regardless of whether there is an object. Awareness or knowing or knowledge itself is not an object. Only the words are objects.

Also,"nothing" is not a conceptualized object. "Nothing" is obviously a concept and a word, but "nothing" indicates no-thing, no-object, an absence... not an object. Only the IDEA, the concept of "nothing" is an object.

Similarly, "being aware" is obviously a concept, and is a conceptualized object of condition as well, but "being aware" or awareness itself cannot be an object. It is only an object as a concept or a word. Awareness itself is not an object. Awareness is like empty space or the sky. Is space an object? Space is only an object as a concept. But space is emptiness, without form, without object. Of course all CONCEPTS are, as you say, "intellective objects", or "objects of thought".... but actual awareness cannot be an object, except as a concept.

So I don't see why you would dispute that?

You said: "it appears that the ineffable non-dual (which gives rise to all else) first gives rise to the subject/object phenomenon/condition/situation of "awareness of ________." Thus "awareness" is always "awareness of" some"thing" - whether experiential or intellective in its very being."

-- I do not agree. You are imposing a contirvd limitation. Awareness is NOT limited to "awareness of ________." Awareness does not have to be "always awareness of some thing". Awareness is not and does not have to be dependent upon having an object of that awareness. Therein lies the problem.

"the ineffable non-dual" is not other than awareness itself. It does not "precede" the existence of "awareness". Awareness is not "dual in its very nature". Only as a concept does it appear dual. Awareness itself is non-dual. Even objects of awareness are not separate from awareness. There is no duality - only an illusion of duality. Awareness itself is prior and nondual.

If you don't see that or don't agree with that, that is certainly your prerogative, but that does not necessarily make your opinion, or your conceptualizing of it, or your challenging it, correct.

And regardless of whether or not you "might agree with some of what [I] sometimes say [or] sometimes not)"... I am not as you say 'telling you' anything. I am simply offering my own views, insights, and opinions. So there is no need for you to be so defensive.

And btw, my "last assertion" may not have been "relevant" to you, but it was "relevant" TO ME, and that was simply because my comment was in fact mainly directed at Brian, and so that is why I mentioned it. So therefore I did not intend or expect that it be relevant to you. It was simply information.


I understand your objection, but you should know that it is based upon the idea of a "condition of "aware of being aware""... which you then perceive as being an "objectification".

However, awareness is simply awareness. It is not actually broken or split into, as you say, "aware of being aware". THAT is your objectification, not mine. I agree with you that the concept of "aware of being aware" is making awareness (the idea of awareness) into an object. But awareness itself (not the concept of awareness) can never be an object. The is simply AWARENESS. This is more or less undeniable. Perception of thoughts and images, sights and sounds and sensations etc, and objects in space is all occuring in what we call "awareness". What IS awareness? I don't know that we can really define that. But the thing is that perceptions and objects of perception appear in awareness and disappear from awareness, but that does not mean that awareness is somehow dependent upon there being objects, even though it may be difficult to concccceive of awareness without objects OF that awareness. And I feel very strongly that these so-called objects are not other than or separate from awareness, nor is an absence of objects an absence of awareness.... if you see waht I mean. Just because we are accustomed
to there being objects of awareness, does not mean that awareness is not prior to all objects... even though the appearance of objects is awareness of form, so too awareness is without form.

Both form and emptiness are not other than awareness. Awareness is both form and formless.

You said: "If I'm simply aware, I'm not aware of my awareness."

-- Awareness is always just simply awareness. There need be no "awareness OF awareness", which is just a concept, an artificial split into duality. Awareness is always nondual. As such, awareness is pure knowledge, without the need for objectivity. Objectivity is an illusion that is awareness is dependent upon objects. Objects are, in reality, not other than awareness. So too, no-obect (formless) is also not other than awareness. There is ONLY awareness, regardless of the appearance of objects, or not.

Do you see that?

If you conceptualize awareness into an object, then therein lies the problem. Simply recognize that awareness is PRIOR. Without awareness, there is no object, nor absence of object. The problem arises when awareness is broken down into a conceptual duality.

You said: "like when I'm simply typing, I'm not aware that I'm typing. It's only when I focus on my typing as an object of awareness that I realize Hey, I'm typing."

-- Yes, but I think you are mistaking confusing Attention with Awareness. Attention varies and moves from object to object, etc etc... but awareness is always constant regardless of what attention is focused upon. Whatever your attention is focused upon is occuring within awareness. Awareness is like the space that attention moves around and about in.

You said: "So [...] how would it be possible for us to be aware of awareness? And wouldn't that loop entail two entities?"

-- Again, awareness is ALREADY aware-ness. There is no need to be aware of being aware. The difficulty in discussing this is that words more or less fail here. But nevertheless I will try to go on. There really is and can be no "loop", except in imagination, nor any need for "two entities". Awareness is prior and without boundary. Awareness... IS just aware-ness. Just aware. What is this "aware"? I cannot say. It is not a thing that can be defined. It is the origin or source or nature of existence. But what is THAT? Well, it is not any 'thing'. And that is all, that is the best I can say. I don't think it is necessary or even possible to define the nature of awareness.

I would simply suggest not attempting to objectify awareness, not to intellectually break awareness into subject and object. Simply accept the eternal mystery of the primordialness aand nonduality of awareness.

Hope all that makes some bit of sense to you.

tAo, what you said does make sense. I need to digest it further, but I think I see what you're getting at.

Which seems to be similar to what Alan Watts often points to -- that we say things like "I'm speaking" or "I'm thinking of...", yet actually there is no difference between the I and the speaking/thinking.

In Chinese, he says, you don't need an object and a verb to make sense. There can simply be "doing." But in English, that's the way we think and speak.

I'm probably falling into that subject-object trap, or preference. If what's in awareness is inseparable from awareness, then there indeed can be simple awareness.

In fact, as you said, there is nothing else, no matter how complex the content of consciousness appears to me.

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