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Godfrey Devereux

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clarifying the meaning and use to which I put them, rather than defining them.

Consciousness: the unconditional ground and source of awareness, intelligence,

objects and actions.
Awareness: the field within which the intelligence of consciousness knows,
consciously and subconsciously.
Conscious: noticed, or taking place in the light of conscious awareness.
Subconscious, unconscious: unnoticed, or taking place below the threshold of
conscious awareness.
Localisation: the embodied narrowing of consciousness in and as a living
Nonlocal: neither fixed in nor bound by spatial dimensions and co-ordinates.
Atemporal: neither fixed in nor bound by the flow of time.

State of consciousness: a particular, temporary, mode of experiencing the world.

Awareness state: a particular, temporary, way of seeing the world.
Being state: a particular way of being in ongoing relationship to the world.

Mind: the spectrum (conscious, subconscious or unconscious) of interpretative

intelligence supporting the body through which it is functioning
Mental activity: the ongoing flow of conscious, subconscious or unconscious
Conscious mind: mental activity taking place in the light of awareness.
Subconscious mind: mental activity taking place below the threshold of
Unconscious mind: residuum of behvioural, cognitive and perceptual pathways,
concepts and memories stored in the bodimind on the basis of experience
(personal or collective) and underpinning subconscious and conscious thought.
Discursive mind: conscious awareness driven by the needs of the self in a linear
flow of association, recall, anticipation, speculation and imagination.
Meditative mind: conscious awareness untroubled by the sense of self and its
endless concerns and interests, enjoying a nonlinear awareness of its own inner
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Meditation: the practice or process of accessing the meditative mind.
Sitting: the practice or process of accessing the meditative mind from a stable

Phenomenon: a conceptualised object, action, event or situation.

Phenomena: the background generality of conceptualised objects etc within
which specific objects are located and defined.
Phenomenalisation: the conception (creation) of discrete perceptible objects,
events, situations and actions.

Sensation: somatic information generated (consciously or subconsciously) in the

nervous system in response to stimulation (internal or external).
Perception: awareness (conscious or subconscious) of neural stimuli interpreted as
objects, events and or actions (coarse or subtle).
Percept: component interpretative element of a perceptual event.
Concept: notion abstracted from perceptual information.
Cognition: conscious knowing based on organised concepts.

The doer: assumed centre and source of independent action in the bodimind.
The seer: assumed centre and source of awareness in the bodimind.
The self: assumed centre and source of awareness and action in the bodimind.
Selfness: the impression of being a separate, autonomous source of awareness and
Autonomy: independent agency.
Individuation: the abstraction of individual autonomy, or sense of self, from the
flow of conscious awareness that underpins the existential sense of separateness.
Volition: the sense of individual autonomy directing events.
Agency: the ability to act.
Selflessness: awareness state from which the sense of separation, autonomy and
volition are absent.
The Self: consciousness identified with its localisation.
Self-realisation: a permanent being state from which the sense of individuality,
autonomy and volition are absent.

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Subjectness: the impression of being a separate experiencing entity.
Objectness: the impression of perceived objects being separate from the
perceiving subject.
Objectlessness: awareness of the projected nature of object and subject.
Otherness: the impression of being apart and separate from the world.
Otherlessness: a being state from which the sense of other is completely absent.

Intimacy: closing the gap between self and other, subject and object.
Surrender: letting go of the sense of separate self as the autonomous doer.
See through: seeing the nonlocal origin and nature of a perceived phenomenon.
See clearly: knowing the nonlocal origin and nature of all phenomena.
Illusion: representation of what is actually happening as what is apparently
Delusion: misrepresentation of what is apparently or actually happening.

Totality: the intrinsic wholeness of all that is and appears to be.

Manifestation: the apparent form of totality as an expression of consciousness.
Indivisibility: the intrinsic unity of the perceptibly separable.
Wholeness: an intrinsically indivisible singularity.
Singularity: that which actually is in its indivisible wholeness.
Nonduality: the intrinsic indivisibility and mutual interdependence of apparent
opposites from each other
Duality: the dynamic of opposition within which changes appear to take place.
Dualism: the assumption, conscious or unconscious, that opposite phenomena
and tendencies are in conflict with each other.

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This book is composed of words. Words are powerful, but treacherous, things. Even
as they point towards, they point away. Even as they clarify, they confuse. There is
little to do about this but to commit ourselves as deeply as possible to the power of
words so that even as it takes us we become aware of how we are being taken. This
in fact can be seen to be the necessary heart of the process of meditation, as words
are the principle, though not sole, agents of adult human intelligence.

Meditation is a generous term. It is and can be used in may different, and even
subtly conflicting, ways. I distinguish between meditation as process or practice,
and meditation as a state of mind or awareness state. While the two are, or can be,
directly linked they are nonetheless quite distinct mental processes or events.

It is the core implication of this book that the meditative state of mind is the default
mode of mature human intelligence. By mature I mean the natural state of the
human mind that has accessed its potential freely and fully. While children often,
both naturally and necessarily, slip into meditative states of mind spontaneously, it
is not until mind has matured into its ability to freely navigate abstraction that its
meditative potential becomes fully available. It is only in fully accessing the
meditative potential of mind that human intelligence matures and becomes able
to satisfy its own demands and longings.

The lost art of meditation has at its practical heart, the art of sitting. To those whose
unfamiliarity with the depths and subtleties of the human body leaves them in the
dark about its nature this may sound an extravagant or even ridiculous claim.
Nevertheless its truthfulness remains accessible to anyone willing and able to take
the trouble to challenge it in action, where that activity is the art of just sitting. The
art of just sitting is both the art of only sitting, and the art of sitting in a particular
way, which is of course the art of only sitting.

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Being human is one of the least understood of all phenomena. We are what we are
whether we understand it or not. Yet if we do not understand ourselves the
chances of our being genuinely satisfied with what we are are slim. Even as we
have historically and collectively pursued our investigation of the external world,
investigation of our internal world of thought, perception and consciousness has
remained marginal.

Even as science lets go of some of the prejudices that historically marginalised

consciousness from the mainstream of scientific investigation it remains bound by
the principles it has used so potently in exploring the external world. These
principles will need to evolve and adapt if they are to be able to make worthwhile
sense of the subjective realm of mind. Reliable criteria of subjective verification will
need to be established, to mirror those of objective verification that have so
potently fertilised the scientific method. Even if they do not human nature is
human nature, no matter how myopic or prejudiced our opinions and beliefs about
it may be.

While what is not, of course, can never be proved, what actually is needs no proof
in order to exist: it already does. That we cannot verify the details of subjective
experience objectively does not mean that there is no such thing as subjective
experience, nor that all subjective experience is delusional. If this were so any
declaration of delusion, or truth, would have to be delusional. Yet what actually is
actually is, and what actually happens actually does happen: even when only as an
appearance or illusion.

Meditation as a process is a subjective encounter with collective phenomena that

continuously take place at the heart of human experience: thoughts, thinking,
perception, volition, individuation and consciousness. To be human is to live in a
world of thoughts and thinking, and the contribution that thinking makes to the
quality of our lives should not be underestimated, nor our ability to change our
minds more easily, and often, than we can change the world.

The meditative encounter with thoughts, thinking, perception and consciousness

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takes place within the nature and constraints of human intelligence. There is much
more to our intelligence that is measured by IQ tests. While emotional intelligence
may be refuted by those obsessed with the powers of reason, you would need to
be more than a fool to deny the intelligence of the body. Without it your heart
could not pump, your diaphragm would not contract. Your body is teeming with
intelligence, functioning through your nervous system on the basis of your DNA.
Yet there is more to your intelligence than can be biologically defined. There could
be no cerebral intelligence to create the concept of intelligence, there could be no
somatic intelligence to create the cellular specialisations that organisms require,
without a deeper intelligence: the intelligence of consciousness.

The reflective self-consciousness of human intelligence is the fruit of billions of

years of biological research and development. The intelligence driving this
research, driving evolution is the intelligence of consciousness. Consciousness is no
more passive than it is peripheral. Its activity lies at the root not only of your
cerebral intelligence, but at the root of all life.

So enchanted are we by the power and sophistication of our reflective intelligence

that we only too easily overlook how it is that intelligence, that life, came to be so
sophisticated. It is only when we are not looking deeply enough that it seems to
happen only by blind chance. Of course the trial and error within which evolution
has unfolded is not like that of scientific trial and error. It is not the result of
imagination and intention. Nevertheless it is the result of intelligence.

Intelligence is the ability to know. There are many kinds of knowing.

The ability to know is at root the ability to discriminate, to distinguish. If an amoeba

were unable to distinguish between chemicals and the implications of pressure
and temperature differentials it would die. The ability to distinguish is the ability to
survive. Distinction is an act of intelligence. It is also an act of consciousness, of
awareness. Not reflective intelligence and not self awareness, but intelligence and
consciousness nonetheless.

Even if cellular membranes represent the deep beginning of life as we know it, it is
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not in fact the beginning of life itself, only the beginning of organisms. A cellular
membrane is itself a declaration of distinction, an act of intelligence, within which
toxin and nutrient, danger and safety, outside and inside are being clearly and
vitally distinguished. A cellular membrane presupposes a prior, pre-cellular
intelligence, or consciousness. It is to these depths that meditation must take us if it
is to allow us to resist the slings and arrows that the intelligence of mind, by its
nature, continually throws at itself.

Of course this does not mean that we can or will recapitulate the evolutionary
journey on our meditation cushion. What it does mean is that we must experience
the deconstruction of conceptual, cerebral intelligence into its source: the
intelligence of consciousness. On the way we will necessarily experience a great
deal. To arrive at the root source of all of our thinking we must learn to recognise
the implications of our experiences. We must, and will, become intimate with the
dynamics of mental activity. Not just the particular tendencies of our personal
mentality, but also the impersonal mechanisms upon which it is based.

Meditation is self enquiry taken to its root, its source. This will inevitably involve the
experience and accumulation of self knowledge. Yet this is not the purpose nor
point of meditation: it is a side effect. It is vital we do not become sidetracked by it.
As long as we are we will never reach the peace that lies at the source of
intelligence. There is no end to the information and experiences that contribute to
the peculiarities of our individual minds. We can never get to the bottom of it. What
we can get to the bottom of is the nature of mind itself. The self-enquiry of
meditation is enquiry into the nature of the self, by way of enquiry into the nature
of mind. It is not an enquiry into the particular form of our mind, though that will
become more clear also.

Enquiring into the nature of mind must become an investigation of the dynamics
of thinking itself. We must become intimate with the mechanics and nature of both
cognition and perception if we are to understand both mind and consciousness
enough to become satisfied with the ceaseless activity of our restless minds. This
does not require any prior knowledge or skill, other than what you already have to
be able to think in the first place. All that is required of meditation is that you be
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genuinely and deeply interested in the depths and subtleties of human experience.

You do not need to force yourself to meditate. While you may need a little help to
learn how to let it happen, to meditate is to let go into the natural inquisitiveness of
your mind focussed upon itself. Your nervous system has developed to to be able
to make very refined and nuanced distinctions. As a result you can effortlessly
distinguish between desire and love, honour and dishonour, hope and doubt and
all the everyday subtleties that being human allows you to experience so
effortlessly. At the heart of these distinctions is the fundamental question of life.
This question is being asked by the intelligence within a cellular membrane no less
than it is by the synaptic interconnections of human brain cells: “what is this?”.

This is the inescapable question, upon the answering of which life entirely
depends. When a cell recognises oxygen outside its membrane it opens to let it in.
When it recognises carbon-dioxide inside its membrane it opens to let it out. If it
becomes confused about these double distinctions it dies. If one of your ancestors
thought “dog” instead of “wolf” at the wrong moment you might not be here. Your
mind, your brain, your nerves are continuously asking this question. They are
continuously involved in enquiry. You do not need to practice enquiry. You only
need to focus it. This depends on your interest, as attention always follows interest
when it is not following fear or habit.

If you are genuinely and deeply interested in the roots and origins of your
experience all you need do to learn to meditate is find a way to focus your natural
capacity and tendency to enquire through that interest. This book will provide you
with some powerful and accessible possibilities for doing so.

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The word and practice of meditation have become subject to a wide spectrum of
interpretation and possibility. Yet assigning the word meditation to many of them is
misleading; for the depths and subtleties of the meditative mind can not be
accessed by effort, even though effort can bring about interesting and potent
states of mind and consciousness. For the heart of the meditative mind, in all of its
subtleties, is an absence of the sense of self as doer or thinker. Any attempt to
establish or achieve anything at all, whether tranquillity, silence, insight or freedom
rests necessarily on the presence of volition and therefore the self. This is not to say
that effort and intention cannot be used to good effect, but simply that they can
only be preparatory to the initiation of the meditative mind, which requires their
complete absence.

Nevertheless the reality remains for most people that mind is so deeply
conditioned to its habit of control that preparatory practices are therefore a
practical necessity for most people. Most of the traditional practices that prepare
the ground for meditation by way of establishing tranquility and focus are based
on the breath, including different ways of counting and labelling it Even though
these techniques have demonstrated their validity over thousands of years, there is
another option which does not actually exclude awareness of the breath. This
option is to use the intrinsic presence of the body just as it is as the seed for
meditation, into which attention can focus, mind can quieten and awareness can
clarify. This allows the intelligence of mind to let go completely of its need and
ability to control itself in any way, into its deeper ability to recognise and enjoy.
Only then can meditation be genuine enquiry. It is very easy to overlook the
significance of enquiry and remain snared in the subtleties of effort and intention
that sustain the sense of separate self.

The body has different structural, functional, physiological, energetic and blissful
natures, each and all of which are contained and revealed within its presence to
conscious awareness. Settling into the presence of the body without any agenda
allows them all to freely express and reveal themselves, and much more besides.
The way in is through the presence of physical sensations. When we establish a
meditative posture the most overt sensations are those that reveal the structure of
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the body, as the relationships between its parts and their supports. As the body
settles into a comfortable stability it becomes structurally silent. Then the most
consistently obvious sensations are those that reveal the presence of the breath.
Then, perhaps, respiration becomes so subtle and free that it too fades from
awareness and we are taken consciously over the threshold of the unconscious
mind into the depths of meditation.

The key to this approach to inviting meditation as enquiry is how we relate to

sensations. By cultivating intimacy with sensation we become easily able to enjoy
more subtle intimacies with volition, individuation, cognition, perception and
awareness. We do this by feeling sensations as clearly and directly as possible. Our
ability to feel the presence of sensations directly and clearly is of course a function
of the depth of our interest and its ability to focus our attention on the subtle.
When our interest is deep and passionate enough then our attention is taken fully
by the presence of sensation. At first this necessarily includes the presence of the
interpretative capacity of mind recognising the different implications and
characteristics of the sensations present. As the need to know diminishes, attention
and interpretation are taken into the deeper subtleties of sensation. The
recognitions of mind become less and less particularised and individuated.
Eventually any sensation is encountered as nothing more specific than a vague
luminous vibration of spacious delight.

This is an indication of mind encountering the essence of sensation, which is

nothing other than consciousness itself. This encounter has been known for
millennia in India as experiencing the “body of bliss”. Mind has become so relaxed
and disinterested in its ability to distinguish and clarify that the overt perceptibility
of particular sensations has been replaced by the subtle perceptibility of
consciousness as the basis of all sensations. Mind is able to recognise from this
encounter that consciousness is the heart of sensation. This descent into the
delicious luminosity of consciousness can happen very rapidly. Although this is
usually only the case once we have become very familiar with it.

As we become more able to let go of the need to know, and are taken into the
depths of sensation we are not only becoming intimate with the body and the
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nature of physical sensation. We are also becoming intimate with mind as
interpretation. If and as attention is taken from the physicality of sensation to its
interpretability in and as mind we are inadvertently drawn by and to the subtle
nature of mind. Sooner or later we will be taken over the threshold between the
conscious and unconscious and into the awareness states that constitute the
meditative mind, perhaps.

Meditation as enquiry is radically different to meditation as intention. The latter

must, by definition, be undertaken in pursuit of some predetermined goal. This
goal must, by definition, be one suggested by some external authority. In that it is a
goal you have not reached you are not actually in a position to know whether or
not it is valid or possible. Your meditation then becomes a leap of faith in which you
place your trust in your unproven ability to identify authenticity by guesswork.
Meditation as enquiry, on the other hand, puts faith in your own experience, your
own intelligence and your own seasoning judgement. Of course, at first, you may
think you do not have good enough judgement to guide your own practice. Yet
this is an expression of your own judgement, no less than your choice of external

The main difference between meditation as enquiry and as intention is their

possible result. Whenever you are looking for something in particular, you become
blind to the significance of everything else. When seeking silence, you become lost
to the wisdom and insight contained within the activity of your mind. When trying
to become something other than what you are you remain blind to the subtleties
and fullness of what you already actually are. While intention can bring some
rewards to meditation, only enquiry can bring the deep satisfaction that
intelligence longs for.

The freedom, liberation so long promised by meditation is not from the world and
its obligations and tribulations, but from the distress of a mind that does not know
itself. A mind that does not know itself can not help but work against itself. A mind
that knows itself is a relaxed mind, unconcerned by things that have nothing to do
with it, while getting on with what does calmly and coolly. Even though many
seductive claims are made on behalf of meditation, none is perhaps more relevant
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and valuable than its ability to support an untroubled mind. Though from our
sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy we may long for nirvana, samadhi and
other tantalising states of which we have heard, a mind untroubled by past,
present and future is worth more than any mystical or metaphysical promise.

A truly untroubled mind does not depend on external circumstances. It is not a

result of life going completely in your favour. An untroubled mind is one that has
lost any tendency to resist life, no matter how strange, strenuous or stormy it may
sometimes be. A mind that resists life is not only continually wishing things were
other than they are, but regretting those gone by and anxious about those
imagined to be on their way. The origin of this kind of resistance and the blame,
shame, guilt and hostility it generates lies in the sense of separate, autonomous,
controlling self.

The fictitious nature of the self does not mean that it is without presence or power,
and both its power and its presence must be met before we can be free from them.
This is the deep purpose of meditation, not only Buddhist meditation. Even those
who have no ideology regarding the self and its nature will and must encounter
the “ghost in the machine” of consciousness if they are to go deep into the roots of
their experience. This is only possible when meditation is released from all
intention and effort into the spontaneous inquisitiveness of natural intelligence.

We do not have to make enquiry a practice or technique. Of course we can

deliberately undertake enquiry and apply as much effort as we like to it. This is not
genuine enquiry, certainly not self-enquiry, as it will involve intention and the
narrowing that that entails. Self-enquiry requires instead that we see ourselves as
we are, rather than in the light of our preferences or prejudices. It is only if enquiry
is free from any agenda that this becomes possible, and this is only possible if
enquiry happens spontaneously rather than deliberately.

As it happens, enquiry is the natural function of intelligence. The primary purpose

of intelligence being to make distinctions, on the basis of safety and danger, means
that intelligence is continuously enquiring into what is happening, so that these
necessary distinctions can be made. Although the intelligence of an amoeba is less
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obvious than that of a human being, it is continuously at work examining the
significance of its environment in order to survive. The human nervous system, in
its awesome sophistication, is likewise continuously analysing and evaluating
massive amounts of sensory input in order to know what actions need to be taken
to protect the tissues of the body that it enervates. At the heart of this evaluation is
the constantly recurring question” “what is this?” or “what is happening?”.

The lost art of meditation is nothing other than letting go, as fully as possible, into
the spontaneous enquiry of natural intelligence. This letting go begins with
surrendering all intention and all effort. It ends in a deep, transformative
understanding of the nature, function and significance of consciousness,
perception, cognition, individuation, volition, autonomy, independence and
responsibility. It is only the clear understanding of these aspect of being human
that allows human beings to let go completely of the anxiety and mistrust that
make being alive so troublesome.

As long as we are involved in any effort or intention the meditative mind will elude
us. As long as we are actively in pursuit of any specific goal or result, intention will
generate effort and the sense of controlling self will be sustained. The threshold
between practices that can invite the meditative mind and the meditative mind
itself is crossed only when effort, intention and the sense of self dissolve. Of course
this does not have to be permanent.

Nevertheless the natural tendency of mind to stay alert and in the know must be
dealt with. Something must be provided to invite and allow mind to let go of its
need to know enough to settle into its depths. Meditation almost always needs
some point of focus, a particular seed into which the wanderings of mind can focus
themselves. Many focal options are suggested by many meditative approaches and
schools. Most of them actually serve to develop a concentrated mind, rather than a
meditative mind.
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The difference must be understood if the lost art of meditation is to express itself
into the liberating depths of the meditative mind. Developing concentration is
based on effort, and reinforces the sense of self, even if subtly. The meditative mind
is not so much something you can develop, as something you can relax into.
Relaxing is not an activity, it is not a special or refined application of effort. It is
letting go of all effort, and the intention that drives it. Of course this is easier said
than done. It does require practice, even if not effort. Practice not of doing
anything, but of letting go, of doing nothing.

Some help is definitely required to become able to let go into doing nothing. But
that help must involve no effort and intention, so that both effort and intention can
spontaneously slip away. The most potent help is nothing other than what is
actually, already happening. When sitting in stillness on your cushion or chair there
are a lot of things actually happening, without you needing to add to them, to do

Your heart is driving your blood through the arteries and veins of your body, pulses
throbbing in your groins, your temples. Your diaphragm is contracting a few times
every minute, drawing air into your lungs via throat and nostrils. As it relaxes on
every exhalation the elastic power of your lungs forces warmer air back out again
against your upper lip. Cloth is generating sensations against your skin as it
responds to the rhythm of your breath. Any of these things can provide the help
that you need to become able to let go into doing nothing.

Yet there is more to all of these things than sensations being generated by the
body. For you to know them mind must also be at work answering its perennial
question: “what is this?”. As the intelligence of your body generates sensations, the
intelligence of your mind interprets the significance of those sensations. A very few
of those interpretations are brought into the light of conscious awareness. These
are the sensations that you recognise and feel. These recognitions are based not
only on the intelligence of body and mind, but also the intelligence of
consciousness, whereby both sensation and interpretation are revealed.

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Consciousness, mind and body are continuously expressing their intelligence in
and as your existence. Only a tiny part of this constitutes your experience, the part
that is brought into the light of conscious awareness. Nevertheless the searchlight
of conscious awareness is always moving. In the silent stillness of meditation the
usual stimuli, interests and concerns fade away and the light of conscious
awareness falls upon the previously unnoticed and unrecognised.

What this means is that there is plenty going on already to occupy the intelligence
and interest of your mind. At the heart of it all is the spontaneous enquiry of your
natural intelligence. The lost art of meditation is the art of allowing spontaneous
enquiry to focus on what is already actually happening. No intention or effort , no
doing by a doer, is required of this. The necessary activity already exists, just as the
enquiry is always taking place. Focussing that enquiry on what is already
happening requires the agency of interest.

If you are not interested in what is actually happening in and as body, mind and
consciousness then you will not be able to enter the meditative mind. The problem
here is that you cannot fake or manufacture interest in something. You either have
it, or you don’t. This means that you cannot make yourself meditate. You cannot
discipline yourself to be interested. Of course you can try, but you will fail.
Nevertheless it is true that discipline can help you to focus your mind and develop
an ability to count your breaths or visualise a mandala. This is not yet accessing the
meditative mind.

Only on the basis of a genuine interest in your own presence as body, mind and
consciousness is it possible to access the meditative mind. Anything that you can
do as the doer, anything that you can make happen, will prevent that possibility.
The art of meditation is the art of doing nothing. The art of doing nothing is the art
of being present.

Of course, in one sense we are all always present. We are always where we are, and
never anywhere else. While this is always true of our bodies, it is not necessarily
true of our thoughts. How often has your body been at the kitchen sink, your
thoughts somewhere entirely different. Being present requires the intelligence of
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mind and its ability to think, and the intelligence of the body to be united. In
uniting mind and body the intelligence of consciousness becomes more easily
available. This is rarely the case, even for those who espouse ‘being in the present’
as their personal philosophy. Very often this simply means sacrificing the past and
future for a narrow interpretation of the present: as if the present were not totally
inextricable from both past and future.

The lost art of meditation is the art of being truly present. This depends first and
foremost on letting go of any distinction between past, present and future. Any
attempt to be in the present is an attempt to get somewhere other than where you
are, and is therefor a denial of what is actually happening and an unacknowledged
turning away from the present. Everything that happens happens in the present,
never the past or future. To be present then is simply to be intimate with what is
actually happening. This intimacy is one within which the intelligence of body,
mind and consciousness are harmonised: the meditative mind. It is accessed by
recognising and letting go of any attempt to direct or control the intelligence of
mind. Within the stillness of stable verticality this will sooner or later bring the
intelligence of mind into contact with the intelligence of consciousness via the
intelligence of the body.

The key to being present, not only on the meditation cushion, is feeling sensations
as directly and immediately as possible. This automatically unifies the intelligence
of body, mind and consciousness, and disables the sense of self as doer or thinker.
Feeling sensations then becomes the key, and the most direct invitation, to the
meditative mind. Without this key intention and effort become the heart of a
practice that can only elicit the meditative mind once they have exhausted

This, in fact, is the subtle course that intentional meditation often takes. Even
though intentional meditation can, and sometimes, does, provide pockets and
pastures of deep stillness, silence and insight, these are always a function of
practice, rather than becoming an innate rhythm in everyday mind. The intentional
pursuit of the predetermined goal finally exhausts itself on its continuous failure.
The inability of effort to deliver the sought after goal brings the effort, finally, to an
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end. However, this possibility requires a dedication and continuity beyond any but
professional meditators who dedicate their lives to practice, such as Buddhist
monks. For those for whom meditation takes up only a small part of their lives, this
is not likely to occur.

Even for those who give their practice to enquiry a small daily does is rarely enough
to deliver a genuinely untroubled mind. While in itself it is indispensable to have a
regular, daily practiced more than that is required. To open mind to its subtle and
satisfying depths requires deep momentum. Every meditator, sooner or later, must
dedicate themselves to periods of intensive practice, sitting for many hours every
day for a period of days. How many, hours, days and periods is of course an
individual matter. However if sitting for hours day after day does not become a
delight the meditative mind is unlikely to ever become familiar, no matter how
often it may be glimpsed. When it does, how many hours, how many days is not a

Meditation, like anything else, functions according to the laws of cause and effect.
What you get out depends on what you put in. The two primary ingredients are
interest and commitment. Neither will suffice without the other, and nothing can
substitute for them.

The lost art of meditation takes place as a letting go into the natural enquiry
through which cerebral intelligence expresses itself. This takes time, because
cerebral inquisitiveness has developed in support of survival. Meditation becomes
relevant when and because we are surviving, and we no longer need, at least
temporarily, to concern ourselves with any of its detailed requirements. Without a
sense of safety in the moment mind will remain on guard. This means that mind
must be able to let go of all its everyday concerns and interests. Otherwise it will
stay on the surface unable to encounter and clarify the roots of its own activity. A
sense of safety then becomes the indispensable context for deep meditation.
Otherwise mind will stay locked in its external concerns figuring out how best to
satisfy biological, psychological or social demands.

The meditative mind is radically, though subtly, different from the everyday
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discursive mind. The key to this difference is a difference in concern and interest. As
long as mind is in the grip of any specific, particular concern or interest it will
maintain a flurry of discursive activity, associating, recalling, anticipating,
speculating. This is its job. However this needs to be balanced by periods of quiet
awareness, as well as by periods of dreaming and dreamless sleep. Otherwise mind
becomes habituated to over activity and unable to let go. The meditative mind
provides this possibility directly and immediately, as the self and its interests and
concerns retire.

However the experiential relationship between these two wakeful states,

meditative mind and discursive mind, is not always clear cut. Although both can
include thought, it takes on different forms in each. Everyday, discursive mind is a
random pastiche of associations, memories, speculations, intentions and
imaginings in response to the ongoing requirements and demands of everyday life,
and are deeply determined by the pressures of changing circumstance. Meditative
mind is a more calm and slow oscillation between patches of lucid, silent
awareness and non-linear insights into the subtleties of mind disassociated from

The transition from the former to the latter is not always straight forward and linear,
especially in the beginning. As everyday, discursive mind lets go of its concerns and
interests it oscillates more inwards and less outwards. Eventually this oscillation
goes deeper and deeper, finally crossing the threshold of the meditative mind,
where the sense of self becomes fully suspended and all concern and intention

Nevertheless, oscillation continues, initially pulling awareness back out of the

meditative mind and then drawing it back down again. Even when remaining in a
meditative state oscillation continues, between the more superficial and profound
states of the meditative mind. Eventually the transition from the surface of
everyday discursive mind to the depths of the meditative mind becomes more
stable, more linear. Then the descent towards the core silence of consciousness can
become more direct and more rapid, while the return to everyday mind becomes
more relaxed, slow and untroubling
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The lost art of meditation involves body, mind and consciousness. It begins with
the body, and goes via mind to consciousness. Within this journey body and mind
are both revealed to be nothing other than expressions of consciousness. This does
not mean that they are illusions, nor that they don’t really exist. It simply means
that consciousness is the root intelligence and power from which all phenomena
arise. This can be very difficult to get your mind round as long as your mind
remains captivated by the superficial and the obvious. As it becomes more familiar
and comfortable with the subtle and deep this will change and consciousness will
no longer be as elusive and insubstantial as it has become.

In theory this provides three possible approaches or gateways to the lost art of
meditation: body, mind and consciousness. The consciousness approach is to
enquire into the possibility of turning the light of conscious awareness directly
upon itself. This is not so easy, unless the other two approaches have become very
familiar. Even the mind approach is tricky because mind is by nature so mutable
and unstable. The body approach then is the most fruitful, and eventually
incorporates the other two spontaneously.

While preparatory practices to meditation can be many, the practice of meditation

itself is nothing more, nor less, than the practice of just sitting. It is only the body
that need be taken care of. In doing so mind is engaged into the body and its
sensations, and is taken inwards by its own interest in what is actually happening.

The basis of practice then becomes establishing the stability of your body. The key
to this, whether sitting on a chair or cushion is the presence of the natural spinal
curves, especially the lumbar curve. Your pelvis must be placed onto its support,
cushion or chair, so that it makes contact with the front edge of the buttock-bones.
This generates a subtle tilt to the pelvis preventing rounding of the lower back by
maintaining the presence of the natural lumbar curve. This curve is vital to the
stability of the spine in its verticality. If the pelvis is incorrectly positioned the back
muscles will quickly tire and the discomfort will keep attention on the surface of
the body. The same is true if the lumbar curve is too deep. Your hipbones must be a
little in front of the buttock-bones to ensure the correct tilt of the pelvis.
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To support the stability of your pelvis legs and feet must be arranged so that they
also provide support without requiring any effort. When sitting on a chair the knees
and thighs can be as far apart as is most comfortable, with feet relaxed on the floor.
On a cushion the further apart the legs, however they are arranged, the less height
need be provided by the cushion. Both legs need to be in relaxed contact with the
floor, without any need to press down with or lean into them. Your legs should be
crossed in whichever way provides the most support to stable stillness, but your
knees MUST be lower than your hipbones, and to protect them your shinbones
must be as close as possible to your thighbones.

Your hands should relax in contact with your knees or thighs, or in your lap. Your
fingers and hands should be completely relaxed with no muscular effort at all. If
your hands are in your lap, the fingers of one hand may be inserted into those of
the other, provided they can completely relax. If your hands are on your thighs or
knees, they can be facing up or down, whichever feels the most comfortable. Head
should be centred and in neutral, as much as the habituation of the neck muscles

Having established stability in the relationship between floor, support, legs and
pelvis, and found the most comfortable position for your hands and head, simply
allow your whole body to relax. You cannot make this happen. Simply invite your
body as a whole to relax as deeply and fully as possible. It may take some time: be
patient. As you feel any sensations in any part of your body invite that part in
particular to relax. As you do so feel as deeply and directly as you can those
sensations, as they change. Follow the flow of sensations being generated by your
body as it relaxes, feeling the sensations as deeply and directly as you can.

Even though you probably will, especially in the beginning, there is no need to
recognise exactly what is happening to your body, nor to which part. It is enough
to simply distinguish between tension and release, between hardness and
softening between holding on and letting go. As you invite your body, as a whole
and in its recognised parts, to completely relax, invite your mind to let go
completely of its ability to anticipate, speculate, imagine fantasise and consciously
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remember, without being concerned by any inability to do so. Invite your mind also
to completely let go of its ability to direct, determine and control, without being
concerned by any inability to do so.

As you settle into your body relaxing invite your mind to simply recognise what is
happening in your body in terms of tension and release, hardness and softening,
holding on and letting go. As it does so invite your mind to let go of its ability to
recognise the particular parts of your body, without being concerned by any
inability to do so.

As your mind lets go of its ability to distinguish between the perceptibly separable
parts of your body invite your mind to become as intimate as possible with the
presence of hardness without specifically locating it. Invite your mind to become as
intimate as possible with the sensations that indicate, or even suggest hardness, so
that within that intimacy, perhaps, they soften.

As your body softens more and more and the sensations it is generating become
less varied and more soft invite your mind to let go of its ability to distinguish
between and recognise hardness and softness, and to become as intimate as
possible with the nonlocalised presence of softness. As you feel, as clearly and
deeply as possible, the nonlocalised sensations of softness invite your mind to
become as intimate as possible with the subtle qualities to be found within the
heart of softness.

As your mind becomes more and more stable within the subtle presence of
softness, freely and clearly recognising within its inherent oscillations, its subtle
constituent qualities, invite your mind to settle as fully as possible into the most
consistently subtle qualities that reveal themselves within the subtle nonlocal heart
of sensation.

As your mind becomes more and more stable within the subtle heart of softness
freely and clearly recognising, within its inherent oscillations, its most consistently
subtle qualities, invite your mind to let go completely of its ability to recognise and
its need to know into your deeper ability to feel.
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The key element to this process is relaxing into what you feel so deeply that your
mind must become quiet to allow you to feel more clearly. The procedure outlined
will rarely be a simple linear flow. Your attention will start to go deeper, and then be
pulled back. As much as you can, let go without judgement of any tendency to
resist the oscillation of attention. Whenever you find your mind wandering away
from your body, come back to the most obvious sensations and invite your body to
relax. If your mind is continually wandering away from your body you may need to
give it a more narrow focus. Any of the below can be used, but it is important to
stay with only one of them for any single session.

- the rhythmic presence of your navel

- the flow of breath in your nostrils
- the flow of breath in your throat
- the soft, warm presence of your pelvic floor
- your hands
- your armpits
- the base of your skull

In each case give your attention as deeply as possible to the sensations that reveal
the presence of that particular part of your body. Invite your conscious mind to let
go as much as it can of its ability to anticipate, remember, imagine, evaluate and
even recognise into your ability to feel. Nevertheless allow your mind to freely
recognise the implications, obvious and subtle, of the sensations that reveal the
presence of that particular part of your body, without judgement or resistance.
Become as intimate as possible with the most subtle and consistent qualities that
reveal themselves within that part of your body.

It is important that you let go of all ideas that your mind should or must become
quiet. It will someytimes become quiet, but only for a short while, so you may not
really notice at first. This is not important. More important is that you don’t fight
with your mind. It will settle down more and more over time. Even so, the lost art of
meditation depends upon your accessing the wisdom of your mind as well as its
silence. This wisdom expresses itself through ideas and thought. Usually it arrives as
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a complete idea, notion or insight, without any linear thinking. Very often however
mind reacts by pulling itself back into linear thinking in response to the insight.
Just allow this to happen without resisting thinking, and without holding onto
insight. Settle back into the flow of sensation inviting mind to let go as much as it
can of its need and its ability to know.

Once your mind relaxes enough, and lets go if its need to be in control of what is
happening by knowing exactly what is happening, it will start to release from the
unconscious. How this can be experienced depends on how relaxed you are. In the
beginning it can take place as a fully formed image, idea, memory or feeling arising
into conscious awareness, without any linear thinking involved. However mind will
often immediately react to this perception with linear thinking, which will usually
begin with thoughts about it. Let go of any such thoughts, all that you need to
know about the perception is contained within the perception itself and does no
need unpacking by intentional, linear thinking.

If your mind is more stable in its relaxation it will not react with linear, discursive
thinking. The fully formed perception will then be followed by another one, or the
original one will unravel itself. It is easy to confuse this unravelling with the linear
flow of discursive thinking. It is in fact quite likely that the natural oscillation in
attention will keep pulling you back out to the linear mind at first. Just allow this to
happen without judgement or resistance. As attention oscillates back in this
unravelling can take place as an opening of the fully formed idea, notion, image or

This opening contains a lot of information concerning the origin and implications
of the perception arising from the unconscious. You may have clear and fully
formed insights into both its origins in terms of past experiences, and the way that
it generates compulsive, habituated patterns of reaction and action. It is not
necessary to do anything about this ‘information’. Its presence in conscious
awareness signifies that the work is already done in the subconscious. It is however
almost inevitable that your mind will react to it in fascination, delight, relief or
concern. Again, there is no need to resist this, but simply allow it to be another
expression of the oscillations through which consciousness expresses itself.
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The presence of conceptual information and clearly formed perceptions in
conscious awareness will oscillate both with more discursive, reactive thinking and
moments of deep, lucid silence. Allow these oscillations to take place as freely as
possible, and they will tend more and more towards silence. There is no need to try
to make this happen. Eventually you may be taken by the deepest oscillations of
consciousness in and out of spaces from which conscious awareness is completely
absent, through spaces of totally silent but lucid, selfless awareness.

There are three main kinds of silence or stillness available within the meditative
mind. Two of them can not be consciously recognised as they happen, while the
third can.

The first, most common one, is a silence within which mind is completely relaxed
within the open field of conscious awareness. Nothing within this field is being
selected for specific attention by the conscious mind, which remains still within its
panoramic diffusion. This is known in the yoga tradition as ‘sabija samadhi’, and is
not a trance state as consciousness is aware of itself, yet without the demands of
the sense of self.

The second is more a stillness as well as a silence, and contains a single perceptual
impression, which can be an image, feeling or idea, suspended in awareness. This is
known in the yoga tradition as ‘dharana’. No specific information is extracted from
this perception. When it happens there is no recognising thought, nor recogniser to
know that, until mind slips out of its silence, however briefly. The complete
suspension of movement or activity in the mind lends this silent stillness a timeless
quality, while any thoughts about timelessness are not possible within it.

The third is the total absence of any conscious mental activity at all, as conscious
awareness is completely suspended. This is known in the yoga tradition as
‘nirbijasamadhi’. When it happens there is no recognising thought, nor recogniser
to know that, until mind slips out of its silence, however breifly. The complete
suspension of conscious awareness makes it impossible to recognise or experience,
yet as it plays a more regular part in your sitting you will learn to recognise both the
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slipping into and the slipping out of it.

It is important that you recognise and let go of any attempt or subtle intention to
access any of these interior spaces1. Doing so will prevent them from occurring and
leave your mind at the mercy of its awesome capacity for self-deception. Whenever
you recognise effort or intention you are at, even if just under, the surface of your
mind. The best way back down into its depths is by feeling as clearly and directly as
possible the sensations being generated by your body.

Despite its own assertions to the contrary your mind is more contingent and
dependent than you may realise. Not only is the conscious mind less significant
than it would have you believe, but its contents are not yours to freely determine
nor control. Almost all human beings suffer from a troubled mind, within which
unwelcome thoughts and ideas present themselves regularly and without so much
as a by your leave. There are times when this can be so overwhelming it can take
you to the brink of despair.

Your mind developed, in your own life and through the process of evolution, to
serve your body in generating more options for action. Like your body, your mind is
deeply subject to the power of habit. The more you do something the easier it is to
do it. The more you think something the easier it is to think it. This is not inherently
a problem. In fact it is at the root of your phsyical and mental versatility, allowing
much of your activity and your thinking to take place below the threshold of
conscious awareness so that you can consciously enjoy its fruits.

You can put this to good effect in your meditation, as a counterweight to any
habits you may have to get stuck in negative and disturbing thinking. Rather than
using phsyical sensation as your meditative seed, you can use intentional feelings

1all of which are described by Patanjali in his Yogasutras, cf the latter part of the section
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to focus, clam and quieten your mind, such as love, compassion, appreciation,
empathy. In doing so these feelings become more and more easily avaiable, and
are then more likley to spontaneously express themselves in your daily life. These
poistive, nourishing feelings can be directed twoards others, or towards yourself.
When these feelings are directed towards others they also contribute to weakening
your sense of self, its anxieties and concerns.

Even though, in one sense, this kind of practice can be seen as contrived and even
as imposition, nevertheless it can also be seen as an active recognition and
expression of the generosity and compassion of your deeper nature. Separation
and the anxieties it creates are mental processes that only reflect the surface
appearence of life. Empathy, appreciation, compassion and love are natural
expressions of your deeper nature. By consciously and deliberately cultivating
them in your meditation practice the divisions and concerns of the mind can be
healthily and peacefully contextualised and integrated.

Begin this kind of practice by thinking of someone for whom you naturally and
easily feel love, compassion, empathy or appreciation. Invite your mind to let go
completely of its ability to analyse, categorise and judge. While thinking of, feeling
and perhaps visualising the person focus on these feelings that you naturally have
for them. As they become stable give your attention as deeply and fully as you can
to the direct experience of the feelings as sensation in your body. Feel whatever
movement, rhythms, textures and other qualities reveal their presence. As you
become more deeply immersed in the sensations generated by your feelings, feel
free to let go of your idea of the person, merging with the raw feeling itself.

If and when this practice becomes more easy, and the benevolent feelings become
more stable they can also be directed to those that you do not love, and even those
that you do not like.Through this practice reactive habits of ill will and criticism may
be undermined.

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Meditation is an ongoing, cumulative process, depending on both regularity and
consistency. Sitting everyday must become a commitment, even if it is sometimes
broken by unpredicted circumstance. Even though it is not necessary to do it
always at the same time, this can help as brain and mind will become accustomed
to its place in the rhythm of the day. If there is a room, or corner of a room, that you
can use exclusivley for sitting this will allow an energetic build-up to become
available as a support to your sitting. While it is not necessary to decorate your
meditation space in any way, if you do keep it simple avoiding anything that will
stimulate your interest, even if only unconsciously. Even sitting for two minutes of
stillness is better than nothing.

If you have not yet become regular in your sitting practice, then begin with a
commitment to twenty minutes a day, every day. In addition sit twice in one day
per week, and for one hour once a week. Always use a timer.

Once you begin to feel the benefits or regular sitting increase the duration to forty-
five minutes, sitting twice in one day per week for one hour each time. Always use a

Eventually you will find your commitment to sitting is supported by the deep
delight you take in it. Then it becomes much easier to sustain a regular consistent
practice. Sit for sxity minutes once a day with a timer, and once a day without
timing. Dedicate one afternoon per week to sit for forty-five minutes in three
consecutive sits, with a short break of walking meditation between each. Dedicate
one day per month to sitting at least six times for at least forty-five minutes.

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To relieve your legs when sitting more than once in succession you can practiec
mindful walking. This works equally well indoors and out, in a confined or open
space. It is not necessary to have a lot of space, walking in a circle around your
cushion, bench or chair is fine. Having massgaed your legs and feet if necessary to
reactivate circulation begin walking with very slow steps. Allow each foot to
ground before lifting the next. As you walk feel as clearly and continuously as you
can the sensations generated by your walking. This includes the sensations of
contact and release between your feet and the floor, the sensations of contact
between cloth and skin, and the sensations in your ankles, knees, hipsockets, back,
arms shouldesr and neck. It can also include the sensations generated by your
breathing in your nostrils, throat and abdomen.

It is also fruitful to practice synchronisation of walking and breathing, especially if

and when your mind is easily distracted. Allow the rhythm of your walking to follow
the rhythm of your breath. Begin on an exhalation. As your exhalation begins raise
one foot so that as the exhalation comes to an end it completes its re-contact with
the floor. As your inhalation begins raise one foot so that as the inhalation comes to
an end it completes its re-contact with the floor.

This walking meditation practice also makes a direct link to enjoying the meditative
mind in the everyday activities of daily life. Exactly the same attentiveness and
intimacy can be brought to bear on any physical activity, from washing up to
chopping wood and carrying water.

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• Choose a single meditative seed with which you can focus any wandering in
your mind, such as your navel, pelvic floor, hands, nostrils or throat.
• Using a comfortable support2 establish a stable foundation in the relationship
between the floor and your legs, the support and your buttocks so that your
spine is more or less vertical.
• Place the front edges of your buttock bones near the front edge of your support
so that your pelvis is very slightly pivoted forwards at the hipbones which should
be a little in front of your buttock-bones.
• Let each leg3 be in relaxed contact with the floor, without any need for pressing
down with one of them, or leaning into either of them.
• Your hipbones MUST be higher than your knees or your lower back will collapse
and round generating distracting and eventually painful sensations in your lower
• Take your time to find the most stable relationship between pelvis, support, legs
and floor.
• Be especially sensitive to your knees, making sure that they are as closed and
stable as possible, with your thighbones as close as possible to your shinbones.
There must be no weight sinking into the knee joint or it will be damaged.
• Rest your palms, upwards or downwards, on your knees or thighs or in your
groins or lap.
• Find the position that allows your fingers, hands arms and shoulders to most
deeply relax.
• Let go of any effort in your fingers and hands, and the subtle intention of any
mudra you may have learned.
• Invite the whole of your body to relax into the stability of your foundation.4

2it does not have to be a formal meditation cushion or stool, it can be folded blankets or
even a brick

3 you can be sitting on your shins, rather than having your legs crossed

4 relationship between pelvis, support, legs and oor

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• Let your eyes softly close as you settle into the presence of your body.
• Pay special attention to the muscles of the face associated with your senses:
relaxing your tongue and palate, eyes and ears.
• Inviting your neck and throat to relax allow your head to freely find its most
comfortable relationship to your shoulders.
• Invite the whole of your body to relax into the clear light of awareness, letting
go as much as you can of your ability and need to know what is happening.
• Feel as clearly as you can the presence of any sensations that reveal themselves.
• Letting go of attachment to the notion of stillness allow your body to freely
adjust itself into a deeper stability as it relaxes little by little.
• As a sensation enters the light of your awareness feel it is as clearly and directly
as you can, paying as little attention as possible to what mind has to say about it
without trying to silence it.
• Whenever you find yourself daydreaming, remembering the past, anticipating
the future, explaining or defining the nature of reality, body, mind or meditation
invite your attention back to the presence of sensation.5
• As attention and mind penetrate the presence and nature of sensation more and
more deeply relax as much as you can into the presence of body as sensation,
the presence of mind as interpretation, the presence of conscious awareness as
the subtle light that reveals both sensation and interpretation, letting go as
much as possible of your needs and ability to know and direct.
• Not holding to the presence of sensation allow whatever comes up into your
conscious mind to be absorbed as deeply and fully as possible into the light of
awareness without resistance.

As mind becomes quiet your eyes may spontaneously open. Allow this to happen,
and your eyes to spontaneously close or open in response to their own internal

5once your body has become stable and comfortable enough these will most likely be the
sensations that reveal the presence of the breath
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• Choose a single meditative seed

• Use a comfortable support to establish a stable foundation, spine vertical
• Place the front edges of your buttock bones near the front edge of your support
hipbones a little in front of your buttock-bones and higher than knees
• Rest your palms, upwards or downwards, on your thighs or in your lap
• Let your eyes softly close as you settle into the presence of your body
• Invite the whole of your body to relax into the stability of your foundation
• Pay special attention to relaxing your tongue and palate, eyes and ears
• Allow your head to freely find its most comfortable position
• Allow your body to freely adjust itself as it relaxes
• Stay still without moving anything deliberately
• Feel as clearly as you can any sensations that reveal themselves
• Invite your mind to let go of its ability to imagine into its ability to recognise
• Invite your mind to distincguish clearly between hardness, softening and
• Invite your mind to become as intimate as possible with the subtle heart of
nonlocal softness
• invite your mind to let go of its ability to recognise and know into your ability to
• Allow your mind to express itself freely, with as little judgement and resistance as
• Enjoy!

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- sit for a minimum of 20 minutes, at least once a day, longer if possible.
- sit at least twice a day at least once a week
- sit at least one hour at least one time a week
- dedicate a whole day to sitting (at least four hours in at most 8 sits) once a
- sit with a friend as often as possible
- feel the sensations generated by your body as deeply and directly as
- use a ringing timer so that you do not have to think about the time (though
you may still do so)
- once you have settled into stillness DON’T MOVE for any reason at all
- sitting still in stable verticality is powerful, even if you daydream
- rearranging your legs because they are beginning to hurt can make them
hurt more after a brief respite, and can lead to injuring your knees
- don’t scratch itches
- don’t wipe snot or tears
- don’t prevent natural swallows
- allow eyes to open and close freely
- pay as little attention as possible to visual information
- don’t fight with your mind
- don’t try to control your mind
- don’t try to stop your thoughts
- don’t try to stop thinking
- don’t be afraid of falling asleep, give yourself to the sensations that are
telling you you are sleepy
- allow your mind to do its thing, giving your interest and attention as much as
possible to the sensations generated by your body
- if muscles start to ache, feel the sensations as deeply as possible paying as
little attention as possible to your mind
- if your back collapses, very slowly and softly lengthen your spine without
moving your pelvis or head deliberately
- when you notice your mind wandering go back to the sensations that reveal
the presence of your seed
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As you settle into your body relaxing invite your mind to simply recognise what is
happening in your body in terms of tension and release, hardness and softening,
holding on and letting go. As it does so invite your mind to let go of its ability to
recognise the particular parts of your body, without being concerned by any
inability to do so.

As your mind lets go of its ability to distinguish between the perceptibly separable
parts of your body invite your mind to become as intimate as possible with the
presence of hardness without specifically locating it. Invite your mind to become as
intimate as possible with the sensations that indicate, or even suggest hardness, so
that within that intimacy, perhaps, they soften.

As your body softens more and more and the sensations it is generating become
less varied and more soft invite your mind to let go of its ability to distinguish
between and recognise hardness and softness, and to become as intimate as
possible with the nonlocalised presence of softness. As you feel, as clearly and
deeply as possible, the nonlocalised sensations of softness invite your mind to
become as intimate as possible with the subtle qualities to be found within the
heart of softness.

As your mind becomes more and more stable within the subtle presence of
softness, freely and clearly recognising within its inherent oscillations, its subtle
constituent qualities, invite your mind to settle as fully as possible into the most
consistently subtle qualities that reveal themselves within the subtle nonlocal heart
of sensation.

As your mind becomes more and more stable within the subtle heart of softness
freely and clearly recognising, within its inherent oscillations, its most consistently
subtle qualities, invite your mind to let go completely of its ability to recognise and
its need to know into your deeper ability to feel.

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Very often meditation is considered and undertaken as a mind control project. I
don’t want to devalue peoples’ experience, but this is a very limited approach to
meditation. No doubt there are advantages to be gained from learning to control
your mind, in the limited sense that that might be possible for you. Some of these
may even become available in your daily life. Concentration and attentiveness are
definitely qualities you can cultivate on your cushion. While doing so you can also
calm and quieten your mind, and you may be able to do something similar in the
hurly-burly of everyday life on the basis of having become used to it on your
cushion. Yet there can be much more to meditation than concentration and
calmness, useful and valuable as they may be.

For meditation to be more than stress management it needs to provide insight into
the dynamics and nature of mental activity. This can not happen while involved in
the mind control project. Instead meditation must become an enquiry into the
nature, substance and ground of mental activity. Because of the role that mental
activity takes in our lives, this is not an academic exercise. Meditation is not a
matter of accumulating information about a particular aspect of reality, the world
or your existence. The world, reality, as you know it, is nothing but a function of
your mental activity. The world as such, reality as such, any object and any event as
such cannot be known to you except through the interpretative lens of mental
activity. This may not be so obvious, but nevertheless it is true.

If I were to strike Andrea with this stick, his direct experience of sensation needs to
be interpreted in order for him to know who and what hit him. His mind will do
that for him, so he knows what’s happening. Following the direct experience of
pain would be the layers of interpretation that would make his understanding,
revenge, or forgiveness, possible. This begins with the recognition of pain and goes
on out through the recognitions of stick, hit and Godfrey. His mind tells him it was a
stick not a stone, that it was Godfrey not Michelle. His body only told him that it
hurt. So interpretation is not invention, not make-believe. Interpretation can be
accurate, relevant, applicable, usable and justifiable.

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Nevertheless, to be able to distinguish between interpretation and experience,
between what is apparently happening and what is actually happening, is very
helpful. It’s not so hard to intellectually recognise that this is the case: that mind is a
mechanism interpreting the activity of the nervous system so that we can navigate
being human more effectively. Although it’s not hard to recognise that relationship
between neurological activity and mental interpretation, the culture and world we
live in overlook it. We tend, and to a great extent we need, to assume that our
interpretation is reality.

In certain situations an approaching quadruped must be interpreted accurately or

death might result. We need to trust in our interpretation, knowing that a wolf can
be dangerous, and that a dog is less likely to be so. This is mental activity. All of
this is interpretation. However, it’s definitely necessary. Without it the human race
would not, could not have survived.

To take it to another extreme, you can only too easily assume that people who
smile a lot are happy, if you are foolish. However we’re not foolish, are we? After all
we are sophisticated and spiritual meditators. We know about self-deception, that
the shape of a mouth has got little to do with internal feelings. Nevertheless we
need to be able to rely on our interpretative abilities. We need to be able to trust
our judgment. Even if our judgment cannot be proved in the moment to be right or
wrong, we need to act on it, or the wolf gets the lamb.

Human beings are so vulnerable. Please remember I’m not talking about some
academic categorization of terrestrial fauna. I’m talking about you. To be you is to
be so vulnerable. You are without armour, weaponry, speed or endurance. You
don’t have the agility of a monkey. Of course your ancestors had a little speed,
agility and stamina but not enough to survive against all those faster, fitter
armoured creatures that were out there. They needed a little something extra to
ensure your existence. That extra is highly sophisticated mental activity, or

Along with gregariousness this ability is the principal tool of our survival: the mind.
Although we have incredible interpretative ability we nevertheless cannot survive
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without each other. The gregariousness of being human is not just a social
construct. The gregariousness of being human is a built in genetic imperative
without which there would be no human race. We would not have survived if we
were not able to cooperate with each other, and for this we need sophisticated
mental activity, not least as language.

This means that from the deepest level of our being, from our need to survive, we
need to belong. Except in very rare circumstances we need to conform in order to
belong. We need to be accepted by the tribe, community, and to be accepted we
need to be acceptable. We need to conform to social mores. The genetic imperative
within this is irresistible. We need it. Yet it has weird consequences. It makes us lie. It
makes us lie in order to be acceptable, in order to be accepted, in order to survive.
In order to be able to survive, we have had to learn to lie. This learning is deep. It’s
so deep that we don’t even know that we’re doing it most of the time.

We’re not deliberately doing it. We’re not saying: “right, I will now trick and con my
way into his or her heart.” It’s coming from deep biological conditioning and
compelling us to constantly deceive. This is coming from so deep we don’t even
notice we are doing it because we are immersed in the fruits of our mental activity,
rather than its inner processes. We only see the conclusions of the massive amount
of recall based analysis and memory driven evaluation that goes on unconsciously.
We are drifting along on the surface of our mental activity not seeing beneath. We
are not seeing how that which appears at the surface comes to the surface, from
depths unknown and so unacknowledgable.

This is one of the fundamental gifts of the meditative process: being able to see
underneath the surface of mental activity into the interpretative mechanism, by
way of our self-deception. Within that we start to see the relationship
interpretation has to truth. Truth is a little bit like the self. If you go looking for it, it
keeps eluding you, the more you ask of it. it’s true that the sun always rises in the
East, but it’s not really true that the sun rises.

You can only feel the presence of the self when you are not really thinking about it,
but simply replaying borrowed thoughts. When you are being really honest you not
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only can’t find one, but you find that it is quite impossible for there to be one
despite the conviction with which autonomy and independence assert themselves
culturally, psychologically and perceptually. The fact is that we have become
deeply habituated to being fast and loose with the truth so much that it hardly
figures at all outside courts of law.

You know how it is, and how often it happens: someone asks you how you are
when you’re actually feeling a bit grumpy, irritated, frustrated or whatever, and you
don’t feel like telling them that. So what do you do? You lie. You say: ‘i’m fine”. You
may even qualify it with a: “thanks for asking.” Why do we do that? We do that to
beat an easy path, not because it’s true. It’s the easiest way to get to the next step
in the dance of the social game, whatever that may be. We’re doing this so often
that how we actually feel is relegated below how we want to appear.

I imagine that you have occasionally felt lonely. One of the gifts of meditation, or
one of its challenges, is to see that this is not as true as you might think. You have
never felt loneliness. You may have been lonely, but that is not what you have felt.
You have felt the wind on your cheek. You’ve felt rain on your cheek, pain in your
shoulder; you have felt hunger, thirst. Loneliness, however, is a mental event; it’s a
designation of what you are feeling. It’s an interpretation of a sophisticated
complex of feelings and sensations. As soon as you call it loneliness, as soon as you
confirm that interpretation, then you know what to do. Get some company and you
won’t feel it anymore if your interpretation was accurate and honest. If you go to
the fridge however you won’t feel better for long.

Loneliness, sadness, depression. These are all interpretations of events in the

nervous system. Self fulfilling interpretations. Interpret a set of sensations as
loneliness then you’re lonely whenever you feel those sensations, or any like them,
whatever their origin. Interpret a set of sensations as dread then you’re afraid every
time you have those or similar sensations.

One of the things most meditators know is that you can change your mood, your
feeling, your emotional state through your sitting practice. You can start off feeling
lonely or afraid and you finish feeling totally cool. What happens is that you come
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face to face with the pre-interpretative reality of your existence, but only if we’re
not trying to get something, to force something. It must be an opportunity for you
to face sensations directly, underneath their habituated interpretations. To do this
you must suspend the interpretative function of mind as much as possible. You do
that by feeling the actual sensations in your body as directly and immediately as
possible. In being bathed in the clear light of awareness they take on a different
quality or tone than when they were just poking into the corner of your mind. By
focussing awareness into what is actually happening on the physical level of the
nerves, an emotional transformation takes place. Or at least that’s how you can
interpret it.

Nerves are by nature excitable. Excitability is one of their fundamental

characteristics. I don’t know how many nerves we have, how many
interrelationships there can be between all the different nerves in the body, there
are trillions in the brain alone. I don’t know how many possibilities of excitability
there are in the human body, but there are a lot. Yet we reduce them to seven or
eight experiences such as bored, lonely, happy or sad. We dump a few hundred
possibilities into each category and thereby prune our existence, our experience in
order to be able to navigate and communicate about it more easily.

If we really want to meditate, if we really want to do more than just change our
mood by sitting still, we cannot tyrannize or bully our mind into a preconceived
state that’s been idealised as something of assumed value. If we want the liberating
fruits that meditation actually has to offer we need to learn to be fully present to
what is actually happening in our mind just as it is already. We have to engage with
what actually is, rather than try to impose what really isn’t. We are already deeply
burdened with accumulated impositions: hopes, dreams, ambitions, assumptions,

If we can settle down into stillness so deeply that the body becomes very quiet,
sooner or later we are going to directly encounter the interpretative function of
mind. We may have to encounter a few of its more overt properties first such as its
mutability, its versatility, its unpredictability, its ungraspability. If we are
undisturbed by these qualities, and by whatever the changing contents of mind
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may be, we are going to see how little of this activity has any direct bearing on
what is actually happening as our lives as they actually are. Most of it is pure
fantasy: distorted pasts, imagined futures, and misrepresented presents. Yet we so
easily and so often take it unsalted, as if it were an accurate representation of what
was actually happening; when it isn’t.

When you sit a long time muscles relax. If a lot of muscles relax a lot the
relationships between your bones change. Pressure starts to assert itself on the
ankle, or in the hip-socket. It hurts. It burns. It generates an impulse to move away
from the pain. This is only natural. From a cellular level your body needs to move
away from pain, from danger. This is its basic survival mechanism. You can’t stop
that from happening. You do need to respond to it, even when there actually is no
danger. If you have taken care to organise the relationships between your legs
cushion and floor with integrity there can be no actual danger to your body when

When you start to have a pain in your ankle bone, or shin bone, or in your lower
back or in between your shoulder blades, what do you do? You interpret it: you
enlarge, you enrich, you sophisticise your interpretation and as long as you’re
doing so, it hurts. However you have another option. Relax the interpretative
mechanism of mind and give yourself more intimately to the neurological activity
itself: feel the sensations themselves as directly and deeply as possible.

This may be an over simplification, but, what is actually happening in my nervous

system when I look at Christopher? Is Christopher creeping up through my nerves
into my brain? I should hope not! What is actually going on? Well I can’t
distinguish him by smell, even if I can smell him. I’m not a dog. However light is
hitting my retina from every corner of this room. By way of my brain and into my
mind, I’ve constructed a picture. It’s taken me years of practice to do be able to do
so, just as it took an even longer time for the evolutionary process to develop eyes
and retinas in the first place. It took me many years to become able to create any
kind of internal image with the accuracy that I now effortlessly can.

This image in my brain is being sustained by stimuli in the optic nerve. It’s being
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backed up by sensations, vibrations, smells being picked up below the threshold of
my awareness. These also are coming as impulses along the nerve fibers into the
brain. An impulse up a nerve is an ion exchange between a potassium and a
sodium molecule. No more or less than that. Yet this is not enough to generate the
Christopher recognition, or image. Memory is also involved. Not only memories
based on the perception of Christopher, but of all human beings, all eyes, all legs,
all animal smells and all the other categories to which the component elements of
the Christopher image belong.

It’s not so different for feelings. They are also impressions, representations,
simulations, albeit more nebulous ones. Nevertheless there aren’t different types of
ion exchange for different feelings: a ‘confusion’, a ‘sad’, a ‘loneliness’ one. Within the
nervous system it is just plus or minus, on or off. Somehow this binary simplicity of
plus or minus in the electrical potential differentiation of adjacent molecules is able
to produce Christopher or whatever it is that you’re looking at as you look out
through your eyes. MInd-blowing, isn’t it?

This interpretative mechanism is so much a part of our reality, our lives, our
existence, and so necessary to it, that actually seeing through it is not so easy.
Nevertheless seeing through it is not only possible, but very powerful, very
beneficial, allowing you to see for yourself that your every thought, your every
image is, in effect, an invention. This doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate or inapplicable. It
means it is nothing but a symbol, a representation: not the thing itself, not the
thing as such. The world you know is not the world as such. Reality as you know is
not reality as such. It is reality as interpreted by you.

Our individual realities have a great deal in common. Otherwise we would not be
able to relate to each other. You could say that our realities are almost completely
mutually consistent, because we share the core human genome, however
individually it may be articulated into our unique DNA. We all experience gravity in
the same way. We all react to light and sound in the same basic ways. Butterflies
don’t experience gravity the way we do. Cats and dogs don’t hear what we do, even
when their tympanic membranes are subject to the very same vibrations.

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If you sit for long enough, you’re going to be confronted with both physical and
emotional pain. Being confronted with emotional pain is much more difficult than
being confronted with physical pain. This is because it’s more elusive and more
threatening. It’s not more threatening to your survival, but to your self-image, your
sense of unique, valuable, individual self. Being deeply confronted with pain in
meditation doesn’t usually happen unless you’re committed to the possibility of it
happening, and to its potential benefits. Otherwise you just turn away from it.
However, if you don’t turn away you begin to encounter, and eventually see
through, the interpretative mechanism of mind.

The eventual intensity of this encounter will change your relationship to pain by
revealing its interpretative connection to pleasure: the pain-pleasure spectrum
adjusts within this encounter. I’ve been sitting here, without moving my legs for a
while now. There are quite strong sensation in my outer right ankle. Some people
would call this pain. I am not, and I really don’t need to, as sitting like this can not
become dangerous until it starts to hinder blood flow to the point that tissues are
no longer being irrigated with oxygen, and that will take many more hours.

Yet even when there is no danger sensations cause pain. While the sensation is in
the body, the pain is in the mind. Mind doesn’t like the restriction of sustained
stillness, it limits its possibilities. It wants to get the body moving. It needs a reason.
The most authoritative reason is danger. That’s the primary role of the mind, to
protect and ensure the survival of the body. So it calls the intense sensation in the
ankle “pain”. If we see mind doing this, undermining our desire to sit still, we have
to adjust our interpretation of pain. In doing so we adjust our relationship to
pleasure, as they are front and back of the same dynamic. We can find more
pleasure in staying still than in moving. As we let go of dramatising unwelcome
sensations we start to find more welcome ones.

For example, you might start to lightly caress the skin under Lily’s eyes. If you were
to approach this in the right way, she would probably relax into the pleasure. Yet if
a fly were to land there during her meditation she would not relax, she would get
agitated and find it very difficult not to move, not to brush it away. Yet the
sensations in both instances would be pretty much the same. The interpretation of
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the sensations is radically different and so they are experienced in a totally different

The interpretative capacity of the human mind is what is referred to in the

Yogasutras by Patanjali with the word vrtti. Vrtti means literally to ‘turn away’. One
does not have to have read Patanjali or even have heard of him, to have been
infected by ideas that meditation is an attempt to control the mind. The belief that
we need to restrain the mind into silence is as widespread as it is damaging. As if
mind were some kind of a dog that will succumb to the chain or whip. This belief is
very deep and very common. This belief is why most meditation fails to deliver
much more than temporary stress-management. What Patanjali is pointing to is not
that we must stop the mind from moving but that we must see what this
movement is. We must see that it is pure interpretation, projection. It is a
simulation. Mind does not tell us what is actually happening, what is actually out
there. It tells us what to make of it, on the basis not only of our need to survive, but
also of our ability to interpret.

Have you ever wondered what is actually out there? Have you ever really
questioned what it is that you base your interpretations, your experience on? Of
course we are all limited by our experience, by our interpretations. I can’t know
what it’s like to be in a tropical monsoon until I have been in one. I can’t know
what’s out there until i’ve really been in it. This is not the remit of everyday life, and
it is not the remit of science as it is now practiced. It is not even the remit of
philosophers. I can think about warmth and wetness as much as I like, but it doesn’t
allow me to know what a monsoon is like.

This is what meditation is for, to cut through the mind’s filtering into the raw
presence of ‘reality’: as far as that is possible. So, Kant went looking for the thing in
itself and even though he couldn’t find it, remained convinced of its existence.
Maybe there is no ‘thing in itself’, maybe things are just what minds make of
something else. Maybe that something else is the vibrating presence of
consciousness, so rich, so subtly symphonic, so exquisitely complex in its
articulation that we cannot comprehend it from a distance. The lost art of
meditation is an opportunity to close the gap between observer and observed,
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subject and object till it becomes quite clear what it is that is ‘out there’, by meeting
it fully deep ‘in here’.

So it seems to me that Christopher is over there, and of course he actually is. What
I’m actually seeing and smelling, however, is inside my brain. I am not seeing what
you are seeing. I am not reacting to his smell in the way that you are. We all have
our own Christopher wriggling about in our brains. I’m projecting back out onto
that space over there my interpretation of the stimulation along the optic nerve
created by the refraction of light from his body, and you are projecting a slightly
different one.

During meditation projection is unpicked, unravelled, deconstructed. The world as

we know it is taken apart. As the world falls apart, your place in it crumbles. As your
place in it crumbles so you crumble and therefore you resist it. You resist the
unpicking of reality. You resist the dissolution of the ground upon which you stand,
for a while at least. However as life goes on and you still find yourself lonely, sad
and confused you’re inspired to look again, to keep on looking more closely, more
deeply. You know how this works on the surface but you need to see how it works
from the depths.

Years ago I joined a chat-room about yoga. I was the only person there who didn’t
mask their identity. There were exchanges going on that were quite heated and
insulting. I was being attacked by various people hiding behind pseudonyms who
refused to come out and reveal themselves when asked! I was being attacked
particularly because I posted a quote about the benefits of urine drinking after
someone was belittled for claiming to do so. There was one guy who had been
aggressive on all subjects. He was being particularly aggressive to this guy who
said he did it. So I posted this quote, without saying it was a quote, from an Indian
yoga teacher. It was an analysis of why it was good for you. So then this guy started
to attack me. When I didn’t respond, someone else pointed out that it was a quote,
and not necessarily my opinion.

We’re all walking around convinced that we know things that we don’t. We are
especially convinced that we know people that we don’t. We are most especially
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convinced about one person that we really don’t know: our self. “I am the one who
can’t get what they want.” This is a box many people put themselves in when they
are not getting one thing that they want, ignoring all the other things they want
and actually get, along with all the things they don’t need to want because they
continuously benefit from getting them.

There are so many boxes we can and do put ourselves in, not to mention others. It
may be a convenience to not have to think, but not thinking can be very dangerous
for creatures designed to think, who actually need to think. You are not actually
defined or limited by what you think of yourself. You are not limited or defined by
what you do, say and feel. You may think you are, when you are not thinking clearly
enough. You may believe you are, when you are not thinking at all. You may
convince others that you are. This doesn’t mean that you actually are.

You cannot be defined or contained by concepts and words. You are a galaxy of
energies, tendencies, impulses, all of which depend for their expression on external
circumstances. When everything is going according to plan, when you have a
secure habitat, flush bank account, extensive contact list, fulfilling occupation and
faithful lover you may never get irritable, frustrated or angry. This does not mean
you don’t have the capacity to be angry, frustrated or irritable. Lose a few of those
things and you will soon find yourself familiar with a range of different emotions.

Many people suffer from loneliness, even when they are not alone. Loneliness
creates all kinds of horrors. It can also create lots of delights. I’d just like to make a
suggestion that the next time you feel lonely or sad, just enquire into the possibility
of feeling what you’re feeling without interpreting it. See what happens to ‘feeling
sad’ or ‘feeling lonely’ when you go down a little deeper and make contact with
that which you are interpreting, when you come a little closer to the naked blades
of ‘reality’ rather than the comforting safety of interpretation.

In the terminology of Zen training, this is called: ‘Become one with it.’ Stop
maintaining a gap between subject and object, and filling it with interpretation.
You could call it becoming intimate with what is actually happening. Strange thing
is though that as you do become more intimate with what is actually happening
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you have less and less to say about it. It’s like sex, when it’s really good you’re not
analysing it, you’re just doing it. When you really become one with, intimate with
anything you not only have less to say about it in words, but also in concepts: you
don’t think about it. Because you are one with it you don’t need to: there is not
enough distance to require thinking. You don’t need a map when you know the
territory, and that’s what words and concepts are, mappings. Becoming intimate
with something doesn’t mean you have a more efficiently organised mapping. It
means that you’re actually in that which you normally map so deeply that you don’t
map it because you’re there.

One of the big problems in deconstructing experience through the process of

meditation is that you can start to feel like you don’t belong anymore. You can feel
like you don’t belong to that which you need to belong to: the human race. You can
start to feel that somehow either you’re an alien or everyone else is alien. You find it
harder and harder to maintain the bullshits and deceptions of the social game,
undermining your acceptability. This is a real problem, in the beginning. We need
each other, we are gregarious by nature, by design. What we need each other for is
survival. Human beings can never survive alone. We always depend on the actions
of others for our food, shelter, skills and understanding. To guarantee this we need
to belong, and to belong we need to conform to the cultural and social norms of
our herd.

Yet we are all surviving. If we now allow the herd to dictate how we use that
survival, we are asking for trouble, for dishonesty. We are asking for the distaste
that dishonesty creates when you’re constantly lying in order to conform. When
you’re constantly pretending that you know why you’ve done things. When, in fact,
you don’t know really why you’ve done anything in the specific sense!

Really, you don’t. All your explanations are simply superficial rationalisations, and
borrowed ones at that. You never have enough data to accurately understand or
explain why something happens, even something you deliberately do. That
deliberation is not the be all and end all of the why and wherefore of it. Spinoza
found himself face to face with God by following that recognition all the way to its
roots. You need to do the same. You need to see clearly that you are not the doer,
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that you are simply the immediate, local, self-conscious agent of action, whose
amazing brain is a master of self-deception.

Of course most people don’t see it that way. You don’t see it that way. You believe in
the self. You think as if you are the doer. You act as if you are the chooser of your
actions. You react as if I were the chooser of mine. You don’t see the totally
conditioned nature of human agency. You are locked into a narrow view of human
agency, within which we are all free to choose what we do, even if not what we feel.
That is why there is so much recrimination and strife in your life. You demand to
know why people say and do things, and they demand it of you.

This demanding is predicated on two false assumptions. One that you are the doer,
and two that you can know, in the specific sense, why you do things. You can only
know why things happen in the general sense. When you do, when you are able to
immediately know why anything and everything happens you will be home free.
You will only need to meditate to enjoy the silence, not because you are driven by
confusion and suffering. At the same time this demanding creates recrimination
and strife in your life.

If you are looking for truth, you have to go all the way through the interpretative
mechanism of the mind. In fact, you’re not going to find anything other than
interpretation anywhere. When you get to feeling safe within the recognition that
everything you can know is interpretation, then it becomes really hard to go to war
for your interpretations. When you know the truth, however, then you know
falsehood. When you know what’s right, you know what’s wrong. When you know
what’s right and wrong it’s very easy to be Richard the Lion-heart. Then you go on a
crusade and kill a few thousand jews along the way to liberating Jerusalem from
the infidel. It’s quite difficult to do that for an interpretation, for a symbol, for a map.

So if you’re going to disagree with this perspective and say: “ actually it’s not like
that”, that’s fine. Then it’s not like that for you, at least in terms of your experience. If
your experience is that of being the doer, the chooser, the thinker then your going
to be deep in the consequences of that: recrimination, blame, guilt shame and all
the rest of it. Yet these unpleasant feelings and their equally unpleasant
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consequences in action, are the result of a misinterpretation of your experience.
They come from not paying deep enough attention to what is actually happening.

When you pay deep enough attention to the sensations that lead you to call
yourself lonely you stop feeling lonely. You go down deep through the layers of
interpretation, through the particularities of the sensations you are interpreting to
the very heart of sensation itself. In that intimacy, in the deep, clear heart of
sensation, of your own presence there is no subject, there is no object, there is no
space to feel lonely in. If you relinquish interpretation of sensations and go directly
into those sensations themselves you find something quite unexpected. You find
that there is absolutely no basis for loneliness at all, that loneliness is a
misinterpretation of sensation involving many layers and many cognitive faculties
such as memory. It’s a very convincing interpretation. It is a powerful
misinterpretation. It produces so many things, so many addictions.

Many are the addiction coming from this feeling that is labeled: ‘I feel alone, I feel
dissatisfied, I feel lacking”. When there isn’t anybody present to help you hide from
this label maybe there’s a loaf of bread, a bottle of whisky or a line of cocaine.
Maybe there’s a problem to solve out in the world. A new polemic to write. If you’re
able to drop interpreting everything then you can really know where you actually
stand. Then you are able to relate more directly with what’s apparently happening.
What’s actually happening is consciousness expressing itself as ion exchange in
your nervous system.

Then you may discover that inherent in being aware of that which is actually
happening is something that precludes all need for any of those addictions that
result from being locked into what is apparently happening. Something that in
being conceptualised is also an interpretation. Nevertheless, it’s a relevant, accurate
and satisfying one, because it’s based on what actually is, rather than on habit,
anxiety or fear. It’s an interpretation that frees you from the need to go anywhere,
to do anything. It is one which satisfies and quietens your mind with its delight.

In India it was known as experiencing the causal body, or the body of bliss.
Sometimes it is referred to as satcitananda. Of course when you strip interpretation
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down to what is being interpreted you get to nothing at all, as the Buddha pointed
out. When you strip interpretation down to its barest bones you always find the
same things. At the heart of which is delight (ananda), floating in a spacious

Whenever you become one with, intimate with, what is actually happening, that is
what you find. No matter what the interpretative possibilities may be of what you
are feeling, deep in their heart is satcitananda. Deep in the heart of sadness lurks
bliss. At the deep core of loneliness hides peace.

When you feel sadness, despair, loneliness, just feel it. Feel the sensations that give
rise to the notion of sadness, loneliness, as deeply as fully as you can. You don’t
need to analyse them, though it may help you to get in by describing them very
simply, very concretely. Use that concrete simplicity to access what you feel so that
you can let go of your ability to know into your deeper ability to feel. Enquire into
the possibility of dropping all interpretation. Feel the sensations in your body that
are giving rise to the emotional and psychological interpretation in your mind.

Of course this is easier said than done. It needs to be learned. You need to let go of
the habit of jumping to conclusions, of skimming along the surface contours of
your mind and life. It’s a learning that’s well worth the time and effort: time and
effort simply spent in paying attention to what you feel, and recognising the
interpretative elements that distance you from what is actually being felt, what is
actually happening into feelings of despondence, loneliness, unhappiness,
dissatisfaction. These are all misinterpretations. You are not alone. You are not
abandoned. You are totally supported. Maybe your fantasies, dreams, hopes and
expectations are not fully supported. Nevertheless you are, you as you actually are
actually are totally supported by the universe, by life. If your boyfriend has left you,
that doesn’t mean you have been abandoned. It just means that someone has left
you with yourself!

To loosen the chains of loneliness, despair we need to become intimate with the
interpretative nature of mental activity. In doing so we encounter the deep delight
of neurological activity expressing the presence of consciousness. This doesn’t
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mean that you can feel everything away. You can only feel away misunderstanding.
If you have broken your toe, it is going to hurt and you need to interpret those
sensations, and accurately, so you can help your toe to mend itself.

The ground experience of your body, below the level of interpretation, is delight.
The intrinsic signal that the body gives off is pleasant to attention. Once that’s been
tasted, you can go there easily. Once you’ve established a passage you can just go
down that passage and there it is. You need to learn to do this. It’s not hard. Just
keep bringing your attention back to the sensations being generated by your body
till you become so deeply absorbed in them you drown in their delight. So when
things are going crazy in your meditation, just tune into the sensations, deeper
than the interpretative layers. You’ll enjoy that. It’ll calm you down, quieten you,
pacify you. Into that calmness, whatever needs to be released will try to release

It doesn’t matter what sensations you become intimate with. They all have the
same heart: the subtle delight of impersonal awareness of being. When the body is
generating some strong sensations then go with those. Stay with them even if they
are unpleasant. When your body is comfortable make a choice: feel one hand, or
your throat, or your navel, or your pelvic floor. Don’t keep changing your point of
focus. Stay in one place. Choose a point of focus and stay with that. When you get
used to it you can become more sophisticated. Feel two hands at once. This is a
little more tricky but you can learn to spread your attention without it being
divided by your mind. When that’s easy try focussing on your navel and pelvic floor
simultaneously, or your navel and your throat, or your throat and your pelvic floor.

Eventually you become able to be intimate with the whole of your body as an
indivisible singularity. It’s hard to do in the beginning, but if you’re patient you can
learn how to let your mind support awareness in opening into the undivided
presence of your body. When you can then you don’t need a point of focus
anymore, you can enjoy panoramic awareness of being delight. Don’t try for it, let it
just happen as a natural result of expanding the focus of your attention. Best place
to begin this is the spine. Start with your navel. Link it downwards to your pelvic
floor, then upwards through your solar plexus and heart to your throat. When you
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can be present to the full quivering subtlety of your spine, let it expand from your
heart to your hands, from your hands to your feet, and eventually up into your

I don’t advise going higher than the throat until the end, until you have developed
the art of intimacy to the point that you know the same delight in the presence of
your hands as you do in the presence of your throat, the same spaciousness in your
navel as in your pelvic floor. Third eye meditation is very un-grounding. Don’t roll
your eyes up and pretend that your looking beyond the veil. You’re just straining
your eyes. The problem is that we have a deep enculturation to enjoy being
ungrounded, not just when we are drunk or stoned. Then we take that enjoyment
as a sign that we have achieved something. When all we have achieved is evasion
of our actual discomfort. Getting drunk, getting stoned, riding a roller coaster, and
third eye gazing unground us. They all distract us very powerfully from what is
actually happening.

I don’t get it so much now but in the beginning my eyes felt like they wanted
to go somewhere.

And they would go upwards?

Yes, they would go to that point.

What one does in any situation, one always expresses one’s condition. The inherent
vulnerability of being embodied has within it a desire to not exist anymore, to be
disembodied, to be back in the cosmic womb. This desire can be dangerous if it’s
functioning unconsciously. A junkie is expressing that desire to be disembodied.
Higher chakra meditation is exactly the same. It is an attempt to evade the world.
To deny the problem of being embodied. You are embodied though. So if you want
to choose a point, meditate down here in the depths of your belly. That grounds
you. Then when you come out of your meditation you’re more able to deal with the
world of embodiment. But if your meditation is up there without first having been
established down there, then you tend to have increased difficulty with functioning
in embodied reality. So when you come back to your cushion that invites you to do
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it again, to get high, to get a respite, to get a relief.

I think the most practical, effective, realistic lenses are your breathing and your
spine. Either or even both together. Lots of techniques that are used in meditation
schools are counter productive to getting to grips with the world. They may be ok
for monks, but they don’t help with the mortgage payments and the school run.

So if you mix and match thoughtlessly you’re not necessarily going to know what it
is that is not working. So you’re going to have to guess. But if you actually follow
what I’m telling you to do, it will work, because I’m not really telling you to do
anything! I’m inviting you to let go and see what life as your bodimind does when
you give enough space to the deep intelligence that you are.

Yeah, I sit with my breath.

Then the mind takes care of itself. If you have things calling to be released, which
we all do, they will eventually be heard if your are just being present to what
actually is. Your seed, whether it’s panoramic or focussed is irrelevant. That’s just
where you hang out until something starts to happen. It provides the focus,
calmness, tranquility that is the necessary foundation for clear seeing or insight to
happen as a spontaneous expression of natural intelligence.

What do you say when people ask you how you’re feeling? ‘How are you?’ Do
you ever reply to people?

Yeah of course: I do play the social game sometimes.

Does that mean that talking about any feeling or emotional state or even
experience - that’s it’s all filtering it through your own interpretation?

A lot of the time you’re talking about them so as not to feel them. You’re not
choosing ‘I don’t want to feel this so therefore I’ll talk about it’, but that’s the
unconscious habit of protecting you from feeling it by turning away from it into
concepts and words.
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We’re all familiar with that quote attributed to Nelson Mandela. “We’re not really
afraid of our shit, what we’re really afraid of is our brilliance.” Very often, it’s not just
negative emotions we don’t want to feel, it’s also positive ones. You don’t
necessarily want to feel that you love everybody. What on earth are you going to
do with that in this restrictive culture? So you start talking about it to yourself or to
them. You do love everybody. When you get right down there, you do. It’s part of
being human. You’ve got a heart and a heart loves. It doesn’t know anything else.
But you’re not really supposed to are you? You’re supposed to just get one and love
one. And to hell with all the rest!

But that exclusivity doesn’t sit very well with the human heart. The mind, no
problem. But not with the heart. Very often to love someone really effectively
would be to do nothing but to be there doing nothing. So this love doesn’t mean
you have to go round kissing and hugging people, telling them how brilliant they
are. Love is just being present. It’s being present to that which is actually

Years ago I had a student who imploded over not being in control of his life. He just
couldn’t handle what he saw so clearly. He was so used to being so exquisitely in
control, especially of his body. He was a professional dancer and choreographer,
and very sophisticated in the culture of emotional catharsis. He’s quite happy to be
totally naked in any way in front of any number of people. So he really let rip. There
was no holding back. In a way he was attacking me, certainly he was directing his
words and his anger right at me. I had never known anything quite like it.

Also in the room was Linda. Linda is a kundalini sophisticate. She was so sensitive
she had to be constantly on guard that other people’s pain did not traumatise her.
She hadn’t yet decided whether she should trust me, whether I really understood
the subtleties of being human, or if I was just one more chancer on the spiritual
roller coaster. Anyway Buster ranted for 10 or 15 minutes with aggression and
animosity. I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t. I felt like I was sitting in the middle
of a hurricane. I just looked at him as he ranted and raved. Eventually he stopped
and we were looking at each other in silence. Suddenly the whole atmosphere
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changed. It became very still, very peaceful. Buster was looking at me. I was looking
at Buster.

Then Linda said: ‘Now I know I can trust you.’ I said: ‘How do you know that?’ She
said: “Because you were just present to him the whole time. You did nothing, you
said nothing, you offered nothing, you didn’t move away from him for one second,
you were with him the whole time. That is love. I can trust that”.

That’s what she was seeing: love. I wasn’t doing anything. I was just being there.
The being there made a difference to him. I didn’t have to say anything. I didn’t
have to fix anything or tell him he was okay really. Fixing is not necessarily love.
Meditation is learning to do that with yourself. Learning to do that with your own
shit. It’s not even that you’re trying to get something good out of it. It’s just being
there. Being present.

I’m going to look at the relationship between thinking and meditation. First by
categorising thinking so we can be realistic about it. It’s really not true that human
beings can live without thinking. Thinking is at the very heart of being human.
Nevertheless it is a skill that needs to be learned on the basis of practice. This is very
rarely done. Even those who think for a living, philosophers, writers, scientists limit
the development of their thinking. Not only to their narrow field of interest, but
also to the conscious mind.

So, the first distinction I would like to make with regard to thinking is between
conscious thinking and unconscious thinking. Thinking, whether through the
agency of words, images or abstractions, is an expression of the analytical capacity
of your nervous system, especially your brain. Data is continuously pouring into
your brain in massive amounts. Not only from your senses, but from your cells and
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tissues too as they respond to shifts in your relationship to gravity and your
environment. This data needs to be processed by the brain so you can act and react
effectively enough to survive and flourish. This processing is going on all the time.
Most of it, because it has to be, is completely unconscious. Most of what goes on
unconsciously in your brain remains forever unconscious. Not all of it though.

Meditation is an experience of dissolving the boundary between the conscious and

unconscious mind within which usually unconscious mental activity becomes
conscious. This is a very powerful process in many ways. Not least because it shows
us that there is such a thing as unconscious thinking, as if dreams were not proof
enough of that fact.

The big problem with unconscious thinking is that it is unconscious. We don’t know
what is going on down there, in here. We need not to. If we were aware of it all we
would be overwhelmed with so much incoherent data we would be unable to act
or survive. Yet there are layers to this unconscious processing or thinking. Most of it
is purely functional, classifying the continuous flow of smells and sounds, for
example, in terms of their significance to our survival, interests and concerns so
that we can act in response to them if necessary. Much of it is more complex, and
potentially troublesome. Amongst which are the unrecognised assumptions and
unacknowledged beliefs that our social enculturation has left as unconscious
prejudice influencing and even guiding our conscious thinking into action.

Many of us carry unrecognised unconscious prejudices about race, gender, age and
even size. Many of us have recognised them without uprooting them. When we
have recognised them it becomes easier to recognise their expressions in our
prejudiced thinking and action. When they remain unrecognised we are left in the
grip of prejudiced and prejudicial habits of action and reaction that limit us and

Meditation gives us the opportunity to shift, even if only momentarily, the

boundary between the conscious and unconscious mind. In doing so we can
become more free from the destructive power of this kind of habit. This can only
happen, however, when we undertake meditation as an enquiry. It will not happen
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if we undertake meditation as any kind of mind-control project, no matter how
subtle, sophisticated or sanctified. The mind needs to reveal itself. It will only do so
when left to its own, habitual and unconsciously driven, devices.

I would also like to make a distinction between thinking and thought. Even though
most data processing is unconscious, and conscious thinking is not actually
required of a great many of our activities, and a great deal of our lives, conscious
awareness is an ongoing human phenomenon. While the power of habit maintains
our experience of a continuously active thinker, it is based on the sense of self as an
autonomous individual with the need and power to direct events in its favour. This
sense of individual self is right at the heart of our experience of being human, and
our existential suffering. It is also deeply undermined by the process of meditation
as deep enquiry into the presence and nature of mental activity.

Our sense of self is a developmentally necessary navigational tool. While it has no

locatable centre in the brain nor its neurological activity it is a neurological
response to the focussing of some of that activity into and as the conscious mind.
The almost continuous flow of conscious awareness, with its recognitions,
memories, ponderings, decision making and other responses to our interaction
with the world gives the impression of an autonomous identity at the centre of this
flow, and in control, more or less, of its responses and choices.

Neuroscientific research, logical analysis and meditative enquiry provide no

evidence of any such entity, or phenomenon. It is nothing more concrete than the
focussing of conscious awareness on some neurological activity in response to data
input flows, our need to survive and desire to flourish, and habit. Yet this focussing
of consciousness as conscious awareness, which we need in order to learn,
communicate and even enjoy the subtleties of cognition is simply a pragmatic and
necessary part of neurological data processing. It is not the result or evidence of an
autonomous thinker, doer or self. The self as autonomous doer and thinker is
nothing more substantial than a powerful and potent impression.

Yet once this impression has been established, as it inevitably is in early childhood,
it is extremely hard to dislodge. At the same time it generates all kinds of problems,
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as well as providing the advantages of functioning as a stable, continuous
counterpoint to the fluctuating flow of external objects and their actions that
constitute the world. Amongst these problems are the anxiety, doubt, regret,
shame, guilt and blame that seem to be unique and deeply detrimental to the
human experience. More pertinently the sense of self as autonomous thinker, like
any phenomenon, is driven by the need to express and maintain itself. The simplest
way that it can do that is to keep up a continuous flow of conscious thinking, even
when it has nothing to offer to what we are doing.

Much of our conscious thinking does not need the sense of self to summon and
sustain it. It arises spontaneously from our neurological response to the events
going on around us and the actions they require us to take. When we are
confronted with an unfamiliar situation, for which we do not have a broad range of
suitable and effective responses stored in our unconscious, whether of recognition,
action or communication, we use the conscious mind to generate one. Once that
situation becomes familiar, and we have accumulated a range of responses, it no
longer requires conscious awareness to be responded to, though it does to be
enjoyed. Most of our activities and actions as adults are actually generated this
way, from unconscious cognitive and neuromuscular pathways that react in
response to environmental input without any need of conscious thinking, or even
conscious awareness. We do not realise this because the sense of self imposes itself
on our neurological processing, primarily through the power of anxiety and doubt,
and pulls it into its own domain, the flow of conscious awareness, or the so-called
conscious mind.

This hijacking of preprogrammed neurological responses strengthens the sense of

self and its tendency and ability to do so. As a result we are left with the deep,
existential conviction that there is an independent, coherent, conscious entity at
the heart of our experience that is who we actually are. An autonomous entity that
refers to both the body and the mind as its property. There is no such entity, other
than a nonlocalised selective focussing of data processing. It is simply the
impression generated by the sophistication of our brains and their remarkable
capacity to learn new responses that have not been genetically programmed or
assimilated unconsciously.
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The sense of self is at the heart of the incessant internal conversation that goes on
in and as the conscious mind, even when the unconscious is perfectly equipped to
fully respond to the world without the help of conscious awareness. While the
unconscious motor, perceptual and cognitive pathways do their job in selecting an
emotional or practical response to perception, the sense of self maintains the
illusion of its importance and nature as the central controller of thinking and
deciding by drawing some of the unconscious processing into the conscious mind
as if it, the sense of self, were directing our responses through the now conscious
part of that process. Even when the conscious mind is participating in that
response as a necessary element, it is not doing so at the command of any central
controller. It is doing so in the absence of an effective response being available in
the unconscious.

When the conscious mind is needed to participate in generating a novel response

to an unfamiliar situation, the sense of self is not. When the conscious mind is
hijacked by the self I would call this thinking. When it is not I would make that
distinction by calling it thought. In other words thought is the process of conscious
awareness prompted into action by the unconscious in response to the unfamiliar.
Whereas thinking is when this process is hijacked by the sense of self. Of course this
distinction is a little arbitrary in its semantics, and may not be as helpful to you as I
find it to be. Nevertheless it is a valid and pertinent distinction, which if not made
can easily drive us into deep conflict with mind and its thought processing.

We can use different terminology to clarify this distinction, such as organic and
rogue thinking, where organic thinking is required of action and rogue thinking is
the hijacking of thought by the sense of self. When this hijacking happens it usually
generates extra thoughts by way of repetition, hairsplitting and justifications that
do not actually contribute to any practical result in terms of either action or
understanding. To put it another way organic or practical thinking or thought arises
directly from the unconscious by way of established cognitive pathways, while
rogue thinking or thought arises from the sense of self and its neurotic need to
sustain the illusion of its importance.

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This distinction is especially important because thinking and thought has been
getting a bad press for a long time from so-called spiritual teachers. Thinking,
practical, organic thinking or thought, is indispensable not only to human
communication and culture, but to our survival. Yet, it remains true that thinking,
rogue thinking, generates a lot of extra trouble for us. While it is not true that we
can and should put an end to thinking, it is possible and deeply rewarding to let go
of rogue thinking, by letting go of the presumed source of thinking, the so-called
self. This is the deep effect and purpose of meditation as enquiry, through which a
deepening intimacy with our mental activity allows us not only to distinguish
between necessary and unnecessary mental activity, but recognise and let go of
the burden of the self.

This becomes possible when we cultivate a deep intimacy with our thought
processes and see that the sense of self is a fiction no longer required. It was
required initially to support the vulnerability of the organism that bears your name
as it developed the somatic and behavioural responses necessary for you to survive
and flourish. This is no longer the case. It has become a burden causing endless
problems for you and those you interact with. Once the brain has become fully
organised and coherent in its ability to generate and retain a broad and deep
repertoire of cognitive and behavioural responses the sense of self is no longer
necessary, and can be relinquished.

How can we do that?

Well, in one sense you can’t do it: it can only happen. It happens by encountering,
over and over again, the sense of self not only as the source of so much suffering,
but also as completely unnecessary. As we become more and more familiar with its
usurpation of natural, organic processes, both in particular instances and in
general, it loses its significance and authority. We can see the art of meditation as a
gradual erosion of the sense of self, which sometime has quantum leaps into
deeper freedoms.

However, having made all these distinctions so that they can be helpful I must warn
you of their dangers. Any qualitative distinction can lead to assumption and
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prejudice if we are not careful. In the case of these mental distinctions they can
actually do as much harm as good. This happens when we allow them to fall into
the grip of self judgement and self deception.

The most important, and continuously significant distinction that you can and
need to make is between what is actually happening and what is not, and what has
happened and what has not. This is the only distinction that has any permanent
value. The distinction between artificial and organic thinking is useful to a certain
point, or from a certain limited perspective. This is only because thinking has been
given a bad reputation. Its value is only to rescue thinking from the infamy that’s
clinging to it. Even though it is often not clear what the difference between organic
thinking and artificial thinking is, they’re both arising from unconscious processes,
based on actual life experiences. So it may well be that that distinction is not
always clear. One might imagine that the distinction between what is actually
happening and what is not actually happening should be, could be, might be more
clear: but not necessarily so.

We have a very deep tendency to be dishonest, to pretend things are happening

that are not happening, to pretend things are being felt that are not being felt, to
pretend that things have been done that have not been done, to pretend that
things are not actually happening that are actually happening. This tendency is so
deeply conditioned into us that it can become quite difficult to distinguish
between what is happening and what is not happening. But it is a distinction that
needs to be made if life is to stop being so problematic, if the decision making
process with which we will always be faced is to become less of a challenge, a
difficulty, a chore and more an amused, curious delight.

So many of the notions we have received about spirituality, freedom, wisdom,

enlightenment, awakening, are very, very serious. Spiritual people are usually very
serious people. Jesus was a serious kind of a guy, so the story goes. We don’t hear
stories about the Buddha partying, getting down naked with a bunch of students.
We don’t hear these kinds of things. It doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. You can
well imagine the Bikkhus having a censor office, “well they wouldn’t understand
that, oh no, not that…”
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So we’re left with somewhat imbalanced ideas, distorted pictures of the spiritual
dimension of life. Ideas that are on the heavy side, on the serious side. Yet one of
the fundamental qualities of seeing clearly is what in the Bhagavad Gita is called
‘light heartedness’. Having a light heart even in the face of profound difficulty. The
Tibetans identify playfulness as one of the qualities of enlightenment.

The trouble is we do have a lot of difficulty seeing clearly. Not even seeing the
origin and nature of phenomena, which can be pretty difficult. Even seeing what is
actually happening is tricky. Are you feeling sad, are you feeling lonely, are you
feeling happy, are you feeling fine, or not? When you start to meditate, when go in
search of clarity, it can become even more confusing. It can become even less clear
what you are actually feeling. What is it that is actually happening?

Perhaps the most common question that could easily come out of the meditative
process is “what on earth is this?” Eventually the question “what on earth is this?” is
answered with two words: “who cares!” Knowing exactly what it is is not as
important as that it actually is. If it is happening, whatever it may be that is
happening, it is happening and it is happening just the way that it is, and not in any
other way, nd it needs to be, it has to be, it can’t not be happening.

So if it’s thinking or not thinking, if it’s artificial thinking or organic thinking, it is

actually happening. Nothing else is actually happening in its place. Its actually
happening as a result of an ongoing matrix of conditioned forces and factors
completely beyond your control. This includes the power of gravity and the impact
of the electromagnetic force upon which all objects and actions depend. It includes
the genetic information in your cells, and the whole untraceable history of its
evolutionary origins in the continuity of your ancestors, only a very small
percentage of whom were vertical bipeds with thumbs. Being able to see clearly
the difference between what is and what is not, what is actually happening and
what is pure speculation is crucial not only to the art of meditation, but to a sane
and satisfying life.

Our interpretation of what is happening, our explanation of what is happening, our

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understanding of what is happening is secondary. It’s secondary importance is
minimal compared to recognising and especially accepting that it is happening.
This is also true even if it cannot be interpreted, even if it cannot be recognised,
even if it cannot be understood, explained, justified.

So when you’re meditating or when you’re sitting on the grass, just finished your
breakfast looking into somebody’s eyes or watching the sunset, these are all sweet
moments, enriching your life. When you’re doing these cherished things the
chances are that at least half the time thinking, or at least thought, is happening
because that’s the nature of mind. At the same time it’s an expression of the nature
of reality as oscillation, rhythm, duality.

Summer lasts more or less the same time as winter. Day and night last, if you count
them up over a year, more or less the same amount of time. Thinking and not
thinking also oscillate naturally, if we let them. The troubling truth is, however, that
we have become addicted to thinking, to driving thought beyond its requirement
with the neurotic sense of self. Nevertheless mind loves and longs for stillness. The
art of meditation is an enquiry into the possibility of letting it happen, of letting
stillness and silence back into the game.

When you sit still for a long time, it really doesn’t matter what is going through your
mind. It really doesn’t provided you are not resisting it, provided you are not
judging it, provided you are not trying to establish something else. It really makes
no significant difference at all. It means nothing of any significance other than that
life is happening and it’s happening in you just like that. It doesn’t mean you’re
uptight that your are thinking, it doesn’t mean you’re stupid that you can’t see
clearly, it doesn’t mean you’re not spiritual that you can’t control your mind. No-one
can actually control their mind, though you can learn to benefit from its rhythmic
nature. No-one can see clearly without looking deeply, without practice. The key to
those possibilities is letting go of resistance to what is actually happening: letting
go of judging yourself on the basis of the quality and nature of your thoughts
against a standard that is nothing more than expression of someone else’s

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If you are seeking a special kind of silence, a special kind of stillness, a special kind
of state which you have predefined in your ignorance as an absence of thinking or
an absence of perception, then of course you will resist thinking. You will resist
thinking somewhat, somehow, sometime. Then you won’t be able to enjoy what is
also happening as a result of staying still. .

When you’re sitting still condensation takes place inside the bodimind. You can use
all kinds of words to describe this condensation: coagulation, gathering,
thickening. You feel this when you stay still for a long time. You might call it energy,
you might call it prana, you might call it samadhi-power, you might call it
consciousness. It’s not really important what you call it, but you will feel it. It doesn’t
matter at all if you’re thinking or not. It makes no difference, unless you’re resisting
the thinking. Then it won’t accumulate because that resistance will spend it. If there
is no resistance to your thoughts then the energy that naturally accumulates in the
organism is no longer wasted in that resistance, and it gathers, it accumulates.

Resistance to thinking, such as judging it, resenting it, trying to stop it is the
problem, not thinking itself. I once went to Poland to do a two week sesshin at the
end of a six month Zen training in the mountains. There was a bunch of people
there who were in a very special state. They’d been living in serious retreat for six
months. I turned up and opened the door and there was this guy looked at me and
I never felt so welcome in my life. This complete stranger just opening the door to
me. He was so present, so still, but he was not not thinking. He immediately started
saying things.

I’d never been on more than ten days of meditation before and I was a bit nervous.
There were a lot of people there who had been there for six months. I was coming
four days before the last ten days of closing sesshin. I was a bit rough around the
edges compared to the others. So I was a bit apprehensive. Zen training is very
intense and very unaccommodating of even the most subtle form of bullshit. You
could be shouted at for things that you didn’t even know you were doing, but you
were. You could be hit for things that you didn’t even know that you were doing
but you were. You could be publicly called all kinds of uncompromising names! It’s
not exactly user friendly.
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I didn’t think I could handle 14 days of meditating, so I made a decision that I was
not going to meditate to start with. I decided for the first seven days to think about
sex, money, winning Wimbledon and raising the World Cup after having scored a
hat trick. I made this decision because I had meditated enough to know how my
mind worked, and what kind of bollocks it distracted itself with back then. After
four days I had done it all. I’d won the world cup many times. I’d hit every fast and
spin bowler for six. I’d fucked every beautiful woman on the planet, every which
way. I’d done it all and I was bored. I was totally bored! I was bored with sport, I was
bored with money, I was bored with sex. At least I was bored with thinking about

I don’t know if I’d ever known such stillness, such quietness as when I ran out of
things to fantasise about, to escape with. I found myself in a more favourable place
than I ever had after four days of trying to meditate. Finally I wasn’t trying to do
anything. Whereas when I’d been meditating I’d been trying to get enlightened
because that’s the Zen thing: you’ve got to ‘wake up! Now!’ I had decided instead
just to dream and I found that it was more effective because after a while you just
get bored with dreaming. Of course it doesn’t work if you only meditate 20 minutes
each day.

Anyway on day four I felt this condensation. I hadn’t noticed it happening because
I’d been busy fucking Brigitte Bardot again (this was a while ago), but it had
happened. Once I’d run out of fantasies it was just there. You might call it presence,
presence of awareness, presence of energy or whatever. It just comes through
when you're not doing anything physically or resisting anything mentally. When
you're not setting up and pursuing any intent. When you're not trying to impose
something on the body, not trying to impose something on the mind.

You could say this condensation, this thickening of awareness, of presence is

Samadhi. This presence, this samadhi is not obscured by thoughts. Samadhi is not
broken by sensations, by perceptions, by feelings, by images. It makes no difference
to Samadhi whether there are thoughts or perceptions or feelings. It makes no
difference at all. We are talking about Sabijasamadhi: we’re not talking about
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Nirbija Samadhi in which there are no thoughts because there is no awareness. A
thought in Samadhi is just like an eagle flying across the empty sky. It’s a beautiful
sight, creates a ripple of energy from one side to the other as it goes through, but
not if you try to catch it.

I don’t know how much bullshit has been spouted in the name of spiritual truth. A
lot more than we could collectively compute or even imagine. Thinking that
thought or the mind is the enemy is probably the worst. It is the most dangerous,
the most pernicious not least because it takes a mind to say that and it takes a
mind to hear that. It takes a mind to accept that and it takes a mind to reject that.
So to make the mind the enemy is to consort with the enemy at the same time as
making it the enemy. It’s doubly stupid and completely hypocritical.

This doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as no-mind. It doesn’t mean that
there’s no such thing as no-thinking. It just means that no-thinking doesn’t last very
long, and cannot be manufactured. Certainly you can’t measure it. Maybe it lasts a
tenth of a second but to you it may well feel like eternity. Silence only becomes
readily available when you are so relaxed that the stimuli that indicate the passage
of time are no longer changing because you’ve become so still in your body. Then
your mind responds to that stillness in the body and slows down, at least in
experiential terms even if not chronologically.

A thought such as “my leg hurts” has a beginning, middle and end: very clear ones.
Silence has no beginning, it has no end, it has no middle. It has no means of
measurement. There’s nothing to be measured. There’s nothing to measure by.
There’s no-one to do any measuring. So it’s as easily missed as it is easy to get lost
in. It’s as easy to not notice as it is to feel like it’s been there for ever because there
are no reference points when you’re in it.

Just as thinking is happening all the time, silence is happening all the time, and
that means all the time. The art of meditation is nothing more exotic than an
ongoing invitation to see clearly the oscillation between thoughts and no-thought,
between sound and silence. The most enjoyable way to experience this oscillation
is to chill out in verticality a lot. Now you don’t have to demand this, you don’t have
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to learn how to do this, your bodimind wants it desperately. So it will take you there
if you let it. Which means if you’re not trying to tell it where to go, if you’re not
trying to tell it what to do, if you’re not trying to tell it how to get there. It wants to
go there as often as possible. It wants to go into silence, but not at the expense of
thought. Not as if silence were in conflict with thinking.

In any given moment we have absolutely no control at all over the oscillating
process between silence and thinking: absolutely no control at all. Now it’s one
thing to intellectually understand that you are not in control of your mind. It is not
so hard to see that mental phenomena are totally conditioned and governed
inexorably by cause and effect. That’s not so hard to see. It is a little harder to totally
accept it. It’s even harder to recognise and be liberated by all of its implications. It
can take time, and ongoing enquiry, for that initial conscious recognition to filter
through the unconscious structure of our beliefs and totally dissolve the notion of
the central controller or self. This may not happen overnight. While it has still not
yet happened we are still going to be operated by the old assumptions of
autonomy, independence, volition and agency. We are still going to try to control
our mind, our thinking. Especially when we cross our legs on a cushion.

You can understand quite clearly that all phenomena are totally and inevitably
conditioned without fully accepting the implications of that. Then it is not only
your mind that you will seek to control, but your body, your desires, your feelings
too. We all know we are not in control of who we fancy, who we fall in love with. Yet
we still act as if we should be, could be, are.

What can you do if you fancy somebody, or you don’t? This is an organic
phenomenon and of course it doesn’t mean that you’ll fancy them in five years just
because you fancy them now. Seeing the conditioned nature of phenomena
deeply enough to know that there are no exceptions does not necessarily liberate
us. We still have to accept it, and not only consciously. We have to see that it is not
only the big things, the organic things that we can not control. We also have to see
that is the little things too. That we are NOT in control of our little finger any more
than our destiny, despite all those narcissistic new age best sellers. We can not be
no matter what we try, even though we can learn sometimes, somewhat to
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harmonise desire, intention and actuality.

What could be bigger, more important than love? Yet we have no control over
falling either in or out of love. If we did there would be no divorces and we would
only ever have one love. Who would ever choose to fall out of love? But we have no
control over these things. We have no control over who we fall in love with, and we
have no control of our falling out of love. We have no control of falling in and out of
lust with three or four people every day. We have no control over who we fancy.
Now this does not mean that we cant and don’t go in to denial about it. Of course
we do that all the time. But denial is not control, it’s just bullshit with a fast track to

Likewise we have no control over imposing stillness on the mind. But the mind
loves stillness, just as the heart yearns to love. They will both seek what they love.
The heart will seek to love, give it half a chance and it will leap. The mind will seek
silence if you give it half a chance. Which is simply this: leave it to do its thing. Just
leave it free, and when it has put its business to bed, it will seek silence. The mind’s
business is your business. It’s being done on behalf of your life.

Maybe Catherine really needs to make a decision: “should I move my butt six inches
forward or back?” Her body might be asking her to make this decision. If she tries to
stop making that decision because she’s supposedly meditating she is preventing
silence. The silence will come once she’s made her decision and responded to it. So
attempting to sit down and demand silence is not only foolish but it’s an invitation
to tension, dishonesty, frustration and despair.

We need to take good account of rhythm if we want to become comfortable with

ourselves, with life. Rhythm being another word for oscillation or fluctuation. Yet
at the same time rhythm implies harmony, order, resonance. Perhaps the most
obvious, intimate rhythms that we know are the beating of our hearts and the
oscillation of our breathing. Both of which are affected by stillness. Stillness is an
invitation to these organic rhythms to quieten and slow down, which means also to
extend in time.

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If, within our stillness, we pay close attention to the rhythm of our breath, this
attentiveness naturally slows it down. Any slowing of the breath, calms mind. In the
same way paying attention to the rhythms of mind, slows them down. Intimacy
with mental activity, which is how you could describe meditation, reveals many
rhythms in mental activity. There is a rhythm between being attentive to your seed
or intended focus, and being inattentive to it. Within being attentive to your seed
many also discern a rhythm between attending to it with thinking and attending to
it without thinking and attending to it without thought.

So if breathing is your seed that there may well be moments when you’re just
feeling your breathing without a thought; then there may be moments when
you’re having a thought about your breathing; then there are moments when
you’re deliberately thinking about breathing; finally there are moments when
you’re thinking about something else altogether. So these are four quite different
orbits within the spectrum of mental activity focussing on the breath. Then there is
also rhythm between awareness of breathing and no awareness at all.

One of the things that sooner or later becomes obvious to an honest and open
enquiry, but can elude the anxiously seeking mind forever, is that we have
absolutely no control over these fluctuations or rhythms. They’re just happening
the way that they’re happening as they’re happening when they’re happening. Yet
there is a dynamic or a mechanism whereby these fluctuations are happening. The
fluctuations in mental activity, in your attention, in your awareness are driven by
exactly the same mechanism: exactly the same mechanism that drives every aspect
of being human.

This mechanism is driving the way I’m manipulating this stick, completely
unintentionally. It’s driving the way that you’re adjusting your body in relationship
to gravity, with or without intention. This mechanism is the oscillating duality of the
pain/pleasure mechanism. In essence life is the result of pleasure and death is the
result of pain. Pleasure is life and pain is death. This is behind it all, this is behind
every human action and experience, without exception. No matter how
differentiated our pain/pleasure spectrums may be, we are all functioning within
one. We’re all being driven by the fact that life must seek pleasure and avoid pain.
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Every cell, every tissue, every organ, every body is driven by that and only that,
even when the mechanism has been sophisticated to the point of being able to see
temporary pain as contributing to future pleasure. However, pleasure has been
given a bad reputation in spiritual circles. So such a notion can be deeply
distasteful to the holy, to the spiritual. There is no end to the imaginative
possibilities of a mind that cannot face reality.

Nevertheless reality is composed of rhythm, like it or not. Summer has to become

Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer again. Day and night likewise. Satisfaction has
to become dissatisfaction. It is not possible to remain completely satisfied within
the human body because rhythm is taking place: shedding, accumulating, giving,
opening, closing, creating a rhythm between satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
Dissatisfaction and satisfaction can be very, very subtle. The satisfaction that results
from drinking when you’re thirsty is soon forgotten until it becomes dissatisfaction
as you become thirsty again. Yet the rhythm has been playing itself out
continuously. The oscillation is going continuously but only when it crosses a
certain threshold do you notice it. Very often you notice it only because you act,
because you move, because your tongue licks the top of your mouth, or whatever.
You do not notice the subtle sensations that produce the action.

Action is always an expression of dissatisfaction even if it is a compassionate

response to something or someone else. Reaching for a cup to satisfy your thirst is
an expression of dissatisfaction. Seeing somebody looking confused and asking if
you can help is en expression of a dissatisfied heart: the human heart is deeply
sensitive to suffering.

More obviously, organic actions are always determined, caused by dissatisfaction.

Organic actions means actions arising out of the needs of the organism. These are
all actions which originates at a cellular level. So when we’re meditating and mind
is going away from or towards our seed, this is always happening on the basis of
pain and pleasure. Very often the pain pleasure oscillation is driven by boredom.
People find the same recurring stimulation boring, and that’s dissatisfying,
uncomfortable, disturbing. So mind moves. It doesn’t really matter where it moves,
so long as it moves it feels better. After a while that movement becomes
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dissatisfying and so the mind moves to something else. This is a totally natural,
inevitable and uncontrollable process.

Nevertheless that doesn’t mean it doesn’t change. Of course it changes the more
you experience the dissatisfaction of a mind moving at random. Then it happens
less because it is dissatisfying. You have learned, and are being conditioned by the
fact that it’s more pleasurable to be present. So you become more present simply
because it is more enjoyable to be present, not because you’ve heard about the
supposed importance of choosing to be present. If you believed such nonsense,
you’d never be happy again, because you would be attempting to deny fluctuation,
you’d be attempting to deny rhythm, you’d be attempting to make yourself always
present. Any making, any intention of course pulls you into time and out of the
present, which has no duration, no time.

Meditation, like all experiences, is a conditioning process: it modifies, changes or

deepens your existing conditioning. Whether it is an open, honest and generous
enquiry into that which is actually happening, or a misguided attempt to improve
or control anything at all, it is a conditioning process. Given the stillness of the body
and the focus of energy this gives to mental activity, it is a very powerful
conditioning process. When meditation is an attempt to make anything happens it
conditions the mind to stay noisy and in conflict with itself, while reinforcing the
false authority of the illusory self. When meditation is a genuine enquiry it
conditions the mind to become quiet and at peace. This is not proof that we are in
control of our minds. This is just another expression of the conditioned and
conditioning nature of all phenomena.

When meditation is an open and honest enquiry, when it is not seeking anything at
all, when it’s not attempting to improve or establish or control anything at all, but
when it’s an open, honest and generous enquiry into that which is actually
happening, meditation is still a conditioning process, a very powerful conditioning
process. You could say that meditation conditions the mind to be quiet, conditions
the mind to be still more easily and more often, on the basis of it being more
enjoyable when the mind is still than when the mind is moving without purpose.
Not because you become better, not because you become more spiritual. It’s
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because you’ve taken the time to sit still and all the energy that you normally
release through action and thinking is not released; it builds up and you feel it as a
pleasure. Like all pleasures it calls you back to its setting again and again:

You can put any terminology you like on this process: your awareness deepening,
your presence solidifying, whatever, but there it is. Through not releasing that
energy, it just builds up by itself. It builds up because you’re not dispersing it in
actions and dispersing it less than usual in mental reactions. This energy that
accumulates naturally as a result of stillness can lead to all kinds of things
happening. Many of which are at the pleasure end of the spectrum. This itself can
be a problem, if you then seek to have those experiences again. It becomes a
problem when you don’t get them, which you wont if your seeking them, as the
seeking always creates tension. You may experience that tension as intensity and
not realise that what you’re creating is hardness, tension. But you don’t need to set
up that seeking, your cells will seek the return of pleasure. The depths of your
bodimind, beneath the functioning of intention, will seek it. That’s what pleasure
does, it calls you back. There’s no pleasure as satisfying as the pleasure of sitting
still, though there may be many more exciting.

Mental activity is not physical activity. You can all vouch to the nature of my
physical activity right now. You cannot vouch for the nature of my mental activity,
and you never can. Mental activity is a far more subtle, far more elusive, far more
opaque activity. Its subtlety, its elusiveness means that meditating doesn’t bring a
quiet mind in the beginning. You’re a beginner until you have learned to let your
mind go, to sit without expectation, hope, intention and desire. This can actually be
very elusive. You will need to sit more than half an hour every few days. You will
have to develop a passion, a love for sitting. The only way you can get there is
through the pleasure, tasting the deep, subtle pleasure of sitting still. It doesn’t
matter if your mind is busy. The more busy your life the longer it will take for your
mind to settle down. If you sit long enough it will. Try an hour twice a day. You have
the time, give it the commitment. Once a week do it four times a day. Once a
month do it eight hours for two days. You won’t regret it, though your legs might to
begin with. Be kind to your legs. Take the time to arrange them with care so you
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don’t need to move them. Make sure your lumbar curve is naturally, effortlessly

Your body needs to be your primary concern, your main focus in the beginning.
First you need to establish a stable verticality, on the basis of the effortless
relationship between legs, floor, bum and cushion. There must be no leaning into
or pressing down with your legs. Then you just need to tune into your body and
invite the motor and respiratory muscles to relax as much as possible. Feel as
clearly and continuously as you can the sensations being generated by your body.
You don’t need to choose any, just let your attention be taken by those that reveal
themselves. Allow your attentiveness to support muscular release.

Once your body has deeply relaxed it will become more quiet. The sensations that
reveal its presence will become more quiet, more soft, more consistent and less
noticeable. The sensations generated by your breathing will start to be the most
obvious ones. Allow them to take your attention, wherever they arise. Give your
attention as deeply as possible to the sensations generated by your breathing.
Don’t worry that it keeps getting distracted, just come back to your body as your
breathing. This is the doorway through which you will be taken into the
unconscious, eventually.

Nevertheless the beginning period is always something of a circus, or ‘a wild bull in

a china shop’. This can only too easily be taken to be a problem or wrong. It can be
assumed that mind should be still, but mind becomes still in its own time. Any
attempt to impose stillness is to push it away. Sure you can mimic stillness for a
while. But this does no real good even though it may satisfy your ambition, your
self image for a little while.

Silence, stillness, meditation, is not likely to be the absence of all thinking but it can
become the absence of rogue or artificial thinking. You could say artificial thinking
is the result of an assumption set, at the root of which is volition. The fruit of which
is that the mountain you are sitting on could have been different from what it is or
that the trees should be different from the way that they are. They are not. So it’s
artificial in that it is not based in reality, it is not based on what is actually
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happening. It’s based on the speculative abstraction of possibility: to misquote T S
Eliot. Now of course, as we know, a huge proportion of human thinking and
conversation is artificial in this sense.

What contribution can it possibly make to the living of your life to read Hello
magazine except perhaps to make you dissatisfied with your own life, to make you
envious of David Beckham getting an extra few hundred thousand for exposing his
bad taste to the world? What possible good can it do to speculate about the
motivations of other people? None at all, but a lot of harm it can do, and we all put
a lot of energy into it. Not being able to distinguish between artificial and organic
thinking can be a problem if you think that thinking is a problem. And you do, you
have been infected with that belief that thinking is a problem. Therefore if you can’t
make this distinction you are at war with your means of survival, your mind. Mental
activity is fundamental for your survival in its production of organic thoughts.

Artificial thinking is the medium of the Blame Game”. The obvious expression of the
Blame Game is: “you shouldn’t have done that.” More subtle is: “why did you do
that?” when it is actually not so much a question as a veiled accusation of wrong
doing. “Why do you do these things?” is the Blame Game being played out in
subtlety. The Blame Game rests upon the assumption of autonomy and volition.
The assumption of volition creates the impression of a doer. It creates a belief that
there is somebody who is in control of the actions taking place through an
organism. That there is a somebody or something in control of the thoughts
passing through the mind, the thoughts that produce actions in the body.

These questions are the Blame Game without the blame being visible yet. The
blame is about to come: if you give the wrong answer. Even more subtle than “why
are you doing that?’ is just saying: “he did that” or “she said that” without realising
that human beings are only instruments of action and thought, not originators.
That we are agents of the conditioning matrix out of which every thought and
action is generated by its indivisible network of irresistible factors and forces.

Tony’s about to leave today because something happened on the other side of the
globe. Something quite significant that is going to cause him some big problems.
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The normal interpretation is to assume that somebody did it to him, that
somebody made a nasty decision, that somebody uptight fucked him over.
Whereas in fact something has just happened and that happening needs to be
responded to. It is not somebody’s decision, somebody’s prejudices, somebody’s
uptightness that needs to be responded to, their consequences need to be
responded to within a recognition that they too were consequences.

Yesterday Tony said: “well there must be something we’re in control of” But there
isn’t. Any attempt to stay in or get in control of even the slightest thing hurts, even
if that hurt is not felt. I happened to be listening to Ramesh talking to Olivia when
she. asked: “if we’re not the body and if we’re not the mind what are we then?”
Ramesh replied: “Olivia is nothing but a robot.” This is a distasteful word to apply to
a human being. It’s not exactly a compliment to be told that you are nothing but a
robot. However she wasn’t told that. What he said was: “Olivia is nothing but a
robot.” He didn’t say: “You are nothing but a robot”.

What’s the difference?

Not much semantically, but all the difference in the world psychologically. Robot is
a hard word to get your head around because we’re so deeply required by
convention to assume otherwise. We are supposed to have a reason for every
mistake we’ve ever made, to find their cause in our decisions, our desires, our
inclinations. That perspective, that conditioning is very deep. That’s what makes it
difficult to accept the robot label, the prior conditioning that we are free,
independent agents of action and intention. The prior conditioning that we are
endowed with free will, is so strong. This conditioning generates the assumption
that you can and the belief that you should be in control of your decisions,
thoughts, actions. This is not only in conventional culture but in spiritual culture
too. There’s virtually no escape from this conditioning but when you do find it, then
it takes you towards the pleasure end of the spectrum, towards relief, relaxation. It
is necessary to recognise that the fragmented perspective of autonomy, of volition,
of self and other is very, very deeply conditioned. It is not going to dissolve itself
just like that: unless it’s already actually falling apart.

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Sometimes conditioned structures do fall apart quite unexpectedly. You hear
stories about people walking through the market place and hearing a word, a
sentence or a sutra and it happens. They were not even aware how ripe they were,
that everything was already falling apart. Or maybe nothing had ever really
coalesced. A deed is not done by a doer. A deed is just an event in the fabric of
space time. It is an impersonal event taking place through the interaction of
instruments or agents that take themselves to be other than robots. In that taking
things get fucked up.

Not so obviously, that’s inevitable if it happens. Whatever happens happens

because it is necessitated to by the network of totally conditioned forces and
factors that generates it. If something happens it doesn’t happen by itself. It is
made to happen. It’s not made to happen by an isolated decision, thought or
reaction. It’s made to happen by the flow of totality, the flow of the matrix, the flow
of space-time circumstance. This does not mean it was supposed to happen. It
simply means it had to happen, because of the nature of causality and its
causation. This does not mean that there is an architect, a ‘supposer’ willing things
to happen. The “will of god” concept is misleading if it’s given an anthropomorphic

There is no supposer, there is no doer, there is no chooser, there is no decider. There

is none. That doesn’t just mean that you’re not one, there is none. God is just a
concept. It’s a very handy and powerful concept but also a very dangerous one.
‘Being’ is just a concept. ‘Nothing’ is just a concept. ‘The Source’ is just a concept.
‘Freedom’ is just a concept. ‘Enlightenment is just a concept.

LIfe, however, takes place in experience: hot, cold: pain, pleasure; like it, don’t like it.
These are not concepts. Pain is not a concept, it’s organic. Pain is more real than
God. Confusion is more real than God, God is just a concept. Now, this does not
mean that the word and concept God point to nothing. They do, though usually
they point to a confusion of unacknowledged and unexamined beliefs fighting
with each other.

If you’re meditating and you haven’t been moved and you haven’t been thought,
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there’s been this amazing accumulation of energy. You could call this the ‘Presence
of God’. That’s cool. I could say that with total sincerity too. The concept ‘God’ simply
means that there’s not some local, independent, autonomous agent doing
anything. Our agency, our ability to act and think is totally conditioned by the
indivisible wholeness of totality which because it contains all things, all power, all
knowledge seamlessly within itself is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.
These are the three qualities by which God is most clearly defined. So God is a
pertinent word, provided it is not anthropomorphised.

What do you mean by anthropomorphised?

I mean attributing human qualities to something that is not human. This is a very
common form of arrogance that causes so much confusion. Not least the
conviction that there is no coherence, nor implicit harmony in the the universe, in
existence, just because there quite obviously is no independent designer of the
kind the Biblical God was supposed to be.

Nevertheless ‘God’ is a handy short cut to refer to the concept of indivisible,

omnipotent, omniscient omnipresence. Still, it’s just a concept. There is an
accumulation of energy when you sit still and you can conceptualise it as God, or
whatever. That may or may not be helpful. When you conceptualise the fruits of
practical experience effectively, your life becomes totally different. When you
recognise and accept the implications of the conditioned nature of all phenomena,
then you can be lived spontaneously, organically, intelligently. You don’t say: “I’m
enlightened.’” That’s just a concept. Nor do you say: ‘“I am free:” that’s just a concept.
Spontaneity, or absence of resistance, is something that just happens. It does not
happen to somebody, it just happens in a particular spacetime location that
happens to be a mobile , conscious, self-aware organism. A human being is the
most sophisticated organism, or robot, that life has yet produced.

A robot has no control over its programming and therefore has no control over its
thoughts, actions, nor their consequences. Ramesh is what you could call a ‘hard
core, no prisoners taken’ teacher. Yet as a man he is a soft little sweetie pie. Some
spiritual teachers hand out sweeties. Ramesh never hands out sweeties. Now I find
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that very reassuring. I trust the facility of whatever it is that’s functioning through
him. He could easily have said to Olivia: “Olivia is nothing but a robot but you are
not Olivia,” and handed her a little sweetie, so that she could relax about being a
robot. But the point is, you have to not relax about being a robot. You have to be
willing to stare it in the face without any sugary coating. You have to see that you
have absolutely no control over anything at all, which is so obvious if you’re paying

The reason we don’t pay attention is that the idea of being totally out of control is
so unpleasant. But to not be in control does not mean that you are out of control.
What it means is that there is no controller because there is no control. It also
means there is no non-controller, nor out-of-controller. There is no-one in control
and there is no-one not in control. Besides which everything is already exquisitely

If you look closely it’s very easy to see that you’re not in control. It’s not so easy to
see that there is no one that’s not in control, because it feels like there is. That there
is no controller, that there is no doer, because there is no person inside the
bodimind controlling it means there is no issue about control or no control, about
organic or artificial. The distinction between artificial thinking, organic thinking, in
control or not in control, free will or destiny, becomes a false dichotomy that rests
upon a false premise: the premise of the independent, autonomous self. Exactly the
same false dichotomy is enlightened/deluded, good/bad, right/wrong. Things are
just happening. They are not happening to you, although some of them are
happening through you.

When we see what “things are just happening” means really clearly we start to let
go of trying to control everything. Now we all know, if we are being honest, how
much we are all control freaks. All of us, at least to begin with. Trying to control our
minds, our thoughts, our feelings. Trying to control our actions, and their reactions.
Trying to control the actions, feelings and thoughts of others. Its endless. Its
exhausting. Its bullshit. Sooner or later we are going to need to let go of all that. We
are going to be hyper-driven into an irresistible need to relax. We really do need to
relax, to let go, to allow life to happen without our interference. Only then can it
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become an ongoing delight, even if and when it gets tricky and painful.

When terminology such as ‘allowing’ or ‘relaxing’ or ‘letting go’ or ‘inviting’ is used,

even if without a subject, they’re heard as if there is a subject. A subject doing that
allowing, doing that relaxing, doing that inviting. To the extent that we continue to
think in the old way, the old way will be upheld. So long as we continue to think
multiplisticly and divisively, we will remain fractured. So long as we continue to
imply by “I did that,” and “she said this,” that human beings are possessed of
autonomy, then we’re going to remain in resistance. We’re going to be insisting that
we are split off from the whole. Although we will not actually be split off from the
whole, we will just be pretending that we are, and deeply suffering that pretence.

It is not so hard to see the conditioned and indivisible nature of all phenomena.
Totality in its indivisible wholeness is not so hard to grasp. It is a little harder to see
from that that there is no doer: anywhere. From that it is also a little tricky to see
the illusory and apparent natures of volition simultaneously. If we are to become
truly comfortable in life that seeing must percolate into the very way that we think.
Then it will express itself not only by us thinking differently, but speaking and
acting differently.

why do you say it’s not possible to live without thinking?

Because it’s true

says who?

Says anyone who has actually learned to think, rather than just repeat platitudes.
Of course, it’s possible to imagine living without thinking. We know from
experience that thinking, or conscious thinking, can stop for a while. Even a long
while when we are free from obligation and responsibility. Yet we don’t have any
evidence that this can become permanent. Anyway why on earth would we want it
to? Thought can produce great delight, deep generosity and loving action. It’s only
when we have not recognised the full spectrum of thinking, and include the babies
with the bathwater that we think we need to eradicate thinking entirely.
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why does everyone say you need to stop the mind, stop thinking?

The answer to that question is the answer to why don’t people learn to think for
themselves instead of relying on hand-me downs. Whatever the possibilities may
be, the fact remains that most of us are disturbed, dismayed, depressed and
otherwise tyrannised by our thinking, but only because it’s uneducated. As long as
it remains so we are vulnerable to spiritual predators. So best get down to it now!

what is a spiritual predator?

A spiritual predator is someone, or something, that, consciously or unconsciously

wants to exploit your dissatisfaction and your ignorance, while pretending to help
you spiritually, to become enlightened, free or whatever. Most of them are doing it
unconsciously, and usually because it was done to them. Nevertheless what they
do is encourage and manipulate you to believe what they say, and to act
accordingly, which usually means keep trying to do something impossible that
they claim or imply they can do. Your continuous failure translates as your
continuing need for their guidance. Even though they are guiding you up their
garden path, and like as not to the fertility of their bank balance. Your ignorance is
the fertiliser, even if they are not asking for money, they are dependent on you for
their self image. It’s bullhsit, but it’s very, very common.

Tony came to speak to me a couple of days ago. As a result I made some statements
which turned out to be false, because he went and changed his mind! Now what
do I mean when I say that? I actually mean his mind changed. Not really that his
mind changed either, as he really has no mind, as we may see. What I mean is that
his thinking has changed, and not he has changed his thinking. He cannot change
his thinking. He has no real control over his thinking. He can’t keep his mind quiet
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and he can’t control what it thinks about, even if he can use his intention to
influence it momentarily. This is hardly control. Just think about a soccer player, he
needs to be able to control the ball, not just occasionally provide a little input.
Same with an equestrian.

Of course we like to flatter ourselves, even need to flatter ourselves, that what we
can do with our minds is control them. We can’t though, as any honest meditator
can tell you. This doesn’t mean that we are at the mercy of our minds either. By
basing meditation on genuine enquiry, enquiry that has no subtle sub-agenda of
control, we can come to understand how intention, understanding and experience
are very real factors in the activity of our mind, though with much less significance
than we may have thought. Rather than being in control of our thoughts, our
minds we are to a great extent, controlled through them by the seamless matrix of
life. This doesn’t make us impotent victims, as we will find out if our meditation
takes us deep enough to the source of our thoughts and thinking. It does of course
reveal our robotic nature on the way to revealing our deeper nature.

We grow up believing that human beings are autonomous, independent agents

being nice or nasty to each other according to their own inclination on the basis of
their own free will. This is not only nonsense. It’s dangerous nonsense. It leads not
only to resentment and recrimination, shame and blame but to psychological and
behavioural aggression and hostility which peaks in world wars. All stemming from
assuming that instruments of action are their cause, that agency is ownership.
Certainly we can act, and act voluntarily without coercion. In this sense we are
certainly agents, unlike pebbles and raindrops. However there is no genuine
freedom in this agency. We cannot choose what we want, except when we choose
amongst a range of things that we want. Yet those options were not chosen by us,
nor their hierarchy of significance or preference, they are all simply recognised.

This is not so easy to see unless your mind is genuinely open. Otherwise the power
of psychological and social conditioning and the unconscious assumptions they
have embedded in your unconscious will just drive you to seek their confirmation.
The whole of our social contract, in every culture, is based on the assumption of

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autonomous agency. Not only because that’s how it seems, but because that
makes it easier for us to regulate our interactions.

Nevertheless if we look closely enough we find that it’s not actually like that, and
that the way it actually is far more positive and fruitful. To see this we have to go
very deep, but that is not so hard. We have a powerful longing for depth, just as we
have a powerful longing for truth. They need to come together if we are to know
any peace more permanent than the temporary oscillation away from difficulty. As
they do we need to be able to see that we are functioning as highly sophisticated
self aware, choice making robots with open ended, dynamic programmability.

Most people know the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The mind-body
organism is the book, the story is the programming and the cover is the actions
that we see being done by that organism. You have to read the story from cover to
cover. Then you can see that these are just programmes and there’s no programmer
in there making it all happen. There is no-one lurking inside the organism. Reading
the book from cover to cover is not a matter of reprogramming by a programmer.
It’s a spontaneous reprogramming that takes place on the basis of pushing back
the barrier between the conscious and unconscious mind, which occurs on the
basis of undertaking meditation as enquiry into what is actually happening.
Eventually this enquiry reveals the totally programmed nature of mental activity,
but in an open-ended way. Uncovering it changes it, because nothing is exempt
from cause and effect, nothing is exempt from conditioning and the light of
conscious awareness is a powerful conditioning cause, just as is consciously
worked out understanding. The effect is to reveal what is actually happening in and
as mental activity so clearly and fully that the derived and delusional notion of an
inner programmer dissolves.

There are many layers to this open ended programming, and programmes are
being reinforced, modified, weakened, and even relinquished and generated all the
time. There is so much intelligence functioning in your bodimind by way of the
consciousness that animates it, and it is all capable of participating in
reprogramming. We are not like computers. Their programming is not open ended,
they cannot learn in the ways that we can. Our programmability is based in our
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DNA, which itself is the result of millions of years of spontaneous programming
without a programmer.

All this programming actually began somewhere. When we go very deep into our
own programming, and see very clearly what is actually happening in and as our
mental activity we encounter this origin, without necessarily seeing it for what it is.
The core of our programmability, the intelligence driving our programmes, our
DNA is the intelligence of consciousness. If any of you were evolutionary biologists
you would probably take offence at that unjustified statement. However if you
were as much a scientist as an evolutionary biologist, and unable to relinquish the
spirit of enquiry, you would have to apply your research skills to my proposition.
You would have to go down deep into your programming and find the source of its
code in the intelligence of consciousness. This is potentially possible for anyone. It’s
only a matter of interest. If your interest is deep enough you will get there, because
you are equipped with the resources to do so. If it isn’t, you won’t.

Deep in the heart of your awareness, deep in the roots of your intelligence, deep in
the code of your programming lies their source: the impersonal intelligence of
consciousness. Functioning as it does through the wiring of your human organism
it generates certain subtle qualities that express themselves within its more
obvious functioning as the intelligence of your mind and the intelligence of your
body. These qualities reveal themselves to the quiet focus of internalised attention:
no matter what internal point of focus has brought that quietness about. Becoming
absorbed in your navel reveals the same qualities as absorption in the presence of
your hands, throat or perineum. Once mind gets down to the bare bones of its
ability to recognise, to interpret, it encounters its own limits. In slipping past those
limits awareness is lost as you are taken by what Patanjali calls Nirbijasamadhi,
within which there is not only no seer and no seen, but no seeing either. It is to be
taken by the vast, limitless emptiness which is the fertile, pregnant womb of all that
exists. In doing so it is as if nothing at all exists. Of course you can’t experience that,
there being no experiencer, no experience.

Nevertheless you can learn to understand that it does happen, by becoming

familiar with its happening. As you do so you will find that this total dissolution of
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awareness is bracketed by awareness-of, to which there are many, many layers of
interpretation upon which your recognition and experience of objects, action,
reactions and feelings depends. When awareness-of is at its minimal, which can be
either on entering or leaving the void, it has consistently recognisable qualities:
such as openness, spaciousness, lightness, delight, peace, love. Of course all of
these are interpretations made by mind of something other than mind being
interpreted. That something is the presence of consciousness itself.

Strictly speaking all experience, all awareness-of, is an expression of consciousness

experiencing itself. Usually, however, there is no understanding that this is what is
happening. It seems that a local, transient, autonomous and independent centre
and source of awareness is experiencing feelings, thoughts, actions, events and
objects, most of which are external to its field of identity, which is usually restricted
to the tri-dimensionality (body, mind, spirit) of the human life within which it is
taking place.

Nevertheless, when awareness consciously oscillates at its own threshold enough it

begins to dawn in mind that it is recognising the subtle presence of consciousness
itself. When the particular perceptible characteristics that reveal the presence of
your hand are stripped way while you feel more and more deeply and clearly the
presence of your hand, eventually you lose touch with ‘skinness’, boneness’,
‘hardness’, ‘softness’, and all the other notions upon which your notion, and
experience, of your hand depend. Before you lose all awareness, and dissolve into
nirbijasamadhi, you will encounter these core, subtle qualities, all of which are a
pleasure to experience. This happens no matter whether you are tuning into your
hand, your navel, your perineum or any other part or parts of your body. It even
happens when you become one with emotions: sadness, loneliness, anger.

You are experiencing, as deeply as it is possible to remain in experience, the deep,

subtle core and source of the intelligence that lies at the heart of, and drives not
only the shape, structure and functioning of your body, but also the programmes
that drive its behaviour, along with your perceptual, cognitive and emotional
activity. All of your programming, biological, physiological, biomechanical,
energetic, perceptual, cognitive, affective and behavioural are based on the deep
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code of consciousness, only part of which is contained in your DNA.

Of course this is all a metaphor. It is not a description of the nature of reality. It is

offering you a tool to navigate and enrich your experience of being human, by
allowing you to look more deeply and see more clearly, perhaps!!! Nevertheless it is
a powerful metaphor if you use it wisely.

What you want, what you feel, what you think, what you seek are always changing:
no matter how much the same things keep coming round and round again. Yet
they all take place within an unchanging context, by the light of an inescapable
faculty: conscious awareness. Yet conscious awareness is only the tip of the iceberg
of consciousness. Consciousness is the ground. Consciousness is the context, the
frame, within which all programmes run. While consciousness is not exactly a
programme it does function in particular ways. The way that it functions depends
on the hardware its functioning through. This creates a set of organic

Through the tongue it functions as tasting. Through the nose it functions as

smelling. Through the ears it functions as hearing. Through the eyes it functions as
seeing. Through the skin it functions as feeling. Through the mind it functions as
analysing, evaluating, recognising. We can metaphorically summarise all these
mental and perceptual functions as ‘seeing’. Seeing is what consciousness is.
Looking is what happens when consciousness is focussed as awareness-of. When
consciousness is focussed it is looking, listening, touching, tasting, smelling,
enquiring. These are the organic meta-programmes.

Eyes are looking in order to see. Ears are looking in order to hear. This is what they
do by nature, inherently, organically, continuously. They don’t need to be told to do
it. The doing of it is what they are. What they are all doing is allowing mind to
enquire into what is actually happening. Enquiry is the fundamental mental
programme, its organic meta-meta-programme. Cells are looking at their
environment and seeing danger or nourishment and responding accordingly.
Tissues, organs, organisms are doing the same. Minds are doing the same thing. It
all is at the service of existence and increase, surviving and flourishing.
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While consciousness generates its programme of enquiry and looking, the body
has its inherent programmes. The most basic ones are concerned with simple
survival. This is based on unerring cellular sensitivity to environmental
differentiations. Every cell needs a specific range of environmental qualities in
order to survive. An even narrower range in order to thrive. Every cell of your body,
alone and in relationship to others as tissues and organs, is in a state of acute
sensitivity. A sensitivity that is designed to secure its survival. To secure the best
possible conditions that it can.

This comes all the way out to your conscious intentions. You always want, as you
must, the best possible circumstances that you can get. This is inescapable, this
applies to everybody, to Shakyamuni the Buddha, to Jesus Christ Superstar, to
David Beckham, to the Pope, to each one of us. We want the best possible
circumstances that we can get, different though whatever that might mean to us
may well be. This comes out from a cellular level into the totality of our programme
structure. The problem is we’re full of rogue programmes, and they usually end up
dominating our organic programmes.

An organic programme is generated by the intelligence of the body, or the

intelligence of mind in order to take care of the bodimind and its place in the
Totality, and is always satisfied by the actions that it generates. A rogue programme
arises from the sense of self, and can never be satisfied no matter how often it
generates the same, or similar actions.

When we are, as we are, identified with our rogue programmes, then we are
constantly being disappointed, we are constantly feeling let down. Not just by life,
but by others. That feeling of being let down by life, of being let down by others is
only possible if you’re identifying with rogue programmes, neurotic programmes.
That identification comes from being taken by them blindly. The disidentification,
or the freedom from them, begins when they function in the light of conscious
awareness. Then, you see not only the programme but its rogue nature. Then you
see that it’s arising from and in support of something that does not exist: the
allower, the programmer, the controller, the doer, the self.
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Rogue programmes activate because your attention has become narrow. It is
narrow because you are seeking something intentionally, as opposed to
organically. You are seeking to improve your circumstances through your own
limited power, according to your own limited understanding, without realising that
neither are enough, simply because they are both illusory. The rogue nature of the
source of that seeking, the deeply misunderstood self, prevents any genuine
satisfaction. It can’t provide satisfaction because it’s not organic, because it’s
artificial. It can’t work because the energy involved in the deep meta-meta-
programme of seeking, and its more superficial functional programmes, activate in
the service of something that doesn’t exist: the independent, autonomous self. This
self is something that cannot be satisfied. It is by its very nature the expression of

All that programming needs to be seen through. This is not the same as getting rid
of it. Self improvement through deliberate change is a bottomless pit of self-
deception and frustration. When you see deeply enough through your rogue
programmes to the rogue meta-programme of the self they lose their power. As
the self-meta-programme loses its power so the other rogue programmes lose
their momentum and place.

Your integrity is longing for that, so that, like Rumi, you can say: “I am that rock, this
cat, you, everything, God.”

When meditation, and life, is simply an enquiry into the possibility of being truly
human, then you will not know your integrity, the depths and significance of your
own nature. If you are not approaching meditation, life, as an enquiry, if your
orientation is to getting rather than giving you will never know your inherent
integrity, your satisfying depths. You need to let go of what you think you can get
into what you have to give. If not you will continuously oscillate between deep
troughs of dissatisfaction and brief moments of respite, that in your ignorance you
call happiness. Happiness is not something you can know about as long as your
identified with your actions, feelings and thoughts. It is what comes necessarily
when that identification has stopped, no matter what the tone and quality of
passing circumstance.
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When unpleasant and unwanted things happen, the usual response is to be taken
by rogue programmes expressing the wounded self. “Why is this happening to
me?’”, “What’s wrong with me, that I’m not being given what I want, that I’m not
getting what I want out of life?”, “What’s wrong with me that I’m struggling?”.

This is the voice of rogue programming. We are so used to these programmes we

think they are what we are, even though they have been learned and are often
changing. We think we are the hard-done by one, the gracious one, the efficient
one. Whereas our grace and efficiency, our incompetence and surliness are
programmed reactions to environmental input. Once we have given our sense of
self some characteristics we keep looking for their confirmation. Of course this
requires we overlook or deny their opposites. So our self-image solidifies and our
perceptual and cognitive responses become more fixed in their selectivity.

Rogue programmes don’t tell the truth. Organic programmes do. Organic
programmes tell you when it’s time to eat and sleep, and when it’s time to change
environments. Rogue programmes are just the self talking itself up with its endless
capacity for story-telling. Whenever you are defending yourself, defining yourself,
proclaiming your self as an individual, autonomous entity with the personal power
to make things happen, or whenever you define, or attack another in the same way,
you’re in the grip of a rogue programme.

It doesn’t matter what you’re saying about yourself. It doesn’t matter how righteous
it sounds. It doesn’t matter how clever it is. It doesn’t matter how deeply it
resonates with the Vedas, the Bible, Koran or Upanishads, it’s a rogue programme
running away with itself. But if you see it to be that it stops running. It is running on
your inner tension, your inability to relax enough to see clearly. If you look it in the
eye it will stop dead in its track. In the privacy of your own mind there is no need
for referents to the self (i, me, mine). They do not help you to stay alive, and they do
not help you to flourish and thrive. They are the labels the rogue meta-programme
is using as it is running away with you. When your body is thirsty it turns towards
the water source.

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For this stopping (nirvana) to take place you don’t have to conceptualise. Seeing
clearly that these expressions, these voices, are artificial spontaneously silences
them, even if only temporarily. All you have to do is look deeply enough, enquire
sincerely enough. Then the programme stops, just like that. You do not have to stop
it. You cannot stop it. This kind of stopping is not another programme, it’s a natural
result of clarity.

Assuming that there is a stopper is the most fundamental meta-programme that

then uses other programmes to confirm itself. “I don’t like it” is another matter. That
is an expression of an organic programme, however extrapolated out from the
cellular level. But “it shouldn’t be like this” is not organic, it cannot help survival, it’s
just moaning, resistance, ‘duhkha’. “It shouldn’t be like this” is an expression of a
rogue programme that puts a brake on the flow of life. The axle of life can’t turn
freely anymore: that’s what ‘duhkha’ means.

When all of these rogue programmes stop you’ll know what silence means. It
doesn’t mean an absence of sound, it doesn’t mean an absence of thinking. It
means that thinking, action, feeling, body, breath, mind and spirit are all in
harmony. No-one is calling out for special attention: this is silence for human
beings. No-one is claiming anything for itself. There is seeing without a seer,
knowing without a knower, choosing without a chooser, crying without a cryer,
laughing without a laugher.

There can be no total silence, no total stillness in life. You do not want absolute
silence unless you want to be dead. You cannot have absolute silence until you are
dead, if silence is taken to be an absence. But if silence just means ‘no complaint, no
disturbance, no claiming’ you can have that. Your every cell is aching for that. Your
very existence is in itself an enquiry into the possibility of that.

How can we change our programming?

Some would say that you can’t. Technically this may be true, in that you are not the
programmer, you are not in control of your programming. Certainly it’s not like a
computer where you can easily erase an old programme and install a new one.
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Nevertheless you are biologically programmed to be able to learn. There may be
limits to what you can learn. You will never be able to fly, but you could well learn
to understand the maths and physics of Relativity clearly enough to realise, like
Einstein, that “time and space are not conditions under which we live, but modes
by which we think”. Even though Kant may have said something similar on the
basis of his own philosophical enquiry, Einstein said it on the basis of his scientific
training in mathematics and physics. He wasn’t born with a conceptual
understanding of gravity and motion. He had to learn them. Eventually he came to
a deeper understanding of not only gravity but time and space too.

So, as human being you have the capacity to learn, and to keep on learning.
Learning is a word for a special type of programming. Many of your programmes
have been learned, especially the ones you use to communicate and socialise with.
Of course the deeper ones that drive your body and your emotional and cognitive
tendencies, without giving your actions, movements and emotional tendencies
their exact form, are programmed into your DNA. There is a lot of programming in
there, and most of it is completely fixed, and cannot be changed at all. This doesn’t
matter, because most of our conscious experience takes place in and as our more
superficial programmability. That we use two legs to get about is genetically
determined, as is the number of bones they have. The exact size, strength and
functional relationships between the muscles that articulate the bones is not. The
way that we end up walking is based on our genetic design, but shaped by our

Our programming is changed by experience. Experience is our top-line

programmer. Not all experience. Most of our experience simply confirms and
strengthens our current programming. Intense experiences can modify and even
change our programming, especially if they are repeated. Nevertheless the reason
why some would say that you can’t change your programming is that you are not
in control of your experience, and it is only on the basis of experience that your
programming and the reactions, actions and behaviour it generates can change:
but change it can, and change it does. The more open, curious and attentive you
are the more you learn, and learning is programming. As a human being you are
designed, or programmed at a deep, unchangeable level, to be able to learn.
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Compare human culture nowadays, with thousands of languages and millions of
products to the neolithic culture of our ancestors dressed in fur and leather, spear
in hand. That has all been learned: the engineering, the music, the technology, the
fashion. Yet the genetic programming is still the same. A few thousand years is a
negligible snip in the flow of evolutionary time: not enough to produce genetic
mutation. Yet all this learning is based on pre-neolithic programming, and we don’t
know where the end to that learning might be. In fact there really isn’t one. Of
course we are never going to be able to use our arms to fly, but we have already
developed many ways to fly, which we now, or some of us, take for granted.

A windsailer has to learn how to do his thing. He has to do a deep and potent
reprogramming that is sensory as well as muscular, cognitive as well as perceptual.
In doing so she is making herself more open to learning further skills, developing
new programmes on the basis of core programmability. This is not just about
physical capability. It’s the same for thoughts, thinking, emotions, aesthetics,
morality. Changes in your belief system are changes in your programming. You
don’t react to the words “Father Christmas” or “God” now the way you did when
you were five.

What this mean is that the way we react and the way we act can change, do
change. Our behaviour can change, and we can be at the heart of that changing.
It’s a matter of cause and effect. Make yourself sick on chocolate enough times and
you will stop eating it. Benefit from being sensitive and you will become more
sensitive. Suffer by being open and you will become more closed. It’s not rocket

Does that mean you can change any behaviour that you want?

No! You can only change the behaviour that you can. Sometimes your behaviour
changes in ways that you want and like. Sometimes it changes the way you want
and don’t like. Sometimes it changes in ways you didn’t want and don’t like.
Sometimes it changes in ways you didn’t want and do like. All of these changes are
the product of cause and effect expressing itself through the interaction of your
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current programmes, which includes your dna and what you have learned from
past experience, and your environment.

Is there any way you can control this process. I mean some people do give up
smoking and some people can’t.

No! You can’t control it, but that doesn’t leave you impotent and helpless. Your
intelligence is at the heart of the interaction between your programming and the
world. The basic expression of that intelligence is enquiry, which is why the most
powerful meditation is enquiry based, rather than intention or control based. The
closest you can come to controlling behavioural changes is to enquire into the
possibility of bringing about a change. The change will only come if that enquiry is
supported by circumstance and conditioning. Nevertheless enquiry is a powerful
force of circumstance, and so many of us have learned to be less rude, more
persistent, more generous. The fact that we can’t actually control or demand
anything, simply because we cannot command all the factors involved in any
situation, does not mean that we can’t input to the situation. Every cause makes an
effect. Every input changes the output.

We do input into the world, into our experience with and from our desires, fears,
hopes and intentions. However, we are agents, nothing more. An Estate Agent may
sell houses, but they are not her houses. Yet without Agents not much gets done.
When you look out the window there is little to see but unadorned nature: trees,
rock, grass etc. No houses, roads or cars to be seen out these windows. Yet even as
you are looking at nature you are also looking at the work of the human race, the
human beings who planted the trees, and harvest them regularly so they never
fully mature. There are no very tall, thick trees out there. You are looking at the
agency of humanity as much as you are the power of nature. Without that power
there would be nothing for human beings to have done.

It’s like that with our lives, as well as our reprogrammability. We participate in its
unfolding, its form with our intentions, plans, hopes, dreams, fears and desires, but
we do not in any way actually determine its shape by our own free will. Our lives
are in our hands, yes, in that we are at the centre of it, but our hands are moved by
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the indivisible wholeness of Totality. Everything we do, say, feel and think is
programmed, conditioned by Totality coalescing in and as our intentions, plans,
hopes, dreams, fears and desires.

If we immerse ourselves in meditation as enquiry into what is actually happening

we will start to see this very clearly. We will see that the self as independent
autonomous entity is an illusion, and that your bodimind is simply a totally
conditioned agent of Totality. Until you see that clearly and beyond even any
unconscious doubt, you can not know any peace other than the temporary and
shallow one that oscillates with conflict. Deep peace, true peace, surrender comes
only from the deep and uncontested understanding that you are not the doer, that
the self is a functional fiction that has no use once you see clearly the totally
conditioned nature of all phenomena.

Why do you say “uncontested”.

That’s a very important question, and the answer explains why so many people
think they are free, enlightened or whatever when they are still full of resistance
and self-deception. As human beings we have a remarkable, and unique cognitive
capacity. We can use words like love in many different way without being confused.
No-one would think I am referring to only one feeling when I say “I love my
children” and “I love meditating” and “I love chocolate”. This is a function of our
conceptual fluency, a fluency that is programmed genetically, not as a form but as a
function, a potential.

Most of our cognitive activity is unconscious. Yet we only know our conscious
thinking. What this means is that if I can show you clearly, as I can and have, that all
phenomena are totally conditioned you can easily let go of any conscious idea you
may have had that unconditional thought and action are possible. Which of course
they are not, for any thought takes place on the basis of the specific language your
language programme has been conditioned to express itself through, and any
action that you can take is based on your having established the muscular capacity
to do so on the basis of your past experience and the conditioning effect that has
had on your muscles.
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In fact any thought that you can think, you can only think on the basis of the
conditioning effect that your past thinking has had. Just as we need neuromuscular
pathways to act from, we need cognitive pathways to think with. We are not born
with these pathways. They are developed on the basis of our genetic makeup
interacting with out environment. What you can do is limited and dependent on
what you have already done. Likewise, what you can think is limited and
dependent on what you have already thought. This is why two equally intelligent
people cannot learn the same thing equally easily. If they can it’s because they
share the necessary pathways, if they can’t it’s because they don’t, not because one
is more stupid than the other.

These pathways run deep into your unconscious. To change the way you behave,
you have to change the way you think. To change the way you think means
reprogramming your unconscious, not just your conscious mind. It’s easy to change
your conscious mind, not at all so easy to change your unconscious. It is possible
though, through continuous exposure to the same or similar conscious thought
processes, your unconscious assumptions and beliefs can change.

The conscious mind is the great deceiver. Many of its deceptions are useful, even
necessary. Some are not. Not least the deception that we are what we are
conscious of about ourselves. This is completely untrue. Our behaviour, reactions,
feelings and thoughts are driven mainly from the unconscious, which by definition
is below the threshold of awareness. Very often we carry deep conflicts between
our conscious, worked out understanding and our unconscious assumptions.
Wherever these conflicts come into play the conscious will lose. The unconscious is
many times more powerful than the conscious.

Can you give an example.

Let’s say you think that you are not racially prejudiced, but you go to Brixton or
Peckham and unconsciously lock your car door as you drive through. This is an
expression of your unconscious, or unacknowledged racism. You can say you are
not racist till the cows come home, but if you keep feeling threatened by people
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with dark skin, you are. This is not going to change just by saying you aren’t over
and over. You have to consciously see that dark skinned people are neither inferior
nor dangerous until all the unconscious assumptions to the contrary are
eradicated. This will most likely require more than thinking and reading. You are
probably going to have to have direct and deep experience of dark skinned people
for your programming to change.

LIkewise if a man wants to stop treating women disrespectfully it’s not enough just
to intellectually acknowledge that they are not inferior. You have to experience it
directly, over and over till your unconscious is released of all that destructive
conditioning. To do that you have to establish forms of interaction that will allow
that to be clearly revealed. You can’t say or control how much of this work you
need, but you can set your sails and adjust your tiller, without ever being sure what
the final outcome will be. All the same there is no escape from cause and effect,
and seeing clearly the intelligence, competence, creativity, courage etc of women
and people with dark skin will change your assumptions about them. The more,
and more often, you see it the more those assumptions will change and you will be
able to relate more honestly, openly and fully to all people.

However this is not something you can get on order. Your programmes are not
changed automatically by your intention to be less prejudiced. It requires a lot
more than that. The depth of your desire and the strength of your resolve to
change must outweigh the power of your prejudices enough to take you through
the dynamics of cause and effect necessary to that reprogramming. You have to
want more than the final result. You have to want, in the moment, each one of all
the steps, challenges and revelations of releasing your unconscious from its
limitations and distortions. You have to continuously renew your decision to do so.
This may not be so easy. You have to really want it. You may not, really. You may
actually be happy to pretend to not be prejudiced. Most people are. Denial is much
easier than deep transformation.

What’s more, if you have glimpsed the significance of the conditioned nature of all
phenomena you are going to have to learn a fine balancing act. You are going to
have to remember clearly and indubitably that your prejudice and your desire to be
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free are both totally conditioned. That they are both totally conditioned by the
same matrix of forces and factors, a matrix over which you have no control, and a
matrix of which they are a necessitated consequence. This can easily be confusing
because of the notions of autonomy, independence and volition that we have been
so deeply conditioned to attribute to our nature as human beings. We have been
conditioned to believe that our life is in our hands in the sense that we are at the
tiller of the boat of our life, steering it through the squalls and calms of life.

In a sense this is quite true. The decisions that precede and even release your
actions take place in your mind. The feelings and thoughts that result in those
decisions also, not in anyone else’s. Due to the necessary, functional divide
between the conscious and unconscious mind, and the spatial separation between
the bodimind and the world the critical path to any action or decision remains
mostly obscure. All that we can know of it are the proximate aspects of the world
and the conscious aspects of mind. Both are but tips of their own massive icebergs.
Yet they are all we have if we rely on what we know specifically to define what
actually is: a task to which it is, of course, inadequate. If we extend our
understanding and dig deeper into the structure and dynamics of the world, and
extend our conscious awareness deeper into the dynamic of mind, we can still
never gather a complete, detailed picture of how a thought, decisions or action
comes about. Nevertheless even without all the specific details we can see with
complete clarity that they all follow and flow on from one indivisible matrix that
includes the whole of mind and the whole of the world. We can never see the
specific path, but we can always recognise the overall contextual matrix.

In doing so we are able to see that even though thoughts in our mind flow into
actions taken by our body by way of decisions made in our mind, they all, actions,
decisions and thoughts, are conditioned, determined and generated by the
indivisible totality of the matrix. They flow through us, but they are not ours. We
can be their cognitive, intentional and instrumental agent, but we are not their
owners. As their unique instruments we can and will be held accountable, and we
can but may not take responsibility for them. They are not ours but they come
through us, and as their local enabling agent or instrument, only through us, and
no-one else, even though everyone and everything else is participating, at a
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greater distance, in those actions, decisions and thoughts. Whether or not we do
take responsibility from the matrix and onto our own shoulders, as an act of social
integration, is of course a function of our conditioning, and not free will.

Your life is shaped by your decisions more than it is by mine. My life is shaped by
my decisions more than it is by yours. Yet your decisions affect my life, mine affect
yours. Your life and my life are shaped by the same hands: the hands of God, where
God is the omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient singularity that we perceive as the
indivisible matrix of actions and objects interacting through the nondual dynamic
of cause and effect.

What do you mean by the nondual dynamic of cause and effect?

Simply that to identify a given action as either cause or effect is limited and
unhelpful. All actions are simultaneously effects of other actions, and causes of
further actions. When we become clear about the dynamic of causality, as we can
by becoming intimate with mental activity during meditation, we realise that “time
and space are not conditions under which we live, but modes by which we think”.
In that realisation is the recognition that past, present and future are mental
constructs having no inherent existence in themselves: they are an expression of
how our bodiminds work. Within that realisation we can recognise that the so-
called future is no less causative of the so-called present than is the past. We can
see quite clearly the indivisible wholeness of singularity when we see that every
perceptible action is both cause and effect of all other perceptible actions without

What can we do about conflicts between the conscious and unconscious?

The only thing we can do is enquire more deeply. This enquiry takes place in the
conscious mind, but in doing so extends it into the territory of the unconscious. Of
course most of the unconscious will forever remain unconscious. This does not
mean that you cannot know about it indirectly, as Freud and his descendants have
demonstrated. By allowing the intelligence of our mind to freely and deeply
enquire into its own activity, which is the heart and art of meditation, conflicts
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between the conscious and unconscious can, in theory, be resolved.

Can you explain how artificial thinking and organic thinking relate to our

Organic programmes express themselves through organic thinking and

spontaneous actions. Rogue programmes express themselves through artificial
thinking and contrived reactions, that often masquerade as actions not reactions.
Whether organic programmes express themselves with or without thought is not
the point. Thought may be required, thoughtand thinking may take place within
organic programmes, and rogue programmes can take place without thinking.

What’s the relationship between our programming and the self

You can’t exist without programming. You can exist without a self.

What gives rogue programmes their persistence and resilience is the support that
they give to the self. This support works both ways. The self expresses itself through
rogue programmes: continuously acting, declaring and thinking that things should
be other than the way they actually are. Rogue programmes depend upon the self
for their activation. Seeing the rogue nature of programmes weakens both them
and the self.

This is an incremental weakening, whereby you are not likely ever to become free
from your rogue programmes, their artificial thinking and neurotic actions. Seeing
the illusory nature of the self (the rogue meta-programme) weakens it. In
becoming weaker it has less juice with which to engage and reinforce rogue
programmes. What this means is that weakening of the self weakens all rogue
programmes, weakening one rogue programme weakens the self only a little.

Whenever, if ever, your self dissolves you will still be run by programmes, organic
ones. They will all be expressing the flow of Totality organically and naturally,
without resistance, without identification, without pride or shame, guilt or blame,
hope or anxiety, regret or resentment. Of course rogue programmes are also
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expressing the flow of Totality, but with and through resistance and all the
sufferings that must bring.

Does meditation have some kind of purpose relative to our programming?

Of course. If you want to know what, just keep at it. The results will be a lot more
and a lot more satisfying than information.

But, godfrey, despite all that you are saying, it just doesn’t feel right that I am
just a robot, no matter how sophisticated I may be in my robotic nature. I
know you don’t want me to blindly accept that I am a robot, but even though I
can see very clearly that everything is totally conditioned I can’t shake this
conviction that there is more to me than that.

Any idea what?

Not really, but it’s certainly not that I am clinging to the notion of free will.
Nothing has been more rewarding for me than letting go of that one. It’s
something deeper, more subtle.

Cool. Keep looking, keep enquiring and you may come to understand what is really
meant when people who really understand it say you are not your body and not
your mind. Of course you are your bodimind, in the sense of social identity, and
even in the sense of psychological experience, such as it is. What you are referring
to is very real, and lurking within your social and psychological identity. That
something actually has nothing inherently to do with the bodimind that it is
expressing itself through, other than that it is expressing itself through it over
there. Unlike the body and the mind through which that something is expressing
itself that something is neither conditioned, nor limited or definable by any of the
concepts beloved of your mind. It is the very deep heart of what you are, without in
any way needing to dismiss what you apparently are in and as your bodimind.

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I don’t really understand.

Actually I don’t want you to understand it from my words, that would be an

insufficient understanding. It would just add to your confusion. You need to come
to your own understanding of what you are, in all of its depths and subtleties, from
the surface to the depth, from the local to the universal, from the apparent to the
actual, on the basis of your own experience, on the basis of your own meditation as
enquiry into that which is actually happening.

I just can’t accept that I am totally conditioned, yet I can’t actually find
anything about myself that isn’t.

It’s very important that you accept nothing without seeing it for yourself. Yet it is
just as important that you do see everything very clearly. Until you do you will
resent your sufferings, and try unsuccessfully to control your future, by limiting it to
the dictates of your own fears, hopes and expectations. You won’t be able to
though, but in trying to you will sustain the frustration, anxiety and resistance that
already shades your life. If you keep looking deeply you are, maybe, going to find
something unconditioned, but it won’t be any of your identifying characteristics or

You said earlier something about taking responsibility from the matrix being
an act of social integration, or something like that. Can you explain that?

You know how attached I am to this stick that I cling to while giving these talks?


Take it from me, I won’t resist.

Hum, it’s heavier than it looks.

Yes, it’s Ibizencan Olive. Good for breaking skulls, and maybe delusions too. Let’s
see. Now that it’s in your hands, whose is it, does it still belong to me?
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Sure it does.

Ok, but I didn’t give it to you did I? You took it from me.

You asked me to

Sure, but you took it from me, and that taking did not change the ownership did it?
It still belongs to me doesn’t it.

Of course it does.

Well, it’s like that with action and responsibility. Being caused by the totality they
belong to the totality. The totality is responsible for them. Yet those that require our
final instrumentality are perceived as coming not through us but from us, by the
inattentive mind. We are held not only accountable for them, but responsible for
them. If we see the totally conditioned nature of all actions, then we know that we
are not actually responsible for any of them. Yet, if we choose, we can take
responsibility for them onto our own shoulders, without actually changing their
ownership or origin.

Of course, this is quite subtle, this distinction between being responsible and
taking responsibility, between responsibility and accountability. Being accountable
means being recognisable as the final, local and of course indispensable,
instrument. Being responsible means having brought an action about
independently. None of us can do that. But we can take responsibility in response
to others and the way they think, in acknowledgement of our indispensable part in
the action, a part that no other instrument played, even though they all had their
own participatory roles.

What this means is that in order to stay in the social game we need to respond to
others according to the rules, but not in our hearts. This doesn’t only apply to our
own instrumentality, but to that of others too. I will prevent you from taking or
breaking that stick, and if I fail I will take account of that fact without any
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dissimulation, but I will not blame you. I will hold you accountable, and ask for a
replacement, but I will not hold you responsible and hold it against you.


When you become very comfortable just sitting, sitting with no agenda, no
purpose relaxing through your mental activity into the spontaneous enquiry
functioning through your natural intelligence, things get very chilled. Your mind
displays less need to anticipate the future and recall the past. It even begins to
show much less concern about what is happening in the present moment. Not that
these tendencies have completely stopped, only that its all become a bit lighter,
softer. You mind is moving this way and that, skipping from theme to theme,
timezone to timezone but all is cool, you have no desire to get anything, get away
from anything. You know this, i’m quite sure you do. It’s no big deal really, in that
you don’t need any special knowledge or gift for this to happen. It happens
naturally, spontaneously, quite easily, if you are really not looking for anything
particular, anything special to happen.

This is not the same thing as trying to use your mind to work something out,
whether practical or theoretical. Nor is it the same as being in the grip of what my
guru used to refer to as a ‘mind-fuck’ in which your mind is going round and round
pointing out, explaining and justifying something that’s making you feel like shit;
usually on the basis of something you’ve been doing, or thinking or believing and
supposedly shouldn’t have been.

What I am referring to here is quite different from all that. What makes it different is
that there is no agenda, conscious or unconscious, unless you can call the need of
mind to answer the questioning that flows unstoppably from its natural tendency
and need to enquire, to find out, best it can, what is actually happening. There is no
agenda, no neurosis, no game-plan or strategy. None of those things are present
because there is no director of the perceptual flow: there is no self present.
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It’s a very nice, though subtle, feeling to be without a sense of self. Of course
organic, social and psychological needs and obligations remain and require
responsiveness. Feelings, thoughts and thinking are still happening, but without a
controlling central agent. This actually happens more often that you might realise.
It is not owned by meditators or dependent on so-called spiritual practice. It is a
function of being relaxed enough about the flow of life to have lost all concern
about any of it, while remaining interested in what is actually happening. Of course
when you put yourself on your meditation cushion you are as good as asking your
mind to do this, to take a break from its anticipating, planning, remembering. It
doesn’t always do so of course. When it does it’s a delight, a subtle delight, but a
nourishing and welcome one.

When you feel safe you don’t need protection. When you have no sense of being in
any way threatened, by anything at all, you don’t need a minder. When you feel
totally at peace with the way things are you don’t need a self, veen though the self
is actually not your guardian but your charlatan.

There is a lot of confusion about what the self is. This confusion gets worse once
ego becomes part of our pop-psychology vocabulary. Anyone who has been
enchanted, impressed or intimidated by the legacy of the Siddharta Gotama
Shakyamuni, aka ‘The Buddha’ is carrying the notion of the self’s toxicity, even if it’s
not articulated so bluntly. On the other hand, while Buddhists and others blithely
pursue their project of destroying or dismantling their self, psychiatrists and
psychologists are busy nurturing, building up and integrating the selfs of their
clients. In both cases the term ‘ego’ is used as an alternative to ‘the self’.

What’s going on here? Is this like the old political divide between the British
Conservative and Labour parties: two distinct entities with quite different ends and
means. Have Buddhists got it right and psychoanalysts got it wrong? Or is it the
other way round?

Maybe we need to find out what these terms are being used to refer to. You know
what box means don’t you? It’s not a tricky word, but nor is it consistent in its
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meaning. Usually it’s quite clear from its context which one is being used. This is not
so with the self or ego. It’s not at all clear what is being referred to, even often by
those using the terms, let alone by those hearing it.

I am not well educated about psychoanalysis, but I did once ask a friend of mine
who is whether she, in her professional opinion, thought that it was healthy or
unhealthy for a human being to be attracted to many members of the opposite sex.
She, from her training in psychoanalysis, answered unhesitatingly that it was
absolutely natural and normal. This led to a discussion about why it was often not
seen that way by the man in the street, even by the man who is experiencing it. She
went on to explain to me that the ego, in her use, was the result of the interaction
between unconscious, primal drives and the process of socialisation within which
those drives are contained. The ego, as I understood her, was the mind’s attempt to
fuse and integrate these conflicting forces while remaining able to act effectively in
the world. In other words the ego is what keeps you sane in the face of the deep
conflict between your animal nature and your social obligations.

That being so it’s obvious that anyone having trouble with those opposing forces
needs help in restoring or integrating their ego-function. I am quite sure the
Buddha would go along with that. The terms ego, and the self, in spiritual parlance
mean something quite different. Quite what it does mean however is not so clear.

Very often, it seems, it means nothing much more than a demonisation of a very
common tendency to get carried away with your own opinions, attitudes, beliefs,
desires or needs. You know how it is with people who always insist on doing it their
way, having it all their own way: we call them egotistical. We say they have a big
ego, where ego really is just a solidification of the pride and arrogance that un-
adressed insecurity so easily generates. In which case it doesn’t really mean
anything much, certainly not enough to build a practical psychology of liberation
around, as the Buddha did.

Almost any spiritual teacher, or school, has their own version of what the
problematic self is, and what needs to be done about it. What usually needs to be
done is some kind of transformation leading to the absence of that self: whether
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through transcendence, transmutation, erosion, repression, denial or whatever.
Bound up with that noxious self are its toxic qualities and tendencies, all of which
need to be sidelined along with it. These include attachments, preferences, desires,
clinging, grasping and even knowledge and beliefs. Although of course their
injunctions are expressions of belief, knowledge, attachment, preference and
desire. It’s no wonder that so many intelligent, educated people have no patience
with those who walk this kind of spiritual path, within which they try to deal with
their Western tendencies through an Eastern framework without recognising even
the possibility of mismatch, let alone its specific expressions.

Despite all this debilitating confusion it’s really not so hard to see what the self
actually is, and whether or not it is a problem at all. All we need do is step back a
little from all we have heard and apply our own intelligence to our own experience.
We are all human beings, we have a lot in common. Of course we have a lot in
common with mice too, like over ninety percent of our DNA.

One thing we human beings all have in common is shitloads of intelligence. Even
those of us who dunced at school. We are brimming, bursting with intelligence,
flowing out of our DNA through the organs and nerves of our body into the
remarkable conceptual fluency of our minds. I can’t overemphasise how intelligent
you are. Yes, you. You may not have Einstein’s fluency with the laws of
thermodynamics and the forces that hold together the universe. You do not have
the cognitive pathways of Kant or Wittgenstein. This does not mean you are stupid.
It simply means you have other interests and inclinations, that you have been using
your intelligence to get rich, get laid or get enlightened. May not seem to have
been such a good choice, but there you go.

You not only have the intelligence to find out for yourself the what, where and
why-for of the mysterious self, but you also have the resources, the data: your life,
your experience, your mind. All you have to do is put them together: investigate
your own experience.

This happens quite naturally when you sit down to meditate enough without any
preconceived agenda. As you recognise and let go of the continuing presence of
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intention, control, direction, anticipation, speculation more and more often till it
becomes more and more easy to do so, mind begins to throw up from its stock of
unresolved issues. There is plenty of stuff to be engrossed in without you having to
deliberately add anything. Your unconscious is full of unresolved issues that have
no direct bearing on the real requirements of your daily life as it is right now. As
you settle down and let go of your ability to direct and modify the content of your
mind it reveals itself naturally and spontaneously. You don’t have to go looking for
anything. What you start to see is not only some of the previously buried content of
your unconscious, but also the dynamic of cause and effect directing the flow of
mental activity.

Provided you are not completely distracted by the content your mind throws up,
and it is quite easy to be as a lot of it is fascinating and even amazing stuff, you will
start to see the totally conditioned nature of mental activity. You will see the
relationship between a new, unasked for thought and an equally unasked for
sensory perception. You may find yourself thinking about a beautiful walk you took
in the Black Forest and notice that the wind is revealing the presence of the trees
outside the windows as it rustles through their leaves. Or perhaps you suddenly
remember an incident involving a former girlfriend and then realise that you can
smell, right now, the scent of the perfume she used to wear spilling from the
person walking by to the bathroom.

This kind of thing is happening all the time. It’s not only in the hands of
psychoanalysts that mental association happens and can reveal the hitherto
unrecognised. This is actually how mind is driven, from the unconscious by way of
association and in response to environmental input. When environmental input
becomes static, as it often pretty much does when meditating, then the flow of
association becomes triggered more by releases from the unconscious. Patanjali
points directly to this in the Yoga Sutras, how the flow of awareness becomes
driven from the past by way of the unconscious imprints left over from unresolved
past experiences and their associations, once the conscious mind no longer has
anything particular to concern itself with.

Eventually it becomes very easy to see, not only through familiarity but also from
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curiosity, that there is no thinker directing the flow of awareness, or at least most of
it. Of course every now and then there will be. Nevertheless, once you have settled
deeply enough into the security of your stillness more and more the flow of
awareness becomes driven in a completely different way by the core enquiry
programme. These residue left over from unresolved past experiences start to be
felt as foreign. They generate, even if only subtly, agitation, tension or pressure. The
enquiry programme wants to know what they are, what is actually happening. The
inquisitiveness is an energetic force that draws the residual energy out towards the
conscious mind. At the same time the deep biological programme of seeking ease,
comfort, release meets the enquiry supporting it and driving it towards resolution
and release of the frozen energy.

Within this flow of undirected awareness, images, feelings and thoughts there is no
thinker, feeler, director, controller. Consciousness is just doing its thing, the thing
that all things do: expressing itself as freely and fully as possible. The stillness of
your body and the unconcern of your conscious mind allow it to do so much more
than it usually can. As the issue of the self is an issue in almost all meditators mind,
conscious and unconscious, sooner or later it will dawn, and not only once, that
there really is no self: except as an impression generated by inattentiveness. Within
the sharp attentiveness of the meditative mind everything there is to be seen can
be clearly seen, and none of it constitutes a controller, director, thinker or self.

Whatever we may experience while meditating the sense of self is not only at the
heart of our everyday experience, but also of our cultural institutions and social
norms. What is not so obvious is that it is at the very heart of human suffering. All
living creatures choose life over death, pleasure over pain, comfort over discomfort,
even when sacrificing the short term for the long term. Yet there are many
problems that we all know that are particularly human problems: guilt, shame,
anxiety, self-doubt, pride, contempt etc. When you add them all up they become a
very heavy weight bearing down on us and inhibiting our ability to flow freely with
what is actually happening. These ‘existential’ problems all arise from the sense of
self. They all express the impression that we are the thinker of our thoughts, the
feeler of our feelings, the doer of our deeds.

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Of course, psychologically and socially we are. I am the one by whose brain and
vocal chords these words are being expressed, and no-one else. It’s really important
that you don’t let concepts, however coherent and cogent, negate your own direct
experience. You know the difference between your voice and mine, your actions
and mine, your decisions and mine. The issue here is not letting go of our ability to
distinguish and recognise but of contextualising the obvious within the subtle. The
purpose of this contextualisation is not to negate the significance of direct
experience, but to fertilise it by providing a more solid foundation for our actions
and decisions, one based on the way things actually are, rather than only on how
they seem to be.

In one sense this is all about the need to survive and data availability. In order to
survive any organism needs to know about anything that might threaten it. For this
it needs to make judgements that it can depend on to keep itself alive. Those
judgements don’t necessarily have to be totally accurate. A human being doesn’t
need to know if an approaching quadruped is a particular type of dog or wolf, only
that it is or is not a predator. Having made that choice action must be taken. That
action must be unequivocal and guarantee safety. What this means is that we
perceive, think and act as if we are completely certain when we are not and don’t
need to be, as if we know more than we actually do. This has to be the case, we
cannot gather enough data to be absolutely certain, we need to act. This is a
functional reality for us all, all the time. We never know everything, and we don’t
need to. Yet we act and think as if we do so that we can act effectively.

The fact is that we act and think out of profound ignorance, as if we know what we
don’t. Our ignorance is at its deepest when it comes to how our actions and
thoughts come about. We are aware of so little of our mental processes, and we
know so little about the actions and events that precede our decisions and actions,
yet we don’t compute this. We act and think as if we have the big picture. Whereas
in fact we have a very small, and deeply distorted, picture of how things come
about, how things happen. At the heart of this distortion is confusion about
agency. These are my words, it is only me that is uttering them. No confusion there I
hope. Even though I am not consciously thinking about what to say, what I am
saying is based on a lot of my thinking. Some taking place currently in my
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unconscious, and most of it historical. It is not based on your thinking, your
understanding, your experience; it is based on mine. We need to be able to make
this kind of distinction and recognise its absolute functional validity. This is in no
way incorrect or wrong, from a functional point of view.

What happens, though, when we look a little deeper? If we look at our thoughts we
always find an original thought that came without our intention or desire. We will
always eventually find the totally conditioned nature of our thought process.
Likewise if we look closely enough we will always eventually find the totally
conditioned nature of our actions. Not just our own actions, but everyone else’s
too. Everything is totally conditioned, without exception, and in every way, without

This has significant implications for agency. When we look deeply enough we can
clearly see that every action, every choice, every feeling, every thought that we
have, and anyone else for that matter, has been generated by the interconnected
totality of all thoughts, feelings, actions and events that constitute the indivisible
matrix of life as we know it.

The origin of any action, choice, feeling and thought is not in its instrument, but in
the matrix, not in the so-called individual but in the totality. The individual
instrument, in the case of these words that is me, is the agent not in the sense of
ownership, but in the sense of service. What I do I do on behalf of totality. Not only
that but I do it with the support and the power of totality. I have no independent
agency or power. I depend for my every thought, feeling, choice and action on the
undivided and indivisible power of totality flowing through the matrix of all events
and actions.

So these words that I utter are mine in the sense that they are not yours, but not in
the sense that they belong to me by way of origin or ownership. So they are both
mine in one sense, and not mine in another sense. It is really important that we are
able to see both senses simultaneously and that they are not in conflict unless we
divide them with an either-or assumption or assertion. What we have is two points
of view, two perspectives. It is definitely possible to articulate these points of view
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as if there were a conflict between them, and thus experience a conflict between
them. Just as many people experience a conflict between male and female. Yet this
conflict is the result of a narrow approach, it is not intrinsic. Despite the morbid and
paranoid fantasies of some feminists there can be no female without male in
human nature, even though we can imagine it to be otherwise.

Nevertheless good generates evil, up necessitates down, cold creates hot.

Opposites do not exist, in themselves, in conflict. They exist in mutual
interdependency. Likewise with these two perspectives which we can call the local
and the universal, the finite and the infinite, the personal and the impersonal. We
need them both, and we need to understand the relationship between them.

From the local, personal perspective there is a centralised controller directing the
flow of thoughts, decisions and actions. From the universal, impersonal perspective
there is no controller, no centre at all. As long as we remain at the surface of life, the
self seems very, very real. As we go deeper it becomes less and less real, until
eventually it disappears altogether. This does not mean that it has disappeared
from the surface. Agency as instrumentality remains, and instrumental agents can
and must be held accountable or accurate navigation, upon which survival
depends, is not possible.

You are the agent of your actions, yours is the locale of your thoughts, but neither
your thoughts nor your actions originate in nor belong to you. They originate in
and belong to the indivisible wholeness of totality.

The sense of self then, is just that: an impression. It is no more substantial, no more
inherent in the fabric of reality than Neo from the matrix. Neo is imaginary, the self
is imaginary. Both serve a purpose, both are illusory. There is no need to get het up
about an illusion. We need only see that that is what it is. We don’t need to kill,
destroy, dismantle or even transcend the self. We just need to see it for what it is.
Then, perhaps, we can let go of it, and where we can’t perhaps we can see its

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If the self is not real why is so much value put on self knowledge?

We have to make another distinction to get that. On the one hand there is all this
stuff going on in the privacy of my own mind, and on the other hand it is all the
necessitated expression of nonlocal, impersonal forces and factors completely
beyond any control. Yet it is going on only in here. Being familiar with all this inner
stuff is psychological self knowledge, and it does have some value. Especially for
people who suffer neuroses, complexes etc. Spiritual self knowledge is completely
different. In essence it means knowing that all that stuff is not yours, not you. While
psychological self knowledge is about information and knowing things, spiritual
self knowledge is more about awareness and seeing clearly.

Usually people interpret self knowledge only in the psychological sense. This is a
shame. Not that it has no value, just that that value is limited. Not only in that it
provides no opportunity to go really deep, but even in its own sphere
psychological self knowledge is limited. No matter how much we know about our
childhood, our complexes, our neuroses, our programmes there is always more that
we don’t know. Ignorance is the default mode of localisation, of embodiment. So it
makes no sense to identify yourself with what you know about yourself. At best it’s
limiting, at worst its destructive. Nor does it make much sense to put too high a
value on psychological self knowledge, however complete it may be imagined to

What we need in order to become free from self doubt, self pity, anxiety, pride,
shame, resentment, guilt, hostility and all the other existential problems that beset
human beings because of our sense of self, is to know beyond even any
unconscious doubt that we are not the doer, not the chooser, not the thinker. This
is the self knowledge that has the highest value, and it can easily be, unconsciously
and unintentionally, sidelined by our endless, and it is endless, pursuit of
psychological self knowledge.

You do not have to know everything about your childhood, about what drives your
mind to be totally at ease in the universe. To be totally at ease in the universe you
need only know, beyond any even unconscious doubt, that you are not the doer:
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that the self is a functional fiction. When this is the case you will not only be at ease
with the totality of the universe, but all of its details too, including your own
neuroses and hangups.

It’s really important that you are not naive about what it means to be totally at ease
in and at peace with the universe. It does not mean that you are always happy,
laughing and smiling. It does not mean that you enjoy and like everything. You
cannot escape like and dislike, pain and pleasure, they are part of your psychology,
your biology. What you can become free from is resistance to life. It is resistance
that prevents you being at one with life, that expresses your distrust in life.

Resistance to life takes many forms, some more obvious, some more subtle. To the
more obvious side are things like resentment and blame. More subtle are the kinds
of thoughts that declare: “it should not...” , “it ought not...”, “if only....” etc etc.
Wherever we are wishing things to be other than they are, whenever we imagine
things could be other than as they are we are in resistance to life.

But we are doing this all the time, I mean, constantly!

Yes. We are continuously generating this kind of subtle resistance, and those
attempts to control things that is its other face. When we clearly see, without any
unconscious resistance, that there is no self, our need to stay in control of events,
other people, our own thoughts and feelings dissolves. Needing to control things,
wanting to control things is also resistance.

Defining yourself on the basis of your psychological self-knowledge is also

resistance. It is based on the assumption of a fixed identity, of your clear cut
individuality. You have no fixed identity. You are a sophisticated robot packed with
action potentials, or programmes. Which ones are active, which ones are dormant
depends on which ones are being triggered by environmental input. The fact that
some are dormant for years doesn’t mean they have gone away.

Psychological self knowledge is spiritually misleading, even though it can

sometimes, even often, be psychologically helpful. It implies things that are not
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true. Not least that you know yourself better than you actually do. It also implies
that you are something separate from your environment, which you are not. You
are not only created, historically and currently, in response to your environment,
but you act in response to it. If your environment changes a lot you may find
yourself displaying a whole new set of psychological characteristics.

Your house has many mansions, and each mansion has many rooms. You can spend
years of your life hanging out in a few of those rooms: ‘calmness’, ‘clarity’, ‘peace of
mind’, ‘patience’ etc. Then circumstances can change and you find yourself in quite
different rooms. These rooms were always there, you just weren’t inhabiting them.
We, unconsciously, use our psychological self knowledge to resist life, especially to
resist change, by clinging to what we think we know about ourselves. Yet all we
really need to know to be at peace with our psychology and the world, is that we
are not the doer, that we are not in control of our minds, our lives.

Perhaps the most subtle form of resistance is attachment to the notion of “my life”.
It’s hard to think of anything else that puts us so continuously into conflict with
what is actually happening. It’s not surprising though as nothing is more obvious
than that it is our life that we are living. However there are two subtle but potent
problems with this idea. Of course this idea is based on how it seems, how it feels
rather than conceptual analysis. Yet just as the sense of self is just that, and actually
only a cognitive fiction, so too are the ideas that this is our life and that we are
living it. Obviously if there is no self, and you are not the doer of your deeds, the
chooser of your choices, the thinker of your thoughts but simply their immediate,
local instrument, then you are not in control of your actions, choices and thoughts.
You are not, in fact, the liver of your life. If your actions, decisions and thoughts
don’t belong to you, then how can your life.

Just as every thought, decision and action is a totally conditioned expression of the
singular matrix of all actions, decisions and thoughts in its indivisible wholeness, so
too is every event, every situation, every life. Yours too. Of course it doesn’t feel like
this when you’re not really paying attention. When you’re skimming along the
surface of life it seems like you are at the centre, and more or less, though of course
not totally, in control of your life: your life.
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However, when you pay attention more closely, deeply enough to see the
inextricability of all actions, decisions and thoughts from the matrix, so you see that
they are each and every one generated, necessitated even, by the matrix, all sense
of local, personal ownership evaporates. The thoughts that take place in the
bodimind that bears your name and carries your personal history belong to you no
more than light belongs to windows or a song belongs to a cd. They all belong to
life, to existence, to the matrix, to God. No less the life that is experienced in your
conscious awareness, that you feel is your own life. It is not your life. It belongs to
the all, the one, the matrix.

As long as you are anxious about how your life is going to turn out, as long as you
are determined to see it turn out a particular way, you are asking for trouble. You
are asking for resentment, regret, shame, blame even guilt if it doesn’t turn out that
way. Of course it’s a limitation of your design, your nature that you are unable to
predict more than a few abstractions about the future. There is actually nothing
specific about the future that anyone can predict, other than the death of all living
creatures. Nevertheless there is one thing that we can know about the future, even
if it only has a shelf life of five seconds: it’s gonna be exactly as it’s gonna be.

Tautological though that statement may be it is nevertheless as true as any

statement can ever be. Yet we are deeply conditioned to think and act as if the
future were an open book, and that we are writing a bit of it, the bit that we think
of and claim as “my life”. If all events, actions and objects are totally conditioned,
and you would have to be in denial to say they’re not, then the future is mapped
out in front of you no less than the past is mapped out behind you. Of course “in
front” and “behind” are just descriptors of our way of experience, they don’t point
directly to what it is we are experiencing as before and after, past and future.

Time is a function of perception not a characteristic of so-called reality. Yet it is a

very powerful, and almost inviolable function of perception. We know that we have
done many things, that many things have happened to us, and that they are all
now in the past. We also know that we are going to do some more things, more
things are going to happen to us before we die, and those things are in the future.
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It’s hard to shake that impression. Yet, sometimes it is shaken, and not only under
the influence of drugs. Time is actually very elastic within human experience.
Sometimes it speeds up, sometimes it slows down. It’s a matter of interest and
attentiveness. The energy of awareness as attention is a causal factor in human
experience. Attention is energy and energy creates change. So even in our
experience time is not as absolute as it seems.

This is especially true during meditation. When you feel like you really have to
move and do something, that you can’t take any more stillness, but your pride is
keeping you in stillness, holding out for the bell, time can slow right down as you
long for it to speed up.

I remember my first sesshin very well. I had never known so much pain, so much
desperation. After a few days I got into this love-hate relationship with the gong
ringer. Almost every sit I was ready to stop before the gong rang. I would start
wondering how much longer it would be, maybe now, in just a moment. Into my
desperation would creep animosity to the monk who had to time the sittings. One
time he fell asleep. I knew he had. I mean it wasn’t just my mind trying to justify its
impatience. He really had fallen asleep. I hated him. I absolutely hated him. When
he woke up and rang the gong the relief was immense. As I slipped my shins apart I
was overcome with gratitude and love, directed towards the same monk I had just
been hating.

It can be the same in sex. When you are really into it taken so deep into sensation
and feeling by pleasure and love there is no sense of time, even if mind is
occasionally making its blown away observations. When you finally come and slip
softly into the afterglow you can’t say how long you were at it. It felt timeless, but
sometimes it was only a matter of minutes, sometimes hours. You have no way of

We may not be able to follow the calculation of relativity theory to explain why
linear time is illusory and that the flow through from the past to the future via the
present is a function of perception, but we can reach the same conclusion by
becoming intimate with mental activity. When we see that it is all totally
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conditioned and that it originates in the matrix we realise that it is not only
independent agency that is a functional fiction. We eventually realise that time is
also, and that what we call the future is, as they say, already written.

As an abstract idea the pre-existence of the future can be disturbing. It implies that
you are trapped in something you can’t get out of, that there is nothing you can do
to make your life better that isn’t going to have to happen. Well, one day you are
going to have to see that that is actually true. Yet, if you do actually see it, for
yourself, you will be delighted by it rather than disturbed.

To see time clearly you have to see right through the illusion of the self, the doer,
the one who you thought was living your life and being justified and validated by
its high points, and undermined by its low points. Then the fact that the “future is
already written” becomes something to support you in those moments when you
forget what is really happening and start to worry about the future, or fret over a
decision. You remember that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and
whatever has to be done by you to support it will be done by you, and whatever
you do actually do will have to be done.

This brings us to another issue for those who try to understand their nature by
using the conceptual boxes of professional philosophers. Many professional
philosophers, and even philosophy students, would be ready to box me and what I
am saying into ‘fatalistic determinism”. Problem is I haven’t finished speaking yet. I
am provoking you with a perspective much more subtle and deep than any
conventional philosophical school. I don’t mean to say that there have not been
individual philosophers who could not immediately get where I am coming from.
There have been, but they are not box-able ones: Nietzsche, Spinoza, Nagarjuna,

I have a smart friend who has a necklace that says “AMOR FATI”. That comes from
Nietzsche. He is famous for many things, including the notion of the eternal return.
As human beings we are very intelligent, but we can be so naive. Nietzsche was not
defining the nature of reality with his notion of the eternal return. He was holding
up a looking glass to our attitude to life. Could you bear to know that eternity was
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nothing other than the continuous repetition of your life, just as it has been, in
every little detail. Could you bear having to go to school over and over and over
again. Could you embrace every mistake, every petty act, every misunderstanding
you have been involved in over and over again. This deeply misunderstood notion
is nothing more than a resistance gauge. To the extent that the idea of the eternal
return appals you, you are in resistance to your life. Amor fati , a love of one’s fate
exactly as it is, is an expression of total surrender, total trust, and is the necessary
basis for any genuine peace and freedom.

If I have no self, then what am i? I mean I am not this floor, I am not you, so
what am I then?

Rumi would disagree with you saying you are not me, not this floor. He threw away
duality “like an old dishrag” and found that he was all those things, and more. Yet in
terms of our direct experience separation is at the heart of it, not just the
separation of the past and future by the present. More pertinently to your question,
material bodies are separated by physical space. Human bodies are distinguished
also by their unique DNA. Human experience is always unique, we each have our
own personal history. Separateness and uniqueness is at the heart of our

When we go deeper this begins to change. Boundaries dissolves, substances

merge, distinctions become less clear. When you are beset with physical pain on
your cushion you have three options. You can quit, you can move or you can stay
still. If you stay still and face the pain you will learn how to become one with it. If
you don’t the pain becomes overwhelming and forces you to move or quit. If you
neither move nor quit the only option is to go deeper into the experience of pain.
You relax into the presence of sensation. Eventually the pain disappears
completely. In its place the subtle, core qualities of consciousness make themselves
known within the calm focus of mind.

The same can happen when there is no pain. You simply feel as deeply and directly
as you can the sensations that reveal the presence of a particular part of your body.
It can be your throat, your perineum, your navel. It can be your hands or ankles. It
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doesn’t matter which body part it is. What matters is that you stay with it, that your
attention stays in the sensations that reveal its presence. As you feel the sensations
mind interprets them. If it is your hand it may make reference to finger, thumb, skin,
bone, blood flow. To the extent that you mind can relax about its ability to know, to
recognise and interpret, the sensations themselves take more of your attention.
Mind won’t let go completely, not at first, or not for long. As it does so it is taken
down through the interpretative layers of its activity. Eventually it gets to the
bottom, where all the specific, obvious characteristics that distinguish one object
from another have been left behind. What is left is the subtle, fluctuating presence
of delicious, light, open, peaceful spaciousness. Any deeper than that is only
illuminate darkness, nirbijasamadhi.

The core interpretative layer of mental activity is always exactly the same in its
component qualities. No matter what sensation, feeling or whatever you become
one with, you always reach the same, universal core: the subtle presence of
consciousness as peaceful, loving impersonal delight.

While your clothes, dreams, hopes, beliefs, memories, experiences, flexibility,

stamina, appetites are all always changing, at their heart, their inviolable centre
remains you. This you is not any one or amalgam of your social persona. It is what
you mean when you say “I” in the most intimate possible way. By becoming
intimate with either the presence of your body, or the presence of your mind you
encounter your deep-most self, but without usually recognising that.

You are wearing clothes right now, and they form part of your identity. All your
clothes do, as do most of the things you think about saying to other people. Your
mind is a wardrobe too, full of psychological clothes that you put on and take off in
response to circumstance. Yet throughout every change of clothes, change of roles,
change of opinions, something constant remains. It is always you, never someone
else. This you that is constant, always present within the surface changes actually
has no specific distinguishing qualities or characteristics. The only qualities that
express its presence are those that express anyone’s presence: the peaceful,
satisfied delight of impersonal awareness of being.

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You are not your possessions. You are not your ideas. You are not your memories.
You are not your mind. You are not your body. Those are all things you are being
through, being in, being as. What it is that is being through, in and as the elements
of your personal identity is consciousness no less.

In being consciousness you are, as Rumi says, this cat, that wall, everything. When
you go down deep enough you will understand what is meant by “consciousness is
all there is” and “this very body is the entire universe”. Bon voyage!

Almost everything you’re saying contradicts what we have been led to


Yes, sure, but it doesn’t contradict what you have been carrying in your heart. Now,
perhaps, is the time to let that deep, quiet knowing express itself more fully.


I’d like to contextualise meditation and mental activity into the broader scope of
life as we know it. The Buddha characterised the heart of this life as impermanence.
The life that we live is one of constant change. Day becoming night becoming day;
summer becoming winter becoming summer; death becoming life becoming
death. Within this impermanence, to be seen clearly wherever you look are
opposites, dualities. Life seems to be an oscillation between opposites: between
sadness and happiness, energy and tiredness, effort and relaxation, going up and
coming down.

This becomes blindingly obvious when we come face to face with our mental
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activity, if we allow ourselves to do so, as opposed to trying to impose some special
mental state on ourselves in the name of meditation, which is what people usually
do. Doing so, trying to impose a preconceived state on your mind is nothing other
than psychological tyranny, or self-directed aggression. When we allow ourselves
to come face to face with the natural activity of mind, mind being a conventional
label for a flow of perception which is not a dimensional object hiding in your brain
somewhere, oscillation stares us in the face so directly that it’s only too easy not to
notice it. It’s so easy to overlook the obvious, the continual.

Sooner or later you may notice that sometimes you’re paying attention to whatever
it was you decided to pay attention to and sometimes you’re not. This is oscillation
in your attention. Let’s say you’ve decided to use your breathing as a lens to focus
your attention. You’re soon going to notice that every now and then you’ve lost the
breath, your attention has been taken to something else. You’re going to often find
yourself thinking something that you didn’t decide to think about. Sometimes you
do make a decision to think about something. Sometimes a thought pops
uninvited into your mind and you deliberately think about it for a while as it seems
to be important. Usually though thoughts uncalled for pop into your mind
uninvited, both on and off your cushion.

Very often you find yourself thinking about something absolutely absurd that has
no practical value like: how long are Mickey Mouse’s ears? When you do suddenly
notice that you’re thinking about Mickey Mouse’s ears you might realize that you’ve
got absolutely no idea how you ended up thinking about them. You may be able to
trace it back a little bit, which is sometimes quite an interesting thing to do, but
very often you can’t. You realize that not only does this represent an oscillation in
your attention away from that which is actually happening to something which is
not actually happening, but within that there’s been an oscillation in your
awareness itself, because at a certain point you had become totally unaware even
of what your mind was up to. You don’t know how you got from your breath to
Mickey Mouse’s ears. There was a track, a course that led from one thought to
another by way of some kind of association or another. There was a perception
after a perception after a thought after a thought, but most of it was unconscious ,
they took place below the threshold of your awareness.
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In other words thinking is not only a conscious process. Perception is not only a
conscious process. They’re obviously not because you have dreams. Within this
oscillation in and out of awareness you may suddenly wonder if you have just
woken up. You realise that you have come back to awareness-of, and that therefore
you must have been in a state without awareness to come back from. The state of
unconsciousness you are most familiar with is sleep. So, it’s the most obvious
assumption, that you just woke up. Whether you actually did wake up from sleep is
not the point. The point is that you have experienced oscillation in awareness, in

When you become familiar with the continuous oscillations of perception and
awareness you begin to understand the nature of mind, thoughts and thinking. You
begin to realise that your mind is not a dog that you can call whenever you want.
You begin to realise that thinking is going on all the time, and while some of your
conscious thinking may well follow your command, your intention, none of your
unconscious thinking does.

Sometimes when you’re meditating you realise that you are actually aware of your
breathing while you’re thinking about Mickey Mouse’s ears: both at the same time,
and without choosing to think about anything, just giving yourself to feeling your
breath. Even when you’re very intimate with your breath, thinking is going on,
mainly in the unconscious. Some of it, sometimes, becomes conscious, and it can
have nothing to do with your meditative seed or focus. This is not a problem. You
absolutely don’t need to worry about this. You certainly don’t need to try and stop
it from happening. You can’t stop your unconscious mind from doing its thing. It
must continually process, analyse and refer current input to former input. You can’t
stop current input, except by suicide. Your senses always send data into the brain.

It’s important that you become more realistic about thinking, about mental activity.
You can’t stop it. You can, perhaps, learn to let it all slip into the unconscious. You
can, perhaps, learn to let go of keeping the conscious mind involved in things it
doesn’t need to be involved in. Your conscious mind is not as important as it would
have you think it is. Of course it is important, and right at the heart of being human.
Nevertheless, it is not in control of anything, though it can help you to learn,
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socialise and communicate, and it certainly helps you to enjoy and suffer!

Nothing is more important for a meditator than letting go of the battle with mind,
with thinking. It can’t be won anyway, although many people like to tell themselves
that they have done it. Be very wary of anyone who makes that claim. They can not
possibly have any understanding of mind if they think that thinking can be
stopped. Of course conscious thinking can come to a temporary end. There are
actually many ways to bring this about, most of which are counter-productive. You
can hold your mind still for a while. You can hold tight to an image, sensation, idea.
You can even learn to arrest the momentum generating a thought. All of these can
be quite fun to your pride and sense of self, but they require a lot of energy, a lot of
effort. Their final fruit is not enlightenment, or freedom, or even wisdom, but
exhaustion and self-deception.

You really don’t need to wage war with your nature, with your mind. Your conscious
mind needs rest no less than your muscles and nerves do. You unconscious mind is
another matter. It is like the diaphragm, able to keep on going without a break. This
is not a problem. The reason why people go to war with their mind is because it is
stressful and tiring for the conscious mind to be continuously on the go. Not least
because most of the time it is at best doing nothing of any value, but more likely
causing all kinds of trouble, like suggesting things could be other than they
actually are. You don’t need to wage war with your mind because your conscious
mind will let go if you let it. Of course you have to learn to let it. You have to learn to
relax your mind so it lets go.

Just as your breath is a natural oscillation between exhale and inhale, the conscious
mind naturally oscillates between activity and rest, between thinking and silence.
All you have to do is learn to let go into this. You can’t do this learning if you are
carrying any unconscious hostility to mind, thought or thinking. If you have been
reading lots of spiritual books on consciousness, mind, meditation, yoga you will
have been infected by their hostility to mind unless you recognised its invalidity at
the time.

Actually, there is always an oscillation between thinking and not thinking in your
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conscious mind. There is always an oscillation between perception and silence.
However this oscillation is usually going too fast for you to notice it. All you notice
is the thoughts, the perceptions: the sounds all obscure the silence. This is not
surprising as sounds, perceptions, thoughts all have formal characteristics, while
silence of course has none, so it’s very easy to overlook.

An overlooked silence provides less respite, less nourishment than one that is
recognised. Of course, when you are in a silence you can’t recognise that as the
recognising thought would break the silence. However you can recognise that you
have just come out of silence, and you can even learn to recognise that you are
slipping down towards silence.

As I said before, sometimes it seems like you have just woken up on your cushion
after drifting off to sleep. This may be so, but there is also another option. When
you start to relax deeply, no longer trying to make anything happen, no longer
needing to even know what is spontaneously happening, your ability to know, to
recognise starts to be of little interest. Interest is energy.

As you lose interest in what your conscious mind can do, can say, it takes advantage
of that reduction in energy and lets go of its ability to know completely. It slips into
silence, and then it slips or jumps back out again. Until you become used to this it
usually jumps back into action, into perception, into thinking. This is fear, fear of
silence, fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing what is going on. This fear is
actually quite natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Your survival depends on it.
When you’re meditating though you are quite safe, and your survival no longer
depends on your mind’s ability to recognise what’s going on. You are committed to
stillness, to no action, to not do anything. So you don’t need your mind to tell you
what you would need to know if you did take any action.

This jump back to conscious awareness can be a little disturbing, uncomfortable,

even a bit of a shock. When you get used to the oscillation out of and back into
conscious awareness, it becomes smoother, softer. Then it brings other qualities
with it as you come back from the darkness into the light. You bring back some of
the qualities of the darkness with you, into the light.
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Of course, that darkness is the presence of pure consciousness, of unconditioned
consciousness. There is nothing more nourishing than absorption in unconditional
consciousness: that is what deep sleep is. You can’t survive without regular doses of
unconditional consciousness. Yet if you only get them two or three times a night it
may not be enough to keep you energised in and fully present to your life. When
you get them on your cushion it’s known as Nirbijasamadhi, and its deeply
nourishing, and you can recognise that. You can feel the subtle qualities, openness,
spaciousness delight, that mind can impute to the presence of consciousness
coming back into conscious awareness with you. Your enjoyment of that facilitates
it happening again and more easily.

So, really, you don’t have to struggle to overcome your mind, to control and
quieten your mind. It needs silence, it wants silence, it longs for silence. Nor do you
have to struggle to enjoy deep, nourishing states of consciousness. Nirbijasamadhi,
nirvikalpasamadhi, sabijasamadhi, vikalpasamadhi, this dhyana and that jhana,
dharana and pratyahara are all natural expressions of consciousness. They naturally
oscillate with discursive thinking and each other.

The problem is that we have learned our way into a deep habituation in which
most of these deeper, subtle states don’t happen. They can begin to do so as we
learn to let go into the unrestricted activity of our minds. It doesn’t matter that your
conscious mind has been conditioned to be unnecessarily active. It doesn’t matter
that your conscious mind has been conditioned to give itself more significance
than it actually has. It doesn’t matter in what way your conscious mind has been
conditioned. Just let that conditioning play itself out and you will come face to face
with the nature of mind, by way of its oscillatory nature. These states will all start to
express themselves.

Of course this may take time. It will take a long time if you don’t meditate regularly.
It will take a long time if you don’t sit for long enough. You have to sit a lot for mind
to slow down enough to let go enough to reveal and fully recover its natural
oscillations. Sooner or later though you will notice your mind slowing down.
Thoughts will emerge more gently, more slowly and meander off with less haste so
you can more easily let go of their meandering. The more you relax about what
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your mind is doing the more your mind’s oscillations will slow down. As it does so
its silences become more prolonged, more regular, and more often, where silence
also includes the thinning out, the slowing down of thought, of perception.

Whether this is actually a chronological slowing down or just a psychological

slowing down is neither here nor there. If that’s how you experience it, that’s how
you experience it, and if that’s how you experience it, you benefit from it even if
some observing scientist with electrodes in your brain could say: “actually that
silence only lasted a millionth of a millionth of a second.” You’ve enjoyed it and
perhaps it’s seemed like eternity for you. So what does it matter what some
external observer might think they could say about the reality of it? That’s just a
chronological reality. The psychological reality is what matters to you.

So recognising, enjoying and benefiting from silence is definitely possible because

silence is actually contextualising every perception and is there to be enjoyed
when the flow of perception slows down. This cannot be made to happen by
fighting perception, nor by resisting thought, but only by relaxing into thinking,
thoughts and perception so they slow down enough to reveal the silence that
contextualises them all: the silence that is continually contextualising all
perception even if it’s not being recognised.

The neuro-perceptual reality is that all sound, all perception, all thought is an
oscillation out of silence, which are all followed by an oscillation back into silence.
Sounds and silence are continuously giving birth to each other, even when we are
unaware that silence is actually happening. When we do become aware that
perception is oscillating with silence, even though we can never actually be aware
of the moments of silence themselves, perception becomes far less troublesome.
Even if we don’t much like our thoughts, we know they are not for long, and that
soon the next thought may bring the subtle tastes of silence with it.

You can perhaps imagine a situation where your body is functioning with total
integrity in a life that has no difficulties whatsoever. A life in which you never have
to make a decision. You just roll organically out of bed, onto your mat and do a few
hours yoga. Then you find yourself on your cushion and do 4 or 5 hours of sitting.
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When you open your eyes you find your dinner is there. You are in your ashram and
life goes on like that. Maybe once a week a bunch of people come to sit around
you, so you sit there in silence until they seem satisfied and go away again. Perhaps
you can imagine a life like that. Perhaps in a life like that your body being so
satisfied, so well taken care of has nothing to say. Therefore your mind has nothing
to say either as mind is always speaking on behalf of the body, on behalf of the life
that the body is experiencing.

So an existence in which very little mental activity takes place is definitely

imaginable. It may even have happened for a few people. No doubt there are one
or two gurus left out there who really have no need for much thought. Well,
actually I do doubt it, but never mind that’s my innate scepticism, you don’t have to
let it bother you, do you? Either way it’s not going to happen to you now, is it? It
may happen to me I guess, at least my life is on a roll that could end up somewhere
like that, were it not for my attitude towards that kind of thing!

If you imagine that a life without much thinking is possible for you please, get real.
If you have a job you have to think. If you have a family you have to think. If you
have responsibilities and obligations you still have to think even if you think you
don’t have any ambitions, dreams and desires. Novel actions require thought. New
skills require thinking. Get over it. Thinking is not the problem. The surface problem
is thinking that thinking is a problem. The deep problem is thinking that there is a
thinker, that it is your thinking, your thoughts, your mind, your life.

The interconnected nature of being human means that each one of us is in

relationship to other people. Relationships that matter, that create requirements,
obligations, desires, preferences and attachments. These will all produce mental
activity, out of your silence. So if we’re not willing to see the irresistible, inexorable
and inescapable oscillation of duality, not only everywhere, but especially in our
minds, then we’re likely to have been in, and continue to remain at, war with
ourselves when we come to sitting, to meditating.

Far more important, fruitful and liberating than establishing a state without mental
activity is what could be called surrendering mental activity, relinquishing mental
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activity or letting go of mental activity. Which doesn’t mean preventing it,
controlling it or stopping it. It means having no involvement in it at all, while it’s still
happening. Having no involvement in it at all would mean not claiming it, not
saying: “This is my thought, my feeling, my perception, my experience, my belief
and it’s confirming my ‘me,’ my mind, my independent, separate, autonomous,
special, cherished existence.” This can easily stop and the stopping of this is
nirvana, as the Buddha would say. The cessation of this claiming, identification is
the only real and permanent silence that’s possible for normal folk like us, folk with
responsibilities and obligations. It’s very, very possible though, if you can let go into
the murky roots of mental activity.

The total cessation of all mental activity in a normal life is not possible. I’m not sure
why spiritual practitioners are so unrealistic, but we are. We think: “I’m going to be
like the Buddha, or Ramana Maharshi”. We all run yet how many of us set out to run
like Carl Lewis? We’re not so stupid to try that. Even more stupid to try to be
something even more difficult and be like the Buddha. You could say the Buddha-
hood, the awakening, that took place in the life of Siddhartha Gotama was a natural
functioning of that life. A man who was so pampered and spoilt he had absolutely
nothing to worry or think about. So bored did he become that he decided to think
about something really tricky.

This is not our life. Our life is not only an oscillation between day and night,
summer and winter, hunger and satisfaction, cold and warmth, happiness and
sadness, but one in which we all of us have responsibilities to many other people.
The Buddha abandoned his totally. He abandoned his wife and his two year old
child. When he found the silence and declared his awakening, he didn’t say: “Ah
now I’ve finally got it.” He said: “How marvelous, each and every being, perfect and
whole, lacking nothing, just as they are." This is not an expression of achievement,
but recognition, realisation of something that applies to all of us, regardless of the
shape of our lives.

If everybody is perfect and whole, lacking nothing, then being human cannot be
the problem. Being in a body cannot be the problem. Having a mind cannnot be
athe problem. The problem is identifying with them. Claiming them. Confusion
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about this is very deeply embedded, but it’s also very easy to see that that’s what it
is. This identification, which is the dynamic of the self, is a habituated tendency in
the psyche, an impulse created by the mechanics of life and no more and no less

There are eleven bodies in this room, eleven expressions of life in this room. Zoe is
no longer in the room. Yet Zoe is still Zoe is she not? This is where the confusion
lies. Human beings are not like trees. We can move not just from one room to
another or one country to another but in the case of a few, one planet to another.
Nevertheless the eyes that you see when you look in the mirror are always
straddling the same nose whether or not it gets broken, crushed or removed. Your
eyes are always perched upon the same shoulders. The eyes, the nose and
shoulders are determined by the same unique DNA imprint. This is where the
confusion lies: in uniqueness. Your body is unique. The eyes that do the looking and
the ears that do the listening in your experience are unique. The brain that does the
hearing and the seeing are unique. So the assumption is that the intelligence that
experiences the hearing and the seeing is also unique, is also specific to that body.

Trees somewhere are always going to be rustling. Yet nobody is ever going to be
able to put the wind in a box and say: “Here is the wind.” Nobody is able to tell us
what colour or shape it is. Yet the wind is there: leaves are shaking, mental activity
is going on. You could say the nerves are shaking. Something is flowing through
your body. Shall we call it blood, chi, prana? That’s not enough: something else is
flowing through your body. You may not know what this is conceptually but you
sure know it in experience. I know right now exactly what my hand is doing. How
do I know that? How did I know that my finger bases were broadening, my fingers
were lengthening, my bicep was rotating in the direction it was rotating in. How
did I know? I know these things because consciousness is also flowing through my
body as its core intelligence.

When you articulate your hand, you are also articulating consciousness itself. If not
you would not know it, unless somebody took a photo and showed you. There is
more to knowing than the interpretative intelligence of mind. There is a deeper
intelligence than that, a deeper intelligence than your genetic encoding. When you
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are very quiet, very deep it reveals itself through its most subtle qualities, within all
of which, the spaciousness, lightness, peacefulness there is energy, vibration,
oscillation. This is consciousness. Consciousness is oscillating, vibrating, flowing.
Consciousness is flowing through your bodimind, through your whole experience
and sometimes expressing as your mind.

Because your body is specific, unique and constantly changing location, it seems
also that the consciousness within the body is specific, unique, because it’s always
changing location, even though it’s always looking out through the same eyes. This
is the very root of the sense of self, the continuity of consciousness within your ever
changing experience. It generates an automatic, unconscious identification of
consciousness not only with its vehicle, the bodimind, but also its uniqueness, its
‘individuality’. This identification is necessary for biological survival, but it becomes
the core hindrance to genuine peace, true freedom.

True freedom does not require that we give up thinking, mind, body, attachment,
preference or desire. These are the stuff of life. Freedom depends on giving up
identification with them. On the surface identification is the process of making an
autonomous entity out of them. Deeper in its the process of identifying
consciousness with them, so that it becomes experienced through their
uniqueness and the individuality that implies.

In becoming intimate with the roots of mental activity all of this becomes clear.
Within that clarity it’s quite natural to let go of the identification, without going to
war with the different facets and elements of mental activity. Letting go of
identification with mental activity rests on seeing that there is no controller, no self
marshaling and organising. This becomes clear as you see how deeply, totally the
flow of mental activity is conditioned as a local expression of the total matrix
without any individual identity anywhere.

Your experience, your actions, reactions, feelings and thoughts are the fruit of an
inextricably interconnected matrix of factors and forces completely beyond your
control. You are not in control of gravity, you are not in control of your DNA, you not
in control of the neural activity in your brain, you are not in control of your mind,
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you are not in control of your life. Thinking that you are is based on it feeling as
though you are. This feeling is an expression of identification: the conjuring of a
personal, autonomous identity from the flow of life as it flows through a bodimind.
It’s easy to be confused by this, but it is confusion nonetheless.

Meditation can help you see all this very easily as you see how you are not in
control of your mind as it slips from your breathing to Mickey Mouse’s ears. You see
really clearly that all these things are coming from the unfolding of life as a whole
over which you have no control. You can see the labeling, the identifying the
confusion of instrument with origin, agency with power. You see there is no self, no
thinker, no doer, only experiencing, thinking, doing.

The self is the most credible, sophisticated, tenacious impression that embodiment
creates.The localisation of consciousness into an organism necessarily creates the
impression of independent autonomy, but that’s all it is: an impression. If you go
looking for the self as an entity you will not find it. If you turn the light of your
looking inwards upon yourself, you will end up blinded by the light without ever
having found anything but shadows. Even if you call your programme matrix a self,
it has no controlling centre, no autonomous controller.

The light that you will be blinded by is consciousness itself, and the blinding is
silence. You will become able to see that wherever you look and wherever you have
looked, consciousness was present. Consciousness was what you were seeing, what
you were feeling, tasting. Consciousness is all there is. Don’t let that be a dogmatic
slogan. Find out for yourself. Challenge it in the depths of your own mind.

This doesn’t mean there is no difference between Tony and Lilly. There are
differences in behaviour, perception, form, DNA. Of course there are. There are
differences in memories, personal history, social identity. No doubt about that. Is
there a different consciousness though? Is the light coming through your two eyes
different? Is consciousness multiple. You can’t answer that without becoming
intimate with consciousness itself. No matter how much data you have about
biology it will never be enough to tell you about consciousness. You need direct
data, direct experience. You get this in meditation if you allow it to be genuine,
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undirected enquiry.

When you go down deep into the roots of mental activity unpeeling the subtly
interwoven layers of its interpretative activity all the characteristics and qualities
that distinguish one sensation from another, one feeling from another dissolve into
their source. Distinction is the surface of the matrix, but it has only one core, one
heart, one substance: consciousness. This is not so easy to know, data analysis is not
enough. Even Spinoza did’t recognise what that singular substance is that
constitutes the world as God. Not because he was stupid, but because of his
approach. Logic can tell you there is a singularity to the matrix, but not what the
nature or substance of that singularity is.

When we see that all the tendencies, impulses, dreams and hopes that constitute
our identity are conditioned by the matrix as a programme structure with no
controller the self disappears. This is not a matter of philosophy or intellectual
argument. This is something to be noticed: provided you’re not too busy looking
for anything, provided you’re not too busy looking for silence, for enlightenment,
provided you’re just looking directly enough, closely enough so that you can see
clearly that there is nothing here for which the word self has any relevance or
meaning: except as a referent to a unique location and its programming.

It’s because the impression of the self is so credible, sophisticated, deep, that losing
the self can sound like a scary experience, but it’s not. It’s the most rewarding,
delicious, delightful experience you can possibly have. The sense of self is so deeply
rooted, not just in our socialisation but even also in our perceptual mechanism,
that it is not so easy to let go of. There is huge resistance to letting go. This
resistance expresses itself by an unwillingness to recognise the implications of
experience: to not see what is staring you in the face when you get down to the
roots of mental interpretation. Down there you will find no centre, no source, no
self. You will find only the flow of impersonal consciousness identifying itself with
its content.

This is what meditation is for. It is not to establish some special mind state. There
are lots of special mind states and you can get different drugs to take you into
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them much more easily, enjoyably, effectively than sitting down on a meditation
cushion. You know that. You’re using drugs all the time to give you states of
consciousness. You eat chocolate to make you happy. You drink coffee to make you
feel sharp. You drink alcohol to chill, you smoke weed to laugh. A state of
consciousness is a function of circumstance, it’s a function of chemistry, of input
into the organism. It’s very easy to think that somebody’s who is ‘free’ is always
going to be happy, laughing and smiling. Why should anybody always be laughing
or smiling? Life is an oscillation for all organisms, for all minds. Taking drugs to feel
good may hide that, mask that but it doesn’t change it.

The spectrum of your oscillation can change. You can be spend years with
everything going smoothly, satisfying work, good friends, plenty spare time,
rollicking love life. Yet you still have your ups and downs. You do whatever you can
to get out of the downs and into the ups. Then life takes a turn for the worse. You
lose your job, lover abandons you, you can’t pay your bills. Life sucks, but it still
oscillates. You still have your ups and downs and the momentum between them,
and your input into that, remains the same. You can’t really quantify suffering. You
really can’y quantify happiness. You want the one, and not the other. You will
always oscillate between them. You need not always identify with them.

Your body, your mind are a localisation of consciousness. Identification of

consciousness with its biological locale is inevitable. If you can let go deeply
enough of any agenda, any intention on your cushion this will become clear. So
also will the possibility of letting go of the identification. The fact that
consciousness is localised in the body doesn’t mean that consciousness is local. The
fact that sound is localising itself in your tympanic membrane does not mean that
those vibrations are local to your ear. They are not local to your ear. They are hitting
everything within range in every direction. Up, down, left, right, north, east, south,
west. Localising in your mind but not local by nature. Consciousness is a
multidimensional hologram vibrating like that, localising here there and
everywhere but not local by nature.

We have to acknowledge our uniqueness, we have to take care of ourselves. We

need a social identity, but we do not need autonomy, independence or volition.
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These impressions may serve us biologically, but they can hinder us spiritually. They
cause not only resentment, regret, shame, pride, self-pity and guilt, but contempt,
blame, envy, hostility, manipulation and exploitation too. They make such a mess of
social interaction. Blame and recrimination are the currency of social life. They
cover up the deep fact that consciousness is all there is, and it moves outwards as
love, inwards as peace, with both movements being a deep delight. Meditation can
bring us to this delight, peace, love. It can also bring it out into our lives, our

It’s hard to be like that though when you’re outnumbered.

Yes, but it’s got nothing to do with numbers. It’s to do with you. Keep looking.

I am but Godfrey, I find it here in this environment it’s perfect but…

Well just keep looking. When you go into an environment that’s more challenging
you have to keep looking. The only thing that can help is to keep looking. There’s
no technique that can help and looking is not a technique. You can’t become free.
You can’t make yourself free. Just be what you’re designed to be, which is to be an
aperture for consciousness to look at itself through and you’ll start to see.

This is not so easy. We’re so used to having a method. If you want to get to town, it’s
very simple. You put on your boots, you get the car key, you go out to the car, put
the key in the ignition and off you go. That’s the method. This applies to everything.
There’s a method to satisfying your thirst. It’s to do with muscular contraction, the
articulation of bones in space and the lifting of a cup. There is no method to
freedom. That’s what makes it seem so hard. That’s what makes it so fucking easy. If
you’re willing, ready, able to drop all your method, to let go of all of your, “I’m going
to make it happen, I’m going to do it now this time…” then it’s done. That’s what
the Buddha meant when he declared, “Oh it’s always been here! I’ve always been
free, I’ve never been in prison and nothing else has either.”

This is what surrender means. You just let go. It doesn’t mean you stop doing
things. It doesn’t mean things stop happening. It does mean you stop doing them
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in the personalised sense. The body still does what the body does and the mind still
does what the mind does, but there is no more doer thereof. There never was, of
course. The impression that there was is no longer maintained. Maybe not
permanently at first. For sure there will be an initial process of oscillation between
forgetting and remembering, selfing and not-selfing.

I think we need to be reminded.

Yes, for a while. Eventually though you will stop forgetting, until finally you will
forget about the whole thing altogether so that life can get on with itself through
and as you without any resistance at all, without thinking about self or no-self.

But just listening to you Godfrey is bringing me back in.

Yes, because it’s better to be in here than outside, right! No! but the point is you
don’t have to be doing anything to be here. You’re here, you’ve done it. So now
you’re here, now what? Your body is not going to be happy if you lie in bed all day
so you’re going to have to get up. Your body’s going to like it if you do some yoga,
so you’re going to do some yoga. Your bodimind’s going to like it if you come to
stillness so you do that.

You don’t need to do that to get anything. I’m speaking to remind you. You don’t
have to listen. I’m just speaking to remind you of what you already know in your
heart. Whether you pay attention or not, hear or not is neither here nor there. It’s
already written. Here we are stuck in the same old movie. Godfrey waffling and
some people asking questions, some people not asking the questions that are in
their mind. Obviously we like the movie otherwise we’d go and get in another
movie, but it’s just a movie.

What’s listening, what’s hearing, what‘s speaking? It’s all the same. That’s not the
‘same’ like ‘two socks are the same’ (they both perform the same function and they
both look the same). It means identical. What is speaking in me is hearing in you:
consciousness. Of course it seems like there is one consciousness over here and
another over there, but its the vehicles that are separate, Both your eyes are
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separate, but their awareness, their consciousness is the same. We are the eyes of
consciousness, amongst others. In our eyes, through our brains, our intelligence,
consciousness has the ability to enjoy and know itself, but only if that intelligence
lets go of its tendency to identify itself with its instrument.

You know we are not as cut off, separate from each other as we have been led by
our biology to believe. Sure food going down my throat doesn’t nourish you, but I
feel you, you feel me. We don’t have to ask each other how we are, we feel it, we
know it anyway. Asking is just a social convention, not a necessity. Not only that but
we have all had many telepathic experiences. We reach for the phone to call
someone and it rings because they have called us. Someone says or does
something just as we are thinking of doing or saying it ourselves. These things are
happening all the time. They happen because there is only one consciousness, one
flow of intelligence moving through many instruments.

So going back to what Lily was saying, yes it’s easy here and that’s the point. That’s
why places like this exist, why people like me exist, why people like you come. But
you don’t have to ask: “What do I have to do? What’s the technique that I’m going
to pick up? What am I going to take home with me?”. You can take home, you will
take home what you’re going to take home. The longer you’re here the better. If
that becomes untrue you’ll know. You’ll be down the hill like a shot and everybody
will be happy to see you go, not because they don’t want you to be here, but
because they know you got what you’ve come for and everything’s cool.

But even that oscillates, wanting to come and go.

Yes but it doesn’t when its time to go. When you know that you’ve got nothing
more to be gained from being here up on this hill from me then there’s no
oscillation. You know. You go, without any doubt, hesitation or justification.

Then if everything is oscillating whatever you do gain here is only temporary.

No. Death is permanent. When the self is dead, it’s dead. You don’t need to go
anywhere to see if you can get it killed. You can think that you don’t need it, you
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can think that it’s time to go down, you can think that you don’t need any help
anymore and then it turns out that you did. But that’s different from knowing.
When there’s a knowing you don’t even think about it. It’s a non-issue. You’d never
make a statement: “I don’t need it.” The closer you are to freedom, the less you even
think about it. You know when you’re getting close because you stop thinking
about it.

What is the best practice?

All roads of self enquiry lead to no self. Everybody has their own road going there.
If you want to know what your road is, just pay attention to what’s actually
happening. It is unfolding before your feet, through the agency of your inclinations
and desires. You actually don’t need anybody to give you a map on the journey that
you’re taking because you cannot stray. Your life just as it is, has been, will be is your
road, your path, your dharma.

I’d just like to take a look at what we call the mind. In order to understand the mind
we need to look at its context. This is true of any phenomenon. No phenomenon
can be effectively understood in isolation from its context: especially not the mind.
Of course as the context of the mind is life itself and life itself is not really
understood, it should be no great surprise that the mind is not only not
understood, but even dismissed as an epiphenomenon, as an insignificant flutter:
as it is by some. Exploration of life, of the context of mind, has been going on for a
long time. In any given moment it can seem like we have a more clear picture now
of what that context is. Sooner or later further discoveries lead to that picture being

Our experience of our mind is an experience that takes place within the
localisation, within the confines, of our body. Mental activity taking place in the
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body lends itself to the impression that the mind is in the body. The notion that the
mind is in the body gives rise to the notion that thinking originates in the
bodimind. Yet we’ve all had many experiences which suggest otherwise. We’ve all
been in a situation when we’ve thought something just as somebody has verbally
expressed it. Or we’ve thought of somebody and they’ve come around the corner;
or the phone rings and there they are at the other end.

Of course such phenomena can be interpreted in different ways. Nevertheless

those kinds of experiences can be married to some of the discoveries that scientists
are making. Such as quantum information existing in two entangled particles
simultaneously regardless of how far they are apart, holograms and the like. There
are a few drifts of scientific research which imply that the fundamental nature of
the universe is holographic.

If we look out from where we are as far as we can see we never come to the edge. If
we look back as far as we can see in time we never come to the beginning. If we
were able to look forward in time we would never come to the end. This spatial and
temporal endlessness is what we call infinity. According to Liebniz, an infinity has
an infinite number of centres. This has something to do with the holographic
possibilities of the universe. Which has something to do with there being able to be
two separate sub-atomic particles carrying the same information or two minds
experiencing the same thought simultaneously. The holographic paradigm has at
its heart the principle that each part contains all the information of the whole. This
means that all information is located everywhere: that information is nonlocal.
Which means that at a deep level all phenomena are interconnected to the point of
not really being separate at all.

When we realise the interconnected nature of all phenomena, not so much

through scientific investigation but through meditation, everything begins to look
a little different. Different from when we were obsessed with or locked into a sense
of separation. Different from when we were totally in the thrall of being inside our
skin and therefore outside of everything else. When in a situation like this with a
bunch of people living without much stimulus doing the same things all the time,
the boundaries between so called individuals begin to blur. Particularly in terms of
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who thinks what when, and who does what when, and who wants what when. You
find yourself doing something for which you’ve got no historical tendency, but it
turns out somebody else is wanting it to be done just in that moment. Maybe you
find yourself getting up earlier than normal, wandering into the house and doing
something unusual: then it turns out you were doing that for somebody else but
you didn’t realise, you didn’t consciously know and you find out later.

The boundary between Tuscany and Umbria is clearly defined on a map. But try to
find it by heading South and you won’t. At a certain point you realise it’s not quite
as beautiful down there as it is up here. Nevertheless it will be hard for you to tell
exactly when it was that you left Tuscany and found yourself in Umbria. Although a
politician could tell you, a police man could tell exactly where it was that you
crossed the imaginary boundary.

There really is no such thing as a Tuscany/Umbria boundary except in the political

imagination of human beings. You might be able to look at a map from a distance
and say: ‘Look, you can easily call that Italy because there’s all that sweep of
mountains going from sea to sea. That part of that sweep of mountains is Italy and
that part is Austria, Switzerland etc.’ So there are things which we could call natural
boundaries but only because we have that concept of a boundary so deeply
embedded in our consciousness as a result of our skin.

You could say the boundaries between human beings, the skin, are not so
imaginary, not imaginary at all. The skin is a real thing. But what is imaginary about
the skin is that it is a boundary. You could equally see the skin as being an adhesive.
It’s not just a boundary, it’s not just an interface: it’s a connector. What is an eye,
what is the optical centre of the brain but a folding inwards of your skin? The
activity of your skin is the world outside as far as you’re concerned. If your eyes are
open right now, what you’re seeing is being seen in your brain. The information is
being received in there. The sophistication of your brain is such that it can create an
image, a simulation of external space within which you can move.

Nevertheless the almost irreducible impression, except when under the influence
of drugs, is that you’re inside your skin, and that everyone and everything else is
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outside it. On the inside of that division thinking is taking place. If you’re sitting
outside on the platform meditating, the thoughts that you’re going to have are
going to be very different than if you’re sitting in here meditating. The wind on
your cheeks is going to produce completely different thoughts than the sound of
somebody peeing in the toilet. So what’s going on in your mind is just a reflection
of what’s going on outside your skin as much as anything else. Therefore in a sense,
what’s going on in the toilet is inside you! That’s where you’re experiencing it.

Although you can see your body, your hands, arms, foot and leg and you can feel
your hands grasping a cup, without that hand and without that cup, there’s no
action. Action is an extrapolation from objects being changed in their relationship
to each other. Mind is an extrapolation from perceptions.

From the localisation of perceptions within a particular organism, or within a

particular body, comes the notion of the mind, a mind, my mind. Yet if we start to
look closely at ‘the mind’ it’s hard to find its skin. It’s hard to find how the mind is
actually defined in a way that the body can be defined by the skin. What’s inside
the skin has a fairly discernible consistency, but not what’s inside the mind. There is
something under the right of the ribcage that if you drink too much alcohol is
going to freak out. There’s something next to it that if you eat too much ice cream is
going to freak out. You’ve got a couple of them round the back which if you eat too
much salt or drink too much liquid or eat too much fruit is going to freak out in
different ways. The liver, as long as you’ve got it, is where it is and the kidneys too.

Whereas the so called ‘mind’ is not like that. The constituent members of the body
are pretty much consistent in their location and in their functioning. The
constituent members of the mind not so: even memory. Of course we always have
a memory, but what we can remember is not constant. Nevertheless there is some
consistency to our thoughts because there is a consistency to our actions, and our
location, even though our actions, our thoughts, our location all vary.

When we come to meditate, if we approach this as self-enquiry, we utilise the

lenses of honesty, openness, directness in being present to our mental activity, the
flow of perceptions, thoughts, feelings. If our intimacy is deep enough it won’t be
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hard to discover where our thoughts are coming from, where our feelings are
coming from.

You can categorise thoughts and feelings according to the arrow of time. Some of
them are related to the present, some to the past, some to the future. Some
thoughts are being produced by things that are actually happening in the moment.
Who knows what thought that sound will produce? But it can produce a thought
about the nature of sound or silence perhaps. About the nature of somebody’s
activity perhaps. Then there are some thoughts arising from the past, things that
you’re trying to figure out or explain. Or from the future, things that you’re trying to
anticipate or predict. When you start to really relax in meditation, things that are
actually happening outside in the moment, in the present, start to impinge
themselves upon you less and less. Somebody slamming a door or starting a car
can very easily go unnoticed.

Our concern for the future is always based on our experience of the past. As we
start to relax into the flow of our perceptions we can start to see how the past is
expressing itself into the future, by way of the present. This seeing of the past in the
present can prevent the past from tyrannising the future. This is not so much a
question of trying to gather information about the past but just seeing what it is
that creates the flow of perceptions. Seeing how the present is driven totally by the
past, into the future. When you start to see this you can begin to lose interest in
trying to figure out the future, or reconfigure the past.

In the stillness, in the silence of meditative posture, if you are relaxed enough,
perceptions no longer produce the same old re-actions, especially physical ones.
This is the significance of being still: not moving, not itching, not scratching, not
wiping the snot or the tears. This allows those perceptions to end, not in action, but
in awareness. This is not what normally happens. In our normal life perceptions
produce actions. A perception of pain in a certain part of the body produces a
movement away from that pain. The perception of cold produces a movement
towards the fire. The perception of thirst produces a movement towards the cup.

When we’re meditating perception becomes isolated from action so that it can be
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clearly seen. Instead of being pushed into future action by the past we can look
back from the present into the past, not so much to find out data about the past,
but to become free from the past. Perhaps we won’t become free at all, but it is
possible to become free from the past. Of course it’s not possible to eradicate or
escape from the past. The past is always going to be that irreducible which the
present and future rest upon. It’s always going to be here, as the inviolable
foundation of the present.

That notion of freedom from the past needs to be taken carefully. If you’re
dedicated to living in the present, you are living on the past. You are not free from
the past, by dedicating yourself to the present. You are honouring the past. You are
expressing the past and you are not free from the future. The past, the present, the
future are not separate. They are one. This is the whole point of the Four Quartets of
T S Eliot who knows far more about life than most spiritual teachers, and expresses
it far more beautifully, and far less dangerously.

To cut perception off from action, is what meditation invites. That’s the whole point
of binding yourself in the prison of stillness, so that the mechanism of perception
can be clearly seen within the confines of your own body. Then in the present
moment of your own perceptions, what you’re looking at is the past. When you are
relaxed enough that you are no longer responding to stimuli in the moment,
somebody banging a door downstairs or whatever, what’s left is stuff coming from
the past even if it’s creating anxiety about the future.

A baby has no anxiety about the future as it has no memory of trouble in the past.
These thoughts that arise into awareness in meditation are the necessary,
inevitable, expression of the past. They’re not to be stopped. They stop when the
past is no longer a problem. Until then they cannot be stopped except by setting
up a deep tension of resistance to the past. The past cannot be abandoned but it
can be denied. It doesn’t have to be though. It can be embraced as the necessary
foundation of both the present and the future. Then you may find that the future
also becomes no problem, and that fully embracing the past is not only to embrace
the present, but the future also, and that fully embracing the present is not only to
embrace the past, but the future too.
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When you find yourself fretting over past or future, not able to let them be, still in
the habit of tinkering, you have two options. You can take psychological action and
say to yourself: “I’m meditating now. This thought has got nothing to do with what
I’m doing, I don’t´t need to give it any juice.” Or you can take physical action: “Okay,
I’ll go to Bibbienna and find myself some cheese to make sure that I have
something that I want to eat for lunch today.” These are the only two sensible
courses of action. Either you leave it alone or you go and do something about it. Of
course if you keep going and doing something about it you’ll never meditate.

When you have these kinds of thoughts, superficial irritations or concerns about
little things that are going to be solved and resolved anyway soon enough, you just
let them go. You let them go, not because they shouldn’t be happening, they are
happening, but because there is absolutely no need for you to pursue them any
further. You do not have to follow every thought that comes into your mind. To do
so not only makes you dizzy and exhausted, but it keeps you locked in the
confusion of agency by your ignorance about mind. MInd is much more than
conscious awareness. Your unconscious mind is continually spooling through many
hypothetical possibilities, and some of these get into conscious awareness. Not
because you need to act on them, but because something resonant draws it into
your conscious mind, like a sound or a smell. Conscious awareness is not required
of most actions, it’s a sophisticated evolutionary tool for enjoying, learning and

If you stay with ‘the stream of perception’ allowing thoughts to come and allowing
them to go, what tends to happen is a little bit like particles settling in a liquid.
They go deeper and deeper. As you settle more deeply into what is actually
happening external stimuli begin to play less part in choreographing the dance of
your mind. Your conscious mind is taken by deeper concerns and currents. Problem
is that you tend to have resistance to a lot of them. As you settle more deeply into
the flow of mind you’re heading towards some things that you don’t want to know
about. Those things in the past that have twisted you, hurt you, distorted you. You
don’t want to know about them, because they have pain in them and so you keep
spinning back out to the surface.
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Sooner or later you’ll get tired of all that spinning out and back and around and
down and back and around and down, although you can’t control this. You just
have to stay with it getting dizzy. Eventually you’re going to realise that under all
those superficial thoughts about cheese and Mickey Mouses ears, there is
something lurking that you didn’t want to know about. Let’s call it a ‘knot’, as R D
Laing would have done. There are many ‘knots’ in your unconscious, lurking as
bruises and briars.

Of course, we don’t like to feel our bruises. Olivia’s screaming these days when I put
my hand on her thigh where she has that spectacular bruise which I keep
forgetting about. We don’t want our bruises to be touched because the touching
of our bruises hurts. This is the way it is in the body but actually this is not the way
it is in the mind. We’re so used to the way the body functions that we tend to
approach the mind in the same way, as if it were the same kind of thing with the
same kind of properties. We think if there’s a bruise down there the best thing for
us to do is to leave that bruise alone.

The inherent integrity of being human is the most sophisticated expression of the
impulse to wholeness that the universe as we know it has ever seen. The whole of
the human organism embodies and expresses that impulse to wholeness. Every
aspect of the human being is seeking that wholeness, looking for that wholeness,
expressing that wholeness as best it can and every single bruise being carried in
our unconscious is looking to release itself into a deeper wholeness.

These bruises that we carry, these scars that we carry, are carrying us, in their own
way, towards wholeness. They’re creating our behaviour from so deep that we don’t
see how it works. Very often we don’t even see the patterns of our behaviour at all
so obsessed are we with the specific, limited consequences of our actions. “How
much money have I got in bank?” “Will she let me in?” Or whatever.

Yet driven we are by these bruises because these bruises need to be resolved so
that the impulse towards wholeness can fulfil itself more fully. They need to
dissolve and disappear. As long as we remain ignorant, unaware, of them, instead
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of disappearing, they produce distorted and distorting perceptions, which lead to
unfulfilling actions.

This can be analysed in all kinds of ways. Patanjali uses certain words, one of which
is well known in spiritual circles: samskara. A samskara is a bruise, a trace, left over
from unresolved past experience. These bruises can be subtle or they can be overt.
Some of them are easily recognisable as bruises. Some of them are not
recognisable as being bruises yet bruises they are.

Patanjali’s psychology of yoga is quite simple: past experiences leave a trace, an

imprint, a memory, an impression. This impression in the unconscious mind is
imprinted into the body because the body and the mind are not separate. These
traces, these bruises, these impressions coalesce, coagulate, adhere to each other
on the basis of resonance. So every time you were punched in the face by your
elder brother, the impacts of these experiences, gather together and create fear of
a particular kind of human being. Perhaps a male with power over you.

These traces create psychological tendencies. Psychological tendencies can relate

to each other in the same way that muscles can relate to each other and produce
behavioural tendencies. The same psychological imprints, traces or bruises can
participate in different behavioural tendencies. Behavioural tendencies Patanjali
calls vasana. A vasana is a programme, through which the human biocomputer, the
human robot acts. These programmes, that have been scripted through samskaras
on the basis of input from the world, through the specifics of our experience,
decide how we act in the present. We act in the present on the basis of impulses,
thoughts, feelings arising in the mind from our vasana samskara configuration:
from the past.

This is where we’re going when we meditate: down into our programmes, down
into the scripts that constitute our programmes and down into the experiences
that created those scripts. Mostly experiences that we don’t want to know about,
especially the painful ones. It’s not much fun to be punched in the face by your
older brother. It’s not much fun to be kicked down the stairs by your father. But if
you have been, the trace is in there and you don’t want to relive that pain because
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it was painful enough the first time. You have an innate, organic tendency to avoid
pain. Yet that innate tendency expressing through this evasion is itself pain, is
painful. It is painful as it expresses itself unconsciously into your behavioural
tendencies and your actions. It is painful as you struggle with your mind, by trying
to avoid certain thoughts and feelings, creating tension and hardness from doing
so, being in a state of continual resistance, rigidity or hardness.

If you are able to really relax into the flow of perceptions deeply enough that you
touch your wounds directly, you find that actually in touching them directly there is
no pain. Just as you’ll find if you relate to your shin bone directly, there is no pain,
even though there may have been pain when you were not in immediate contact
with your shinbone.

To put it simply, the healing process of meditation is simply to allow your conscious
awareness to shine upon the unsettled content of your unconscious. Not in order
to gain information, to understand or explain, but in order to release. You don’t
even need to know what it is that you’ve released. When you’ve released
something you feel lighter and as the years go by suddenly you realise: “Hey, I don’t
do that anymore.”

So this is not auto psychotherapy. This is just relaxing, becoming lighter. What this
means for the phenomenon of thinking while you’re meditating is that you mustn’t
fight your thinking. Your thoughts are an invitation to this release, this healing. Your
thoughts can take you down into your bruises. If you just relax into them they will
show you the way. If you fight them, you stay controlled by the past, by your fear of
the past. You stay controlled by your fear of the pain that was the past, as if the
recognition of the past would again be that pain: which it would not be. Your father
is not going to kick you in the stomach again, your brother is not going to punch
you in the face. That pain is not to be had again. So, far from needing to quieten the
mind, what we’re doing is diving into the noise of the mind, embracing it, following
its current, not to find out what’s there, but to release the knots. Not to weigh
ourselves down with more knowledge but to free ourselves from unconscious
impulses and unwanted reactions.

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You need to look into your mind, into its conditioned activity. If you don’t you will
remain forever driven by its unconscious pain. This is not to get you information
about your past. It is not psychotherapy. This is to free you from the pain of your
past by releasing it. When that pain is released, then your mind will become more
quiet. At the same time you may well find your behaviour changes. You may
become less defensive, less aggressive, when your old defensiveness and
aggression were arising from unreleased pain. This looking is not a doing, and
requires no doer. It only requires that you feel safe enough to relax enough for your
conscious mind to let go of its need to stay in the know, on the ball.

This possibility can be helped by your understanding clearly that most of the work
of mind does not require conscious awareness. Once you understand that most
mental processing, most of the work mind does to generate both understanding
and action is always unconscious it becomes much easier for the conscious mind to
let go of its constant vigilance. The conscious mind does have a few purposes,
important and necessary ones, but these have very little relevance to meditation.
Its most obvious purposes beside enjoyment and suffering are learning and social
interaction. There is no social interaction on your cushion. As to the learning that is
possible it is a different kind of learning.

The conscious mind is necessary to learning new skills, whether perceptual,

cognitive, sensory, motor or social. Of course a lot of this learning does take place
through the subconscious, but participation of conscious awareness makes what
has been learned more easily accessible. In life the conscious mind is a kind of
amplifier. The learning available in meditation is completely different. It is more
about insight than analysis, intuition than understanding. This kind of learning just
happens, spontaneously and naturally, and the more the conscious mind is quiet
the more easily it happens.

As long as you consciously, or unconsciously, believe that your conscious mind is

the master of your fate, the indispensable analyst and decision maker it will never
relax enough for you to see deeply into the roots of your mind. When you do there
is nothing that need be done, nothing that need be held on to. What you
experience in your conscious mind, with or without thoughts and thinking, will just
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be the froth on waves taking place deeper. You don’t need to jump in and make
sense of it. The sense is being made deeper down. Sometimes you do get taken
deeper down and you experience the dynamics of release consciously, but it’s not
necessary, nor so common. What is important is that the sense of self abates and
the conscious mind lets go.

When you look deeply, eventually you see clearly that mind is a functioning, not an
object. It is the response of your natural intelligence to the the world, present and
past. It is not something that needs to be dismantled or destroyed. It can be
somewhat dismantled in that your programmes can change, even radically, but it
cannot be destroyed.

You conscious, subconscious and unconscious minds are all expressions of the
deep intelligence that you are, the deep intelligence of consciousness. How it
expresses itself depends first of all, of course, on your DNA. Not only giving you the
motor, perceptual and cognitive potentials of a human being, but some very
specific expressions of those shared abilities as your deep character, which in turn
expresses itself through your learned personality. Genetic traits cannot be
changed, you are never going to fly. Character traits, which have their genetic roots,
are not likely to change much, if at all. Personality traits, through which your
character traits express themselves can change.

Changing your mind is not just a matter of changing your opinions. The way that
you interact with the world can change. Meditation may not be the only thing that
can help this, but it may well be the most powerful. It allows for deep
reprogramming as rogue programmes are recognised for what they are, and clear
insight generates new perceptual, cognitive and behavioural possibilities.This can
not be made to happen. In this sense you cannot change your mind. It can change
towards a deeper wholeness, a deeper integration on the basis of what it sees and
recognises. What comes of that is based on your deeper programming down into
your DNA.

We do have the possibility of deep change, but we are all limited in both how and
how much. That possibility is a legacy of our natural intelligence: the intelligence of
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mind, the intelligence of body and the intelligence of consciousness. How that
possibility plays itself out is also a matter of opportunity, circumstance, surface
conditioning. We know that enlightenment is a capability of the human organism.
We also know that it rarely happens. This does not mean that we all can not change
in that direction, even if we cannot enjoy a total transformation and erosion of the

One thing that we can all do is intellectually recognise the totally conditioned
nature of all perception, all thought, all action, all behaviour. That really is very easy.
I don’t think anyone who looks can fail to see that. What happens next is the key to
what that seeing does for you. Does it make you more curious, or does it offend you
and set off resistance. Whichever way it is you can’t help it. You are the way you are,
conditioned from your DNA and experience to be that way. Yet your genetic legacy
provides you with the most open programmability imaginable. You can learn, you
can unlearn. You can let go of old programmes, you can be given new ones.

To the extent that you are comfortable with seeing the totally conditioned nature
of all phenomena, you will see and enjoy a whole lot more. The more comfortable
you are with it, the less resistance it generates, the more of its implications will,
eventually, become clear. Not only that there is no self within human nature, but
that everything, at least from the biggest perspective, is absolutely perfect just the
way that it is, including you, and your every action, feeling and thought. If you have
a deep curiosity about human nature, the nature of reality, you will see the
indivisible spectrum of consciousness functioning in and as the intelligence of
body, mind as well as in itself as intuitive, non-discursive insight or wisdom.

Within the depths of the meditative mind you will encounter not only the depths
and subtleties of mental intelligence interpreting the raw data of existence. You will
also encounter the sweet, subtle presence of consciousness itself: its openness,
spaciousness, peacefulness, delight. You will also enjoy the occasional participation
of insight, or intuitive understanding. This is quite different from what I am calling
intelligence of mind, yet not unrelated. It is the unmediated expression of the
intelligence of consciousness, expressing into and through the intelligence of mind
without any distortion from the self. You see the whole picture of whatever it is,
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without the linear flow of thinking, only raw thought. The implications and origins
of your attitude to the opposite gender, for example, are all crystal clear within a
single matrix of knowing.

The more your conscious mind lets go of its need to dominate, to control, the more
quiet and clear it becomes. Within its tranquil transparency the intelligence of
consciousness, which unlike that of the mind is neither linear nor causal, can
express itself. Of course it needs a language to express itself through, and it has
been given one by the activity of your mind. Yet it expresses itself without any of
that linear, causal activity. You know what I am talking about, even if you have
never realised what is going on. Go deep down into the roots of your mental
activity and you will find it.

Sometimes when I sit I lose my balance or I lose a sense of my body. What

does that come from?

Tell me more about what it feels like.

Sometimes it can feel like I’m sitting upside down or something.

So could you say that the normal reference points don’t seem to be functioning in
the normal way?


That’s cool.

Yes, but where does it come from?

It comes from relaxing. Your perceptual mechanism is maintaining your reference

points in relation to each other all the time: up, down, left, right, inside, outside.
This is ‘dropping the body’ or ‘dropping the mind’: it’s the same thing. We’re so used
to thinking that we are the body, to identifying with the body, that when it starts to
drop we pull it back without thinking, automatically. So the body doesn’t drop that
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easily. So when you’re in that space of weirdness, go into it, go with it. When you’re
coming out of it, that’s an expression of the more sensible part of you saying ‘hey
no that’s too unsafe’, but after a while that part might get quieter. Enjoy the ride a
little bit more.

It has to be said that the journey of meditation is unique for everybody. It could be
that the things that I’ve been talking about don’t bear any relationship to what
you’ve experienced. Yet. It’s not a progressive thing where you start at A and go to
B. Some people start at M, go forwards to O and then go backwards to J towards D
or whatever. It’s totally personal. Some people don’t have anything going on mind
wise for a long time. Some people just have chaos in the mind for a long time.
Some have all types of body experiences, occasionally or for a long time.

The way I am conditioning you to come to sitting, if you come up with a bunch of
shit in the mind it’s tough going because I’m inviting you to be present to that
which is actually happening. A lot of people meditate for years and years and years
and it’s just bliss. They just cross their legs, flick a switch and it’s just bliss. It was like
that for me for fifteen years. It can be because bliss is actually in here, it’s not
something that need be added. You don’t necessarily have to know your way
around the whole territory to find access to it, to flick a switch and trance out, bliss
out or whatever. Some people need this as a healing process before the mind is
ready to face its bruises. You need a little pleasure to reassure and comfort you that
life isn’t all bad, that there’s some good stuff too.

Do you think for people that have had troubled lives it takes them longer to
find it?

No, I don’t think you can make a formulation like that. I think it can be the other
way around: a troubled life can galvanise you.

I can’t imagine anybody who’s had a troubled life being able to sit and flick
the switch.

Yes but that’s because of the way you’ve come to all of this. You’ve come on a
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certain path. If you’d gone to other places you might have been invited to do that.
You might not have been able to do that, you might have had to rely on drugs for
something like that. Once you’ve gone the other way, benefited from the noise,
there doesn’t seem any point in going deliberately into the bliss because it comes
anyway, so you might as well go and clear out the shit. It may be difficult and
painful but it becomes obvious that it’s the sensible thing to do. If it’s snowing
outside you can sit in front of the fire but what happens when the wood runs out?
It’s a good idea to start clearing the snow as soon as it starts to fall. Otherwise you
try to open the door and you can’t.

You said earlier on that looking at emotional pain does not recreate the
original pain. But when you were talking about the benefits of sitting in lotus
that it forces you to face physical pain as a preparation for facing emotional

Yes Andrea you should have been a lawyer, the pain you’re going to have to deal
with relative to your emotions is the pain of resisting it. Not the pain of the original
experience. You are going to resist it and that’s going to be painful.

You need to be careful about relating, or equating, a clear explanation with the
truth. It may well be so but an unclear explanation doesn’t mean it’s not true. So
trying to figure it all out intellectually is not necessarily that helpful. All we have to
do is take whatever we can get and apply it to the doing. Meditation is not about
truth: this is not philosophy or science. It’s about experience: what does it feel like
to get up in the morning? Or how does it feel like to go to bed at night? This is what
meditation is for. It doesn’t matter what people have been telling you about it,
that’s it’s about stars and rainbows in Himalayan caves. Well then go and live in a
Himalayan cave and paint stars and rainbows on the roof. Meditation is for life.
What does it feel like to wake up in the morning cold and tired and have to make
some tea for a whole bunch of people that you don’t even really like? Can you do it
or not?

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It’s okay.

Yes. You can do it, and why not? You’ve got to do something. You can’t have an
orgasm and go back to sleep every morning. It gets boring. You might as well get
up and do something. This is my big problem, my weakness as a teacher: I can and I
love to explain everything. That gives the impression that until things are explained
they’re not of any value. But these explanations are after the fact. I can only explain
because I already know. So you might be able to take my explanation, but it doesn’t
allow you to know it.

I have a question for you. Is that you?

Is what you?

What you were thinking, what you were feeling. Is that you? Is it?

I don’t know who I am at the moment.

Exactly. Is that you?

God only knows.

Yes or no?


You can keep going. Not that either. And not that nor that. Not that thought and
not that feeling. Not that one and not this one. If you see that enough you stop
looking for yourself.

Looking for yourself is subtle. Saying “mine” is looking for yourself. It’s trying to put
yourself into a picture that doesn’t need you, a picture that gets blurred because
you’ve put yourself into it. It’s difficult when people say: “Why did you do that
Michelle?” and you think you’ve got to answer. In answering you’re lying. You’re
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immediately lying. Whatever you say you’re lying. You haven’t actually examined
the reasons for your actions, their origin. If you did you would be more free than
you are. What you actually do when someone asks you to justify or explain your
actions is just reach into your learned stockpile of socially acceptable formulae and
take the one most appropriate to the question. This is not an explanation, and this
is not thinking. It’s a parrot regurgitating platitudes.

Yeah but Godfrey it’s quite hard, you’ve got to play the game.

Yes but you don’t have to buy into the game. You can reach in and chuck out a
viable platitude, knowing that’s what you’re doing and let the blame game play
itself out. Or, if the person is open, you can really answer the question. You can take
them with you as you trace the originating steps back past your birth and the
phylogeny of humanity to the formation of the galaxy. That would be great!

It’s very difficult not to buy into the whole social game of recrimination and guilt if
the question is thrown at you with anger, aggression. Because you want to feel
loved in the moment and so you get spun out into your own spin. “I did it because I
thought you understood me.” But there is no doer. So you didn’t do it. So how could
there be a ‘because’ that belongs to you and your motive? Of course ‘you’ and your
motives are in there, but only as the distracting surface froth of a current that has
no end, no beginning. It’s hard. Intimate relationships are very hard because we’ve
been given these binding rules as to how you conduct these relationships, and if
we break them we get into immediate trouble. Most of those rules are actually
about exploitation, manipulation, and not about love.

Does the seeing that there is no doer come and go?

It comes and goes. Everything comes and goes. If the coming is more wholesome
and more nourishing, which in this case it is, then that will increase: the one which
is more nourishing organically will assert itself more. It doesn’t have to be
demanded or controlled or imposed. Clear seeing is inherently wholesome. Clear
seeing allows you to feel more trusting, secure, relaxed, so it draws itself to itself by
happening. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle. A loving circle. So you don’t need to
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worry about it. The coming and going is fine. The coming and going means that
something is happening, instead of just being stuck in a paralysis of habit. So once
insight starts to come, there’s a coming and going to it. You might have five years of
seeing clearly without any sense of self, and it’s about to flip into not seeing and
you die as it turns. Then people would say you were enlightened.

You can be sure you have lost your sense of self when you have actually only lost
sight of it. This is not a big deal, unless you are so deeply in the grip of the self that
you are trying to sell yourself as enlightened. That is very stressful. You can feel that
stress on Youtube. All the self proclaimed enlightened ones with their dulcet tones
and soft eyes. Any actor can do that, play enlightened. Anyone identifying
themselves with it is pretty much bound not to be. Can you imagine Ramana
Maharshi having a Facebook page or putting clips on Youtube?

Eventually the distinction between coming and going disappears, becomes

irrelevant, because the significance of coming and going becomes irrelevant. As
the sense of self erodes, concern with how you are seen erodes too. You just get on
with what you have to do. Usually that does have a lot to do with helping people.
As the sense of self fades the love that you are can express itself more freely, more
fully. One way it does that is as the compassionate urge to help people towards the

Within seeing more clearly, you don’t even notice the ‘you’ that was seeing
anymore. Things can get very light, very transparent. Yet things also get very
intense and very real because you’re no longer trying to resist anything. So if you
feel angry, you just feel angry. You’re just angry, and it just comes out ‘Bang!’ Then
it’s gone. Same with sadness. You’re no longer telling yourself that you should or
shouldn’t feel things. You feel what you feel and have no need to hide it. Anger is a
natural response to any kind of threat. Sadness is a natural response to loss. Neither
the threat nor the loss have to be yours. You can be angry and sad for others.

What happens if it feels like you’re being strangled during your meditation?
Today it felt like I was choking.

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What happened before that?

Just intense pain in the leg.

Just stay with that. It’s not unusual. That’s resistance at a very subtle level and if you
can let go of that resistance by going into it, you’ll be very happy.

Great! No it’s pretty, not just uncomfortable, it’s serious.

Yes, it’s serious…

I’ve had a claustrophobia thing in my life. Not with people but in tight
physical spaces and I just thought maybe I’d had too many things wrapped
around me and stuff.

That kind of phenomenon is an indication of potentially imminent and proximate

deep release being still resisted. The closer a relief is the stronger the resistance
tends to be, and you don’t have to know what’s being released. So then you get
precipitated into a crisis which is very often felt as an explosion coming. You can
feel an explosion coming. If you don’t explode now, you’re going to have to feel it
later. If you let the explosion happen it’s not going to be destructive. Quite the
reverse, it’s going to be healing. You go from the deep, tight accumulation of
intense pressure, to the soft light openness of release. The pressure is actually the
resistance, the habit of clinging to the familiarity of the known.

I was kind of glad for that commitment to just staying in the group, that we all
kind of made as a group. I was really glad of that today.

Because you have to have something like that to keep you there.

The pain in the leg. Does she need to get past that? I’m a bit confused with it
at the moment as to whether I should stay with the pain first, second, third,
fourth time my brain’s telling me to get out of there. Then I can’t relax, I’m
getting tense.
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She needs to become one with it. Staying with the pain doesn’t means putting up
with the pain. It’s letting the pain be your whole universe. This is what comes when
you don’t repress, and you don’t express. You are taken down the middle path of
intimacy, you become one with the pain till it drowns and releases you. The pain is
it. It is your gift, your teacher, your guide. Follow it in. Give yourself to it totally.

Meditation puts you into this paradoxical situation where your relationship to pain
is turned inside out, while you are too. It is the natural response of both body and
mind to move away from pain. Any organism without a cortex is always going to do
this, and that’s why organisms with a cortex can always exploit those that don’t.
Organisms with a cortex can trade off short term loss or pain for long term gain or
joy. This is what we need to learn to be able to do with our pain in sitting. First with
physical pain, then with emotional pain. At the deep core of them both we will
always find the bliss, delight, peace of consciousness itself.

If you can learn to not need to turn away from pain, physical or emotional, when
you sit you don’t need to turn away from any kind of pain that life can give you. You
might, but you don’t need to. You’ve learnt that you don’t need to. You’ve learnt
that you can be okay, no matter how bad external circumstances get. You are no
longer controlled by your biology. You have accessed something deeper, the
intelligence that drives biology, the intelligence of consciousness. That which you
actually are can never be taken away. Not even by death. Enjoy it!

Is it possible for me to become free just by looking?

Maybe. Just take a look-see for yourself. Don’t make any unjustified assumption.
Don’t take your fate for granted. Whatever you may think about it, it’s going to be
much more than that. It may well be that your weird psycho-behavioural
tendencies will go away. It may well be that they won’t. It’s quite likely that some of
them will and some of them won’t. Maybe some of them will a little, and some of
them will a lot and some of them won’t at all. If you’re too concerned with that, all
you’re going to notice are the ones that haven’t changed. There’s always going to
be one that you don’t like staring you in the face. It may be the last one, but you
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don’t know that, you don’t know how many are behind it.

When you’re in the river and you’re heading to the sea and the waves are choppy,
all you can see is the wave in front of you. You can’t see how many more there are
between you and the ocean. So, as long as you’re counting, which means as long as
you’re looking for release or freedom, as long as you’re identifying ‘that’s a wave’ or
‘that’s me,’ then the waves are going to carry on keeping you from the sea.

If you’ve been looking sincerely enough, then it doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t
matter where you are in the river. You are where you have to be, and you know that.
Looking sincerely means looking at, not looking for. As long as you are looking for,
for anything at all, no matter how righteous or sanctified it may be by rumour or
tradition, you will not enjoy the release of clear seeing. You will still be trying to get
‘your’ shit together, to perfect ‘your’ life, still in denial of its intrinsic imperfectability.

Are you talking about coming back to the witness as the impersonal
experiencer of life.

Absolutely not. Clear seeing takes you through that, beyond the witness. The
witness is still part of the prison of identification, within which consciousness loses
itself in its content, in its experience. The witness is the first link in the chain of
bondage, not the threshold of freedom. If you get stuck at that level of
consciousness you’re going to have hard time with traffic wardens and sexual
urges. You will get stuck there if you are attached to the idea that the witness is the
destination. The witness is still an expression of separation, identification, identity,
however subtle. Subtle chains are much harder to relinquish than obvious ones. I
know you haven’t got there, that you’re just regurgitating rumours, so you can just
let go of it so it won’t trap you when you do.

How do you know that? You don’t know where i've been.

True I don’t but, it’s not so hard for me to feel and see where you are. The witness is
the self. Doing does not require a doer and witnessing does not require a witness.
Controlling does not require a controller. Moaning does not require a moaner.
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Moaning is just happening. The fact that it happens in some places more often that
not, as we know, doesn’t mean there’s a moaner in there. It just means that
moaning happens there because there’s a programme being triggered by
circumstance, a moaning programme. We all know that if someone is moaning all
the time it’s a fucking pain. But it’s no different from anything else really. Some
people keep their moaning to themselves and act it out unconsciously like
forgetting to close the door or leaving the tap running, or whatever.

Christmas is coming. I don’t know if you can feel it up here but it is coming. You
know what this means. People are going to be out on the streets with their credit
cards and their cash looking to buy a moment of happiness, love, or loyalty. Of
course we can look at that and see how warped it is, because we’ve gone up the
mountain, we’re on the spiritual path, we are wise. We would not succumb to such
foolishnesses. Yet are you perhaps still doing that when you are sitting on your
cushion, when you’re coming to your mat? Are you trying to buy a little respite
from your suffering, moaning, delusion?

Are you trying to buy freedom, happiness, with a different currency: the currency of
effort? Are you trying to expend a little effort to make things better, to get to know
yourself, to find out what it’s all about? This is no different from running up and
down high streets with a credit card. You have to do it again next year. And you
have to do it on every birthday in between. Weddings, funerals, anniversaries.
Somehow, when we’re sitting, meditating, we need to be able to distinguish very
clearly between ‘looking for’ and ‘looking at’ and let go of ‘looking for’ by seeing
that it is just a serpent chasing its tail forever. Christmas after Christmas after
Christmas after Christmas. All that money for nothing.

It is so easy to get caught in other people’s programmes, resonating with your own
programmes. We all have the same fundamental programmes. We all want to be
loved, understood, accepted, approved of, admired. Somewhere along that
spectrum we’re all caught hanging. Then we just change that noose for another
noose and decide that we’re not going to be like that anymore. We’re going to
become free from it. You can’t become free from being human. You can’t become
free from your need for love. You can’t become free from the need for acceptance if
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that need means no longer acting in order to get it. You can become free from it
only by seeing that there is no actor, there is no doer, no thinker. There is just a
programme running. Without the actor it runs more softly, less insistently, until
eventually it loses interest in itself altogether, perhaps.

We are all running out of our beliefs, and our beliefs are shaped by our experiences.
We’re not running out of the truth. You’re here because you believe you might get
something. All you need to do is see your beliefs functioning so clearly that you see
not only where they have come from, but where they are pushing you. Then, if they
are pushing you away from wholeness, integration, they will start to become
lighter, less insistent. You don’t have to do anything with what you see. You just
have to look more deeply, to see more clearly. If you are still beset by self-doubt,
self-pity, recrimination, shame and all the rest, just look more deeply, keep looking
till you see clearly there is no thinker, there is to witness, there is no self. Except of
course as impressive impressions, that you are no longer tyrannised by.


I’m gonna take you on a trip into the remarkable psychology of mind presented by
Patanjali in his Yogasutras. Of course it’s gonna be a very superficial, personal take
on his very deep and amazing perspective. There is a cogent lesson in the depth of
Patanjali’s insight for all contemporary intellectuals and their clinging to arbitrary
criteria of knowledge as if they have exhausted all the possibilities of human
intelligence. Of course everyone knows by now that the behaviourist reductionism
was a little cooky, but so too, it turns out is the materialistic view of contemporary
scientific orthodoxy, within which mind is a serendipitous side effect of
evolutionary complexity. Of course that may well be sort of true of the conscious
mind, the rational mind, even the self aware mind. Patanjali’s psychology of mind is
actually an exploration of consciousness. It goes much deeper than the rational,
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discursive, analytical mind. So, strictly speaking this is a psychology of
consciousness, where consciousness means active, discriminating intelligence,
rather than simply conscious awareness.

Intelligence is, in effect, the basis and the core element of life: all life. An amoeba is
conscious of its environment. Not in a self conscious way, not even in terms of
conscious awareness. It is conscious of its environment in that it can discriminate
between some of its aspects, those pertinent to its survival, and it can respond
appropriately from its limited repertoire of impulsive actions. The responsiveness of
an amoeba is an expression of the intelligence of consciousness expressing itself,
attempting to secure the future possibility of expressing itself. This is the heart of
life, all life: the ability to express itself, the ability to survive, the ability to respond,
the ability to discriminate between safe and dangerous stimuli. This is all
intelligence, this is all consciousness. Consciousness, as active intelligence is the
core and root of life itself.

Patanjali, however, was not a scientist in the contemporary sense. He was a yogi, a
meditator. This may not be as self indulgent as it might sound. The human heart is
by nature a fount of generosity. I know this can be hard to recognise if your
allowing your view of human nature to be determined by the media. If you pay
attention to how often and easily human beings help each other, even total
strangers, you will see what I mean. Anyone who finds the great gifts buried in the
roots of the human mind is gonna share them, somehow. The Buddha dedicated
his life to teaching, and Patanjali left us perhaps the most potent piece of prose
ever written.

This is not so obvious at first. Especially if you can’t understand the sanskrit. When I
was sixteen I was asked to evaluate the poetry of William Blake and T.S. Eliot for my
‘A’ levels. I was way out of my depth. All I wanted to do was get stoned and listen to
Karl Palmer’s drum solos. I thought Eliot was incomprehensible, and Blake was a
wanker. Now I see the brilliance of both their visions and their articulation so clearly
it can bring tears to my eyes. I didn’t have the understanding, the experience to
appreciate the depth and subtlety of theirs.

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It’s exactly the same with Patanjali. Right from the very first commentator he has
not been appreciated. They have all projected their own prejudices and limitations
on to his text. Scholars being the way they are have perpetrated and compounded
those limitations endlessly over the millennia. There are a very few, rare and
contemporary exceptions of course, but they are not well known. They come from
meditators, rather than scholars. Scholars, Indian and European, ancient and
modern, have reduced Patanjali’s genius to an almost incomprehensible
irrelevance packed with assumption, superstition and nonsense. It’s shocking, it
really is, how much nonsense has been made of so much sense.

Patanjali was not a philosopher. Nor was he an occultist delving into the
metaphysical principles underpinning the appearance of reality. He was an
explorer of human nature, of consciousness. What he found was as remarkable in
its prescience as it was in its profundity. He not only anticipated the unconscious by
over two thousand years, but mapped its dynamics in an eminently practical way.
He provides a clear path to accessing the boundary between the conscious and
unconscious mind, between the present, past and future. It’s pretty mind blowing
really. No-one has gone past him since, no-one has actually come near him. We are
all playing a very slow game of catch up. I am going to give you the change to
speed that up a lot, so that you can confirm for yourself the veracity and value of
his explorations.

Patanjali’s vision of the human mind is based on how it works, on how we, also, can
experience it. Of course what we experience is a flow of perceptions, feelings,
sensations, thoughts, ideas, images etc that constitute our immediate experience
of being alive, being conscious, being human. What we actually experience as
human beings is our minds. Even when we experience our mind as our body or as
the world. What we actually experience is a neurologically generated simulation
projected out as if the external world, or inwards as if the body. Our experience of
our own body, and even our own mind, is part of this projection. Mind and body
are also objects of perception. Patanjali calls this “vrtti”, which literally means
‘turning away’. MInd is in intrinsically a turning away from the rawness of what is to
something manageable, workable. Mind is the great conjuror, conjuring something
very concrete, very real out of something very subtle, very insubstantial.
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We know that this projected simulation works in biological or evolutionary terms. It
has got us here, collectively, and it is keeping us here, individually. It’s an amazing
phenomenon, the ability of your brain to make such good sense of what it
encounters through your senses. Yet you do not experience what you nerves do,
the ion exchange between sodium and potassium, nor what is stimulating them,
the vibrations of consciousness expressing itself. What you experience is what your
nervous system, especially your brain, makes of the stimulating vibrations of
consciousness. You are living in an invented, imagined world. Yet that is enough not
only to ensure your survival, but even, at least sometimes, to allow you to flourish
as a living, conscious being.

One of the reasons it works is that the biological, especially neurological,

mechanism whereby you imagine the world is exactly the same, by way of design,
as the mechanism whereby other human beings imagine the world. We are
imagining more or less the same world. When it snows, we all get it. We all perceive
space in the same way, time in the same way. A sloth has a totally different take on
both time and space, one that most effectively allows it to survive. Nevertheless we
share over 90% of our DNA with all other mammals, and so, radically different as
they are, we can inhabit a shared reality of space, objects and actions.

Our take, as human beings, on time, space and all the objects that they contain is a
lot more sophisticated than that of other mammals, and this goes hand in hand
with our greater vulnerability, which is itself an expression of our deeper
complexity: more can go wrong so we need more sophisticated defence
mechanisms, a more sophisticated simulation.

In everyday life we take our projected simulation to be reality, what actually is, and
it more or less works. Yet when we are confronted with more pressing, existential
issues it’s not quite up to scratch. These issue include the anguish of guilt, shame,
resentment and blame, and also the deeper metaphysical ponderings that our
neurological complexity occasionally generate: “who am i?, what is the meaning of
life?” Those kind of troublesome questions are not well provided for by our
everyday simulations.
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We need to go deeper if we are to resolve that kind of questioning, if we are to let
go of the shackles of the self: resentment, regret, shame, pride, self-pity, guilt,
contempt, blame, envy, hostility, manipulation, exploitation and all the rest of it. We
need to encounter the unconscious mechanisms whereby our conscious
experience is generated.

There is much more to this than Freud and his heirs revealed. The unconscious is
not only involved in generating our complexes and neuroses. It is also involved in
generating our projections, our simulations, our perception, feelings and thoughts.
If we are able to really, deeply relax on our cushion we get taken down into this
process. The structure underlying our projections starts to get unpicked. Eventually
it gets unpicked all the way down to consciousness itself. Patanjali was, in effect,
the grandfather of deconstructionism, and meditation as enquiry provides its most
potent lessons.

Within this deconstruction of projection, cognition and perception the self is

deconstructed too, along with all the subtle dynamics whereby its identity field is
created and maintained. At the heart of this is the process of individuation whereby
universal, impersonal consciousness becomes identified with its biological vehicle
and generates the sense of individual, autonomous, personal self. This process
begins with the restriction of consciousness by its embodiment. This restriction
generates ignorance: consciousness loses touch with its nature and identifies itself
with it activity, with its local, limited content.

It ends in what Patanjali calls self-clinging. Self-Clinging is the tendency to attribute

independence and autonomy to instruments of action as if those instruments were
the cause, origin and source of those actions. This is a two way street. It takes place
in each one of us generating our personal, unique sense of self. At the same time
we project the same process back out onto everyone, and even everything, else.
We attribute intention, volition not only to other human beings, but to the
universe, to God. We even do the same with tables and chairs when we stupidly
respond to our children knocking into them with: “stupid table”.

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It’s only by seeing deeply into the mechanism of projection, cognition, perception
and individuation that we can become genuinely free from the self. To do so all we
need is to sit down and shut up. This means not only give up movement and
speech, but give up intention and effort too. Only then can our natural intelligence
find its way to its roots. It’s actually not enough to see through the sense of self as
an illusion. You need a little more than that. To know the deep trust and peace of a
genuine freedom you need to not only to know what you are not, but also what
you are.

What you are, in the deepest, truest most consistent sense is impersonal
consciousness aware of itself through a personal mechanism. Without realising it of
course. It’s only because you don’t realise it that the self has such resilience, such
power. Even when you see clearly the totally fictitious nature of the self its power
remains, as habit, as cognitive pathways, as assumptions. You have to go down
deeper than the illusion to become completely free from it.

In doing so you have to extend the scope of conscious awareness into the
unconscious, and you have to extend the field of personal identity into the
impersonal matrix of totality. This extension is a function of clear seeing, not effort
or skill. These are not two separate processes, but two interwoven dimensions of
deep self enquiry.

The usually overlooked fact is that your conscious experience, including your sense
of personal independence and autonomy, is driven by your unconscious and all of
its impersonal factors and forces. It is only because we remain continuously
unaware of this that we can make of our conscious experience independence,
autonomy, volition and a self. Once the boundary between the conscious and the
unconscious starts to blur our decision making process, our self-image, our sense
of independence begin to lose their foundation. When mind becomes very quiet,
very attentive to its own activity it starts to recognise itself. It starts to experience
and understand the process whereby projection, cognition and perception are
generated from the unconscious to the conscious. It starts to understand how
independence, autonomy and volition are nothing more than impressions
generated by its own inattentiveness. It even begins, eventually, to understand that
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the same is true of space, time and causation.

Our projections are based on concepts. The core concepts being space, time,
objectness, activity, causality. These concepts are based on perception: of pressure,
movement, heat etc. Perceptions are based on percepts: awareness of more
discrete stimuli. A neurological stimulation becomes the basis of perception, which
becomes the basis of concepts which become the basis of all your thoughts and
thinking, which becomes the basis of your behaviour, which becomes the basis
of’your life’. In the deep stillness of the meditative mind this all becomes quite clear,
as you experience and recognise a fluctuation between your projection being
disassembled and reassembled.

As you settle into your stillness your projections begin to dissolve, and your ability
and desire to recognise anything in particular diminishes. As they do so your sense
of self gets nervous, and constricts attention back into the known re-assembling
your projections on the basis of particular objects and action. Eventually however
you get used to it, and begin to appreciate the subtle benefits that come with the
deconstruction: rest, silence, peace, nourishment. This undermines the power of
the self to resist the dissolution, and you are taken deeper and deeper into the
dynamics of your experience.

One of the benefits of this is that you become less attached to your projections. On
a deep level this means that you no longer assume that you are experiencing
reality. You know that you are experiencing a simulation. This can be a very
powerful realisation. Especially when it extends itself out into your understanding
of what is true and what is not true. When you know that your brain is inventing the
very ground on which you stand, the space in which you move and the time that
you need to do so it becomes much more difficult to go to war. Why try to convince
others that you are right and they are wrong if you know that all you know is a
projection. Rather, you become more relaxed about your perspective, your beliefs,
your prejudices, and more tolerant of those that conflict with yours.

This doesn’t mean that you have no more opinions, beliefs or preferences. It just
means that you don’t so easily invest them with spurious notions of truth. You don’t
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hold on to them, which means that whatever inaccuracies they may contain
become more acceptable, more noticeable and you have less need to deny them.
Nor does it mean that you become unable to engage effectively with the
conventional world of individual objects and discrete actions. Rather it makes it
easier to do so, as there is no sense of self generating resistance.

However the sense of self, and the rogue programmes through which it expresses
and reinforces itself, is deeply rooted. Patanjali calls these programmes ‘vasana’ or
behavioural tendencies which generate our conscious experience from their
unconscious presence. These programmes, the rogue ones, are the fruit of what he
calls “samskaras’ or karmic imprints. These are physchosomatic traces left over from
unresolved past experience. An unresolved past experience is one that was, in any
way, resisted. This resistance can be overt, as in deflecting attention, or going into
denial. Or it can be more subtle, as it is whenever the sense of self imposes itself on
an experience as its lead actor. Of course rare are the experiences that take place
with no resistance at all. The rest, which makes up the bulk of our lives, are stored
psychosomatically in and as the unconscious, where they establish patterns of
resonance with each other in the form of vasanas, or programmes.

There is nothing diabolical about this. The unresolved energy of samskaras is a

disturbance to the integrity of the bodimind. The fundamental impulse of life
towards wholeness and integrity pushes at them so they can be resolved. What will
resolve them is what was missing in the first place: the presence of impersonal,
nondual awareness, within which is no self or other. This is why meditation can
bring about deep behavioural transformation without any plan or strategy. It does
so by loosening the boundary between the conscious and the unconscious. As
unresolved karmic energy is released the programmes they drove are weakened,
and eventually atrophy, weakening the fictitious self they had been reinforcing.

are you proposing meditation as some kind of auto-psychotherapy?

Not really, although therapeutic benefits do usually result they are not and must
not be the goal. If you set yourself up to release your samskaras and dissolve your
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vasana you will not be able to get in touch with them to do so. The sense of self, its
desire and intention to upgrade itself will prevent the necessary depth of
relaxation. You will stay caught under the surface of your programmes, seeing them
at work perhaps, but not accessing the unconscious energy that drives them.

is this why psychotherapy never seems to come to an end?

Perhaps so. It may be that understanding that you are fucked up allows you to deal
with it better. Understanding how you are fucked up may allow you to modify your
behaviour in some way. You may benefit from both of these things. In a way,
though, it’s just like laying a new paint job on a rusty car. You feel better about it for
a while, but you come back to the rust sooner or later.

There is much more to meditation than feeling better about yourself. It’s about
seeing through the sense of self and all its troublesome flotsam and jetsam. The
core of Patanjali’s vision of the meditative mind is the infolding of conscious
awareness from its everyday concerns to the pure intelligence of consciousness. He
shows us both how to go in, and what we will find when we do so. Of course it’s
only a map, a map made of words that point to ideas that refer to his experience.

Other ideas, words and mappings might be equally powerful in allowing you to
become intimate with your own mind, to explore the depths of the consciousness
that you are. The value in Patanjali’s map, of any map, is its usefulness, its ability to
guide us in further, deeper. It does not have to be a definitive description of reality,
and we don’t have to get worked up if it seems to contradict our favoured
description of reality. A description is not the thing being described. One thing that
Patanjali’s map can do is help us to not get caught in the web of words that anyone

Nevertheless the sad truth is that we are usually trapped in the web of ideas woven
in our own unconscious minds: not least of time, space, causality and agency. Not
only that, but the simulations they create isolate and alienate us from each other.
Ideas have such a deep power that they can cut us off from what they refer to. We
think of all men as being aggressive or obsessed with sex, and ignore the contrary
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evidence in individual males who break that mold. The reality is, as Krishnamurti so
diligently pointed out, that we are not usually in relationship to each other, but to
our idea of each other from our idea of ourselves: doubly removed from what is
actually happening, we long for the intimacy that our simulations prevent, and
can’t find it. If we are to know the peace that meditation promises we must be able
to see through, and let go of, the authority of the projections that cut us off from
each other and the free flow of life.

Patanjali’s infolding of conscious awareness from the thrall of our simulations to the
nourishing presence of consciousness takes place through a number of stages.
There are six main stages, but the deeper ones have substages too, which gives us
about eleven phases through which conscious awareness can infold to its source.
This infolding takes us through some aspects of mind familiar to psychologists and
other scientists like cognition and perception. Yet Patanjali’s take is an insider’s one,
it’s not that of so-called objective external and verifiable observation. It is verifiable,
but only by experience. Yoga is the solitary sciende of subjective verification.

The human mind is a remarkable phenomenon: in its depth, its scope, its
complexity, its creativity, its intelligence. It’s primary apparent purpose is to ensure
that its vehicle, the body, survives and thrives. Of course this purpose is a prejudice
of the scientific mind and its servitude to matter and biology. That it is a prejudice
doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Of course it’s right, from its own perspective.

Patanjali is inviting us to a different, deeper perspective within which biology can

be potently contextualised within consciousness. From this depth of perspective
mind, the human mind, turns out to be the means whereby consciousness can
know, and enjoy, itself. A human being turns out not to be a fortuitous accident,
but the way in which consciousness can most fully enjoy and know itself. This is not
a perspective to which the scientific method of enquiry can easily gain access.
Nevertheless it exists for anyone ready to be taken down to the roots of their mind.

What that takes, according to Patanjali is longing: a longing to be, a longing to be

as deeply and fully as possible. This longing is, to one extent or another, in all of us.
Yet it is more expressive in some than others. For some it is just a vague itch,
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inspiring a questioning of the meaning of life perhaps, but little more. For others it
is an all consuming desire for truth, peace, freedom. Most of us oscillate
somewhere between the two. Of course the depths of our longing can change, but
not because we want it to. We hunger for truth, for depth, for authenticity or we
don’t. This is not a matter of better or worse, right or wrong. It’s just the way we are.

Yet, if we are to be taken to the subtle depths and satisfactions of our inmost being
we must find ourselves in the grip of a deep and ineradicable longing. It is our
longing, and not any knowledge we may treasure, or skills we may accumulate, or
effort we can expend that takes us through our roots to their source. The problem
with this, for those of us who are addicted to action and doing, effort and direction
is that longing, desire are not things we can in any way control. We can easily
increase or decrease our effort, whether in pushing a cart or opening a door. We
can not so easily, we cannot at all, increase our love, our desire, our longing. If we
could we could ensure that we only long for what we can get, and only love those
who equally loved us. This is not so. We may wish it were, but it might turn out to
be a little boring. Be that as it may, the fact remains that we cannot control our
desires, our longing.

We would either like to be free, but not enough to face what that entails, or we
long to be free and are ready to face, and let go of, whatever that requires of us. We
are not required to do anything, but we are required to see clearly our delusions,
clearly enough for them to dissolve. That is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. We
are deeply attached to our self image, to our self, our autonomy, independence and
volition. All of us are, and our shared addiction supports our individual addiction.
We reinforce it with our language, our customs, our etiquette, our laws and social
institutions. They all expect us to treat each other as independent agents
conducting our affairs through the power of our free will. They have to do that, but
in doing so they obscure the ground on which we stand.

Pretty though the picture of autonomous agency may be made out to be, dressed
up in assumptions of dignity and declarations of meaning, it actually has very
messy after effects, not least an incurable epidemic of recrimination, shame, blame,
guilt, self-pity, animosity, pride, contempt, manipulation and exploitation
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rationalised as human nature. Nevertheless it is deeply rooted not only in our
conscious beliefs, but in our unconscious assumptions too. To be free from all that
suffering we need to let go of the delusions upon which it rests: of independence,
autonomy, free will. This can be extremely difficult. Not just because of the power
these assumptions have in our own minds, but because they function so implicitly
in the thoughts and actions of everyone around us.

To see clearly is to let go into the intrinsic enquiry of our natural intelligence,
rooted in consciousness itself. Easy enough in principle, but not so easy in practice.
To experience this letting go we have to let go of the warp and weave of the fabric
with which human beings clothe reality. We have to become stark naked in the
bright light of truth unable to hold on to anything we have been struggling to use
to maintain our control, support our dignity and guarantee our meaning.

Patanjali invites us to this possibility by way of what we always have, what we

actually are. We do not need to imagine or add anything. Meditation is an
exploration of the way things actually are based on deep, direct experience of its
complete adequacy. Explicitly the gateway inwards is your body, implicitly it is
consciousness itself.

Consciousness is a much misunderstood phenomenon. Perhaps this should be no

surprise really, we always tend to overlook what is most obvious. Take light for
example, we rarely notice it in daytime, only that which it reveals. Of course in the
darkness of night light becomes more obvious, by way of contrast. Consciousness
is exactly like light in this sense, in illuminating everything while obscuring its own
presence in doing so. This being the case people have no clear sense of what
consciousness is, nor what its inherent qualities are, nor how it expresses itself. Yet
by virtue of its existence it naturally manifests certain qualities and expressions to
the attentive mind.

When we become intimate with any feeling, any sensation in our body we
encounter the subtle, core qualities of consciousness by way of interpretations of
mind. The way that consciousness functions may not be so obvious. Yet if we
consider how life functions, how intelligence works we can begin to see how
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consciousness works, how consciousness expresses itself, for consciousness is the
source of intelligence, the basis of life. In the case of the amoeba the fundamental
expression of its intelligence, of consciousness is its sensitivity to environmental
stimuli. Implicit within this sensitivity, without which it could not discriminate and
survive, is an incorruptible honesty, whereby it can recognise clearly, in its own
simple way, what it has to do. Both sensitivity and honesty depend upon two prior
factors for their expression, openness and intimacy, and result in a total acceptance
of what is actually happening.

These five core qualities, sensitivity, honesty, openness, intimacy and acceptance,
of the functioning of consciousness Patanjali calls ‘Yama”. This is the first limb, or
support, of the meditative mind, upon which the internalisation of conscious
awareness rests. In the immediate context of mediation the five principles of yama
become very powerful tools for grounding us in what is actually happening. As we
sit in stillness on our cushion, relinquishing action and interaction, what is actually
happening is the activity of body, mind and consciousness. Their outer orbit is the
stable presence of the physical body within which consciousness is recognising
what is happening by way of the intelligence of mind. The most obvious aspect of
all this is the sensations being generated by the intelligence of the body. By tuning
into these sensations we are confronted by the intelligence of mind interpreting,
recognising them. In doing so we are experiencing the intelligence of
consciousness revealing both the presence of mind and the presence of the body.

The gateway to the fullness of our nature, the richness of our intelligence as body,
mind and consciousness is physical sensation. We need to feel the sensations that
the body is generating as deeply, immediately and clearly as possible. This is the
first principle of yama, sensitivity (ahimsa). Then, of course, we need to interpret the
implications of these sensations as accurately as possible: this is the second
principle, honesty (satya). In order to honestly recognise what is actually
happening we need to be completely open to the possibility of anything at all:
openness (asteya) is the third principle of yama. Our open and honest sensitivity
depend upon and deepen intimacy (brahmacharya) with what is actually
happening. Intimacy is only possible when there is no resistance, or complete
acceptance: this is the fifth principle of yama, acceptance (aparigraha).
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These five principles, or expressions of the natural intelligence of consciousness,
indispensable as they may be to meditation are actually quite elusive. Although
they are the spontaneous expressions of our natural intelligence, our intelligence
has been deeply subject to a powerful, distorting conditioning though our
socialisation. In order to survive within the group culture of society our natural
intelligence, and especially its impulse to continuously enquire, has been
narrowed, stunted and distorted. Perhaps the most significant, but overlooked,
aspect of this is the development of an awesome capacity for self-deception,
whereby honesty becomes sidelined in favour of social acceptability. In doing so it
takes the other factors of yama with it.

It is only recently that psychologists have recognised the depths of self-deception

encoded into human programming. It has however been obvious to seasoned
meditators, such as Patanjali, for millennia. The self-deception that we need, in
order to convincingly guarantee our acceptability to our peers has long been at the
heart of any genuine approach to meditation. In fact the ‘meditation project’ as a
spiritual practice, or methodology of liberation, is based around uncovering and
unmasking our deeply programmed tendency to self-deception.

So it is that the spontaneous expressions of our natural intelligence have been

obscured by deeply ingrained habits of insensitivity, dishonesty, grasping,
detachment and rejection. Patanjali is not presenting the five principles of yama as
injunctions or imperatives. His understanding of consciousness is way too
sophisticated for that. He is offering them as lenses for focussing our enquiry more
deeply into what is actually happening. The way this works is very simple, and very,
very powerful.

If we approach our meditation with these five principles as lenses they provide an
evaluating, and transforming, context for what actually happens. Having
recognised the value of being accepting, intimate, open, honest and sensitive it
becomes very easy to recognise when we are not being. That is all that is necessary.
If we recognise that we are being dishonest, we are, in that recognition being
honest. Recognition of insensitivity is always an expression sensitivity. By holding
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these five principle as lenses they spontaneously deepen their presence in
response to their absence.

This is genius on the part of Patanjali. He has provided us with a surefire method for
cultivating the stable presence of consciousness without getting caught in the
endless treadmill of effort and intention. All we need to is clearly recognise that
sensitivity, honesty, openness, intimacy and acceptance are not only spontaneous
expressions of our natural intelligence, but the necessary supports to the
meditative mind. On the basis of that recognition, without any extra effort or
intention required, these factors will express themselves more and more, until
eventually what is actually happening as the intelligence of consciousness
expresses itself in and as the intelligence of body and mind becomes liberatingly

The second support to the meditative mind is niyama. Niyama is a deeper

expression of the intelligence of consciousness, that both underpins and is
nourished by the five qualities of yama. These deeper expressions of integrity, trust,
passion, self awareness and integration are, in their absence or presence, more
stable and less volatile than the five qualities of yama. As the five qualities of yama
become more stable, more present, so too do the the five qualities of niyama, and
vice versa.

It’s important to understand that this is not a definitive analysis of the nature of
consciousness. It is simply one way of making sense of what we encounter when
we go deep into the roots of the human mind, from within itself. The main,
pragmatic point is that once we have settled into stillness we actually don’t have to
do anything other than wait attentively, on the basis of our interest, and the natural
intelligence of consciousness will express itself more and more freely and fully. The
lost art of meditation is not a technical project of developing and refining our
special skills. It is a letting go into the deep, subtle intelligence that we are.

Yama and niyama can be seen as the twin gates through which consciousness, as
conscious awareness, must pass in order to encounter and reveal its own depth
and nature. Coming to our cushion without imposed agenda, and settling into the
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flow of inner intelligence allows yama to stabilise and deepen, thereby nourishing
niyama and taking us deeper in, away from the practical and anxious concerns of
everyday mind.

This shift in the focus of attention takes place within the stillness of our verticality.
Both verticality and stillness are of paramount importance. Of course there
sometimes has to be a trade-off between them. If you are losing your verticality,
and the alertness it supports, then you do need to re-engage your spinal muscles.
Other than that you should not move. Physical stillness is an indispensable pre-
requisite of deep intimacy with mind and consciousness. Any movement, any
sensation in the body creates an echo in the mind. For mind to deeply settle and
still, the body must be still. Your body can only remain still if it is well supported, if
you have taken the time and trouble to establish the verticality of your spine on the
basis of the stability of your foundation.

Your body, then, is not only the context of your meditation, but its seed, the lens
through which attention focusses into the flow of conscious awareness. The
presence of your body is a recognition made by your mind in response to the
sensations generated by your body. This recognition takes place in the clear, yet
obscure, light of conscious awareness. By feeling as directly and deeply as you can
the sensations generated by the intelligence of your body, you will encounter, by
way of the interpretative intelligence of mind, the subtle, core intelligence of
consciousness. It is not actually so hard. Deep as you may need to go, these depths
are at the heart of what you are. They are not alien, they are not foreign. They are
the deep core of your experience of existing.

All you need do is relax as deeply as you can into your ability to feel, inviting and
allowing your mind to let go as much as it can of its ability to know. This is the art
and heart of meditation. As you do so your ability and desire to interpret the
sensations that reveal the presence of your body abate. In doing so the finite co-
ordinates that define and place your body in space dissolve. This is the first stage of
the infolding of awareness: asana, within which you experience your physical
presence as a formless presence of rhythmic delight.

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The fluctuating nature of consciousness, and conscious awareness, means that
asana as an awareness state, easily slips back to the finite coordinates of space,
time, objects, actions and causality within which you can again recognise the
defined presence of your body and its discrete, component parts. On the other
hand if you are settling deeper into stillness awareness can be taken deeper by the
rhythm of the breath.

The breath is one of the most treasured of all meditative seeds or lenses, to be
found in almost every tradition. We don’t need to do anything with or to the
breath, just become one with it, intimate enough for the subject-object split
between the breath and the breather to dissolve. This happens quite naturally and
awareness is taken over the threshold of the conscious mind into the unconscious.

This is the third stage of the infolding of conscious awareness: pratyahara, or

sensory withdrawal, within which sensory information makes no pull on the
conscious mind. Of course sensory data is still flowing into the brain and being
unconsciously processed, but mind has been so deeply internalised that sensory
input generates no interest. Instead the unconscious throws up a flow of
percpetual impressions: images, feelings, memories from unresolved past
experiences. This flow of non-discursive impressions may last a while, but will
certainly oscillate back out to the breath and the body, or further in to the fourth
stage of infolding: dharana, or the suspension of a single perceptual impression in
conscious awareness.

Within the ongoing oscillation of the meditative mind conscious awareness can be
taken deeper and into the unconscious matrix from which this particular
impression arises. This is dhyana’ or the unravelling of a conscious impression. For
example you may feel a deep sense of grief, and if you are relaxed enough to not
turn away from it, its may reveal itself as your former reaction to the unexpected
and unwanted death of a beloved pet. As conscious awareness settles more deeply
into the matrix of the impression it may encounter other memories of loss that are
reinforcing the feeling of grief. At the same time it may pick out the related
programmes or behavioural tendencies that it generates, such as avoiding intimacy
or love while simultaneously seeking it. This is just a loosely sketched example of
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how an impression arising naturally from the unconscious can reveal the depths
and dynamics of mind.

Going deep enough into this unravelling reveals a few very important things. One
is that any impression, feeling, programme actually has an infinite originating
matrix: you see that every idea, feeling, event is an expressions of the indivisible
totality of all events, actions, feelings and ideas. Of course conscious awareness
needs to be very stable to go this deep into a perceptual impression, and it only
can be if your are totally relaxed, and completely unconcerned about anything
other than what is actually happening in and as the unloading of your unconscious.

Another thing that can become clear is how totally driven are all your actions
behaviours, programmes. Driven, of course, by that very same indivisible matrix of
all events, actions, feelings and ideas. Within this it becomes possible to realise that
independence, autonomy, agency and volition are all illusory; not that they don’t
exist, but that they exist as cognitive impressions based on insufficient data and
inattentiveness. It is especially in the stable depths of dhayna that meditation
provides its liberating power by generating these impersonal insights into the
nature of the mind.

The final stage in the infolding of conscious awareness is samadhi. Nirbijasamadhi

is the core silence, the absence upon which the presence of perception depends. It
can never be experienced, but as I have explained, its presence within the
fluctuations of awareness can easily become recognisable. Sabijasamadhi, on the
other hand is actually a normal part of conscious awareness, even if rare. It happens
whenever you are safe enough to become so relaxed that you lose all concern and
all particular interest in anything at all while remaining awake, conscious. Your
senses are still inputting to your brain. Your brain is still processing it all. Yet your
lack of interest in any of it means that you pick up on none of it. Instead conscious
awareness floats in the fundamental field of awareness in a state of alert,
panoramic, delicious peacefulness.

This can happen anywhere anytime. There are some situations that make it more
likely, and we know what a lot of them are. The afterglow of satisfying sex is one,
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watching a sunset is another. You are so chilled you are just soaking up the
moment without bothering to make anything of it. Of course this usually happens
for a brief moment only, or in short oscillating snatches as your mind picks up a few
thoughts and lets them go again.

Within the deep infolding of the meditative mind samadhi becomes much more
significant. Mind’s stability means that it lasts longer, and oscillates less. It also
means that the thoughts that do come are often about samadhi itself, or about the
delicious and satisfying experience of being conscious with no particular concern.
Even though samadhi does not provide the illuminating and liberating insights of
dhyana it has its own power in atrophying the self. The self is like a muscle that
requires use or it will atrophy. Like a muscle it will cause a rumpus if you ignore it,
so that it won’t atrophy through disuse. The six infolding stage of the meditative
mind all depend upon the suspension of the sense of self. Hanging out in them
weakens the sense of self. Especially samadhi.

how come you say samadhi especially does this?

In the other, more superficial states of nondual awareness, mind is still recognising,
even if it is not recognising much. In samadhi all conscious specific recognition
stops. Of course unconscious recognition continues, as does conscious awareness
as a unified field. Instead of specific conscious recognition conscious awareness
becomes filled with the radiance of consciousness, its delight, its openness, its
peace radiating through the field of conscious awareness. This generates an
unconscious imprint of deep, satisfying pleasure, and pleasure creates attachment
and the desire for more. Samadhi creates attachment to selfless awareness, and
deepens the impulse to become free from the clutches of the self.

what do you mean by nondual sates of awareness?

A nondual awareness state is a state of conscious awareness within which there is

no split between subject and object, because there is no sense of self and other. All
the inner limbs of yoga are nondual awareness states. They are not techniques,
obviously, as technique requires both effort and intention, both of which prevent
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the internalisation of awareness into the unconscious while maintaining the sense
of self.

what is the point of all this, I mean i’m not likely to remember much of it.

You don’t need to. It’s just a map, and once you get down into the territory you may
recognise some of the landmarks, and that may help you to stay in there. It’s really
not important. What is important is that you establish a regular, consistent sitting
practice based only on enquiring into what is actually happening within and as
you. What is also vital is that you let go of any intention or impulse to stop or
control your thinking. Thoughts are an indispensable part of many of these deeper
states, and their silences are always continually oscillating with thoughts, and even
out to self centred thinking. Make friends with your thinking, your thoughts. Make
friends with your self. No need to make an enemy of a mirage.

I would like to consider the nature of the relationship between mind and body. The
thing about mind is that it is always present, within any experience, any conscious
feeling or thought. It is so ever present that we don’t really notice it most of the
time. It is only too easy to take it for granted, both in terms of what it does, what it
is for, and what it actually is. Maybe we don’t really know what the mind does, what
it’s for. Maybe we try to force the mind into a box it can’t get into. Maybe the mind
troubles us so much because we don’t understand it and ask too much of it.

First i would like to challenge the view that mind is something quite separate from
body. This belief often, mistakenly, attributed to Descartes is very, very old. It has a
huge amount of credibility and momentum, derived from the power of habit. Yet
despite that, and all the cultural institutions it has spawned, it is actually impossible
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to confirm that the mind is a ghost in the machIne, an alien from another
dimension, despite the fact that so many people not only think and act as if it were,
but deliberately assert and insist that it is.

When you look a little more closely, a little more openly, a little more honestly it is
not so hard to see where mind comes from. It doesn’t come from the Plaiedes, it
doesn’t come from Heaven. It comes from life, and like everything else it comes by
way of the evolutionary process. Even if evolution is not fully understood, and it
may never be, you have to be really stubborn to deny its role in the unfolding of
life. When we look at that unfolding closely we won’t see it through the prejudices
of scientific orthodoxy, any more than we will see it through the hopes of religious
fanaticism. We will start to see it as the long, slow unfolding of intelligence.

The human mind can easily be seen as the most refined and awesome fruit of the
evolutionary journey from the simple, binary intelligence of amoebas to the
complex, rationalised abstractions of the human mind. The road from unicellular
life to us is paved with intelligence, with mind. Not mind as we enjoy it and think of
it, but as the ability to discriminate, to discern, to recognise nonetheless. This, after
all, is the function of a cellular membrane: to distinguish, to divide, to protect. Of
course the orthodox view is that the brain is the most refined fruit of the
evolutionary journey, and that the mind is the brain.

So, we have these two contradictory points of view. The materialist viewpoint from
within which mind is nothing other than the brain. The spiritualist viewpoint that
mind is something above and beyond matter. Of course i am going to refute both
of these viewpoints and present one that is far more fruitful, far more encouraging
than either. Nevertheless i am going to present it to you on the back of the
incontrovertible evidence of evolution, and in the light of your own direct

If we look at evolution from the simple point of view of survival, as is usually the
case, then we must see mind as supporting, promoting, enhancing survival. The
evolutionary purpose of the mind is to support the body, to promote its survival.
The mind, then, is at the service of biology, it is an expression of biological
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processes. So, despite its incredible sophistication and potency the mind is the
servant of the body, in evolutionary terms. Yet so alienated have we become from
our bodies that we have no real sense of this. We continuously abuse the
vulnerabilities of our bodies with the creativity of our minds.

Let’s take Charlotte for example. Her mind decided a long time ago to turn her
body into a triathlete. She spent hours and years developing the necessary skills.
She had a great time, she enjoyed it, it felt good. Yet now that she is a little older
and her body is less accommodating to the ambitions of her mind, she finds she
has chronic tension and pain in her back. She had not been taking well enough
into account the vulnerabilities and needs of her body in pursuing the agendas of
her mind. This is how most of us go about our lives. We make abstract decisions in
the ivory tower of our mind and then impose them on our bodies without even
realising what we are doing.

Our mind imposes itself on our body and its vulnerabilities and its limitations all
the time. “I think i’ll become a triathlete and win prizes”, say’s the mind. A few years
later what does the lower back have to say about that Charlotte? Nice idea, and you
know maybe you could have even pulled it off even better if you had understood
more about the body, more about the mind than just how it powers itself through
space and how it can feed itself to do that.

If we don’t understand mind in itself and also the intrinsic nature of its relationship
to body, yoga posture practice will be a similar dead end, and it will be worse of a
dead end because being an athlete is not about the wellbeing of the body being
an athlete is about prizes, recognition, fame, income. Yoga posture practice is
supposedly not about any of those things, although we know in practice it is.
Supposedly it is about freedom, liberation, permanent peace. No chance of that if
mind is imposing on the body, as if it were a separate agency. Yet we must
recognise and understand that we actually can’t do anything with our bodies
without the participation of our minds even if only historically, or unconsciously.

I can remember the first time i read a book about Spinoza and I didn’t understand
at first what he was saying. Long before Freud, Spinoza argued that we make too
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much of the conscious mind, that the conscious mind is really of much less
consequence than it would have us believe. Spinoza’s argument was something
like this “we think we know why we are wet when it’s raining, but we don’t really
know why we are wet when it’s raining unless we know why its raining, how it rains
and all of those things which we are completely unconscious of when protecting
ourselves from the rain. So, long before Freud it had be recognized that most of
what’s actually happening is unconscious, most of what’s happening in your brain
is unconscious. Most of what’s happening in your mind is unconscious and it may
well be that your conscious mind has a love of sensitivity but it may well equally be
that your unconscious mind has a fear of it, and in an unconscious contest between
the conscious and the unconscious mind, the unconscious mind will always win.

How many times have you thought or said: “i didn't mean to” or “i couldn't help it”.
How many times have you found yourself eating tunafish, despite your best
intentions to be an ecowarrior? What does your unconscious care about what your
conscious mind has worked out about the precariousness of another species, when
your unconscious mind is designed to secure the survival of your species, through
your organism, through your genes? How many times as chocolate gone in your
mouth within days, hours, minutes of deciding never to eat chocolate again? Even
though your unconscious knows it’s not so good for you. The unconscious power of
habit is ruthless in its power.

Of course the conscious mind is important and of course the unconscious mind is
important and of course it would be really stupid to say that one is more important
than the other. But it’s not hard to see that one is a lot bigger than the other, a lot
heavier than the other, a lot more powerful than the other.

I would just like to tell you about my father. My father was an Oxford Scholar with a
photographic memory. Most people found him very intimidating and learnt very
quickly not to ask him any questions because if you asked him a question he would
answer it. So once i asked him a question as we set off down the hill in Ibiza. “Why
is that soil red?” As we pulled into Calais two days later he was still answering it. He
told me about Agriculture, he told me about Geology, he told me about all kinds of
things that were required of understanding why that soil over there was red.
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One day on another journey he said to me “Godfri your problem is that you don’t
understand what money is for” and I said “Oh what is it for?” He said “its for
preparing for unpredictable eventualities in the future. I said i thought it was for
enjoying myself in the present and he said: “thats exactly what i mean, you are just
like your mother, you don’t understand what money is for”.

This was my father’s worked out belief from his intelligence, from his study, from his
reading from his observation of his own life and the trouble his wife would
constantly get them into by spending money that she didn’t really have. He really
believed that: but it was not how he lived. If anybody asked him for money he gave
it to them. If anybody needed any help financially he gave it to them. His
unconscious understanding of the function of money was much more powerful
than his conscious understanding, except of course when he was having an
argument with someone like me, in which case he would win.

As long as we are living in that kind of a conflict when our unconscious mind
believes one thing about money or sex or life or death and our conscious mind
believes another we are in trouble. One of those forms of trouble is self deception.
Our conscious mind is going to deny what we think, what we believe, what we say,
what we do in order to maintain the integrity of its beliefs in the face of or in the
denial of the deeper or more potent beliefs of the unconscious .

In order to trust your conscious mind you have to know your conscious mind, in
order to know your conscious mind you have to know your unconscious mind. Any
analyst will tell you that you can know the unconscious by what comes out into
your conscious: as your dreams, as your fears, as your anxieties, as your actions and
as your conflicts. We don’t have that kind of training, we don’t have that kind of
mind. We are yoga posture practitioners. By becoming intimate with sensation we
are becoming conscious of what’s normally unconscious.

We are actually allowing the conscious to enter the un-conscious, the unconscious
to become partly conscious. We don’t have to do anything special for this: we just
have to become intimate with sensation. We don’t need a foundation training in
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psychology or psychoanalysis in order to do this. If we did have, we would probably
find it difficult to do this because we would be looking for confirmation of our
academic assumptions.

What is it that the mind does? Have you ever really though about it? Or do you just
take it for granted along with almost everything else.

Technically, you could say that the mind makes sense of data streams coming in
through your senses, all of them. Your mind makes sense of it. Your mind is an
interpreter. Before it can create, before it can imagine, it has to interpret. If we don’t
easily understand this we are easily confused because our body needs our mind in
order for it to survive and propagate its genes. Our body needs our mind to be able
to tell the difference between a dog and a wolf from a distance. It doesn’t really
matter if it’s the depth of winter there has been snow for months and you have a
young family, if a dog comes over the sky line and you think that its a wolf. But it
does matter if a wolf comes over the sky line and you think that its a dog, you
might loose a child. In other words you need to rely on your mind. You need to be
able to rely on your ability to interpret and because you need that, because you
need to be able to rely on your ability to interpret in order to survive, you need to
trust your mind.

You need to believe your mind. You often need to accept what your mind say’s
immediately, or the wolf gets your heirs. Historically speaking you would not be
here if your ancestors minds were not committed to their interpretations “thats a
wolf get the arrow”, “thats a dog lie back down”. In other words mind has to give
you the impression not only that it tells the truth but that it knows how to tell the
truth. Mind has to give you the impression that it is not guessing, that its not
interpreting, that it is actually knowing. It has to do that, it has to give you that
impression. Otherwise you say maybe its a wolf maybe fuck it isn’t make your mind
up and then suddenly there is teeth in your throat or in the throat of your children.

This is what we have to deal with when becoming intimate with the mind: it is an
interpreter that claims to be doing more than interpreting. Of course, historically, it
has to have been, but it doesn't have to be anymore because our survival is not
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threatened not right now, not while we are on the mat, not while we are on the
cushion. So somehow we have to release our mind from its primary function of
ensuring the protection and survival of the body. Release it enough to question, to
enquire into what is actually going on in what we call mind.

You know how often you have gone to eat something, as if you were hungry, when
actually you were sad or lonely. This is not the right response, and it comes from
mind, not from the body: from habits of mind that impose themselves as if mind
always tells the truth. It doesn’t, though perhaps it can learn to.

Our yoga posture practice is very unlikely to be yoga, to deliver satisfaction if we

don't become intimate with our mind, which is very difficult if mind is imposing its
ambitions and agendas on the body. We become intimate with our mind easily and
directly by becoming intimate with our body. Anything that we experience in the
body anything is actually taken place in the mind as well as in the body
simultaneously, and no boundary can possibly be drawn between them in this

So anybody that say’s that the mind is completely separate from the body in the
Cartesian way is obviously wrong, but that error has been institutionalised. It has
been institutionalised as language, as the legal system, its in political constitutions.
It’s institutionalised in popular music and unpopular music, in theatre, in opera,
movies. It’s institutionalised most dangerously and most powerfully in the insistent
impression of human independence, of our so called behavioural autonomy, in our
cherished and institutionalised free will.

However, let’s just take a look at Louise getting up just now in the middle of my
talking. It’s not that she is disinterested in what I am saying. It’s not that she is rude.
There may well have been a conscious thought about getting up to go pee. This
thought is actually not the deciding factor in her getting up. It’s not even a
decision, in the technical sense. It is more accurately a recognition of forces bearing
down on her muscles from her bladder. Forces that in becoming conscious as a
now irresistible need to pee are originating in the unconscious intelligence of her
body. Not in her mind. Not in her volition.
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There is no ‘mind’ organ. There is no ‘volition’ organ. There is no decision making
organ. Mind is the data processing of the body. The conscious mind is the data
processing of the body becoming, ever so partially, conscious. Mind is an activity,
not a thing. Within that activity volition, free will is nothing more substantial than a
conscious impression that becomes an unconscious assumption that then
becomes culturally institutionalised.

Scientists have been able to see for hundreds of years how everything tangible,
everything concrete, everything physical is and has to be totally determined and
that if we had enough information we would know what was going to happen
tomorrow. They can see the only reason that we don’t know what is going to
happen tomorrow is that we don’t have enough information. At the same time
many of those scientists are intimidated by the notion that Louise had no choice
whatsoever but to get up to pee in that exact moment. For many people it is a
frightening thought that those simple choices are not made by an autonomous
mind, by an independent entity. So deeply cherished is the incoherent and
insubstantiable notion of free will that people, even scientists, will go into deep
denial of what is actually irrefutable to sustain it.

Human beings have been haunted by this for millennia. Haunted by the body mind
dilemma. Haunted by the ghost of the ‘soul’ that creeps around in almost every
human culture. Haunted by the illusory nature of volition remaining
unacknowledged, unrecognised. It is a misplaced desire for an unexamined
freedom from conditioning, from determinism, from the truth.

In the seventeenth century this dilemma took some new turns. First through the
ingenious double think of Descarte’s anxious mind, and then through the clear lens
of Spinoza’s ruthless mind. Yet Descartes won, despite Spinoza clearly
demonstrating his insufficiencies. The Cartesian split of mind and body was the
politically acceptable, and therefore culturally accepted, option: rather than the
simple truth argued by Spinoza. The simple truth that there is no physical or
mystical relationship between body and mind, because there is no mind, except as

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a particular functioning of the body. The simple truth that there is no dilemma, that
there is no split.

Go into a new age bookshop and you can find shelves of books enunciating on this
dilemma; prescribing remedies, offering solutions to the mind body problem. They
are all wrong. You can’t have a real solution if you don’t have a real problem. There
is no problem, there is no split, there is no dilemma. It’s all a linguistic play of the
mind that has institutionalised itself.

As William Blake put it, the body is nothing other than the soul perceived through
the five senses. In other words to become intimate with the body is to become
intimate with the mind. To become free from feeling separate, to become free from
feeling apart from, to become free from feeling isolated and vulnerable we need to
close that perceived but illusory gap that human thinking has opened up between
body and mind, between matter and spirit, between action and intention, between
cause and effect.

As yoga posture practitioners we are very lucky because we don’t need to have an
intelligence as mobile and lucid as Spinoza. We don’t need to have enough interest
in pure reason as he had in order to be able to think our way to freedom like he did.
We can feel our way to freedom by becoming intimate with sensation, provided we
understand that the neuromuscular re-calibration of yoga posture practice involves
cognitive re-recalibration. Provided we understand that and recognize that, we can
facilitate that bodimind recalibration by enquiring into the possibility of letting go
of all of our beliefs, all our assumptions, all our hopes all our fears. Not just the ones
we borrowed from yoga, like our beliefs and assumptions about cosmic
consciousness, chakras and nadis, but also the equally dangerous and perhaps
more potent assumptions that had been in our unconscious for the most of our
lives, like human independence, autonomy, free will.

We need to see for ourselves, deep within our conscious experience of our own
bodies the nonduality of body and mind within their functional duality. We need to
see that the intelligence we are is a dynamic singularity that in its complexity goes
through phase shifts that suggest divisions and separations where there actually
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aren’t any, except perceptibly and functionally. We need to feel, and see that body
is body and mind is mind, but also we need to see that mind is not not body, and
matter is not not spirit.

Your mind is not a thing like your finger is. Your mind is a particular way that your
body functions and expresses itself. If you are willing to become intimate with your
body or your mind, it will become quite obvious that your mind is not a ghost in a
machine. Contrary to some foolish rumours, your mind is not a visitor from
elsewhere, but a natural expression of neurological sophistication. If you’re looking
closely at what is actually happening rather than just considering concepts and
being driven by beliefs, confused by the impression of the obvious, that is not so
hard to see for yourself. It is not so hard to see that the primary function of the
mind is no different from any other aspect of the body: to support the body in its
need to survive and flourish.

In order to support your flourishing as a living organism your mind has actually
evolved to support action, because as a human being your actions are not
instinctive. Your actions have to be learned. If you don’t learn to take action
effectively, you die. This is not true for lizards and dogs. They may be able to learn
things, but there is very little that they need to. They act primarily, if not exclusively,
out of instinct.

In order for you to act you need to learn. You need to develop accurate cognitive
skills, and effective motor skills. You have done that, even though it’s not yet over.
You are still learning fresh cognitive and motor skills. At the root of this is the
ability of your brain to distinguish between aspects of your environment that you
may have to act on, or react to. In order to be able to do so effectively your nervous
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system must be ready, it must have the most likely options lined up in as available
and learned neuromuscular pathways, in case you have to react fast. It may well be
a jackal, but on the other hand it might just be a ravenous and desperate wolf. Your
mind is taking care of this all the time: distinguishing, analysing, categorising,
evaluating environmental input continuously. In other words your mind is a tireless
busybody, poking its very sensitive nose into whatever comes within range. Your
mind has to be busy all of the time in order to support your body.

It is the mind’s nature to be busy. It is the mind’s nature to be active. The same is of
course true of the body. You don’t sit still as a stone all day, and your heart is
beating nonstop. Once you’re up, you’re up and moving, busy, busy, busy. Even
when you are resting, your organs, including your sense organs, are doing their
thing. The body is always busy. The mind is always busy. Perhaps we can learn
something from this: just as the body in its mobile nature needs rest, so perhaps
also does the mind. I am talking here about the conscious mind. We know that at
least most of the time your body is resting, when you are asleep, the mind is still
busy processing unconsciously, or dreaming.

The conscious mind, no less than the body, needs, wants, likes to rest. This is a vital
recognition to make. It powerfully contextualises all those life-denying notions,
cooked up by one ungrounded mind or another, that you need to stop your mind,
transcend your mind, kill your mind. You don’t have to force your mind to rest, you
don’t have to force your mind to stop, you don’t have to learn to control your mind;
you just need to know how to give your mind the space, the opportunity, the
possibility to pause and take a well deserved rest. Of course your mind does do
this in deep sleep. Nevertheless, this is not enough. Clearly this is not enough, you
are stressed out by your mind. It won’t stop. It keeps on bugging you about things
you can do nothing about: futures that it is imagining, pasts that it claims to be

Maybe your mind is not like that, and it’s easy for you to sit down when you don’t
actually have anything that needs to be done, and slip your mind into neutral. How
long can you sit still without a thought passing through your mind, albeit
uninvited? It’s not long is it? Your mind is a busy little bee, and it’s going to stay that
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way until it learns otherwise. The more you appreciate and are satisfied with your
life, the more chance there is that you can enjoy a conscious doze in the rocking
chair on the porch when you have no more chores to do. If your life is not so much
to your liking, if there are things in your life that you would rather there weren’t, or
if there are things not in your life that you would rather they were, it’s likely that
your mind is in overdrive trying to work out how to change all that. Are you totally
happy with your career, job, home, car, partner, bank balance? Or could you do with
a little refinement in those areas? Are you happy with global warming and global
finance? Are you ok with being such a small cog in such a huge, complex machine?

What is it that allows your mind to rest. What does your mind need to be able to let
go of it’s deep, biologically driven need to recognise which parts of the world you
need to be aware of? What do you need for your mind to let go? A mantra maybe,
or a yantra perhaps. Maybe you need a flash of shaktipat from a guy with brown
eyes and a white beard? Maybe you need a snake to uncoil from your pelvic floor
and slither its curling way up your incandescent spine? Maybe you are still
intellectually a child, comforted, satisfied by fairytales? It doesn’t have to stay that
way, because your mind can learn. It can learn to give itself what it needs, what it
needs to rest: a sense of safety.

It’s your minds job to alert you not only to real danger but even to potential danger
so that you are prepared for whatever may actually come. It is your minds job to tell
you that when you see a quadruped against the snow that it is or is not a wolf. You
have to know this before it gets too close, or it will be too late to get the children to
safety. The fact that you don’t have to deal with wolves or saber tooth tigers, does
not change the nature and functioning of your mind. Its job is to protect your
vulnerability as a slow, small, weak, unprotected biped. Nowadays it applies itself to
that job by considering such threats as environmental decay, global warming and
financial meltdowns, not to mention uncontrollable boyfriends, uninvited spots
and insistent cellulite.

The problem here is that you worry about these things when you are not in a
position to do anything about them. Your mind is designed to protect you by
helping you to take action. It doesn’t help to think about, to worry about things
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beyond your action range. Then the mind has nowhere to go but round and round
in circles, while continually giving the impression that it is getting somewhere,
when in fact there is nowhere for it to get. Some of you were worrying the other
day whether a tent should be moved away from a tree. You were worried that the
branch might fall on the tree in the high winds that were blowing. Now that is a
problem that your mind is designed to help you with, because it leads to action.
Once you have made the decision, to take action or not, then the mind feels safe, it
can let go of that concern.

The fact is that the world is full of dangers, potential dangers and actual dangers.
So, maybe there is no way for your mind to become genuinely quiet, for you to
become truly at peace. On the other hand, maybe there is. One thing that can make
you feel very unsafe is not knowing where you are. Not knowing if you are in a safe
place: geographically, politically, socially, economically, emotionally, physically.
Perhaps what you need to feel totally safe, totally at ease within the
unpredictability of life with all its potential dangers is to know exactly where you

There is, of course, more to this than meets the eyes. You know you are in a
geodesic done in a field in france. No doubt about that. You may even know the
longitude and latitude. Not so hard to find out. Do you know exactly where you are
though. You can do. You can know your place, not just on the map but even in the
grand apparent unfolding of the universe. All you have to do is look closely enough
at what is actually happening. Especially what is happening in your mind.

No matter what you are thinking right now, it has been conditioned to be what it is.
Not only by what i have been saying, but also by what you have been
unconsciously seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and remembering. All of
these, unnoticed things, have been invisibly collaborating with what i am saying to
generate the very thoughts that you are having right now.

The very thoughts that you are having right now are exactly that, and nothing else.
You are feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching only and exactly what you are. In
their own unique way they are conditioning what you are thinking, even whether
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or not you are thinking about what i am saying at all. This conditioning extends out
without recognisable limits in every direction. It extends through your personal
history and mine deep into the lives of everyone who has in any way contributed in
any way to the exactitude of our unique experiences: in other words, everybody.
This is a massive extension of forces and factors bearing inexorably, and unnoticed,
down on the very thoughts that you are actually having right now.

When you see deeply and clearly into this massive matrix underpinning and
shaping your experience you may start to see clearly where you actually are, where
you have always been despite the fact that you are continually moving about. You
are, right now, not only exactly where you are, but the only place you possibly
could be: geographically, emotionally, psychologically. There is no other
psychological, emotional or geographical place you could actually be right now.

This is the way it is. This is the way the universe is unfolding. You can imagine
yourself elsewhere but here you remain: forever. You are always in the here and
now of what is actually happening. Even when you are fantasising about
something that is not actually happening.

What you need to see within all of this is one very simple thing. It is not so hard to
see that things are always as they actually are, and never any other way. What is
sometimes not so easy to see is that they have to be that way. Things are the way
they are now, because they were the way they were before in the past. The past is,
or was, the past. It is what it was and cannot in any way be changed, no matter how
many times our memories, opinions and feelings about it may change. Likewise the
present. The present is resting irrevocably on the past. It has to be the way that it is
because the past was the way that it was. What confuses people here is that the
present is where things change. Things are always changing, and these changes
always take place in the present as they slip almost instantaneously into the
unchangeable past.

The present is where things change: but you can change the present no more than
you can change the past. You need to see this very clearly if your mind is ever to
enjoy more then a brief respite on the wings of sex, alcohol, exhaustion or drugs.
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You cannot change the past. You cannot change the present. Of course you cannot
change the future, it hasn’t happened yet. It is the irrevocability of the past and
present that provides you with the only possibility of feeling genuinely, totally safe.
This can happen only when you see that you are always and exactly where you
have to be, and that this is always going to be the case in the future. You have never
been in the wrong place at the wrong time. You have always been in the right place
at the right time.

When i was 17 i walked barefoot and alone round a corner in Oxford at 3 o’clock in
the morning. 50 yards down the street were 30 skinheads lounging about bored
and restless. Their collective response to my presence was like that of a pack of
hungry wolves to a lamb. The blood ran to their muscles and mine. Their hearts and
mine started to pound. They licked their metaphorical lips and started slowly,
knowingly towards me. I knew i could not run. I knew i could not hide. I knew i
could not fight them, so i kept on walking as slow and cool as i could. As they got
closer with glints in their narrowed eyes i heard the rapid pitter patter of bare feet
behind me. My friend Dyl came up beside me and put his arm around my
shoulders, the skinheads all stopped instantaneously. Dyl brought me to a
standstill and took his arm from my shoulder saying: “this is my good friend
Godfrey”, and calmly walked on. I followed him home in silence. I had no need to
thank him, and he had no need to tell me that we had just met his old gang, the
one he used to take hippy-bashing every friday and saturday night. I knew i was
safe on the streets of Oxford after that. What i did not then know was that i had
never been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even when crumbling to my
knees with a policeman’s fist in my stomach as i had a few days before.

You have to know, beyond any doubt, on the basis of your own intelligence, that
everything is always the way that it has to be. Then you will have no more cause to
worry about things that are not actually happening, about things that you cannot
take action in relationship to. Then you will know that the future is, in effect,
already written, and it’s already on its way to you, to your experiences, your
feelings, your thoughts being exactly what they have to be. You will lose the need
to worry, to anticipate, strategise and plan for things that you can not take action
about. Your mind will let go. It will feel safe enough to do so. It will still respond to
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what is actually happening and recognise real possibilities for action, but it will be
so much quieter it will become like your heartbeat or your breath: supporting you
but without being recognised.

Not so long ago Beige was on his knees machine guns at his head and chest.
Bandits wanted to kill him. They didn’t though. Here he is bright and sunny as a
Mexican morning. Killing him was not actually on their agenda. He didn’t know
that. They didn’t know that. It didn’t actually happen. Can you imagine what your
mind could get up to in those circumstances. Whatever you imagine is only
imaginary. What actually happens is what actually happens and is always what it
has to be. Beige knew that, and that understanding helped him to be at peace with
what was happening, unwelcome and horrific as it was.

It’s only possible to really be at peace when you feel totally safe and because you
can’t control circumstances, because you can’t decide who’s going to be around
the next corner of your life, nor what they’re going to want from you, the only way
you can be at peace, the only way you can feel totally safe is to know beyond any
doubt that you are exactly where you have to be. Which would mean that you have
always been exactly where you had to be. Which would of course also mean that
you’ve always done exactly what you had to do. You always wore exactly what you
had to wear. You’ve always felt exactly what you had to feel. You’ve always thought
exactly what you had to think for the world to be the way that it was. For the
universe to be the way that it is you have to be doing exactly what you are doing.
You have to be feeling and thinking exactly what you are feeling and thinking.

There is nothing special about this moment, these thoughts, that make them so
indispensable to the unfolding of the universe. This is not a special moment, this is
a perfectly ordinary moment and that quality belongs to every moment. Every
moment, in all of its aspects and all of its unknowable details, is absolutely
indispensable to the unfolding of the universe just as it is. If you can’t see that then
you’ve only got two basics possibilities. You can feel safe because you are deeply
ignorant and you happen to be in a peaceful situation for the time being. You can
feel ok then until your mind wonders how long is this going to last Or you can
pretend to feel ok when you don’t really.
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Don’t underestimate your ability to fool even yourself into thinking you’re ok when
you’re not. It’s deeply embedded from your ancestral past. You are a great liar. You
are so good at it that you don’t even recognise it yourself most of the time. You
know how much others lie to you and to themselves: especially about how they
feel. You too. I had a friend once, long ago when we were hippies sitting around
smoking and tripping all day, who was especially lazy. He never cleaned the house.
He never cooked dinner. He had a very good reason for this, for why he spent most
of his life with his legs crossed and his eyes closed. “The Buddha” he would declare
“says that we were designed to be still, to sit still”. Well, this is a double nonsense.
First of all the Buddha said no such thing, and second it is so obviously untrue. We
are life’s most mobile organism; not the fastest, not the most agile, but endowed
with by far the most mobile potential. He was just trying to get out of the
housework, by wrapping a false cloak of peace around himself. He wasn’t at peace.
We knew he wasn’t at peace but we did the cleaning and cooking without him.

Your mind won’t become still, won’t become quiet, won’t become clear until you
see clearly what is actually happening. Until you see clearly that you are in the right
place, that you’ve always been in the right place, that you’re always going to be in
the right place, your mind will be restless, agitated, anxious. You need to see very
clearly that you’re always going to do the right thing: even if somebody else calls it
the wrong thing, even when a priest would call it the wrong thing, even if the law
would call it the wrong thing. These are very narrow and self-serving perspectives.
You need to access a deeper perspective, one that takes everything into account,
even without all the specific details. You need to develop cosmic vision, where you
can see, with the impartial eyes of unshackled intelligence, what is actually

You need to be able to see that what is happening has to be happening. That
whatever you have done, you have done no wrong. You are not the doer. You are
not the wrongdoer. You have to see the seamless indivisibility of totality, within
which there is no space for error, within which you are not a mistake, nor a source
of mistakes. Of course in the limited world of social convention, or personal
preference masquerading as moral imperative you can do wrong, you have done
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wrong. Of course you need to take account of that, relate to that in your mind and
in your actions. In your heart however you have to see you have done no wrong,
can do no wrong. Only then will you feel safe enough for mind to stop bugging
you, for it to quieten into its pragmatic functioning.

Your mind has to keep on working, keep on evaluating, categorising, analysing,

recognising. When you see clearly what is hiding within the obvious truth that what
is happening is actually happening: the subtle truth that it has to be happening,
then most of that work will happen in the background, in the unconscious without
troubling your conscious mind any more.

Of course you have to be unintimidated by the “has to be happening”. It’s not like
school where you had to be in class, and you had to sit down, and you had to be
quiet: even though you didn’t want to. This is not crime and punishment, this is the
indivisible wholeness of totality supporting you, holding you up, nudging you
forwards in immaculate choreography with everything else.

You are not being forced to be here listening to me. Yet you have to be. We don’t
really know exactly why you have to be, but we do know that you have to be,
because you are. We know that even though we can imagine ourselves to be
elsewhere we are not actually elsewhere: we actually are here, and not anywhere
else. We are not here against our will. We have not been coerced, but we have been
necessitated to be here.

Of course some of us have been moved along at gunpoint. I have been taken off to
prison against my will by uniforms with machine guns. Nevertheless in that
moment, and as the bars slammed behind me, i was totally supported by the
unfolding of the universe, just as i am right now, as we all are, always.

Have you ever been abandoned by gravity? Have you ever been abandoned by the
strong and weak nuclear force? I know you have been abandoned by someone, but
not by the sun, and not by the moon. They have always supported you, and they
always will. The love of oxygen for hydrogen is supporting you right now, as it
always has, in every tissue, every cell. We are supported by the canvas of the dome,
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the planks of the floor. In fact we are actually supported by everything without
exception, absolutely everything is supporting each one of us. Even those of you
who are bored with my rattling on are being supported in that boredom, in that

That’s a lot of support you’ve got right now. Of course you mustn’t be childish
about this. Of course not all your decisions have been supported, not all your
dreams come true. Many of your ambitions have been left in the gutter, love affairs
have left you in tears. You are still being supported. You have always been
supported. Oxygen is entering your cells, all the time. Being supported means that
your every thought, your every felling, your every action is an inevitable outcome
of every other one. When you see that clearly it can in no way make you feel
uncomfortable, it can in no way make you feel restricted or alone.

It can make you feel coerced when you glimpse it unclearly. Seeing it unclearly
means hearing and understanding the concept without having arrived there for
yourself through the mobilization of your own intelligence. Only then when you
see it by the light of your own intelligence does a quiet mind becomes possible.
When you see that everything you do needs to be done, not for the fulfillment of
your own petty ambitions or needs, but for the unfolding of the universe, the
integrity of totality, then you will relax, then your mind will become sharp and clear
within its quietness.

If you would like a quiet, effective mind, don’t try to make it be quiet. Don’t try to
shut it up. Let it go, but go with it, become intimate with its movements, its
dynamics. See how totally conditioned your every thought is. See how your mind is
not under your control, can never be under your control. See how your mind, like
everything else is an extension and expression of the indivisible singularity of
totality. See that you are not alone. See how deeply supported you are. See that
your sense of being hard done by is nothing but your mind ungrounded. Let your
mind become grounded in the indivisible singularity of totality. Let the intelligence
of your mind become grounded in the intelligence of consciousness. All you need
do is become completely intimate with your own mind, just as it is.

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You could say that enquiry is the fundamental natural expression of mind:
continuously asking the question “what is this?” within which there is always the
presence and fertility of doubt. You don’t have to ask what something is if you
already know, but this is the purpose of the mind: to doubt, to question. Yet we are
deeply habituated to using the intelligence of the mind to answer, to provide
answers. Not just making decisions, but even more generally: “what is the purpose
of life? “, “what is the meaning of my life?”. Mind is incapable of answering this kind
of question, yet it tries to because we think as if it is. It is, however, capable of
recognising the answer, which like as not is lurking somewhere deeper than your
conscious mind.

We have been using the intelligence of mind to answer the questions posed by the
intelligence of the mind most of our lives. Quite often this has been totally fine. Like
if somebody asked you what was the date of the battle of Hastings? If you’re
English you’re going to know the answer, unless you went to a Steiner school like
my sons did. However when you wonder what time the train is, or what time the
bus is and ask yourself what time you should go to the bus stop or the train
station, how does the intelligence of your mind answer that question? Does the
intelligence of your mind really answer that question?

If you know the times of the bus and train you don’t really have much to do. When
you don’t know the time of the bus or train, you have to find out. You have to get a
timetable and apply the intelligence of your mind to interpreting the symbols on
the timetable to gather the information. Then, when you have all the available data,
what happens? Once it has been evaluated, even inaccurately, you have an answer
in the meeting between the times written on the table and your other obligations
and possibilities that are related to time. There will be one time that works best
given the nature of the relationships between all the pertinent variables. One of the
possibilities, and only one, will provide the most advantages and the least
disadvantages. This is the one you will choose. You won’t know which one it is until
you get on it, and it may not be the one you chose, as something else may have
come up afterwards.

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You may have a few apparent options. You might be able to get the bus at five past
eleven, twenty five past eleven, or forty five past eleven. You might be finished with
all of those things you have to do before the first one, and you might not need to
be where ever you are going until after that last one arrives. Then you have
apparently three choices and at a certain point you’re going to get on the train,
you’re gonna get on the bus either at five past or twenty five past or at forty five
past. How is that choice actually made? Is the mind making an independent
decision? Is it uninfluenced by any other factors? Is there a final act after all the data
has been evaluated that constitutes a separate decision?

Or, is that choice actually determined exactly by the evaluation of the available
data. Don’t forget that that evaluation is not just a numerical process. It also
involves prior and subsequent obligations and responsibilities, along with desires,
hopes and other forms of imaginings. Nevertheless the available data is critical. You
won’t decide to get on a bus at eleven thirty three, unless you have information
telling you that there will be one at that time. If you don’t have that information,
you can’t make that choice: even if a bus or train does actually turn up at that time,
and you get on it because you were going for the eleven twenty five, and it was

The point is that you think you freely chose to get the eleven twenty five. Certainly
no-one forced you to. Yet just as you were leaving the house, you remembered you
hadn’t backed up last night’s work. You have to go back and do it, leaving too late
for the eleven twenty five, and being forced therefor to get the eleven forty five.
Like as not this will also be claimed as a free choice. Not much freedom there
though, unless unacknowledged captivity is what freedom is.

Even though it is the nature of your mind to recognize, to analyze, to categorize

and to evaluate it’s not in the nature of your mind to decide. It seems like it is
because you’re not paying attention, but the decisions are necessitated by the
analyses, by the evaluation of the data. Whatever that analysis is whatever that
evaluation is, determines the decision. There’s not an extra faculty of making a
decision. The making of a decision, it turns out, is just a recognition of what you are
necessitated by your evaluation to do. Of course you may well not be very good at
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evaluating data, but that makes no difference at all. It is the overall evaluation,
much of which is completely unconscious, of your hopes, anxieties, values,
obligations, responsibilities, house to bus stop or train station time, and departure
times that decides which one. That decision can be reversed by a single piece of
latecoming data: remembering you didn’t back up, for example.

Of course many of your decisions don’t become actions do they, so you could say
that represents a false recognition. It wasn’t a decision it was an error of judgement.
Some data that came later had not been able to be taken into account (forgot to
back up being remembered). In other words it was unrecognised ignorance, and
once the new input came, once more data came, a different decision was
necessitated by that. Maybe that one wasn’t acted upon either because after that
more data came in.

So it can seem like your continuously changing your mind, but your mind is not a
thing to change. Your mind is just a processing of information, and of course at a
certain moment you have to act, so that even if there is yet unavailable data that
you don’t know about you can’t use that in the decision making process if you
actually get to the point where you have to act. According to Chinese medicine the
liver is the organ responsible for planning and the gallbladder is responsible for
making decisions. Hope you still got a gall bladder, then. At least they didn’t think
that the mind is the decision maker, because it definitely ain’t. It’s job is information
processing preparatory to action. It doesn’t make a decision separate from the
evaluation. The evaluation necessitates the decision.

Your mind in its insecurity likes to take credit for things it hasn’t done so that it can
continue to assert itself, to impose itself. I mean isn’t it true that your body can’t
take care of your breathing properly so you have to manipulate it in yoga posture
practice on the basis of something you heard somewhere from someone about
what it supposedly needs to impose on your breathing in order for your practice to
be somehow magically transformed through that imposition of the mind from
something natural and organic to something magical and spiritual? Isn’t it also true
that your mind has to be told what is right and wrong by some book, or an old
bloke with a gold embossed cloak, because there is no built-in sense of right on
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wrong in your natural intelligence, in your body’s evolved intelligence? You have
heard a lot of tall stories in your life, haven’t you? So many that maybe you’ve lost
your ability to discriminate, and maybe you just believe what others believe. You
probably still hang stockings up on christmas eve don’t you. I hope you fill them

You could say that it’s the purpose of mind to tell stories. You could say that is is the
purpose of mind to tell tall stories. You could say that it’s the purpose of mind to
entertain you now that you don’t have to struggle to survive. You mind definitely
has a purpose, or you would not have one, but it may not be what you think it is,
what it claims it is. It may not be quite as important as it has led you to believe. LIke
all other organs, like your thumb, your thigh bone, your mind evolved to help your
body to survive and flourish. Of course not intentionally, but serendipitously.
Nevertheless you would not have a mind if it had not served a necessary purpose.

Maybe life has changed so much in the last few thousand years that the mind’s old
job is taken care of by social services, and local planning departments. Maybe most
of the decisions that determine your life have already been made. Maybe they took
place in the house of commons, a council chamber, a gentleman’s club or a
computer. Maybe there isn’t that much for your mind to evaluate any more. I mean,
how difficult is it to choose a bus time? Do you really need such a massive cortex
for that? Perhaps survival is so easy now your mind doesn’t know what to do with
itself so it just keeps on and on and on producing tall stories while giving the
impression that they’re not tall stories at all, while giving the impression that
they’re the truth.

It is the job, and it always has been the job, of a human mind to facilitate action. In
the absence of instincts the mind has to learn and the mind has to anticipate, the
mind has to imagine the possibilities, but it only evolved to do this in relationship
to action. You can’t run very fast, you have no inbuilt weaponry or armour: you are
very vulnerable. Anticipation is your only reliable resource besides your
companions. You need to be able to anticipate possible future events and be
prepared for them, and this will include communicating with your tribe mates. You
don’t have reliable instincts, so you have had to develop cognitive, motor and
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behavioural options. That is what your mind has evolved for. So then when the
moment comes you can act in a way that ensures your survival. Either you have
reliable instincts coupled to potent natural resources like camouflage, speed or
saber teeth, or you have a mind.

Yet as most of the decisions are made for us, the mind is let overqualified for its
other job: enjoyment, entertainment. So it entertains itself with tall stories,
especially about its importance, not least as the decision maker, the decider.

Let’s take eating as an example. 10,000 or more years ago you didn’t have much
choice. You ate what you killed, scavenged or gathered. Now you can choose
between tofu and lamb chops, pineapple and Nutella. How do you make those
choices? Either you choose from habit, or you make up a story about how eating
tofu is good for the planet or little lambs have eternal souls, and then you believe
them. Amazing! Do you really think that you, and i mean you, have enough data to
evaluate the environmental impact of eating soy as your primary protein source.
Do you know about the environmental impact of soybean farming and the
manufactured nitrogen they use? You don’t do you? You just think it’s wrong to eat
meat. You don’t even know that fertiliser either comes from animal shit, and that’ s
domesticated animals, and that’s animals reared to be eaten, or it comes from oil.
You can’t make a sound decision without all the data. Any less and it’s sheer

How did your ancestors learn which berries to eat, which roots to pluck? Of course
their mind’s had a little to do with it, but they learned from the intelligence of their
kinsmen’s bodies: the ones that died or got sick. The mind is not the primary
decision maker in your life. When you let it make the big decisions, you pretty soon
find yourself having to make another big one. I mean, is there anyone here who is
still involved with their first love, the first person they lived with?

When you go to the grocery store you have to chose whether or not you will buy
green vegetable, cheese, juice and chocolate. You also have to chose between the
bars of chocolate, you can’t buy them all. Who makes those decisions? The
intelligence of your mind seems to, claims to, but not without the intelligence of
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your body. Your mind will make up a story about why you usually choose fruit, but
today it’s gonna be chocolate, but actually your body is deciding. Your mind just
can’t handle the redundancy that civilization has forced on it, because it has
forgotten that its other purpose is enjoyment, entertainment. It hasn’t so much
forgotten as gone into denial, because your mind is actually entertaining itself with
tall stories almost all the time.

To the extent that the intelligence of your mind looses touch with the intelligence
of your body it can only basically do one thing for you: cause problems, sooner or
later. Maybe in the beginning it’s not a problem to lie around and fantasise about
Johnny Depp, but it becomes a problem when you’ve got so used to fantasising
about Johnny Depp that you think that every other man you meet is ugly or not
rich enough.

Your mind has a deep hunger for the truth and it has a remarkable capacity to
recognize it: but it can not tell it. It can only tell stories. so when your mind is telling
you about something or someone, just remember it’s just a story. Of course here
lies the problem: some stories are truthful, not the truth but truthful, they point
towards what is actually happening. Many stories point away from it, and are not
truthful. So how can you tell the difference. The intelligence of the mind can’t tell
the difference unless its grounded in something, it has to be grounded in what is
actually happening.

Do you know what is actually happening in Israel? Do you know what’s actually
happening in Bethlehem? I imagine you’ve got some opinions about that. I imagine
you think you know. You either call it the occupied territories, or you call it the west
bank of Israel. Either way it’s a story that you’re buying into with very little data. If
you’re not careful, you think it’s the truth, you think you know the truth, you think
that you know who the bad guys are, but the bad guys, as my teacher once said, is
us! Yes, we, we are the bad guys. We are the guys that make this this distinction
between Russian and American, between Israeli and Palestinian.This distinction is
made by the mind, and upheld by the mind as conflict forever .

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Throughout history and all over the plant people are oppressing and killing each
other. At the heart of all this tragedy are stories, stories that are taken to be the
truth. The Jews are a threat to mankind was a very destructive story, still is. Arabs
are vicious and untrustworthy is equally untrue, equally potent, equally dangerous,
equally destructive. This is not just a political problem. In fact the political problem
is simply the visible expression of the root problem, which is a psychological
problem. A psychological problem that you have. You make up stories and you take
them to be true: about nationalities, genders, belief systems, cultures, individual,
attitudes, decisions, actions.

Your mind is a story teller, but it won’t admit it. In denying its nature it gets you into
deep shit. It gets us all into very deep shit. In fact that’s where we are, what we have
become accustomed to: floundering around in deep shit that we are constantly
reflavouring as chocolate, and rebranding as progress. Part of the reason it won’t
admit is the deeply institutionalised belief that life is a struggle, that we must
establish and maintain continuous effort if we are not to overwhelmed by
adversity. As long as this is believed, even if only unconsciously, then mind can’t
afford to acknowledge and express its true nature as the enjoyer. Enjoyment,
entertainment, pleasure are seen as unhelpful, even dangerous, distractions. So
mind is left with nothing to do but express its entertainers nature by pretending its
stories are true.

The intelligence and creativity of your mind is overwhelmed by burdens and

responsibilities it has not the resources to easily bear. It is taking on its own
unsupported shoulders so many strategies, so much planning, so many decisions:
about love, about family, about career, about belief, about friendship, about
purchasing, about environmentalism. The list of burdens your mind has placed
upon itself is endless. Of course your mind has a role to play in all of that, but NOT
as the decision make: only as the researcher, the recogniser, the analyser. The
decision makes itself. You don’t have to worry about it. You will buy a particular
phone. You will accept a specific job. You will leave the house at exactly the time
that you do. All these things are the result of so much more than the processing of
your mind, conscious and unconscious. They are, in fact, the result of nothing less
than the indivisible wholeness of totality.
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The intelligence and creativity of mind needs to be grounded. It needs to be
grounded in what is actually happening. This is not so hard to do, if we use the
body, as in yoga posture practice, or somatic meditation. Simply by feeling the
sensations generated by the body, mind has to apply itself to them. It has to
express its ability to evaluate and recognise, also its ability to enjoy, in response to
what is actually happening in and as the body. This provides a very powerful
grounding for mind, one that eventually permits its grounding in the intelligence
of consciousness.

If you want to get to know someone what do you do? You talk to yourself about
them, talk to other people about them, read what other people have said about
them, or read about them. This doesn’t work. Especially these days, when so many
people are saying so many things about so many people and so many things on
the internet. To know someone you have to be with them. You have to see and
smell and feel them, even if you are not actually touching them.

You need to be more than just in their presence. You need to be present, to really
be there. Not just your body, but your mind, your senses, your interest, your desire
to know them. Same with mind. If you want to know your mind, if you even just
want to know what is the roll of mind in yoga, in meditation you have to get to
know the mind. The only way you can do that is by being present to your mind, to
its activity, to its dynamics, its habits, its tendencies.

Your mind is even more mobile than your body, and it can move very fast. It is
especially good at moving away from pain, discomfort, confusion, boredom. It can
use this capacity to move away from what is actually happening to convince itself
that it is alright, that everything is ok. When it isn’t. Trouble is that it can’t keep it up.
It’s too stressful, it takes too much energy to keep turning away (vrtti) from what is
actually happening. It’s tiring, it’s exhausting, it has to come to a stop. Sooner or
later, you know what they say, the shit hits the fan, and the fan has to stop turning
or the shit gets spread everywhere. So, here’s the razor’s edge we have to walk as
human beings. Whether we like it or not we are human beings. We can pretend
were not human beings, we can pretend we are incarnate stardust. Well actually
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that’s what a human being is, but it doesn’t make us magical, we are still beholden
to all the laws of physics, of cause and effect.

The razor’s edge you have to walk as a human being is between the unreliability
and the trustworthiness of your mind. How can you trust something that is so
deeply involved in story telling? How can something that’s ‘designed’ to tell stories
be trustworthy. Only by grounding it in something less flighty, less mutable, less
unreliable. That rules out knowledge for a start. Most so-called knowledge is only
assumption, rumour, hearsay, wishful thinking. It rules out tradition too. You can’t
ground the raucous intelligence of mind in someone else's mind. It doesn't’ matter
if they wear monochrome robes and speak in soft, dulcet tones. You can’t ground
your mind in external authority, tradition, knowledge. You need something more
concrete, more stable, more reliable than that.

The intelligence of your mind actually needs to be grounded in its source. It can’t
become fully grounded in anything else, in anything less. It needs to become
grounded in the intelligence of its body. That’s where it’s come from. At least that’s
what it emerges from.

The intelligence of the human mind is an expression, and extension of the human
body. It is not an intrusion from another galaxy or dimension. This is a singularity
we are living in and as. There is nothing hidden away behind impenetrable barriers.
Everything can become clear to the point of transparency if we look closely
enough, deeply enough to see clearly what is actually happening.

What is actually happening with mind is that it is running away with itself. At the
same time it is running away from its source, which is to be found in the body. It
can’t be found in a book, or a podcast. You have to look within, where looking
within means feeling the sensations generated by the intelligence of the body.
Whatever your mind is telling you about what I’m saying is coming thorough the
intelligence of your body. For some people, especially people who have been
deeply infected by traditional spiritual ideas, the body is not enough, the body is
actually something to be discarded as soon as possible. many so-called spiritual
traditions say you must transcend it as soon as possible. Anybody who goes to a
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yoga mat with those kinds of ideas in their conscious or unconscious mind is really
in a mess. BKS Iyengar is a case in point, along with anybody that’s following him

The original source of the intelligence of your mind, is the source of the intelligence
of your body. It’s into that source that the intelligence of mind needs to be
grounded. It can only be grounded in that easily by way of the intelligence of the
body. It is very hard to ground the intelligence of mind in its source from itself. You
need to have a very deep and complete mobilisation and integration of all of its
powers. This is very rare. Daniel Dennett failed. Bertrand Russell failed. Kant failed.
Nietzsche failed. Hume failed. Spinoza is maybe the only one who ever pulled it off.
Being that he lived in the seventeenth century he did’t quite realise what it was he
was grounding himself in. He called it God, and it’s not that that is untrue. It is true.
God is the source of your intelligence, your mind, your body, your life. But, what is
God? What is God made of?

You cannot find a satisfactory answer to that question in books, in church, in

temples. You can only find it in your own experience, your own body. There is
perhaps no easier way to find out what is actually going on, to find out what you
most deeply and meaningfully are, than to become intimate with the intelligent
presence of your own body. There is a zen saying: “this very body is the entire
universe”. To anyone not intimate with the intelligent presence of their own body
that’s going to sound like metaphor, poetry, nonsense. Maybe not. It’s not
intelligent to refute something, to deny something, just because it doesn’t make
immediate sense.

Give your mind a break. Don’t ask it to do things it can’t do. Don’t ask a philosopher
to do things he can’t do. What’s the point? A philosopher can’t understand the
nature of the body unless he has become intimate with it. A philosopher can’t
understand the nature of mind unless he has become intimate with it. A
philosopher can’t understand the nature of body or mind until he has become
intimate with their source. Ground the remarkable intelligence of your mind in the
no less remarkable, though completely different intelligence of your body and it
will, eventually and necessarily, become grounded in their source: the intelligence
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of consciousness. Only then, only when the intelligence of mind is grounded in the
intelligence of consciousness can you start to really rely on it.

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Godfri’s is a voice that breaks free from the bounds of convention, a voice forged in the
bitter sweet fires of deep self enquiry, tempered on the anvil of the guru, seasoned by
the questions of many, as it plays freely with the possibilities of being human


also available from Godfri Dev

Yoga Unveiled: a users’ guide to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjalai

The Power to Choose: an invitation to freedom
The Little Book of the Bandhas: a somatic invitation to freedom
The Lost Art of Meditation
Fallin Shadows: the ultimate blog of the interior journey

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