Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MINDFULNESS IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEART

A new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine from Brown University researchers shows that dispositional mindfulness promotes better heart health.
 
The researchers looked at whether having ‘dispositional mindfulness’—which means you’re the type of person who’s very aware of, and attentive to, what you’re feeling and thinking at any given moment—was a factor for a healthy heart. They found a significant correlation between the two: namely, people with high dispositional mindfulness scores had an 83 per cent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health.
 
Now, some people are ‘naturally’ dispositionally mindful. The rest of us are not, and have to learn how to be dispositionally mindful.
 
For more information about the Brown University study, here is a link to a recent article in Time magazine. The reference to the study and report is immediately below.
 
 
Resource: Loucks EB, Britton WB, Howe CJ, Eaton CB, and Buka SL. ‘Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: the New England Family Study.’ International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. October 2014. Date: 23 Oct 2014.

 

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

MINDFULNESS AND MONSIEUR HULOT

One of my all-time favourite films is The Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr Hulot’s Holiday).

Let’s face it, the French filmmaker and actor Jacques Tati [pictured left] was a genius---and thanks to his immortalization on film, he is still is.

Every time I see this delightful black-and-white film, and I pull out and watch my DVD copy of the film at least once each year, I experience ‘not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness and good cheer.’ Those words come from the eminent American film historian and critic Roger Ebert, whose review of the film is well worth reading. And these words of his also resonate with me:

When I saw the film a second time, the wonderful thing was, it was like returning to the hotel. It wasn't like I was seeing the film again; it was like I was recognizing the people from last year. There's the old couple again (good, they made it through another year). The waiter (where does he work in the winter?). And the blond girl (still no man in her life; maybe this is the summer that . . .).

The author photographed on La Plage de Monsieur Hulot in July 2016

They say nostalgia ‘ain’t what it used to be.’ Well, watch The Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. Then watch it again in, say, a year’s time. Then watch it again. The film’s ability to invoke and continually re-invoke nostalgia for a time and an era long gone, a time and era the majority of us never experienced, is almost unbelievable. Such is the greatness of film that the otherwise ephemeral incidents and occurrences depicted in the film are frozen in time and space forever---or at least for so long as there is a print in one form or another of the film ... or for so long as there is someone living who can remember at least one delicious frame of the film.



Except for some indoor scenes (for example, those set in the hotel's restaurant), The Vacances de Monsieur Hulot was filmed on location in the small, delightful coastal resort town of 
Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, on the edge of the industrial port of Saint-NazaireThe seaside Hôtel de la Plage, which appeared as the holiday residence of Mr Hulot, still exists. The beach scenes were shot on Saint-Marc's beach, which is now known as La Plage de M. Hulot (‘Mr Hulot's Beach’). I've read that the tennis match took place in the garden of the nearby Château de Saint-Marc. Some say the tennis court has gone. However, the little cemetery into which Mr Hulot accidentally drove mid-funeral is still there, albeit now right next to a gymnasium. (For those who are interested, here are some 'then and now' photos.)

The entire film--like all of Tati's films---is nothing but a series of largely disconnected incidents and occurrences. One reviewer describes the film as 'a seemless succession of gently mocking studies of human absurdity.' So true. Part of the genius of Tati was his wonderful ability to preserve and capture on film the minutiae of the ordinary and everyday, in particular, the sights and sounds of the moment. Who, having once seen the film, could ever forget the ‘thwanking’ sound made by the door in the hotel dining room? Ebert writes:

Does it annoy Hulot, who has been placed in the Lonely Guy table near to it? Probably, but it is in the nature of the door to thwank, and we sense that it has thwanked for a generation, and will thwank until the day the little clapboard hotel is torn down to put up a beachfront gargantoplex.

Then there's that pipsqueak sound of Mr Hulot's car horn ... and the sound of the hotel bell being rung for lunch ... and the noise of the car tyre going flat, with a mourner at the funeral thinking it's the sound of himself farting. I could go on. Yes, Tati’s attention to detail was quite extraordinary. Now, if mindfulness is the practice of bare attention to, and choicless awareness, of the action of the present moment, from one moment to the next, then Tati, and the several films he made, are masterpieces of mindfulness. Tati and his alter ego M. Hulot look and see. They examine. They are aware---choicelessly so. As Ebert writes, ‘There is an almost spiritual acceptance in [Hulot’s] behavior; nothing goes as planned, but nothing surprises him.’ Things come and go, things happen---most especially to Hulot himself---and all is noticed and observed. No judgment is passed by either Hulot or Tati himself. Things speak for themselves. Anything can happen, and does happen. Most that happens is inconsequential to say the least. Nothing matters much at all, but ... well ... c’est la vie. Tati's comedy, for the most part, is delicate, good-natured, and carefully understated. He never sought the belly laugh but rather the wry smile of inner satisfaction and, most especially, the look and feel of self-knowing recognition. Ah, la vie est comme ça! Yet there is a certain 'bite' to the proceedings as Tati reveals to the world the eccentricities of various aspects of French middle-class life. (Not that most of it doesn't also hold up for the rest of us.)



The French, perhaps more than any other people, understand the truth of that distinctly Gallic epigram,
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ('the more things change, the more they stay the same'). They also know that although life is 'absurd,' that is, has no intrinsic meaning, the essence and joy of life is to be found in the charming inconsequentiality of the ordinary ephemeral occurrences of each moment of each day. Ah, c'est magnifique, ça! Mr Hulot's car backfires ... on several inopportune occasions. The doors of the bus close on a person's suitcase. A dog lies on its side in the middle of the road, sunbaking. Mr Hulot leaves muddy footprints in the foyer of the hotel. Later he fashions a hat from a newspaper. Another man is reading a newspaper. A naughty young boy on the beach uses the sun and a magnifying glass to burn a hole in the canvas of a beach tent. A young Marxist bores a pretty young lady. An middle-aged to elderly woman picks up seashells, one after the other, and hands them to her husband who looks contemptuously at each of them in turn before quickly throwing them away. Another man’s moustache blows upward in the draft. A cute little toddler tumbles, ice-cream first, into the sand. A man is constantly trying to tune a radio ... forever without much success. All si terriblement ordinaire, even absurd. Yet all si terriblement important, for such is life.



Mr Hulot throws himself into the content of the moment with an enthusiasm and an innocence that are almost childlike, even if it is to the annoyance of others of whom he is largely oblivious. He fails more often than he succeeds in whatev
er he does. Nothing ever seems to work out quite like it ‘should,’ except that there are no ‘shoulds’ in his world---nor ours for that matter---because everything is equally important and equally unimportant as every other thing. Everything is ordinary, and yet everything is also extraordinary. Everything matters because whatever is is what is, and there's nothing else. Yet nothing matters much at all, because all things change and all things will pass away. Only life---whatever ‘it’ may be---remains, for life is nothing other than living things living out their livingness from one moment to the next. Forms, including us, come and go ever so quickly. Life proceeds relentlessly onwards---mercilessly at best.


Yes, the joy of life is to be found in the
minutiae of the ordinary and everyday. Don’t look for any deeper meaning or purpose. If you do, you will cease to notice and enjoy those little, ever-so-ephemeral little occurrences and moments of life that collectively constitute our brief time on this planet. The set of instructions at the opening of the film says as much:

Mr. Hulot is off for a week by the sea. Take a seat behind his camera, and you can spend it with him. Don't look for a plot, for a holiday is meant purely for fun, and if you look for it, you will find more fun in ordinary life than in fiction. So relax and enjoy yourselves. See how many people you can recognise.
You might even recognise yourself.

Good advice. Don’t look for a plot in life, for life is meant purely for fun. Look for the extraordinary among the ordinary things of so-called ‘ordinary life’. And what is ‘fiction’? Well, fiction is someone’s version of what is. Fiction is interpolated and extrapolated meaning where there otherwise is no meaning. My simple advice to you is---forget the 'shoulds,' the 'oughts,' and the 'whys,' instead look and see, and observe and examine, and most of all enjoy, what actually is ... from one moment to the next. La vie est dans la salle. Angels, if there are any, can do no better.


Here's the film's trailer---well, one of them:





Now, go watch Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot in its entirety. And you might even recognise yourself.



Postscript (1). I'm off to Saint-Marc-sur-Mer next week, and I'll be staying at, yes, the above mentioned Hôtel de la Plage. I will let you know what it's like---in the not-too-distant future. A bientôt. IEJ. November 12, 2014.

Postscript (2). I had a wonderful time in Saint-Marc-sur-Mer [see my various photos below, the bottom one showing the site of the former tennis court]. The town is as charming as ever. Most of the significant buildings that were there in 1951, when the exterior scenes of Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot were filmed there, remain to this day. The hotel has been added onto, and revovated extensively, in the ensuing years but it retains much of its original quaintness and Gallic charm. I will be back. IEJ. November 29, 2014.

Postscript (3). I returned to Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, this time with my wife, in July 2016, and found the place just as wonderful as I did in 2014. May it ever be so. IEJ. July 22, 2016.



















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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MINDFULNESS USING BREATH COUNTING

A recent study has found that counting breaths has a positive effect on a person’s mindfulness.
 
The new study, entitled ‘A Mind You Can Count On: Validating Breath Counting as a Behavioral Measure of Mindfulness,’ and published in Frontiers in Psychology, was carried out by the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. The study shows that counting breaths can have a beneficial effect upon both the mind and body.
 
Daniel Levinson [pictured left], a graduate student at the Waisman Laboratory and lead author of the paper, said he came up with the idea through video games. ‘Part of my research was to try to come up with a game … by playing it, you’d become more mindful,’ Levinson said.
 
The study participants were asked to push a button on a computer each time they take a breath. This caused them to become much more aware of their breaths. Additionally, the practice of button pushing was a most useful behavioral measure which directly measured the extent or degree of actual mindfulness, the latter being the most important part and object of the study. Levinson had this to say about the matter:
 
In four independent studies with over 400 total participants, we present the first construct validation of a behavioral measure of mindfulness: breath counting. We found it was reliable, correlated with self-reported mindfulness, differentiated long-term meditators from age-matched controls and was distinct from sustained attention and working memory measures.
 
Breath following---let along breath counting---is not an essential feature of the ordinary practice of mindfulness. Admittedly, there is indeed such a thing as ‘mindfulness of breathing’ which uses the breath as an actual object of concentration. Certainly, by focusing on the breath it is possible to become aware of the mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another. However, the form of mindfulness I teach does not involve following the flow of one’s breath or counting the breath but simply being mindfully aware of the breath at a fixed ‘point of touch,’ the latter serving as an anchor when needed.

Levinson says that breath counting is a good way for students to explore what mindfulness is, and I see no reason to disagree with that view. ‘Counting isn't the main focus; it's the experiential awareness of breath,’ Levinson says. However, he goes on to say, ‘Breath counting is not mindfulness; rather, it's a tool for measuring it, much like a thermometer is a tool for assessing the season.’
 
Lisa Thomas Prince, an outreach specialist at the Waisman Laboratory, is working on a project similar to Levinson’s with kindergarten-aged kids. However, the goals are the same for college students and young children, Prince said. ‘It’s appropriate for 4-and-5-year-olds to the same degree it’s appropriate for college-aged students or anybody. To focus on breath is a really … central practice in mindfulness meditation,’ says Prince.

‘As theorized, we found that skill in breath counting is associated with more meta-awareness, less mind wandering, better mood and greater non-attachment [for example] less attentional capture by distractors formerly paired with reward,’ Levinson said. ‘I’m hoping people will get inspired by this research and use breath counting more to see what the effects of mindfulness are.’



Resource: Levinson DB, Stoll EL, Kindy SD, Merry HL and Davidson RJ (2014). ‘A mind you can count on: validating breath counting as a behavioral measure of mindfulness.’ Front. Psychol. 5:1202. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01202
 
 
 

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MINDFULNESS AND BASKETBALL

There’s a joke---there are many of them, in fact---about the basketball team, the New York Knicks. The one I’m thinking of goes like this. ‘What do you call a New York Knicks player with a championship ring?’ 

The answer? A thief. 


Well, the fortunes of the team may just be about to change---for the better, that is. You see, the New York Knicks are learning all about mindfulness.

Knicks president Phil Jackson (pictured above)---whose moniker is 'Zen master'---revealed on Sunday that he has hired someone to put the team through ‘mindfulness training’ this season.

Jackson has previously instilled the practice of mindfulness and other psychological and philosophical tools (including Zen and Lakota Sioux philosophy) in his teams in Chicago and Los Angeles, guiding those teams in to peak performance.  

‘There's a mindfulness training program that's very logical and very calm, quiet, and we've started the process with this team, and [first-year head coach] Derek [Fisher is] all for it. He's a proponent of it,’ Jackson said Sunday. ‘And yet I think that it's kind of what I am inserting in here as part of what I think has to happen because I know what effect it [has]. I think it's very difficult sometimes for a coach to do this because it's so anti what we are as athletes.’

Head coach Derek Fisher (pictured left) underwent mindfulness training while playing under Jackson with the Lakers.

Jackson also said, ‘We're about action; we're about this intense activity that we've got to get after. And this mindfulness is about sitting still and being quiet and controlling your breath and allowing you to be in the moment, and yet it's so vital for a team to have this skill or players to have this skill. To be able to divorce themselves from what just happened that's inherent to them -- a referee's bad call, or an issue that goes on individually or against your opponent. You've got to be able to come back to your center and center yourself again.’

Fisher has his own views about mindfulness. ‘I think it falls into the category of mental performance. We've seen that evolve in professional sports in recent years where instead of always focusing on improving your performance in just the muscles and the bodies and the shooting, there is a very big muscle up here that also needs training sometimes,’ Fisher said. ‘And so mindful training, mental performance, we take it seriously.’



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Sunday, October 12, 2014

MINDFULNESS AND RUGBY LEAGUE

Mindfulness and sport? Yes, indeed. It’s a very powerful combination, especially in the United States of America where mindfulness has had a presence in sport---numerous sports---for several years now. Here in Australia, where I live, mindfulness is just beginning to make its presence felt in sport, but it will happen. Indeed, it already is.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs at work---practising mindfulness

Here are ten very good reasons why sport and mindfulness ought to go together. One: mindfulness improves concentration and the capacity to focus and pay attention to the moment. Two: mindfulness improves mental resilience. Three: mindfulness reduces distractedness. Four: mindfulness helps a person to empty themself of self-concern. Five: mindfulness fosters and promotes cooperation and team work. Six: mindfulness enhances self-confidence. Seven: mindfulness leads to a more stable and steady mind. Eight: mindfulness improves one’s ability to cope with and release stress---in positive ways. Nine: mindfulness fosters ethical behaviour. Ten: mindfulness enhances esteem. All of that is FACT. And all of those things are good for sport and for those who engage in it.

Last Sunday the South Sydney Rabbitohs won the NRL Grand Final against the Canterbury Bulldogs, 30-6, to claim their first premiership in 43 years.


The team totally deserved their historic win. They worked hard, and performed exceptionally well on the field throughout the season. It has now been revealed that the team also had a special training program that included, among other things, ‘mind resilience training.’ The latter included, in substantial part, mindfulness practice. Yes, for the last five months the players meditated as a group for twenty minutes, three times a week.

The approach, a combination of breathing, mind and body exercises, was devised by consumer psychologist Derek Leddie and Dr Samantha Graham, who has a PhD in learning and communication.

For more information please read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald.






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Friday, October 10, 2014

THE EXISTENTIAL ANGST OF OUR BEING BOTH OBSERVER AND OBSERVED

The Scottish-born Australia philosopher John Anderson [pictured left], whose Australian realism (aka Sydney realism) has greatly impacted on my overall philosophy and thinking, taught that a single logic applies to all things and how they are related, and that there are three---yes, three---‘entities’ to any relation such as seeing, having, knowing, etc, namely, the -er, the -ed, and the -ing. Let me explain. First, there is the person who sees, has or knows. Secondly, there is the thing seen, had or known. Thirdly, and most importantly, there is the act of seeing, having or knowing. 

Now, here is the really important part ... nothing, absolutely nothing, is constituted either wholly or partly by, or is dependent upon, nor can it be defined or explained by reference to, the relation(s) it has to other things. For that reason the Biblical statement ‘God is love’ [cf 1 Jn 4:8] is logically untenable as a definition of God. Thus, Anderson firmly repudiated the so-called ‘doctrine of intrinsic relations’ (or fallacy of constitutive relations), which treats relations as if they were terms, and which says that everything is intrinsically related to everything else or, at the very least, is constituted by its relations to everything else.

So, when it comes to the practice of mindfulness, we see that it is a relation involving the following three entities:

* first, the person who is mindfully aware of what is occurring from moment to moment,

* second, the thing or things of which the person is mindfully aware from one moment to the next, each such thing being an occurrence in space and time, and

* third, the act, or rather process, of being mindfully aware from one moment to the next, which includes the ever-so-important acts of mindfully remembering what is present, mindfully remembering from moment to moment to stay present in the action of the present moment from moment to moment, and mindfully remembering in the present moment what has already happened.

Three separate and distinct things---each one of which is a fact---and none of which is constituted by its relations to any of the others nor dependent on any of the others. Such is the nature of reality, according to John Anderson, and such is the nature of the practice of mindfulness which is simply the practice of being fully present in the present moment from one moment to the next.

Well, that much at least is fine---not that I expect all people to agree with that way of looking at reality---but I have come to see that, when it comes to cognitive processes, the situation is even more complicated than what I have set out above. You see, there is the person who observes, as well as the other two entities referred to above, but there is invariably something else as well, namely, the presence of a purported entity sometimes referred to as the ‘observing self’ that is regularly at work in our mind. Not only do we observe but we are aware of a ‘self’ in us that is busily … yes, observing. But there’s more. We are self-conscious beings, and not only is there this ‘observing self’ in our mind---along with many other mind-invented selves---there is also an ‘observed self,’ in that the observing self (a subject) is able to ‘split,’ so to speak, and become an ‘observed self’ (an object). So, we have the ‘I’ subject and the ‘I’ object. The latter is arguably a self-knowing ‘I’ subject, but there is considerable disputation among philosophers and psychologists about that matter. As I see it, the whole thing is a matter of consciousness---a constant stream of consciousness or thought (bhavanga-sota, in Buddhism). All these ‘selves’ are generated by the process of thinking itself. They are nothing but thoughts that ‘harden,’ so to speak,’ into selves of various kinds. No one of these selves is more real or permanent than any others. In fact, none of them is the real ‘I.’

Of course, as I’ve pointed out on so many occasions, this ‘observing self,’ along with all other such selves (eg ‘transcendental self,’ ‘immanent self,’ ‘analytical self,’ ‘judging self,’ etc), has no separate, discrete, or independent existence apart from the person each one of us is. In that sense the ‘observing self’ is false and illusory. The problem is that most of us are acutely aware of its presence and ongoing activities in our mind.

The French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre [pictured right] wrote about another interesting phenomenon, and it is this. The very presence, and even the potential presence, of other people tends to result in our seeing ourselves (that is, the actual persons that we are) as mere objects in other people’s consciousness. This is not the same thing as the ‘observed self’ referred to above---that is, where a person is aware of himself or herself thought of as an object. No, this is said to be a phenomenon in the world. In other words, we see ourselves as observer---further complicated and amplified by that pesky invention of a thing called the ‘observing self’---and as someone actually observed by others, and not merely as an object external to ourselves, the latter being an object which, as Sartre pointed out, exists as ‘in-itself.’ Sartre sees the latter---the object ‘in-itself, that is---as existing in both an independent and non-relational way. I prefer the Andersonian view of situationality, namely, that all things exist in situations, that is, in relationship with other things. Independent, yes. Non-relational, no.

Anyway, when it comes to our seeing ourselves as someone who is actually observed by others, some say that what we are talking about is another damn self which, like all other selves, is created in and by our mind or consciousness---some sort of ‘self-conscious observed self’ once (or is it twice?) removed. I think the phenomenon is just another manifestation of our seemingly inherent and intractable self-consciousness and, in particular, the self-knowingness of the self coupled with the mind’s ability to generate and project countless numbers of self-aware selves including ‘selves upon selves,’ so to speak, ad infinitum. Anyway, whatever it be, it is something that, in Sartre’s ontology, exists as ‘for-itself’ as it is always in relation to something else. Personally, I don’t find that distinction or classification helpful. As I see it, the self that observes is in truth the exact same self that is observed. Ditto all other selves. 

The nature of self is to be conscious of itself. All consciousness in a sense is self-consciousness, for it is the nature of consciousness to 'see' itself. Life is consciousness in a very fundamental sense (cf the findings of quantum physics), although I reject Sartre's assertion that things-in-themselves exist only as objectivized by consciousness. Life, as I see it, consists of living things living out their livingness (actually, self-livingness) from one moment to the next, so it necessarily follows that life---that is, consciousness or be-ing-ness---is a state or rather process of self-knowingness, that is, a more-or-less constant stream of thought and consciousness, the latter consisting of observations about and reflections upon the self (or selves, to be more exact) as well as awareness of other people and the world around us, but even the latter is ‘editorialized,’ so to speak, in terms of what it external events supposedly mean for us. Everything gets filtered through, and distorted by, our collection of internally generated selves, or at least through the most dominant of them.

Now, the phenomenon of our seeing ourselves (that is, the actual persons that we are) as mere objects in other people’s consciousness is known in existentialist circles as ‘the Look.’ It is an ontological problem of no mean importance, and it tends to result in the formation of a number of interesting psychological phenomena such as an almost schizoid self-consciousness, acute or generalized anxiety, and, yes, a certain existential angst (especially when you start to ponder upon this whole damn thing). In his famous existentialist play No Exit (Huis Clos) Sartre has one of the three deceased characters in Hell, the lesbian Inèz, taunt Garcin, one of the others, declaring that she is nothing but the look that sees him---‘a mere breath on the air, a gaze observing you, a formless thought that thinks you.’

So, in Sartre’s ontology, which I don’t totally accept, each one of us is nothing but the look or gaze that sees the other.’ But, whatever we are, we are terribly self-conscious of being both the observer and the observed. Oh, the existential angst of it all! Can the observed self escape the eye of its own observer? Is there no escape, no exit, from all this? Death, perhaps? Well, not even death, according to Sartre. Read Huis Clos. There's an even greater existential problem---the inherent instability and essentially illusory nature of the self, together with the elusiveness of the human personality itself, over time. If you doubt the truth of that, read or watch the absurdist play Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett. As the failed writer Krapp listens to a 30-year-old tape recording of his own voice, a self at one moment in time is confronted with the self (or at least one of the selves) of 30 years earlier. The two selves are totally different and completely unknown, even unintelligible, to each other, so to speak. It all seems so depressing, so futile, and so hopeless. Indeed, in a very real and profound sense, it is.

The good news, as I see it, is that it is indeed impossible for there to be, at the psychological level, observation without the annoying, interfering presence and consciousness (including self-consciousness) of both the observing self and the observed self, not to mention that ‘self-conscious observed self’ phenomenon discussed above The Indian spiritual philosopher and anti-guru J. Krishnamurti [pictured below right] wrote:

When you look at a flower, when you just see it, at that moment is there an entity who sees? Or is there only seeing? Seeing the flower makes you say [i.e. think], ‘How nice it is! I want it.’ So the ‘I’ comes into being through desire, fear, ambition [all thought], which follow in the wake of seeing. It is these that create the ‘I’ and the ‘I’ is non-existent without them.

Now, Krishnamurti did indeed expressly acknowledge on several occasions that there certainly is an entity, in a physical sense, who observes---namely, the person who observes. However, what Krishnamurti strongly disputed was the idea that there was, at the psychological level, a separate, independent, permanent, stand-alone entity called the ‘observing [or witnessing, or perceiving] self’ … or any of the other ‘selves’ for that matter. Yes, we do indeed tend to operate as if there was such an entity, and to a very large extent our misbelief in the separate and independent existence of such an entity only helps to bring it into psychological being and keep it alive. Worse, as Sartre pointed out, we also tend to perpetually see ourselves as an actual object in other people’s consciousness.

True meditation, said Krishnamurti, is:

… the understanding of the whole activity of thought which brings into being the ‘me’, the self, the ego, as a fact. Then thought tries to understand the image which it has created, as though that self were something permanent. This self again divides itself into the higher and the lower and this division in turn brings conflict, misery and confusion. The knowing of the self is one thing and the understanding of how the self comes into being, is another. One presupposes the existence of the self as a permanent entity.

Krishnamurti went on to say that ‘if you consider the self a permanent entity, you are studying a self which is non-existent, for it is merely a bundle of memories, words and experiences.’ True meditation---Krishnamurti didn’t use the word ‘mindfulness’ but that it what he was talking about---is ‘to see the movement of every thought, to understand it, to be aware of it, is to come to that silence which is meditation, in which the “observer” never is.’

Artist and copyright owners unknown.
All rights reserved. (Original source: The New Yorker?)

In truth, there is at the ontological level only you (that is, the person who you are), the person or other object observed, and a state of observation in your mind. Ideally, when you are mindfully ‘at one’ with the person or object observed, the observer and the observed become one, so to speak, and there then is at the psychological level nothing but pure observation and choiceless awareness of ‘what is.’ In true meditation, or mindfulness, the so-called ‘observing self,’ along with all other selves including the so-called ‘transcendental self,’ ‘analytical self,’ ‘judging self,’ and ‘observed self,’ disappears from consciousness. So, as Krishnamurti says, when you truly look---that is, just look and not judge, compare, analyze, interpret, name, etc---at a flower, you just see the flower, and at that moment---please note those words, ‘at that moment’--- there is no psychological entity that sees. Nor, for that matter, is there then any sense or consciousness of our seeing ourselves (that is, the actual persons that we are) as objects in other people’s consciousness.

Now, if we can but extent this choiceless and seamless seeing from one moment in time to the next, and then on to the next, and so on, there will then be nothing but observation. We will come to see things as they really are---in many cases, for the very first time. In time, we will become so engrossed in what we are doing that we will cease seeing ourselves (that is, the actual persons that we are) as objects in our own minds as well as objects in other people’s consciousness.

Gone will be the so-called ‘observing self,’ the ‘observed self,’ and the so-called ‘self-conscious observed self.’



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