Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Openness: Openness is the goalless goal. A goal is an object, but openness is the space between objects. As the flow of ducks into the pond slows, empty spaces between ducks become apparent. With the calming of the mind, mental objects come and go like a quiet drive on a Sunday afternoon. It is here that the meditator begins to notice that where no mental object is present; there is empty space. As meditation progresses, the empty spaces between mental objects become as focal as the mental objects themselves. Eventually, the gaps replace the ducks and without the ducks the gaps are wide-open places like a meadow at the edge of a forest.

Sometimes, when the focus on the gaps is sustained for a long enough period of time, the meditator can witness the birth of a mental object, as it seems to rise from the depths. This shadowy immergence from the interior of consciousness is in contradistinction to the everyday sense that the world exists solely outside our minds. In this case, the mental object that immerges is not the result of contact with a sense event, but instead comes from a place deep inside and projects itself on to the world. If the birth of this shadowy mental object had not been observed, it would have seemed to emanate from the outside. In fact, it is an inside job. Have you ever been staring right at something and not seen it? The scene existed in memory without the missing object so it is not there until someone points it out.

The raw unmoving space between mental objects is pure awareness. Awareness is like oil in a glass bowl. The body is the glass bowl, which is experienced as the edge of awareness or where awareness makes contact with the other. The other is anything that is believed to be non-self. The transparent nature of the glass bowl is eyes, ears, nose and feelings e.g. the senses. There is no real contact between awareness and the other. The body is the membrane between the two and has the quality of being at the edge of the inner at the same time as being other itself, wholly outside awareness. The oil is always background and the foreground, a mental object, is like a paper boat floating in the oil but, the paper boat is really a reflection of the projected paper boat that is believed to exist (as other) outside awareness or is believed to have existed (as other) in a memory of a past encounter. Awareness cannot reflect itself because the minute it tries it forms an idea (a paper boat), which is the foreground to the invisible background of awareness.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mental Objects

Mental objects: A sound, smell, feeling, emotion or thought registers as a mental process. Each sense event or ideational occurrence can be seen as a mental object. A mental object is like a package. Normally, when you receive a package, you take off the wrapper to see what is inside. You might say you interpret or tell a story about the contents. Part of the process of interpretation is judging whether the contents are likeable, dislikeable or neutral. In the meditation experiment, the package is not unwrapped. Since there is no interpretation or judgment, there is no reason to see the package as likeable, dislikeable or neutral. The package is just the package. Without deciding the plus or minus value of the contents, there is no fear of losing or desire to gain from the package. There is no response such as clinging or repulsion. There is no real reason to hold on or push away because it is just another package. It is possible to pay attention to your entire experience, but the minute you begin to interpret any part of that experience you will become mindless in relation to the rest of the experience. You will have made a choice. Mindfulness is paying attention to your entire experience without opening the mental objects up to interpretation.

I began to see my meditation experience as a series of mental objects or packages. When I hear the bell sound, my idea-mind turns the sound into a mental object and so I say, "sound," and let go without further penetration. Letting go prevents the package from becoming an object of desire or aversion. It is the positive or negative story we tell about the contents of the mental object that cause us to hold on or to push away. This does not deny the experience of the sound. On the contrary, the experience is the experience whether I think about it or not. It is like seeing an object in a mirror. You could say our mind is like a mirror, reflecting objects, in the same sense as our mind creates thoughts. The mind, like the mirror, records an image of a passing moment. The light bounces off the object and then is reflected in the mirror. When an object is reflected in a mirror, the nature of the mirror determines the quality of the reflection. In a fun house, tall mirrors stretch the reflection while short mirrors shorten the reflection. And so it is with the mind.