Even in close relationships, spending time with a friend, even while helping others or doing other good works, if your attention is on what you are feeling, on what you are getting out of it, then you see these relationships as transactions. Because your focus is on how you are feeling, consciously or unconsciously you are putting yourself first and others second. This approach disconnects you from life, from the totality of your world.
– Ken McLeod, “Forget Happiness”
Thoughts of where, why, and how I place my attention has dominated my thinking of late. You could say that my attention has been on my attention.
Through these reflections, I have started to consider that there are two minds, two places from which this attention can come: the remembering mind, and the experiencing mind; thanks to Daniel Kahneman for triggering this thought thread.
The remembering mind is the self defined by the mind of memories – past and future. Memories of past experiences, past moments, past wishes and past regrets. The remembering mind is the mind that lives away from the present, for it longs for, and sometimes lives from, the past pleasant memories. Similarly, it also seeks to avoid remembering or admitting to past unpleasant or undesired memories.
As a result of its attachment to memories, good and bad, the remembering mind is also the mind of the future, the mind consumed by trying to recreate past pleasant memories, or consumed by trying to avoid the creation of unpleasant memories. The remembering mind, ironically, can spend more time consumed by what might or could be, and to its own detriment, fail to recall or learn from past memories.
The remembering mind, I believe, is possibly the dominant mind of today. It is the mind overly influenced by our internal thoughts, aversions, adversions, or imagination. It is the mind which the external world seeks to manipulate, influence & control through imagery, illusion and beauty. The remembering mind is the mind of nostalgia, the mind of ambition, the mind of revenge, the mind of fear.
We have a very narrow view of what is going on.
– Daniel Kahneman
Unlike the remembering mind, the experiencing mind is the mind without time or space. It is the mind that observes and listens, without filters. It is the mind that senses all the senses, physical and mental. It is the mind that exists in the moment, the infinitely thin present moment. It is the mind, unlike the the remembering mind, which can detach itself from all – emotions, desires, aversions, fears. It is the mind that experiences flow, when flow is experienced.
The experiencing mind is, I suspect, could be considered the mind that many refer to as the physical mind, the mind within the body, the seat of the mind…the hara. The hara as the experiencing mind opens a myriad of ideas that are worth considering.
With the hara as the experiencing mind, the hara becomes the seat from which all experience and moments are observed. It gives the hara the lead in how we interact with the world, and how we can respond. Unlike the remembering mind, which is the realm of reactions, the experiencing mind can be viewed as the realm of responding. With the hara considered the experiencing mind, the five principles of aikido can be viewed in a different light.
Being at one point, the hara becomes the infinite point within us where all experiences are first received and sensed. It is the point where the remembering mind serves the experiencing mind. It is the point where sensations and experiences are pure, unfiltered and accepted. It is the point from which all experiences are initiated, without ambition, fear or tension.
Being with weight underside, the hara becomes the experiencing mind, grounded in what is, accepting the vibrations and energy that is all encompassing, resonating with the source of all harmony and balance. The experiencing mind is fully open, observant and accepting.
Being fully relaxed, the hara becomes the calmness, silence and space within which the experiencing mind breathes and floats. Tension is the realm of the remembering mind, for tension comes from desires or fears, ambitions or prejudice. The experiencing mind is the realm of no tension, no currents, just calm waters.
Being detached from all, the hara is the experiencing mind devoid of space, time and outcomes. It is devoid of a path, concerned not with the goals, ambitions or desires, nor the aversions or fears that can be deeply ingrained within our self. It is a remembering mind devoid of influence or coercion from outside of our self, foe or allie. It is a space where all that is experienced – memories, desires, fears, thoughts, opinions – are but experiences, like the wind that flutters, or the waves that crest and fall.
Being with the extension of Ki, the remembering mind is the hara immersed in the infinite ocean of Ki, the energy upon which all creation is born, the energy by which all comes and goes. Being with Ki places the remembering mind in touch with the infinite spirit, the endless source of light and flow from which each moment is defined. Each moment is ultimately the manifestation of Ki – a manifestation the experiencing mind can be called upon to deeply sense and be fully aware of.
The experiencing mind, like the hara…
Just the experiencing self
Through the experiencing mind, through the hara…
Space is infinite
Matter is nothingness, empty of all but Ki
Time is an illusion, the creation of the remembering mind
The notion of time is a wonderful place to close this reflection. If the remembering mind is the realm of memories past, and the desires and aspirations of memories to come, then arguably the remembering mind must live within time. It is the fabric, the canvas upon which time makes sense.
The experiencing mind, however, only lives within the present moment, the experiences of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. The experiencing mind resides within the very narrow sliver of time where time becomes the present moment, where it becomes non-time. If so, what is the present moment? Is it still time? Is it void of time? So have said it lasts about three (3) seconds either side of this exact moment. Others have said it is 1/75th of a second long – and hence below our threshold of common observation. Others think it lasts a few minutes either side of this exact moment – correlated with short term memory.
I like the definition that is given to the word Setsuna (刹那), a Japanese word meaning “a moment; an instant”. The word comes from a Buddhist term: せつな meaning “split second”. You can reflect on what “split second” might make most sense for your practice.
These days, I visualize my experiencing mind living within about 6 seconds – about 3 seconds either side of this absolute exact moment…and practicing to stay within these 6 seconds.
When I wander beyond those three seconds either side, I become aware that my remembering mind may be gaining influence over the experiencing mind, leading to ego clinging, attachment to self, and believing the illusion that our memories past and future is our existence.
In those moments, I surrender, I detach, and I accept that the experiencing mind is the core of the self, and practice – practice returning to those 6 seconds that are my present moment.
Spiritual change is precisely a process that is bigger than you. You don’t control it. You surrender to it. You don’t reinvent yourself through spiritual work. You face yourself, and then you must let go of all the ghastly things you find. But there is no end to these ghastly things. They keep coming. The ego is a bottomless pit of suckiness. And so you finally let go of the self that clings to itself (one definition of ego). True freedom comes when ego goes.
– Shozan Jack Haubner, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Enlightenment”