Thursday March 19, 2009
I’m back home up North for a few days, hanging out with Bodhicattva the thinkBuddha whilst I get down to work the philosophy book – about which I’ll say more in the next few weeks. It’s good to be back, and to re-establish what has been, over the last couple of weeks, a somewhat patchy meditation practice.
One thing that I am thinking about lately, and also noticing when I manage to make it to my meditation cushions, is what a downright curious thing experience is. For most of the time, it can seem as if there is nothing more blindingly obvious, nothing more directly in front of our noses, than experience. We know we are having it when we are having it (so we tell ourselves), and we know what kind of experience we are having. Even if we are not experts in anything else, we act as if we are experts when it comes to our own experience.
However, when you start to pay attention to this seemingly obvious thing, it begins to slip between the fingers. One fun thing to do is to ask yourself questions like the following: What am I experiencing now? How do I know that I am experiencing what I am telling myself that I am experiencing? Is my experience continuous or is it momentary and atomic? Do I experience all the senses together, or do they have different rhythms? Do I have a single experience, or multiple experiences? What do I experience at the fringes of my visual field? Do I have an experience of myself? If so, what is this experience?
The more I ask these kinds of questions (whilst on the meditation cushions, but also whilst on the bus, whilst sitting on the railway station, whilst idling away time with the cat, and so on), the more perplexing it all seems. Trying to catch hold of experience seems as successful as sitting by a pool on a full moon night, and trying to catch the moon’s reflection in a net: whenever you think you’ve got it, it eludes you. The idea of “getting hold of” experience or of “grasping” experience seems to immediately push it out of reach.
Image: Hiroshige (again!), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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