A Gap Between Our Minds and the Reality of Time

From The Book of Time: The Secrets of Time, How it Works and How to Measure It by Adam Hart-Davis:

The 13th-century Japanese master Eihei Dōgen asserted in the Shōbōgenzō that a day consists of 6,400,099,180 moments (which make a moment about 1/74,000 of a second). In Each Moment is the Universe (2007), Zen monk Dainin Katagiri writes that these moments are so fleeting that our rational minds are too slow to keep up with them, and so we experience a gap between us and the reality of time, which is why we feel we can't keep up, and why we suffer. According to Buddhist teaching, everything exists together in a moment.

The past has already gone, says Katagiri; so it does not exist. The future has not yet come; so it also does not exist. So the past and the future are nothing, no-time. Then is the present all that exists? No, even though there is a present, strictly speaking the present is nothing, because in a moment it is gone. So the present is also nothing, no-time, no-present, no form of the present.

But that nothingness is very important. The real present is not exactly what you believe the present to be. In everyday life we constantly create some idea of the the human world is because we are always thinking about how things were in the past or how things will be in the future. The real present is the full aliveness that exists at the pivot of nothingness. Be present, Katagiri says, from moment to moment, right in the middle of the real stream of time. 

In the Shōbōgenzō Dōgen says that when you swim on the surface of the sea, your foot touches the bottom. The surface is the "normal" human world in the stream of time, the world we create with our imagination, memory, and hopes, while the bottom is the reality of human life. So the surface is constantly changing, but the bottom is the firm reality, and we always swim with one foot on the bottom. 

From The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter

It takes on average half a second for the unconscious mind to process incoming sensory stimuli into conscious perceptions. Yet we are not aware of this time lag — you think you see things move as they move, and when you stub your toe you get the impression of knowing about it right away. This illusion of immediacy is created by an ingenious mechanism, which backdates conscious perceptions to the time when the stimulus first entered the brain. 

On the face of it, this seems impossible because cortical signals take the same "real" time to process to consciousness, but somehow we are tricked into thinking we feel things earlier. 

One wayit might be explained is that consciousness consists of many parallel streams and that the brain jumps from one to another, revising them and redrafting them. 


There is Really No Such Thing as Thought, There is Only Thinking

Life moves, undulates, breathes in and out, contracting and expanding. This is its nature, the nature of what is. Whatever is, is on the move. Nothing remains the same for very long.

The mind wants everything to stop so that it can get its foothold, find its position, so it can figure out how to control life. Through the pursuit of material things, knowledge, ideas, beliefs, opinions, emotional states, spiritual states, and relationships, the mind seeks to find a secure position from which to operate.

~ Adyashanti

Somebody and Nobody

No Man’s Land,” is an installation by Christian Boltanski which open this Friday at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. The work was titled “Personnes” when it was staged at the Grand Palais in Paris at the beginning of the year.

Personnes,” the artist says, “is a very strange word because it means, at the same time, somebody and nobody…The idea was to make something about the finger of God and about chance.”

From “Exploring Mortality With Clothes and a Claw,” Dorothy Spears, New York Times, May 9, 2010):

“Every few minutes, in an act meant to resonate with the arbitrariness of death and survival, the crane’s giant claw will pluck a random assortment of shirts, pants and dresses from the mound then release them to flap back down haphazardly. Visitors can watch the action — set to a ceaseless, reverberating soundtrack of thousands of human heartbeats — from ground level, standing amid dozens of 15-by-23-foot plots of discarded jackets that extend in all directions from the mound and that may evoke refugee or death camps. Behind the visitors, a 66-foot-long, 12-foot-high wall made from 3,000 stacked cookie tins will cut off views of the exit.”

Christian Boltanski:

“We are all so complicated, and then we die. We are a subject one day, with our vanities, our loves, our worries, and then one day, abruptly, we become nothing but an object, an absolutely disgusting pile of shit. We pass very quickly from one stage to the next. It's very bizarre. It will happen to all of us, and fairly soon too. We become an object you can handle like a stone, but a stone that was someone.”

Essence of the Circle

“The Tibetan art form of sand painting is an ancient and sacred practice intended to uplift and benefit not only every person who sees it, but also to bless the environment. It is referred to as a mandala of colored powders. The Sanskrit term mandala is the name for this circular representation of spiritual truths. The Tibetan name is kyil-khor meaning essence of the circle.”

From the web page of Losang Samten, who created this center panel of the Kalachakra Mandala in the new Ohio Union of the Ohio State Campus this week.

We all helped dismantle the panel this afternoon…

…and scattered the sand into Mirror Lake to bless the campus.

Here is a time-lapse video of an entire Kalachakra Mandala.


Description of the above design from the International Kalachakra Network

No Thing Here

No Thing Here

If the sun isn’t actually menacing me or entertaining me, and the ground beneath my feet isn’t stationary, where am I supposed to find a safe place to make my home? Our nervous systems crave certainty and solidity and, in their absence, have created a complex process for representing stability.

No Time

Check out Jeff Scher’s blog, The Animated Life.

From “The Parade,” June 29, 2009:

The streets of the city are a non-stop parade of humanity. It’s a kind of grand, unchoreographed ballet of human locomotion. One of the great pleasures and measures of being urban is losing yourself in the crowd, with your feet and mind wandering, alone in your head but elbow to elbow with an inexhaustible supply of strangers…

We can’t help it. We are fascinated by faces and bodies alike. Every face tells a story, and the story is a mystery. The clues abound and we read them instinctively in the blink of an eye. We categorize one another as bums, businessmen, tourists, models, etc., almost unconsciously. But what fun it is to stare, and revel in the passing faces, reading wardrobe, ethnicity, posture, age. Indeed, it’s a feast with every possible variation of the species on parade. By walking in their midst we too become a part of the constantly changing people-scape and offer our own version of the mystery.

Read the whole post and watch the related video...

[Thanks Kit!]

Forever to Reach

by Pictures & Sound

There's a long line in front of me
Stretching out into infinity
And behind me it's the same thing

It takes a lot of strength to not collapse
As endless moments endlessly pass
And to make the most of where you're at
And realize…

It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
Forever to reach and a moment to pass
It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
And now forever to vanish

We all travel at the speed of life
Hoping someday that we might arrive
But we're arriving all the time, all the time

The seasons turn and the rivers run
What we do now is what we will become
The young grow old and the old grow young
It's called life

It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
Forever to reach and a moment to pass
It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
And now forever to vanish

Close your eyes right now and count to ten
You're a different person than you were just then
We'll never get this chance again

It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
And now forever to vanish

It took forever to reach and a moment to pass
And now forever to vanish


Impermanence "How do you convey a sense of change? How do you convey that everything in our lives — everything — is constantly changing and that one cannot hold on to anything? And certainly the impulse was coming from the sense of the preciousness of life and that every moment is the only moment that we have."

~ Meredith Monk, discussing her recent work, Impermanence, with Lara Pellegrinelli on All Things Considered (May 13, 2008)

Fleeting Beauty

"A self-taught chef and artist, Jim Denevan draws inspiration from the earth to create sensual works of fleeting beauty—culinary installations in sunny farmlands across America and large-scale art pieces on the wave-swept sands of coastal beaches."

Jim Denevan

"When I'm doing a drawing, I'm personifying the place that is empty. A place that is unmarked." -- Jim Denevan

Iroha Uta

This ancient Japanese poem contains each of the phonemes from the Gojuuonzu (50-Sound Chart) and illustrates a core concept in Buddhism - impermanence (anicca). School children in Japan are taught it the way American children learn to recite the alphabet.

Iroha Uta

Iro wa nioedo, chirinuru wo
Waga-yo tare-zo tsune-naran?
Ui no okuyama kyookoete
Asaki yume miji, ei mo sezu

The Flower Song
Translated by Shinzen Young

Bright indeed the flowers may be, but surely not for long.
In this life, who indeed, will not someday be gone?
Passing beyond the furthest peak in the Province of Shifting Streams,
No longer will I drunken speak, nor gaze at shallow dreams.