I never remember anything


I never remember anything. I have images and tell myself they are from the past and call them memories.

Memories are created here and now.

When I see this, I hold them lighter and more as questions.

I have images, tell myself they reflect something from the past, and I am aware they are images and different from what actually happened. Someone else may and will have different images about the same situations. I may adjust and change these images if I explore them further, and if I am reminded of something through what others say, photos, written notes, or something else.

If I am not aware of this, I may tell myself that my images about a past situation are the real thing. They accurately reflect what happened. They are like a kind of camera faithfully recording the past situation. (Not that cameras record something accurately in its entirety.) I may get upset by any suggestion that my memories are not accurate.

I imagine the past, as I imagine the future.

When I look, I also find I imagine the present. I imagine a world beyond what’s here in my immediate sense perception, and I also put an overlay of mental images and stories on top of what’s here in my sight, hearing, sensations, smell, taste, and so on.

Projections and the larger context


I have written about this before, starting from my old paper journals in my teens. And, for whatever reason, I am drawn to revisit it.

There are several layers to projections.

The world is my mirror

The world is my mirror. What I see out there is something I know from myself, whether I acknowledge it or not.

Whatever story I have about someone or something, I can turn it around to myself and find concrete examples of how it’s true.

Through working on this, I get to see something in myself wherever I look in the world. The fundamental separation of “you are that and I am not” or “I am this and you are not” goes away.

This reduces the reactivity that comes from the “you are that, I am not” perception, and we are more free to act from whatever clarity and kindness is here.

It helps me discover a far richer sense of myself, less constrained by ideas of what I am not.

It makes it more difficult to dehumanize others, no matter the species.

The world becomes a rich mirror and it’s an endless adventure to explore and actively make use of this mirror.

We can have blind or conscious projections. If they are blind, it means I see something out there and not in myself or the reverse. If it’s conscious, I am still projecting – I am seeing something out there that I know from myself – but I recognize it’s a projection.

That also means that I hold my projections more lightly since I am more aware of it as a projection. I know it’s here, and I know it may or may not be out there as I see it.

Mental field overlay

Another kind of projection is our mental field overlay.

Our mental images and words create an overlay on the other sense fields and make sense of these. They provide labels, interpretations, stories, interpretations, and so, and this helps us function in the world. I see a candle, and instantly have associations to flickering light, winter evenings, past experiences here and other places, the label “candle”, the thought that it will burn out within a few hours, images of more candles in the corner closet, and so on. My senses take in their impressions, and my mental field makes sense of it and helps me orient and navigate.

This mental field maintains our world even in the absence of the other senses. Right now, I can easily imagine the rest of the house I am in, the other people here, the outside, town, country, world, and so on. This is the exact same mental field as the one I described in the previous paragraph, it’s just that now it functions in the absence of other sense impressions. We can notice this mental field activity by closing our eyes and imagine what’s around us, this body, and so on.

Why do I include this in this description of projections?

Because we can say this mental field is an overlay on the world. We project it out onto the world to make sense of the world.

Here too, it can be blind or conscious. We can project out this mental field overlay and take what it tells us as true and how the world “in itself” is. Or we can be conscious of what’s happening as it happens, which allows us to hold what this mental field tells much more lightly.

The first tends to create struggle and discomfort. The second gives us more flexibility and receptivity, and can help us navigate the world with a little more ease.

While the “overlay” description works well and isn’t completely wrong, it may be more accurate to say that this mental field is what creates our world in the sense of anything we imagine and have thoughts and stories about. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to make any sense of the impressions from our senses, and we wouldn’t have any notion of a world beyond what’s here in immediacy.

All happening within and as what I am

These types of projections, and all my other experiences, happen within and as what I am.

I am capacity for my world. I am what my world happens within and as.

And this is the context for both of the previous types of projections.

To the extent I notice what I am, it’s easier to notice the two types of projections and hold it all more lightly.

How can we explore this for ourselves?

This can sound abstract and esoteric until we start exploring it for ourselves, in our immediate experience.

So how can we explore this for ourselves?

For the first type of projections, The Work of Byron Katie is excellent.

For the second type of projections, traditional Buddhist sense-field exploration is helpful, as is the modern version of Living Inquiries.

For discovering what we are, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process often work well.

Why would we explore this?

For me, this is fascinating, it enriches my life immensely, and to the extent I live from it I find it brings a bit of ease into my life.

We can say it’s up to each one of us if we want to explore this, although, in reality, it’s not really up to us. It’s something we are drawn to or not.

And although it can be helpful to share some experiences of what happens when we explore these things, these descriptions can also become a kind of goal and a distraction. It’s more interesting if we discover it for ourselves and allow ourselves to be surprised.

Byron Katie: All your there and then is really here, now


All your there-and-then is really here, now

– Byron Katie

To me, my there-and-then is here and now. It all happens within my own mind.

It all happens from a mental overlay labeling, interpreting, and creating stories, including the story of there and here, and then and now. (That’s not to say here and there, and then and now, doesn’t exist. It’s just that to me, as I perceive it, it happens through this mental filter ordering and making sense of it.)

And all of it – all sensory experiences, all mental images and words, anything anywhere or anytime, all experiences – happen within and as what I am.

The role of intellectual honesty in spirituality


For me, intellectual honesty seems an intrinsic part of spirituality. After all, spirituality is an exploration of reality, and intellectual honesty guides and supports that process.

This is another large topic perhaps better suited for a book, but I’ll say a few words about it.

Intellectual honesty is intellectual honesty no matter what the topic is. In general, there seems to be some universals to it and some universal findings. And there may also be some universal findings when it comes to spirituality.

How does intellectual honesty look for me in general?

I don’t know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about reality.

Thoughts help me orient and function in the world. They can be more or less valid in a conventional sense, and it’s not their function to give any final or absolute truth.

Life is ultimately a mystery, including what we think we understand or know something about.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to psychology?

The world is my mirror.

(a) My mental overlay of the world creates all the maps, separation lines, labels, interpretations and so on that I operate from as a human being in the world. Anything I can put into words or images is just that, my own words and images. It’s not inherent in the world.

(b) Also, what I see “out there” reflects dynamics and characteristics in myself. Whatever I can put into words about someone or something else also applies to me. When I look, I can find specific examples of how it applies to me.

I am my own final authority. I cannot give it away, no matter how much I try.

I operate from a wide range of underlying assumptions. It’s good to bring these to awareness, as far as I can, and question them.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to spirituality?

Awakening can be understood in a small and psychological or big and spiritual way. In both cases, it’s about what we are noticing itself and then living this human life in that context. We are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

In the small interpretation, we say that this is MY or perhaps OUR nature. In the big interpretation, we go one step further and say it’s the nature of EVERYTHING.

What we can say for certain is that it seems to be our nature. And although saying it’s the nature of everything is a leap, there are some hints that this may be the case. (I have written more about this in other articles.)

What are the benefits of intellectual honesty?

It helps us stay honest, on track, and grounded. And it helps us avoid detours created by wishful or fearful thinking. (Although these detours become part of our path and have their own function.) It helps us – individually and collectively – to make better decisions.

Why is intellectual honesty important in spirituality?

I have mentioned a few things about this above.

Spirituality is about reality. It’s about noticing what we already are and living from it. It’s about seeing through our assumptions about ourselves and the world. And in that process, intellectual honesty is invaluable and essential. It keeps us on track. It helps us see through what’s not aligned with reality.

Can intellectual honesty be learned or trained?

Yes, absolutely, although it does require readiness and willingness. We can learn about cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and so on, and learn to recognize them in our own thinking. There is always more work to do in these areas for all of us, and especially in recognizing it in ourselves.

Does intellectual honesty preclude trust, devotion, or poetic expression?

Not at all.

I can trust an approach or a guide, at least for a while and to some extent.

I can engage in devotion and devotional practices towards the divine.

I can enjoy poetic expressions and even engage in my own.

Are the examples above all there is to it?

No, these are just some examples that come to mind. There are a lot more out there and variations and clarifications of these. And probably a lot I am not aware of and won’t be aware of in this lifetime.

Are the examples above examples universal?

They do not represent any final or absolute truth, although it seems that many of these are relatively universal. And it’s always possible to go further with each one of these and other insights and pointers.

The examples I gave above apply to the part of the terrain of reality I am exploring. If we explore other parts of the terrain, there will be some other ones that applies specifically to that terrain. For instance, if we see ourselves as a more conventional Christian, we may chose to “believe” something while also admitting we don’t know.

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Alan Watts: Boat and wake


Adyashanti talks about this analogy in Ideal Spiritual Orientation.

Is the present created by the past, or is the past created in the present? Or are both true, each in their own way?

The boat and wake analogy invites us to explore this. A boat creates it’s wake, so is it similarly true that the present creates the past?

If so, in what way is it true? What do I find when I explore this through simple, real and specific examples?

And is it true in just a moderate way, or in a more profound sense?

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When the mouth opens, all are wrong



Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”
The other said: “The wind is moving.”
The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”
The Gateless Gate #29

The wind and flag are moving in my own world of images. There are perceptions and then an overlay of images telling me it is a flag moving in, or being moved by, the wind. It is all happening within my own world of images. When I recognize that, there is the possibility of not taking my own world of images as substantial and real. It is very helpful to use an imagined overlay, but also good to notice it is all happening within my own world of images.

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Attraction and aversion


There are many ways to explore attraction and aversion, for instance through The Work and projections (including visualizing myself as the other). 

It can also be explored through the sense fields. 

When attraction or aversion comes up, how does it appear in the sense fields? I find sensations and images. 

I can bring attention to the sensations, and notice them as just sensations distinct from the images. Just here, the hook of the aversion or attraction falls away. 

And when I explore the images further, I find a whole world there. I find images of myself (male, certain look,  identities, likes/dislikes), I find images of another (gender, look, identities), I find images of how well the match is and in what direction, from that arises attraction, neutrality or aversion, and from that comes all the familiar physical, emotional and behavioral effects. 

It is all happening within my own world of images. All the drama happens within my own imagination. 

And when this is noticed, it goes >poof<. The mystery goes out of it. I can still play along, or not, but not blindly as before. The hook falls away. 

Of course, that may not happen right away or consistently. For me, I notice that as this is explored over and over, in new and fresh ways and from different angles, there is a new immediacy and clarity in how it is noticed, even as it happens. 

Bringing attention to the sensation component is easier earlier on in the process, and as it happens. And noticing that all drama happens within my own images comes over time, yet allows the hook to fall away more completely. 

Why explore it this way? That is another question and another inquiry. What happens when I am blindly caught up in attraction or aversion? What happens when I bring attention to the sensation component? What happens when I notice how all drama happens within my own world of images? 

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He who made the inside


Do you not realize that he who made the inside is the same one who made the outside?
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 89.

The inside and outside of anything all happens within and as what we are.

Boundaries with insides and outsides are only found as an imagined overlay, and this too happens within and as what we are.

It all has the same creator, which is what we are. No thing appearing as something.

Mental field and communication


In exploring the mental field, I notice a few things related to language and communication…

The mental field mimic each of the other fields. It mimics sight (images), sound, taste, smell, sensation, and even itself. (For instance when there is a memory of a previous thought.)

The mental field labels and interpret what is going on in the other fields. There is a sound, then an image of a bird placed on that sound. (In the area of space where that sound seems to come from.) A smell, and an image of a possible source and further associations.

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Own world of images


The world I see and relate to is my own world of images. It is what happens in the sense fields, with an overlay of images to help this human self orient and function in the world.

This mental field overlay creates a sense of extent (space) and continuity (time) and places whatever happens within that sense of space and time. It creates images of a me as this human self, and images of others and a wider world. And it creates images of a separate I as a doer or observer.

All of this is my own world of images, helping this human self to make sense of and function in the world.

And I can notice it as it happens. I can notice that overlay of time and space. Of a me relating to other people and the wider world in general. Of an I doing as this human self, or observing as awareness itself.

I also notice how all drama happens within this world of images. It comes from images of me/I relating to images of others and the wider world in a certain way. It comes from relationships between images of me and the wider world, when these relationships do not align with images of how it should be.

It is amazing and beautiful.

And I notice how I see myself in three ways here…

I see and relate to my own world of images, whether I recognize them as an imagined overlay or take them as true.

I see qualities and dynamics out there, in the wider world and the past and future, that are also here, in this human self.

And all I see is awakeness itself. What happens in the sense fields and the overlay of images, including the images of me and I, is all the play of awakeness.

There is a great freedom in noticing this, especially as it happens in daily life. I notice that all I relate to is my own world of images. So I can make use of it a practical way. I can use this world of images as a temporary guide for this human self in the world. But I don’t have to take it seriously. I know it is only my own world of images. There is no truth in it.

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No trace


Leave no trace.

It can mean all the usual things. Take care of your relationships. Clean up after yourself. Leave things as you found it or in better condition. Don’t use Earth’s resources beyond your share, and do your bit to help the ecosystems thrive. Leave enough for future generations.

And it is also a pointer to what is already here. What do I find when I explore this in immediate experience? Does anything leave a trace? If so, in what way?

What I find is that nothing ever leaves a trace. What happens in each of the sense fields is always fresh, new, different.

Any “trace” is only in the mental field as a memory, and that activity of the mental field happens here now. That too is new and fresh, even if it looks similar to (the memory) of a previous imagination.

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Some things about stories


Here are a few things about stories, which can be explored through the sense fields…

Any story…

Is a projection of a story and a quality. Imagination is taken as saying something about the world, out there and in the past, present or future. And what that imagination is about is taken as being out there as well. When it is recognized as imagination, it can be a very useful and practical tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. When it is taken as truth, it becomes a blind projection. We are blind for it as an imagination. 

Is imagination, and the world we relate to is quite literally imaginary. It is an overlay of images relating to each other, and those images include images of me. Any drama happens among those images, mostly in the way other images relate to the images of me. 

Is a question, an innocent question about the world. It is sometimes taken as something more, as a statement, fact or truth, which itself is just a story about a story. 

Is a tool. It is a tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. And as any tool, it is sometimes useful and sometimes not. It has only practical value. 

Is no thing appearing as something. Any mental field creation is insubstantial and ephemeral. Like a hologram, it has form but no substance. When it is recognized as a mental field creation, it is noticed as insubstantial and ephemeral. As no-thing appearing as something. When it is taken as true, it appears real, solid and substantial. (Sensations combine with the story to lend it a sense of substantiality, and muscles often tense up to make those sensations stronger.)

Is a mental field overlay. It is a mental field overlay on top of the other sense fields. And separating it out in sense fields (sensation, sight, sound, smell, taste, mental) is itself from a mental field overlay.

For instance, there is a sensation, a story of “pain”, and additional stories of pain as undesireable. All of these create the gestalt of “pain”, and this appears substantial and real when the gestalt is not noticed as a gestalt, and quite differently when it is noticed as a gestalt. 

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A world of images ii


I mentioned exploring the overlay of images on top of immediate perception.

An overlay of images, and thoughts mimicking the other sense fields, on top of perception. Interpreting it. Asking questions about. And essential for our human self to function in the world.

It can be quite interesting – and helpful – to explore this overlay. First, through dedicated sessions. Then, as it happens in daily life.

Some of the things I find so far…

My world is made up of these images. If I recognize them as images, they become a guideline for actions. If I take them as real and substantial, I act as if they are real and substantial. I act as if what they tell me about the world is true. (As if innocent questions are statements, and these statements are true.)

Any drama happens among these images. More specifically, between the images making up a sense of “I” and other images it relates to. And it happens to the extent that these images, and the relationships among them (interpreted and represented by more images), are taken as substantial and real.

Many practices work on healing these images, such as prayer, tong len, the first ngöndro practice (visualizing all beings taking refuge in the Buddha), well wishing, and so on. And as these images heal, my world changes. Or rather, the world and atmosphere this human self functions within changes. (Easily coexisting with the more conventional and consensus reality images, still used as practical guidelines in the world.)

The mental field overlay, and all of the sense fields, are awakeness itself. They are empty. Awake. Form. One appearing in each of those ways, depending on how the mental field filters it.

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Our world is imaginary. Again, it is simple but there is still a lot to explore there.

My world is imaginary. The world I relate to and function within is imaginary. It is my mental field creation.

There are sense impressions – sound, sight, smell, taste, sensation and even thought itself – and then a mental field overlay of images. Interpretations. Questions. Stories.

It is essential for our human self to function in the world. And it is – quite literally – the world my human self functions within.

If these overlays are taken as real and substantial, there is stress and drama. And when they are recognized as overlays, as they happen, they are revealed as simple tools. The drama falls away.

It is simple. And there is also no end to the complexity I find when I explore it in more detail.  

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History is what somebody wants us to think happened


I have enjoyed watching Terry Jones‘ (yes, the Monty Python guy) documentaries about the Crusades, Medieval Lives, and the Barbarians. They are all very well done, and give a different perspective than the traditional historical view, for instance pointing out that the way we see barbarians today is largely Roman propaganda, still effective 1500 years later.

(Watch the Crusades, Medieval Lives and the Barbarians online.)

Another excellent documentary is When the Moors Ruled in Europe, showing how the Renaissance – and what we know as modern European culture – was born out of the Islamic Golden Age. (Watch it here.) Islam and Islamic culture has traditionally been seen as an enemy in Europe, and this is a good antidote to Islamophobia and a way to nuance the picture somewhat.

We all know that history is “often what people want us to think happened” as Terry Jones says. History is constructed by those in power, often to protect their own interest.

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One view of how the mind/brain works imagines something like a little person inside the head looking at screens and pulling levels, as if in a control room or operating a space ship.

It may sound funny, but when I look at it for myself, I see where the idea comes from. It is a mirror of what is going on right here.

There is content of experience, awareness and then someone being aware of content of experience. There is doing, awareness, and a doer. Thinking, awareness, and a thinker. Choosing, awareness, and a chooser.

Something is happening within and as awareness, and then there is a sense of a middle man mediating between the two.

If I explore this from Big Mind, I see that the middle man – obviously – is part of content of awareness. There is no “I” inherent in the middle man, no more than in anything else.

And if I explore it through the sense fields, I get to see the dynamics of it more in detail. I notice how the middle man – the observer, doer, thinker, chooser – is a mental field creation. It comes from a mental field overlay on top of the other sense fields.

There is a thought arising within and as awareness, and then an imagined thinker placed on top of it. An action of this human self in the world – arising within and as awareness – and then a mental field overlay of a doer. (This mental field creation – for me at least – visual. Taking the form of an outline of this human self, center-periphery, and so on.)

So no wonder the control room analogy came up in our minds. It is a direct representation of what is really going on, here now. It reflects direct experience when this experience is filtered through this mental field overlay – and it is not recognized as just a mental field creation.

It is a discredited theory in science. What happens when I explore it for myself, here now? What happens if I take the middle man as real? What happens if I see it as a mental field creation?

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Experience of time


Time is a mental field creation, so no wonder our experience of time changes.

When I look at my own experience of time, I find a few different aspects…

First, a sense of infinite time between now and something that happened in the past. It seems very far away, even if it happened recently in conventional (clock) terms. For instance, between now and when I got up – which is only a couple of hours ago – it feels like a very, almost infinitely, long time. It feels like centuries or millenia may have past, although I of course know that is not the case. Right now, this experience is relatively stably in the middle or foreground in daily life.

Then, a sense of collapsed time. Of the time between now and a particular memory from the past – or scenario about the future – as nonexistent. It feels like no time between now and particulars in the past and future. No time between my birth and now. No time between now and my death. There is a sense of immediacy here. This experience comes into the foreground when I look at it, but it otherwise more in the background.

I can also access conventional clock & calendar time of hours, days, months and so on. I can easily funciton within this framework, although my experience of it is more along the lines of the other ones mentioned here. This one is available as needed.

And finally, a sense of timelessness. Of everything – including my mental field creations of time, memories and scenarios – as happening within and as timelessness, this timeless now. Everything happens within and as timeless awakeness. This is the context of all of the other ones, independent of how they show up. And it is in the background or foreground of experience depending on where attention goes.

Trigger: Sometimes surprising myself in realizing that something that feels like it happened a very long time ago, really happened just a few hours earlier or the day before.

Thoughts as an interface


As with just about everything here, this too is just life 101. But there is still a draw to write it down to clarify it a little for myself, and also so I can move on and don’t feel I have to remember it.

Thoughts function as an interface, and so also in a spiritual or practice context.

They serve as a pointer for attention, such as bringing attention to the breath, the different sense fields, what comes up when I ask a question of myself (The Work), and so on.

They serve as an invitation for a shift, for instance into allowing experience and into one of the voices in the Big Mind process.

And they serve as a guide for exploration, when I explore sense fields, they dynamics around a belief, or what happens when an experience is resisted or allowed.

In these ways, thoughts serve as a pointer beyond themselves. They initiate something that goes far beyond thoughts, the cognitive or any mental field activity.

Thoughts also serve as an interface in the other direction. The mental field filters, interprets and put words (or images) on what happens outside of the mental field.

So while The Work, the Big Mind process or headless experiments from the outside may appear to happen mainly within the mental field, as soon as we actually try either of them, we find that their effects go far beyond the mental field, and also that the mental field reports what occurs far beyond itself.

One obvious example is how The Work sometimes brings energetic shifts, and also an experience of not recognizing oneself afterwards. It is as if the whole human self has shifted and is different, in a very direct and immediate way. Another example is how what we are notices itself in a direct way through shifting into Big Mind and headlessness. And how we can shift into Big Heart, and hold our human self and any other beings within Big Heart, through the Big Mind process and other practices and explorations.

Trigger: A few instances where someone describes The Work as mainly a cognitive process. I tend to be surprised by this since the main shifts in The Work happens outside of the mental field, but I can also understand how it may appear mainly cognitive when seen from from the outside.

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