Assignment 2, Session 3

Peering Outside/Inside (Moments, Stories, Perspectives).

           I did play with the exercises, and as usual I loved the readings.  But in the end, all I can think to say this morning seems to reside on the edges of actual practice.

          Following up on an exploration of what we might be able to learn about death from life, and about life from the prospect of its ending, I wonder: what might Time, Space, and Knowledge feel like when our foothold in this local time and space, and our individual perspective within it, begins to melt?  One day it surely will–the natural consequence of one particular kind of time running its course.

          I’ve known several people who died on the operating table, and before coming back they found themselves viewing their own body down below while calmly observing the medical staff talking and reacting to beeping monitors.  I believe these reports completely and listen to these stories with fascination.  These experiences seem to push the envelope of ordinary space and knowledge.  But is ordinary time still playing out moment by moment?

          When a lifetime passes before our eyes (as reported by those who have had this experience and have lived to tell their story), it seems that this is evidence for the possibility of accessing another kind of time.  (I personally had to be revived from a drowning accident when I was two-years old, and this perhaps accounts for my interest in such matters).  This morning I wondered if it is possible to remember aspects of our life that we ourselves were not physically present to witness.

          Charles Dicken’s fascinating story about Ebenezer Scrooge (“A Christmas Carol”), suggests this possibility.  Scrooge is shown his lifetime from a wider perspective than a simple rewind of his own experiences.  He sees how others were affected by his actions, and in this wider recognition (that he has been throwing away the opportunities of a precious human life), something is rekindled, and the frozen repetition of past hurts and fearful self-protections melts in an outpouring of his awakened human heart.

          Now that’s the kind of time I want to contact in this very life, while I still have the opportunity to step through the walls erected by a need to protect the claims of the self.

About Michael Gray

I first started studying TSK in the mid 1980's and have since attended a number of retreats and workshops at the Nyingma Institute, in both TSK and Buddhist themes. I participated in the life-changing Human Development Training Program in 1991, and upon returning to Albuquerque co-founded an organization, Friends in Time (with a friend who has Lou Gehrig's Disease), which continues to serve people with similiar disabilities. I contributed an essay to "A New Way of Being"--the last one in the book--in which I describe how learning to honor who I have been has broadened and deepened my openness to present experience. I live in New Mexico with my wife and two sons.
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2 Responses to Assignment 2, Session 3

  1. Michael Gray says:

    Eliana,
    I appreciate your thoughts and your exerpt from “Calm and Clear”.

    I find myself wondering if TSK invokes a different perspective that that of Buddhist mindfulness practice. In TSK there is sometimes a challenge to the concepts of “experience” and “existance”, as if we should not entirely trust the sense of reality that comes from a self who thinks itself anchored in linear time and object-centered space.

    I wouldn’t want to suggest that we can have conventional kinds of knowledge that lie outside the conventions that define our ways of knowing. However, I wonder if entertaining the possibilities of other kinds of knowledge, including access to perspectives that are not those of our limited self, may come into our minds in extreme circumstances such as when the body is shutting down. –Michael

  2. Eliana Kalaf says:

    Michael,

    Very nice piece of Charles Dickens, very Buddhist.

    About your phrase below:

    “This morning I wondered if it is possible to remember aspects of our life that we ourselves were not physically present to witness.”

    I have a comment, and I would like to answer with an extract from the book Calm and Clear of Lama Mipham, a renowned Buddhist scholar:

    “The constant recognition and remembrance of the present moment in a state of constant mindfulness should be achieved by watching the rise and fall of perceptions and convincing ourselves of the transience of the outer world… After continuous practice there will be an understanding that nothing can be said to exist which is not registered on the screen of the mind. Does a falling tree in the center of an uninhabited forest make a noise? The Buddha Gautama warned his followers against making any assumptions which were not functions of immediate experience, for preconceptions of any kind are hindrances of the path.” Page 68

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