Thursday, 22 July 2010

It all comes down to energy

I read a book last year, written by Marcus Chown, an author, I admire. The book, ‘Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You,’ is an excellent attempt to try to reveal, in simple language, some of the mysteries of the quantum level!

In this fast paced, world, where many of us find it difficult to fix our attention upon anything for longer then a couple of minutes, science seems to play out on the periphery of our lives, only becoming aware of its influence, when we read about a new invention, or a breakthrough in medical treatment. Despite the fact that most of the everyday things we use and take for granted, are the result of scientific endeavour, we would rather not become too closely involved with something that appears so hard to grasp! A pity really, for science in general, and the quantum world in particular, really do have so much to offer anyone who has a little time to probe beyond the surface of its seemingly intractable world of equations and non logic!

I would hazard a guess too, that many people who are involved in spiritual paths, look upon the sciences with equal mistrust and bewilderment. Religion and science have always seemed to belong to totally opposing camps! With some very notable exceptions, it was usually the case that if you identified yourself as belonging to one side, you were diametrically opposed to the other side’s position.

A radical shift towards a deeper understanding of science however, began to be discernable during the sixties, a time when many young westerners took up various strands of eastern mysticism, in a search to give their lives some meaning. Suddenly the old barriers between religion and science began to sway and crumble! Participants from both fields began to notice similarities within their own disciplines. As the shackles of prejudice began to loosen, we came to understand that what really pins the two, supposedly opposed views, together, was the realisation, that at the core level of our whole existence, there is one undeniable given, something that permeates all of our universe, that thing is ENERGY! In physics, once everything is stripped down to basics, once you have probed into the deepest recesses of sub atomic particles, way beyond, the basic structures of molecules and atoms, even beyond the sub atomic levels of electrons, protons and neutrons, once you have divided the building blocks even further, into hadrons, leptons, on and on into the raw quarks, you eventually realise that, what really holds of these structures together is just simply pure energy. What the one single constituent of all of the atoms that are holding this table I am writing on together, and what this computer, even my body consists of nothing but energy.

In his seminal book ‘The Tao Of Physics,’ Dr Fritjof Capra wrote, “subatomic particles are dynamic patterns which do not exist as isolated entities. But as integral parts of an inseparable network of interactions. These interactions involve a ceaseless flow of energy, manifestating itself as the exchange of particles; a dynamic interplay in which particles are created and destroyed without end, in a continual variation of energy patterns. The particle interactions give rise to the stable structures, which build up the material world, which again, do not remain static, but oscillate in rhythmic movements. The whole universe is thus engaged in endless activity; in a continual cosmic dance of energy.”

What we take as solid and real, the mass we see all around us, is in fact pure energy, which is the infinite cosmic dance. This awareness that in reality there is nothing but pure energy, has been known to spiritual disciples for thousands of years. The Buddhist uses terms such as Shunyata, meaning emptiness, and Pranja, the essence of all life, to describe this energy. He knows that the universe is in a constant state of flux, that materialism is nothing but the creation of mind. The Hindu too, signifies this aspect of reality, beyond the delusion of solid mass, by invoking the image of Shiva, the lord of creation and destruction, who represents the enlightened aspect of the mind that is liberated from the delusions of seemingly solid things.

The quantum world is one that really defies description, our every day language is of little use when we enter such a world, where nothing is real, where uncertainty rules and events are governed by probabilities! It’s a world that literally will blow your mind, but it will also give you amazing insights into reality.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The emptiness that won’t go away.

Looking at the world with an objective hat on, we can see our dilemma clearly. We have achieved so much, striven so far. We have constructed, created and invented objects to shield and insulate us from the raw and rugged qualities of nature. Our sciences, medicines and technologies have given us a world where almost anything seems possible. We try to insulate our minds against every conceivable upset, and worry; forever chasing the next ‘fix,’ to ward off the emptiness we feel within us; shopping, sex, intoxicants, technologies, all are utilisied in a futile attempt to bring meaning into our life.

Yet as human beings, we are blessed with tremendous levels of creativity and endeavour. If we could harness our full potentials, we have the ability to soar to amazing levels of awareness. We all have the ability within us, right now, to cast off the shackles of ego and its many games, and to enter that space of pure energy, where aversions and attachments no longer hold us in their deadly grasp.

Many people are now coming to realise that materialism can never bring lasting fulfilment, and are waking up from the delusion. Due to a powerfully seductive advertising machine and constant exhortations to join the consumerist gravy train, we have been seduced into believing that more and more is good for too long. We’re become so hooked on consumerism, that we can now shop at stores like Primark, where clothes, are so cheap, that after a few wears, they can be discarded.

We are all clinging desperately to a runaway train, unable to jump off. The East used to be the place many people looked for spiritual guidance. People in those countries had a higher regard for life, they understood instinctively, that contentment wasn’t to be found in accumulating more and more goods, but could only be found within us, and that it was only when we allow some space to appear in the mind - when chattering thoughts are stilled, -could real contentment shine through. Spirituality has always been a vital aspect of peoples lives, in many of these countries, where spiritual values have held societies together.

Yet, it is in just those same countries, where we now witness the biggest rush to materialism, with their populations demanding access to the same goods, we in the west have taken for granted for so long. Whilst we in the west are slowly waking up from the nightmare of materialism, the east seems hell bent taking our place on the consumerist merry go round!

There’s a lot written about the limits to growth, and how we have to change our habits, by adapting more sustainable ways of living, both for our sake and the sake of the planet. Yet I detect little in the way of a spiritual perspective in any of this! Spirituality has had a hard press; due to the strictures of doctrine and conformity, adopted by most of the world’s organised religions, people are instinctively turned off by anything that appears ‘religious.’ Yet the dharma (reality) is anything but religious, just a straightforward approach to life and a great method to extricate us from the pain and worries we all gather within us. And what’s more it comes with a ‘free trial period,’ too, don’t just follow blindly, but try and test it out for yourself.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

No digging (or weeding or watering) required: The Forest Garden

I recently had one of those life-altering experiences, when you just marvel that you never considered taking such an action previously, before realising that we only understand something, when we are ready. I’m not talking of any mystical experience here, but just a down to earth (literally), awakening! In my case this awakening is all to do with the way I have gardened, for many years. I've awakened to the method of forest gardening 

I became interested in the method after reading an piece article in Permaculture Magazine, the article was about a couple, who live in Portugal, and who have have converted a 7 hectare plot of land into a forest Garden.
I’ve come across the term ‘forest garden,' before, but never considered using its principles in my own garden. But now I’m converted, and feel that this really will be the way many of us will use our spaces in the future. For this method of gardening, or non gardening, involves no weeding, watering, digging or feeding, and it can be left to look after itself for weeks, even months, on end. What’s more, It's organic, wildlife-friendly, disease resistant, it massively reduces your weekly food bill and brings foraging to your doorstep. I'm now actively transforming our large garden along these principles. 

Forest Gardening was introduced into this country in the sixties, by the late Robert Hart. He wanted to create a healthy and therapeutic environment both for himself and for his brother, who was born with severe learning disabilities. He became interested in growing for medicinal purposes and developed the concept of a forest garden, through observing the interactions and relationships between plants in natural systems, particularly in woodland. He set about rearranging his own garden on forest principles with edible layers of self-sustaining perennials that would provide food, fuel and medicines, as well as support wildlife. His philosophy was recorded in two books, ‘The Forest Garden,’ and ‘Beyond the Forest Garden,’ (Green Books),

A key feature of this type of gardening, is companion planting, where different crops are placed in proximity, to be of greatest benefit to each other. Just one of the many examples of companion planting is the ‘Three Sisters’ method, pioneered by some Native American groups in North America. Squash, maize, and climbing beans are planted together, and they work for each other: the beans grow up the stalks of corn, and add nitrogen to the soil that the other plants need in order to grow, while the squash spreads along the ground, which helps prevent weeds from growing and acts as a mulch for the other plants.

Unlike most gardens, with their clipped hedges, manicured lawns and neat borders, a forest garden, mimics nature, in that everything is mixed up; fruit bushes grown next to herbs, and trees are intermingled with vegetables and flowers, Just like a natural woodland. The sheer variety of plants available to use too, is mind boggling. The main distinctive feature though of this way of cultivating the earth is that everything you plant is either edible or beneficial to wildlife and if for no other reason, that alone is why, I believe that forest gardening will become much more integrated into gardening in the future. You don’t need a massive amount of space either; a tiny strip in the centre of the city, or even a couple of window containers will be enough. The main thing to remember and this was another reason for my conversion, is that, once you have got the space up and running, no other work is involved, apart from harvesting!

Forest gardening is centered around differing layers or canopies; a first layer of fruit trees is followed by a lower layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks. A third layer consists of fruit bushes, then an ‘herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs. The fifth layer of edible plants covers the ‘ground and finally a ‘rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers. With a vertical layer of vines and climbers climbing up the higher layers.

You know, the more I delve into this method, the more I am amazed! Plant disease is cured, because you use companion planting, no watering is needed, because of the natural mulching and all of the plants are perennials. There is no need for fertilisers or add-in plant foods, for the plants receive all of the nutrients they need directly from other plants or wildlife. Nitrogen, for instance is provided by ferns and legumes. The taller trees keep the smaller ones moistened too. Never again will I grow cabbages and onions, I’ll use wild varieties like Welsh onions, 9 star Brassica and wild garlic. We’ll eat salad mixes of Lambs lettuce, Sorrel and Wild Rocket. I’ll grow Soapwort too, as an alternative to soap. Herbs will be used both in cooking and as medicinal remedies. And all of the plants will be perennials.

Having just undergone weeks of scorching heart, where most of my time was spent watering, feeding and weeding, I count my blessings that I’ve ‘discovered,’ forest gardening. From now on, I’ll be able to sit under the canopies, a cup of tea in hand, enjoying the wildlife visitors and look back on those dark days of the past with a deep sense of gratitude, that now life will be more simple!

Here are some useful links:

A short video where Robert Hart explains some of the basics of forest gardening:

Plants can be ordered from these two specialised Forest Garden Suppliers:
Plants for a Future:

The Agro Forestry Research Trust:

Saturday, 10 July 2010

You might as well burst out laughing!

What would you say, if someone offered you for free, a bottle containing a liquid, and which, they claim will cleanse you of all of your worries, pain and sufferings? After much initial scepticism, many questions and evaluations of its the potency, especially if it were harmful to ingest, you would probably drink the liquid with cautious gratitude.

Yet, there is such an elixir, available free to anyone who wants to drink of it. An elixir, that doesn’t come with strings attached, isn’t dogmatic and doesn’t draw or hypnotise you, into any religious sect or cult. And what’s more, it is free! If you try it, and don’t like it, just drop into the nearest bottle bank! This is an elixir that is available to examine, probe and test at your leisure. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it. Yet such an elixir does exist and anyone can pick a bottle. What I’m talking about is a method available to all, one that doesn’t involve learning a set of rules, or blindly following some spurious faith or other, promising salvation in an after life. Salvation in this case is perfectly possible right here and now!

Yet such an offer would generally, be rejected out of hand. Most people nowadays are intelligent and sophisticated beings, they can spot a scam when one is presented to them, and they have little time for organised religions, having seen through the myths and dogmas of such structured regimes, long ago. Regimes, which preach upon an invisible god, that no one has ever seen, a god who is set up as an arbiter of good and evil. But here’s the rub, in our certainties that all religions are hogswash, whose only purpose are to keep their followers trapped in blindness, we have turned away from true spiritual paths that offer genuine ways to deal with the sufferings that besets humanity.

I call myself a Buddhist because I accept the basic premise of Buddhism, that we all suffer from the pains of existence, and that there is a way out of this suffering. Yet Buddhism isn’t a religion, in the usual sense of the word, as Tashi Thundrop remarked, “atheists can find many Buddhist paths to suit their needs.” And, the method on offer is simply a tool to fix the problem.

Buddhists call this tool, the 'Dharma,' a word that means a view of life, a clear realisation, unencumbered by the usual collection of distractive thoughts, that fill our minds. I haven’t the space here, to go into minute details, but I will point out that the simplicity of this method is literally mind blowing! All we need to do is to ‘let go,’ and relax. There is nothing to else to do or achieve. Buddhists don’t or shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, for we realise that it is ‘nothing special,’ that methods to achieve liberation are not unique to Buddhism. In every religion, there are those who understand well the power of genuine awareness. These ‘mystics,’ though, are usually to be found on the fringes, unaccepted and frowned upon by the hierarchy.

The only method that works is the method of ‘doing nothing,’ of forgetting all about our self, but just being aware of the suffering that the world is awash with. We open up our natural state, a state that is fuelled by compassion, in its deepest sense, a compassion that doesn’t rely on a ‘me,’ that is being compassionate. We just open up to other’s suffering. The strange thing is, that by forgetting all about our own desires, self-liberation then occurs naturally.

Or as Longcenpa puts it, “ You might as well burst out laughing!”

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Panic on the Streets!

I recently watched a TV programmes, one that ‘deals with the issues affecting us all!’ This one was the first part of a new series, offering advice and tips on how to survive the the impact of the financial crisis. I began watching with keen interest, wondering if this would be a programme offering the viewer ways to lessen the dependency on consumerism, that so many people are stuck in. However after ten minutes or so, the realisation dawned, that yet again, the producers were passing the buck. The bulk of the programme consisted of the usual gush, available on a thousand web sites; ways to earn extra money, tips on changing to cheaper credit cards, and so on. What was missing entirely was any discussion of our addition to consumerism and ways out of this malaise! It seems so simple - Stop consuming so much!

No one in this country, is seriously going to find themselves in a life or death situation becuase of a lowered income! Yet, there seems to be almost a mass panic out there. I drone on at times, maybe too many times, about attachment to materialism, but it is worth repeating once again, that old Buddhist nugget of wisdom; “we need clothes to keep us warm, a roof over our head to keep us dry and food in our belly to nourish us, the rest is desire!”

I expect too much from the media, after all they are a very large part of the complicity that keeps many of us, slaves to commerce. The programme didn’t consider alternative options, such as learning to wean ourselves off our addition to mass consumption. An approach, which seems to me, to be a more eminently sensible option. Just say no to the beguiling and slick sales prater of the advertising industry, and realise that contentment can be had by living, on little. I suppose that option is far too simplistic for the most of the media to get its head around though!

There was a most revealing moment, when, after a discussion about which section of society would suffer the most from the forthcoming government cuts, i.e. those receiving state benefits, the presenter went off to interview one of the big players of the business world. This guy runs a company with a turnover in excess of £20 billion; his personal salary alone is some £17 million or so, per year! When he asked how he could justify receiving such an astounding amount, he ducked the question, and rambled on about employing hundreds of people, creating wealth, blah, blah. I have no bones to pick with anyone deluded enough to think they need to receive such stupid amounts of money. But all talk about making those who caused the financial melt down, in the first place, pay something back, now seems to be nothing more than hot air, it has vanished into the stratosphere!

The Buddha pointed out that all of the riches of jewels, diamonds, gold and silver, were as specks of dust upon the wind; meaningless, and that true liberation from our suffering, only comes through the realisation that attachment is the root cause of our pain and frustrations.

We place great values on such things as paintings, jewellery, fashion or the latest technological gizbo's, we’re seduced by the emotions these items produce in desire; greed and us. Anyone who has ever watched an auction in progress will cannot but bee amused by the absurdity of the whole farce. People fighting to own ‘valuable’s, never, realising that those items have no real intrinsic value. In our blindness, we continue accumulating riches, in the mistaken belief that these possessions give us security.

Monday, 5 July 2010

TIME TO RECYLE THE SELF! For Permanent Sustainability

There is much talk nowadays of sustainability, we use the term to imply a means of living, which is in broad harmony with our natural environment, treating the earth as our best friend, and only taking what can be put back again and renewed. As a profoundly sensible and ethical way, to achieve a balanced and lasting solution to the ills that beset our wonderful planet, the practice of sustainability and permaculture, seems to be an eminently sensible way forward.

Everyone who has embraced this compassionate and selfless approach way, realises, that, given the limited and dwindling resources our planet has to offer, there can be little option for humanity as a whole, than to sooner rather then later, adapt such a lifestyle, and to live in harmony and peace with nature, rather than seeing it as yet another resource to plunder for personal pleasure.

But, there is yet another approach that we can adapt, one that brings lasting inner change, a method that sustains all of our actions and deeds, in a way that is no longer based solely on self-interest. And if embraced, will transform our every waking moment, so that our actions flow from a well of compassion and selflessness, where we develop an understanding of our deeds and how they constantly affect our life situations, both positively and negatively. where our activities benefit all of the sentiments beings, who share the planet with us.

We become gardeners, as it were, where we cultivate the mind, allowing it to develop its natural state of balanced awareness, a state that is usually covered in a covering of dust.

We realise in fact, that we have, for so long, based our whole life around a selfish, self seeking ego, that is, in fact, our own worst enemy, a self grasping and self cherishing attitude, that has formed the basis of our actions and has hindered our development, as aware and liberated beings. By changing the way we deal with ‘self,’ we become natural guardians of the earth, for there is no longer a duality of earth and self. We care for the earth, for we are the earth! there can be no seperation in an enlightened mind.  

This is a way of being, devoid of personal desires, a life of immense vitality and awakened reality, where we stand on our own, without the aid of crutches. An approach which, allows us the space and presence to go forward with even more vigour and energy, and which chimes so vibrantly with our efforts to devote ourselves to the sustainable life, indeed greatly facilitates our compassionate endeavours to live a harmonious life.

Choosing this approach requires a real revolution of mind, though, a “turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness,” as Lama Anarika Govinda puts it. We all know, that by using the appropriate tools, we can achieve the best results for our labours - the more we put in, so the more we get out – Similarly, I think, that by using the right tools, in our day to day experiences, we can also expect to get more out of our life, especially in our interactions with other beings, with whom we share this planet.

Immediately after Sidhartha Gottama, who became known as the Buddha (Enlightened One), gained liberation from suffering and delusion, he delivered the first discourse, to his followers. The teaching concerned mankind’s eternal dilemma, that of dissatisfaction, and contained very precise and practical advice, that anyone could put into practice, who wished to gain release from the pain and woes, which are so interwoven in human existence. This teaching is the cornerstone of Buddhism and became known as ‘The Four Noble Truths,’ it points out that we are all suffering and that this suffering is caused by desire or attachment, a constant, fruitless search for satisfaction, in which the resulting reward, is merely the launching pad for a further round of suffering. Only by letting go of attachments, can our true nature shine though. All of us experience frustrations and pain on a daily basis, we all seek happiness, health, and want to get on with our friends, family and neighbours, but somehow we never quite achieve real inner harmony. The last noble truth, provides the means to achieve this harmony and end suffering, by way of a practical and non - dogmatic approach, by following eight principles known as The Eight - Fold Path. A ‘middle way,’ of living, perched firmly between extremes.

At this point I should point out that I do not wish to preach any belief system or religion. In fact, It’s doubtful if one could even refer to Buddhism as a religion, in the usual sense! For the Dharma (Reality), is really more akin to an atheistic approach to live, having no truck with supreme beings, or rituals, but a simple method, anyone can use, no matter what ‘path,’ they ascribe to, to gain release from the constant round of frustrations, common to us all The Eight - Fold Path is a recipe, for a totally different approach to the problems we face. And all of us, whether we subscribe to a particular spiritual teachings or not, can utilise this approach, as we continue our journey towards a sustainable future, based, as it is, on an enlightened approach to all of life. Buddhists will never take themselves too seriously either, discovering much humour and delight in daily living situations.

As its name implies, this path consists of eight imperatives, each of which we called ‘Right,’ i.e. Right Speech, Right Livelihood and so on. When we talk about ‘Right’ we don’t mean right, as opposed to wrong, but ‘right,’ meaning ‘what is.’ Being right, without a concept of what is right – complete openness to the situation. Completeness needs no relative help; it is self-sufficient, precise, and direct. Life without clutches, straightforward. Life is pleasure, life is pain. Giving up wanting to be in control of situations.

This isn’t the place to expand too deeply on this particular teaching; there are many excellent sources, where anyone wishing to follow this up could peruse*. But, it is worth chewing over one or two of these imperatives, which, if applied, can greatly help us in our efforts to live a more peaceful existence.

As Chogyam Rinpoche writes, “‘Right View,’ is the ever-present awareness of impermanence, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are. To see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas. View is a matter of concepts. We meet someone in the street, and we freeze. Not only do we freeze ourselves, but we freeze the situation as well, the space in which the person is walking towards us. We try to conceptionalise the situation - is this person a ‘friend,’ or an ‘enemy?’ We have created a frozen space of fixed ideas – this, as opposed to that – the person is walking through a frozen situation. We enter any situation, completely free of opinions or concepts; we are meeting this person for the first time, free from the past.”

Another of the imperatives of the Eight Fold Path is called ‘Right Effort’- effort means energy, endurance, exertion. If you enjoy your situation, take joy in it. Being present fully, with delight, with a grin on your face! The situation is here and now, it’s very creative, humorous and constantly enjoyable. It’s beautiful, direct and simple - natural openness. We see the situation in that moment. Right effort, is providing space, beyond discursive thought. We don’t let seductive thoughts distracts us. As an old Zen master once put it, ‘When I wash the dishes, I wash the dishes!’

Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire and aggression, can also fuel self-discipline, honesty and kindness.
The last imperative of this path worth considering, deals with work, ‘Right Livelihood,’ means not being involved in anything to do with hope, fear or clinging.

In order to live, we need to survive. We need a roof over our heads, food and warm clothes, the rest is just desire. Work arises naturally out of our relative situation, it’s just organic. Right Livelihood - earning your money, living your life. We have to relate to the whole process, as the energy of making a living, involves us in so many situations, that we have to relate to the whole thing, the whole life situation.

All of us involved in sustainable living know that we are doing what we can to make this word that much better, not just for our fellow beings, but for all of those who will come after us. There is a term that can express this commendable and noble way of life; it is the way of the Bodhisattva, someone who vows to forsake personal liberation, until every other sentient being has gained her or his own liberation. The Bodhisattva is an inspiration to us all; s/he offers support, where it is needed. This selfless act springs from a deep well of compassion for all beings, and for the endless round of sufferings all beings endure.

By changing oneself, one automatically changes the world, for here all dualities, of self and other, mind and matter break down. The world is understood as nothing more then our own projection, the creation of mind. We finally achieve that harmony with life, we have long sought, for now we are at harmony with our self.

One last thought, aversion, can be as just as much of a trap as attachment, as we tread the path. Vowing to renounce the world will only cause us more confusion. Walking a middle way avoids such dualities and is a more sensible approach, for remember, samsara is nirvana, and nirvana is indeed samsara! Instead we can promise ourselves not to become too attached to possessions, money etc. Just working with what is in front of us will do!
 * For an excellent explanation of the Eight Fold Path, one may read ‘Dharmas Without Blame’, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.


Saturday, 3 July 2010

It Doesn't Have To Be This Way!

The world is awash with pain, suffering and frustration. We witness its results daily when we turn on our TV, go on line, or open a newspaper

We are sick! Our minds deformed and tortured by self created delusion. We can see the extremes of this sickness filling the wards of our psychiatric institutions, but the disease is everywhere, an epidemic of fear and confusion, crawling onto our streets, our homes and our places of leisure. It does not stop there, a great black hand of ignorance and self loathing, claws the  face of our lovely planet.Delusion, greed and hatred rule the day as brother and sister injure and destroy one another and our animal brethren also, with the glazed indifference of automation's.

Indeed we are sick, Worse, we are fast asleep, creating nightmares for ourselves in the Biblical Darkness, the Maya of the Hindus, the Samsara of the Buddhist. So, how do we break out of this terminal tragedy, this groaning wheel of suffering? How do we wake up to what we really are? Simple, we do this by abandoning paths of darkness and placing our feet upon spiritual paths.

Let there be no misunderstanding, we can wake up. it is perfectly possible to become enlightened, to realise our proper status as totally fulfilled, universally integrated men and women, and, it is possible in this lifetime.

we have become too busy, trying to cram more and more experiences into our lives, to even begin to contemplate such a way out.
The one, simple main cause of our suffering, our strife and conflict, is simply our deep-seated sense of a personal ‘self,’ a ‘Me!’ -what we commonly refer to as ‘ego.’

Most people on this planet are firmly of the notion, that ‘self,’ this ‘I,’ we carry about, is a solid, ongoing entity. They never ever question this belief; it is simply set in stone, unbreachable! ‘Of course I am real! What else thinks, breathes, exists?’ From our first waking moment, our lives have been filled with seemingly hard confirmation, that what we call the self, is real; we are given a name, nurtured, taught to read, to distinguish objects outside of this self. We learn to see ourselves as different from other beings. All of our life, this sense of identity is breed into us.

Yet it is just this sense of self that is the cause of all of the conflicts, wars and crime in the world, the reason, why the oceans are running out of fish, why the oil is running out, and why we cannot really get down to doing anything serious to alleviate the effects of climate change. It is also the cause of most of our illnesses, sufferings and frustrations, throughout our life.

So, how then does belief in an “I” and the whole neurotic process begin? According to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whenever a perception of form (i.e. another person, a house a tree etc) appears, there is an immediate reaction of fascination and uncertainty on the part of an implied perceiver of the form. This reaction is almost instantaneous. It takes only a fraction of a fraction of a second. And, as soon as we have established recognition of what the thing is, our next response is to give it a name. With the name of course comes concept. We tend to conceptualise the object, which means that, at this point, we are no longer able to perceive things as they actually are. We have created a kind of padding, a filter, or veil, between ourselves and the object. This is exactly what prevents the maintenance of continual awareness. We feel compelled to name, to think discursively, which all the while, takes us further from direct perception. And what keeps us all tapped in the continuous round of pain and disillusionment is desire.

Desire is the thread that weaves the constant sense of self, into what we misunderstand as a a solid and fixed state of being. 'self,' is nothing but a collection of the above stated tendencies, such as form, feeling, and perception. Self needs something to keep up the illusion of separateness, and solidness. That something is ‘desire,’ our constant inner drive that feeds constant images, to delight our senses.

Sogyal Rinpoche writes so clearly of this grasping, but deluded idea of a ‘self,’ in his book, ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Ego is defined as "incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of  I,"

The Strange World of Reality

It really is a pity that most people take the view that science in general, and physics in particular, are subjects to be avoided at all cost. I suppose our aversion to the sciences comes, in large part, from past, school day experiences, of having to suffer mind numbing sciences classes, where uninspiring teachers would drone on about the laws of gravity and thermodynamics, whilst captive and bored pupils, would sit counting down the minutes till they could escape.

I too, used to take the view that science held no interest for me; I didn’t relate to it in anyway and had no desire to understand it. It was only later in life, that my interest and appreciation of sciences and quantum physics in particular began to grow, and I came to realise that the further you go into the sub atomic world, the more amazing it becomes

One of the founding fathers of Quantum theory, Niels Bohr once famously remarked, that anyone who came to the world of the quantum and didn’t find it totally bewildering, didn’t properly understand it! Another giant of this world, Richard Feynman said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Such is the paradox of the world of the minuet! A world where nothing is ever as it seems, a world where uncertainty rules and where things can be in two places at the same time!

What is certain is that the more you delve into the quantum world, the more you become aware that all of your cherished opinions and certainties will be blown away.

For the world of the tiny brings us face to face with reality no less! This is a world where the old eastern, mystical realisation that ‘nothing exists,’ is born out right in front of us. What is amazing is that it has taken physicists this long to catch up with those ancient realisations of the east! In fact, only a few western scientists have any real understanding of this, ‘emptiness,’ (read Fritjof Capra and others).

We base all of our assumptions of the world on the understanding that what is around us, are indestructible material ‘objects,’ your table, this PC, our pet dog, the houses we live in, the trees we walk past everyday, all, we assume are real, and solid! All of which give us a sense of security. This is what we have been taught, that the world is made up of material objects. However what the quantum world now teaches us, and indeed, what mystics of all religions have long since realised, is that when we got down to basics, this so called solid world is really just an illusion, we ourselves have created, mind blowing isn’t it! And so it should be.

This is a world primarily consisting of empty space and energy. Where we begin to realise that all of the so-called solid and indestructible ‘things,’ we see around us, are composed of mostly empty space! Everything in the world, from your nose, to the dinner table, is composed of millions upon millions of atoms. Inside each atom, is mostly the empty space we talk about, with a tiny nucleus at its centre. To get some sort of perspective of this space, one can think of the vastness of St Paul’s Cathedral as the atom, and a tiny grain of sand, as the nucleus. All that keeps atoms together and thus gives us the illusion of the solidness of objects, is the pull of electromagnetic attraction between electrons and the nucleus. When an electron is confined to a small space, which it is when it is when drawn close to the nucleus, it spins at incredibly fast speeds, much like a propeller of an airplane which, when spinning gives an illusion of solidity. So the spinning speed of electrons, give the impression of solidity, and the binding attraction to the nucleus, explains why table appear to be solid and why cannot pull one table apart!

The only real mass, is that inside of the nucleus, which is a minute part of an atom, which in itself is so tiny that a million could fit onto the head of a needle! It is said that if we could take out all of the mass from every atom, in every human being on earth, the entire human race could fit into a sugar cube!

So what we see as matter, I’ll leave the last word to Fritjof Capra “Atoms consist of particles, and these particles are not made of any material stuff, When we observe them, we never see any substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns, continually changing into one another – a continuous dance of energy.”