by Bob Dattola
from Day 3 of the March-April 2015 Retreat
Early this morning before light, I was walking in the dining room–I think it was between rounds of sitting. The mind was going on with some story, sort of in sync with the steps: so it’s like story, story, story (sound of steps). This is certainly not the first time that this has been noticed. But what’s amazing is just stopping and suddenly all that story is gone, and there’s just the quiet, the clanging in the pipes and the water–no more story. And again later that morning after breakfast, cold enough that the snow and the dirt is still frozen, walking up past the pond to the fields, and again that same thing. It really seems to be that the steps are in sync or in beat with the story, but then stopping and immediately everything comes into focus, like binoculars where you’re focusing–and everything is sharp. I’m not going to try and imitate a red wing blackbird, but the song of the red wing blackbirds who hang out up by the pond was just everywhere. It seems like sometimes there’s such a thick layer of clouds, and then just the slightest, I don’t know what, and everything is clear.
Now what I just said, I’m going to call stories. Those were two stories, but really I want to get back to something that came up in the dialogue yesterday that goes back to yesterday’s talk where I was speaking about–or maybe I wasn’t speaking at all–but the talk had to do with intelligence. I related another what we’ll call story of the time many years ago when Toni Packer said that this awareness that’s right in front of us is always there. And I asked her, “Well, how do you know that?” Because presumably that wasn’t clear. So in the dialogue yesterday someone rightly pointed out that the talk really had–these are my words–sort of two aspects. There’s this speaking, the words that are coming directly out of this presence, awareness, intelligence, and then there’s what we’re calling stories, like the one I just related or the two that I talked about in the beginning of the talk. I think I said in the group dialogue something like, “Yes, the stories are just kind of made up to illustrate something.” Not made up in the sense that there’s not a memory of them, but presumably that there’s a distinction between that kind of speaking and being right here, present, words coming out of this here-ness, this intelligence. Later on in the evening, sitting, this came up again, and it just appeared that there was something else to say about it, to look into this. When sitting here, especially right here on this chair, in this room, this quiet room with this energy, energy of here, presence, everything is here–and that includes what we call memories. Just because something is a memory, what we call a memory, doesn’t mean that it can’t be seen right here in this awareness. So I want to hedge a little on what I said in the group yesterday, because what we call memories, we attribute to some event that happened in the past. And I’m not arguing about the convenience of doing this–not actually arguing about anything–I’m just looking here at what’s right here. And so, what’s here is an image, many images or words, but it’s not what we call the past. It’s right now, right in front of me, in front of us.
So what is a story? What is this past that we talk about? Looking in this energy of awareness, there is no past. Everything in the universe is right here. If there’s such a thing as the past, we have no access to it–all that is, is here. The memories are here, so in a sense it’s not really a story, it’s really just coming from this same place, or non-place. I think the made up part was, well, it’s hard to say if it’s made up or not, but there was in the story I just told about Toni Packer saying, “Awareness is always here” then the image or the words are that “How do you know that?” Well, that’s what’s in this image, but if you ask me, “How do I know that” the question almost doesn’t make sense, because awareness is here. I hope this isn’t sounding too abstruse or out there, but for this person, it was important to see the way it is. That’s the way it is, the way it’s right here. However, what we do is to take what we call memory, these images that are also present, and we attribute them to what we call past. And it’s very convenient to do that. It would be perhaps difficult to function in our life with other people without doing that and that’s fine. But in truth that’s just a convenience, a way of putting things.
I started off with some images and related them to what I call this morning, and that’s the way we function. But it doesn’t mean that those images aren’t here. And who knows what they relate to, maybe nothing, they’re just here. So as long as we’re on this track of weirdness then what comes up is this concept we have of time. We’ve already mentioned it in terms of past. And obviously the same can be said about future. And even present is not accurate because it implies that there’s a past and future, so it’s just here-ness. So what does that mean, if it means anything? Well, what is time then? It’s something we kind of make up–it’s a concept that we use. Again, it’s a very convenient concept, not sure we could even have a retreat without it, but in fact, where is it? If you follow at all, even superficially, the last century of physics you’re probably aware that physicists take things like time very seriously, and they model things like time and matter with theories. And then the theories are tested to see if they agree with observations. So throughout history, at least the written history of science, until the early twentieth century it was, as far as I know, believed that time was a constant–sort of like it’s always there. You could always measure something against time. But then in the early part of the twentieth century, especially Einstein and probably others, came out with theories that essentially said that time is not constant. And this isn’t meant to be a physics lecture–so just bear with it for a minute. [laughter] I’m not a physicist. But these elite scientists of the world actually (beginning at that time and maybe it took a few years to sink in) theorized that time is relative. So time for this person may run differently than time for that person–depending on things like how fast they’re traveling, but we won’t get into all that. How weird is that? I mean physics, the elite physicists, are saying that time is relative, which sounds much weirder than looking here and seeing that time doesn’t really exist. Maybe someday the physicists will hypothesize the same thing from their scientific modeling. Who knows? But we don’t need to do that.
Well, I can’t resist one more weirdness that science has come up with about time. And it really is sort of a corollary of the fact that time is relative, although it gets into other things that we won’t talk about. It’s believed that there are these objects in the universe, now I’m speaking as a scientist, called black holes. They are essentially objects that are probably derived from a sun or maybe a whole galaxy or something, but they’re so massive in such a small amount of space that the theory is that nothing gets out of them once it gets into them, including light. So you can’t really see a black hole. One thing I learned fairly recently is that if you are on a spaceship and you got sucked into a black hole, once you go past what they call the event horizon you can never get out and fairly shortly after that you would be annihilated anyway. And there are all kinds of complicated theories to prove that this is what would happen. However, if I was in another spaceship along with your spaceship and your spaceship got sucked into the black hole, and let’s say mine didn’t, from my point of view your spaceship would never, never get sucked into the black hole. And it’s because of this thing about the theories of time.
So now that’s seems really weird, but we don’t need any theories to look and see what’s here. See that memories are here. See that things called past and future are not here–that everything is just here. Soooo, so what? I don’t know. I really didn’t mean to get so caught up in the physics. But, it’s not so weird that these memories are just here, that time doesn’t exist, in reality, in truth, in awareness. Now sitting here after wasting 30 minutes talking about all this, I don’t know whether it has any relevance, it just is–from this person’s point of view, that’s the way it is. So it should be an interesting dialogue group today!