Friday, December 31, 2004

Joy and Sadness

When you are born you cry,
but the whole world is overjoyed.
When you die the whole world cries,
but you may find the great liberation.

Quote from Bardo Thodol

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Story

The other day something quite illuminating happened. I walked into a store, and saw in a distance the headline on a newspaper - "man stabbed by fork" on a local newspaper. Immediately in my mind, the following thoughts popped up .... "ah ... local newspapers ... always full of trivial news ... like cats stuck in trees ... wow ..... someone stabbed with a fork makes the front page of the paper! .... wonder if it was an argument at the dinner table? .... hmm, eating forks are quite blunt ... still, it's pretty trivial" and so it went. This little story spun out in my mind, as I waited for my companion to catch up with me.

Then, I walked through the barrier and walked past the newspaper, reading the lead paragraph as a walked by.

To my surprise it said "man stabbed in the throat with a garden fork". Well, that really shocked and horrified me .. the thought of someone being stabbed in the throat with something as large and weighty as a garden fork ... what a terrible thing to happen!

And just as surprising to me as finding out what had really happened was watching what had occurred in my mind, reeling off this story, all based on assumption, and how wrong that story was.

And then I reflected that however much we know about a situation, our understanding is still based on assumptions, as we can never know all the causes, conditions and aspects of something, so our view is always partial, and to that extent, actually not how it is.

Only how it is to us, at this time, based on what we know, and how we 'choose' to interpret it.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Samsara and Nirvana

Where does the unsatisfactoriness of life come from? How is it that we experience pain or sorrow, frustration or unhappiness? What is the cause of experience of life as being imperfect?

It’s all just a matter of perspective!

Misunderstanding the nature of things we experience suffering. This is the experience of Samsara. We mistakenly view phenomena as having an enduring existence, and a sense of solidity or selfhood that they do not possess. Whatever we perceive, whether seemingly within our minds or objects outside, we imagine they are discrete and enduring. We experience an emotion, and grasp at it as though it truly exists, that it is solid and real – a solidly existing entity. We see a car and again imagine ‘car’ – we think there is a thing there with ‘car-ness’, and that that is what we see.

But all phenomena are composite … they can be divided up into constituent parts, and the ‘thing itself’ can never be found. Dividing up a car, we see wheels, doors, engine – where is the car?

Dividing up the emotion, we see physical sensations in the body, and flavours in the mind.

But looking deeper, we can divide up the wheel, into tyre, rim and nuts. Looking deeper, the physical sensation isn’t one, but a multitude of shimmering aspects, flowing ever one. There is no end to the way we can look more deeply into the composite nature of a phenomena, and nowhere in any of it can the ‘thing itself’ be found. It’s just a label we project onto what we perceive.

Looking at the car, it comes together through all manner of causes and conditions, all that has been needed for that car to be there in that moment. But that is not fixed – the conditions constantly change. And so does the car. It rusts, the paint fades, the parts wear out, the seats get dirty. Always changing, never the same. The causes and conditions constantly change, and so does this what we label as ‘car’. Nothing fixed or solid there, only process and flux.

And with this wrong way of viewing phenomena, this projection of a solidity or selfhood which it doesn’t possess, comes the consequence for us …. We suffer.

We suffer as we try to grasp onto those ‘things’ that we find pleasant. We suffer as we try to push away those that we find unpleasant. Given them a reality they don’t possess, we then end up acting on them as though there was inherent value in that mistaken selfhood. Feeling that things are much more solid and real than they actually are, we push and pull at them, hoping to rearrange the world to make us happy. As nothing has the nature that we imagined, our hoped for result goes awry, and suffering is the inevitable result of this mistaken perception of phenomena.

This mistaken way of viewing things is the cause of all our suffering, the cause of Samsara. Seeing things as they truly are means the end of suffering, and is known as Nirvana. No longer mistakenly seeing ‘things’ where things do not exist, we view all phenomena as empty, empty of solidity and selfhood. Seeing the composite nature of all phenomena, we no longer try to grasp or reject. Seeing the conditioned nature of all, we no longer imagine a fixed and isolated selfhood, free of dependence on conditions, and changing as those conditions change.

Seeing things as they are, suffering can never return, as the roots of suffering – mistaken perception is forever banished.

Seeing things as they truly are, we can never again experience Samsara. Once this topsy turvey way of viewing the world is dropped, then our unsatisfactory experience goes with it. View phenomena incorrectly, we experience Samsara. View phenomena correctly, we experience Nirvana. Though it’s a simple change, it’s one which is profound in consequence.

Not places or realms, Samsara and Nirvana arise in dependence on conditions, in dependance on correctly seeing the nature of phenomena. Rather than it being somewhere, a plane of existence or thing, it’s simply the mistaken view of what is, and arises in dependence on that mistake.

May all beings view all phenomena as they are, and no longer transmigrate in Samsara, forever freed from its sufferings and imperfection!

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Vantage Point

One of the nice things about being ill is that the circumstances of your life are rather different from 'normal', and as a result, it gives you a different vantage point from which to view how things are.

Instead of the usual routine, you are forced into a different one, one which may well disrupt your preferences, or choices. And with that change, comes the precious opportunity to see afresh. How wonderful indeed to be shaken by illness, and given the chance to see life from the side, instead of head on!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

All Situations Are Workable

To use Chogyam Trungpa’s phrase – all situations are workable. After reading part of a teaching by Trungpa Rinpoche on a forum today, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to label situations as either easy or difficult from the point of view of practice. And, beyond that, how easy to label certain situations as basically being unworkable.

How often do we seek to move away from situations that we don’t like? We justify it with all sorts of rationale’s, such as ‘this is not conducive to my practice’, or ‘this one encourages me to loose mindfulness’, or ‘this one has a negative effect on me, and I loose momentum or perspective’. So we decide that certain situations are basically best avoided, as somehow that would have a negative effect on what we view as ‘our practice’.

How is this? Well, from a Hinayana point of view there is certainly some merit in saying that we should not keep too close company with either those that are unskilful, or those situations which encourage unskilfulness. But, within the Hinayana teachings are those on Vipassana which encourage us to not get entangled in whatever arises, and caught up in either pushing away or pulling experiences towards us, but instead to see their true nature – especially in terms of their being impermanent, suffering, and not-self. Allowing things to be as they are, we practice non-preference, and examine the nature of what is, not trying to find happiness through choosing what we want.

And moving to Mahayana, where the emphasis is more on transformation, rather than avoiding that which is harmful, the first and fundamental perfection is that of generosity. So ideas of ‘my practice’ as being a guiding force, or being around this person is detrimental to me are fundamentally opposed to the Bodhisattva path. If we are on the Mahayana path, then should we prioritise ourselves in this way? There are needs, and we respond to them. Where there is suffering, our compassion moves to help. No longer hypnotised by what arises in our mind, we see the nature of things as empty - without enduring substance, like a rainbow. Watching what arises, we see no 'me', no owner of the experiences, just a play of insubstantial phenomena. No longer bound by 'me' and 'you', we are freed from attachment and able to respond to need wherever it lies. Standing our ground, wherever we are, we do what needs to be done, without favoratism or fear.

With the Vajrayana, we no longer need to transform anything, as all Dharmas are seen to be self-liberating anyway. Instead of either backing away from difficult dharmas, or seeking to transform them by applying antidotes, we allow them to be, see their nature as they play, and utilise their energy for our work of liberating all sentient beings. As all phenomena and circumstances are just empty arisings of mind, what need is there to discriminate between them in such a way that we try to keep ourselves out of certain circumstances or away from certain people. Different apparent arisings in mind have different textures, or different flavours, as it were. But all reveal the nature of mind, all appear to arise, all are empty of any substance, and thus all are one taste – inseperable emptiness and clarity.

If we no longer fear emotions, then we no longer have to move away from those that we label ‘emotional’. If we no longer fear different views, then it does us no harm to be around those who differ from us. If we are no longer afraid of ourselves going out of control, then we no longer have to try to keep the lid on our minds, and constantly worry that unskilful emotions or thoughts will take us over. Whatever arises can be taken to the path, becomes the path, is the path for us. Whatever arises, however it is, is the fuel of our apparent journey, our journey that takes us to where we already are.

No longer fearing dharmas, no longer enslaved by fleeting experience, we gain the courage and confidence to take a stand with life, and allow it to be what it is. And ourselves – we can be what we are – more fully each moment we open to and embrace what arises.

Each moment provides the flavour and the fuel.

Each moment is what it is … the ground on which we awaken.

All situations are the path – right here, right now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Meeting Needs

Looking at a situation with a group of people, what do you see?


However you look, you see either immediate suffering, the suffering that comes from the nature of change and therefore loss of present happiness, or existential suffering - the suffering that comes simply through being embodied.

Looking at beings, you see beings rubbing up against how things are, and the resulting sufferings caused by ignorance. Not seeing how things truly are, we try to grasp stuff, or we push stuff away, or we remain untouched by that which doesn't trigger our attachments.

In a family or work dynamic, we experience things we don't find pleasant, and often seek to move away from that. The person who reacts differently to how we want them to - we experience a 'need' to get them to change. That may stem from wanting to change the uncomfortableness of the situation or behavoir, rather than through seeing that being creating unnecessary suffering for themselves and others through their behavoir based on ignorance, and a spontaneously compassionate response to that.

One of the beauties of a family is, like in a monastery, you have placed a stake in the ground, and said "this is where I stand, and this is where I now practice". Rather than seeking the grass that is supposedly greener elsewhere, you have commited to being in this particular circumstance, however that plays out.

The great beauty of this is that it encourages you to see how things truly are, and to work with it, rather than to give in to the compulsive need to want to move away from that which you find unpleasant. In a marriage, you've let go of the idea of wanting a 'perfect person', and have commited to being right here, right now, with this very person. With children, you can't move them away if they no longer suit you - this is the ground with which you work.

And why should you seek to be elsewhere? Why seek a different partner due to the sufferings that arise from not wanting your present one to be as they are? Things are as they are. Situations give rise to pleasant and unpleasant. People are in part as you would wish (at a particular moment) and partly not.

A pleasant sensation arises .... how is that? An empty arising in mind, no more, no less. Not something to make a great story out of, a 'song and a dance', and then to start grasping after. It's just what it is .... utterly without substance, yet a play of mind.

An unpleasant experience arises ... how is that? Again, just the minds luminosity, momentarily 'holding' that flickering appearance, an empty conjuring trick which plays and goes. Why seek to push it away, to change what we think is 'out there' and causing it? It just is what it is, a shadow play of mind.

No longer caught in the push-pull of compulsion, no longer projecting an 'other' out there to be 'perfected', we can allow things to be as they are. Truly at peace with the world, we can let go of manipulating and forcing.

And out of that letting go, that allowing things to be .... what arises?


Compassion - the desire to help and alleviate the sufferings that appear to appear. Wherever they arise, seemingly in others, or seemingly in ourselves, we can gently offer what needs to be offered. Is it out there, or is it in here? Does the suffering occur in others, or in ourselves? No longer seeing 'me', no longer seeing 'them', we no longer get caught up in balancing our needs and the needs of others. No longer a juggling act, with limited resources. The play of mind is just that ... empty appearances seemingly arising. Where they arise in such a way that inspires compassionate action, then that action occurs in the way that it is needed. Where does 'you' or 'I' come in to it?

The unbearable suffering of seeing beings caught in delusion, grasping and pushing at what they experience, thinking they will find release in holding and excluding. How painful indeed to see that needless suffering, when the shadow plays of their minds are no more substantial than your own?

Playing to the wrong game plan, how painful to see .... compassion reaches out, to help where it can. Not caught up in trying to make them 'right', to make them 'see', to again change the world into how it 'ought to be' - filled with beings who no longer self-cause suffering. Just gently offering help where help can be given, helping, and holding, and allowing their blossoms to gently bloom.

Yet there are infinitely more needs of suffering to relieve than our current capacity to help. This desperate unbearable suffering of feeling others' sufferings, and not having the capacity to help them all drives our desire for realisation, so that we may have the unlimited capacities of an Enlightened One.

Illusory beings creating illusory suffering, yet the dream is so vivid, so real, so entrancing.

Just what it is, a play of appearances. Not mesmerised by the shadowplay, and then freed to spontaneously be. Be-ing in the best way, be-ing of benefit. Needs appear to arise, and just responding as can. No longer caught up in 'me' and 'their' needs.

Seeing the nature of mind allows the delusory dualisms to fade. Not caught up in delusion, compassion can arise. Freed from forcing, letting go is the ground.

Letting go ... everything is accomplished.

Nobody to do, nobody done to, nothing is done.

And yet, all is complete ... Eh Ma Ho!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

2 Days Later

Outside of meditation, reflecting now, 2 days later .. did those thoughts arise at all? Where are they? ...

Are they any different in nature from the dream I had last night? Where has that gone?

They both had a sense of 'realness' at the time, but what substance remains of either? Both resonate, and seem to leave an emotional echo, but was either more or less 'real' than the other? ....

Both empty arisings .....

That echo in the present mind ... how do I know it is connected to those thoughts 2 days ago? How do I know I even had those thoughts 2 days ago? ... my 'recollection' now ... how do I know it is trustworthy recollection?

Like a dream, experiences of empty appearances ... whether we call ourselves 'awake', or 'dreaming', it all has the same nature .... vivid and clear, unobstructed, and empty of all substantiality ....

Friday, December 10, 2004

Where Do Thoughts Come From?

Where do thoughts come from?

This last evening, I've been watching seemingly endless thoughts appearing in mind, anger and revenge mostly, as in the midst of a family crisis, my ex-wife decided to pitch in with the 'blame game'.

It's funny this expression - pushing the buttons. The common expression is .. 'she knows how to push my buttons' .. meaning, she knows what to say which hurts the most, and upsets the most.

So a rush a thoughts running through mind, which play out this amazing story of this, and that, then this then that ... all running along, seemingly without any fuel or intention. It's like a train out of control .... careering on, yet 'who' asked it to?

They pop up into mind .... but where did they come from? I look at mind, and cannot see where they arise from. I look, but they just spontaneously appear, seemingly from nowhere. How can that be? How can 'something' come from 'nothing'?

Well, are they 'something', and do they go back into 'nothing'?

Seems like that as the rush of emotion is in full flow. But watching closely, there's increasingly less a sense of 'something' arising. Like ghostly presences, thoughts 'seem' to appear. But do they? What substance do they have? Sure, there is a sense of emotional fullness ... and bodily sensations which accompany their presence. But how amorphous they are, and how transparent. Nowhere when I look can they be found, and yet they are there. Is there an arising? Or is there not? Can't seem to apply either term to what is, with any sort of confidence. Seems like words fall down at that point.

So whether they arise or just like apparitions 'seem to arise', where did they come from? Again, no sensible answer, not one that makes sense conceptually. There doesn't seem to be a 'where' ... a place, an antecedent. Is there 'place' at all, where mind is concerned?

Looking at mind, and how it is .... just a different 'weather' today, one I'm not much used to .... but still the same mind, still the same nature, it would seem. Like watching a different football match, with seemingly different players ... but it's still just 'football', or has the same nature. Bad metaphor ..... but you know what I mean?

May all unskilful thoughts be the cause or occasion for awakening! May we use all adverse circumstances to awaken, and help others end all suffering.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Reflections on Longchenpa - Seeing with Naked Awareness


It is the single (nature of) mind which encompasses all of Samsara and Nirvana.
Even though its inherent nature has existed from the very beginning, you have not recognized it;
Even though its clarity and presence has been uninterrupted, you have not yet encountered its face.
Even though its arising has nowhere been obstructed, still you have not comprehended it.
Therefore, this (direct introduction) is for the purpose of bringing you to self-recognition.
Everything that is expounded by the Victorious Ones of the three times
In the eighty-four thousand Gateways to the Dharma.
Is incomprehensible (unless you understand intrinsic awareness).
Indeed, the Victorious Ones do not teach anything other than the understanding of this.

Excerpt from 'Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness'
A Terma hidden by Padmasambhava, and revealed by Longchenpa.

This *is* the fulcrum, the central turning point of the Dharma ... the understanding of the nature of the mind, of our intrinsic awareness. All the various means and views of the Dharma all lead to this one point - to understanding directly the nature of your mind. All the meditations, all the precepts, all the philosophy, all the skilful means - all of them point back to the direct, non-conceptual seeing of how things are, of the nature of mind.

All of the Dharma teachings are incomprehensible unless you experience directly your mind as it is. Not a foreign land to be reached for the first time after a long journey, our immediate sense of that land is carried with us, each step of the way, guiding us, supporting us, and infusing our sense of journey and not-journey.

Our practice derives by resting in this awareness, this nature, and permeating our activity with that resting.

The direct teachings of Mahamudra and Dzogchen continually point to how close, easy and immediate available is this nature, right here, right now ..... not far away, not something to be cultivated afresh. Our mind is like 'this', and it doesn't need to be changed. Just seen. Just ... Just .....

May I and all beings Awaken right now, and guide each other home!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Reflections on Longchenpa - The Middle Path

Since things neither exist nor don't exist,
are neither real nor unreal,
are utterly beyond adopting and rejecting -
one might as well burst out laughing.

Longchenpa Rabjampa

Tenzin Chodron's post to the Kagyu Online Study Group reminded me of this wonderful quote from the 14th Century Nyingma master, Longchenpa Rabjampa.

So often recently I've felt this urge to laugh in the face of the way things are. Life is such a wonderful and wondrous thing, in all it's seeming diversity of appearances, however pleasant or unpleasant we seem to find them.

When we look deeply at what seems to arise in our minds, we cannot find anything there whatsoever. Like mist in the morning, the appearances evaporate before the sunlight of our awareness. Yet it cannot be said that nothing is there .. as appearances seem to arise, and play before our mind's eye.

Does that which which we usually say we experience exist or not? Hehehehehheheeh Yes and No or maybe something else. They certainly seem to appear, and yet nothing can truly be found. They seem to arise, but looking deeply, does anything arise? They seem to fade away, but did they go? They seem to be impermanent, but was there anything there to be 'impermanent'? Does permanent or impermanent make any sense for these mirages, these magical shows?

As we start to see how things really are, such labels as 'exist' and 'not exist' start to drop away a little, and a smile and laughter often arise.

As we see clearly, we loosen our grip a little on this magical play of the mind, and then, what need is there to 'adopt' or 'reject' anything? Meditating, all Dharmas are self-liberating, so what need is there to want or not want any of it, or to seek to transform it.

Mind in it's nature is beyond words, you might as well burst out laughing.

Life is beyond words, you might as well burst out laughing.

Seeing our previous behaviour, caught in the net of views, caught up in accepting and rejecting, we can't help but burst out laughing.

Knowing we've only just begun, we can't help bursting out laughing.

Knowing there's nowhere truly to go, we burst out laughing.

Never left, never returned.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Subject Object Projections

Understanding the teachings on the illusory nature of the Subject Object distinction used to be rather theoretical for me. Yes, I heard the words, I understood the theory, and it made sense. But, when the chips were down, when suffering arrived, this understanding was nowhere to be seen.

In recent years with the blessing of my teacher, Shangpa Rinpoche, and the precious Mahamudra teachings, the nature of things has moved just a touch out of the realms of theoretical understanding, and a little into just seeing what is.

I remember that the teaching which had made the most impression on me in years gone by was that experience was a continuity, rather like a rubber band, and that due to delusion, we put a twist in the rubber band, and that therefore one side of the twist is viewed as subject, and the other viewed as object. It made perfect sense of what this delusory way of seeing was, but it wasn't a seen reality.

It's interesting reflecting on this metaphor now, a number of years later. When I look at experience, what do I see? I see all manner of arisings, seemingly there ... appearances of different flavours - thoughts, sights, feelings, concepts etc etc. And looking at those appearances, I see nothing substantial there at all. Whichever the appearance, whether of a thought, a feeling, a moment of peacefulness or mindfulness, whatever it is, it evaporates in awareness.

Endless arisings, endless emptiness. Whatever appearance .... emptiness.

Are there objects in experience? No. No objects, just appearances of the perception of objects, arising in mind. Is there a 'me', a subject, who perceives these appearances? No, just empty appearances themselves. Sometimes a 'me' seems to arise, especially when a particularly beguiling appearance seems to arise. This sense or feeling of 'I' seems to arise, but like all other appearances, it's empty, yet seemingly there.

The object was never there, only the empty arisings of the perception of the supposed object.

And the 'me' was only there in the misguided arising of a thought of 'me', also empty yet seemingly appearing.

Not so much a rubber band with a twist in it, as 'one taste', of empty luminosity ... a shadowplay .... there, and yet not there.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Sometimes you are faced with decisions which seem to have massive consequences, whichever choice you take. Sometimes that choice seems to lead to very mixed results, whichever choice you take.

How can you see which choice to take? Life is so surprising in how it plays out. It's so hard to 'guess' the future, to truly have any sense of what will lead on from this very moment. It's so tempting to think we know how the future will be .... the story plays out in our mind so easily, so temptingly.

But really, the interconnectedness of things is such that the twists and turns of eventualities are so hard to predict.

So what can we rely on? Reaching deep into the heart/mind .... where lies the bases for taking life-shaping decisions? How do you ever truly know what is right, or best, or even least-bad? How do you judge? From where, with what?

What do you place your trust in ... as the basis, the root?

Decisions ....

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Relative Poverty

I was sitting watching my son, who was watching a kids news program on TV. The program was showing the refugee camps in the Sudan. The refugees were mostly children, and many had lost their parents who had been slaughtered by militia. The fortunate ones lived in a tent, without possessions. Those less fortunate had a sheet of plastic for shelter against the desert sun, heat and sandstorms.

I was aware of my son sitting there in his Nike trousers, hair all gelled up, and brand new jumper. It's funny .... one recurring theme for him, and in our relationship, is how he feels poor, or deprived, as his friends all have Playstations 2's, lots of cash etc etc. As we have little money, he has to make do with far less than his mates have. So he ends up stealing stuff, and is often unhappy over all this.

The interviewer on the news show said that he was surprised at how positive the children in the refugee camp were. Despite all their suffering, and how little they had, and how bleak their futures seemed, they still looked forward with optimism, and got on with their present. How hard my son finds things as he compares himself with those around him, and feels a poverty relative to them.

What a strange thing this world is, with poverty and riches, sufferings and happiness. Such extremes of wealth, and extremes of opportunity. And of course, an old truism from a Buddhist point of view ... happiness isn't directly related to either what we have, or our circumstances in life.

So much suffering in the world ... so many beings to help.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mahamudra Is Too ...

Mahamudra is traditionally said to be difficult to realise due to Four Faults. The nature of our mind is right here, right now for us to recognise, but somehow we may not manage that. The Four Faults are:

It's Too Easy

We may have an idea that seeing the nature of our mind must be massively difficult and that therefore we don't realise that it's here, just here, right now. If we have the idea that it's so very difficult, then how much harder does that make the simple recognition of what is right before our 'eyes'? In a way, it's too obvious, so we don't notice it. Having trust and confidence in the teachings that it's right here, and that we *can* realise it, and that when we see 'it' this *is* it is a crucial support for realisation.

It's Too Close

We may have an idea that Enlightenment is many aeons or kalpas away for us, and that it will take an unimaginable number of lifetimes to realise the nature of our mind. We may hold onto a view that we personally are full of obscurations, and that we couldn't possibly recognise the nature of our mind. And yet, it is so close, it is right here, right now, however our mind is, and whatever our views of ourself are. So close to us, like the water to a fish, or air to us ... actually, even closer than that, as the fish isn't water, and we aren't air ... but so close that we don't notice it, as it's always there. It's so close we overlook it, and look elsewhere.

It's Too Good

The nature of our mind is entirely free of problems. Bound up in our mistaken views, and grasping onto our delusions as solid and real, we cannot conceive of our mind being pure in nature, and entirely perfect. It is as though if it is said that the nature of our mind is already like this then we feel that this is too good to be true. It's as if we prefer to grasp onto our pain and narrowness, and therefore fail to recognise the expansive luminosity of what is, and fail to claim our inheritance.

It's Too Deep

As we attach to thoughts, views and a projected sense of 'me', we narrow our scope and awareness. Caught up in this tunnel vision, it seems hard to open to limitless, expansive self-awareness. Awareness without object. Panaramic vision.

Instead, we habitually see a tiny excerpt, and mis-see that too! Caught up in distracting thoughts, we are swept up into misunderstood partiality, yet the vast expanse of mind is right here, right now.

But despite the potential for these four faults, the nature of mind is always as it is.

Ground Mahamudra is how it is, whatever our self-image or ideas of what is or can be.

Right here, right now ...