I am sitting on a seat, looking out over the Grose valley (pictured). After arriving, I send metta in all directions. Then, I invite immeasurable space.


If you’re not accustomed to that experience, to get a feel for it, try this exercise, from David Rome’s Your Body Knows the Answer:

Exercise 18.1 Enlarging Space
Go outdoors to a garden, park, or natural area. Find a quiet spot that affords a view of plants, trees, earth, rocks, and so forth, as well as a view toward the distant skyline (whether natural or constructed). If possible, sit down directly on the earth, or on a convenient stone or log. Settle your body and feel its weight sink down into the support of the earth. After a while, say softly to yourself, “Grounded on the earth.”
Concentrating awareness in your sense of sight, focus on a plant, stone, or other natural object no more than five feet away from you. Look at it as if you have never seen anything like it before. Perceive it freshly, vividly, appreciating its unique qualities of shape, color, texture, movement. Take in its presence, here and now. Let go of discursive thoughts that arise. Then refocus your gaze on something a bit farther off, perhaps 15 to 30 feet away. Again, see it as if for the very first time. Let its unique features become vividly present for you. If possible, do the same with a natural object in the middle distance, 50 to 150 feet from you. Then pick a spot on the horizon or skyline and gaze at it, letting go of any thoughts that arise, staying with the visual details and feeling the simple presence of whatever your eyes are resting on. Finally, let your gaze go out to the sky itself. Perhaps there are clouds or mist, perhaps just endless blue. Sense the sky’s depth and vastness. Without changing the focus of your gaze, become aware of your entire field of vision, everything visible out to the periphery of what you can see. Now bring in the other sense perceptions — sounds of birds or leaves or water, smells of earth or grass or flowers, the touch of the wind on your skin, the rough earth against your body. Sense the unified totality of everything you are aware of just now. Say softly, “Aware of all of it.”
Sustain this open awareness for as long as you can, dropping any discursive thinking and resisting the temptation to redirect your gaze to an object on the periphery. Imagine you have just arrived from Mars and nothing you see is familiar. Everything is abstract color, form, and texture, but extraordinarily vivid. You are also aware of being aware. Bringing a hand to your heart, feel your own presence. Gradually extend your sense of being present in your body to include the whole of space. You are present in the wide world, part of it, here and now. Say softly, “Present in this world.”
Let the outer and inner spaces coexist in your awareness. You may even have glimpses of nondual awareness, an experience in which the felt difference between outside and inside, self and other, dissolves.

Where are the Tourists?
To others who pass by, it might be obvious that I am gazing into the distance. “Aware I’m breathing in; aware I’m breathing out.” A little boy goes by with his family, and stares curiously at me. I smile to him, aware of my breath,  and then go back to my gaze. I gaze longer. I come to the part where I am including my own presence in the measureless display. Aware of breathing; aware of joy.

Now a tourist, with her mobile phone camera, comes and – despite there being room enough for a bus, either direction left or right – she find this spot the best spot to stop. I am presented with a choiceless view of her back. Then, I notice a choice – a can get caught by giving 100% of my attention to my “Oh, surely not. Surely she can see she’s standing in my way”; or, I can still include the spaciousness. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose that.

Now, two more people come and join her. One of them glances nervously in my direction, and he tries to move a little bit to my left, but the others don’t move. Two backs, I’m aware of. The space is still present, which gives me some curiosity about what makes the slightly angry ‘Oh, no!’ element in my consciousness so insistent about taking up centre stage with ‘those people,’ so that the subject-object drama upstages the spaciousness, forcing it to recede into the shadows, almost.

I take up a question Peter Fenner asks: “Where are they, these people?” That insistent voice is mildly irritated with that. “Obviously, they’re right there!” he says. “Okay. And, where’s that?” I look more intimately at the three backs.

The more conscious one has re-joined them. From what he says to them, I gather he is a local. He’s showing his friends the sights. They love it. She’s trying to get a camera angle on the Bridal Veil Falls. (Just for your information, her best view is about twenty yards along to my left.)


“Where is this ‘right there’?” Well… the first thing that I notice is that saying ‘those people’ (or ‘there’) doesn’t point to anything but my exaggerated attitude. If I were to give this sub-personality a name, I’d  call him ‘Atta-dude.” The ‘where’ question obviously can’t be answered by referring to an attitude, especially in the form of Atta-dude. Dropping that particular shaping of citta, I look again.

The second very clear thing, then, is that ‘where’ can’t be answered except by reference to my own citta (heart-mind); that is, in terms of my perceptions and conceptions.

Where is my perception? Solely over there? No. Solely in here? No. Intertwined, as Merleau-Ponty would have it? Closer, but not the whole story.

So, by now it’s obvious that “I’m here,” creates “They’re there.” I remember the teaching of the Nikaya Buddha. “However you think something makes it otherwise.”

I don’t seem to get my mind, with even the purist or kindest perceptions, out of the way, to find the reality of the tourists. Even if I could do that, in some measure, would I see them in the way that that raven there sees them; or, as each sees their self; or how?

I see them from a particular human heart. So, how am I going to find ‘them’ as such? And, where is this heart which sees?

Space is returning to centre-stage, and bringing contentment with it. Having seen Atta-dude’ exit, the next thing which I look for (and the tourists are getting ready to go) is the knowing itself. Where is that? The wholeness of the situation doesn’t have boundaries like ‘here’ against ‘there,’ or ‘me’ against ‘them’; but, it also doesn’t have a locatable mind. The mind that knows is not findable like a ‘over there’ kind of thing. [Here, I want to remind you that in the Latin origin of the word ‘object’ gives us: ‘thrown’ (-ject), with ‘against, in the way of, as in obstacle and opposite.’ (ob-). Thrown in the way.]

I’m not saying that the word ‘mind’ now can’t be used; it’s just that its frame of reference has shifted dramatically from when Atta-dude was centre stage. Now, a focaling knowledge is not, as he has it, sharply focused like a ray from here to there. Now it is implicitly felt as all-pervading. Implicit, yet felt as present, here in this body on this seat. This must be what David means, I think, by ‘nondual.’

It’s so open, peaceful, and it doesn’t need anything; and, now I am gazing into space. How could I not? Space is everywhere. The valley, breeze, the bird-calls; and the tourists feet are crunching on the gravel as they walk toward a more comprehensive view. In the heat of Australian summer, all this is vastness gazing into vastness . They are happily chatting, just like that.

these crunching stones,
dry and gravel-voiced,
light the shimmering sky.