Archive for September, 2007

Mindfulness: the still centre

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

The secret is mindfulness during the day; how to achieve it and how to maintain it. Meditation during the morning, first thing if possible, gets things off to a good start. It means always being aware of the aidagara, the space between I and me, or rather, the different ‘me’s that are continually coming to the foreground and fading into the background throughout the day. The I too changes and yet it does not change. — asked for the meaning of this paradox the other day when we were talking about meditation and I was not able to give him a satisfactory answer because I had not thought it through.

According to James the I-self is a creative, free agent, an emergent synthesis of past selves in the present. The I is creative and free because it has the ability to detach itself both from its past and from its present context and choose how it is going to involve itself. In this sense the I is both changing and unchanging. It is changing in the sense that it is a process and its growth and development is linear and progressive. Not unlike a tree, it emerges from the roots of past relationships and its present state is shaped by the surrounding climate and context. The I is unchanging in that it is like the vortex at the eye of a hurricane, like the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, the still point at the eye of the storm. All around is movement, and often chaos. The I can choose to involve itself in the movement or remain in the still centre.

Thinking further – I should revise what I said. The I is not unchanging. It is the still point at the centre which is unchanging. The aim of meditation is to find this stillness. From there the whirling clouds and gusting winds can be seen for what they are. Their movement can be seen – how they emerge from the chaos, how they stream through the passing moments, acting and interacting with each other, and how they vanish into the next emergent squall. The I is not the still centre but in that stillness the I can truly be itself. Only from this still point can reality be seen for what it is – ephemeral and insubstantial. ‘Everything flows and nothing stays’, as Heraclitus said. Again he said, panta rei, all things are in a state of flux.

What is this still centre, this empty vacuum at the vortex of the whirling maelstrom? Does every person have their own still centre? What is it and what relation does it bear to I and me? There are, I am sure, mathematical answers to these questions if talking simply about hurricanes or whirlpools, but how does one answer in a personal and in a metaphysical way? And is there a still, unmoving space at the centre of all that is and, if so, what relation does it have to the rest of reality? These are fascinating questions, questions seeking answers from the time of the early Greeks and before, I am sure. Philosophy does not provide the answers though it may help to clarify the questions.

Stillness

Friday, September 28th, 2007

In a 40 minute meditation there are perhaps just one or two moments when I feel a real stillness. They come after 30 minutes or so of constantly bringing the mind back to focus on breathing, just breathing. Then it is simply I who am aware, nothing else. It almost seems that an itch, the sharper and more irritating the better, becomes a blessing because it helps focus the attention. But not even that lasts. Nothing lasts. There is a constant stream of mental activity. In fact the mind is like a butterfly fluttering here and there, wherever there is something to attract and interest it, never still for more than a moment. And the aware I is constantly turning into a me caught up in the thought, or the memory, or experience, or whatever. That is why it is so important to find the stillness, simply to be aware, nothing more. It is a sort of hunger, simply to be in the stillness. It is here that one begins to touch reality, out of the head and in the body, at the centre of a circle of awareness of all that is going on within and round about. That’s all. Nothing more.

But there is more, though the ‘more’ is not a datum of experience. It is deeply felt, though, beneath the threshold of thought and awareness. One is at the limits of awareness and existence. They are there like an impenetrable wall. To be aware of the wall is to know, however dimly, that there is a beyond the wall. There is another side. But when one’s nose is right up against the wall, eyes less than an inch away, one cannot see it for what it is; whether it is as high as the sky, or just an inch or two above one’s head; whether it is so long it girdles the world or is only as wide as an arm’s stretch. Only when one can stand back a bit will one be able to see the wall for what it is. Perhaps it is not a wall at all, but a door.

Self and the Void

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

It is not quite as simple and straightforward as I made out yesterday. In addition to the observing by the I there is an inner monologue that never really stops. Every datum of experience, physical factors like an itch, or a belch, mental factors like a stray echo of a memory, a feeling, an emotion, each provokes an internal comment. It is almost as though the experience is not registered as an experience until it is commented upon. The comment then becomes the initiator of a train of thought drawing the I with it and away from simple objective observation. As the meditation progresses the periods of simple looking become longer and the inner comments come less regularly, but they never entirely disappear.

I can see now where Benjamin Whorf got his idea that thinking requires language. “Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it.” The trick, I imagine, is to master the ability to disengage the I from the monologue, allowing the monologue to weave its pattern in the background, while focusing on the experience of breathing in the foreground. It is at this time that the question of ‘self’ comes to the fore. Who is thinking? Who is observing? It is noticed that in the thinking mode there is not just one self. Each train of thought, each memory, feeling and mood seems to call out a slightly different self, sometimes a very different self. These selves are not coterminous with the I-self of the observer. The I-self is simply the observer, detached from these various selves, just observing ‘Now I am breathing in. Now I am breathing out.’ Who then is the I-self? There are various definitions of the social self from Zen to James, Mead etc. According to Mead

the self, conditioned by its social relations inherited from the past at the Me pole, must unify them all with a free creative act of emergent synthesis in the present at the I pole. It is this bipolar nature of selfhood wherein the emergent I in the present always responds to the socialised Me from the past which constitutes the asymmetrical, irreversible and cumulative nature of time’s arrow as a creative advance into novelty.

As a description of the self as an ongoing process this is fine but it does not really answer ‘Who is the I-self, the observer?’ All the other selves, the me-selves, to use Mead’s words, are the emergent synthesis in a particular present of a me constituted by social relations inherited from the past. But the I-self in meditation has detached itself from these. While he is aware of them in the background, as an observer, in the present foreground he is simply aware. What he is aware of does not constitute him, as awareness of social relations in the past helps constitute the me-self. In fact his awareness hovers on the brink of a void (sunyata) What is observed does not give rise to the observer. On the contrary, it is the observer who brings into (his?) existence the observed. To say, in Whitehead’s words, that the I-self, is “an act of emergent synthesis whereby each occasion of experience includes all previous actual occasions as elements in its own constitution” might help explain the origin of the I-self but it does not say who it is.

The question ‘Who?’ can only be answered in relational terms. Normally it is enough to say he is the son, husband, father, employee of… etc. But there are two occasions when this is not enough. One is when facing death. At this moment one faces the cessation of ones existence. All the past and present relations which constitute the present me now mean nothing because there is no future. This is a defining moment. In the next instant the relationships which make me who I am will end. Who am I now as I face this closure?

The other is during meditation when the I-self faces the Void. This Void is not different from that faced at death. The other day I said that meditation can lead to an awareness of oneness, of union with all that is. This is a not uncommon experience. But I think the experience of the void is more fundamental. Everything that is is relative, contingent, empty, as the Buddhists say. All that is has emerged from the fullness of the Void. This is a paradox that I want to comprehend. Here lies the answer to ‘Who am I?’

Consciousness

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Meditation this morning. I was distracted by ideas for a project. This was an interesting train of thought that insisted on running even though I kept going back to focus on breathing. I kept telling myself that only being in the present moment was real. Thoughts, ideas, fantasies are all mental constructions and their only reality is their effect on me. Similarly philosophies, theologies, myths, stories and poems – all are similar constructions and their only reality is the effect they have on people’s minds. They are what Popper called World 3 material.

What is the difference between consciousness of the physical reality of body, of breathing and awareness of self so conscious, and consciousness of a train of thought, or fantasies and feelings and emotions? In the second there is certainly less self-awareness. The I is caught up in the subjective experience and is not reflexive. The second is constantly varying, interacting with and being influenced by moods and feelings. The experience can be exhilarating, exciting and moving. But unless these inner dialogues, thoughts, or fantasies are recorded so that they become available to others and so enter Popper’s Third World, they remain as insubstantial as a bubble of foam.

The former, however, does not vary. One of the major difficulties of remaining in it is its unrelieved monotony. The mind seems to abhor monotony as nature does a vacuum. Yet, when one holds to it there is acute awareness of the I, the observer of the me of experience. The I is aware of the breathing, of the body’s posture, of external sounds and of the onset of thoughts and fantasies. The I feels it belongs in the trains of thought and in the imagination. This is its natural habitat, where it longs to be, and to be confined to mere observation is only tolerable for short periods of time. When the I resists being drawn into this subjective mode it sees the thoughts and fantasies for what they are, disconnected ephemera, like dandelion seeds blown in the wind. It is only through prolonged observation that the I comes to perceive that the gap between the observer and the observed is as ‘unreal’ as the thoughts and fantasies, that all is one, but this is not a datum of everyday experience.

Self

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Reading James’ theories on the self last night in Odin.* It is interesting that he formulated the idea of the process self before Whitehead but it just goes to show that new ideas rarely spring fully developed from the minds of their proponents but have a long gestation period, more often than not in other minds. I felt hesitant and doubtful about James’ insistence on the self as a momentary experience replaced by the next succeeding self. However, this morning at meditation I was able to concentrate for relatively long periods at a time on just breathing. It was very apparent that the lapses into reflective thought, which were sparked off sometimes by external, sometimes by internal events, were haphazard and accidental. They were exactly the discontinuous moments of experience described by James. In each episode the subjective I was wholly and unreflectively involved. I was the ‘I’ of those thoughts and feelings at that moment. A moment later I would become aware of the drift into discursive thought and focus again on breathing and simple awareness. Now what brought about that transition?. One moment I was wholly caught up in subjective inwardness, in the next I was the detached observer of physical and mental events.

According to James the self is also defined in terms of the focal field of attention and although we ‘identify our focal self with the centre, our full self is the whole field’. Now what exactly does he mean by our full self? He goes on to say that ‘There are an irreducible plurality of selves, all private yet overlapping and co-penetrating with the others through their relational fringes’, and ‘Individuals are continuous with other selves and God in the subconscious.’ How can there be a plurality of private selves that are at the same time continuous with others? Does his idea that every self is fringed with relations, both to previous selves and to other selves, answer the question? Certainly I can see where the idea of a series of selves emerging from the stream of conscious experience comes from. I can see too that the concept of the self – private and subjective – yet with a fringe extending into the fringes of other selves can answer some of these questions.

*(Odin S.; The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism, SUNY Press, Albany 1996)

Mindfulness

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I am becoming more and more aware that mindfulness throughout the whole day is all important. It is so easy to get trapped in a mindset focused on self and feelings, and that is fatal. Everything that aggrandises the empirical self, that focuses attention on the physical here and now for me, on my feelings, my mood, my desires takes the attention away from mindfulness, from the view sub specie aeternitate, as the old scholastics would say. Mindfulness is focused on ‘betweenness’ (aidagara); on the interrelationship of you and me, of others and me, of the natural world and me, of me with myself. It is not focused me as an individual, substantial, independently existing entity. It is focused rather on the dynamic relationships between the chameleon-like me and others; relationships in response to which I am constantly being changed, moulded, shaped and formed. The empirical me is like a dancing flame, never still, bending and shaping in response to every whisper of wind.

As long as I am locked into the empirical me I am a prisoner. I am soft clay shaped by whatever memories, feelings, emotions emerge into consciousness. Although they are ephemeral and transient, memories and their attendant feelings, often come with an immediacy of impact that is hard to resist. A snatch of music, a scent, a photograph, and a long dead moment in the past becomes vividly alive in the mind. I am overwhelmed with nostalgia, with regrets perhaps and thoughts of, ‘If only…’ The memory usurps the present and dominates the attention. The past, though dead and gone, has become alive again in the present. It is a false and spurious life but the memory which creates it has the power to mould my moods and feelings. I am a prisoner of a past that does not exist. Only by getting out of the empirical me and into the betweenness of me and myself can I see the memories for what they are and become free of their hold on me.

In ordinary day to day encounters one is often so caught up in ones own subjective feelings that the other is only important in so far as he or she has an impact on me and my feelings. They are not in themselves important. Or, the other is so important for me and my feelings that they become all-important and I take second place. Between these two extremes there is a broad middle ground where others are both important in themselves and for me but not so important that my feelings for myself take second place. In all these cases my feelings and my self-interest are the deciding factors. Even in the extreme case where the other is all-important.

The importance of mindfulness, of awareness of betweenness, is that it takes me out of me. It takes me into that empty space which is all important. It provides perspective. If it were not for that emptiness I would not be me. When a baby is born it does not distinguish between itself and its mother. The mother’s breast, her embrace, her voice, her smile are all extensions of the baby’s own body and not distinguished from it. Towards the end of the baby’s first year of life self consciousness has begun to develop. A space develops between the baby and the world it inhabits, between it and its mother. There is baby and not-baby. The baby begins to become aware of the limitations of it’s self. In order for self consciousness to appear there must be consciousness of the other as other. When this happens the subjective ‘I’ becomes aware of an objective ‘me’.

Awareness of betweenness is a realisation that the I-Thou, me-other dichotomy is more apparent than real. There are not two independently existing, self subsisting entities. It is the relationship, which is what betweenness is, which makes both I and Thou.

Intermission

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Phronema will be wandering around the Rhône Valley and the Haute Savoie for the next two weeks.

Love and self

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

I have been reading Chogyam Trungpa – The heart of the Buddha. It seems very sound. Thomas Merton was very struck by him when he met him on his last journey in India. His description of the boddhisatva ideal is as uncompromising as anything in the Sermon on the Mount. That the then Cardinal Ratzinger could describe Buddhism as ‘spiritual autoeroticism’ shows profound ignorance and is deeply shaming for the Catholic Church. The more I think about it the more the concept of ‘betweenness’ helps explain why love is the religious imperative that it is.

The imperative to love runs all through the Old Testament, Deuteronomy immediately springs to mind, and the prophets, Hosea especially. It is even more explicit in the New Testament – in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, in John, in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 15 and in John’s first letter. Two things, however, seem to have clouded the purity of this ideal. Greater importance seems to have become attached to the imperative to believe. The simplicity of John’s, ‘He who loves, loves God,’ as the essence of religion, became, somehow, less important than the necessity for justification by faith. Faith, not love, became the touchstone of Christianity. This trend achieved absolute importance with the Protestant Reformation. The other thing was the adoption of the monastic ideal of flight into solitude so as to be able to devote all one’s time to loving God. In other words, to love God directly was better than loving him by loving one’s neighbour.

So far all this is a bit simplistic. There are complicated reasons why the imperative to believe rather than to love became dominant and these need to be examined. To what extent are the factors which led to gnosticism at work here, I wonder? There is also the fact that it is easier to distinguish who belongs to your group, sect, or church by making the criterion beliefs and attitudes rather than love. After all, almost everyone can claim to love. John is quite clear. ‘He who loves, loves God.’ As is Paul, ‘The greatest of these is love.’ Every other virtue is particular and applicable only to the here and now. Only love transcends all boundaries. Why then did it not become the only and ultimate criterion? Why did faith in dogma supersede it, a faith which became ever more refined and particular in the doctrinal controversies of the first 500 years? Was love too general? Was love too demanding?
Whatever the answers to these questions there is no doubt that Christianity became increasingly sectarian and tribal, first in the struggle with various heresies, later with the distinction between Roman Catholics and Orthodox, and later still with the multitude of churches and sects which developed as a result of the Reformation. There is also no doubt from the appalling crimes of the Albigensian Crusade, the Crusades against the Muslims, the Inquisition, the religious wars in Europe, the treatment of the indians in North and South America etc., that love was no longer a relevant criterion.

In contrast to all this Buddhists have never instigated holy wars or pogroms. They are inclusive rather than exclusive, willing to accept whatever is good and helpful in other religions rather than insist on universal conformity. Unlike Christians, who have rarely had a problem in justifying violence, Buddhists have never justified it. There have been exceptions to this in the last few years in Sri Lanka and Burma but these tend rather to prove the rule than deny it. Buddhists do not use the word ‘love’ much, if at all, but they have much to say about compassion. There is the ideal of the compassionate Buddha who postpones his salvation so that he may help others find theirs. The boddhisatva ideal aspires to sanctity in order to be able to help others.

The difference between the two religions is in large part due to the concept of self. In Christianity there is the belief in a permanent substantial self, or soul and it becomes supremely important that this soul should survive death and achieve eternal happiness in Heaven rather than eternal punishment in Hell. It follows from this that the believer should be able to distinguish between those who are destined for Heaven from those destined for Hell so that he can belong to the group who are going to be saved. The criterion of love is too broad and too general. It includes repentant prostitutes and compassionate thieves, ordinary mothers and everyday friends. Many Christians need something more specific and less general, something that will set them apart from others and let them know that they are on the right path. Hence the importance of faith and keeping to the rules and we are right back with the Pharisees whom Jesus criticised for precisely that.

Selfless love is difficult for those who attach such great importance to the self. Those who have achieved it are those who have discovered something greater than self. Jesus knew this and preached it uncompromisingly. ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his self?’ He knew that selfless love, agapaic love, was the only way. Paradoxically, the self had to die in order to live. This is hard to accept. It goes against ordinary common sense. It is much easier to believe in rituals and credal formulas which offer balm to the self and the guarantee of future bliss. But Jesus had discovered this love and the reality of the love that lies beyond self. So had Paul, ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me.’

Emptiness

Friday, September 7th, 2007

I was struck this morning during meditation by how incredibly active the mind is. It seems almost impossible to stop the inner dialogue, the jumping from association to association, the articulation of feelings, thoughts and moods. Habituation with breathing, or mantra occurs within seconds, it seems like. Running through everything is an undercurrent of thought, ‘What am I doing? Where is this taking me? Is there a God? Is there anything other than me?’ This morning I was sharply aware of the need to stop all this, simply to be aware of the breathing, the external sounds, my body sitting on the chair. Thinking involves energy, it involves emotions which use up vast amounts of energy. I longed simply to be still, simply to be. In spite of this the 45 minutes went very quickly. Presumably I will get better at detecting the inception of thoughts, the first syllables of inner articulation and become a detached observer of moods. It’s a question of getting out of the head and into the body, of being aware – just that, no more.

It occurs to me that ‘being aware’ is to be in the ‘betweenness’ of mind and body, of the mind and outside the mind, of the mind and feelings, of the body and outside the body. I was going to say, ‘of me and God’ but God is not an object, or even a person, with whom it is possible to have a relationship. God is ‘betweenness’ itself, though ‘betweenness’ does not exhaust what it is to be God. God is Other, but this Other, as Augustine said is ‘intimior mei meo’.

Apart from Pure Land Buddhism, in which the Amtabha Buddha is seen as a kind of semi-divine saviour, Buddhism does not go in for petitionary prayer. Christians cry out de profundis. They cry to God to intervene in their particular cases. This childlike attitude – unless you become as little children – goes back to Old Testament attitudes of making a bargain with God, a covenant. Rather contradictory this, because a covenant requires at least a degree of equality between the parties – but then the Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies and the last thing to expect is a clear logical progression running through it. It is, after all, a record of the experiences of many different people with different worldviews at different times. But there is a felt need, and this explains why it emerged in Pure Land Buddhism, in the face of the powerlessness and contingency of existence to cry out for help. It may be comforting to do this but it is not very helpful in coming to know the real nature of things, in coming to know Ultimate Reality. In this context I cannot forget the story of the old Jewish rabbi in the line of prisoners shuffling along to the gas chambers during the holocaust. Suddenly he broke away from the line and looking upwards shouted out, ‘Oh God, how can you let this happen to your people?’ For a long drawn out moment everything seemed to stand still. There was silence. The shuffling line stopped. The guards looked on warily. And then the old man’s shoulders sank and all the life and energy seemed to go out of him. He went back into the line shaking his head saying, ‘There is no God.’

Poor man. All his life he had believed and lived his religion. As a rabbi it was his life’s work to teach others and to lead them in their prayers to God. It gave meaning to his life and to the lives of his congregation. But now, all that he had lived for and believed in crumbled away to nothing. The Covenant did not save him. His prayers were not answered. He was forced to come to the appalling conclusion – the God he believed in did not exist. The terrible crime of the Nazis was not killing his body. They destroyed his faith, his hope, his soul.

Buddhism goes to the root of the matter. It asks, ‘Who am I? Why am I suffering? How can I get out of this intolerable situation?’ These are existential questions that go to the heart of the nature of reality. Christianity asks these questions too but it also answers them, answers that have been handed down and which have to be accepted on faith. This is fine until we find ourselves, like the old rabbi, crying out in desperation and the only answer is an empty silence. This is the point where Christianity falters, at least for many people. It is also the point where Buddhism begins. It says, ‘Don’t shy away from the emptiness and the silence. Go into the emptiness and the silence and there you will find the answers.’

The temptation is to think that this phenomenal world is what is really there, to give it permanence, to look to it for security. But when you draw back from it, when you enter the emptiness and the silence and hold yourself there, just looking, you begin to see that it is as ephemeral as the ruffled surface of a pond touched by the wind. Everything really is empty (sunyata), all those things we attach such importance to, even ourselves. It can be scary, frightening even, standing on the edge of emptiness. It is not easy to get to it. It is less easy to hold oneself there. We will all have to do it at the moment of death. I want to do it now. It is being on the edge, looking at the horizon of existence itself. The horizon only becomes visible when we have begun to see beyond it. I want to know what lies beyond, if that is possible. Only then will I begin to know what it means to be human and what it is possible to become.

Relationship

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Reading Odin on the social self. The Japanese concept of ‘betweenness’ (aidagara) is very interesting and needs thinking about. It means that which exists between two people when they are relating to each other. The focus would seem to be on the dynamics of the relationship which is seen as an end in itself. It is the relationship which makes me ‘you’ to the other and the other ‘you’ to me. In other words the relationship is creative, making ‘me’. ‘I’ exist as a result of this relationship. According to Hamaguchi,

‘While in the West the self is primarily an individual so that relationship to others is secondary, in Japan the self as kanjin (self in context) is primarily a member of a social context, including society and family, and only in a secondary sense to be regarded as an individual…The reason why self consciousness of the Japanese is formed this way is because self and others are in a symbiotic relationship, and they regard their own existence as largely dependent on the existence of others.’ (Odin S.; The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism, SUNY Press, Albany 1996 p. 73)

We in the West would agree that our existence is dependent on our relationships with others, but only ab initio. The difference is that we believe that these relationships have brought into existence a permanent, self-sustaining entity which may, if it wishes, exist independently of others. And so relationships are seen as a means to an end, to be entered into and abandoned in so far as they serve the needs of the individual. In Japan, and Korea and China, the relationship (aidagara) is the dynamic no-thing (ku – emptiness) which exists between people.

‘Buddhism provides Christians with an opportunity to know and experience that the true reality of the person does not consist in being an indivduum, a given entity; rather, the true self is radically, essentially, constantly in relation to other selves and to all reality; its ‘being’ is constantly one of ongoing dependent ‘co-origination’; its being is relating. Therefore the true self is a selfless self, constantly losing-finding its self in its relations with others.’ (Crook J., Fontana D., Space in Mind: East-West Psychology and Contemporary Buddhism, Element Books, London 1990)

It is this emptiness, this space, nothingness, betweenness that is important. This is where the focus of attention should be. Not on the other as other, not on me as me, but on the dynamic space between us. This betweenness is what makes me me and you you.

The more I think about this ‘betweenness’ the more it seems a key concept. If, as I believe, we are all linked, then even casual and superficial relationships are important. They have a part in making me me. They have a part in setting the general tone, the climate in which we live. How we act towards the other depends on who that person is. The other is a lover, friend, family member, or an enemy, someone we dislike and distrust, or a non-person, a functionary fulfilling a role, a stranger passing in the street. In the first two categories the focus of attention alternates between me and the other. For example when falling in love, or when one has a sick child, it is the other who matters more than me. My happiness depends on, and is subordinate to, their attitude to me, or their well-being. When it is an enemy, or someone disliked the focus is on me and the threat they present to my well-being. Non-persons, functionaries and strangers do not really exist for me – though if such a person is in trouble, threatened, or in danger, their plight might awaken my awareness of our common humanity. In Western society individualism, and often possessive individualism, goes very deep. There is an unspoken assumption that the individual has the right to put himself/herself first, even though this may cause suffering to others. We allow fathers and mothers to abandon their families. We allow businesses to put profit for the few above the needs of the many – in other words we place a greater value on money than on people. Greater importance is attached to those with power, influence and money than to others. As a result society is polarised, riven by factions and special interest groups. Children are abused, or abandoned and left to fend for themselves. The unemployed are relegated to an underclass, surviving on handouts but not able to participate in society. There seems to be no way out. We deal with the symptoms but not with the disease. We try with palliatives and sticking plaster to deal with the most blatant wounds but the underlying illness is not even perceived.

The concept of ‘betweenness’ (aidagara) is, perhaps, a way out. It removes the focus of attention from the ‘me’ and the ‘other’ and focuses it on the relationship between the two. If the relationship is good, positive, life-giving, enhancing then both parties are enriched and affirmed. If the relationship is negative, destructive, cancerous then both parties are hurt and diminished by it. There can be no enhancement of the individual at the expense of the other.