Unpublished: Initial Outline of PaB

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    The Basic Idea

    The basic idea of "Play as Being" is very simple.  Once every
    fifteen minutes, you take a 9-second break.  During that time
    you relax, and you free up your attention.

         You can do this for a few hours a day, or throughout the
    whole day, as you like.  You can use a bell, either a clock on
    your computer that rings every fifteen minutes, or a watch or
    alarmclock.  Or you can just remind yourself to take a short
    break, a few times an hour.  The suggestion of 9 seconds is a
    bit of a joke: 15 minutes contain 900 seconds, so 9 seconds is
    exactly 1% of a quarter of an hour.  Following these breaks
    throughout the day corresponds to a 1% time tax on your life.

         It is not necessary to stop what you are doing, during
    those short breaks.  The main point is to turn your attention
    away from an exclusive focus on whatever it was you were doing.
    If the task at hand allows it, then it may be nice to actually
    stop.  If you were typing on your computer, you may take your
    hands off your key board, stretch your back, look around, take
    a deep breath, or close your eyes, whatever feels right.

         However, there are many situations in which a complete
    stopping would be rather unnatural.  For example, if you're
    talking with someone, it would be rather odd to suddenly remain
    silent for 9 seconds seconds and look elsewhere.  Instead, you
    could use the 9 seconds to loosen up.  You could drop the usual
    emphasis on your own position, your own role in the conversation.
    Instead, you could take a kind of observer position, watching the
    conversation as if at arm's length removed, so to speak.

         Similarly, while driving a car, you certainly don't want
    to stop doing that during our short breaks.  But you can still
    use those 9 seconds to take a deep breath, look a bit more to
    the left and right, reminding yourself not to get too much
    focused on the spot right in front of you, and also not to get
    too much lost in daydreams.  Regularly freeing up your attention
    in this way quite likely will make your driving safer, more loose
    and more open to react flexibly to sudden unexpected situations.

    A Bit More Specific

    Taking a very short break a few times an hour can be already be
    very beneficial.  Modern life doesn't leave us much room for
    vast stretches of unstructured time, and going on mini-breaks
    (nano-holidays?) may provide the kind of breathers that can
    provide at least some kind of balance.  However, we can do more
    than just relax.  We can give a bit more structure to these
    breaks by dropping what we have in order to see what we are.

         We play many roles in our life: we have a job that defines
    us to some extent in the eyes of others and ourselves; we have a
    nationality written in our passport; we have a gender that comes
    with a package deal with largely unwritten expectations; we have
    a body and mind with which we identify to varying degrees in the
    course of a day, depending on the situation.  However, when we
    talk about all those roles and identifications, we typically use
    the verb `to be.'

         When I introduce myself I may say: "I am an astrophysicist"
    or "I am Dutch."  When asked to fill in a customs form I may write
    "I am male."  When asked for my age I may respond "I am 57."  And
    this pattern of identification, this switch from having to being,
    goes very deep.  It echoes how we tend to jump from properties to
    essence, in the blink of an eye.  We identify ourselves and others
    with what we are doing, what we have, and once such identities are
    firmly in place, it becomes harder and harder to play with them.

         We have a saying "once a thief, always a thief."  And when
    someone is caught stealing something, we quickly label that
    person "a thief" as if that is part of what the person truly
    is.  But we have a choice there.  We can also state, more
    accurately, that there is a person who at least once stole
    something.  And yes, it may well be that this person has stolen
    before, and may be more likely to steal again later, but those
    are properties and characteristics that someone may have -- it
    would be unfair and inaccurate to consider someone's core essence
    to be that of a thief.

         Yet we tend to do that, as a kind of mental laziness: we
    tend to ascribe what we have to what we are.  As a result we can
    classify ourselves and others that way.  We then know where we
    stand, and we don't have to bother to be open, moment to moment,
    to changes, to new opportunities.  Living thus in a world of
    more of less fixed identities may seem safe and comfortable,
    but in fact it is deadening, it ties us down, and it takes the
    spark out of life, the creativity inherent in switching identities
    and playing with them.

         So this is the added suggestion, in addition to "just relax,"
    during our mini-breaks: "drop what you have in order to see what
    you are."  Play with your identities.  Wear them lightly.  No need
    to deny or ignore or suppress them; acknowledge them, but don't
    let yourself get stuck to them.  Rather than allowing yourself to
    get glued to your identities, enjoy a freedom from identification.

    Freedom from Identification

    We all have the experience of meeting people who seem to be
    totally stuck to their roles.  Liberals who can't seem to see
    any value in any conservative ideas, and the other way around:
    conservatives who automatically reject anything labeled liberal.
    Nationalists who blindly follow their country into whatever war
    breaks out.  Religious fanatics who don't seem to be open at all
    for any other way of thinking, feeling, and experiencing than
    what fits into their preconceived system of ideas.

         However, when we look carefully and honestly, we all can
    discover a whole lot of similarly lazy identifications that we
    use to let part of our life unfold on auto-pilot.  They may not
    be as blatantly obvious as the examples given above, but at the
    same time that can make them even more pernicious, when they are
    not recognized -- in which case they can govern our lives in ways
    that we may be totally unaware of.

         Each identity we have is like a piece of cloth.  We can
    take it on or take it off; we can tightly wrap it around us or
    we can wear it lightly; we even can forget that we can take it
    off, and wear it day and night, as if it were our skin.

         The invitation during the 9-second breaks is to become naked.
    To drop any and all idenfitications, temporarily, during 1% of our
    waking life, leaving them to play out to their heart's content
    during the remaining 99% of the time.

         And again, we can do that in two ways.  We saw that taking
    a break from typing could be done literally, taking your hands
    off the keyboard, while taking a break from driving should be
    done differently: by all means keep your hands on the steering
    wheel, but allow your attention to free up beyond the narrow
    focus we tend to fall into.  Similarly, when I drop my
    identification with being Dutch or male, I don't have to burn
    my passport or undergo a surgical sex change.  It is sufficient
    to be more open to how it would be to have a different nationality
    or gender.  And that implies: allowing yourself the freedom of
    acting and responding to situations in ways that would normally
    not be associated with the standard identities you carry.

    Seeing What Is

    The 9-sec suggestion, to drop what you have in order to see what
    you are, is a tall order.  Chances are that you don't get very
    far, at first.  And that's fine!  The first step is to simply
    remember to take mini breaks.  The second step is to use those
    breaks to relax, sit back, breathe -- we often forget to `just
    breathe'!  After we get comfortable with the first two steps,
    we can slowly move toward dropping what we have.

         In the middle of an activity, it is hard to drop our
    identification with the roles we play.  Taking a break is
    almost a prerequisite.  And if we don't relax during such
    a break, we won't have much of a chance to drop that
    identification.  But once we stop briefly, and let it all
    go, look up and smile, we have a chance to notice what it
    is we are glued to.  What was the role I was so involved in,
    just a second ago?  What was it that kept my muscles tense,
    my eyes focused, my whole posture, physically and mentally,
    so directed toward an activity?

         Asking that question, time and again, during the various
    mini breaks, will quickly open a whole landscape of roles and
    identities -- a huge wardrobe of roles from which we pick and
    choose, often without much awareness.  And the more we see, the
    more we can unbutton some of these clothes, or take them off and
    put them aside for a while.

         After some time we get comfortable with this third step,
    from stopping to relaxing to dropping.  We can then ask the
    question, as a fourth step: what happens when we keep dropping
    our overly tight identifications?  Is there no end to this?  Is
    it like an onion where you can keep peeling layers and layers
    and layers without finding anything underneath?

         This is a central question.  It is the question of Being.

         To the extent that we get better in dropping what we have,
    can we begin to see what we are?  And does it even make sense to
    ask that question?  Can we learn to see what is, beyond all the
    many layers of properties and attributes that we have?

         There is one problem here, in using words: as we have seen,
    we tend to use the words "is/am" or "to be" casually, as in
    "I am an astrophysicist" or "I am a European."  But a quick
    inspection shows that those are all identities we have.  What
    we are after now is to see what is left after dropping what
    we have.  The "is" or "being" of what is left then is very
    different from the "is" that we use when we really mean "have".

         For simplicity, let us use lower case "is", "am", "be" and
    "being" for what we have, and capitalized "Is", "Am", "Be" and
    "Being" for what is left when we drop what we have.


    At first, the notion of "Being" or simply of "what Is" may seem
    rather abstract, a philosophical term with no clear meaning for
    our day to day life.  And indeed, the whole question of Being
    can easily become an intellectual game, a play with words and
    concepts.  The best way to avoid that is to simply plunge in,
    and start exploring for ourselves, without worrying about what
    philosophers and other individuals in various traditions may have
    said about Being.  The 9-second approach is one very direct way
    to plunge in, approaching Being with no strings attached.

         Sooner or later, however, the question may arise as to
    what has been said about Being in the near and distant past, in
    different traditions.  Starting with the present, natural science
    so far has had nothing to say about Being.  That may well change,
    in due time.  In fact, I see science as one very careful approach
    to circumscribing Being, by systematically starting with the
    phenomena of the material world, and drilling deeper and deeper
    to uncover an underlying unity that is expressed in all phenomena.

         As for recent European philosophy, very little has been
    said in the last hundred years about Being, with Heidegger
    being one exception.  He clearly had an intuition of the
    importance of the notion of Being, and it is a pity that his
    personal life and behavior has detracted from his philosophical
    insights.  His early Nazi sympathies have unfortunately colored
    the way he and his ideas are currently perceived, especially the
    way in which he abandoned his German Jewish thesis advisor Edmund
    Husserl, the founder of the philosophical school of phenomenology.

         Among earlier European philosophers, Spinoza's radical
    notion of God or Nature points in a similar direction as Being.
    Even earlier, various Medieval philosophers such as Thomas
    Aquinas wrote about Being.  And when we turn our attention to
    Asia, such as Persia, India, Tibet, China and Japan, we find
    plenty of examples of discussions of Being by philosophers,
    poets, and other central figures in various traditions.

         Rather than trying to give an overview of who said what,
    it may be more interesting to present a few quotes from some
    of these different traditions, in order to convey a flavor of
    various approaches.  I have chosen five with which I am a bit
    familiar: Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Taoism, and Medieval
    Christian mysticism.

         No doubt it would be easy to find other quotes, for
    example from Chassidic mysticism or Baha'i or aspects of many
    shamanic traditions -- really any historical source reporting
    results of sufficiently deep experiential explorations of the
    nature of reality.  And of course, there is no reason to
    confine these quotes to what is classified through a European
    lens with the term `religion': there is nothing preventing
    agnostic or humanist poets to reach similar insights.


    Here are the Six Words of Advice, from Tilopa (988-1069), an
    Indian tantric Buddhist, in a translation by Ken McLeod:

       Let go of what has passed
       Let go of what may come
       Let go of what is happening now
       Don't try to figure anything out
       Don't try to make anything happen
       Relax, right now, and rest

    To do full justice to this pithy summary, we would need a
    lengthy discussion of Tilopa's views and his significance
    as the historical founder of what would become the Kagyu
    school of Tibetan Buddhism.  But very briefly, we can
    recognize here parallels with the 9-second suggestion of
    dropping what we have in order to see what we Are.

         We tend to lose ourselves in reflections on the past,
    often colored with a sense of regret, and in speculations
    about the future, often colored by hope and fear, and Tilopa
    suggests that it may be a good move to try to drop both.
    Not only that, he suggests to even drop the kind of endless
    weaving of thoughts that we do in reflection on what is
    happening in the present.  Dropping any conceptual eagerness
    in dealing with the three times, we are also invited to drop
    any kind of analysis and any kind of action.

         All this may seem paradoxical, and an invitation to become
    completely passive and fatalistic, but that would be far too
    superficial an interpretation.  Tilopa's "not doing" is closely
    related to the Taoist notion of "wu-wei" or "wei-wu-wei" (not
    doing, or doing through not-doing).  Dropping all concern with
    projects as such, as things to hang on to, things we have, we
    can rest in what Is.  And from that position, which is not
    really a position, we can in fact act far more efficiently and
    in a more natural way than when we try to act, as we usually
    do, through subtle forms of scheming and manipulation.


    One of the simplest descriptions of dropping what you have has
    been given by Nisargadatta (1897-1981), a Hindu practitioner
    without any intellectural background.  Here is a simple quote
    by him:

       There is nothing to practice.  To know yourself, be yourself.
       To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that.
       Just be.  Let your true nature emerge.  Don't disturb your
       mind with seeking.

    The parallels with Tilopa's six words are clear.  And all that
    we can possibly imagine ourselves to be are aspects that we
    have, not what we Are.  Here is another quote:

       It is disinterestedness that liberates.  Don't hold on, that
       is all.  The world is made of rings.  The hooks are all yours.
       Make straight your hooks and nothing can hold you.  Give up
       your addictions and the freedom of the universe is yours.
       Be effortless.

    This is my favorite quote from the first book of dialogues
    by him that appeared in English, "I am That."  He invites us
    to see what we are, by dropping our addiction to what we have.
    I just love this image of us tramping around in great confusion,
    getting hooked here and there, day by day, moment by moment,
    until we finally figure out the simple solution: rather than
    trying to avoid all the rings in the world, we just straighten
    our hooks, we just let go of what we have, in the sense of
    wearing it all lightly.

    Islamic Sufism

    Rumi (1207-1273) was a Persian poet, also known as Mawlana
    Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi.  He was born in Afghanistan and
    lived most of his life in Anatolia, Turkey.  His outlook on
    life, as a Sufi, is beautifully expressed in his poem "Guest
    House."  In the translation by Coleman Barks:

        This being human is a guest house.
        Every morning a new arrival.

        A joy, a depression, a meanness,
        Some momentary awareness comes
        as an unexpected visitor.

        Welcome and attend them all!
        Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
        who violently sweep your house
        empty of its furniture, still,
        treat each guest honorably.
        He may be clearing you out
        for some new delight.

        The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
        meet them at the door laughing,
        and invite them in.

        Be grateful for whoever comes,
        because each has been sent
        as a guide from beyond.

        Welcome difficulty.
        Learn the alchemy True Human Beings know:
        the moment you accept what troubles
        you've been given, the door opens.

        Welcome difficulty as a familiar
        comrade. Joke with torment
        brought by the Friend.

        Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
        and jackets that serve to cover,
        and then are taken off.

        That undressing, and the beautiful
        naked body
        is the sweetness
        that comes
        after grief.

    Compared to the previous quotes, this expression from within
    a monotheistic tradition at first sight seems quite different,
    with allusions to "a guide from beyond" and "the Friend" but at
    the same time the invitation to drop what you have in order to
    see what you Are can be recognized here as well.  Instead of
    identifying with our emotions, we greet them as temporary guests,
    like clothes we can wear lightly, without getting too much
    attached to them through attraction or repulsion.

         This Sufi poem is devotional in spirit.  In general, any
    spiritual approach that is centered around devotion can in
    principle be used as an aide in moving from what we have to
    what we Are.  While we are all familiar with potential
    drawbacks of overly devotional attitudes, in terms of blind
    belief and unquestioned adherence to dogmas, in principle an
    attitude of devotion can speed up the process of dropping what
    we are addicted to.  A modern-day example is the approach by
    Alcoholics Anonymous, with their method of devotion to an
    (otherwise unspecified) "higher power."


    The very first chapter of the Tao Te Ching, the oldest book of
    Taoism, launches directly into the notion of dropping what you
    have in order to see what you Are.  Here is the translation by
    Stephen Mitchell:

       The tao that can be told
       is not the eternal Tao
       The name that can be named
       is not the eternal Name.

       The unnamable is the eternally real.
       Naming is the origin
       of all particular things.

       Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
       Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

       Yet mystery and manifestations
       arise from the same source.
       This source is called darkness.

       Darkness within darkness.
       The gateway to all understanding.

    What is translated here as `darkness' and in some other
    translations as `mystery' and also `mystery/darkness' can
    be seen as a pointer to Being.  The more we drop our tendency
    to name, label, conceptualize and reify all that appears, the
    easier it is to find our way back from having to Being.

    Christian Mysticism

    Here is another quote from a monotheistic tradition, by the
    anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 32,
    translated into modern English by C. Wolters:

       Yet I can show you something of these spiritual arts: at least
       I think so.  Try them out, and see if you can do better.  Do
       everything you can to act as if you did not know that they were
       so strongly pushing in between you and God.  Try to look, as it
       were, over their shoulders, seeking something else -- which is
       God, shrouded in the cloud of unknowing.  If you do so, I
       believe that you will soon find your hard work much easier.  I
       believe that if this dodge is looked at in the right way, it
       will be found to be nothing else than a longing and desire for
       God, to feel and see of him what one may here below.  Charity
       is such a desire, and it always deserves to have its way made

       There is another spiritual dodge to try if you wish.  When you
       feel that you are completely powerless to put these thoughts
       away, cower down before them like some cringing captive
       overcome in battle, and reckon that it is ridiculous to fight
       against them any longer.  In this way you surrender yourself to
       God while you are in the hands of your enemies, and feeling
       that you have been overcome for ever.  Please pay special heed
       to this suggestion, for I think that if you try it out it will
       dissolve every opposition.  I am quite sure that if this dodge,
       too, can be looked at in the right way, it will be recognized
       to be none other than the true knowledge and experience of the
       self you are; wretched, filthy, and far worse than nothing.
       Such knowledge and experience is humility.  And this humility
       causes God himself to come down in his might, and avenge you of
       your enemies, and take you up, and fondly dry your spiritual
       eyes -- just as a father would act towards his child, who had
       been about to die in the jaws of a wild boar, or mad, devouring

    The particular form of devotion displayed here fits in very
    nicely with the other quotes we have seen above.  Instead of
    trying to reach, to analyze, to figure out or manipulate, the
    author suggests two particular tricks, called `dodges,' which
    have a strong wu-wei flavor.

         The description of the self as "wretched, filthy, and far
    worse than nothing" may sound rather negative, and indeed, such
    descriptions have given rise to some very negative attitudes,
    particularly in Calvinism but also elsewhere.  Yet this same
    orientation can also be seen in a more positive light, as it is
    presented here: by associating all these negative aspects with
    attributes that we have, we are encouraged to drop all those in
    order to open up for what Is, here pointed at through the term
    "God" as the object of devotion.  And in some Christian mystics,
    such as Meister Eckhart, the notion of subject and object is
    transcended as well, as in Eckhart's famous quote:

       The eye by which I see God is the same as the eye by which
       God sees me.  My eye and God's eye are one and the same —
       one in seeing, one in knowing, and one in loving.


    So much for the notion of Being.  What about the role of `play'
    in "Play as Being"?  In the quotes from the five traditions
    mentioned above, it is interesting to note that the writers in
    the two monotheistic traditions display a distinctly playful
    attitude.  Rumi invites us to welcome all and anything that
    crosses our path, and even to "joke with torment."  The author
    of The Cloud talks about dodges, tricks that you can apply.
    The particular quotes from the other three traditions don't
    show a very clear playful nature, but all three authors display
    plenty of playfulness in others places in their writings.

         In contemplative traditions, initial forms of practice are
    often presented in rather serious terms.  The usual picture is
    that of a long road that has to be traversed, in order to reach
    a distant goal, be it enlightenment or salvation or realization
    in one way or another.  However, upon reading historical accounts
    of those who seem to have reached a profound degree of insight
    into the nature of reality, we are struck by the first reactions
    reported by them.  Often they take the form of laughter or other
    expressions of amazement, indicating deep surprise at how simple
    everything is when seen in terms of Being, as Being, by Being.

         There are many zen stories along these lines, in which a
    famous master starts off on a very intense and arduous quest,
    and after several years experiences a deep form of realization.
    Yet after seeing the emptiness and openness of `what Is' or the
    `suchness' of reality, typically such a master continued to
    practice for many more years until he felt ready to teach.
    No matter how complete his initial realization may have been,
    the extra practice, spanning more years than the initial search,
    was aimed at integrating the most profound insights into daily
    life.  Only after deep insight and broad integration did such a
    master feel ready to take on students.

         In Play as Being, we put the cart before the horse, you
    could say.  We start at the end, with some tentative steps
    toward integration before we even talk about any particular
    form of meditation or contemplation.  Every fifteen minutes we
    do something, we hardly know what, but whatever we do, it gets
    under our skin quickly, since we do it so often.  Trading
    frequency for duration, we choose continuity rather than length
    of practice sessions.  In fact, when we spend just a few hours
    every day, stopping for 9 seconds once every quarter of an hour,
    the total time involved is comparable to brushing your teeth.

         Whether this kind of playful approach can be meaningfully
    compared with more traditional approaches is an open question.
    We started Play as Being in 2008, in a rather leisurely way,
    and it will be interesting to see what will happen over the
    years.  What it means to "start at the end" is something that
    we have to explore much further than has been done so far in
    the Play as Being sessions in Second Life.  For example, the
    very notion of `starting' has to be reevaluated; what does it
    mean to start, if you are already at the end?


    No matter how we look at the world, and no matter how we
    interpret our appearing in this world, and any meaning we
    associate with any aspect of self or other, we can all agree
    upon some basics.  Something appears.  We can quibble about
    what is behind the phenomena we observe, but we cannot deny
    that there are phenomena.  We may question the nature of time,
    the nature of self, the nature of anything, but we cannot deny
    the presence of appearances.

         One particular phenomenon that is present for me is the
    appearance of me myself.  Stated in terms of Being, I can say
    that my own appearing in this world is a presentation by Being.
    Or more precisely, the presence of the appearance of me is a
    presentation by Being.  This may sound mysterious, but let us
    look for a moment at what it means to "be there."

         A chair can be white, can be made out of wood, can be
    tall or short, but any chair first has to be there, before we
    can meaningfully talk about its properties.  It could have a
    different color, it could be made from a different material,
    it could have a different size, but without the chair being
    there there would be no chair.  So when we talk about a chair
    saying "it is white and it is there" the two uses of `is' are
    very different.  In the sentence "the chair is white" we start
    with the chair and list a property of the chair that could
    easily be otherwise.  But in the sentence "the chair is there"
    in the sense of the chair exists, the existence of the chair
    is not an arbitrary property.  Rather the notion of existence
    itself is fundamental, and the fact that there is a chair is
    rather arbitrary; there could also be a table instead, or some
    other object.  In this sense the `being there' of the chair is
    the starting point, the givenness of the chair, or in more
    poetic terms: Being presents the presence of the appearance of
    the chair.

         All these ideas need a lot of sharpening, and a lot needs
    to be added to avoid misunderstandings that can easily arise
    when talking about "Being presenting something".  However, let
    us start with this way of speaking, for now.  We will soon come
    back to fill in more details, for example when we will critically
    investigate notions such as existence and time, trading them in
    for presence without persistent existence and a kind of timeless
    time, respectively.

    Play as Being

    Starting with the hypothesis that it is meaningful to talk
    about the notion of Being, we can include in the hypothesis
    that it also makes sense to say that Being presents everything
    that appears.  This may sound like a tautology, and indeed,
    logically speaking that is the case, and yet we can apply this
    kind of hypothesis to do some real work, in our exploration of
    the nature of reality.  In that sense, our hypothesis becomes
    what is called a `working hypothesis' in science: not something
    you accept as dogma, nor something you skeptically reject, but
    rather something we agree to keep open, using it as a tool of
    investigation, without falling into belief or disbelief.

         In a lose way you could even restate our working hypothesis
    as "Being plays us" in the sense of Being presenting the presence
    of the appearance of anything at all, including us.  Now how can
    we investigate such a hypothesis?  Simple!  We turn the statement
    around.  We return the compliment: while letting Being play as us,
    we in turn play as Being.

         The idea here is that we stop identifying with the limited
    identities we normally take for granted: our body, our mind, our
    thoughts and feelings.  Instead we shift our attention from all
    that, as something we have, to what we really Are, which is Being,
    according to the working hypothesis.  And if we can't get a clear
    sense of what it means that Being playfully presents our presence,
    we can instead play as if we already are Being.  In other words,
    instead of waiting for Being to show us how it plays us, we can
    start by playing as Being, to get an initial sense of what that
    might mean.  By doing so, Being may show itself more clearly.

         Again, this is a very short and limited sketch.  We will
    need to unpack many layers of meaning, in order to see what
    these brief hints may be pointing to.  But all of that is part
    of working with our working hypothesis, part of the whole fun
    adventure of Playing as Being.

    Many Ways to Take a Break

    The title "Play as Being" will remain puzzling, or at least
    I hope it does!  If you think you `get' what these words are
    pointing at, most likely you will have constructed a conceptual
    story that may look elegant and contain some logic acrobatics,
    but that will have little if anything to do with the intention
    behind the title.  However, the title is just an invitation,
    not more than that.  What is much more important than trying
    to analyze the meaning of the title is to jump in and start
    playing with the 9-second breaks, once every fifteen minutes.
    What counts is a real engagement.

         And there are many different ways to engage with the 9-sec
    exploration, all of them valid and useful, even though they may
    look very different.  Let me briefly list here five ways, which
    I will label depending on the kind of world view lying behind it,
    as no-view, therapy, humanism, transcendance, radical-openness.
    These ways are by no means exclusive: we can find ourselves
    combining two or more at any given time.  However, they do have
    different flavors and reflect different attitudes, so it may be
    interesting to list them separately.  And in addition, I'm sure
    you can find other ways as well.

    1. No View

    The simplest way to play with the 9-sec breaks is to not care
    at all about a view of the world, of our own place in the
    world, or whatever philosophical attitude could come in.  In
    this case we can simply pause regularly, take a deep breath,
    and look around.  This way of letting off steam, or charging
    the batteries (different metaphors from different eras), can
    have a healthy effect and make our life more pleasant and
    productive, as well as more relaxed, all at the same time.

    2. Therapy

    Another way to use the 9-sec periods is to reflect on the
    other 891 seconds in every fifteen minutes, watching our
    tendency to get all wrapped up in one or more activities,
    and then to reflect and analyze our reactions.  This would
    be a kind of therapy attitude.  And indeed, the whole 9-sec
    idea could be viewed, and correctly so, as a new self-help
    approach toward gaining a deeper understanding of both self
    and world, and the relationship between both, through many
    frequent daily observations.

    3. Humanism

    Expanding the sphere of attention beyond a concern mainly with
    our own balance, and possibly that of those closest to us, we
    can also include all of humanity.  We can take the world as it
    presents itself to us, relying on the knowledge that science
    provides us, while establishing a system of ethics and morals
    to help guide us in how to use the fruits of science and
    technology in wiser ways than has been done so far.  With this
    attitude, the 9-sec breaks can serve as useful reminders to
    keep our sense of ethics and balance in mind, avoiding us to
    get lost in the details of activities requiring our momentary
    attention.  In this way, we remind ourselves to see the big
    picture, many times a day.  And this will help us to act based
    upon what we know and can verify, without any speculation about
    something beyond that.  The 9-sec practice thus provides a way
    to integrate one's commitments into daily life.

    4. Transcendence

    However, the majority of humans on our planet do not subscribe
    to humanism.  The most prevailing views of the world include at
    least some elements that go beyond what we know about the world
    directly through our senses, through our reasoning, and through
    what science has taught us.  Using the word `transcendence' to
    indicate the notion of `something beyond' we can group all the
    major world religions, as well as the more local tribal belief
    systems, in this category.  In addition, we can also include
    ideologies such as communism, when they are based on the belief
    in the appearance in due time of a future ideal state.  For
    anyone who adheres to any form of a belief in transcendence,
    the 9-sec breaks can form a welcome reminder to cast their eyes
    not only to the world they happen to live in, but also to the
    transcendent part that is hidden from view.  In that way, the
    9-sec practice can help them to `be in the world, but not of
    the world' to take Christian terminology as an example; a way
    to integrate one's transcendent ideals into daily life.

    5. Radical Openness

    In contrast to humanism, transcendence adds something to the
    world of the visible and the knowable, in the form of additional
    ingredients or realms.  The normal world we find ourselves in
    may be less real or fundamental in some sense, but at least it,
    too, exists.  It may not exist independently, as in humanism,
    and typically it is seen to be created by some form of the
    `unseen' but once created, now it's here.  This is most clearly
    spelled out in the monotheistic religions, according to which
    God has created the world, but it also appears in the creation
    myths of most tribal traditions, as well as in non-monotheistic
    religions, for example in Hinduism.

         An alternative move is not to add anything to the world
    view of humanism, but rather to subtract that whole world, and
    to put into question that anything has ever been established
    in any way.  Compared to the first four ways of looking at the
    world, this fifth way is much less familiar to most of us, so
    let me give a bit more background here.

         We cannot deny the presence of the appearance of many
    things.  However, any interpretation or framework on top of
    that is open for questioning.  There is the appearance of a
    linear past-present-future time, but we don't have direct
    access to either past or future: they appear to us in terms
    of memories and expectations, which strictly speaking are
    phenomena that appear to us in the present.  Continuing in
    this vein, we can subtract, or just put on hold, our natural
    belief in the reality of most anything: the reality of time,
    the reality of a core self, and so on.

         This kind of radical `bracketing' of the world has been
    attempted by several individuals and groups in different times
    and places.  A recent attempt was made by the German-Jewish
    philosopher Edmund Husserl, who introduced the term `epoche'
    to describe the kind of radically open stance with which to
    view all that appears without buying into the usual meanings
    that we drape around the phenomena we live in, and even the
    phenomena we live as: our own sense of self, as well as our
    belief in some kind of existence of that self, all of that
    is given in turn as a complex bundle of phenomena.

         In various Asian traditions, forms of radical openness
    have appeared in various places and times: in Chinese Ch'an
    Buddhism, which gave rise to Japanese Zen; in Tibetan Dzog
    Chen, with roots in both Bon and Buddhism; in Indian Advaita
    Vedanta, a form of Hinduism; and in the writings of a number
    of individuals in many other traditions.  How radically open
    each of those views were that have been presented on different
    occasions is difficult to discern.  An extra complication is
    these views have often been expressed in ways that were more
    or less veiled, for various reasons.

         Coming back now to Play as Being, it is clear that it
    is perfectly possible to apply the 9-sec breaks to this fifth
    way of looking at the world, or what claims to be a world: this
    tapestry of phenomena that come packaged with a whole world view.

         So to the extent that we are interested to go beyond the
    first four applications, we can start to experiment with any
    element of what appears in our daily life, from moment to
    moment.  The past-present-future structure of time is one
    natural place to start with.  But then the question is: how
    do we embark on such a radical exploration?  Can we find any
    handholds or footholds on such an adventure?

         A place to start is to take a simple sentence and hold
    that in mind, throughout the day, especially during the nine
    seconds breaks.  Here is one possibility: Appreciate the
    Presence of Appearance as a Presentation by Being, APAPB, or
    in shortened form APA: Appreciate the Presence of Appearance.


    [this is were I stopped, while writing an initial draft for an introduction to PaB, in the fall of 2009]

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    Viewing 1 of 1 comments: view all
    Originally written on 17:12, 09 Jan 2010
    Wonderfully written Pema. So clear and so inspiring.

    Posted 16:36, 9 Apr 2010
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