This is water


'There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys. How's the water?" (p.3)

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?" (p. 4)


'Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence.' (p.36) 


'The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. (p.120) 


'It is about the real value of a real education, which has nothing to do with grades or degrees and everything to do with simple awareness - awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: 

"This is water."

"This is water." ' (p. 131 - 133)

From 'This is Water  - Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life', by David Foster Wallace, talking to college graduates about the 'real value of a real education'.


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Individual or Collective?

'If you want to produce a society that is peaceful, happy, and compassionate, you have to visualise the universal community. You learn to go as a river. If you can do that, you will change the world.

There's a tendency to resist the idea of a community as an organism, because we still want to hold on to our person, our self. We're not yet ready to live the life of a cell in the body of the community. This takes quite a turn, quite a transformation. In my own life, the more I reflected and looked deeply into the Buddha's wisdom, and the way he organised his community, the more clearly I saw the path of practice. 

The moment I got that insight, I received new eyes. I looked at my friends and students in a very different way. I saw that I am them, and they are me. And I saw that everything I do, think, and say is for nourishing and transmitting insight to them. In the future, whether I am there or not, it is no longer a problem because I have penetrated the insight of no-self. There is no longer any discrimination between myself and others, no longer any resistance. You accept others as you accept yourself. And, in that kind of relationship, you can have a lot of happiness. 

We want to have a young community that is able to  transform the world and to protect Mother Earth; able to bring the practice into schools, corporations, and even the army. It is possible for us to bring mindfulness everywhere, not as a religion but as a practice that can bring relief to everyone in society.'

(from 'Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet' - Thich Nhat Hanh - p 293)

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Climate change ... and Coming back

The following extract is taken from 'Finding the eye of the storm' by Mary Jayne Rust, published in 'Depth Psychology and Climate Change - The Green Book', edited by Dale Mathers:

 'Getting to know the more-than-human world offers rich metaphors and mirrors for the self, we come to know ourselves as human animals. As we move down into the body, the constant chatter inside the head falls away and our other-than-rational ways of knowing come to the fore - intuitive knowing, five senses knowing and emotional knowing. These different ways of knowing are described by Jeanette Armstrong of the Native American Okanagan tribe. According to Okanagan teachings, an individual human is made up of four capacities which operate together: the physical self, the emotional self, the thinking, intellectual self and the spirit; self. These capacities are parallel to 'mind' and connect us with the rest of creation' (p. 24).

And from the introduction of ' Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet' by Thich Nhat Hanh we hear:

'The beauty of the Earth is a bell of mindfulness. If you can't see it, you must ask yourself why. Maybe something is blocking the way. Or maybe you are so busy looking for something else you can't hear the call of the Earth.' (p.1)

'Mindfulness helps us stop the distraction and come back to our breathing, paying attention only to the in-breath and out-breath, we stop our thinking and, within just a few seconds, we awaken to the fact that we are alive, we are breathing, we are here. We exist. We are not non-existent . "Ahhh," we realise, "I am here, alive." We stop thinking about the past, we stop thinking about the future, we focus all our attention on the fact we are breathing. Thanks to our mindful breathing we set ourselves free. We are free to be here: free from thinking, anxiety, fear and striving.'

'When you wake up and you see that the Earth is not just the environment, the Earth is us, you touch the nature of interbeing. And at that moment you can have real communication with the Earth. That is the highest form of prayer. In that kind of relationship, you will have there love, strength, and awakening you need to change your life.' (p.2).


Any practice where we focus on the body, or on the breath in the body, can bring us back into connection with ourselves; with the earth beneath us, and possibly to the sky, stars and galaxies beyond.

To some, all this this may sound fanciful, but in our frankly divided, separated and alienated world, even the possibility that connection, interconnection, or 'interbeing', through the simple human act of sitting, lying down or walking mindfully on this earth, can bring us back to greater ease and balance, offering us a different way of 'being with' this earth, may well give us possibilities for acting on this planet with greater care, love and compassion. 

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Aversion - and Allowing



'Remembering that the quality of openness to the way things are is the key ... not wanting them otherwise, not resisting how things are - the reverse. In this space of meditation, letting things be as they are turns out to be the path of growth, of ease, of a kind of deeper love of our life.

(from 'Aversion', one of Henry Shukman's 'Original Love' practices on Sam Harris's 'Waking Up' App)                              


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One Blade of Grass

And here's an extract from Henry Shukman's autobiographical book, 'One Blade of Grass' :

'All I had really wanted, all along, was to be taught to love this world, and now I had. Even if there were another, better world, I didn't want it. Zen opened an unknown wellspring that gushed like the watch fire of love, the Roman candle in the heart I first tasted many years ago on the beach in South America: a fount of love that never ceased welling up. As Juan de la Cruz said in the sixteenth century:

'How well I know that fountain which gushes and flows

though it be in the dark of night.

After which there is nothing to do but share and serve.

In the end it's all a fairy tale. In the end, all Zen saves us from is ourselves. It may be a little inaccurate but not unreasonable to say that in the end, all Zen is is love.' (p.322)

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