I am them, they are me


The awareness of “I” emerges from a reflection of the stream of experiential consciousness that awakens when one becomes aware of being observed by an internalized watcher or seer who is felt but never known. This wavering consciousness, an “I”, knits together streams of memories, thoughts, feelings, and interactions in such a manner that formulates an awareness of continuity, striving, identity, as well as an sense of other.

Buddhist psychology suggests that the personal self that we experience, perceive, and conceive arises from five material and non-material elements: our bodies, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness. These five categories of self introduce us to the nature of our being. We are the five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever we hold to as our self, falls within this collection. Together they generate the whole array of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, “our world.”

Buddhism notes that these five elements, neither singly or collectively, constitute any permanent unchanging self, nor is there to be found any self apart from them. Hence the belief in a permanent solid self proves to be a mere illusion as we find a self riddled with gaps and ambiguities that appear coherent because of the monologue we keep repeating, editing, censoring, and embellishing in our minds.

Taking this discussion further, when we hold a rose we see that it also is composed of multiple elements, some tangible – leaves, stem, thorns, petals, stamens – and others intangible – scent, color, memories.  If you were to remove any of these constituent parts, would you find an consistent, unchanging entity know as “rose”? As we are unable to find a permanent rose in the absence of any one of these parts, we are also unable to find an enduring rose in any one of these elements.


Contemplating the absence of an enduring and solid rose, is the mental “knowing” of the rose within the dynamics of I, the subject, and the rose, the object. To hold a rose is also to hold in your hand all the elements that make up both the tangible and intangible: the sun, rain, soil, eyes, nose, touch, consciousness, etc.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “When we look at a chair, we see the wood, but we fail to observe the tree, the forest, the carpenter, or our own mind. When we meditate on it, we can see the entire universe in all its inter-woven and interdependent relations in the chair. The presence of the wood reveals the presence of the tree. The presence of the leaf reveals the presence of the sun. The presence of the apple blossoms reveals the presence of the apple. Meditators can see the one in the many, and the many in the one. Even before they can see the chair, they can see its presence in the heart of living reality. The chair is not separate. It exits only in its interdependent relations with everything else in the universe. It is because all other things are. It is is not, then all other things are not either.”


The words of Thich Nhat Hanh invites me to imagine the multiple phenomena present within both the rose and chair—sun, earth, rain, bacteria, worms, horticulturist, carpenter—to list a few. When I explore the elements within the horticulturist, my mind visualizes parents, doctors, teachers, grocery clerks, farmers, machinists, seamstress, etc. To extend this contemplation to the seamstress brings me to consider what elements are within designer labels: silk, bombyx mori, Chinese sericulture, organic nutrients, incubators, glass containers, designers, paper, sewing machines, laborers, mulberry trees, and the person who identifies herself with designer labels.

So…what elements are within a person who has an interdependent relationship with the phenomena of designer labels? If we were to remove all of the elements within labels what or who would actually be removed and what sense of “I” would remain?

What kind of world would it be if she and I came to honor and respect our interdependence with the seamstress, migrant worker, sales clerk, janitor, secretary, unemployed, homeless, negated other, rose and chair? If she and I saw that “I am them, and they are me?”

In summary, I draw upon Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing, “…An awakened individual vividly sees the non-chair elements when looking at the chair, and realizes that the chair has no boundaries, no beginning, and no end.

” …To deny the existence of a chair is to end the presence of the whole universe.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun, My Heart
B Catherine Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage


“My right hand does a lot of things–it creates calligraphy and writes poems. Nearly all my poems have been written with my right hand because I don’t use a typewriter. There was only one time when I wrote a poem on a typewriter. When inspiration came to me, I did not have a pen at hand so I just put an envelope into the typewriter, and at that time my left hand participated. All the rest of my poems were written with my right hand alone, yet my right hand never says to the left hand, ‘You, you are good for nothing! You don’t do calligraphy, you don’t write poems. I do all the work, you never do anything!’


“The body never discriminates in this way. Don’t think that this is because our bodies do not possess any inherent intelligence. While trying to hang a picture on the wall, I held the nail in my left hand and hammered with the right. But instead of hitting the nail I hit a finger on my left hand. That happens from time to time, especially if you are high up on a ladder. Immediately the right hand put down the hammer and reached over to take care of the left hand, very naturally. The feet began to move to look for a bandage. Everything worked together very smoothly. Later the right hand did not say, “Hay left hand, remember how I helped you? Next time I need something you have to come and help me.’ Our innately wise bodies do not act in that way. So the wisdom of nondiscrimination is present in us as a living bodily reality. We have to train our minds to see in this way.


We form one reality. We exist in interbeing with all of life. When we understand this fundamental truth, our acts of giving will be made in the spirit of nondiscrimination. …we can offer a smile or a loving compassionate gaze. We can give the gift of calm, concentrated presence to help someone who is fearful or anxious. We can make an offering of our time and energy and work with the homeless, or with those who are prisoners or who are addicted to different substances, or to work on helping the environment. We have plenty of gifts to offer; we are far wealthier than we may imagine. We can help secure the happiness of many people even if we don’t have a single penny in our pocket.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Opening the Heart of the Cosmos

life…manifesting again and again

do you also miss

your mother?

cicada ~Issa*


In Thich Nhat Hanh”s book, No Death No Fear,  he shares a personal experience associated with the passing away of his mother.

“The day my mother died, I wrote in my journal, ‘A  serious misfortune of my life has arrived.’  I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam … I dreamed of my mother. …When I woke up…I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

I opened the door and went outside. …Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet…wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. These feet that I saw as ‘my’ feet were actually ‘our’ feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.

When you lose a loved one, you suffer. But if you know how to look deeply, you have a chance to realize that his or her nature is truly the nature of no birth, no death. There is a manifestation and there is the cessation of manifestation in order to have another manifestation.

…If you can stop and look deeply, you will be able to recognize your beloved one manifesting again and again in many forms. You will again embrace the joy of life.” (pp. 4-5)

In remembrance of my mother’s birthday…who passed away April 19, 2016.

*cited: http://www.haikuguy