NOTES: The Vessel

NOTE:       A sense of 'self' is acquired over time as one
encounters and interacts with other people. Other people
act as mirrors to the self. All these aspects of self go
into making up identity. In extended isolation, one begins
living off the memory of previous interactions in order
to keep the self going. One cannot live on memory alone.
Early in life, one's capacity for interaction and self
creation, (how one regards one's self while mirroring
another person), develops according to primary role models,
care givers, family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, etc.

Every single person you encounter in life presents an aspect
of the self that is discovered through self awareness during
interaction with that person. Collectively, the entirety of
these bits of self are combined into a Vessel, being the
entirety of self at any given time that lives in the world.
This notion of a 'Vessel' is what inspired the brief tale I wrote.
Thanks. --MT
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See also: "After a Stroke, a Scientist Studies Herself : NPR"
    AND: 'My Stroke of Insight-A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey'
by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

See also:
'Wesley The Owl' by Stacey O'Brien

"No memory, no desire and no understanding."   W.R. Bion

W.R. Bion
A Seminar held in Paris
July 10th 1978

Excerpt: [...]

Q.  Would you say something about what you have
described as a catastrophic situation.

Bion:  The word 'catastrophe' has also to
be understood in the light of something which
goes in the opposite direction. I think of
it as 'breaking down' which is very close to
the metaphor, 'breaking up'.

In an analytic situation the analyst is
concerned with trying to make conscious,
trying to bring to awareness something which
the patient has often spent his life trying
to make unconscious. There are two people in
the room who come together at the same time,
in the same place, but the directions in
which they are thinking are different.
They could agree if the analyst consented to
become very disturbed and afflicted with the
same kind of neurosis or psychosis as the
patient, but it is usually supposed that the
analyst should not lose his capacity for
being aware of the world of reality, although
he may be drawing attention to a world of a
different form of reality. The simplest
example I can give is this: we are in the
state of mind which is usually known as being
awake or conscious and aware of what is
taking place - so we think. But when we are
asleep we are in a different state of mind.
This division into day and night is not very
illuminating, but I think it is useful if
one can retain the valuable quality of being
able to go to sleep, as well as the valuable
quality of being able to wake up.
That 'marriage' often seems not to be
harmonious. For example, patients may admit
that they had a dream but they don't take it
seriously; they don't feel disposed to tell
you where they dreamt and what they saw.
They say, 'Oh, I just dreamt it'.

I don't know why they 'just dreamt it'.
If the acorn said, 'Oh, they're just roots',
what would one think? After all, even an
acorn on an oak owes something to the roots.
So what is one to make of a patient who
thinks he 'just dreamt it'? Freud considered
that dreams ought to be treated with
respect - I think that is the most important
part of his work, but I don't believe we
have got anywhere near to reaping the
consequences of treating dreams with respect.


Wilfred R.. Bion, 1897-1979

W.R. Bion
A Seminar held in Paris
July 10th 1978

Beckett and Bion
by Steven Connor
This paper was written for the Beckett and
London conference which took place at
Goldsmiths College, London in 1998.

The ascertainable facts about [Samuel] Beckett's period of
psychoanalysis with Wilfred Bion are, like the prayers of the
lukewarm soul, faint and few.
Beckett was a young man of 27 who had taken the first steps
in his literary career, with the publication of 'Whoroscope',
Proust, Echo's Bones and, shortly after beginning analysis,
More Pricks Than Kicks. After his years of promise and freedom
at the Ecole Normale, during which time he came to know Joyce
and begun to make out a reputation and literary career for
himself, Beckett had suffered a series of reverses. The terms
of his fellowship required him to return to teach at Trinity
College Dublin; Beckett loathed teaching and quickly sank into
his characteristic condition of shabby apathy and depression.
During the year, his father, who seemed to have been an
important counterweight to his domineering, demanding mother,
died of a heart attack. It may be that Beckett experienced
this as a confirmation of the loss of his second father, Joyce,
who had broken angrily with him after Beckett's abortive affair
with Lucia, who was herself sinking more and more inexorably
into illness. Beckett underwent something very like a breakdown;
he resigned his fellowship at Trinity, and it seemed he would be
unable to make a living as long as he was in Ireland.
His depression expressed itself in endless unshiftable colds
and flu, boils and cysts and panic attacks accompanied by
palpitations and sensations of suffocation. He was persuaded
by his friend Geoffrey Thompson that his symptoms might be of
psychosomatic origin and managed to persuade his mother in turn
to let him come to London in late 1933 specifically in order to
undertake analysis. Early in 1934 he began therapy at the
Tavistock Clinic with Wilfred Bion (Knowlson 1996, 175-81).

Bion's O - An Open Gate between Eastern and Western Psychotherapy
Tel Aviv University
Psychotherapy Program
Bion Forum
(c) Jonathan Harrison, 2006
Truth and reality

Bion (1970) used O as a sign for experience,
ultimate reality, the thing-in-itself, or truth.
In Bion's terms, nondual therapy can be described
as facilitating the student's access to O, and
then encouraging him/her to extend that being.
Fenner (2003) stated, "The function of nondual
therapy is to introduce people to the unconditioned
aspect of their existence and then deepen and
stabilize the experience."

Alan Watts (1973) stated that spiritual work and
meditation are about connecting to reality.
He explained that this is necessary as in general
we are not in contact with reality because we
confuse reality with the way we think about it.
Consequently we try to manipulate things, hold on
to things we like and get rid of things we do not
like, unaware that these 'things' have no inherent
existence and are only thoughts. The resultant
inevitable failure leads to the so-called negative
emotions such as frustration, anger, impotence,
envy, loss of control, fear and degraded self-image.

So Bion's fascination for me is in his attempt to
touch the truth. This is what he meant by O, the
ineffable truth of experience, including ourselves
and the world in which we think we live.
In particular Bion was interested, as are all
psychoanalysts, in the mind of the analysand,
which he knew he did not and could never know.
He commented in his prologue to A Memoir of the
Future (Bion, 1991), "The definitory hypothesis is
intended to be taken and applied in all seriousness
in the practice of psycho-analysis by those who wish
to confront what they believe to be 'facts', as near
to noumena as the human animal is likely to get.
This may be 'never'; with Kant, I hold that the
thing-in-itself is unknowable."

Bion's unstructured listening

Bion's no memory, no desire seem to me to
allude to something similar, although not
identical, to Buddhist wisdom, essential
for the ideal of containment. He believed
that, " is easier to 'forget' what you
know and 'forget' what you want, get rid of
your desires, anticipations and also your
memories so that there will be a chance of
hearing these very faint sounds that are buried
in this mass of noise." (Bion, 2005).
He recommended (Bion, 1970) that, "In every
session the psycho-analyst should be
be aware of the aspects of the material that,
however familiar they may seem to be, relate to
what is unknown both to him and to the analysand.
Any attempt to cling to what he knows must be
resisted for the sake of achieving a state of
mind analogous to the paranoid-schizoid position.
For this state I have coined the term 'patience',
to distinguish it from 'paranoid-schizoid position',
which should be left to describe the pathological
state for which Melanie Klein used it. I mean the
term to retain its association with suffering and
tolerance of frustration..."'Patience' should be
retained without 'irritable reaching after fact
and reason' until a pattern 'evolves'. This state
is the analogue to what Melanie Klein has called
the depressive position. For this state I use the
term 'security'. This I mean to leave with its
association of safety and diminished anxiety.
....a sense of achievement of a correct
interpretation will be commonly be found to be
followed almost immediately by a sense
of depression."

Reality and illusions

To become O means resting in the unconditioned mind.
Nothing special is required, just to rest quietly
and relax in the deep realization that, as the
Dzogchen master Namkhai Norbu (1984) explained,
"All phenomena which are seen or heard, however
many of them there may be, are like so many false
images, even though they may appear to be very
diverse. Thus we can conclusively determine that
they are merely a magical display of the mind...
The nature of the mind is from the very beginning
empty and without a self."

Buddha said, "We are what we think. All that we
are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts
we make the world." Bion (1970) stated similarly
but in different terminology, "The analyst must
focus his attention on O, the unknown and
unknowable. The success of psycho-analysis depends
on the maintenance of a psycho-analytic point
of view; the point of view is the psycho-analytic
vertex; the psycho-analytic vertex is O. With this
the analyst cannot be identified: he must be it.
Every object known or knowable by man, including
himself, must be an evolution of O. It is O when
it has evolved sufficiently to be met by K capacities
in the psycho-analyst. He does not know the
'ultimate reality' of a chair, anxiety, time and
space, but he knows a chair, anxiety, time and
space." Here Bion distinguishes explicitly
between concepts (K) and the reality they purport
to represent (O). Whereas being O signifies
resting in the unconditioned mind, K signifies
knowledge, concepts, mental structures, the
conditioned mind.


I have tried to indicate some areas where Bion,
as a western psychoanalyst, views the mind and
reality in some ways similar to those of those
of eastern nondual psychotherapy. If this gateway
is sensitively explored it may have a potential
for greater understanding beyond both eastern and
western psychotherapies, synergizing the ancient
and deep eastern appreciation of reality and
nondual "being" with western achievements in
mental model building. This synergy could encourage
the use of psychoanalytic models, but with humility,
as Bion clearly intended, that is without stumbling
and actually believing in them. Models and theories
represent our efforts to relate to reality,
not reality itself. The distinction is vital
for mental health and peaceful human cooperation,
the reduction of racism and war and the tolerance
of pluralism. Bion's main contribution to the art
of psychoanalysis may have indeed been humility,
without which compassion and true healing are
probably impossible.


Bion (1970). Attention and Interpretation.
London: Karnac

Bion (1991). A Memoir of the Future.
London: Karnac

Bion, W. (2005).The Tavistock Seminars.
London: Karnac

Eigen, M. (2004). The Electrified Tightrope.
NJ: Jason Aronson

Ehrlich, S. (2003). Experience--What is it?
Int J Psychoanal 2003;84:1125-1147

Feldman, E. (2005) Bion's O - An Open Gate -
Some thoughts about Bion's Attention and
Interpretation pages 26/27: Reality Sensuous
and Psychic. Tel Aviv University Psychotherapy
Program, Bion Forum

Fenner, P. (2003). In Prendergast J.,
Fenner P., Krystal S. (2003). The Sacred Mirror:
Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy.
St. Paul: Paragon House.

Freud, S. (1912). Recommendations to
Physicians Practicing Psychoanalysis.
S.E. vol. 12

Grotstein, J. (1997). Bion's "Transformation
in 'O'" and the Concept of the Transcendent Position".
Presented at the Bion97 Torino Conference.

Grotstein, J. (2000). Who is the Dreamer that
Dreams the Dream? Hillsdale: The Analytic Press

Harrison, J. 2006). Analytic Meditative
Therapy as the Inverse of Symbol Formation
and Reification, Journal of Religion and Health,
Apr 2006, Pages 1 - 20, DOI 10.1007/s10943-005-9004-7,

Longchen Rabjam (1998). The Precious Treasury of
the Way of Abiding. Junction City: Padma Publishing

Norbu, N. (1984). The Cycle of Day and Night.
New York: Station Hill

Ray, R.A. (2001). Secret of the Vajra World.
Boston: Shambhala

Rubin, J. (2005). Psychotherapy and Buddhism.
New York: Plenum

Seng Ts'an (c. 550), the third Chinese Patriarch
of the Cha'an School, in the gatha:
"Have Faith in Your Mind"

Watts, A (1973). Alan Watts Teaches Meditation.
Los Angeles: Audio Renaissance Tapes.

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"When you meet the Buddha, you kill the Buddha" - Shahid Najeeb

Issue #4 - December 2003
Seeking the spirit of psychoanalysis
This paper was presented as a public lecture
of the APAS on 28 August 2003 in Sydney

The marrow of psychoanalysis

The marrow of Bodhidharma was inherited by his
disciple Hui-k'o, who in fact went on to become
the second patriarch of the Zen school. As we
have seen Hui-k'o expressed his understanding
by his profound silence. It is expressed in silence
because words and symbols, no matter how expressive,
cannot accurately convey the essence of the
understanding. Words have as much a capacity to
distort meaning as they have to convey it, as much
capacity to block understanding as they have
to facilitate it.

If we are to accurately understand the essence
of psychoanalysis, then it will have to be an
understanding that is beyond words, indeed beyond
any sense modality. Bion said that we have to
'intuit' the truth of psychoanalytic experience.
He said if we are to have any chance of being
able to so, we must rid our minds of all conceptual
frameworks. We must divest ourselves of frameworks
of the past, called 'memory', or frameworks about
the future, called 'desire'.

I need to clarify that Bion's silence is not
the absence of sound. It is only the absence
of noise in much the same spirit that artists
quietly produce while the rest of us prattle
on noisily about creativity. Only if we have
the capacity to stand quietly like Hui-k'o,
our minds empty of all thoughts, concepts
and noise, then and only then can we intuit
the truth of psychoanalytic experience,
which is what the whole complex structure
of psychoanalysis rests upon. Intuition
thus is the essence, the very marrow,
of psychoanalysis.

Once upon a time psychoanalysts talked about
'transference' by which were meant the
unconscious endowments of the psychoanalyst
with features from the analysand's past.
Then psychoanalysts talked about the
'countertransference', which were the
internal experiences of the psychoanalyst
that were the counterpart of the transference
feelings and sometimes produced by them.
When we talk about the intuitive aspects of
psychoanalysis we include both transference
and countertransference feelings but we tend
now to think of them as being different
dimensions of a shared experience.
This experience is usually enacted and
misunderstood by both participants till it is
intuitively grasped and understood.
Sometimes the intuitive understanding is there
right from the beginning but we fail to
recognize it, till it forces itself upon us
and we have no choice but to see it, understand
it and hopefully use it. More often is something
that is ill-formed, ill-defined, fleeting,
ephemeral and almost always gives us reason to
relegate it to the unlikely, the irrelevant,
the magical and the fantastic.
Intuitive understanding is hard to formulate.
It has something to do with feelings and
patterns or perhaps patterns of feelings.
These patterns probably keep recurring till
they press themselves on our awareness and
can then be recognized. Sometimes it is
contained in images and unlikely fantasies
and sometimes it is contained in behaviour
that we recognize as being stupid but
unexplained. But whatever it is and however
we are able to grasp it, I think most
psychoanalysts would agree that it is the
essence of meaningful psychoanalytic experience.

by David Armstrong

When he was working as a psychiatrist at The Tavistock Clinic
before the Second World War, a young, highly talented but so
far rather unproductive Irish writer, came to see Bion as a patient.
The writer was Samuel Beckett. At the time Beckett had published
a study of Proust and a few short stories and poems, but little else.
Later, after he had left treatment, he was to begin working on the
unique, strange, unfamiliar sequence of novels and plays that
made his name.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy [DBT]
"Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a psychological
method developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology
researcher at the University of Washington, to treat
persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for
emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of
mindful awareness, distress tolerance, and acceptance
largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice.
DBT is the first therapy that has been experimentally
demonstrated to be effective for treating BPD.
Research indicates that DBT is also effective in treating
patients who represent varied symptoms and behaviors
associated with spectrum mood disorders, including
self-injury. The key elements of DBT are conventional
behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy, along with its
signature concepts of dialectics and mindfulness.
Dialectical thinking, similar to its role in philosophy,
is introduced as an alternative to intense, polarized emotions.
Rather than reacting to events as either perfect or unbearable,
patients are encouraged to recognize multiple viewpoints and
bring them "into dialogue." Mindfulness is taught as a method
for becoming aware of one's actual, realistic experience in
the moment, and separating it from fears about the future or
rumination about events about the past." [...] Cont.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
"Mindfulness Skills have emerged as an important focus
of several empirically supported treatments.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy for borderline personality
disorder, mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy
for depression, and mindfulness-based stress reduction
are based in mindfulness. The roots of mindfulness
practice are in the contemplative practices common to
both eastern and western spiritual disciplines and to
the emerging scientific knowledge about the benefits
of 'allowing' experiences rather than suppressing or
avoiding them. Mindfulness in its totality has to do
with the quality of awareness that a person brings to
everyday living; learning to control your mind, rather
than letting your mind control you. Mindfulness as a
practice directs your attention to only one thing,
and that one thing is the moment you are living in.
When you recognize the moment, what it looks like,
feels like, tastes like, sounds like -- you are
being mindful. Further, mindfulness is the process
of observing, describing, and participating in reality
in a non-judgmental manner, in the moment and with
effectiveness. At the same time, mindfulness is the
window to acceptance, freedom, and wisdom."

Mindfulness in psychotherapy: an introduction

The Miracle of Mindfulness
by Thich Nhat Hanh


It's always just NOW.
Or as that weird Munchkin, E c k h a r t T o l l e,
likes to pontificate: "Stillness Speaks: When you lose
touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.
When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in
the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are,
is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is
deeper than name and form. [...] Nothing that comes and
goes is you. 'I am bored.' Who knows this? 'I am angry,
sad, afraid.' Who knows this? You are the knowing,
not the condition that is known."

Eckhart Tolle -- "The Power of Now" :::
If you cannot be at ease with yourself when
you are alone, you will seek a relationship to
cover up your unease.
You can be sure that the unease will then reappear
in some other form within the relationship, and
you will probably hold your partner responsible for it.
All you really need to do is accept this moment fully.
You are then at ease in the here and now and at
ease with yourself.
But do you need to have a relationship with yourself
at all? Why can't you just be yourself?
When you have a relationship with yourself, you have
split yourself into two: "I" and "myself," subject
and object. That mind-created duality is the root cause
of all unnecessary complexity, of all problems and
conflict in your life. In the state of enlightenment,
you are yourself - "you' and "yourself" merge into one.
You do not judge yourself, you do not feel sorry for
yourself, you are not proud of yourself, you do not
love yourself, you do not hate yourself, and so on.
The split caused by self reflective consciousness
is healed, its curse removed. There is no "self"
that you need to protect, defend, or feed anymore.
When you are enlightened, there is one relationship
that you no longer have: the relationship with yourself.
Once you have given that up, all your other relationships
will be love relationships. ::: -- Eckhart Tolle
      "The Power of Now" Chapter 8


Airborn Jellyfish Alert!   Unstuck In Time ...*
circa: 1997

  "On the outskirts of a city, there's a reservoir in a watershed..."

Someone, Winifred Grace Barton, an 86 year old
woman in Ontario, Canada, recently sent me this
YouTube link...   [circa: 2009]

Thousand-Hand Guan Yin which I replied:

Dearest Bodhisattva of Compassion,
Ultraterrestrial Prankster High-Priestess,
Mahatma Winifred Grace Barton :

Thank you for that. Tat Tvam Asi.
Unfortunately, my archaic dinosaur 'puter with un-upgradeable
software is not up to the task of playing the YouTube video,
but 'Google' always comes in handy:

"As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others"
-- Zhang Jigang, (born December 25, 1958)...
....the choreographer of 'Thousand-Hand Guan Yin'


Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion,
revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy.
Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. Guan means
to observe, watch, or monitor; Shi means the
world; Yin means sounds, specifically sounds
of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a
compassionate being who watches for, and
responds to, the people in the world who cry
out for help.

Bodhi means wisdom or enlightenment; sattva means
being or essence. Put the two together and you get
bodhisattva, a being who is enlightened and ready
to transcend the cycles of birth and death, but
chooses to return to the material world in order
to help other people reach the same level of
enlightenment. This is the ultimate demonstration
of pure compassion.
There is a phenomenon sweeping through Asia which is still
relatively unknown in the West. [...] It is a stunning
stage performance called Thousand-Hand Guan Yin.
The most incredible thing about the performance is that
all the dancers are deaf. They are members of the
China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe.
None of them can hear the music - this makes their
choreography a truly amazing achievement.
The difficulties and challenges they encountered
in training are beyond imagining.

() () () () () () () () () () () () ()


        I was recently thinking about the 'vow'
that a Bodhisattva makes. A somewhat daunting,
down right terrifying sort of vow, to renounce
nirvana, final extinction, etc. for the sake of
any and all remaining conscious sentient beings
trapped in unrelenting cyclic bondage to material
reality - to remain in the cycle to help them out
of the cycle, a concept in itself, perhaps, a bit
narcissistic if it isn't truly 'selfless', which
raises all sorts of complicated psychological
meanderings of the mind. Years ago, in my mind's eye,
I imagined a short story (never wrote anything down)
about a truly ancient Bodhisattva who had returned
so many gawd damn times to whatever hell hole existence
that was populated by stubborn sentient beings, that
he (or she) was a bit frayed around the edges, worn out,
tired, having second, third, etc. thoughts about the
'old vow', thinking maybe about 'blowing off the whole
enterprise' to youthful-soul folly, wondering maybe
about forgetting the 'vow' and moving on. I think I
placed this tired Bodhisattva as the owner of a coin-
operated Laundromat in a dingy city. I don't recall
if it had any sort of tangible plot, just the basic
idea. It would make an interesting play or movie in
the right hands, maybe Zhang Jigang, David Lynch, and
Charlie Kaufman the guy who wrote Being John Malkovich.
Anyway, only someone trapped in samsaric illusory
material universe sentient looniness would even conceive
of such a goofy scenario, therefore, I bow my head to thee,
dearest Bodhisattva of Compassion, Ultraterrestrial Prankster
High Priestess, Mahatma Winifred Grace Barton, a true example
of a contemporary Bodhisattva of Egyptological Initiatory
Contactee Experience who never fails to make one's heart smile.

Catch ya later. --MT, Present Moment.

() () () () () () () () () () () () ()

The Ex-Watcher angel, formerly known as Malak Taus. MT
[Written: Monday, May 11, 2009, 6:15 PM - KALIphornia]

  * Owlsley XY says 'Hi!'

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