Krishnamurti & the Art of Awakening
A Quiet Space | moderated by Clive Elwell

Thought and the space between thought


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Thu, 09 Mar 2017 #1
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Thought and the space between thought

Of late there has been a movement in me to try to describe, discuss, something that is probably actually impossible to describe. But I will try and meet the challenge of it, and see what comes. I would like to see if there is any resonance in the readers of this.

We all know thought, the huge part it plays in our lives. On the forum at least we know thought has created society, and is responsible for the great chaos in the world we live in. It is responsible for all the suffering, the conflict, the fear, including in people's inner world. We know what a stranglehold thought has, and always has had, on human development. And many people still seek a way out of the chaos using thought in various ways, but this is dubious, to say the least.

Is there a way beyond all the chaos, a way that does not involve thought? Many years ago it was glimpsed that there is space between thought. A space where things can be seen for what they are, where insight can occur.

Thought cannot enter into this space. It may think ABOUT it, but that thinking about it is definitely not it. To think about the space is to enter thought again, and so bring the space to an instant end. As K said repeatedly, the word is not the thing. An interesting question arises: how can I know that this space exists? I think the answer is that I cannot know (I can think that I know), and the only evidence for the existence of the space is the actual existence of the space. It has to be constantly re-experienced – although experience is not the right word to use. Experience suggests there is a me experiencing things, and there is no me, which is created by thought, in that space between thought.


Words pile up. So many words become involved in trying to describe something which is entirely free of words. With every thought the space is destroyed. But somehow thought ends as the space reappears


Although it is so ephemeral, I think that it is absolutely essential to see this space between thought. No matter how transient it is, it is the only freedom from thought. And I think in that space between thoughts, intelligence is free to act.


Thought is limited. No matter how insightful it might appear, it is limited. No matter how much thought might appear to penetrate into itself, to understand itself, that penetration and understanding is always limited. Limited means partial, incomplete, not whole – and so not true. Thought can talk about its own limitation, but even that talk is limited. And so thought is not truth. Only in the space between thought can the real nature of the limitation be seen.


Thought can and does create many realities. It has created belief systems, religions, philosophies, ideologies, theories of psychology which have been remarkably enduring. Everlastingly it appears to have the 'answers'. And thought can build vast palaces of imagination, in an instant. Only in the space between thought is it revealed that these creations ARE merely thought, and they have no actual existence.


I will end, or pause, there, and see if there is any response to this post.

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Fri, 10 Mar 2017 #2
Thumb_rodin_de_denker Olive B Netherlands 86 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
the space between thought

This sounds like:between thought 01 and thought 02 there is a space.

For me it is: There is space (awareness/consciousness)and in that space a thought or a serie of thoughts appear and disappear.

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Fri, 10 Mar 2017 #3
Thumb_profiel Wim Opdam Belgium 468 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
if there is any response to this post.

Hi Clive,

Thanks for the initiative, but there is a huge amount of words en ideas in it so let's start easy on this one.

Today I read something from David Bohm, which could put some light on the matter - seeing those last words realized that's just it is not matter - but I assume that you understand what I meant.

" The only thing we are doing is to make an arbitrary distinction merely for the sake of thought."

the same with music: are the notes making the music, the silences between the notes and or the player with his interpretation ??

What can be said is that it's all belonging to one whole.

The same with silences between the thoughts they are - yet - unknown but belonging and give meaning to the whole.

Does this make any sence ? I'm surpriced myself by seeing this description.

Truth will unfold itself for those who enquire their own actions and only to them and for them and to or for no one else.

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Fri, 10 Mar 2017 #4
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Olive B wrote:
This sounds like:between thought 01 and thought 02 there is a space.

Yes, I find this a useful way of looking at it - if indeed there is a need to have a way of looking at it. Thought is actually a series of thoughts, a series of separate thoughts, somehow linked together by associations the brain has made. It seems to me that two thoughts can never appear simultaneously in the mind. Thought 01 must end for thought 02 to start, to be created. So there is the possibility of a space, a gap between the two. (by saying "there is a possibility", I do not mean that there is a me separate from this process who can influence things)

Olive B wrote:
For me it is: There is space (awareness/consciousness)and in that space a thought or a serie of thoughts appear and disappear.

Yes, this also sounds an accurate description. Do you see any fundamental difference between the two perspectives? I agree that thoughts "appear and disappear". This is especially apparent when there is a certain quietness, and the space appears more apparent, deep, profound.

And to tie in with what we have touched upon recently, it seems to me the reservoir of the common human consciousness is where the thoughts appear FROM. Would you go along with that?

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Fri, 10 Mar 2017 #5
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Wim Opdam wrote:
" The only thing we are doing is to make an arbitrary distinction merely for the sake of thought."

I think you will have to cite the content of this quote if I am to fully understand it, Wim.

Wim Opdam wrote:
The same with silences between the thoughts they are - yet - unknown but belonging and give meaning to the whole.

I have not considered that space in this light. Does the space "give meaning"? And what do we mean by meaning? I don't think the space represents anything else, which is one meaning of meaning.

Fundamentally it seems to me the space is an ending, a dying of thought. From that dying, a new thought is born. But I would say there is no continuity between the two thoughts.

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Sat, 11 Mar 2017 #6
Thumb_rodin_de_denker Olive B Netherlands 86 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
Do you see any fundamental difference between the two perspectives?

It is a HUGE difference, a fundamental difference.

Space(awareness/consciousness) does not appear and disappear, it is everpresent.

Thoughts/perceptions appear and disappear in this space, are made out of this space.

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Sat, 11 Mar 2017 #7
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Very interesting indeed this discussion. According to K, a proper meditation requires the observation of the time interval between thoughts. He claimed he could walk for hours, without a single thought and also that driving would facilitate his meditation. However, one needs thought to drive, to walk, to find the way back home, etc. And there are the thoughts necessary to control body temperature, the breath, the heart beating, etc.

It is obvious that thought cannot stop, otherwise we would die or not be able to walk.

Those thoughts are natural and do not seem to cause any problem. Maybe they can occur simultaneously because there must be billions of thoughts per second.

But I wonder if we really know what type of thought K is refering to. It is easy to see the conscious thoughts operation, but not the unconscious ones. Can we distinguish unconscious thougts from the "natural thoughts" described above?

Another question: if there is a time interval between thoughts, what would prevent observation of it, if thought is not there to disturb?

Sorry, I have only questions, not answers :-)

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Sat, 11 Mar 2017 #8
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Olive B wrote:
It is a HUGE difference, a fundamental difference.

Well, I do not see the two descriptions as contradictory.

But your words bring to focus the question of the nature of the space in which thoughts "appear". You call it awareness, and consciousness. I am looking at this. I do not want to settle for a word, which may block my inquiry. A word may give the impression of understanding, but is not actually understanding. A word, a label, is not actually the experiencing of the thing. It may block the experiencing. (I am not using the word "experiencing" as meaning the same as "experience".

I can only watch. I can only watch as the noise of thought arises, and see that the thinker is really the thought, although it pretends not to be.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #9
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
Very interesting indeed this discussion.

Yes indeed, and I hope it is more than a mere discussion. The discussion part is incidental to our own inquiry, is it not? Although it is good to share our observations, I feel.

According to K, a proper meditation requires the observation of the time interval between thoughts.

Yes, I think it might be useful to bring the word “meditation” into this inquiry. Can you give any exact citation for this, Jose, or give any similar quotes?

He claimed he could walk for hours, without a single thought and also that driving would facilitate his meditation. However, one needs thought to drive, to walk, to find the way back home, etc.

And there are the thoughts necessary to control body temperature, the breath, the heart beating, etc.
It is obvious that thought cannot stop, otherwise we would die or not be able to walk.

Really? Surely the heart will beat, the body will carry on functioning without the thought process? (Perhaps more healthily without thought's interference). But I am not saying that we can live entirely without thought.

Those thoughts are natural and do not seem to cause any problem. Maybe they can occur simultaneously because there must be billions of thoughts per second. But I wonder if we really know what type of thought K is refering to. It is easy to see the conscious thoughts operation, but not the unconscious ones. Can we distinguish unconscious thougts from the "natural thoughts" described above?

I think a distinction that needs to be drawn is thought functioning healthily – by which I mean with this thinker-thought division, and so without conflict, and thought which carries the illusion that there is a thinker separate from thought.

Another question: if there is a time interval between thoughts, what would prevent observation of it, if thought is not there to disturb?

When I talked of the 'space between thought', I was not implying a time interval. In fact the whole concept of measurement does not seem to apply in that space – after all, measurement is a function of thought, is it not? Although I suppose time by the watch is still passing.

Sorry, I have only questions, not answers :-)

Well that is a blessing! As soon as there is an answer, we have blocked the inquiry, have we not?

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #10
Thumb_avatar Juan E Spain 106 posts in this forum Offline

Bem-vindo Jose!

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
He (K) claimed he could walk for hours, without a single thought

Just a simple question that has come to mind in reading this:

How can someone know that has walked for hours without a single thought?

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
And there are the thoughts necessary to control body temperature, the breath, the heart beating, etc.

Any evidence that thought is responsible to control all that you mention here?

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
Can we distinguish unconscious thougts from the "natural thoughts" described above?

No, if one where able to distinguish that, it would mean that there are no unconscious thoughts at all ... Perhaps the question should be: can we live unconscious thoughts in the same way as we live "natural thoughts"? ...

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
if there is a time interval between thoughts, what would prevent observation of it, if thought is not there to disturb?

We wanting to observe that space, this is the disturbance that prevents us to observe that space.

"When i talk to audiences, they know what i'm talking about ... another thing is that they do something about it" - K. Brockwood Park (Making ideas of the Teaching)

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #11
Thumb_rodin_de_denker Olive B Netherlands 86 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
the nature of the space in which thoughts "appear". You call it awareness, and consciousness.

If you look closely at your experience awareness/consciousness is the one thing we can be sure of.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #12
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
Yes, I think it might be useful to bring the word “meditation” into this inquiry. Can you give any exact citation for this, Jose, or give any similar quotes?

Sorry, Clive, I can not. I read this, maybe, ten or fifteen years ago.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #13
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Juan E wrote:
Bem-vindo Jose!

Muito obrigado, Juan!!

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #14
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Olive B wrote:
Just a simple question that has come to mind in reading this:

How can someone know that has walked for hours without a single thought?

Very good question. k once said that it took years for him to realize that he rarely had thoughts!!

But I think what goes on in our mind is even more important. I sometimes have the impression that thoughts disappeared, for a short time interval. There is a memory that that has happened but it cannot be translated into a known experience. I cannot find a name for that feeling. I cannot be sure there was no thought, but I would bet there was no thought.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #15
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Juan E wrote:
Any evidence that thought is responsible to control all that you mention here?

Again, very good question. I am not a specialist but it seems that it is the brain which controls the rest of the body. For instance, our body shivers if it is too cold. I think the body sends a signal to the brain that the temperature is too low and the brain sends back a signal making the body to shiver. My questions are: can that be considered an unconscious thought? Is it possible for a human being to be aware of that brain signals?

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #16
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Juan E wrote:
No, if one where able to distinguish that, it would mean that there are no unconscious thoughts at all ... Perhaps the question should be: can we live unconscious thoughts in the same way as we live "natural thoughts"? ...

After going through very painfull experiences, I learned by myself that there are really unconscious thoughts. I can detect them by a response of my body to certain thoughts or images. But I do not have the faintest idea how or why there is such a response. But I am pretty sure it is the response of the subconscious. And this may have a profound effect. Peter Levine studied this a lot.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #17
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Juan E wrote:
We wanting to observe that space, this is the disturbance that prevents us to observe that space.

By definition, the self is not there during that interval. :-)

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #18
Thumb_rodin_de_denker Olive B Netherlands 86 posts in this forum Offline

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
Olive B wrote:

Just a simple question that has come to mind in reading this:

How can someone know that has walked for hours without a single thought?

#14:HOW CAN YOU QUOTE ME ON YOUR OWN QUESTION JOSE?

What is happening here??

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Sun, 12 Mar 2017 #19
Thumb_open-uri20151228-18124-1kyi3s7-0 Jose Roberto Moreira Brazil 12 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
I think a distinction that needs to be drawn is thought functioning healthily – by which I mean with this thinker-thought division, and so without conflict, and thought which carries the illusion that there is a thinker separate from thought.

Yes, I think conflict is the key point. For instance, many years ago, in Majorca, Spain, I was driving along a two lane road, when a car crossed the road in front of me, after exiting a gas station. Somehow, my brain, or whatever it was, made an amazing and very fast decision which saved my life, as well as my wife´s, my son´s and the crazy driver´s life. There was no conflict at all and yet, I think, that decision was made based in a lot of knowledge. All the possibilities were analysed almost instantly and the right one chosen. No conflict at all. Then we should ask ourselves, is there a conflict in a subconscious thought?

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Mon, 13 Mar 2017 #20
Thumb_profiel Wim Opdam Belgium 468 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:

Wim Opdam wrote:

" The only thing we are doing is to make an arbitrary distinction merely for the sake of thought."

I think you will have to cite the content of this quote if I am to fully understand it

This sentence triggered something within and reading your post was inmidiatly present from memory.

It comes from chapter 4 from "The Essential David Bohm" by Lee Nichol
and is a verbatim from chapter 2 of R. Weber, dialogues with scientists and Sages.
In describing the need for a super-implicate order which could not producing
an emperical pay-off. The lack of imaginative understanding from the current physicists who use a lot of results without understanding their deep meaning.
By needing imaginative models for understanding this was his reply.

Clive Elwell wrote:
Fundamentally it seems to me the space is an ending, a dying of thought. From that dying, a new thought is born. But I would say there is no continuity between the two thoughts.

You seem to understand that the meaning is in the gap between the silences, but I was trying to explain that for to understand the meaning of the whole this silences are an importent part.

Say for example if one plays a piece of music without the silences only the notes as one chain. The silences short and long belong to the piece.
So not being aware and/or giving no attention to this silences between the thoughts we are missing some of great parts of the meaning.

It appears difficult to explain in words what was understand at that moment with this sentence.

Truth will unfold itself for those who enquire their own actions and only to them and for them and to or for no one else.

This post was last updated by Wim Opdam Mon, 13 Mar 2017.

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Tue, 14 Mar 2017 #21
Thumb_img_20150716_212047-1-1 richard viillar France 157 posts in this forum Offline

Il y a ce que l'on pourrait nommer comme étant un espace entre deux pensées.. à ce moment là la mémoire n'est plus sollicité.. il y a une brèche sur le maintenant en eternel mouvement. Dans cette brèche c'est comme si on disparaît...

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Tue, 14 Mar 2017 #22
Thumb_santi3 Santi Borgni Italy 1 post in this forum Offline

Dear Clive, dear all,
Clive starts stating that that space is “something that is probably actually impossible to describe”. Why it is seen as being so important if one does not know a thing about it? Why do not mention also deep sleep that is a gap in thinking we go through every night, if everything in ourselves is quiet enough. In fact, when we think to deep sleep it is evident that we have no way to describe it and there is not, either, a great change coming out of that.
Going through a gap or a space between thoughts does not look like being a great change at all. Clive hints that the importance of the space between thoughts is a possible “way beyond all the chaos”. Is it so? Do we have an experience of that kind? Or it comes from K words?
If it comes from K words it has no value, it would be a second hand idea, a dead thing.

So, the chaos is the problem, the conflict is the problem. That means the misuse of our capacities: to think and to act in a way that produces pain to myself and to others. To see things from the narrow point that is the “me” and not consider feelings and needs of others.
Is thought responsible for that? Why to speak of thought as responsible for all the misery we live? Thought is an instrument, is it not? Would you say that an instrument is responsible? A hammer is responsible for crashing my finger?
Is there a thinking that express order, attention, care and another way of thinking expressing disorder, conflict and so on? Yes, naturally. One of the meanings of the word “meditation” is to ponder over, to think about something with depth and attention for all details in an unbiased way. Is there anything wrong with that?

The way the question has been put shows the space between thoughts as opposite or radically different from thinking. Is it so? Is that silent background unrelated to thinking?

It seems that a “way beyond all the chaos” it is not a simple thing, it is perhaps starting with understanding our lives, understanding generosity and greed, understanding why it is so difficult to be quite, silent, to stop from endless and useless thinking, understanding why goodness is so rare, why beauty become a trade?
Understanding is a mystery; one does not know how it happens. But one can put all his or her energy and everything one has available (including thinking) to approach the understanding of life that means myself and the rest of humans and nature around us.

The awakened presence that comes with silence, when the silence is associated with awareness and it is not forced, is a part, or perhaps the ground, of understanding life, it seems so.
The mind that looks at things in silence, that is in a relation and listen from silence, is a mind that is open to the otherness, it is open to see not only the known but also the unexpected, the shades, the difficult part of the relation without running away.
Silence is part of the understanding and requires understanding of the whole thing.
Is silence the opposite of thinking?

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Tue, 14 Mar 2017 #23
Thumb_avatar Juan E Spain 106 posts in this forum Offline

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:

Juan E wrote:

We wanting to observe that space, this is the disturbance that prevents us to observe that space.

By definition, the self is not there during that interval. :-)

Yes, by definition ... but K also said somewhere, that thought is able to keep some memory of that space without the me ... and it is through that memory that though tries to penetrate that space in its wish to understand it ... And so, it is in that trying to understand that space by thought itself that that which creates the disturbance that prevents us to observe it really occurs ... Because that space will never be understood by thought but simply living it without thought ... And it is in that living space that everything is understood by nobody.

Um grande abraço, jose! :-)

"When i talk to audiences, they know what i'm talking about ... another thing is that they do something about it" - K. Brockwood Park (Making ideas of the Teaching)

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #24
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Juan E wrote:
How can someone know that has walked for hours without a single thought?

This is incidental to the main thread, but I think there is a continuous recording going on, all the time, of all the senses take in ('senses' including the mind). This recording is accessible, although perhaps not deliberately so.

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #25
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
My questions are: can that be considered an unconscious thought?

I personally would reserve the word "thought" for the SYMBOLS that the mind uses. So thought is words, it is basically language. Until language was developed by the human brain, I would say there was no thought as such. There was visual memory, and there was feeling, which may be considered as primitive, or pre-verbal thought.

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #26
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Jose Roberto Moreira wrote:
For instance, many years ago, in Majorca, Spain, I was driving along a two lane road, when a car crossed the road in front of me, after exiting a gas station. Somehow, my brain, or whatever it was, made an amazing and very fast decision which saved my life, as well as my wife´s, my son´s and the crazy driver´s life. There was no conflict at all and yet, I think, that decision was made based in a lot of knowledge. All the possibilities were analysed almost instantly and the right one chosen. No conflict at all. Then we should ask ourselves, is there a conflict in a subconscious thought?

I have been through such emergency situations several times, and have seen it in others. Indeed, there is no conflict, and no fear. I think thought goes into abeyance, instantly - because it is too slow to deal with the emergency.

It is very interesting to consider just WHAT it is that deals with the situation, what it is that responds. Perhaps pure awareness? But I have the feeling that a lot of instantaneous calculation is going on, about distances, speeds, angles, the capablities of the car - which does suggest somehow knowledge is at work.

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #27
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Wim Opdam wrote:
I was trying to explain that for to understand the meaning of the whole this silences are an importent part.

Yes Wim, it seems so. That only in silence can understanding really flower.

Wim Opdam wrote:
It appears difficult to explain in words what was understand at that moment with this sentence.

Yes we have to bear in mind that thought, words, experience, is intrinsically limited

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #28
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

richard viillar wrote:
Il y a ce que l'on pourrait nommer comme étant un espace entre deux pensées.. à ce moment là la mémoire n'est plus sollicité.. il y a une brèche sur le maintenant en eternel mouvement. Dans cette brèche c'est comme si on disparaît...

Oui. Toutes ces choses. Donc, tu vois cela aussi.

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #29
Thumb_profiel Wim Opdam Belgium 468 posts in this forum Offline

Clive Elwell wrote:
Yes Wim, it seems so. That only in silence can understanding really flower.

Clive,

On one way or another I have the impression that you interpret differently what was meant.

I think it's a kaleidoscope of energies where the silence sounds through the words and complete the result in the common silence. So if one of the persons involved is not present in this silence the completion goes wrong.

For me this is the reason why the Teaching is attractive if one is somewhat in silence but not whit his whole being.

Truth will unfold itself for those who enquire their own actions and only to them and for them and to or for no one else.

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Wed, 15 Mar 2017 #30
Thumb_kinfonet_avatar Clive Elwell New Zealand 3043 posts in this forum Offline

Wim Opdam wrote:
On one way or another I have the impression that you interpret differently what was meant.

Wim, I am going to make a post, hopefully today, under the thread "Silently .... hesitantly". This will be an extract from K that for me throws new light on this issue of silence

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