… mind is always now. There is really no before and after for mind. There is only a now that includes memories and expectations. But I grant that our language is not adequate to express this…
Erwin Schrödinger, Nobel Prize physicist (yea, the cat guy)

In Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate, I discuss the importance of discerning insubstantial (xu) from substantial (shi). That is, stuff from non-stuff. I won’t recapitulate that here, but it is important to remember that both are present in every thing. Mutually arising. And we see the aspect we focus on. It is analogous to the quantum paradox Schrödinger illustrates in his cat analogy (The cat in the box is both alive and dead.)

Experience is a useful term when focusing on substance. It includes the “memories and expectations” in the quote above. How and when we use the term experience gets a little fuzzy when the discussion turns to the insubstantial. The “NOW” part. It works just fine in the substantial world of object-based awareness, but can be misleading when we get to the woo-woo part of the program.

I have written recently about how transrational consciousness is essential to the internal martial arts. It’s actually much bigger than that.

We can’t function from a state of wholeness without it. In anything. That means we’re fragmented most of the time. Fortunately, we slip in and out of wholeness in the course of a normal day, though largely unnoticed. That is what is meant by “buddha nature.” We all have ‘it’ (even though ‘it’ is not really an it.) We’re just easily distracted by bright lights and shiny objects and overlook those moments when nothing is going on. We get a taste of transcendence each time we access a heightened state of energetic coherence. The distractions are experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of experience. Even if I could bliss out all the time I wouldn’t want to. ‘Detachment’ is meaningless unless you can ‘attach’ also. But for most of us, it is really important to know when we are experiencing, and just how limited that mode of being is.

Martin Buber pointed out that ALL experience happens in the past. This is an important distinction when discussing spiritual development of any kind. The moment we recognize something as an object to be named, thought about, remembered, imagined, discussed, interacted with, avoided, or ignored that ‘thing’ is part of our experience. And that means it has been processed by our nervous system. And that takes time. The duration is often so short that we don’t notice it. A tenth to half a second. And when we ‘think about’ what just happened (make inferences), it’s longer. Ken Wilber says, “If it has a beginning, it’s experience.

In a transrational state we move closer to NOW and farther from experience. In an absolute sense, ALL experience is ‘not real.’ The best we can do is know a little about stuff, compare it to our thoughts about other stuff, and come up with some really cool ideas about the way things work so we can enjoy life and love and explore the endless possibilities of a Mystery we are incapable of ever grasping.

In martial arts, and in life, if we can learn to function more of the time in NOW we start to get an idea of what is meant by “one with the Dao.”