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Q & A with Dr. Robert Saltzman #4



I had coffee this morning, and really enjoyed it, but that coffee is gone, and I can never have it again. I can, it is true, have another coffee, but it won’t be the same coffee. Nothing is ever the same.

The “Robert” who enjoyed the morning coffee is also gone forever and can never come back again. The present “Robert” can have a coffee in the present, but that “Robert” is not the same person who had coffee for breakfast. That moment is gone forever.

This is utterly simple and totally obvious—hidden in plain sight. See it, and the work is done



Dear Dr. Robert,

“Do you believe that there is a “Robert” who can enjoy a cup of coffee tomorrow; and is there a cup of coffee to be had?

If yes, why?

If no, why not?”




Chelsea Market, NY, 2013

Chelsea Market, NY, 2013

Is there a cup of coffee to be had?



This really is not as complicated as your question implies.

The complexity derives from a desire to “create” something permanent in the face of obvious impermanence. The only way to do that is via fictitious beliefs which involve accepting doctrines espoused by others (who are human beings just like oneself), or by lying to oneself about ones direct experience. If one is honest and straightforward, and avoids giving credence to “experts,” the essence of this matter may be grasped immediately.

The “Robert” who is sitting here typing can PLAN to have coffee tomorrow. He can put the coffee and water into the electric appliance, set out the cup, and sit here imagining how the coffee will smell and taste. If he has the right appliance, he can even program it to brew the coffee at a certain hour. But all of that is in the present. Between now and the hour at which the coffee is programmed to be brewed, anything can happen, and those contingencies are entirely out of the control of any “Robert.”

For example, “Robert” can have a stroke and be rendered incapable of even thinking about coffee. A sinkhole can swallow both “Robert” and the entire house in which the coffee apparatus is located. Etc. Even if none of those cataclysmic events were to occur, and the coffee were brewed perfectly, the “Robert” who drinks it will not be the same “Robert” who programmed the coffee maker.


If you observe your thoughts for even a few minutes, you will see that they change constantly, and that you have no idea whatsoever what you will be thinking next. So the impermanence of THOUGHT is obvious.


The body is changing constantly as well, and is also beyond conscious control (you are not making your heart beat, for example, and certainly cannot control the countless microorganisms without which that body would not continue for very long either), but because the body seems to change more SLOWLY than thought, from the point of view of thought, the body can SEEM to have a permanence which is actually totally illusory.

This attribution of any permanence at all to “oneself” is the source of confusion implicit in the question, “Do you believe that there is a “Robert” who can enjoy a cup of coffee tomorrow?” Because conventionally this body is always called “Robert,” your question implies that there might actually be some kind of constant “Robert” which persists through time. This is false, and quite obviously so—hidden in plain sight.




Everything is ALWAYS changing.

Yes of course, throughout life, there will always be “this person,” who has coffee or whatever, but that happening conventionally called “this person” is never the same twice. That to which the name “myself” is attached, suggesting a kind of faux fixity, is always changing too just like any other object reflected in the mirror of awareness.

So “myself” is not nothing, but it’s not something either. “Myself” is “empty” of “thingness.” It is “no-thing.” (Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Samsara is nirvana.).

Because most of us are not familiar with the freedom and joy which ensue when impermanence is seen, understood, and embraced, we cling to faulty logic or try to believe in religious doctrines which seem to provide an escape from impermanence. But there IS no escape.

When faced with painful circumstances, we like to think and say, “This too shall pass.” All that is required for complete understanding is a willingness to think and say the same about pleasurable circumstances as well—indeed to say the same about ALL circumstances.

This understanding has nothing to do with logic, belief, religion, or philosophy, all of which fall short of embracing this reality. To me, this is obvious and completely apparent—not hidden at all—and requires no belief in anything.


robert-saltzmanDr. Robert Saltzman is a psychotherapist and [non-teacher] of non-duality who lives and works in Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico. In addition to his therapy practice, he takes questions about psychology, spirituality, and problems of living from questioners world-wide on his Facebook page.

This page is the ‘new’ home of the ask Dr. Robert website, a unique question and answer forum open to everyone worldwide, gratis. The forum is fairly active and has many forum regulars—many of whom bring intelligence, experience, and wisdom to these online conversations.

Robert checks in on the forum regularly and contributes when necessary.