Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful for

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Nick D
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Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful for

Postby Nick D » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:55 pm

I would be very grateful if anyone can offer guidance that will help bring about a genuine revelation of the truth of anatta/no self.

I have been practicing Buddhist meditation for many years and I’ve also been reading ‘non-duality’ texts by a wide range of authors for many years too. I have also read a good deal of Ilhona’s Gateless Gatecrashers and I find those dialogues have a ring of authenticity about them– which is very reassuring given that I have my doubts about some authors who claim to have seen through the self (it seems all too easy to articulate the theory of it but quite another thing to have really seen it).

The notion that there is no one typing these words, or doing anything in fact that I label/interpret as being done by a ‘me’ . . . this notion feels very convincing. Equally, the notion that what is taken to be ‘me’ is actually, rather, impersonal ‘Beingness’ /‘Cognizing emptiness’ / “the touch of ‘I am’ness” /‘Openness Sensitivity & Clarity’ /‘the field of Now’, /‘Presence Awareness’/Open Space, or ‘Awareness Itself’ (to name a few pointers that authors have used) very much has the ring of truth too it also and chimes within ‘me’ very deeply.

I also even find the notion that even ‘my’ failings, all my lapses in ethics, and the ‘wandering mind’ in meditation, and craving and aversion etc etc also are not ‘me or mine’ either.

However, a strong feeling of ‘I’ is still very much there and suffering continues, as do strong ‘habit energies’ that feel very counter to awakening. And it feels very hard to believe that substantial change could happen without many many years more of practice. And yet people whom I respect extremely highly (including authors I’ve already referred to, and also some actual friends of mine) claim that the self has been truly seen through and that it can be seen through relatively easily.

So . . .If I (I’m not going to keep putting ‘I’ in quotation marks but rest assured that the word isn’t being used naively) look to see what makes up this strong feeling of ‘I’, I find the following.

-There’s an almost constant sense of wanting things to be different and straining to improve or change them

-There’s a very subtle but almost constant awareness of the fragility of the body and a fear of . . . well I guess ultimately a fear of the danger of death, and a fear of losing what 'I' have

-There’s a constant sense of it mattering very much indeed whether things turn out one way or another (although I think this feeling has been loosened a little bit by doing lots of Byron Katie style inquiry).

-There’s an almost constant sense of comparing this ‘I’ against ideals that it falls short of, and also with other people- and judging them negatively or positively too.

In short there is lots and lots of wanting and fearing- which bring with them lots of suffering, and it seems very hard to believe that just seeing that there is no ‘me’ ever doing anything is likely to shift all that easily and quickly. And yet as I say, I know at least two people personally who have seen through the illusion, and there also are many Authors who I trust who claim it is very simple and can be seen easily with some perseverance. So I feel like I’m wrenched between two ends of a koan.

Can anyone offer guidance?

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:44 am

Hi Nick!

I would love to dialogue with you. Sounds like we have had some similar life-experiences, as well as expectations about what seeing the truth might give us. And, of course, the fact that we've always only seen this ordinary truth.

If you're going to claim to be aware of an actual self, then you'll have to provide incontrovertible evidence. Let's start here:
However, a strong feeling of ‘I’ is still very much there and suffering continues
Take a close look at the feeling of 'I'. The best way may be to repeatedly get a brief glimpses of it, rather than a sustained look. But whatever the case may be, inspect it carefully. Is the feeling 'I' the same as a real 'I'?

All the best,
Matt

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Nick D
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Thanks so much for replying so quickly

Postby Nick D » Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:07 pm

Hi Matt
I am surprised and delighted to get such a quick response. I'll reply more fully later or tomorrow once I've had time to really investigate those questions. But briefly- I definitelydon't have incontravertable evidence for a self- it's just a feeling and I recognise that that feeling probably isn't anything like as consistent as it makes itself out to be.
Will be in touch soon
Cheers
Nick

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:23 pm

Great, I'm looking forward to hearing your findings regarding the nature of this "feeling of I".
M

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Tue Nov 20, 2012 12:05 pm

Hi Matt,

I found this instruction helpful
"The best way may be to repeatedly get a brief glimpses of it, rather than a sustained look."

OK. There is no incontrovertible evidence for a solid me.

Glancing ‘out of the corner of my eye’ this sense of self seems to be comprised of the following.

-A mental commentary on what’s happening- like being in a conceptual world.
-Reactions and judgments about what’s happening.
-A feeling of things being incomplete and unsatisfactory, a yearning for completeness and a continual striving and straining to try to bring about resolution/wholeness/wellbeing.

Seeing this allows another option – to feel the kinaesthetic and visual sense of being alive here now, which ironically at times does feel like a sense of completeness. This happened very strongly a few years ago on retreat – a lot of physical pain and a recognition that I was in a mental world of wishing there was a less painful ‘I’ but that that conceptual ‘I’ didn’t exist- all there was was what was there right then. At that time the heart opened and love poured in/out for what actually was there and the pain didn’t matter. It was so beautiful.

Last night there was another tiny glimpse of this- feeling the field of body sensation as ‘I’ was sitting eating, and it felt like coming home and tears welled up. This happens from time to time- more so recently- and there is a feeling of relief at not having to be any one special or improve ‘myself’. At those moments experience becomes very lucid and it feels like being ‘undivided’. Having said that I know full well that seeing through the illusion of self doesn’t require any special experience to be happening.

However, though there are these kinds of moments, a much more common experience is of this sense of self as deep dissatisfaction at what is and an endlessly stressful straining to improve it/’me’ – an effort to make life orderly, (and also to communicate, and ‘get it right’, as is happening now). When all this effort is looked at directly it takes the form of the thoughts:
I want . . .
I need . . .
They should . . .
I should have . . .
If only I could . . . then . . .
I’ll never . . .

This morning I was reflecting that it is compulsive/obsessive. It's like picking at a scab- this endless pull towards obsessing about 'my life'.

I'm so so grateful to have the oportunity to be able to articulate this to 'you' (!) and engage in a dialogue about it.

Many thanks
Nick

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:10 pm

I love the clarity of this:
sense of self seems to be comprised of the following....A feeling of things being incomplete and unsatisfactory, a yearning for completeness and a continual striving and straining to try to bring about resolution/wholeness/wellbeing.
And then this:
to feel the kinaesthetic and visual sense of being alive here now, which ironically at times does feel like a sense of completeness.
When picking the scab of the I-story (which you obviously don't always do), there is longing for completeness.
Not picking the scab of an I-story, there is a sense of prior completeness.
The medicine is seeing through the story with one definitive, penetrating glimpse, and then letting the scab alone (a scab is part of a healing process.) The main thing we do here is facilitate or encourage that penetrating glimpse. What if you poured all your heart and mind into this work:

"I exist as a separate entity!" (Or your version of this.)
1) Is it true? (Look, and answer from direct experience.)
2) Is there a shred of proof? (Look everywhere for proof, sparing nothing, and answer from direct experience.)
3) How is life experienced when this story is purchased and indulged? (Look at experience and answer from direct experience.)
4) How is life experienced when this story is not purchased or indulged? (Look at experience—this is indeed experienced, so it's not theoretical—and answer from direct experience.)
5) How does life feel when this story is not purchased or indulged — or avoided, or replaced with another more spiritual story, but simply allowed to be as it is? (Look at experience—this is indeed experienced, so it's not theoretical—and answer from direct experience.)

Best wishes,
M

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:40 pm

Thanks so much Matt
I have some reflections from this morning but I'll save them while I engage with those investigations and I'll write again soon. You know it's funny but the following thoughts come up (and I smile as I see them), but I recognise that they are just more story/resistance

"I don't think I'm going to be able to get this- and gosh how embarassing that will be"

"I've tried all this for years and it hasn't worked yet so how is it going to work in a short space of time!?"

"It's too hard because to really see through the 'I' there would have to be complete non-resistance to all this unpleasantness I'm straining (which is what this 'I' largely consists in) to get away from, and I just can't see that happening quickly" ) (I find this thought a bit more convincing and dispiriting- it makes my heart sink).

What I also notice is that the questions you've asked are like a 'meta version' of the Byron Katie 4-questions which I have steadfast faith in.
i.e., . . .

'I'
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it's true?
How do you feel when you believe that it's true?
Who would you be without that story?


I'll sit with these questions and be in touch again soon

So much thanks again
Nick

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:39 pm

...and how about 'how is life when letting that story be as it is.'
The story doesn't have to go away, my brother.
All the stories about "It's too hard," don't have to go away.
Like Katie says, they're like crying children coming to you. No reason to drive them away.
No reason to drive away the 'I'-thought, or the sense of failure, etc.
These stories were never, ever, true. And this has always been intimately known.
You never existed as an isolated, fallible, imperfect person.
Just check in with it and see. It doesn't take tons of effort or purification or practice to see what you already see.
Looking forward to seeing The Work of Nick.
Best,
M

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:44 pm

Hi Nick,
Are we still working? Could we message back and forth every day or two?
Observe: can you find a separate observer?
Best,
M

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:15 pm

HI Matt
THi s is insane. I jsut spent 40 minutes writing a verylong message to you explaining what I'd observed and clicked send. It then said I was logged out (even though I'd been logged in previously). And when I logged in it had lost the lot.
Fear, anger, dissapointement, frustration at everything I was trying to communicate having been lost. I don't have time now to write more- am late already to go to teach.
I'll write again as soon as I can. (I did try last night too but my internet was down). May be we have problems with our server I don't know,

Many thanks NIck

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:51 pm

Sorry to hear that. It has happened to me, as well. Some kind of technological zen stick? Better to answer briefly? In any case, it might be helpful to write and save your work in a word processing program, and then paste it here.
And take a look: in all that chaos and doing, can a 'doer' be found?
M

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:25 am

NO doer- definitely no doer!
I've written a mini essay and now that my internet is up I'll paste it. I'll try to be much briefer next time- more zen like!

Here it is

Hi Matt,
Once again my internet is down so I’m writing this and will send it as soon as I can. Great frustration arose earlier and is still intensely there actually at not being able to communicate. More sankhara's and still not 'me'. I wrote about a side and a half of A4 to you earlier and it was all lost! That’s impermanence for you.

I also feel that something strong is going on, and really want to see it through- really want to see the truth that I’ve been reading about all these years.

Firstly thank you for your point about the personality-view thoughts being like children (katie’s metaphor and one I’m familiar with and like). I’ll come back to this and I have a question about it.

As for the investigations . . .

One thing ‘I’ have seen is that as you say ‘identity view’ isn't there all the time, at least not fully fledged. What interests me/concerns me most, is the experience of reacting and not wanting what’s happening, because I am pretty sure that freedom ultimately will involve being willing for things to be as they are, and what I see is a lot of reaction happening all the time (in ‘my’ experience).

Now, one big penny-dropping that’s happened in the last few days is to notice that, what happens is that that reactivity starts to happen- and of course it is just reality unfolding too- it’s still not me (I do get that at least in principle), and then ‘identity-view’ pounces on it and whips it up into a drama of me. This has been so useful to see. And I have an inkling that this is all that the ‘me’ is made up of- little reactive dramas being blown out of proportion all the time.

However, there is still a lot of resisting and now wanting going on (and associated behaviours) and a lot of follow on ‘me-making’. I am totally willing to drop all other spiritual lines of inquiry for the moment and pursue this investigation of ‘I’, and I know the danger of diluting practice by trying all sorts of teachings at once. But most of the teachers that have inspired me in recent years, in one way or another point to the urgency of opening to this here now as it is at the level of sensation, before this me-making proliferation happens. One of the best direct accounts of ‘how’ to do this that I’ve come across is in Keneth Folk’s ‘the direct path’ where he is encouraging the practice of experiencing any resistance/distortion AS sensation, before it splits off into a ‘me’. This is pretty much Joseph’s Goldstein’s approach to ‘afflictive emotions’ and Kalu Rimpoche recommends something pretty much the same. And it’s the same teaching as the Bahiya sutta- in the seen only the seen etc. And it’s the mainstay of Eckhart Tolle’s (and Katie’s) teaching- the practice of ‘allow this moment to be as it is’. I teach MIndfulnes-based Cognitive Therapy and we recommend pretty much the same thing too- when and upset arises, feel it ‘in the body’ (and include an awareness of all the reactivity, the emotion and the thinking).

And yet despite all that, I know that this seeing through the ‘I’ is supposed to break the ‘tap root’ of all that delusion. So I’m hoping that that can tip the balance, because the reacting goes on so much of the time!!!
Now as regards your questions of a couple of emails back.

No I can’t find any proof of a self. It is all heresay.

Yes when I believe there is a self it is very stressful.

What happens when I open to the possibility that there isn’t a self? Well here it gets interesting and truth to be told, there has been a growing sense that this ‘me’ is just like glass, like it’s the box without any content, or rather it’s more like it’s an empty box and yet all this magic keeps coming out of it- behaviours, thoughts, and things I say and write etc etc. If I digress into the ‘story of my life’ for a moment, I have gone from being mostly house-bound for many years (and for months on end within that time being bed-bound), to being out in the world doing lots of fantastic things- teaching, performing, running two businesses, and helping a lot of people (every week I get people telling me that the courses they do of mine have substantially changed their lives for the better. The story of my life is a big success at the moment and ‘I’ get pretty high on that. But truth to be told, though ‘I’ often mentally lay claim to that success, goodness only knows where all the activity comes from. It just seems to come from nowhere. More and more these days I find a voice coming out of my chest that feels connected and authentic. But ‘I’ can’t take credit for any of it. At other times there are reactive and semi-destructive behaviours that come through this form too.

So back to your point about all of it being like children. Keneth folk has another video ‘mahamudra and the joy of failure’ and in it he talks about ‘openness sensitivity and clarity’ (his translation is ‘looseness sensitivity and lucidity’). And just like your point, he says that when you get stuck (as I kind of feel), that the practice is to remember that this looseness, means ‘nothing to do, nothing to not do’).
So here I am, a mixture of some seeing of not me, and some dismay at reactivity, and some inkling that the dismay at all the reactivity is just more me-making. It ‘s still not the ‘one-moment-of-seeing-and-it’s-done’ but it seems to be progress.

I am genuinely extremely grateful Matt to be able to explore all this with one to one email guidance. It's priceless truly. Thank you so much
Nick

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:15 pm

Much shorter message today! Am still with these questions (and happy to sit with them until all becomes clear) . . .

""I exist as a separate entity!" (Or your version of this.)
1) Is it true? (Look, and answer from direct experience.)
2) Is there a shred of proof? (Look everywhere for proof, sparing nothing, and answer from direct experience.)
3) How is life experienced when this story is purchased and indulged? (Look at experience and answer from direct experience.)
4) How is life experienced when this story is not purchased or indulged? (Look at experience—this is indeed experienced, so it's not theoretical—and answer from direct experience.)
5) How does life feel when this story is not purchased or indulged — or avoided, or replaced with another more spiritual story, but simply allowed to be as it is? (Look at experience—this is indeed experienced, so it's not theoretical—and answer from direct experience.)"

One confusion 'I' have is about control. if htere is no 'I' (and I can't find any proof for one), then is there any control over which way the balancing act between virtue and unskilfulness tips? I see both wise and deluded habit energies jostling for prime position in 'my' experience. Is it just fait acomlplis - the way that all this plays itself out? I'm guessing that it's not only that 'I' can't make awareness be victorious over delusion, 'I' also can't not make it happen. Frustration is felt at not being able to live with 100% surrender all the time- all this resistance and now wanting I referred to yesterday. But is there no control over whether or not 'I' can crank up the courage to sit with things as they are? What I witness is that sometimes I can and sometimes I don't (and throw myself into workaholism or other distractions instead)- (I won't put all the 'I's in quotation marks). And yet something is pulling me back again and again like a magnet to this principle that there is no 'I'.

Will carry on looking . . .!

Thanks Nick

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Matt
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Matt » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:51 am

Dear Nick,
There's a lot of thinking going on! Lots of questions and insights and teachings, many of which I deeply appreciate, (even when they're attempts to control experience).
However, my request is that we put it ALL aside. Rather, focus this way, and answer these questions:

Sensation are experienced, and thoughts about sensations.
• Is there a sensor anywhere to be found? Actually do your best to isolate one: locate a self that is experiencing the body and its sensations.
• Is there a thinker, interpreting and controlling experience? Scan experience for a self that generates thoughts or experiences thoughts.
• Is there anything outside experience itself?
If you really treat this as an experiment, not relying on thought, nor what you've learned, nor what you assume to be true, then there will be what we call "direct experience". We're not relying on anyone's teachings or practices here, just on direct experience. So, if you would please look inside good and long, and answer those three questions, one or two sentences each would be good.
Thanks!
M

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Nick D
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Re: Keen to REALLY see the truth and would be very grateful

Postby Nick D » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:49 pm

Hi Matt.
I have to do this on my phone so it has to be brief!
Ifirstly - I like the Gordian knot approach.
Firstly, if experience is felt as it is there is no experiencer. But thwre is a kind of sense of being-at-home. It actually feels very satisfying. Question two. I can't find a thinker but it still feels as if 'I'm am choosing what I do- or at least it feels like there is some control a but then a feeling of being out of control. Also I have found myself feeling quite emotional and fearful and sad/upset when really looking for a me. I feel this is a good sign. When I first found liberation unleashed sudden old compulsive behaviours happened and running away. It feels as if allthe pleasure seeking is an attempt to paper overand quickly deny this yawning sense that there is no one substantial here. That fear also feels like the edge of love though. If all this efforting is an attempt to try to deny this nothingness then my heart feels painfully other almost appreciative and honouring towards that misguidedness. The other thing is.that this sense of being at homeness is also like love. It is a poignant tenderness for this experience as it is. It is hard to bear staying here though. Can feel the urge to try to hide behind usual distractions.
I will keep looking till I can't see a chooser. Q3 nothing outside experience. Just experience and the experience of mental activity.
Many thanks nick


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