I'm Looking for a Guide

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Hurt
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I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:06 pm

I came across this website 2 days ago, and downloaded the free e-book version of Gateless Gatecrashers. About 1/3rd of the way through it I started laughing and crying, which lasted for about a minute. This was prompted by some great relief at a realization I can't for the life of me remember the specifics of; it sounds silly to forget something that happened so recently, but it faded like the memory of a dream does if you don't write it down.

I'm not a particularly emotional person, so that really convinced me that there was something to be had here. I've been a sort of half-baked spiritual seeker for a few years, but nothing I've read or heard has hit me in a way more significant than an intellectual recognition of "All is one? That makes sense I guess". I've had a strong suspicion that there is no personal self, and I'd like to have a guide help me to confirm that.

I've read the disclaimer, watched the introduction videos, and finished reading the book.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:38 pm

Hi there,

I can guide you if you like. What is your name, or how should I call you?

For this process we use a "contract", which consists of the following rules:

1. You agree to post every day.
2. In general, the guide will ask the questions for you to respond to.
3. Responses require utmost honesty.
4. Responses are from direct experience (felt senses and observed thoughts). Long-winded analytical and philosophical answers are best avoided and may even hinder the process.
5. Put aside all teachings, philosophies and such for the remainder of this investigation. Really put all your effort and attention in to seeing of reality, as it is. If you have a daily and essential meditation practice, it is fine to continue that.
6. Please learn the Quote function; instructions are located in the link below this line:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=660

Do you agree on that?

Then, what are your expectations of seeing?

So, there is no self. Tell me what comes up.

Bye,

Ewoud

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Mon Jul 15, 2013 4:03 pm

You can call me Bruce; I understand your rules, and agree to them.
Hi there,
Then, what are your expectations of seeing?
This question immediately prompts fantasies ranging from that of a perfect life where nothing bad happens ever again, to a life where unhappiness still occurs, but is no longer self-reinforcing or taken to extremes; I recognize these as fantasies and don't put much importance in them. My more immediate, realistic expectation is to see that there is no personal Me that controls my body and my thoughts, as the possibility of such a thing existing seems increasingly absurd the more I consider it.
So, there is no self. Tell me what comes up.
Ewoud
Not much; reading your question makes me smile, and it feels like I 'take a step back' (for lack of a better term) in my mind. I see my thoughts and senses, and the thought comes up "alright, so I'm not that". Then the thought comes up "so where am I seeing from?" and nothing happens.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Mon Jul 15, 2013 4:22 pm

Hi Bruce,
This question immediately prompts fantasies ranging from that of a perfect life where nothing bad happens ever again, to a life where unhappiness still occurs, but is no longer self-reinforcing or taken to extremes;
Good to recognise them as fantasies. Do you notice them more often popping up?
I recognize these as fantasies and don't put much importance in them.
Is there someone recognizing them as fantasies?
My more immediate, realistic expectation is to see that there is no personal Me that controls my body and my thoughts, as the possibility of such a thing existing seems increasingly absurd the more I consider it.
I see. So why is it absurd? Please explain.

Not much; reading your question makes me smile, and it feels like I 'take a step back' (for lack of a better term) in my mind. I see my thoughts and senses, and the thought comes up "alright, so I'm not that". Then the thought comes up "so where am I seeing from?" and nothing happens.
Again, and you put it there also. Is there an observer?

Bye, Ewoud

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Mon Jul 15, 2013 5:39 pm

Good to recognise them as fantasies. Do you notice them more often popping up?
Compared to earlier in my life? I wouldn't say they pop up more, but I do recognize them for what they are more quickly. This might just be part of growing up and being more mature.
Is there someone recognizing them as fantasies?
I'm not sure. My immediate reaction is to say "of course, me"; but all I can say with a large degree of confidence is that the fantasy is seen, and then the thought "this is just a fantasy" comes after it. Who sees them, from where they are seen, I don't know.
I see. So why is it absurd? Please explain.

The idea that every effect has a cause and every cause has an effect seems completely elementary to reality. I imagine the ocean and it is totally obvious to me that if a wave happens it is because some combination of conditions in the wind and current resulted in a movement of the water that we call a wave; there is nothing that has an intention to Wave.

I have no reason not to believe that this principle extends to arrangements of matter as sophisticated as a human being. If a thought comes up, it's content is a result of this particular brain structure interacting with the stimuli it receives from the body; similarly, the body's actions are driven by the commands received from the brain that ultimately come from the interaction of that brain and the sensory information that the body transmitted to it in the first place. I'm sure it is a bit more complex than that (I'm no neuroscientist), but when I type it out like that I see no place for a 'Doer' or 'Decider' to fit in. The entire environment is one continuous system of interaction.
Again, and you put it there also. Is there an observer?
I have no idea. It feels like there is, and my gut reaction is that observing requires someone or something that is doing the observing. On the other hand, I can't point to it and say "here it is, this is the observer"; all I can say for sure is that there is observation happening.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:39 pm

Dear Bruce,

I don't want to react on the first part of your answer other than this; do you also see that this is an intellectual story? A theoretical explanation.
but when I type it out like that I see no place for a 'Doer' or 'Decider' to fit in.
Can you find a doer when you do something else, like drinking a cup of tea, going to the toilet, etc... ?
I have no idea. It feels like there is,
Do you really feel it?
and my gut reaction is that observing requires someone or something that is doing the observing.
Can you tell from your direct experience that this is true?
On the other hand, I can't point to it and say "here it is, this is the observer"; all I can say for sure is that there is observation happening.
What does that mean with regard to "self" and "me"?

Bye,

Ewoud

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:40 am

I don't want to react on the first part of your answer other than this; do you also see that this is an intellectual story? A theoretical explanation.
I don't see that, could you elaborate?
Can you find a doer when you do something else, like drinking a cup of tea, going to the toilet, etc... ?
No. After I read this question I went and made a cup of tea, and there were thoughts followed by actions but no independent actor. Whenever I am asked to look for the self who decides to do actions I can't find it, but when I am asked to recall a past event in my life, the memory is full of "I did this, I thought this, I decided that".
Do you really feel it?
Yes. It feels like "I" am something sitting a little ways behind my eyes, taking everything in from outside the world.
Can you tell from your direct experience that this is true?
No, I cannot confirm it from direct experience. When I look into the act of observation more closely I see that the "behind the eyes" feeling is just that, a feeling; there's no need to put any more importance on it than that, and it doesn't seem to be at all integral to the act of observing.
What does that mean with regard to "self" and "me"?
It would mean that the self does not exist in the same way that the body typing these words or the brain creating these thoughts exists, and only exists as a useful label for ease of communication.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:12 pm

I don't see that, could you elaborate?
Not now, maybe some other time we can look into this. For the process it is best if we focus on the other questions.
but when I am asked to recall a past event in my life, the memory is full of "I did this, I thought this, I decided that".
So are these memories true? Was there a doer, thinker, decision-maker in the past?

Is there any doubt about there not being a separate self?

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:50 pm

So are these memories true? Was there a doer, thinker, decision-maker in the past?
The memories are real (well, as real as any thought can be), but the contents of them often don't correspond to anything real. "I" is everywhere in memories, but nowhere to be found when I look for it in it's various forms when life is actually happening.
Is there any doubt about there not being a separate self?
Yes, but I can't manage to put it into words. I've sat here for awhile trying to express my doubt, but I can't come up with anything to type. Earlier I mentioned 'absurdity', and this feels like part of it. Whenever I seriously consider the possibility of self not existing, all of the hard evidence supports it; unfortunately that realization doesn't seem to change how I actually act or think.

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:18 pm

I thought about this issue more while I went about my day, and kept my focus on what is actually happening when I act and think. I see now that there is no need for an observer independent from the environment in the process of living life ('living life' sounds a bit spiritual and contrived, I'm not sure what else to call it though), much like there is no need (or possibility, even) of an independent actor in the process of doing or thinking.

...But: this still feels very intellectual and theoretical to me. How do I go about actually living like that is all true?

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:23 pm

Whenever I seriously consider the possibility of self not existing, all of the hard evidence supports it; unfortunately that realization doesn't seem to change how I actually act or think.
Was there ever a controller? So, how do you know if the way you act will change?

...But: this still feels very intellectual and theoretical to me.
Okay, no worries there. Just look at how - what you do- functions, is there someone who is doing it? Is there an independent actor?
How do I go about actually living like that is all true?
Is there someone who is living that?

Describe to me about this seeing. What is it and does it change the meaning of thoughts?

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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:49 pm

Was there ever a controller? So, how do you know if the way you act will change?
Good point, and now I think I see what you mean by:
I don't want to react on the first part of your answer other than this; do you also see that this is an intellectual story? A theoretical explanation.
My belief that a realization of the non-existence of Self will somehow change how I act is part wishful thinking, part parroting what I have heard other people say. Either way, it's not borne out of my own direct observation.
Okay, no worries there. Just look at how - what you do- functions, is there someone who is doing it? Is there an independent actor?
I feel that I can conclusively say: No, there is no one 'doing' what this body and mind do, no independent actor sitting behind my eyes pulling levers and pushing buttons. Sometimes this is very clear, like when I react in a simple way to a simple stimulus; if a car backfires and I flinch, it is relatively easy to see the chain of cause and effect and the lack of a central "I" character in the events. When it comes to very subtle events like thoughts that lead to other thoughts, I quickly find myself trapped in a story written from the perspective of this "I".

Typing that last bit seems ridiculous given what we've gone over; who would be 'trapped', even? Is it enough to regularly see through the unreality of these narratives that the mind makes, or is there some key insight I'm missing? I've never been great at introspection.
Is there someone who is living that?
Looking back over my previous posts, I see that I'm stuck on this issue; I typed basically the same reply twice, like I continually have the same fake half-revelation. The lack of a doer or decider I can wrap my head around, and sometimes I even have moments where that whole construct is seen through, if only briefly. "Me" as the ultimate perceiver, however, is so much more intimate and fundamental to my experience.

I started laughing and even tearing up a little bit (an unusual reaction for me) while I was typing out that last sentence. The perceiving 'I' is inserted into memories of events after the fact just like the doing 'I' is.

Describe to me about this seeing. What is it and does it change the meaning of thoughts?
I have to be very careful with this part of my reply; I have a tendency to unconsciously borrow from other people's descriptions of things, and I want to be very sure I'm describing only my own experience. There isn't a shift in perspective, it's more like a lack of perspective. Thoughts still pop up and objects and events are still mentally
labeled; what is noticeably absent is the continuous mental narrative being spun, where "I" (literally, the word "I") is the central character. The best way I can describe it is like waking up from a fever dream. Very shortly after though, everything returns to normal. I should also note that when seeing is happening like this, I'm not sitting there thinking "Alright, the doer 'I' is gone, time to get rid of the observing 'I'." When one is gone, the other is as well.


That was a very stream-of-consciousness reply, let me know if I'm getting too rambling.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:08 pm

Thanks for your beautiful reply!
My belief that a realization of the non-existence of Self will somehow change how I act is part wishful thinking, part parroting what I have heard other people say. Either way, it's not borne out of my own direct observation.
Good to notice! Watch if there are other (subtle) expectations.

I feel that I can conclusively say: No, there is no one 'doing' what this body and mind do, no independent actor sitting behind my eyes pulling levers and pushing buttons. Sometimes this is very clear, like when I react in a simple way to a simple stimulus; if a car backfires and I flinch, it is relatively easy to see the chain of cause and effect and the lack of a central "I" character in the events. When it comes to very subtle events like thoughts that lead to other thoughts, I quickly find myself trapped in a story written from the perspective of this "I".
Also here no worries, just look if those thoughts are true. Thoughts containing this "I" perspective, are they true?
Typing that last bit seems ridiculous given what we've gone over; who would be 'trapped', even? Is it enough to regularly see through the unreality of these narratives that the mind makes, or is there some key insight I'm missing? I've never been great at introspection.
Just observe.


The lack of a doer or decider I can wrap my head around, and sometimes I even have moments where that whole construct is seen through, if only briefly.
Is there a difference between seeing and understanding? Is there a need to understand it?
"Me" as the ultimate perceiver, however, is so much more intimate and fundamental to my experience.
Is it?
I started laughing and even tearing up a little bit (an unusual reaction for me) while I was typing out that last sentence.
Okay, let it just be. We are examining what is there. Sometimes that involves dismanteling dear believes.
The perceiving 'I' is inserted into memories of events after the fact just like the doing 'I' is.
Could you explain what you mean by this?

I have to be very careful with this part of my reply; I have a tendency to unconsciously borrow from other people's descriptions of things, and I want to be very sure I'm describing only my own experience.
I appreciate your honesty.
I should also note that when seeing is happening like this, I'm not sitting there thinking "Alright, the doer 'I' is gone, time to get rid of the observing 'I'." When one is gone, the other is as well.
Was there ever any of the two?
Is there something else gone?
That was a very stream-of-consciousness reply, let me know if I'm getting too rambling.
No, it is clear what you write, thanks.

Be well

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Hurt
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Hurt » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:26 am

Also here no worries, just look if those thoughts are true. Thoughts containing this "I" perspective, are they true?
I think their truth/falseness is at least partly in how I view them. If I understand 'I' as (unnecessary, really) verbal shorthand for This Body or This Mind, there is no problem. When I treat this 'I' as something more than that (which is what I do the vast majority of the time), problems begin to appear. That said, many thoughts seem to be completely unnecessary commentary. If all that is happening is I'm raising my arm, I really don't need a thought saying "I'm raising my arm".
Is there a difference between seeing and understanding? Is there a need to understand it?
No, I suppose not. If 'I' am a completely illusory mental construct, it's existence is seen as false and that is it. There is no complicated system of intellectual principles to conceptualize. My use of "understanding" and "seeing" as separate terms comes from my desire to understand what is happening when I have what feel like brief moments of clarity that depart within minutes or even seconds of their occurrence; then I come up with rationalizations of these events like "Well, I get it *intellectually* but not actually".
Is it?
Please see below, I combined this with my next answer:
Could you explain what you mean by this?
Perception of an environment is happening, just like this body is picking up a pair of keys or writing a letter. When memories of these events are created the mind starts making a story out of them and inserting pronouns; that is where I get the impression "I perceived", just like "I wrote". Intellectually I understand that these are just thoughts, but the difficulty with seeing through the unreality of "'I' perceived" (as opposed to perception/observation simply occurring) seems to be in the speed at which that thought comes after any examination of the process of perception; it isn't as easy to see the mental mechanism at work as, say, watching what is happening when I perform simple bodily actions.

My believing "I perceived myself moving my hand" to be more intimate a thought than "I moved my hand" may just be because the former thought comes first in the mental narrative. I'll continue to watch this process.
Was there ever any of the two?
Before and after this new kind of seeing, I felt that they were there. What is absent during the seeing is the continuous mental noise that contains tons of references to the I performing perception or any other action. Also absent is aforementioned vague feeling that this 'I' was hiding behind a curtain somewhere despite any evidence to the contrary.

No, there was never either 'I'. Only thoughts referencing 'I' that ultimately led to no real thing.
Is there something else gone?
The feeling that I need to fundamentally change myself.


Thank you for doing this, these investigations are much more fruitful than running in circles in my own mind.

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Ewoud
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Re: I'm Looking for a Guide

Postby Ewoud » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:22 pm

Thanks for your message. I enjoyed reading it.

So when the "I"has been seen through, fully and completely, what is left?


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