Looking for a guide please

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NeilD
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Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Sun Mar 09, 2014 11:36 am

Hi

After a few months of looking, reading and thinking about this I think it's time to go for it. Ideally I would like a Buddhist guide as I am a Buddhist and have many years of practice.

Any help would be appreciated
Thanks
Neil

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:24 am

Hi Neil I'm a Buddhist with over 30 years practice. I'd be happy to help. So if OK with you, let's start.

There is no ‘self’, no ‘me’, no ‘I’, and there never has been. The sense of ‘self’ and what appears to be ‘selfing’ behaviour simply arise in the complete absence of any truly existing ‘I’.

What are your immediate responses to this?
What emotions arise?

cheers,

Mark
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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NeilD
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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:53 pm

Hi Mark

Thanks for agreeing to guide me.

I decided to let your questions sit with me a bit before replying.
There is no ‘self’, no ‘me’, no ‘I’, and there never has been.
I certainly understand this in an intellectual way and from the point of view of knowing basic doctrine. My immediate response is to agree with it without giving it much thought. Of course, as to whether I really know it and live it is a different matter.
It's interesting, as I reflect on it the bit: 'and there never has been' has caught me a little. It's as if I never considered it in that way before.
The sense of ‘self’ and what appears to be ‘selfing’ behaviour simply arise in the complete absence of any truly existing ‘I’.
Yes I do have a sense of self although I can't locate it or pin it down. It's a sense of continuity of being, as if there is a centre to my experience (can't find the centre though). I can see how selfing behaviour arises and believes itself into existence, the continuity of unexamined habit perhaps.

Today my emotional response to this has been a feeling of lightness, contentment and even joy. There was also a brief shadow of nihilism as I reflected on the idea that there never has been a self, a slight feeling of fear I guess. So it's a mixed response.

It's interesting that as I write I reflect, the act of writing the response is also an effective method of reflection. So sorry in advance if I wander around a bit with my replies.

Thanks again, I look forward to your reply
Neil

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:07 pm

It's interesting, as I reflect on it the bit: 'and there never has been' has caught me a little. It's as if I never considered it in that way before.
Yes, everything you think that you are – home, relationships, career, possessions, ‘my past’, has arisen in the absence of any self that owns, controls or directs it. We are not trying to get rid of something that exists in the present -- just realise it was never there in the first place.
The sense of ‘self’ and what appears to be ‘selfing’ behaviour simply arise in the complete absence of any truly existing ‘I’.
Yes I do have a sense of self although I can't locate it or pin it down. It's a sense of continuity of being, as if there is a centre to my experience (can't find the centre though).
‘Sense of self’ isn’t the problem – it’s believing that this ‘sense of self’ refers to something in reality that we need to look at. Take this analogy – I can see a rainbow in the sky – I can sense it right, but I don’t rush off to find the pot of gold at its base. Why? Because I know it’s just a trick of the light – I can still see it though! ‘Sense of self’ works in the same way – it’s just a coming together of a set of conditions which are then mistaken for something real and permanent and we spend time trying to ‘improve’ or ‘find’ it – but there is no-thing there.

Today my emotional response to this has been a feeling of lightness, contentment and even joy. There was also a brief shadow of nihilism as I reflected on the idea that there never has been a self, a slight feeling of fear I guess.


Well remember that everything you currently are/have has already arisen in the absence of this ‘self’ – so you are not about to lose anything other than an incorrect belief.


OK try this exercise, sit quietly looking out the window for 5 minutes. As you sit quietly notice all the things that are going on in awareness – label each one as it comes up – e.g. “I am looking out the window . . . I am seeing the dog . . . I am hearing the car exhaust . . . I am scratching my nose . . . I am thinking about lunch . . . etc.”

OK now take a short break and stretch your legs. Now go back to the window and do the exercise again. Notice what is arising in awareness, but this time drop the “I am” – just use verbs . . . looking . . . looking . . . hearing . . . thinking . . . hearing . . . scratching . . . breathing . . .

Was there a different feeling tone between the two exercises? Did either one feel more accurate a description of what’s going on?

Consider this – language is inherently dualistic – it posits grammatical entities that just aren’t’ there:

“It’s raining” – where is this “it”? Water is simply falling from the sky
“The wind is blowing” – where is this “wind”? Air is simply moving rapidly
“I am thinking” – where is this I? Thoughts are simply arising.

Report back what you find.
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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NeilD
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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Mon Mar 10, 2014 11:22 pm

‘Sense of self’ isn’t the problem
This is really good, it clarifies something for me, I think I need to sit with this and reflect on it a bit. Having a sense of self is fine and normal, even for a Buddha, but mistaking it for something real and existing is the problem. This might be basic stuff but something has clicked here. Was I expecting no sense of self to be present after Stream Entry? Maybe I was and that was confusing me and maybe holding me back. Perhaps I've been resisting this sense of self and seeing it as the problem. The rainbow analogy is good and helps clarify it further.
Well remember that everything you currently are/have has already arisen in the absence of this ‘self’
Yes, this is well worth remembering. I think I will need to come back to this as a sort of touch stone.
Consider this – language is inherently dualistic – it posits grammatical entities that just aren’t’ there
This is so true. I say things like 'it's raining' all the time without actually considering what I am saying. Is language like the sense of self? We have to use it to function and communicate but we need to be careful not take it literally.

It's late now so I will leave the exercise until I have more time tomorrow. I will report back then.

All the best
Neil

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:30 am

You could say that language is both a symptom of and a contribution to our dualistic way of experienceing the world (there 's a "me" here experiencing stuff "out there"). This is why we have to take all thought -- and this includes thoughts about the dharma -- figuratively -- fingers pointing to the moon. There is no true knowledge in thought. Thought is only ever vijnana -- the prefix “vi” means “divide, “cleave” or "split", and the root “jnana” means knowledge. In summary, it means "to know divisively” or “separative awareness”. So we can say that thought can only ever "know divisively" which is why it can never really "know" (jnana) at all. We will be working with thought later on to "see through" how thought/language is one of the mechanisms that produces this "sense of self".
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:05 pm

I took some time out today to do the exercise you suggested. The only time I had was straight after a busy day at work so the conditions weren't ideal as I was tired but I felt the exercise was effective nonetheless.
I started by describing what was going on with the 'I am' prefix. It became a bit tedious having to say 'I am' all the time, as if it was an imposition. After a short break I started again but with just verbs as you suggested. This felt much more real and definitely a more accurate description of what was actually going on. It was as if a mute button had been pressed and things became quiet. It felt lighter and more free. At the end I tried putting the 'I am' prefix in again and it seemed a ridiculous thing to do.
I am less in touch with that now as I write as it's been a full day.
There is no true knowledge in thought.


This is a really interesting statement. A friend of mine has an expression: 'Try not to understand, stand under and wonder'. I think I try to understand a bit too much and can feel myself trying to think my way.

Thanks for your posts so far, it's really stimulating. Even though it's only been a couple of days, I feel I've done more reflection, and deeper reflection in those two days than I have done in a long time.

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:03 am

After a short break I started again but with just verbs as you suggested. This felt much more real and definitely a more accurate description of what was actually going on. It was as if a mute button had been pressed and things became quiet. It felt lighter and more free. At the end I tried putting the 'I am' prefix in again and it seemed a ridiculous thing to do.
Ok good to notice this. Another exercise you can do is while walking. Notice how everything about the body is on automatic – there is no “mini me” in the head saying “OK now put left foot forward, now right. Stop at the traffic light, look left, look right etc.” Just notice how everything works on auto-pilot – legs move, lungs breathe, eyes wander as different sights capture attention, ears listen out, thoughts appear and disappear . . . is there any ‘thing’ behind any of these actions that makes these actions happen? Note how these actions happen EVEN WHEN the thoughts are about something else entirely. In fact we are usually thinking about stuff that has nothing to do with what we are actually doing in the moment. How is this possible?
I think I try to understand a bit too much and can feel myself trying to think my way.
Good to notice this. Our approach here does not rely on thought. We look to ‘direct experience’ (DE) – this means the sensations and the feelings/emotions that arise from moment to moment. Thoughts are included in DE too – but thoughts as mental objects – not their content. For example you may have a tingly, rumbly sensation in the stomach area and the thought ‘time for lunch’ may arise – the thought is a mental object – it is observed happening – but if you were to start thinking about what to have for lunch, where to go for lunch, who to have lunch with – you are ‘elaborating’ – lost in ‘thought story’ (papancha). It is important that you stay with DE and not get lost in mental elaboration.

To get a sense of what I mean here – try this exercise:

Now I’m going to ask you to get right into your experience of the moment. Sit in a chair and bring awareness to all the contact points your body has with the chair and the floor. Feel the sense of pressure in your feet, move up to the pressure in the backside and the back. Close your eyes and focus just on the raw experience – ignore the ‘inner picture’ that has constructed the experience as ‘my body sitting in a chair’. Can you feel where the body ends and floor/chair begins or is the experience itself seamless? Without using thought – before thought intervenes – what is the nature of the experience? Where is the experience taking place? What are its qualities? Is there a ‘centre’ to this experience? Is there a ‘thing’ separate from the sensations that the experience is ‘happening to’? When thought tries to intervene, don’t follow it, allow awareness to remain in the raw experience. Do this several times for at least ten minutes. Report back what you find.
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:44 pm

Just notice how everything works on auto-pilot
Yes, this is something I've been aware of for quite some time now, I've even mentioned it when teaching meditation. However, now as I reflect on it a bit more I realise that I understood it as 'we' are on autopilot, rather than everything being on autopilot. I think subtly I thought that there was 'someone' who was on autopilot.
is there any ‘thing’ behind any of these actions that makes these actions happen?
Not that I can see anyway.
How is this possible?
Absolutely no idea. I suppose the body learns? I play the drums. I had to sit down and learn how to play them. Now I can almost sit down and watch myself play. Maybe I'm straying off the point here. Better to notice what happens rather than try to figure out why it happens?
‘thought story’ (papancha).
Yes, where would 'we' be without papancha!

I remember being on retreat a few years ago and whilst most people were in the shrine room meditating someone was walking around the room upstairs. It occurred to me that I should just focus on the direct experience of the sound rather than asking myself what they were doing or why they weren't meditating. It seemed so simple at the time but tricky not to be curious or get lost in interpretation.

OK, I will have to come back to the exercise later, as time doesn't allow me to give it justice right now.
I'll report back soon

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:01 pm

OK, the exercise...

I didn't find it very easy to do. It was as if I was trying to grab experience and put it under a microscope. It wouldn't stay still, like trying to stop time. Although there were definite sensations present it still felt somehow intangiable.
Can you feel where the body ends and floor/chair begins or is the experience itself seamless?
This was interesting. I couldn't decide if the sensation of contact was as a result of my body contacting the chair/floor or the chair/floor contacting my body. It was as if my body was pushing down on the chair and the chair was pushing up on my body.
what is the nature of the experience? Where is the experience taking place? What are its qualities? Is there a ‘centre’ to this experience?
'I don't know' seems to be the best answer to these questions. I've no idea where the experience was taking place, somewhere in space is all I could say. The idea of there being a centre to the experience didn't occur to me at all.

Thoughts definitely tried to intervene as they are prone to doing.

As I write I can feel a bit of pressure in my head, as if I am trying hard to think about it and work it out. Trying to use thoughts to describe an exercise that wasn't about thought.

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:03 am

Ok good work here – I can see that you are trying to look where I’m pointing with this. This kind of preliminary ‘body’ work is actually really important as it sets up the conditions for deeper understanding later.
Most of us start off with emotionally held, conceptual views which ‘cloud’ the immediate experience of any sense arising. (These can be very subtle and may be noticed at any point in your explorations.) The most basic of these views is that some ’thing’ is experiencing some other ‘thing’ – e.g. you say:

“I couldn't decide if the sensation of contact was as a result of my body contacting the chair/floor or the chair/floor contacting my body”.

Well you don’t need to ‘decide’ (that suggests you are thinking about it!) Put aside what thought says – thought is where the clouding conceptual views hang out. Really look – can two different things actually be found in the experience (foot and floor)? Really look. Can the supposed division between two ‘things’ really be discerned – or is this just a conceptual view that somehow clouds or overlays the direct experience?

Getting into this can be tricky – so try this guided meditation from Rupert Spira

http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/list ... f-the-body

– it just takes 25 minutes and many people find that listening to this makes this pointer really ‘click’ for them. Let me know how you get on.
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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NeilD
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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:57 pm

That exercise was really, really helpful thanks. I feel I am beginning to see what you are pointing to. I did have a sense of just experiencing sensation somehow floating in a knowing space; the new born baby analogy really helped. Right now I feel that this has gone in deeply, or at least I can say that I did get a glimpse of what DE really means. Of course, during the exercise thoughts arose about the experience and sensations but I could see them as thoughts arising. I also noticed the tendency to start writing this post in my head as I was getting excited!
Really look – can two different things actually be found in the experience (foot and floor)?
Of course not, it seems bizarre to believe that there are two things in the experience, almost a form of madness. It's just sensation, no need to elaborate, leave it alone.

I'm laughing at the notion that all my life I've been interpreting experience mistakenly, like a child from a rich family who has wandered amongst the poor. This makes sense to me now.

I do feel that I am just beginning to scratch the surface though, but that was a strong experience.

I like what Rupert Spira said about the exercise being like a homoepathic dose, it was a strong glimpse of something. I need more doses!

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:23 pm

Right now I feel that this has gone in deeply, or at least I can say that I did get a glimpse of what DE really means.
OK great. Here’s a link to a page that explains DE a bit more: http://www.liberationunleashed.com/Arti ... ience.html
Really look – can two different things actually be found in the experience (foot and floor)?
Of course not, it seems bizarre to believe that there are two things in the experience, almost a form of madness.


Yes, the Buddha did say that all ‘worldlings’ are mad!
It's just sensation, no need to elaborate, leave it alone.
OK this is a key point – consider the Buddha’s advice to Bahiya:

“Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no 'you' in connection with that. When there is no 'you' in connection with that, there is no 'you' there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

So let’s investigate the nature of experience more by expanding the ‘body’ exercise we started with – keep on doing the body sensation stage, then move on to the other senses, . . . look at smell, where is that sensation happening, try to stick with the pure sensation and notice how the mind kicks in AFTER the event by producing ‘selfing’ thoughts, e.g. ‘smell of incense in my nose’ – all this is imputed in thought and is not there in bare experience. Do it with taste, hearing, sight, individually.

Then, and this is the important part, try to keep all the various sensations that thought says are happening in ‘your body’ in awareness simultaneously – keep on building up to this and do it for 10 minutes at a time – in a chair, on the bus, on the park bench. Keep with the raw experience and notice there is a gap between the experience and the ‘selfing’ thoughts that impose to claim the experience as ‘mine’.

Don’t hold on to the selfing thoughts – just keep coming back to the raw experience – in the felt, just the felt, in the smelled, just the smelled, in the tasted, just the tasted, in the heard, just the heard, in the seen, just the seen.
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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NeilD
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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby NeilD » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:49 am

OK, thanks, this is a good exercise, I see what it is leading to.
I'll need a bit of time to do it and will report back then.

A little postscript from yesterday...

After my initial excitement in the morning from doing the Rupert Spira meditation, I then went through about three hours of feeling down/depressed in the afternoon (not something that happens often to be honest). In the evening I just sobered. It feels like I have been stirred up.

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Re: Looking for a guide please

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Fri Mar 14, 2014 8:59 pm

I wouldn't pay too much attention to fluctuating mental states -- certainly don't listent to what thought says about them. We often greet 'positive' states as a sign of 'progress' and 'negative' states as a sign something is 'wrong'. But if you sit and look at these 'states' in DE -- they are just senstations with thought stories attached. What are the actual sensations that you describe as 'down/depressed'? Sit and investigate them. Put aside what thought says about them and just look at them 'nakedly' -- with no elaboration. Maybe a sense of heaviness in the 'chest' area? Perhaps a welling feeling? Can you find anything 'wrong' with these sensations? Are they any more meaningful than hunger pangs or an itch? Is there any 'person' there that these sensations are happening to? What is it that says these sensations have any particular value or meaning?
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin


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