Request for guide Moondog

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Andy Blackford
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Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:28 pm

Hello Moondog
I've read a lot of exchanges in The Gateless Gate, and identify strongly with all of them. I feel as if I'm tantalisingly close to the brink of 'getting it' - intellectually, at least, it all makes sense to me. And I have glimpses of a real, heartfelt understanding. I look into current experience, say in meditation, and I can't find anything that resembles a hard 'self'. But then it always comes back to two questions.

1) Who is it that is actually looking for my self? Somebody must be, says logic/habit.

2) If not, if things just run themselves, where does choice - especially moral choice - come in? If it's a matter of things making their own choices (because my accumulated experience and personality traits make certain decisions unavoidable) then this seems dangerously like predestination.

That's my situation. How do I finally kick the Self habit, given these two apparent barriers?
Andy

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:50 pm

Hi Andy

Thanks for letting me know a bit about yourself, how you've arrived at this point and where you're at right now. I'd be very happy to guide you through so that you can clearly see for yourself that there is no separate self entity. The answer to your interlinked questions should become a lot clearer as we move through this process of looking.

Here are a few standard ground rules before we start:

You agree to post at least once a day, even if only to say that you're still around, and I'll do the same. Sometimes it might just not be possible for one of us to post substantively and of course we'd find a way to work round that.

I am not your teacher, all I can do is point and you look, until clear seeing happens.

In general, I will ask questions and you look deeply and respond with 100% honesty.

Responses require simple, uncontrived, honest looking. There are no wrong or right answers.

Responses are best from direct experience (the physical evidence of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, prior to the story or explanation about them). Long-winded, analytical and philosophical or stream of consciousness answers are best avoided and may even hinder progress. Just listen very closely to the answers that arise in you, and answer to the very best of your ability at that time. (Read the article at http://liberationunleashed.com/articles ... xperience/ for more help on distinguishing what is direct experience.)

Put aside all other teachings, philosophies etc. for the duration of this investigation. Really put all your effort and attention into seeing this reality, as it is. (If you have a daily and essential meditation practice, it's ok to continue with that. And it's fine to read threads in this forum and the Gateless Gatecrashers book.)

Please learn to use the quote function, see http://liberationunleashed.com/nation/v ... ?f=4&t=660 for instructions.

If you haven't already seen it, there is intro info at http://www.liberationunleashed.com/, together with our disclaimer and a short video.

Please confirm that you have seen these, that you agree to the disclaimer, and that you'd like me to be your guide and then we'll begin.

Let's start with a summary of what you're looking for and what you expect to find.

What are your expectations for this process?

What is it that you are searching for?

How will you know that you found it?

How will this feel?

How will this change you?


Finally, here's a couple of helpful points:

1) You can press 'subscribe to this topic' in the blue bar at the bottom of this page and receive a notification email every time I post here.

2) The site has a nasty habit of logging you out while you write a reply, which can mean you lose what you have written. One way to avoid this is to write elsewhere, then just paste the message into the 'reply' window when you're ready to send.

And, no worries, I don't intend to send any more posts this long, if I can help it! This is just to set things up for you nicely.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Andy Blackford
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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:23 pm

Huge thanks, Pete. Good questions all. I'm off to my mitra group now, and in gaol all day tomorrow, so i won't get to grips with things very much until Thursday - but I'll check in at least tomorrow. Andy

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:43 pm

Hi Andy,

Ok great, look forward to your replies either tomorrow or Thursday, when you've got more time.

As I say in my post, once we get going, the aim is for each of us to post every day, even if it's just to say we can't send a full reply for whatever reason, as you've just done.

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:45 am

Hello Pete,

Home from my day in prison. (Out of gaol but not free, you might say!)

I’ve seen the video, and I’ve read the waiver.

One sentence troubled me slightly: “Do not enter if your goal is to fix the parts of your life that you think are broken [or] to embark on a self-improvement project”. Perhaps that is what I’m trying to do – I have a sense of suffering (too grand a term unless in the technical Buddhist sense: more like, nagging background anxiety, intermittent if not constant – a feeling of being responsible for Everything and Everyone). I’m pretty sure it’s caused by the interference of Self, and it would be good not to have it anymore.

Also I would certainly like to ‘improve’ myself, in the sense of becoming a more skilful being - a stronger, more confident ethical force, perhaps.

If you don’t think those ideas are compatible with the process, I suppose now’s the time I should know.

If it’s appropriate to continue, however, I’ve done my best to answer the five questions:

What are your expectations for this process?
To feel what I already know – that the Self is a useful convention, an amalgamation of incredibly complex mental events and processes with no real identity beyond this ever-changing stream of consciousness.

What is it that you are searching for?
To be permanently free of the exhausting feeling of responsibility, tinged with fear, that I feel towards this amorphous, ghostly notion of ‘myself’ and to others.

How will you know that you found it?
I hope I will recognise it from feelings of great relief that I have gained in the past during meditation. These are like the feeling of waking up from an uneasy dream – but then I subside back into ‘sleep’ again.

How will this feel?
A sense of freedom and release, I hope - like the sun coming out.

How will this change you?
I hope it will dissolve me ‘default settings’ of background apprehension, ponderous weight, guilt for the past, inadequacy and guilt for not being ‘good enough in the present.

I hope this is helpful. I’m around all today, on and off, with access to a computer.

Very best wishes,

Andy

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Thu Aug 28, 2014 2:44 pm

Hi Andy,
Home from my day in prison. (Out of gaol but not free, you might say!)
Sound interesting. I once thought of getting involved with Angulimala but, as they tend to, events took an unexpected turn, ending up with me writing this to you :-)

Thanks for agreeing to all that stuff.
One sentence troubled me slightly: “Do not enter if your goal is to fix the parts of your life that you think are broken [or] to embark on a self-improvement project”. Perhaps that is what I’m trying to do – I have a sense of suffering (too grand a term unless in the technical Buddhist sense: more like, nagging background anxiety, intermittent if not constant – a feeling of being responsible for Everything and Everyone). I’m pretty sure it’s caused by the interference of Self, and it would be good not to have it anymore.
Well, that connects with the questions about expectations that I asked you. Expectations, are just thoughts, and naturally arise, unbidden, as thoughts. It's only when they're taken seriously as targets that should or must be met for the process to be a 'success' that they are likely to become significant impediments to seeing and therefore knowing for a fact that there's just no separate self anywhere. And this process of looking really is simply to see whether there is this separate self to be found anywhere, simple as that. It stands to reason that, if there's no self, this cannot be 'a self-improvement project'. There's no self to improve! However, the wrong view that there is a self to protect, worry about, advance (often called 'the ego'), and give the impression and feelings of separateness, specialness, loneliness etc. starts to recede and fade away when seen to be false. This clearly has an effect on each and every one who sees it, but it follows that exactly how it manifests, and how quickly, depends on each individual's specific conditions and conditioning.

Anyway, many thanks for sharing your expectations, and your understanding of what seeing that you have no separate self might be like. It's natural, of course, to wonder and speculate about what this liberation/awakening will be like but, by its very nature, I can assure you that it's just not like anyone expects, although, as I've just said, it does differ for each one of us. I must stress that the work we do is definitely not intellectual or thought-based. That being so, as I've already said, it's best to put aside any expectations. They reside in thoughts about the future and so are not within direct experience.

Rest assured, that when you see that there isn't and never has been a 'you', a self-entity, with my guiding to help you see that fact for yourself, you'll just know. In exactly the same way that you know that unicorns aren't real, Batman doesn't exist, and there's no Santa Claus. It isn't fundamentally at all difficult, amazingly simple in fact, but only if you don't rely on trying to figure it out by thinking it through but, instead, just LOOK, LOOK, LOOK in direct experience.

So, again as I've already said, actually seeing for sure that there is no separate self, and never has been, is different for everyone. It can come with a definite pop of realisation, or it might creep up gradually until it is seen. Also the effects on life lived after liberation can vary widely.

It’s worth mentioning at this early stage that what can hold a lot of people back, and something that we can perhaps knock on the head now, are assumptions around what one would 'be like' or what life ought to 'look like' once it’s seen that there’s no self-entity. There is a view that 'getting it' is tantamount to kind of somehow seeing it all the time, or being in some kind of state in which negative emotions or problems don’t arise.

It's really helpful to be clear that it's not any kind of state - it's simply direct knowing, insight. The Santa example puts it very well - 'seeing through' Santa, i.e. knowing for sure that there is no Santa, doesn't mean that little kids then spend the rest of their lives constantly thinking, 'there's no Santa'! Nor does it mean that Santa isn't apparently spotted in shopping malls in December. It's just that the story has been seen through. The direct knowing of no-self may be recollected at any time, but states still continue to come and go - pleasant, unpleasant, 'positive', 'negative'. However, that said, changes will be noticed, some possibly quite dramatic, including in relation to suffering arising from a pre-occupation with a separate self that simply doesn't exist!

I hope that this has helped to fill out your perspective on all of this Andy.

So, I'll post once a day, perhaps occasionally more, and will tell you in advance if I know I won't be able to post. It would be good if you could do the same.

Moving on now towards the core of this work - just look at the following statement, and ponder it every which way you can:

Nothing exists outside the present moment.

Can you find anything, anything at all, that does?


And next:

How do you conceive the 'self' or 'I'/ 'me' that you hold 'yourself' to be?

Now look directly at the flow of experiencing. Where in that flow does the 'self' that you conceive reside? Can it be found, at all?


Pete x

Ps.To make your replies as clear as possible and to help me guide you, please use the quote function. To do that, simply highlight the relevant sentence(s)/paragraph(s) that you're replying to in my previous post and press 'copy', then press the 'Quote ' button in the bar above the section you're typing in, then place the cursor in the centre of the two bracketed quote words and then press "paste". That should do it.
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:47 am

Nothing exists outside the present moment.

Can you find anything, anything at all, that does?

And next:

How do you conceive the 'self' or 'I'/ 'me' that you hold 'yourself' to be?

Now look directly at the flow of experiencing. Where in that flow does the 'self' that you conceive reside? Can it be found, at all?
Good morning, Pete

Sorry it's taken a while to get back - it was the Angulimala AGM. I hope I've understood the 'quote' instructions - I suppose we'll soon see.

This is likely to be quite long, I’m afraid.

First, a general observation: there has already been a noticeable shift. When, as a result of looking, I have the sense of ‘no self’, I feel a palpable wave of relief and freedom. It’s like waking up from an anxious dream and realising that it was just that – a dream. I can already see why you’re called Liberation Unleashed.

But I have to keep consciously refreshing the realisation, or else I ‘drop off’ again.

This caused me to reflect that it’s easier to see something than not seeing it – (realising its absence). If a thing is there, it’s simple, you can see it. But if you’re trying to establish its absence, you have an urge to keep checking in case it’s popped up while you weren’t looking….

Now your first question. The Present is all there is. The future seems just like a series of competing hypotheses. In my meditation, I have practised resisting the urge to slide off into fantasies about the future, so I expect I’m reasonable good at not being charmed by its promises.

The past certainly doesn’t feel very real: more like the trail left by a slug. Or a series of snapshots of things that happened – snapshots which you’d like to think are an accurate and lasting record, but which are subject to ‘history creep’ and apt to change insidiously over time.

The present on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition – it was an three-dimensional, living quality – it is an altogether different order of experience. No comparison with the other two ‘experiential modes’ – apples and oranges.

Second question.

I think the Santa analogy is quite good, but it doesn’t match my experience so far, in one important way. Whereas I know what Santa looks like, even though he isn’t real, I don’t know what ‘I’ looks like – in fact, that’s the prime (anti-) characteristic of my ‘self’: if I try to pin it down, it just evaporates. It’s like a mummy in a tomb that crumbles into dust when the seal is broken and the air floods in.

My ‘self’ is a vague, amorphous assumption: I sort of think that I could describe it if I were asked to – but when I look, it’s so woolly, all-encompassing, ungraspable and subject to the vagaries of mood and circumstance as to be completely meaningless.

As for the ‘flow of experiencing’, I have a sense of self which varies in intensity or solidity according to the nature of the experience. It’s at its strongest when it feels under threat – for instance, if it feels insulted, over-looked, under-valued, ignored. It also takes on a concrete appearance if I feel guilty about some past wrong that I’ve done to someone. Then ‘I’ morph into ‘that which hurts others’, and that seems pretty real.

Imagine that the world is a big end-of-year class photograph from school days. The photo is lying on a bench. Suspended over it is a magnifying class. It’s hanging over the bit of the photo that contains me. I’m sitting in the centre of the panorama and because of the lens, I seem abnormally large compared to everybody and everything else.

The sense of ‘no self’ that I’ve enjoyed for the last couple of days is as if the magnifying glass has been removed – so that suddenly, I’m just part of the big picture, at one with all of the other subjects. It feels much more comfortable and natural.

To put it another way: when I experience this ‘no self’ intuition, I feel as I’m much more connected to everything ‘behind’ and ‘around’ me, on the outside of me - but that when I look ‘forwards’ or ‘inwards’ there is an empty space. This isn’t a lonely or exposed feeling – quite the opposite. It’s just that I’m identifying strongly with the whole, not with the particular.

All this is good, I’m pretty sure. But then my sraddha goes from under me and I suddenly think, is this just auto-suggestion? I’ve read people’s experiences in The Gateless Gate, I’ve read the prompts on the LU website – have I just absorbed the idea without really engaging with the reality? In other words, is this stirring of recognition the real delusion (so to speak) rather than the Self?

The doubts are caused, I think, by the inherent dis-logic of what you’re proposing: I can’t help thinking in a subject/object mode. Someone must be having these reflections, surely? And if not, if it’s all ‘automatic’, where’s the space for skilful effort, for ethical choice?

Also, I keep sliding back into my habitual way of looking at me vis a vis the world, and I have to sidle off for a bit of quiet reflection. Then, usually, I can regain the ‘just woken up’ feeling and my anxiety and doubt fade away again.

Anyway, Pete, that’s where I am at the moment.

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Sun Aug 31, 2014 4:41 pm

Hi Andy,

Nice to have you back.
First, a general observation: there has already been a noticeable shift. When, as a result of looking, I have the sense of ‘no self’, I feel a palpable wave of relief and freedom. It’s like waking up from an anxious dream and realising that it was just that – a dream. I can already see why you’re called Liberation Unleashed.
Great, that's really good to hear. What you describe can often happen as seeing through separate self deepens. Just remember that this seeing is, in the end, not a state, that can come and go, but a knowing it to be so, hence the Santa analogy. It's quite natural for this realisation to seem to drop away. That just happens as part of life, but once seen, the knowing is always there when looked for. My approach in guiding you to see that there is no self, no 'you', will be to take you in a loosely structured, relaxed and informal way in turn through each of the areas where a self entity might be lurking, so that you can see for yourself, in 'your' direct experience, that there simply isn't one there, or anywhere.
The Present is all there is. The future seems just like a series of competing hypotheses.
Excellent. I'm glad that that is clear.
My ‘self’ is a vague, amorphous assumption: I sort of think that I could describe it if I were asked to – but when I look, it’s so woolly, all-encompassing, ungraspable and subject to the vagaries of mood and circumstance as to be completely meaningless.
Couldn't have put it better myself.
As for the ‘flow of experiencing’, I have a sense of self which varies in intensity or solidity according to the nature of the experience. It’s at its strongest when it feels under threat – for instance, if it feels insulted, over-looked, under-valued, ignored. It also takes on a concrete appearance if I feel guilty about some past wrong that I’ve done to someone. Then ‘I’ morph into ‘that which hurts others’, and that seems pretty real.
Yeah, it seems that most, if not all, folks find the illusion of a self becoming stronger and more seductive the greater the perceived threat is to that imagined entity. No doubt down to evolution developing defence mechanisms for our ancient forebears.
The doubts are caused, I think, by the inherent dis-logic of what you’re proposing: I can’t help thinking in a subject/object mode. Someone must be having these reflections, surely? And if not, if it’s all ‘automatic’, where’s the space for skilful effort, for ethical choice?
I'm not actually proposing anything; just asking you to look into your direct experience to see if you can find the 'I' that you always supposed must be there running things. You've already started to look and, as is often the case, doubt is coming up as a kind of protective response. This is fine. Doubt (often accompanied by fear) doesn't know that this isn't a genuine threat, it just wants you to be safe. Just acknowledge so-called negative emotions when they arise, and allow them to be, without engaging with them or resisting them, until they leave.

As to your query about skilful effort and ethics, it seems to me that unskilful, unethical behaviour always results from the perceived need or desire to protect or benefit this separate self, i.e. hatred and craving derived from ignorance. Without that delusion those needs no longer obtain. I remember the Five/Ten Precepts were said to mirror the behaviour of one that was already awakened. The language is a bit highfalutin for me, but I'm sure you get my drift. Also, bear in mind that this process isn't about losing or getting rid of something but instead it's discovering something was never there in the first place. And, after all, life's gone on so far just as it has without any entity deciding what should or shouldn't be done.

As I'm sure you'll have seen, the initial questions point you towards looking into 'your' direct experience, which is, as I say, where I'll be frequently pointing you to look, and where this investigation will take place. That's as opposed to thought content. Direct experience is the very core of what we're doing here with this. Essentially, and utterly fundamentally, all there is, and can ever be, is here right now in this moment. So looking to see whether a separate and separating self is to be found can only take place within direct experience of this. Now. There's nothing else. It follows therefore that all of our work to realise and actually know that there is no self is done by investigating In direct experience. To this end, we can divide direct experience into thought, sensations (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling [tactile and kinaesthetic] and an unmistakable sense of Aliveness (presence/being). I referred to the useful article on direct experience in the introductory post, and you might want to have another look at that.

As I keep saying, the whole of this investigation centres around looking in direct experience to see if a self-entity can be found anywhere there. This is accompanied by seeing that it is in thoughts and only in thoughts that 'I' ever 'occurs' and that 'I' doesn't actually occur there either because thoughts, or at least their contents, are neither reliable nor real in any sense.

So anyway, let's start at last investigating in direct experience where a self-entity might be by looking at sense arisings and the self as experiencer:

When you look at something, a book, a tree outside or whatever, can you find an 'I' that is looking or seeing, or is there just seeing?

If there is an 'I', where are the boundaries between what is being seen, the seeing process itself and the seer?

Please do the same with hearing: birdsong, music, a pneumatic drill or whatever; and similarly with each of: tasting, tactile feelings and smelling.


Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:13 pm

Thanks very much, Pete - I'll be back to you in the morning. A x

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:16 pm

Hi Andy,

Thanks. Only just picked this up.

Looking forward to hearing from you some time today.

Pete
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:12 pm

we can divide direct experience into thought, sensations (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling [tactile and kinaesthetic] and an unmistakable sense of Aliveness (presence/being).
I do feel that sense of Being: In fact it’s the context for every experience, every observation. It’s quite easy to mistake it for a ‘me’. I’m guessing that it is often taken to be an endorsement of the big misapprehension – to be supporting evidence for a Self.
When you look at something, a book, a tree outside or whatever, can you find an 'I' that is looking or seeing, or is there just seeing?

If there is an 'I', where are the boundaries between what is being seen, the seeing process itself and the seer?

Please do the same with hearing: birdsong, music, a pneumatic drill or whatever; and similarly with each of: tasting, tactile feelings and smelling.
I can find no Self in your ‘sensing scenarios’. I find it artificial (reminiscent of Philosophy tutorials) to divide up the experience into three – eg a seer, a seeing process, a seen. I can only picture a seer if I turn the experience into a story, fictional or documentary, as if I were describing an event to someone else. The actual phenomenon is completely integrated. There is just ‘a seeing’, or ‘a listening’.

I was going to write that an ‘I’ seems to be more believable when the sense object has an emotional connection – like music, or a scene of natural beauty – but now I’m not sure if that is true. I’m listening to music now and although it’s a more complicated process than say, touching my computer mouse, it’s nevertheless of the same order: it’s still ‘a listening’.

I’m still feeling waves of this sensation of relief – of a weight being lifted – but I also feel as if I’m in danger of it being misappropriated by the ‘Self ghost’: as if I had scored a point over “ordinary people”, or over my “old” incarnation, by seeing a truth that they haven’t/he didn’t.

It’s as if the Self idea has only made a tactical retreat and has retrenched, presenting itself as the very entity that came up with the ‘no self ‘ idea!

This is convoluted, I know – probably a symptom of doubt, of a lack of confidence in the outcome.

With metta,

Andy

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:05 pm

Hi Andy,
I do feel that sense of Being: In fact it’s the context for every experience, every observation. It’s quite easy to mistake it for a ‘me’. I’m guessing that it is often taken to be an endorsement of the big misapprehension – to be supporting evidence for a Self.
I agree. Excuse the unavoidable use of metaphor in the following, but it seems as though the idea/thought/belief that constitutes the illusion of a separate self somehow piggybags on this all-pervasive sense of being or aliveness and pretends that it is part of itself, this self-entity, apparently giving it veracity, energy, and its seductive power.
I can find no Self in your ‘sensing scenarios’. I find it artificial (reminiscent of Philosophy tutorials) to divide up the experience into three – eg a seer, a seeing process, a seen. I can only picture a seer if I turn the experience into a story, fictional or documentary, as if I were describing an event to someone else. The actual phenomenon is completely integrated. There is just ‘a seeing’, or ‘a listening’.
Spot on, and succinct Andy. For the sake of completeness, can you just confirm that you find the same in experiencing touch, taste and smell as well.
I’m still feeling waves of this sensation of relief – of a weight being lifted – but I also feel as if I’m in danger of it being misappropriated by the ‘Self ghost’: as if I had scored a point over “ordinary people”, or over my “old” incarnation, by seeing a truth that they haven’t/he didn’t. It’s as if the Self idea has only made a tactical retreat and has retrenched, presenting itself as the very entity that came up with the ‘no self ‘ idea! This is convoluted, I know – probably a symptom of doubt, of a lack of confidence in the outcome.
Really, all this can be is thoughts, impersonal arisings, 'telling' you these things, and then subsiding. It's not as if you've sort of provisionally gained something that you might possibly lose. Instead, you're seeing, from 'your' actual experience, that something that you always believed to be present as an entity was only ever a belief that was based on an illusion. There's nothing to lose.

So splendid, I reckon it's just the right time to move on to looking at whether there's any self-entity to be found in thinking and thoughts.

Not from what you think, but from direct experience, please say:

Where do thoughts come from?

Are you in control of them?

Can you stop a thought from coming?

Can you stop it in the middle?

Do you know what the next thought will be?

Is 'I' a different thought from the thought of say, a table?

Can a thought think?


I'm enjoying this so far. How's it for you Andy?

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:40 pm

Thank you very much for your time and your wisdom, Pete - I'm enjoying it greatly (with the same degree of electric trepidation as I might feel, negotiating Striding Edge in a gale). I'll be back in the morning, after some quiet relocation time. With metta, A

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Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby Andy Blackford » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:51 am

Not from what you think, but from direct experience, please say:

Where do thoughts come from?

Are you in control of them?

Can you stop a thought from coming?

Can you stop it in the middle?

Do you know what the next thought will be?

Is 'I' a different thought from the thought of say, a table?

Can a thought think?
Good morning, Pete.

I put these questions to the ‘direct looking test’ this morning.

I have a limited control of my thoughts. They appear from ‘nowhere’ – although I’m sure they’re thrown up by a bewilderingly-complex stream of consciousness that is far too fast and subtle to grasp. It reminds me of the flow of colours on a cuttlefish: you’re aware that reds and blues and greens are variously present, but not at any given instant.

It is possible to bring some order to the flow of thoughts, to slow it down perhaps, by cultivating calmness and concentration in meditation. But as I say, the control is difficult and sometimes impossible.

I can only ‘stop’ a thought from coming by setting up conditions that at least discourage their spontaneous upwelling. I can’t stop a particular thought from arising, and I certainly can’t stop it in the middle – although I can sometimes stop a sequence of thoughts from developing during meditation.

I don’t know what my next thought will be. In any case, ‘knowing’ this would be a thought – and so that would be the next thought!

The Table and I (little-known sequel movie starring Yul Brynner): they’re qualitatively different. The table seems to have a concrete existence, is describable in quite simple terms: colour, form, weight, etc. But ‘I’ is amorphous, a ‘shape shifter’ that is always somewhere else when you try to grab it, that is at best a mirror image of the situation or the company you happen to be in.

A thought can’t think – I can’t imagine that. A thought seems to be a basic building block of consciousness – it can develop in a linear progression, sometimes in surprising ways because the complexities of memory suggest what can seem like random associations. But they can’t have thoughts of their own. That feels like a nonsense, a tautology.

I do hope that makes some kind of sense.

I'm around all this morning, then again from about 4 until 6. Tomorrow is prison followed by GFR group, so I can't be online until about 8pm.

With much metta,

A

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moondog
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Location: Somerset, England

Re: Request for guide Moondog

Postby moondog » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:33 pm

Hi Andy,
I have a limited control of my thoughts. They appear from ‘nowhere’ – although I’m sure they’re thrown up by a bewilderingly-complex stream of consciousness that is far too fast and subtle to grasp. It reminds me of the flow of colours on a cuttlefish: you’re aware that reds and blues and greens are variously present, but not at any given instant.
I follow all that you say about control, or rather lack of control of thoughts, but I'm puzzled when you say I have a limited control of my thoughts. This indicates that you do have some control over your thoughts. Not at all from what you think but just from direct experience, please describe to me how this control, or partial control, manifests itself. What can you see that is doing this controlling? How does it work? If there is no evidence of such a controller or controlling mechanism in 'your' direct experience, is it really just thinking that is telling you this? If neither, what else can it be?
It is possible to bring some order to the flow of thoughts, to slow it down perhaps, by cultivating calmness and concentration in meditation. But as I say, the control is difficult and sometimes impossible.
Again, is this not a memory or thought story? Looking in direct experience, can you find any evidence of anything, any entity or mechanism, that slows down thoughts. If so, please describe how this happens and what exactly does it.
I can’t stop a particular thought from arising, and I certainly can’t stop it in the middle – although I can sometimes stop a sequence of thoughts from developing during meditation.
No, it's not possible is it. I've noticed that if 'I look directly' at a thought it's not there, it's gone. But really, all that's happened is that awareness has become focused. There's never a 'me' to be found deciding to do, or doing, anything when that happens.
The Table and I (little-known sequel movie starring Yul Brynner): they’re qualitatively different. The table seems to have a concrete existence, is describable in quite simple terms: colour, form, weight, etc. But ‘I’ is amorphous, a ‘shape shifter’ that is always somewhere else when you try to grab it, that is at best a mirror image of the situation or the company you happen to be in.
Yeah, I must have missed that one when it came out:) I agree with what you say about the thought of a table and an I-thought, with the 'contents' of the latter seeming to be far more insubstantial and baseless, and that's the main point. In another way though, even the table-thought is only that, a thought, and far from being or even resembling the table itself.
A thought can’t think – I can’t imagine that. A thought seems to be a basic building block of consciousness – it can develop in a linear progression, sometimes in surprising ways because the complexities of memory suggest what can seem like random associations. But they can’t have thoughts of their own. That feels like a nonsense, a tautology.
I agree that it may seem like thoughts can develop in linear progression but, aside from other thoughts telling you that, is there anything you can see in direct experience that shows that thoughts can organise themselves in such a way?

I always enjoy this looking-at-thoughts-and-thinking part, and you clearly get this Andy. I've just posed the above few questions because it's crucial to address any lingering doubts or impressions that there is, or might be, either something doing the thinking, or thinking being/doing something apart from thinking.

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'


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