Looking for a guide

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Ole J
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Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Tue May 26, 2015 11:39 am

What brings me here: I am looking to bring to the surface obstacles to clear direct seeing, to clarify questions I have around this and to deepen my direct experience of the absence of self.
What is my background: I have done various relative practices but as a main practice my connection is Dzogchen (as it is in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition) as a direct introduction to nondual awareness. I am also familiar with the way neo-advaita teachers talk about things. Beyond any specific technique or tradition I go by my own experience as much as possible. This includes not just recognising unconditioned awareness but also habitual patterns and limitations including the sense of self and how it intervenes.

What do I expect: I am not very familiar with online social forums etc, so I'm unsure how I can use that (willing to give it a go if I figure it out). I am very interested in talking directly to a guide, and hope this will relate directly to my own experience. I think this chance for an honest encounter is something rare.

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Tue May 26, 2015 1:51 pm

Hi Ole,

Thanks for letting me know a bit about yourself and how you've arrived at this point. My name's Pete and I live in Somerset in England. Can you say which time zone you are in.

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. I know you've already answered some of these, but please forgive any overlap and just fill in the gaps where you haven't, and we'll get started.

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.

Don't worry, 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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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Tue May 26, 2015 8:34 pm

Hi Pete

This is incredibly generous from your side.
To offer your assistance to somebody you don't know.
I live in London, if that answers the time zone question.
Just now, I'm in a hotel room in Birmingham where I stay once a week on work purpose.
I won’t say more, as I guess this is not about my constructed identity around what I do etc.

What are my expectations: I heard about this site through a friend. He talked about how it had changed the perspective of some close friends of his who had long experience with meditation. I realised I had seen an interview with the founders on 'Buddha at the Gas Pump' some time ago. I had long been aware of the possible delusion of spiritual fantasy, the attraction of special practices and the idea of a far off future goal. I think in the past I might have had both skepticism and some mild fear perhaps towards the dramatic narratives of other people's 'awakenings'. I don't feel this way anymore. I feel I have some indication of what it is but I still have some doubts and questions it would be great to get your perspective on.

My Searching: I think this overlaps a little with How will I know and How does it feel. I feel slowly slowly an increased lightness of being, kind of a relief like that of discovering there are no monsters under your bed, that there might not be much substance to things or that identification is less heavy, less tension and agitation. Like the crispness of trees when I walk down the road, the miracle that things just appear. But yes being involved with more traditional teachings I guess I have also have had expectations of gaining insight or clarity etc. I think I still have the idea of that, but that is not what I'm expecting from this forum. Others talk about some definite threshold or shift that is not something one regresses from. This experience is not something I've had thus far. I'm not expecting that to happen but I want to know if I have some resistance to this (subconsciously).

The short answer to how will it feel, how will I know, how will it change is that of course I don't know for sure. But to give you some sense of the questions I have. There are times recently that I have felt some as I said lightness. But then either I think: I still have preferences, I want things to go this way rather than that way etc. So what has changed? Am I still not just addicted to some story? Or I see in my encounters with others that I have acted egoically in some respect even though my internal experience was of somewhat carefree awareness etc. So I guess though there is a knowing of awareness as somewhat there all the time, of somewhat unconditioned, the idea that my knowing of this is final or not subject to change is something else. So how can I really know that I know in any irreversible way? (Or put differently: I frequently have experience in meditation of resting in awareness, some open spaciousness, but I haven't integrated with that completely. When I stop and get back to life I still follow a lot of the story of me and my aims, hopes and fears).

best

Ole

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Wed May 27, 2015 3:40 pm

Hi Ole,
This is incredibly generous from your side. To offer your assistance to somebody you don't know. I live in London, if that answers the time zone question.

It's always a pleasure and privilege to help folks see through the illusion of a separate self and, as we both live in England, we don't have to bother about different time zones.

Just so you know, I tend to post once a day, round about the time I'll send this, mid to late afternoon. But sometimes earlier, sometimes more than once. So, it's far from written in stone :-)

Before I move on, can I ask you just to confirm that you accept the disclaimer, various conditions and other stuff I set out in my previous post.
I think in the past I might have had both skepticism and some mild fear perhaps towards the dramatic narratives of other people's 'awakenings'. I don't feel this way anymore. I feel I have some indication of what it is but I still have some doubts and questions it would be great to get your perspective on.

But yes being involved with more traditional teachings I guess I have also have had expectations of gaining insight or clarity etc. I think I still have the idea of that, but that is not what I'm expecting from this forum. Others talk about some definite threshold or shift that is not something one regresses from. This experience is not something I've had thus far. I'm not expecting that to happen but I want to know if I have some resistance to this (subconsciously).

The short answer to how will it feel, how will I know, how will it change is that of course I don't know for sure. But to give you some sense of the questions I have. There are times recently that I have felt some as I said lightness. But then either I think: I still have preferences, I want things to go this way rather than that way etc.

Thanks also for sharing your expectations (part of which I've quoted above) and your understanding of what seeing that you have no separate self might be like. I appreciate your open, honest comments and observations. 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 it does differ for each one of us. I'd just stress that the work we do is definitely not intellectual or thought-based. That being so, it's best to put aside any expectations, as 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.

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's helped to clarify the background stuff a bit. Don't hesitate to ask me about any of this.

Moving on 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.It's helpful during our thread for us both to use the quote function; it keeps the various items and topics separated. To do so, please 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".
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Wed May 27, 2015 10:07 pm

It's always a pleasure and privilege to help folks see through the illusion of a separate self and, as we both live in England, we don't have to bother about different time zones.
Wonderful. Much appreciated. I feel a slight worry that I'll test your patience by not 'getting it'. But that is just part of it I guess.
Before I move on, can I ask you just to confirm that you accept the disclaimer, various conditions and other stuff I set out in my previous post.
Sorry I forgot to say last time that I have read the disclaimer and I'm clear about what this site is not.
Just so you know, I tend to post once a day, round about the time I'll send this, mid to late afternoon. But sometimes earlier, sometimes more than once. So, it's far from written in stone :-)
I just got back down from London on the late train, so my times for catching up might vary as well. If I am in very late one evening it might be the following morning if that's ok.
I'd just stress that the work we do is definitely not intellectual or thought-based.
After replying to you last night I was sitting a bit in meditation without gross thoughts. Coming out of that I guess that I felt that my response was in or from the mind to a degree. I don't mean that it does not relate to my direct experience, but it is the mind that has these questions and doubts. Is this not what the illusion of self is founded on?
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?
1. The mind and thought is very occupied with the past and the future. I agree that the past and the future are just more thoughts happening in the present. There are memories and experience that we use to construct ideas about the past and future. But the feeling of aliveness, the sensing of being awake, when I check it has to be the present.

2. How do I conceive of the self, and can it be found. When I sit in meditation, after resting in awareness for a while I often close my eyes again and do a little self-inquiry, checking who is it that is doing this, where is this sense of the doer. If it feels like I'm the body, I check and I only find fleeting sensations, if it feels like it's the mind I check and I only find another thought or feeling. It definitely can't be found. Still there is something there a kind of open-ended awareness, awakeness. So I am quite clear there is nothing to be found other than awareness. If I look into that awareness it is nothing substantial, nothing concrete.

So I have done this many times and not found anything. I understand intellectually that therefore they say the 'nature of mind' is empty (no substance) but lucid (awake). But after finishing meditating like this, I go back to everyday life then there is still a sense of acting from a centre. I have intentions, I make decisions. All of this is based just on some bundle of habits perhaps. I notice that I have tendencies to act in certain ways for example. So these are deep habits or patterns. Maybe that is all the self consists of? But there is still the notion that from minute to minute I am acting, deciding, forming intentions etc. So there is a feeling of 'me' associated with that. When I check to see if there is some kind of separate 'me' I can't find anything, but when I'm not checking it feels active.

Ole

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Thu May 28, 2015 2:53 pm

Hi Ole,
I feel a slight worry that I'll test your patience by not 'getting it'. But that is just part of it I guess.

No need to worry about that my friend.
I just got back down from London on the late train, so my times for catching up might vary as well. If I am in very late one evening it might be the following morning if that's ok.
That''ll be fine.
After replying to you last night I was sitting a bit in meditation without gross thoughts. Coming out of that I guess that I felt that my response was in or from the mind to a degree. I don't mean that it does not relate to my direct experience, but it is the mind that has these questions and doubts. Is this not what the illusion of self is founded

These early questions are really just for me to get a feel for where you're at. We'll shortly embark upon the investigation proper which will involve you telling me what you have seen in direct experience and that, of necessity, clearly necessitates you putting this into words, concepts, products of thought, the mind.

Thought might frequently say that there is a separate self and, if this is unquestioningly believed, that is the illusion.
The mind and thought is very occupied with the past and the future. I agree that the past and the future are just more thoughts happening in the present. There are memories and experience that we use to construct ideas about the past and future. But the feeling of aliveness, the sensing of being awake, when I check it has to be the present.

Yes, presence, awareness, now, here, the feeling of aliveness, all amount to the same 'thing' don't they?
So I am quite clear there is nothing to be found other than awareness. If I look into that awareness it is nothing substantial, nothing concrete.

Splendid.
So I have done this many times and not found anything. I understand intellectually that therefore they say the 'nature of mind' is empty (no substance) but lucid (awake). But after finishing meditating like this, I go back to everyday life then there is still a sense of acting from a centre. I have intentions, I make decisions. All of this is based just on some bundle of habits perhaps. I notice that I have tendencies to act in certain ways for example. So these are deep habits or patterns. Maybe that is all the self consists of? But there is still the notion that from minute to minute I am acting, deciding, forming intentions etc. So there is a feeling of 'me' associated with that. When I check to see if there is some kind of separate 'me' I can't find anything, but when I'm not checking it feels active.

I fully appreciate what you're saying. There's no substitute for experience, so let's move on to the actual investigation.

My job as your guide during this enquiry will be simply to point out to you where and how to look in direct experience so that you can see for sure for yourself whether there's a separate self-entity anywhere doing or being anything. I really like to maintain a specific skeleton structure to this process, which then allows us to explore much more loosely within each and every area within experience where a separate self might be found.

As you'll have seen, the initial questions point you towards looking into your 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. Experiencing 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 the 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 separate self is done by investigating experience. To this end, (as I said above) we can divide experiencing 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 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, let's start at last investigating 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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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Thu May 28, 2015 11:45 pm

Hi Pete

Thank you again for your precise and insightful mails. There are points that I found useful and have pondered from your last mail too.For example when you say that this is a knowing not a state I get a sense of what you mean. States are something one moves in and out of or even if it is the base of awareness itself that is not the knowing of who is aware. I get the analogy with Santa Clause too in that functions are happening perfectly without some special entity.
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.
Tasting something: It is amazing how specific a taste can be, yet when you examine it closer it is ineffable in some ways. That really comes back to awareness for me, that is particular but really the same for each thing.

Seeing and hearing: There is the idea that these are less intimate than tasting, in that what we see and hear we share with others, a consensus reality. Though when I look around me in my room just now, if I look without labeling anything, I would say there is just seeing, or I listen to the sounds from outside, just hearing. The 'I' is not particularly at the forefront of that. But a lot of the time when labeling something, like that is a cup or what I heard was a car, there is the sense that the object is out there and therefore by implication I am here, with my analysing, judging and thinking in response to what I hear and see. I once heard I think it was Rupert Spira say we look at something far away and something near, but really both are equally intimate as experience. I accept that. They are both experiences, nothing more or less. There are times when I feel no 'me' between the seer and the seen. There is just seeing or more like awareness taking the form of seeing and hearing etc. But then the world comes back in, the consensus labling and once you have the idea of the thing there is the idea of the one who sees or hears the thing. Then if you shift your experience to what it is like to see or hear it moves towards presence or awareness again. If I shift my experience to who it is that sees or hears, I know I am not as immersed in seeing or hearing as a cat, so there is something more and it becomes the same as looking at the sense of self again. That comes back to awareness too. So I know that awareness is more fundamental, and I can look around just with a feeling of that. But when I am not doing this as an exercise, and I am not immersed like a cat, there probably is a sense of the object is there and I with my reactions are here. My conclusion is that it is possible to look and hear with awareness just of looking and hearing, and to react to things, judging thinking in everyday life with the sense of self in operation. It is possible to shift between these two modes of relating. Sometimes I automatically fall into just seeing/hearing (with awareness - not like a cat), then there is just a sense of the miracle of how things appear. Then at other times I am judging/thinking the thing is there, I am here.

best

O x

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Fri May 29, 2015 4:43 pm

Hi Ole,
Tasting something: It is amazing how specific a taste can be, yet when you examine it closer it is ineffable in some ways. That really comes back to awareness for me, that is particular but really the same for each thing.

It's good you can see that so clearly. 'Ineffable' is a great word for this.
Seeing and hearing: There is the idea that these are less intimate than tasting, in that what we see and hear we share with others, a consensus reality. Though when I look around me in my room just now, if I look without labeling anything, I would say there is just seeing, or I listen to the sounds from outside, just hearing. [

Taking this a little further, solely in direct experience, can you find any boundary/separation between that which is seeing/hearing, the process of seeing/hearing, and that which is seen/heard?
But a lot of the time when labeling something, like that is a cup or what I heard was a car, there is the sense that the object is out there and therefore by implication I am here, with my analysing, judging and thinking in response to what I hear and see.

Me too. As soon as thought interjects, via labelling, separation appears to reassert itself: self/other, inside/outside etc. But, much as with Santa, once this is known for certain from experience to be merely an illusion, born of thinking, this truth of wholeness is always known. I won't go any further because, seductive and enjoyable as it always is to go down the road of intellectual analysis and speculation, there's always the danger of being distracted from the focussed investigation of looking for a self-entity in all areas and aspects of experience.
I once heard I think it was Rupert Spira say we look at something far away and something near, but really both are equally intimate as experience. I accept that. They are both experiences, nothing more or less.

Rupert Spira is so good at describing experience isn't he.
My conclusion is that it is possible to look and hear with awareness just of looking and hearing, and to react to things, judging thinking in everyday life with the sense of self in operation. It is possible to shift between these two modes of relating. Sometimes I automatically fall into just seeing/hearing (with awareness - not like a cat), then there is just a sense of the miracle of how things appear. Then at other times I am judging/thinking the thing is there, I am here.

I'm with you all the way there Ole. Amongst other things, it's the shift between modes that fascinates me.

So, enough already. Correct me if I'm moving ahead too swiftly, but you don't appear to have found any evidence of an 'I' anywhere in sense experience. Anyway, let's move on to looking at thoughts and thinking.

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?


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

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Fri May 29, 2015 11:37 pm

Hi Pete

Thanks a lot again. I will look at your questions on thought tomorrow morning when I'm a little fresher. But I first wanted to say that during the day today I paid attention to seeing and hearing again. Though we both interestingly agree that it is possible to switch mode, I was thinking more specifically as to whether seeing or hearing requires a special self. And the answer is no. It is just happening. There is just the capacity for seeing and hearing to take place. We presume that the form it takes depend on the secondary conditions of the physical body, but that is a different, as you say more intellectual question. In terms of experience, whether we think an external world exists or not, seeing, hearing and for that matter touching do not require a doer.

You don't need to answer this. I will be back tomorrow on your other questions. It is fitting they are on thought. Because as we see that seeing and hearing just happens, the judging and analysing we were talking about, and the whole implicit world seems to relate to thought.

O

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Sat May 30, 2015 10:34 am

Taking this a little further, solely in direct experience, can you find any boundary/separation between that which is seeing/hearing, the process of seeing/hearing, and that which is seen/heard?
It seems (as Spira indicated) to be no distance within experience, everything is equally intimate. The experience accomodates both that which (could) be separated out as the seer and that which (could) be separated out as the seen.
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?

Pete x
It seems where we ended our last inquiry was that sensing was just happening by itself, without a special agency (though with still the possibility of the awareness of seeing - not immersed like a cat), even though it can also be conceptualised in experience. That meant that thought really seemed to be what brings in the idea of the me or the separation. I will answer your questions with immediacy now. But like yesterday I will also try to take them with me during the day, so that I can check in experience as I go along. The questions I know are really aimed at getting to a quality of experience not just to intellectual speculation.


Where do thoughts come from: There are some exercises in Mahamudra style that I've done before where they ask where thoughts come from, where they go and where they abide. When you're sitting in meditation, before you even check for this, it is more evident that thoughts come and go without you doing anything, just like a pulse. The mind oscillates naturally between calm and movement. Then when you check, it is clear thoughts just come out of 'nowhere' and disappear in nowhere. Then if you check what this nowhere is, it is kind of insubstantial awareness, and so it seems that as a kind of ground just have that potential for movement.

Though obviously, when we direct our thoughts to write an essay or follow a philosophical argument it feels more as if we are the agency that do the thinking. You can stare out into the air for a moment as you try to compose a poem and have an 'inspiration' that appears out of nowhere in condition of you being in that 'zone'. So there is still a component that is not fixed, but you're using your individual faculty of mind as you compose the poem. So again you can shift between the experience of meditation and of directed thought. Does the experience you have in meditation influence how you think about thought? For me I guess yes, that quality of awareness I take as more fundamental, though a sense of self might still accompany my thinking, especially my daydreaming about desires and plans etc.

Am I in control: Mostly no. All the daydreaming and so on follows tendencies and patterns that I can hook on to. But it is mostly just retrospectively we construct the idea that we were the thinkers. Though when you direct your thoughts at a problem for example, thoughts follow something else. They follow your faculty of attention. Just as I can direct my attention at a pain in my knee, I can also direct it at following a more specific chain of thoughts. Thoughts as such, coming and going do not require a doer, that's for sure. But as an individual I seem to posess the capacity for directed attention, that is not itself a thought, but that can be applied to thought. There can be an element of control in that, but that is separate from the underlying flow of being, or stuck on top of.

Can you stop a thought from coming? If anybody commands, stop your thoughts now,it is like don't think of a pink elephant, immediately thoughts proliferate. But if somebody says think of as many thinks as you can within 20 seconds, your mind might 'freeze' or blank. Interesting. In general I know from meditation that blocking thoughts do not work. You have to give the mind a different 'object' such as the object (such as the breath etc) if you want to have less thoughts. Anyway, thoughts just come and go. Maybe some yogi can sit for a long time i a trance but eventually there will be thoughts again.

Can you stop it in the middle? Sometime in Dzogchen practice, the master will shout a loud 'phat', you can also do yourself, and there is kind of an interruption, like a shock followed by some seconds of no thoughts perhaps. But in general the answer is no, in that you don't control it like that. You can lose your trail of thoughts for example, that is common. So thought, as we're having an unbroken conversation, is something we engage with rather than do the way we build a shelf.

Do I know what the next thought will be? This is an interesting one for experience. Because we don't really know that it is so evident that we're not the ones in control of the whole thing in general. This is a good one for getting at this feeling of awareness where thoughts prop up. But as I am writing these sentences right now, the appropriate thoughts come quite fast and in a line. I am following a line of argument, and the gap is then much less, and the sense of prediction of what will come next much stronger then if I just walk down the street and a melody pops into my head.

Is 'I' a different thought from the thought of a table? That is a stranger question. Hmmm. If I am talking to somebody about a table, and I point to it and say 'there it is', we agree. To point to I or my self or something would lead us into a lengthy conversation about what it is to have a sense of self etc. It is not something you can point to. Though the quality of the thought might not be so different, and it can vary. For example, I can say this is MY table, MY mind etc. with some strong sense of grasping, or I'm just thinking abstractly about the idea of a table and of me and it is lighter, and then me and a table is quite similar in that they are 'just thoughts'.

Can a thought think? No. thoughts in themselves are quite abstract. As we are thinking of the fridge over there that we want to move up the stairs our focus is on something quite concrete. Will it fit in the door? But as we just direct our mind to what thought is in itself it is nothing material. Association between thoughts happen but I would not call that thought thinking itself. It is just how certain conditioning in a subject or even in some collective unconscious (we can only speculate) brings things together. When you sit in awareness thoughts come and dissolve, they don't have much substance. But still we have strong tendency to identify and follow thoughts so much that we can go through different emotions as we walk down the street.

O

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Sat May 30, 2015 4:35 pm

Hi Ole,
I first wanted to say that during the day today I paid attention to seeing and hearing again. Though we both interestingly agree that it is possible to switch mode, I was thinking more specifically as to whether seeing or hearing requires a special self. And the answer is no. It is just happening. There is just the capacity for seeing and hearing to take place. We presume that the form it takes depend on the secondary conditions of the physical body, but that is a different, as you say more intellectual question. In terms of experience, whether we think an external world exists or not, seeing, hearing and for that matter touching do not require a doer.

Good point.
It seems (as Spira indicated) to be no distance within experience, everything is equally intimate. The experience accommodates both that which (could) be separated out as the seer and that which (could) be separated out as the seen.

That's a succinct way of putting it :)
I will answer your questions with immediacy now. But like yesterday I will also try to take them with me during the day, so that I can check in experience as I go along. The questions I know are really aimed at getting to a quality of experience not just to intellectual speculation.

I really appreciate the thoroughness of your approach to this enquiry Ole.

By the way, mostly just out of interest than anything else, what do you mean by though with still the possibility of the awareness of seeing - not immersed like a cat ? It's intriguing.

Your observations from direct experience, and comments on, thoughts and thinking are right on the money. I picked out some of the following because they resonate and others are highlighted simply to eliminate any shadow of doubt. Apologies if that might seem a bit pedantic, but I reckon it's essential for us both to be sure that you can't find a separate self any place you look.
The mind oscillates naturally between calm and movement. Then when you check, it is clear thoughts just come out of 'nowhere' and disappear in nowhere.

As you say, out of nowhere. Again, that oscillation fascinates.
Am I in control: Mostly no...But as an individual I seem to possess the capacity for directed attention, that is not itself a thought, but that can be applied to thought. There can be an element of control in that, but that is separate from the underlying flow of being, or stuck on top of.

I'm not entirely sure what you're saying here. You've said that you seem to possess the ability to direct attention, applied to thought, but have you found anything, any entity, in direct experience actually doing that, or is it a subtle thought or feeling telling you that? If there is such an entity, please describe its appearance and functioning.
Can you stop it in the middle? Sometime in Dzogchen practice, the master will shout a loud 'phat', you can also do yourself, and there is kind of an interruption, like a shock followed by some seconds of no thoughts perhaps. But in general the answer is no, in that you don't control it like that. You can lose your trail of thoughts for example, that is common.

You say in general no, you can't. Did you therefore have in mind any specific exceptions where a thought can be stopped in the middle? I know that as soon as 'I' become aware of a thought, it just disappears. But, when 'I' look, there's just awareness; there's no 'I' there to be found. Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?
Do I know what the next thought will be? This is an interesting one for experience...as I am writing these sentences right now, the appropriate thoughts come quite fast and in a line. I am following a line of argument, and the gap is then much less, and the sense of prediction of what will come next much stronger then if I just walk down the street and a melody pops into my head.

Good observation.
Association between thoughts happen but I would not call that thought thinking itself. It is just how certain conditioning in a subject or even in some collective unconscious (we can only speculate) brings things together.

Also, despite our impressions, it's evident from direct experience that we only ever have one thought 'at a time', always meaning right now. So any association with previous thoughts can only ever be in 'this' thought, rendering any true connection or association between the present thought and others that have already disappeared impossible. Do you agree?

Nice going Ole. I'm really enjoying our investigation together so far. Hope you are too.

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

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Sat May 30, 2015 10:53 pm

Hi Pete
Nice going Ole. I'm really enjoying our investigation together so far. Hope you are too.
I am thank you Pete. It is great to have this structure to questions I have always pondered and also have to put it into words and have someone respond.

Let me first summarise a little. We agreed that sensing happens without the need for a separate agency to do the sensing. (This is where the following comes in:
not immersed like a cat ? It's intriguing.
When I look at my flatmates cat staring out of the window, following the movement of some birds say. I think in the case of the cat there is only seeing going on. It doesn't pause to consider its own subjectivity as the seer. This is a kind of immersion. If that was all we tried to recognise in nondual teachings, then an animal or an infant would be the best example of an awakened being. But they are not aware of being aware. Aware of being aware is not the best expression, as it implies infinite regress,(another to be aware of being aware of being aware) , so lets say instead they don't recognise the ground or self-illuminating nature of awareness within which experiences happen.)

Then likewise we looked at thought, and we agree that thoughts just spontaneously happen whether we want to have them or not. This is particularly evident in meditation. So I am positive that 'I am not my thoughts' as they say. Thoughts don't seem to require a thinker. Even more than not knowing what our next thought will be dreams are amazing in that we don't know what will happen next. But then I notice that we can direct our attention at thoughts, in a non-chaotic way, just like we are having this conversation. This is where the following comes in:
I'm not entirely sure what you're saying here. You've said that you seem to possess the ability to direct attention, applied to thought, but have you found anything, any entity, in direct experience actually doing that, or is it a subtle thought or feeling telling you that? If there is such an entity, please describe its appearance and functioning.
This is a little tricky. I was considering this today. So attention is not a thought. I can direct my attention to sensations in my little finger or to following an argument. Because thoughts come and go they don't need any "I". But attention and intention these are two faculties that seem to be present in the individual. Thoughts pop out of nowhere and dissolve. The witnessing aspect of awareness is confirmed when we notice that. But we're not just witnessing. For example nobody else directs my attention for me. Likewise from doing tai chi for years I've noticed that normally we move with little sense of what prompted us to move. But it is possible to notice how we form an intention to move at a deeper level than thought. Anyway, I'm not sure this has anything to do with a sense of self. So before continuing, I was thinking of this today. What is my sense of self? This is what this is about. If we do away with the idea that it is some separate entity apart from experience, then what is it? We already agreed that we don't need to do anything to sense or think. But couldn't we turn things around and say that likewise the sense of self just seems to be there by itself? Maybe it is just a kind of grasping or something, or a feeling of centre? So we've heard in spiritual teachings that it's some kind of illusion. We can see that it is not some kind of entity. It is something more subtle perhaps. For example we sit in meditation and we have a sense of being witnessing awareness, but then the ego (which is just maybe an aspect of this self) doesn't arise until we're in a situation with somebody say.Then it seems dormant again. Do noticing thoughts as just coming and going lessen this sense of self for me? I think it helps a bit in that I identify less with thoughts, feel lighter and so on. But does that mean that I don't have a sense of self? I don't know. The question as I said of attention doesn't necessarily mean there has to be a self. Because maybe attention or intention are also arising out of awareness. I don't know. They are simply there as faculties. What do you think? There is individuation. Maybe that is just awareness individuating itself, but miraculously we are more than just passive witnessing. Just to be clear: I can't describe the appearance of a separate self-entity, and I don't believe this exists. I notice that I can act with deliberation etc, but maybe that is just a 'function' as you say. That is maybe not what I look to when I sense my sense of self. My sense of self is not necassarily the doer of any of the functions it is just some subtle feeling that accompanies these various functions. Perhaps in essence it is awareness, but then awareness is more than passive witnessing it has some kind of potentiality. That is all I can say.
therefore have in mind any specific exceptions
Yes, just an anomaly. We know that repressing thoughts don't work, we can't think not to think, that makes no sense, but a stream of thought could be interrupted deliberately under special circumstances.
Also, despite our impressions, it's evident from direct experience that we only ever have one thought 'at a time', always meaning right now. So any association with previous thoughts can only ever be in 'this' thought, rendering any true connection or association between the present thought and others that have already disappeared impossible. Do you agree?
Oh, this is a bit of a mind-bender. If a thought could not associate with another thought we would forever have the same thought in mind, no? But a thought is not a static object. It is movement. Movement exists in time, like an unbroken stream. So rather than saying a thought can only exist in isolation I'd say it only arises in dependence on the previous thought. Then you might say, but the previous thought is by definition forever in the past. But when we say the present moment or the now, we don't mean some kind of cut off bead within that stream. We are talking about what 'exists' outside of time are we not? The ground of awareness is just unconditioned, it is what allows for something to happen. That something is like the energy of that ground. Seen separately it appears that this energy is on a timeline, like a stream. A now moment being an isolated point in that stream would automatically be in the past when we think of it, just like when you think of a thought it is already in the past. Thought is automatically in the past in that sense. But awareness is not thought, and we're never separate from awareness as the eternal present.

O x

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moondog
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby moondog » Sun May 31, 2015 3:10 pm

Hi Ole,

Many thanks for your latest post. There was some wonderful stuff in there and, although I fully concur with most of what you say, I feel a strong pull to respond to quite a few of the excellent points you made. However, as always, I need to bear in mind that, as your guide, all I'm here to do is to point you to look in direct experience to see whether a separate self is anywhere to be found. If there isn't, and the only other 'place' a self-entity appears is as thought content, and this is clearly seen for what it truly is and so is not believed, job done.

As I'm sure you're aware, apart from the 'cat question', my latest queries were simply to remove any doubt that in direct experience you could find any self-entity present or doing anything in relation to thoughts and thinking. Your answer regarding being immersed like a cat was very clear, so thanks for that. In the remaining answers I can find no indication that you've seen any special, separate 'you' present, doing or facilitating thinking in any way. If I've somehow missed something there, please tell me and we'll look at that in more depth.

Ok Ole, so let's now have a look at doing - actions and control, to see if you can find a separate self there:

It's clear that when we breathe, blink, digest food etc. there's no 'I' involved, but how is it for you when walking?

How is it when doing various everyday things like say, brushing your teeth, washing up, that kind of thing? Try all kinds of stuff.

Is there any 'I' there for any of these actions, or are they just like 'automatic'?


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

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Sun May 31, 2015 10:39 pm

Hi Pete

Thanks again for your response and some intriguing new questions that appeal a lot to direct observation.
As I'm sure you're aware, apart from the 'cat question', my latest queries were simply to remove any doubt that in direct experience you could find any self-entity present or doing anything in relation to thoughts and thinking. Your answer regarding being immersed like a cat was very clear, so thanks for that. In the remaining answers I can find no indication that you've seen any special, separate 'you' present, doing or facilitating thinking in any way. If I've somehow missed something there, please tell me and we'll look at that in more depth.
Whether we've missed anything, I don't know, so I'll just go over some points again. If by self-entity we mean some kind of person who is in possession of a specific identity, I don't believe in that of course. That is just some conditioning. But the tendency to identify, that is happening is maybe closer to what I think of as a subtle self. We agree that this is an illusion as some kind of separate entity. But I will just recap on two points here.
1. Firstly, when we sit an meditate it is latent only, not present. Then as we have an argument with somebody, or somebody provoke us (I am not saying I'm easily provoked, this is just an example), only then does this tendency surface. So this is a tendency towards self-identification I guess. Just like if your life is threatened your sense of protecting the body arise, not when you meditate on a pillow.
2. Thoughts just come and go so they clearly don't require a thinker. But as I said I am certain that attention can be directed at thought (or anything else). Some people might say that everything just happens by itself. I am not going to enter a philosophical discussion of whether there is free will or not, but we might just have to accept that we have the ability to direct our attention and to form intentions. It is like the kind of paradox of the one being multiple at the same time. We can't work that one out in thought perhaps. It is just the way things are.

So does that mean I believe in a separate entity. Maybe not. But I don't believe that my direct experience is just pure witnessing either. I can form intentions etc. Anyway, I agree that mostly the habit of thinking of ourselves as separate entities is just thought. Thinking further along these lines I thought that maybe a more fruitful way could be to consider separation. What is separation? Nothing is really separate from experience or from everything else that exists, I'm quite sure of that.
It's clear that when we breathe, blink, digest food etc. there's no 'I' involved, but how is it for you when walking?

How is it when doing various everyday things like say, brushing your teeth, washing up, that kind of thing? Try all kinds of stuff.

Is there any 'I' there for any of these actions, or are they just like 'automatic'?
Thanks for these Pete. I will have a good look at these as I go about my day tomorrow. But let me give some initial response. Just a general point before I say what things are like for me. We tend to think that some bodily functions are automatic, like heart rate and and digestion etc, while others, like movement are not. These lines are not fixed. Some yogis learn to control their heart rate. Certainly deliberate breathing etc are possible. I've found in tai chi that it is possible to become increasingly aware of muscle responses etc. that was totally outside my conscious mind before. So when you say are things just like 'automatic' it depends what you mean. Mostly by the time you are aware of having formed an intention to move, you are already moving. This is one of those things they've checked in science tests as well. So most movement seems automatic to us. We have the intention to go to the fridge, but certainly we don't have to concentrate to walk. There isn't some separate agency that intervenes every time you lift a foot. In fact if you tried to be conscious in that thinking way while say hammering in a nail, you'd be likely to hit your finger. Certainly it wouldn't work in sport. But then when you learn to drive a car it requires a lot of effort before it becomes automated, just as learning to walk did, or doing more advanced sports would do now, or any other mind-body connection motoric activity.

So what is my conclusion: If walking for example: If I was running on a treadmill in a gym (I am not) and watching Madonna on a TV screen, my attention or mind could be totally on that screen while my body intelligence would take care of the running to the ability I've already leaned. But I could also walk consciously, that is listening to my own intention forming before I moved, listening for internal muscle changes, the pressure of the soles of my feet etc, like we do in a way in tai chi. Again this comes down to attention. It is not a 'separate entity' as such. The sense of self, as I have said is just the kind of tendency towards identification. If I am thinking "now I am brushing my teeth", "I really should do a more proper job with that", "I am worried about my teeth" or whatever that is an example of a 'sense of self'. But the real intention to actually do this complex job is something far deeper than that. The body-mind or deeper parts of the mind has a reservoir of intelligence that can be trained to do such tasks until they happen automatically. Mostly that training we need is just enough to brush our teeth or drive a car or whatever is nothing advanced. We probably finished achiving that really early on. But if we want to do some yoga or whatever, we'd have to do something further with that mind-body connection. So we just have this capacity, this deeper level of mind beyond thought that can learn stuff. So I can walk down the street automatically, completely absorbed in daydreaming about something entirely different. I could also walk more mindfully, paying intention to what goes on in terms of the intention to move and the processes involved. If I am only daydreaming the likelyhood is stronger I'm involved with some type of fantasy that could involve a sense of a separate me. If I direct my attention towards sensing or even the impulse to move (which is harder to sense), and if that also includes everything around me that enters my senses, visions of trees, birds etc. there is probably less of a sense of separation with both the moment and what's going on. But I can choose to make that switch, which again has to do with attention.

But if you ask does there have to be an "I" that intervenes and does the walking etc, no. A thought like that is just way to surface for any of those processes. The deep body intelligence is not part of a thought like that. It goes on at a profoundly deeper level.

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Ole J
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Re: Looking for a guide

Postby Ole J » Sun May 31, 2015 10:49 pm

p.s. I don't know what a sense of self is at that deeper level. Mostly the sense of self arises with thought, but maybe there are subtle or deeper levels to that too?


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