Direct recognition of thoughts and self

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duckHouse
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Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Sat Jun 04, 2016 11:00 am

What brings you to Liberation Unleashed?:
I feel that I've made some progress towards waking up in the last year, but am feeling the limitations book reading, and occasionally a little frustrated. Having just had our third child, face to face guidance isn't possible, but I do want to keep up the momentum as I'm convinced that recognizing the self illusion is what I've been seeking.

What are you looking for? What do you expect from this?:
I'd like to get past theoretical/intellectual understanding to directly recognize the illusion of the self. I may have had a couple of moments of insight, but reproducibility has been difficult and memory fades.
I would like to gain direct insight into this quote from Sam Harris' book, Waking Up:

"The gesture that precipitates this insight for most people is an attempt to invert consciousness upon itself — to look for that which is looking — and to notice, in the first instant of looking for your self, what happens to the apparent divide between subject and object. Do you still feel that you are over there, behind your eyes, looking out at a world of objects?"

What is your background in terms of seeking and inquiry?:
As a teenager, 20 years ago, I noticed that after watching film/TV where I had been engrossed in the character's life, I experienced a period of calm acceptance of the world. I liked it very much but knew little more than to repeat the process and do a little thinking about it.
About 2 years ago, prior to reading specialist books, I came to the conclusion that I tended to live in the future and would be happier in the present if I could find a way to stay there. By chance I stumbled on a video of Sam Harris in a debate on religion and was captivated, not by what he said, which wasn't controversial to me to, but by his open, calm, comfortable manner in the face of such challenge. I think I recognized that he had what I was seeking and it led me down the spirituality route.

I've read/watched/listened to material from (no particular order) Sam Harris, Paul Smit, Greg Goode, Jackson Peterson, Rupert Spira, Alan Watts, Michael Taft, Byron Katie, Yongey Mingur Rinpoche, Eckhard Tolle, Loch Kelly, Richard Lang, Douglas Harding, Jeff Foster and many others.

I've had periods of daily meditation and attempts at self inquiry.

How ready are you to question your beliefs about who you are and see the truth no matter what? On a scale from one to ten (ten being most ready). : 11

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Sat Jun 04, 2016 1:55 pm

Hi duckhouse!

Great name .... but is there anything else you would like me to call you?

I am happy to be your guide for this inquiry!

Thanks for your introduction. First of all, is it possible to explain what your "intellectual understanding" of self/ no-self is?
Secondly, what do you imagine the "experiential" understanding will be like?

Very best wishes

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:34 pm

Hi Nina,

Thanks for being my guide. My name is James :-)
explain what your "intellectual understanding" of self/ no-self is
I may have misused 'intellectual' - I'm not one! I meant I understand a few things on a logical level. For instance, I am persuaded by logical arguments (e.g. Dennet's 'Cartesian theater', Parfit's teleportation thought experiment) and by neurological research (e.g. split brain) that there is no place in the brain for a 'self' to be located.
what do you imagine the "experiential" understanding will be like?
When meditating about 6 months ago I had a surprise. My thoughts remained 'all over the place' but I was just aware of them without identification or judgement, as though watching from a new location. It felt like a safe and stable place.

More recently I watched this video which spoke about developing 'awareness of being'. At one point it suddenly felt calm, like everything was as it should be. But I didn't manage it again.

In general, I'm wrapped up in my own thoughts, and imagine that a an experiential understanding of no-self would mean those thoughts were still observed but not instinctively labelled 'me'. I also think it would feel like a relief!

Hope this makes sense as a response.

Best

James

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Sat Jun 04, 2016 8:28 pm

Hi James,

During this inquiry you will be asked to use actual experience to LOOK.

Actual experience is sound, smell, colour (image), taste, sensation and thought (the appearance of thought, not the conversational content of). So no book, film or audio input!!

Sit down for a few minutes now. In actual experience is it possible to find a small person in the head driving? Is it possible to find a brain at all? Is it possible even to find a neuron?
Have a look everywhere. Is it possible to find an "I" or "self"? Is there a feeling (sensation) which seems to be "you"?

Have a good look and report back on what you find!

Very best wishes

Nina
Xx

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:24 am

Hi Nina
Sit down for a few minutes now. In actual experience is it possible to find a small person in the head driving? Is it possible to find a brain at all? Is it possible even to find a neuron?
Have a look everywhere. Is it possible to find an "I" or "self"?
I'm not sure where to look for those things. There's obviously all sorts of 'stuff' appearing: images, feelings in the body, sounds etc. But I can't find anything within/'behind' that lot which I could claim was brain, neuron, or otherwise. I can't even find a space in which those things might be hiding undetected.
Is there a feeling (sensation) which seems to be "you"?
This was a tough one. I was tempted to say the feelings in my body, but I'm not sure that my body is the essential part of 'me'. I ask myself "who is changing this nappy?" and come up blank. It seems quite inconclusive and a little odd.

I'll resist speculation and leave it there!

Best

J

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:50 am

Hi James,

That was a great first attempt at looking! It is difficult to get the hang of ... but be confident that it is not possible to get it wrong!
I'm not sure where to look for those things. There's obviously all sorts of 'stuff' appearing: images, feelings in the body, sounds etc. But I can't find anything within/'behind' that lot which I could claim was brain, neuron, or otherwise. I can't even find a space in which those things might be hiding undetected.
Great looking. None of these can be found and nor can the space of them!

Now start to break this "stuff" down into categories.

"images" .... this can be to do with what can be seen with the eye in the world that is apparently "out there". It can also be mental images. For example, the response to the word "giraffe" maybe the mental image of an animal standing majestically chewing a leaf from a high tree. Or it may be the mental image of the word "giraffe".

"feelings" ... we call sensations. This is so not to confuse with "emotion" which seems to be a blend of sensation and thought.

"sounds" .... these can be sounds in the "world out there" or mental sound (thoughts of music or bits of conversation .... or indeed the mental sound of the word "giraffe".

taste, smell .... are taste and smell! (there is also mental taste and smell)

Thought can be words and sentences .... (but there is also mental activity such as images, sounds, tastes, sensations and smells)

Throughout the day try to label experience as it arises:

Sound of a car ... "sound"
eating breakfast ... "taste"
thought about making dinner .... "thought"
smell of a flower .... "smell"
Wind on the skin .... "sensation"
watching a child play .... "colour/image"

Report back on what this was like.
Is there any resistance to the activity? Is it enjoyable? Annoying?
Whatever happens, let me know as it will be very helpful.
..... I was tempted to say the feelings in my body, but I'm not sure that my body is the essential part of 'me'. I ask myself "who is changing this nappy?" and come up blank. It seems quite inconclusive and a little odd.
Great! Which part of this "body" would be "you"? And a nappy is being changed .... but does it require an "I" to do it?

Try dropping the "I" from all activities and see what happens. Getting out of bed, cooking, washing, cleaning, eating, talking .... do any of them need an "I". Try it. IS there a difference between "I am walking" and just "walking"?

Again, let me know how this goes.


Before I go, there are just a few formalities .....
If you haven't already seen it, there is introductory info here (disclaimer and a short video too).
http://www.liberationunleashed.com/

SOME GROUND RULES:-
1. Post at least once a day. If you cannot post, or need more time, please let me know.

2. Be 100% honest in your answers and inquiry.

3. ANSWER ONLY FROM ACTUAL EXPERIENCE (smell, taste, sound, sensation, colour and observed thoughts).

Read this article at http://liberationunleashed.com/articles ... xperience/ for more help on distinguishing what is actual/direct experience.)

Longwinded analytical and philosophical answers are best avoided and may even hinder progress.

4. Put aside all other teachings, philosophies, rituals, practices and so on for the remainder of this investigation. Really put all your effort and attention in to seeing this reality, as it is. If you have a daily and essential meditation practice, it is fine to continue that.

5. Understand that I will be guiding you (not teaching you) and the more you put into this process the more you will get out of it.

Let me know if any of the above 5 ground rules are a problem.


Looking forward to the responses!

Very best wishes,

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Sun Jun 05, 2016 9:49 pm

Hi Nina,

The ground rules, disclaimers &c are fine. The link under item 3 took me to a page with many articles, but I assume you meant the Direct Experience article by Neil Jalaldeen.
Throughout the day try to label experience as it arises […] Report back on what this was like.
Is there any resistance to the activity? Is it enjoyable? Annoying?
There was a little resistance in thoughts along the lines of:
  • I can’t see them [children] as just images and sounds.
  • If I do this properly it will take so much effort that I’ll be withdrawn from the world.
But there was mostly curiosity try it out. The vast majority of the time I just got distracted by thoughts/activities and then forgot to continue. I think I didn’t notice anything much different so it slipped my mind a lot. No real objection to persevering though.
Try dropping the "I" from all activities and see what happens. Getting out of bed, cooking, washing, cleaning, eating, talking .... do any of them need an "I". Try it. IS there a difference between "I am walking" and just "walking”? Again, let me know how this goes.
This was interesting, though it’s hard to say why exactly as I’m trying to not be too analytical. So here’s an approximation of the kind of dialogue that took place in thought;
  • Holy cow nothing I do requires an ‘I’… this is HUGE!
  • Wait, what does 'requiring an I' even mean? It’s not as though I previously had to think about applying my ‘I’ in order to function in the world…
  • How exactly am I supposed to ‘drop the 'I'’ anyway?!!
  • So everything is just happening without me needing to worry about it? But if there’s no me then I’m still going to worry about everything because that’s what I did in the past.
  • This is scary,… no it’s not... so this is related to not having free will. But it does feel like I have free will on some level.
  • So if there is no me, then everything is just as it is, which means that all those sukky/suffering parts of me that I secretly want to go away are inevitable and nothing is going to change even I manage to lose my sense of self. Bother.”
Confusion is probably a good summary, which apart from being a touch unsettling is good, since I want to shake things up a bit :-)

Unfortunately it has proven that my motives are not as pure as I’d thought. I’m secretly wanting to become a ‘better person’, which is clearly mentioned in the FAQ under “Liberation Unleashed is not...”. Oh dear, I’m not sure what to do about that.

Yours confusedly,

James

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 11:47 am

Hi James!

The point of labeling actual experience is so that it is possible to notice when thought is happening. It is important to distinguish between what is ACTUALLY happening - which in REAL - and the content of thought - which is NOT real.

Example.

Look at a cup. Pick it up. Turn it over. Study the shapes, colours and reflections. Hear the sound it makes as you put it down.

Now see if it is possible to think about the cup. It may be possible to visualise the cup if you close your eyes. You may just have words and sentences describing the cup.

Both experiences of the cup are actual experience so are real (sensation, colour, sound and thought). However, the cup contained in thought is not real.

So the two sentences written below are thoughts - can you see that? :
I can’t see them [children] as just images and sounds.
If I do this properly it will take so much effort that I’ll be withdrawn from the world.
These thoughts are a REACTION to the exercise. They are presenting reasons not to do it. Distraction too is a way of not doing the exercise! Maybe fear, maybe irritation, maybe anxiety.
Is there a sensation (not thought) that arises when I ask you to try again?
"Try the labeling exercise again James!"

The response to the no "I" exercise was also a list of THOUGHTS.
What is the actual experience of "walking" compared with "I am walking". Just walk up and down trying the two out. What is the difference?

Confusion?
Is there a confused sensation somewhere? Or is there a thought saying "I am confused"?

Remember to keep LOOKING .....

Very best wishes

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:29 pm

Right, I think I get it. It's about focussing on the 'actual' sensations rather than thoughts? I'll get with the labelling.

Could you clarify what is meant by just walking versus 'I am walking'? Does the former just mean without referring to thoughts that it's 'me' doing it?

I'm out of time for today so will try and then report back tomorrow.

Thanks

J

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:06 pm

Hi James,

Describe actions without using "I". So don't say "I am writing". Just say "writing". Just drop the "I".

What it is like without an "I".

Best wishes

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:17 am

Describe actions without using "I". So don't say "I am writing". Just say "writing". Just drop the "I".
What it is like without an "I"
I've been doing the describing without 'I' and comparing it yesterday and this morning.

I am eating <---compare---> Eating
I am driving <---compare---> Driving
Etc

In terms of direct experience I can't see any difference between the two. The only possible difference I've seen is in thought, so I'll leave that aside.

The labelling exercise seemed the same as the describing exercise without 'I'. Focussing on observing without personalisation.

Best

James

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:49 pm

Thanks James-

Interesting:
The only possible difference I've seen is in thought, so I'll leave that aside.
It is very important to notice the difference between actual experience and thought.

What arises in response to the following statements:

All there is and all there has ever been is sound, colour, smell, sensation and taste overlaid with thought.

The only place a seperate self exists is in thought.

There was no "I" who started this conversation and there never has been.

There is no "I" observing, listening, feeling, eating, walking or sleeping. All there has ever been is sound, colour, smell, taste and sensation overlayed with thought.

Best from me

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:28 pm

It is very important to notice the difference between actual experience and thought.
That makes sense, I'll avoid ignoring thought, but not give it the usual emphasis.
What arises in response to the following statements:
All there is and all there has ever been is sound, colour, smell, sensation and taste overlaid with thought.
The only place a seperate self exists is in thought.
There was no "I" who started this conversation and there never has been.
There is no "I" observing, listening, feeling, eating, walking or sleeping. All there has ever been is sound, colour, smell, taste and sensation overlayed with thought.
I don't notice any response in terms of smell, image, taste, sensation. But in thought I notice acceptance; I'm comfortable with those statements (which to me are all saying similar things) at the logical level, but lack direct experience of them.

Thanks

J

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Nina45
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby Nina45 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:04 am

Ok James,

Please sit for about 20 minutes and look at thought.

Please answer these 3 questions individually using the quote function:

1. Where do thoughts come from?
2. Where do thoughts go to?
3. Is it possible to predict the next thought?

Good luck

Nina

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duckHouse
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Re: Direct recognition of thoughts and self

Postby duckHouse » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:05 pm

Hi Nina,
1. Where do thoughts come from?
I can't find anywhere that they come from. They just seem to appear out of nowhere.
2. Where do thoughts go to?
I don't really see them disappear. It's as though the space they inhabit gets taken over by the next thought or thing that captures attention.
3. Is it possible to predict the next thought?
It doesn't seem possible to predict them. They do their own thing.

Hope that's in the right direction

Thanks

James


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