Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

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CMatthews
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Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:15 am

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
My experience with meditation has gave me some insights that call into question conventional beliefs about a fixed, permanent self. Vipassana practice has shown me that the different aggregates that we often call self are comprised of transient sensations. Zen practice has shown me that these things arise and pass without a central controller.

What are you looking for at LU?
I have meditated on and off for a few years, mostly within the Theravada and Soto Zen traditions. According to Theravada insight maps, I crossed the Arising and Passing around two years ago and spent a long time in the Dark Night (Dukkha Nanas). This was a long and difficult period. Sometimes I would persevere with meditation, and at other times I would stop. Eventually, I made a resolution to meditate every day, maintain mindfulness throughout the day, and try to see the Three Characteristics in phenomena as much as possible. Combining the Vipassana and Shikantaza approaches to suit my needs at different moments (more narrow focus on particular aspects of experience, bodily sensations, relationship between thoughts and sensations, mental processes of attention, frustration, effort, wanting, anticipation, etc) versus open, choiceless awareness, has begun to push me into the Equanimity stages (according to the Progress of Insight maps found in Theravada commentaries and often used by practitioners of the Mahasi Sayadaw noting meditation style). I tend to cycle in daily life between Dark Night and Low Equanimity. During sits, I tend to move between low and High Equanimity. I can see clearly non-self in bodily sensations, the relationship between thoughts and body feelings. I am focusing on observing the Three Characteristics in subtle mental processes such as intention to see impermanence or non-self within phenomena that arise during sitting, anticipation of insight, desire for deeper states of tranquility during sitting. Shikantaza practice is useful in terms of seeing the mind trying to direct things and bring awareness to one area of experience or another. I have been trying to observe these subtler tendencies, and see through them. They are very connected to 'selfing' processes. I am looking to push through to Stream Entry. I am am working on seeing through the mental processes that create a sense of self. hope that working with LU can help me to shine a light on some aspects of experience that I have missed during meditation.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
I hope to supplement my meditation practice with a very focused form of self-inquiry. I have gained some insights into anatta, but some of the subtler selfing processes have been missed. I hope these conversations can help me to break through.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
A few years of intermittent Vipassana and Zen practice. Also some Samatha concentration practice but never in a sustained and serious way. There have been several insights during more regular periods of practice that at the time seemed significant but have not made a serious base-line change in terms of my day-to-day experience of the world. I frequently go into states of concentration in which phenomena ariae and pass away without any sense of centre. Sometimes the mind becomes very quiet and I just observe sensations with wide, panoramic view. The sense of barrier between inside and outside melts away and any changes in my perception seem effortless and without a doer, just part of the vast interconnected web of phenomena. In these kinds of states, I can see the mind trying begin what I call 'selfing processes' in which discursive thought, or some subtle desire to change or direct things, begin to arise. Repeatedly seeing the self doing it's 'selfing' and letting go of these thoughts/attempts at identification gIve rise to a more spacious, de-centered kind of awareness. When I am sitting well and this happens more often than not, there is a definitel afterglow in which my sense of self is definitely loosened. Also, my anxiety levels, which were very difficult to manage in the past, have naturally dropped, and there is a strong sense of the connection between thoughts and sensations, and awareness of these processes have taken the edge slightly off of anxiety and stress-inducing thought patterns. These smaller changes are needed, and I don't take them for granted. The glimpses into what is beyond the illusion of self are, however, transient and do not stick in daily life.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how willing are you to question any currently held beliefs about 'self?
11

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:35 pm

Hi

Welcome to LU. I would be happy to help you on your path.

The sense of barrier between inside and outside melts away and any changes in my perception seem effortless and without a doer, just part of the vast interconnected web of phenomena. In these kinds of states, I can see the mind trying begin what I call 'selfing processes' in which discursive thought, or some subtle desire to change or direct things, begin to arise.
This observation of yours is very much like what we do here.
Question is, where are you stuck? What is it that holds you back? And where is located?
(Don't give it much though. Just look.)


Andrei

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CMatthews
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:11 am

Hi,

Thanks for getting back to me. I have been very busy but now I can set aside some time.

The sense of self drops away, or becomes less overwhelmingly present, when I sit. The after-effect of this can be less mental dialogue, less worrying/projecting/recollecting/planning and more present-moment awareness. Somewhere along the line, usually quite quickly, the sense of self reasserts itself.

So where does this come from?

In meditation, the subtle self-ing thoughts (such as recognising that I feel de-centred, that the self is receding, wanting this to continue, comparing the sense of spaciousness or equanimity to something I have read or heard) can pull me back to the sense that there is a central controller directing things. A big part of this is the anxiety and fear that motivates this practice. Why do I want to be free of a sense of self? This comes from years of severe anxiety, of worrying incessantly about so many things. I know that the world outside can't be controlled. I need to find a way to live freely, to give myself space to breathe. There is therefore some desperation in and subtle feelings of longing, even when the mind becomes quieter in meditation, there is some pushing, some attempts to direct: 'I hope this sticks', 'Could this finally be IT?', 'This is it, I'm doing it!', 'How do I carry this awareness with me off the cushion?'

Outside of formal meditation, the afterglow usually disappears in an interplay between the imagination and central nervous system. A thought about the past or future will arise. This is inevitable because of strong conditioning. Perhaps some muscle tension, a slight adrenal response, an increased heart rate, will follow. In turn, this will intensify the mental movie. Noticing thus and deliberately letting go helps to reduce the intensity/speed of the narrowing of my sense of self and the concomitant arising of fear and tension. But there is still thinking around this, barely verbal, but felt at the margins of consciousness: 'How do I sustain the quiet?', 'Does this really work?'.

Even when I feel more peaceful and a weaker sense of self, there is fear at the edges of the peace. The certainty, rooted in experience, that this won't last. The desire for this to continue.


Quieting the mind through concentration practice can reduce the presence of self, but there is a sense of 'I'm doing this, thoughts are just falling away' - then, deeper into the meditation, when the object itself drops, there is, barely conscious of itself, something saying 'this is just awareness, no self, this is good'. I try to locate this grasping, this wanting, in the body, or the nervous system - where is the pushing coming from?

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Wed Aug 16, 2017 11:50 am

the sense of self reasserts itself.
can pull me back to the sense that there is a central controller directing things.
What do you mean by sense of self? Is the "self" a sensation, or a thought, or a mixture of them, or something else?
You need to go beyond ambiguous concepts, break them into little pieces and find out what they are made of. And after you found the pieces, break those apart as well until there is nothing left. Until everything is quiet.

A big part of this is the anxiety and fear that motivates this practice...
Are you pushing at them to go away? Because that doesn't work.
Fear, anxiety, worries are just sensations.They just want to be heard and afterwards they will be on their way. It's like a puppy begging for attention lol.
So you need to accept them instead. Look at them with compassion, with love even. Let them tell you what bothers them. Afterwards you might have a feeling of being complete, like everything is as it should be.

Would you like to do that now? You can bring in your awareness such an episode where anxiety takes over you, permeates your being, and then just welcome that tension with kindness. Like it's just a kitten who broke a vase. You can't be angry on a kitten can you?

A thought about the past or future will arise. This is inevitable because of strong conditioning.
Seeing through the illusion of the self is just that. Nothing changes but how you look at things. So don't expect to be in a continuous state of meditation. There will be times when you'll be back lost in thoughts, making up stories in your head. In time though, you'll see yourself being a lot more meditative. It will grow on you. But it will have to become a habit and that takes time, so don't worry if you'll notice yourself trapped in the stories again. Just take it one step at a time.

Btw, you call it meditation, we call it Direct Experience (DE is the original input one gets through SENSATIONS and SENSES, that tension you feel in your arm before labelling it as good (a tickle) or bad (a burn), the noise you hear before you interpret it as coming from a vehicle or elsewhere. DE is what is, prior to any sort of interpretations done by the mind.)
For me they are pretty much the same thing but do tell me if they are not for you.

Quieting the mind through concentration practice can reduce the presence of self, but there is a sense of 'I'm doing this, thoughts are just falling away' - then, deeper into the meditation, when the object itself drops, there is, barely conscious of itself, something saying 'this is just awareness, no self, this is good'. I try to locate this grasping, this wanting, in the body, or the nervous system - where is the pushing coming from?
To me, reading this paragraph it looks like you already got it. It is just awareness happening isn't it?

That push - could it be just a habit? A bodily function? A brain function?
What says it has to be a "self"? What exactly feels personal in it? Do you create the thoughts or the sensations tied to it in any way?

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CMatthews
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Wed Aug 16, 2017 2:17 pm

What do you mean by sense of self? Is the "self" a sensation, or a thought, or a mixture of them, or something else?
You need to go beyond ambiguous concepts, break them into little pieces and find out what they are made of. And after you found the pieces, break those apart as well until there is nothing left. Until everything is quiet.
The sense of self is the resistance to things as they are. The desire to change things, to feel more of/intensify a good sensation and stop a bad sensation. I sit quietly and feel things just as they are. I might focus on the bare sensations. There is some part of me, the source of volition, that wants to focus on bare sensations, perhaps trying to move awareness away from thought, or stop thought. I might try to allow thought, not try to stop it, but not add to it. Thinking non-thinking, as is instructed in Zazen practice. Naturally the thoughts dissipate after some time, gaps appear between thoughts, and an awareness becomes more open. But there is still some part of me that is thinking 'just allow the thoughts, they will become quieter soon. Don't try to change anything. Accept things as they are.' These thoughts might not be verbal, but there is some volition. It is this subtle desire to change things, to make things a certain way, that creates the sense of self.

If I'm with the sensations, and things become unpleasant (tension in the stomach, adrenal response, excessive vibrations, etc) I might feel a desire to calm myself, focus on something neutral such as the breath, or stay with the sensations and penetrate into them, seeing their insubstantial nature. This desire creates the sense of self.

The language you use, breaking into pieces and seeing the nothing behind them, the quiet. It reminds me of one particularly vivid experience on retreat a few years ago. I was experiencing extreme physical discomfort. There was no escape, a lot of time left until the end of the sit, and there was nothing I could to avoid it. So I stayed with it, noting every moment, feeling it without resistance. The fleeting micro-sensations and vibrations that made up the 'pain' were seen in higher and higher resolution, like atomic particles flickering into and out of existence. Into the pain and through it. Then there was this blissful, boundless, feeling of infinite consciousness, like I dissolved into this field of joyous energy. (I've also experienced peace through just sitting with something and feeling it without judgement, but this experience kind of shook me and stayed with me.)

I thought I'd happened upon some kind of peak religious experience. The retreat leader told me to forget about it and move on but I couldn't help but see this thing that happened as important, and was trying to recreate it in subsequent sits. This completely threw me off balance and brought about a bad period where concentration was terrible and I felt extremely frustrated. I think it took me at least a few months to get back on track after this.

1. Is what I described above an example of what you mean by breaking the sensations that make up self apart and seeing through them until nothing is left?
2. The example I gave shows me that seeing beyond the unpleasant sensations gave rise to a sense of dissolution and quiet that was extremely pleasant. The joy that accompanied this experience of seeing beyond the self created new forms of clinging and craving that caused more problems. I have had less intense versions of this experience. In Zazen sitting the sense of a centre drops away at times. But after a few moments, the mind always brings up a judgement about how 'this is it' or 'I'm doing it' or 'don't think, you're on the right track'. What I'm getting at is, whenever a sense of self drops away, the presence of the self is usually felt again by a desire to prolong the absence of a feeling of self.

I'm stuck at this paradox.

Thank you. I'll reply to the rest of your last response soon.

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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:03 pm

Are you pushing at them to go away? Because that doesn't work.
Fear, anxiety, worries are just sensations.They just want to be heard and afterwards they will be on their way. It's like a puppy begging for attention lol.
So you need to accept them instead. Look at them with compassion, with love even. Let them tell you what bothers them. Afterwards you might have a feeling of being complete, like everything is as it should be.

Would you like to do that now? You can bring in your awareness such an episode where anxiety takes over you, permeates your being, and then just welcome that tension with kindness. Like it's just a kitten who broke a vase. You can't be angry on a kitten can you?
I was apprehensive about doing this. I was also unsure about how exactly to approach it. The way I did it was by sitting quietly and deliberately thinking a thought or imagining a scenario that produces severe anxiety. I then felt the sensations that made up this experience. There was a focus on the stomach area but I tried to keep a general awareness of the whole body and mind. The level of intensity seemed unrealistically small, perhaps because the task seemed contrived and I conceived of it as a deliberate exercise and part of a healing process and this mitigated the severity of the feelings.

Even so, there was some anxiety brought up to the surface, and I sat with it. I repeated this with several deliberate thoughts. The pain and discomfort, felt physically in the body and nervous system became neutral and eventually pleasant due to a feeling of acceptance and letting go. The sensations broke down and were experienced as a flux of vibrations. Eventually I stopped directing the meditation and simply sat with the sensations. For a while perceptions of body and mind dropped away, or at least diminished heavily, and there was quiet immersion. This softened and sensations/the body/the mind came back but there was less identification and clinging to phenomena, and less of an apparent centre.

Afterwards, communicating and working, I felt more control and awareness. I could feel stress/anxiety/frustration/impatience arising, and I would stop for a few seconds, feel it with acceptance and the sensations would dissipate, Then I would continue with the task. This reminds me of one time when I asked a naïve and confused question about the concept of non-self and a teacher told me that we experience self or selfness to varying degrees at different moments. When the sense of self is less strong, we are usually immersed in an activity or enjoying something. When the sense of self is more pronounced, we are fretting, worrying, overthinking. This explanation has come back into my mind several times in the last few years. I also once heard a Zen teacher use the phrase 'getting out of your own way' in a video - that has stuck with me too. These ideas seem relevant here.

Seeing through the illusion of the self is just that. Nothing changes but how you look at things. So don't expect to be in a continuous state of meditation. There will be times when you'll be back lost in thoughts, making up stories in your head. In time though, you'll see yourself being a lot more meditative. It will grow on you. But it will have to become a habit and that takes time, so don't worry if you'll notice yourself trapped in the stories again. Just take it one step at a time.

Btw, you call it meditation, we call it Direct Experience (DE is the original input one gets through SENSATIONS and SENSES, that tension you feel in your arm before labelling it as good (a tickle) or bad (a burn), the noise you hear before you interpret it as coming from a vehicle or elsewhere. DE is what is, prior to any sort of interpretations done by the mind.)
For me they are pretty much the same thing but do tell me if they are not for you.
Thanks for reminding me. It helps a lot to hear that stated. Thoughts can't be completely stopped. I'll continue to work on seeing them for what they are.

Without getting lost in details and definitions, I agree entirely with your explanation of DE. Vipassana and Zazen are both, to me, ways of seeing in a pre-conceptual/direct/unaltered way. The labelling in Vipassana is just a skilful means towards getting there, and a good way to zoom in on particular sensations as they arise, breaking down our experience into its composite parts, seeing them clearly and seeing through them. Zazen in the same, but with a more open approach, encompassing everything that arises without judgement or aversion. The goallessness of just sitting is another skilful means. Both are tools, and seem to share the same basic purposes as DE.

I think we're on the same page.

One question: Do you recommend that I continue my usual sitting practice during the course of our conversation?

To me, reading this paragraph it looks like you already got it. It is just awareness happening isn't it?

That push - could it be just a habit? A bodily function? A brain function?
What says it has to be a "self"? What exactly feels personal in it? Do you create the thoughts or the sensations tied to it in any way?
I definitely can see that, but the old conditioning is etched pretty deeply into my mind. I struggle to take this awareness with me off the cushion.

Is it a bodily function? A brain function? Do I create the thoughts tied to it? I don't know. I'll look closely at this.

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:56 pm

Do you/ have you ever had any control over your life? Where there any outcomes coming as a direct result of "your" actions?
Or did things just happen?

Thinking non-thinking, as is instructed in Zazen practice. Naturally the thoughts dissipate after some time, gaps appear between thoughts, and an awareness becomes more open. But there is still some part of me that is thinking 'just allow the thoughts, they will become quieter soon. Don't try to change anything. Accept things as they are.'
See, to me all these (not just this paragraph) give me the impression of somebody who needs/wants to be in control, or to respect a certain set of rules. This is not a point A to point B journey. It's actually a mess. It's more like a point A to nothing and everything.
"Thinking non-thinking". What does that even mean?
To me it sounds like plain old overthinking with a different label. It sounds like trying too hard, like not letting go. And herein lies the problem. One needs to let go of the mind. Completely.

And why would thinking be a problem at all? Thinking is useful. It helps you make plans. It's a great tool to have. And it's your friend, not your enemy.
Does thinking have anything to do with the "self"? If yes, how? For instance, can you think and choose a thought right now?
If no, then why bother to block them or freeze them or whatever?

If I'm with the sensations, and things become unpleasant (tension in the stomach, adrenal response, excessive vibrations, etc) I might feel a desire to calm myself, focus on something neutral such as the breath, or stay with the sensations and penetrate into them, seeing their insubstantial nature. This desire creates the sense of self.
You sure it's not just a pull to do something (anything) and then a thought comes and says "I did this"? "I desire this"?

This desire creates the sense of self.
So is it like a rat race you can't get out? There's this desire coming from someplace that creates the sense of self and you're a victim? Or is it more like your mind is going in circles making scenarios trying to create something out of nothing?

Do you recommend that I continue my usual sitting practice during the course of our conversation?
I think meditation is of very much help in this inquiry. It was actually what helped me get over my "blockage". However, I kept it simple. Just went with the flow until the last thing that kept me stuck (which was awareness btw) started to dissipate into oblivion. Poof. Done. Never recovered lol.
So, by all means do it. Or more like, let it happen.

=====
Ok, you gave me plenty of stuff to work with but I don't want to give you too many questions/pointers at a time.
Also, from now on please answer from DE only. Long, descriptive, philosophical answers are not effective. Let's keep things simple. It's the mind that likes to make things complicated.

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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:27 pm

Thank you for reading my long answers and responding to everything so far. I will keep everything focused on direct experience from now on.
Do you/ have you ever had any control over your life? Where there any outcomes coming as a direct result of "your" actions?
Or did things just happen?
I don't think it's possible to have complete control. There is a feeling of intention behind actions. But even the desire and intention that underpins action is caused a string of causes and conditions that keep going back. I can see every desire and goal is caused by conditions that themselves change.

I recognise that I often make decisions because of a desire to feel like I can control things. Make the world more stable, fixed, predictable.

I can be trying to control and direct things, or not be, and things keep going on around me and the flux continues.
See, to me all these (not just this paragraph) give me the impression of somebody who needs/wants to be in control, or to respect a certain set of rules. This is not a point A to point B journey. It's actually a mess. It's more like a point A to nothing and everything.
"Thinking non-thinking". What does that even mean?
To me it sounds like plain old overthinking with a different label. It sounds like trying too hard, like not letting go. And herein lies the problem. One needs to let go of the mind. Completely.
The idea of thinking non-thinking is to not try to stop thoughts, but whenever the mind starts to proliferate with thoughts, see that this is happening. Usually the thoughts dissipate on their own. But then more begin. And the process goes on. This perspective shows that the thoughts arise out of nothing, or seem to.

When I do this, I try not to add to thoughts or stop them, just let them be. But there is something in the background that wants the mind to be quieter, that is hoping the silences get bigger.

How do I let go of this thing that subtly wants the quiet? Or the thing that recognises that I'm subtly wanting more quiet/less thought and then subtly urges me to be more open and neutral about thought arising?
Does thinking have anything to do with the "self"? If yes, how? For instance, can you think and choose a thought right now?
I can't completely choose a thought. There is a feeling of pushing towards something but I can't think the thought that is needed to choose a thought to think. The mind goes where it goes. There is nothing solid to grasp.
You sure it's not just a pull to do something (anything) and then a thought comes and says "I did this"? "I desire this"?
I'm not sure. Recently during sits I've felt things arising from stillness, a vague pull. It feels like many bubbles quickly rising to the surface and gently bursting. This arising sensation has a 'pulling' quality and I think if I reify/identify with it if finds concrete form in a particular desire/image/concept/etc.
So is it like a rat race you can't get out? There's this desire coming from someplace that creates the sense of self and you're a victim? Or is it more like your mind is going in circles making scenarios trying to create something out of nothing?
My desire to not feel, or not be gripped so tightly by, a sense of self creates a sense of self. I need to let go of that, but it's hard to get past it. I can play the game of having 'no goals' but that's just a trick to get around some obstacles that stand in the way of my goal.

The mind keeps throwing up more stuff. It doesn't like to be quiet. But the gaps between things it throws up get wider and I can see that there is nothing underneath. These phenomena arise out of nothing and go back into nothing. This view doesn't stay with me during normal activities.
Just went with the flow until the last thing that kept me stuck (which was awareness btw) started to dissipate into oblivion.
What does this mean? Awareness itself stopped? There was nothing, at all, no experience? How could you be aware of this happening?

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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:42 pm

I don't think it's possible to have complete control.
Let's find out. Take two objects/possibilities, of which you might ordinarily choose either e.g. coffee or tea, blue pen or black pen, salt and pepper, then sit and see if you can find the choice-point where you could go either way. Describe how choosing happens.

But there is something in the background that wants the mind to be quieter, that is hoping the silences get bigger.
Does it have to be a "self"? What is it that says "I'm doing it"? Could it be just life doing it's thing? Something biological maybe?
Don't buy what I'm saying and don't over-think it. Just watch it. Is there anything not perfect just the way it is?

How do I let go of this thing that subtly wants the quiet? Or the thing that recognises that I'm subtly wanting more quiet/less thought and then subtly urges me to be more open and neutral about thought arising?
Why would you want to get rid of it? Maybe it's just the pull of life taking you towards some place or no place or every place? Why interfere? :)

I can't completely choose a thought. There is a feeling of pushing towards something but I can't think the thought that is needed to choose a thought to think. The mind goes where it goes. There is nothing solid to grasp.
Let's leave half measures behind. Can you think and choose a thought right now? If yes, you should be able to do it. There should be clear steps involved. If I ask you how you make an omelette you'd tell me you pour oil in the pan, crack some eggs and turn on the fire. So "cook" me a few thoughts right now and share the recipe.

My desire to not feel, or not be gripped so tightly by, a sense of self creates a sense of self. I need to let go of that, but it's hard to get past it. I can play the game of having 'no goals' but that's just a trick to get around some obstacles that stand in the way of my goal.
Are your desires really "yours"? How can you tell?
(I'm not saying they don't exist. This is a more advanced discussion we might get it into one day, if you like. For now, let's see whether there's a "self" involved.)

The mind keeps throwing up more stuff. It doesn't like to be quiet. But the gaps between things it throws up get wider and I can see that there is nothing underneath.
The gaps will get bigger. Keep at it. In a way what we do is rewiring the brain.

Just went with the flow until the last thing that kept me stuck (which was awareness btw) started to dissipate into oblivion.
What does this mean? Awareness itself stopped? There was nothing, at all, no experience? How could you be aware of this happening?
It froze for a little while, maybe a few seconds, enough for me to notice it is not a continuous process. Awareness is like analogue movies. You know those old tapes with pictures moving fast giving the impression of a continuous action when it's really just pictures? That's awareness. And for me, realizing that, meant there was no "me" at all. We are just bits and pieces of images and words flowing through the space of our mind-screen. We are not even some hi-tech digital technology lol. And the implications go much deeper than the "self", targeting the existence of reality as we know it. But, unfortunately there are no tools we can use to test that. And suppositions are the trap of the mind so no point in going there.

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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:19 pm

Let's find out. Take two objects/possibilities, of which you might ordinarily choose either e.g. coffee or tea, blue pen or black pen, salt and pepper, then sit and see if you can find the choice-point where you could go either way. Describe how choosing happens.
There is increased tension in the body, the stomach area. It feels like a quiet vibration, like two dissonant notes played together, in need of a resolution. The mind seems to flicker between two options but not in a simple A or B way, far less defined. I don't know if this is the same as how a 'choice point' is normally experienced because I knew I was looking for it on purpose.
Does it have to be a "self"? What is it that says "I'm doing it"? Could it be just life doing it's thing? Something biological maybe?
Don't buy what I'm saying and don't over-think it. Just watch it. Is there anything not perfect just the way it is?
I need to look at this more. It looks like it might be coming from the body, maybe the stomach area. A tension or release or subtle sensation causes a process to start in the mind. I'll keep on looking.
Why would you want to get rid of it? Maybe it's just the pull of life taking you towards some place or no place or every place? Why interfere? :)
This seems to offer a better perspective. Letting go of trying to let go.
Let's leave half measures behind. Can you think and choose a thought right now? If yes, you should be able to do it. There should be clear steps involved. If I ask you how you make an omelette you'd tell me you pour oil in the pan, crack some eggs and turn on the fire. So "cook" me a few thoughts right now and share the recipe.
There is a tension. It begins in the head, a feeling of contraction. Awareness goes from the body or whatever external object it happens to be fixed upon and goes up towards the head. If I loosen my attention and let it be wider, there seems to be an accompanying tension or contraction in the stomach area. I have tried to test this by noting something easily, such as 'rain' or 'hearing' as I hear rain outside, then trying to think an opposite or contradictory thought, such as 'sun' or 'seeing'. This produces the same feeling. It seems like their is some contraction and sense of pushing or forcing something to be.
Are your desires really "yours"? How can you tell?
(I'm not saying they don't exist. This is a more advanced discussion we might get it into one day, if you like. For now, let's see whether there's a "self" involved.)
They seem to come from the place that is most easily mistaken for 'self' - the place where the sense of self arises when everything else is calm.

If the mind is quiet and awareness is wide, the thing that pops up with a desire seems to arise from the emptiness, but thoughts proliferate after it and the body tenses and a sense of self becomes stronger.
It froze for a little while, maybe a few seconds, enough for me to notice it is not a continuous process. Awareness is like analogue movies. You know those old tapes with pictures moving fast giving the impression of a continuous action when it's really just pictures? That's awareness. And for me, realizing that, meant there was no "me" at all. We are just bits and pieces of images and words flowing through the space of our mind-screen. We are not even some hi-tech digital technology lol. And the implications go much deeper than the "self", targeting the existence of reality as we know it. But, unfortunately there are no tools we can use to test that. And suppositions are the trap of the mind so no point in going there.
I've never experienced the cessation. In recent sits, in the last few weeks or months, I quite often had an experience of particular sensations blend into a big overall flashing on and off of awareness, like a light flickering rapidly. There is a sense of it being automatic, there is no willing it or wanting it to stop, it just continues until a sense of the body and time comes back.

I don't know how similar that is to what you described.

Again, though, it feels nice and there is a nice after-effect for a while but it doesn't hold out for long. Ordinarily time seems less granular and more continuous.

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Fri Aug 18, 2017 7:48 pm

There is increased tension in the body, the stomach area. It feels like a quiet vibration, like two dissonant notes played together, in need of a resolution. The mind seems to flicker between two options but not in a simple A or B way, far less defined. I don't know if this is the same as how a 'choice point' is normally experienced because I knew I was looking for it on purpose.
The point was to find out whether "you" make choices or whether they simply happen.
Take something that happened lately, where you made a choice. What made that choice "yours"?

Does it have to be a "self"? What is it that says "I'm doing it"? Could it be just life doing it's thing? Something biological maybe?
Don't buy what I'm saying and don't over-think it. Just watch it. Is there anything not perfect just the way it is?
I need to look at this more. It looks like it might be coming from the body, maybe the stomach area. A tension or release or subtle sensation causes a process to start in the mind. I'll keep on looking.
Wherever it comes from - doesn't really matter. What is it that makes that "yours"?

Let's leave half measures behind. Can you think and choose a thought right now? If yes, you should be able to do it. There should be clear steps involved.
There is a tension. It begins in the head, a feeling of contraction. Awareness goes from the body or whatever external object it happens to be fixed upon and goes up towards the head. If I loosen my attention and let it be wider, there seems to be an accompanying tension or contraction in the stomach area. I have tried to test this by noting something easily, such as 'rain' or 'hearing' as I hear rain outside, then trying to think an opposite or contradictory thought, such as 'sun' or 'seeing'. This produces the same feeling. It seems like their is some contraction and sense of pushing or forcing something to be.
This is almost completely besides the point. It's good you can watch your thoughts and sensations. It's a first good step. But my question was can you think and choose a thought right now? and I'm still waiting for a clear answer.
I tried to help by asking you for the steps involved and you seem to be running in circles. It starts to look like you don't want to find out the answer.
Are you afraid that the realization will harm you in some way? That everything you held to be true was just something that happened independently of any action you ever (thought you) took? Because maybe you're happy with your current situation and your meditations and your zazens and whatever makes the "you" and you dont really want to change that. Because no problem if you do. Change is for people that had enough with the bullshit and we're dying for something different. And there are others who have a nice pleasant life and don't want to rattle the cage too hard and wake up from the pleasant dream. If I had a nice house on my own private Greek island and woke up next to Charlize Theron every morning, not sure I'd give a damn about whether I exist or not :))))

Are your desires really "yours"? How can you tell?
They seem to come from the place that is most easily mistaken for 'self' - the place where the sense of self arises when everything else is calm.

If the mind is quiet and awareness is wide, the thing that pops up with a desire seems to arise from the emptiness, but thoughts proliferate after it and the body tenses and a sense of self becomes stronger.
And again another besides the point answer. What "seems" is what the mind tells you. DE is WHAT IS and that is what I keep asking for. I'm not interested in what it looks like or what seems to be or what do you think. I want to know what you see in DE prior to interpretations.

When I ask you to pick a thought I expect you to tell me that you either (a) picked a thought (you went in your head, opened a cupboard and chose the top left one) and then you played it on repeat for 5 minutes, or (b) you waited and waited and looked and finally realized you cannot pick thoughts. KABOOM! Belief gone.


Is there a problem with how I formulate my questions that makes you not fully understand what I mean? I can try a different approach if that helps.
Our work here targets clear concise answers obtained from the initial input from sensations. What is vs. what it looks like/what seem/ what you think/ what you learned, etc. You need to be efficient in your inquiry otherwise your mind will eat you up.
Let me know. I really want to help. Tell me what works for you and what doesn't.

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CMatthews
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Sat Aug 19, 2017 5:28 pm

The point was to find out whether "you" make choices or whether they simply happen.
Take something that happened lately, where you made a choice. What made that choice "yours"?
The choices just happen.
Wherever it comes from - doesn't really matter. What is it that makes that "yours"?
It's just a sensation. It isn't mine. I put in into a narrative of 'me' and 'mine' but before that happens it's just a sensation that arises on its own.
This is almost completely besides the point. It's good you can watch your thoughts and sensations. It's a first good step. But my question was can you think and choose a thought right now? and I'm still waiting for a clear answer.
I can choose a thought. Behind the choice there is an intention. I don't choose the intention, it just happens outside of my control.
or (b) you waited and waited and looked and finally realized you cannot pick thoughts. KABOOM! Belief gone.
I can see this. But there is no sudden disappearance of the belief. Seeing through something, or understanding an idea intellectually isn't enough. I see that there is no controller choosing the thoughts, but at the same time, the opposite belief still stays with me in day to day life.
Is there a problem with how I formulate my questions that makes you not fully understand what I mean? I can try a different approach if that helps.
Our work here targets clear concise answers obtained from the initial input from sensations. What is vs. what it looks like/what seem/ what you think/ what you learned, etc. You need to be efficient in your inquiry otherwise your mind will eat you up.
Let me know. I really want to help. Tell me what works for you and what doesn't.
I appreciate what you're doing. This kind if dialogue is different to what I'm used to. Your current approach might work. Before you need to think about changing it, I'll try to answer more directly. It just takes some getting used to.

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:23 pm

The choices just happen.
What about everything else you have ever chosen? And I mean big ass choices, like career, family, education. Did "you" had anything to do with it or does stuff simply happens?

It's just a sensation. It isn't mine. I put in into a narrative of 'me' and 'mine' but before that happens it's just a sensation that arises on its own.
That's it! Now we're talking.

I can choose a thought. Behind the choice there is an intention. I don't choose the intention, it just happens outside of my control.
If you didn't choose the intention how could you choose the thought? Don't they go hand in hand? Look into it again.

You're very close.

But there is no sudden disappearance of the belief.
Because you're not crystal clear yet. You will.

Before you need to think about changing it, I'll try to answer more directly. It just takes some getting used to.
Blunt direct answers leave less room for the mind to weave it's net.

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CMatthews
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby CMatthews » Sun Aug 20, 2017 4:21 pm

What about everything else you have ever chosen? And I mean big ass choices, like career, family, education. Did "you" had anything to do with it or does stuff simply happens?
I thought I was behind these choices. But these things were shaped by endless interlinked causes and effects. One thing just causes another thing. Again, I look back and draw a line around things and say 'I should've chosen a different career', etc. But these things happened on their own, in a way.
That's it! Now we're talking.
I know this as an idea, and I can see it to an extent in experience, a bit of the time. But I still don't fully KNOW it.
If you didn't choose the intention how could you choose the thought? Don't they go hand in hand? Look into it again.
I've looked again. Intention causes thought. One follows the other. I don't choose the intention, and the thought follows from the intention, there is no 'doing'.
Because you're not crystal clear yet. You will.
I'm starting to see it. I'll keep observing this in day to day life. It will become clearer.
Blunt direct answers leave less room for the mind to weave it's net.
I like this approach. I've been reading and contemplating for years. It can be very interesting, but it doesn't lead anywhere. Direct is better right now

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Andrei
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Re: Zen/Vipassana Practitioner, Interested in Direct Pointing

Postby Andrei » Sun Aug 20, 2017 4:59 pm

I thought I was behind these choices. But these things were shaped by endless interlinked causes and effects. One thing just causes another thing. Again, I look back and draw a line around things and say 'I should've chosen a different career', etc. But these things happened on their own, in a way.
How does this make you feel? Knowing that you never took and choice and never will. That you are a "victim" (using that word just for emphasis) of fate. Might be that our entire existence is preprogrammed. Right? Maybe we don't even exist and are a sort of computer program watching a never ending movie and thinking we are one of the characters.
All this might be true or not. But would you be ok with any of the scenarios or are there any reactions going inside of you?

I know this as an idea, and I can see it to an extent in experience, a bit of the time. But I still don't fully KNOW it.
There might be several reasons for that.
1. There are still things you identify with and this inquiry will bring them out to light eventually. If there's anything you can think of that seems "personal" do let me know.
2. It might look unbelievable at first after so many years of reading spirituality books and meditations that promised all sorts of stuff but didn't deliver to find a method that actually works. I myself was a bit sceptic at first. I kept telling my guide to ask me more questions and give me more pointers just to be sure I wasn't deluding myself lol.
3. Your mind keeps trying to "understand" this seeing and conceptualize it and it can't because one can only see what is while the mind lives in past and future. The mind thinks in terms of survival and benefits and there are really no such benefits in our work here. Well, there are but not the sort that would help the mind in anyway. On the contrary...

Either way, DE is the way to go. Any doubt you have on any topic, put that topic under scrutiny.

I've looked again. Intention causes thought. One follows the other. I don't choose the intention, and the thought follows from the intention, there is no 'doing'.
Are you positive? No doubts here?

And another thing. In DE, is there a watcher separate from the seen?


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