Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

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jeffreywill
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Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:50 pm

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
There is no permanent unchanging self/entity that is in direct control of the body and mind. The self is a mental construct/collection of thoughts that I believe is there to help humans interact in society. This “self” spins too many stories that take us away from the present moment and ultimately cause more suffering than they are worth.

What are you looking for at LU?
To see through the illusion of self. I hope this will be a first step in lessening the grip anxiety has on my life. Seeing through the illusion I hope will help soften the effects of the stories and allow me to interact and function in a way that is more in touch with reality.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
I expect the conversation to give me direct instruction as to where to look, what to explore given my current stage of understanding. Nothing they say will directly convince me of the illusion of self, I must do the work, but they will help by asking the right questions that will point me in the right direction.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
I am relatively new to this. I started meditating a couple years again. I only meditate a few times a week for 15-20 minutes at a time. Initially, I took up meditating as a means of reducing stress/anxiety. I quickly was drawn to learning more aspects of spirituality, specifically to understanding/experiencing no-self. I have followed instructions for meditating in John Yates book, The Mind Illuminated, his writing on the mind-system model resonated with me. I also follow Shinzen’s “See, hear, feel” technique, usually when walking. I read his book The Science of Enlightenment and found his “suffering = pain x resistance” formula very useful in my life.

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

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Vivien
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:30 am

Hi,

My name is Vivien, and I am happy to assist in exploring 'no-self' and other related topics.

At LU we are described as guides - not teachers - as our role is to directly point to what IS, through the use of exercises and questions. Your role is to LOOK carefully to what is being pointed at. It is this simple LOOKING (not thinking) that brings the realisation that there is no separate self and never has been. This is an experiential based guiding and is not a discussion or a debate.

This is YOUR inquiry. I will not be giving you new ideas and beliefs; only assisting you in examining and questioning the ones that you already have.

Before we begin, here are links to information I would like you to read please.
Disclaimer:-
http://liberationunleashed.com/disclaimer-2/

Terms & Conditions:
https://www.liberationunleashed.com/register/terms/

“Liberation Unleashed is not …” in the FAQ’s of LU.
http://liberationunleashed.com/about/faq/#faq-1041

A few 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. This exploration is based on Actual (or Direct) Experience (AE or DE) - smell, taste, sound, sensation, color and thoughts - only. Long-winded analytical and philosophical answers are best avoided and may even hinder progress. This is not a self-improvement process. There is no ‘self’ to improve.
4. Put aside all other teachings, philosophies and such 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, rather than teaching you, and the more you put into this process the more you will get out of it.

A few technical support:

- You can reply to this thread by pushing the 'Post Reply" button at the left bottom of this page.
- You can learn to use the quote function, instructions are located in the link below this line:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=660

Technology is not perfect and sometimes there is a glitch which can wipe out your responses. It is advisable that you copy and paste questions asked into Word, answer them there and then copy and paste them to your thread. Always save a copy of what you have done, it will save time in the long run.


If you are happy to agree to the above and have me your guide, we can start the process.

To begin with, so that we both become aware of what your expectations are about this exploration (for example, what life will look and feel like and what you want/hope will change or not change). Could you please answer the following questions:

How will Life change?
How will you change?
What will be different?
What is missing?


Throughout this exploration I would like you to answer ALL questions that I have written in blue text. Please answer questions INDIVIDUALLY, remembering to use the Quote function to highlight the question being answered.

Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/

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jeffreywill
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:36 am

Hi Vivien,

Thank you for taking the time to assist me in the process. I have read the materials you provided and am comfortable with proceeding. I will post responses to your initial questions later today.

Thanks again,
Jeff

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jeffreywill
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:40 am

Hi Vivien,

Here are my responses to the initial questions. These are brief, let me know if you need more detail.

How will Life change?
I expect life will remain the same after seeing through the illusion of self. Sensations and thoughts will come and go as usual. I just may take more notice of them in the moment.

How will you change?
I expect to be more aware of the present moment. I anticipate a change in perspective and I will not get caught up in the negative stories about the future that my mind comes up with.

What will be different?
I expect that the sensations of life will be more vivid by being more in the moment. I won’t take the stories in my mind so seriously anymore.

What is missing?
I feel something is off and missing in my life. I have a strong drive to discover the truth of the self.

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Vivien
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:42 am

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for getting through these questions about expectations. It’s important, because every expectation is in a way of seeing what is here, right now. Every expectation is a ‘hindrance’ in realizing what IS. Expectations results in comparison. Comparison between what is happening, and the imagined expectation. Thus what has been seen can be thrown out or ignored, since it doesn’t match the expected outcome.
These are brief, let me know if you need more detail.
Yes, that would be better if you could write a bit more, so I can get a clearer picture where you are at, and I can set my questions accordingly.

I go through all the expectations one-by-one. While you read them, please pay attention to what arises ‘in the body’. Is there any resistance to any of it?
I expect to be more aware of the present moment. I anticipate a change in perspective and I will not get caught up in the negative stories about the future that my mind comes up with.
Being caught up in negative stories and worrying about the future are conditioned reactions. Just because the self is seen through, it doesn’t mean that these reactions will stop appearing. It takes lots of further looking to slowly loosening their ‘grip’.
I expect that the sensations of life will be more vivid by being more in the moment.
Experiences being more vivid is a usually a cultivate state, but seeing no-self is not a state.

Many seekers believe that seeing through the separate individual is a completely different state that they are currently having, with perhaps some special qualities (happiness, bliss, constant peace or whatever). However, this is not the case. Seeing through the illusion that there is a separate entity (self) is not a state. When it is SEEN it, the knowledge becomes factual.

For example, did you ever once believe that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy was real? If you did at one point, and don't now, does the experience of discovery last? Or is it that the knowledge that there is no such thing as Santa or Tooth Fairy is just another ‘fact’?

Many seekers have the impression that seeing there is no self is a state to ‘abide in’. It's not.
I won’t take the stories in my mind so seriously anymore.
When the self has seen through it MIGHT bring some or lots of relief, and lessening of suffering, but the sense of self after stream entry still can arise (and arises in almost all cases). But there is a difference between the ‘sense of self’ and believing in the inherent existence of a self. But although, seeing that the self is just an illusion cannot be taken away, moments of ‘delusion’ still happen, but after further looking it’s easy to see that there is no self to cling to.

For many, there is an expectation that the sense of self will be gone completely, never asserting itself ever again. But this is not the case. Due to a lifetime of conditioning, self-constructs still arise out of habit. It needs time and lots of further looking for it to gradually dissolve.

To see through the illusion of self. I hope this will be a first step in lessening the grip anxiety has on my life. Seeing through the illusion I hope will help soften the effects of the stories and allow me to interact and function in a way that is more in touch with reality.

Suffering happens when being lost in thoughts happens. It means that the thoughts in that moment are not seen only as arising thoughts (only as ‘containers’ coming and going), but rather their ‘content’, what they are about is taken as reality. And of course, since each thought is about the self, the self is taken as something real. And ‘delusion’ still can happen even after seeing the illusion of the self. But when it’s investigated, it can be seen for what it is. But there is no guaranty that in the next moment the story of a self won’t reassert itself. It’s a habit of the mind. It’s a conditioned pattern of thinking. It’s the result of a life-long conditioning. But upon each looking it gets a little bit weaker and weaker.

Also, personality problems, traumas, emotional pains don’t dissolve just because of seeing no self. So all the conditioned reactions that stem from them still can arise. However, if someone decides to work on these, it’s usually much easier after seeing no-self.
I have followed instructions for meditating in John Yates book, The Mind Illuminated, his writing on the mind-system model resonated with me.
I’m familiar with his book, it’s a really good one. But for the time of this investigation I have to ask you to put aside all learned knowledge and focus only on looking.

Before starting, please report what came up reading the comments about the expectations.
Was there any resistance to any of it?


Let’s start it. As stated in my first post, my role is to directly point to what IS, through the use of exercises and questions. Your role is to LOOK carefully to what is being pointed at. It is this simple LOOKING (not thinking) that brings the realisation that there is no separate self and never has been.

Okay, now we become aware of actual experience (AE) and what LOOKING is.
‘Looking’ is just plain looking at actual/direct experience (AE), which is simply colour (image), sound, smell, sensation, taste and the simple knowing of thought at face value that is appearing right now in the moment. You are looking at the raw experience of AE and noticing the labels and thoughts ABOUT the raw experience. The key to this exploration is the careful LOOKING. Why? Because it’s the act of actually LOOKING and not finding an “I” that brings about the realisation of there being no separate self and that there has never been a separate self.

The interpretation of actual experience happens quickly. So while inquiring, labelling and thought interpretation will always appear, but it is possible to become aware of the thoughts that appear with and overlay actual experience. Another key component of this exploration is being able to tell the difference between actual experience and the interpretation by thought of actual experience.
Here's an exercise that will help you to see what we mean exactly by direct experience. I would like you to try as many times throughout the day as you can. Label daily activities simply colour/image, sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.

So for example, when having breakfast, become aware of:

Seeing a cup, simply= visual sight
Smelling coffee, simply = smell
Feeling the warmth of the coffee cup, simply = sensation
Tasting the coffee, simply = taste
Hearing the spoon stirring the coffee, simply = sound
Thought about drinking the coffee, simply = thought

Just break down daily activities into these categories (which are all actual/direct experience) and let me know how you go. Please write a list as above for one period of doing this exercise.


Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/

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jeffreywill
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:06 pm

Hi Viven,

I will try to provide more depth to my responses moving forward. Expressing depth related to my thoughts is not one of my strengths, tend to be short and sweet. Though I understand the more information you have, the better you can guide me, will do my best.

I have set aside any related readings/videos related to this subject and am dedicated to this process.
Before starting, please report what came up reading the comments about the expectations.
Was there any resistance to any of it?
Upon reading your comments I did experience some resistance and have some questions. Here are my reactions and impressions.

I need to accept that there is no quick fix to my problems, but seeing through no-self could be a catalyst. The techniques I learn here will aid me further in my life. I will need to continuously look behind the sensation tied to the stories, is that correct?

I have trouble understanding what will change in my day-to-day experience. I accept that the self will remain but I have trouble understanding how it can coexist with the truth of no self? Is it like seeing a mall Santa? You just play along and have fun with it?

I don't desire constant bliss, happiness etc. I don’t think it’s possible to maintain those states long term, everything seems to balance out. You can’t appreciate happiness without knowing the other side. Yet, I do desire freedom … relief from excessive anxiety of the future. I know that anxiety will not go away completely, it’s a part of life and serves a purpose, but it does not need to be this extreme. After all, I am not living in the wild, I have a roof over my head and know where my next meal is coming from. I wish I didn’t worry about things going wrong with projects at work for example. Seems unimportant in the grand scheme of things. These worries are all just thoughts that pop up from the depths of my brain without “my” say… no control over it. I am conditioned, I excessively worry and everything turns out ok. So therefore, my mind has concluded that excessive worrying works.

One final resistance related thought. If thoughts are real things produced by the brain. Then how is the self not real? Or is it that the self is not in direct control?

I will proceed with the looking exercise you recommended and post later today.

Much thanks,
-Jeff

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:09 pm

Sorry Vivien, I didn't catch the typo in your name in my previous reply.

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:38 pm

Hi Vivien,

I captured a list of my experience during dinner today.
Just break down daily activities into these categories (which are all actual/direct experience) and let me know how you go. Please write a list as above for one period of doing this exercise.

Seeing fork = sight
Hearing TV show = sound
Tasting salad = sensation
Smelling salad = smell
Itching head = sensation (Is this action broken down enough?)
Noticing TV show is too loud = thought
Feeling annoyed by TV show = thought
Swallowing my salad = sensation
Feeling texture of food on tongue = sensation
Noticing spice on tongue = sensation
Crunch of salad while chewing = sensation
Craving beer to drink = thought
Don't want alcohol, desire thinking clearly = thought

Is this what you are looking for?

Thanks
-Jeff

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Vivien
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:10 am

Hi Jeff,
Is this what you are looking for?
Yes, thank you.

I gave you this exercise to helps you to differentiate between what is actually happening and what THOUGHTS ARE ABOUT what is happening.

Now we start investigating thoughts.
This exercise has a dual purpose. Firstly, to become aware of each and every though as they appear. Secondly, the careful looking for the gap is an example of how carefully to look when looking for the ‘separate self’.

Here is a step-by-step description of how to look at thoughts. First thing is to sit for at least 5-10 minutes quietly somewhere, several times throughout your day. Close your eyes and just notice thoughts. Don’t engage with any thought, just notice them.

1. Notice the current thought that is present.
Like when you sit observing the body, a thought might arise “this is my feet” or “here is a pain” or “my breathing is too quick” or “I am bored with this exercise” or “I have better things to do” or any sorts of thoughts.
2. This thought will pass and another thought will come. So just observe this thought passing.
3. Then wait for the next thought to come.
4. When the next thought is present, just notice it, and see how it passes.
5. Then wait for the next thought to come.


Between the 2 thoughts there is a gap. It can be very short or subtle, just a second or a few seconds before the next thought come in.

This is how to look at thoughts:
Looking how they come and go, and
Observing the short gap between them.
Noticing how the current thought is passing.
And waiting for the next thought to come.

Throughout your waking day, try to observe the gap between thoughts as often as possible. It can be done by noticing that ‘thinking’ is happening right now, then stop and just simply wait for the next thought to come. In the ‘waiting’ there is a gap between two thoughts.

Let me know how it goes.

Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:28 am

Hi Jeff,

Sorry, I’ve just realized that you wrote 3 posts, but I saw and thus replied to the third one.
I need to accept that there is no quick fix to my problems, but seeing through no-self could be a catalyst.
Yes. Seeing through the self is not about eliminating our problems, but rather to see that there is no-one, nothing that is having those problems. Those problems don’t belong to anyone.
I will need to continuously look behind the sensation tied to the stories, is that correct?
Yes.
I have trouble understanding what will change in my day-to-day experience. I accept that the self will remain but I have trouble understanding how it can coexist with the truth of no self? Is it like seeing a mall Santa? You just play along and have fun with it?
Yes. But sometimes Santa might be taken as real again, but sooner or later ‘waking up’ happens, and it gets clear that Santa is just a character and not real. This believing and not believing can happen many times during the day.
Yet, I do desire freedom … relief from excessive anxiety of the future. I know that anxiety will not go away completely, it’s a part of life and serves a purpose, but it does not need to be this extreme. After all, I am not living in the wild, I have a roof over my head and know where my next meal is coming from.
This would require lots of further looking, but it’s doable to lessen anxiety, but ultimately it’s not aim of our investigation. However later, we can look at how anxiety is actually created. So you will have some tools to deal with it.
One final resistance related thought. If thoughts are real things produced by the brain. Then how is the self not real? Osr is it that the self is not in direct control?
Conventionally speaking we can say that both thoughts and the illusion of the self is produced by brain activity. However, this statement is NOT in correspondence with the actual experience.

When we investigate the self, we cannot get anywhere with conventional ‘truths’. Since conventional truths are the results of thinking, which is exactly what is creating the illusion of the self, by creating concepts. We have to look ‘behind’ this conceptual overlay, and see what is really there without concepts.

Conventionally speaking the brain or brain functioning are useful concepts, just as many other concepts. But when we want to see through the illusion, we cannot use the same tool which created the illusion itself.

Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:19 pm

Hi Vivien,

I tried your recommended exercise today. I have struggled in the past with the concept of watching thoughts during meditation, find this quite challenging. I feel like I cut my thoughts off too quickly, but I don’t want to follow them for long and get wrapped up in them.

Though, early this morning I had some success. What I tried was silencing the “narrator” in my head that tends to analyze and dissect thoughts. At times I felt as though I was cutting my thoughts off still. My body was calm and my thoughts were not related to sensations, but were about things I need to do today and in the future.

Later in the day, my thoughts were tied to noticing bodily sensations such as aches, urge to itch. Also, thoughts related to noises in my environment, such as sounds made by my wife and daughter or birds outside.

I noticed the gaps between thoughts more so during the early morning meditation while my body was calmer. The gaps did not last long and thoughts came out of nowhere seemingly at random. In the afternoon I struggled to notice gaps as my body/mind felt more active.

-Jeff

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Vivien
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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:34 am

Hi Jeff,

Have you seen that I replied to your expectations and questions in a second post?

Looking for gaps between thoughts were just a preparation exercise to help you how to observe the coming and going of thoughts and also how to look for the self later.

The whole illusion is mainly created by thoughts. So therefore, we will investigate thoughts and thought labels thoroughly.

So then let’s have a deeper look on thoughts. Sit for about 15 minutes and look similarly as you looked for the gaps between thoughts. Look for the ‘answer’ BEFORE thought interpretation kicks in.

Where do thoughts come from?
Where are they going?
Can ‘you’ stop a thought in the middle?
Can ‘you’ predict what will be the next thought?
Can 'you' choose not to have painful or negative thoughts?

Can an 'I' be found that generates thoughts?
“I think” - What is 'I'? What is the one that thinks?
What is the thinker of thoughts? – don’t think, rather look for a ‘thinker’
Does the thinker of the thought appear in experience? Can it be found?
Or could it be that the 'I' that thinks is also just a thought?
Do you think thoughts or you are just ‘being thought’?
Is it possible to prevent a thought from appearing? Including the thought 'I'?


Please go through these questions and answer and quote ALL of them one-by-one. Don’t miss any. Try to answer them only from direct experience, and leave aside all intellectual interpretation or understanding. Please, DON’T THINK about the answers, rather LOOK at what is before thoughts. Take your time.

Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:32 pm

Have you seen that I replied to your expectations and questions in a second post?
Thanks Vivien, I saw your reply. It provided me a lot of clarity. Will post again later today.

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby jeffreywill » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:57 pm

Hi Vivien,

Here are my responses to your questions based on couple meditation sessions I had today.

Where do thoughts come from?
In the moment thoughts come out of nowhere.
Where are they going?
They go nowhere, they present themselves and then just dissolve.
Can ‘you’ stop a thought in the middle?
A singular thought cannot be stopped in the middle. It seems as through a stream of thought can be stopped, with another stream of thought, though not directly controled. In my experience the thought stream will keep coming until they get attention.
Can ‘you’ predict what will be the next thought?
No, you cannot predict what the next thought will be. Once you try and do this “I” gets involved. The prediction is then void because the next thought is actually a thought about prediction. But without thinking and just being in the experience no predicting occurs.
Can 'you' choose not to have painful or negative thoughts?
No, when I try not too it seems to create more of them.
Can an 'I' be found that generates thoughts?
No, the thoughts just present themselves in the present moment.
“I think” - What is 'I'? What is the one that thinks?
There is no singular I that thinks. Thoughts come from the brain’s processes.
What is the thinker of thoughts? – don’t think, rather look for a ‘thinker’
I can’t find a singular entity that thinks. I need to think about it and then they are just concepts, more thoughts.
Does the thinker of the thought appear in experience? Can it be found?
No, I can’t find a thinker in experience.
Or could it be that the 'I' that thinks is also just a thought?
Yes, today a noise startled me during meditation. Then immediately after, a thought jumped in my mind and labeled it … “I’m scared”, taking ownership of the feeling it seemed. Otherwise it was just a sensation in my chest, that dissipated quite quickly.
Do you think thoughts or you are just ‘being thought’?
It seems as though thoughts are just happening, without “my” direct control, they are being thought.
Is it possible to prevent a thought from appearing? Including the thought 'I'?
No not possible in my experience. When trying not to have thoughts, I think “don’t have thoughts” which is a thought.

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Re: Seeking assistance to see through illusion of self

Postby Vivien » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:46 am

Hi Jeff,
In my experience the thought stream will keep coming until they get attention.
What is it EXACTLY that gives attention to thoughts?
Where is this ‘thing’ exactly that gives attention to thoughts?
V: Can 'you' choose not to have painful or negative thoughts?
J: No, when I try not too it seems to create more of them.
What is it EXACTLY that is trying not to think negative thoughts?
Where is the one that is trying not to think negative thoughts?
V: “I think” - What is 'I'? What is the one that thinks?
J: There is no singular I that thinks. Thoughts come from the brain’s processes.
This reply didn’t come from LOOKING, but rather from a thought. It’s a learned knowledge, and NOT AE.

What is the AE of ‘brain’s processes’?
What is the AE of ‘brain’?
I can’t find a SINGULAR entity that thinks.
This and the previous statement is very similar than what can be found in Culadasa’s book. His explanation is valid conventionally speaking, however, this intellectual interpretation has to be put aside, you have to see for yourself what is really happening. All right?
It seems as though thoughts are just happening, without “my” direct control, they are being thought.
What is it that could have direct control?
When trying not to have thoughts, I think “don’t have thoughts” which is a thought.
Nice looking!

What can a thought do?
Does a thought have volition?
Can it manipulate other thoughts or think new thoughts?


It seems that thought has some logical ordered appearance, but look carefully and just notice if there is an organised sequence. Or is it just another thought that says ‘these thoughts are in sequence’ or “they take content from previous thought”, or that "one thought follows another thought"?

Vivien
"In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard, there is only the heard. In the sensed, there is only the sensed. You are located neither in this, nor in that, nor in any place between the two." - Buddha
http://fadingveiling.com/


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