I think I'm ready

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anonymous2012
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I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:16 am

I've been reading into Buddhism for over a decade now, and while I think I have come to learn many things, I know that I'm still trapped in this ego. I want to think I understand the idea of no-me on a conceptual level, but perhaps that is just my ego, wanting to be "wise" and thereby better than others. Maybe I'm posting this for the same reason, but I hope to explain a little of where I am at on the path and humbly ask for assistance.

I understand that this body is not whole, not separate from it's environment. The air I breathe, the food I eat, the medicine I take, all of this and more goes into this body, is changed, reformed. I can see the way that this body is a collection of parts, made of smaller parts, made of atoms, etc. Like a wave on the ocean, these tiny parts come together in a pattern. This pattern we label "human male". But that is a metaphor, empty of permanent reality. This body is not me.

In the same way, I'm beginning to see that my mind and thoughts are also formed from the input around me. Conversations, music, TV, etc. Thoughts come up in response to stimuli and are just as fleeting as this body. This is a harder concept than the physical body to sink in for me, but I'm working on it. It's hard to shake the idea that my thoughts are not my own. In the free PDF book you provide Ilona mentions that there is no manager, which really struck a chord for me.

Yet I can't shake this feeling of me-ness. Thinking about emptiness, believing in emptiness, but no living emptiness. If this body isn't me, if this mind and thoughts aren't me, what about this awareness? My consciousness? Is so hard to wrap my head around seeing without a seer, thinking without a thinker. I'm trying to really consider this reality here and now without a self, but my mind seems to reel back from the idea, I keep trying to distract myself away from it. Other times I feel like something is on the tip of my tongue, or that there is an actual feeling of pressure/resistance.

Help?

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:08 am

Hi,

My name is Derek. Thank you for your excellent introduction. Do you have a name I can refer to you by? It doesn't have to be your real name, just something more approachable.

The only rules in the One-on-One section are that you must answer with absolute honesty from your own, direct experience, and you must post at least once a day.

If you're ready to begin, I'd like first of all to clear up a couple of misunderstandings.

You say, "I'm still trapped in this ego." But what all of us here have discovered is that there isn't actually anything that could be trapped.

Also you say, "I can't shake this feeling of me-ness." No need to shake anything. Our method is simply to examine that which is, to shine a light on unchallenged assumptions and habitual blind spots.

Are you okay with proceeding on that basis?

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:09 am

Absolutely. I've been reading the other threads and trying to ask myself, "is a self nessisary for this?" I still have the feeling that my awareness is still "me". I can see that there is no need for a "manager" for things like breathing, etc. But I still feel like I am the experiencer.
I also tried referring to myself with the wrong name, just to try and change my perspective on how I build my persona. I used the name Thomas, so let's use that here. :)
Thank you for your time, I will break through, I am set on it.

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:04 pm

Hi, Thomas,
I still have the feeling that my awareness is still "me".
That makes a good starting point. So let's look at that.

Firstly, look at "awareness." What sort of a thing is "awareness"? Can you tell me its shape, color, texture? How do you know a thing called "awareness" is there?

Secondly, "me." A word like "horse" points to a solid, persistent, observable thing. A word like "unicorn," on the other hand, doesn't point to a real thing at all. You can make perfectly grammatical sentences with the word "unicorn" as their subject. You can tell stories about a "unicorn," and a listener can follow along. But while sentences involving "horse" and sentences involving "unicorn" are equally intelligible, the word "unicorn" doesn't point to a real thing, unlike the word "horse." So what kind of a word is the word "me"?

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:26 pm

Derek, thank you for your questions, let me try to answer them to the best of my ability.
Firstly, look at "awareness." What sort of a thing is "awareness"?
I don't know. Awareness seems to be the thing that is missing when I'm asleep or unconscious. When there is pain, there is pain because this awareness has the sensations of pain. It strikes me as the difference between a corpse and a living body. I assume it is a product/function of the brain.
Can you tell me its shape, color, texture?
No, those are all qualities of tangible items. Awareness, to me, seems like the "software" running on my brain's "hardware".
How do you know a thing called "awareness" is there?
I'm not sure how to answer that, this kind of throws me for a loop like a koan. I can only really think of it in the reverse, if there wasn't an awareness, what is this reality? What is this that is seeing? What is this typing? Since there is something here, these sensations, this information, that is responded to by this body/mind, awareness seems to be the thing that facilitates that relationship. I guess I know a thing called awareness is here because it continues to animate this body/mind (as opposed to a corpse).
So what kind of a word is the word "me"?
I know the answer is supposed to be "unicorn" but to be honest I'm not feeling/thinking/observing/living that answer right now. While I can't pin down what exactly "me" is, the concept of it persists. This idea of "thomas" seems to be a shared agreement, the label for this body/mind and is different for everyone who knows me. Your perception of Thomas is different than my mother, which are both different from my wife, etc. Which is the "real me"? Obviously none of them. Maybe I'm getting off-track here.

Reading back over what I typed, I noticed that in once place I couldn't conceive of a lack of awareness, where in another area I completely admitted there are times where awareness seems not to exist. Where is this awareness when sleeping? Why does it seem to return when I wake up in the morning? But even when asleep there has to be some level of awareness, as I can be woken up by loud noises, pain, etc.

I'm going to let your thoughts/questions percolate for a while and get back to you later today.

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:41 pm

Hi, Thomas,

The trick is to answer the questions by direct looking rather than by thinking.

For example, you say, "I can't pin down what exactly 'me' is."

So take it slowly, and observe precisely your moment-to-moment experience.

What is happening in mind and body immediately before the label "me" arises?

What is it like, as an experience, when the word "me" or "I" arises, perhaps as part of a verbal thought?

What is it like to be swept away from direct experience and into this mind-created story featuring "I" or "me"?

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:49 pm

So take it slowly, and observe precisely your moment-to-moment experience.

What is happening in mind and body immediately before the label "me" arises?

What is it like, as an experience, when the word "me" or "I" arises, perhaps as part of a verbal thought?

What is it like to be swept away from direct experience and into this mind-created story featuring "I" or "me"?

Derek.
Ok, I will work on this. My initial response would be emotion, but I want to take time and see if that's my final answer. :)

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:22 pm

Ok. Look also at where muscles are tensing slightly, where there are slight physical sensations or mental impressions, where in space the attention is focused, how broad or narrow the focus is, and so on. See if you can observe the whole picture of what happens before, during, and after the arising of stories featuring "I" or "me."

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:30 am

Hmmm I will try that but my initial reaction it's that if I was paying that much attention i'm not sure I would be thinking about myself. :)
I noticed while driving today that emotion would come first, then when I would investigate why that emotion (like anger our impatience) came up, I found it was always related to this idea of self, "they are driving slower than I think they should" "this person is in my way" etc. is this sort of reflection beneficial or am I missing the mark?

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:45 pm

Hi, Thomas,

Yes, that's a thing to notice: the thought system revolves around this "I" character getting what it wants.

But one of the way "I" thoughts fool you is by hooking your awareness into a narrow area. That's why I encourage you to loosen your awareness to a broad area, including the whole body and what's coming at you through the senses. Don't worry that no "I" thoughts will arise -- they certainly will!

Driving a vehicle is not a good time to be doing inner noticing -- you need to have your awareness on what's happening around you.

But if you can find some time for walking or sitting in a safe place, just let your awareness loosen, so that it encompasses a broad field, and you're not so hooked into individual thoughts.

What do thoughts "look" like while you keep that broad perspective? Where are they, spatially? Can you be aware of them as they arise and pass away? Are "I" thoughts any different from any other thoughts?

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:22 am

The trick is to answer the questions by direct looking rather than by thinking.
So take it slowly, and observe precisely your moment-to-moment experience.
What is happening in mind and body immediately before the label "me" arises?
What is it like, as an experience, when the word "me" or "I" arises, perhaps as part of a verbal thought?
What is it like to be swept away from direct experience and into this mind-created story featuring "I" or "me"?
But if you can find some time for walking or sitting in a safe place, just let your awareness loosen, so that it encompasses a broad field, and you're not so hooked into individual thoughts.
What do thoughts "look" like while you keep that broad perspective? Where are they, spatially? Can you be aware of them as they arise and pass away? Are "I" thoughts any different from any other thoughts?

Derek.
Hmm, I seem to be focusing on the thinking and less on the direct looking. I have some quiet time tonight, I am going to sit and try and see this directly.

I did notice myself today getting swept up in a totally false fantasy of confrontation between myself and a police officer (this is a reoccurring mental pattern for me even though I have had very few interactions with the police in my life). There was a huge swell of emotion, defiance, a great feeling of "it's not fair" etc. I had a physical response to it as well, I could feel myself getting "worked up". But what struck me most was how it almost entirely absorbed my attention. I wasn't present in the moment to what reality was around me at all, I was completely captivated in this fantasy for a good 5-10 seconds (perhaps longer). It was like watching a very, very engaging movie.

Thank you for your patience. I have had a lot of emotions come to the surface since my initial post here, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, etc, but I am trying to work through them and not allow myself to follow old familiar patterns (distracting myself, giving up, etc). Is this normal? Is the a defense tacit of "me"?

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:16 pm

Hi, Thomas,

If you want to slow the thoughts down so you can get a good look at them, try sitting with your eyes closed for at least 20 and preferably 30 minutes. After that length of time, thoughts become more "wispy" and don't pull you in so much.

These are good observations you've made about the power of thoughts to seduce you into a thought-made world and to remove you from what's really happening.

The feelings of inadequacy and guilt provide another entry point. Can you see how a supposedly solid self gets constructed on top of the transitory feelings? Feelings are really just temporary visitors, but do you see how thoughts perpetuate them by turning them into an "I" story?

When you say, "I am trying to work through them and not allow myself," what does this "I" or "myself" refer to? Does it refer to anything that exists outside the world of thoughts and words? Isn't this just another thought with the label "I" pinned on it? Have a look!

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:07 am

So I sat last night, trying to broaden my awareness and simply observe. It was very difficult. My mind kept thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking about what to post in response, thinking about what I was feeling, thinking about thinking. Physically, I noticed my jaw was clenched, my shoulders were tight, and the muscles around my head were flexed. Also, I was often frowning.
I became really, really irritated which evolved into anger. This only made the thoughts come more rapidly, and the physical response more pronounced. I tried to collect myself with a deep breath and return to the meditation/observation but I wasn't successful. I will continue with it tonight after work.

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Derek
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby Derek » Tue Jul 17, 2012 1:16 am

Hi, Thomas,

Good observation. So a lot of tension in the body, a lot of thinking in the mind, and a lot of anger in the belly.

Was there any "self" controlling all these experiences, deciding what would happen next?

Derek.

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anonymous2012
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Re: I think I'm ready

Postby anonymous2012 » Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:28 pm

Was there any "self" controlling all these experiences, deciding what would happen next?
I don't know. Who decided to sit and meditate? Once the irritation occurred, who decided to try and take a deep breath and refocus? Are these just mental patterns?
The irritation came, I think, from an expectation. That I would(should) have more control over my mental processes than I did. If there is no controller, do these thoughts simply run rampant through my head? I feel resistance to that idea, but I can't really argue against it, as these thoughts definitely do run rampant. It seems like I have some sort of limited control as to where my thoughts flow, at least for short bursts. I can focus enough to get work done, watch a movie, read a book, etc.
But emotions especially, I feel I really have no control over where/when they occur. I can seem to choose how I react to them, but that is well after the fact of their occurrence. Who controls them? Is it me, or just a pattern of redirection my mind has adapted? Can I "reprogram" the "software" of my mind?
I sat in meditation again last night and had a better experience with loosening my focus, and trying to simply observe. I noticed that even when I thought my body was very relaxed and without muscle tension, I still had my face/eye area clenched (like I was squinting although the room was not brightly light). I've also noticed that when the "me" thoughts arise, my focus comes "inward" from the looseness/observant state (towards my eyes), and that often my abdomen will be clenched.


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