For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

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For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:27 pm

Thanks, Bill, for agreeing to work with me.

I have a feeling I'm a tough case, having a very strong energy investment in being right about my beliefs, including the belief in a "me." (To put it more plainly, I'm an arrogant know-it-all.) I'll be most grateful for guidance from anyone who can help me disprove that belief. I'm prepared to commit to the process of seeing through the illusion, whatever it takes. The fact is that after decades of striving I'm utterly sick and tired of feeling I'm a failure as a spiritual student, and I just want to be free of that and of all the other stories about "me." (I don't expect the stories to disappear. I do expect to be freed from believing them.)

I'm a 65-year-old man. I've felt something was missing in life since I was a teenager. In my early 20s I encountered "The Book" by Alan Watts and "The Master Game" by Robert de Ropp, and for the first time I began to understand what I was missing. In my late 20s (1975) I met a spiritual teacher with whom I studied for 30 years until his death. I loved and respected him profoundly. The association brought me periods of great joy and intensity, plus one remarkable 5-day interval when I was in an elevated state, unentangled from my thought mind (while still believing in "me" as the doer). But mostly it left me with feelings of failure, frustration and longing to be truly free. And also with a fascination with the distinction between intervals when my attention is completely entangled in the thought stream and other intervals where for a few seconds or minutes my attention is more focused on the present moment and the thought stream is reduced to simple commentary on the present rather than some elaborate story. (I begin to suspect that the fascination with this distinction isn't particularly helpful.)

After several fallow years, I became interested in some contemporary teachers, primarily Mooji and Leonard Jacobson (an odd combination, I know). I've watched their videos with enjoyment and a sense of resonance, but not much else.

In the past few days I've encountered The Headless Way of Douglas Harding and then LU. I've watched some of the LU videos and read the first third of "Gateless Gatecrashers." I've been considering and investigating what I've seen here, trying to get to bedrock certainty of what I can say from direct experience. Here it is (fanfares and drumrolls, please):

Awareness is.

Everything after that gets all jumbled up. I seem to be stuck right now in a conundrum. When I look for an "I" in direct experience, I can't find it. It isn't there. Yet the belief that it exists is so strong that it announces itself as self-evident, as in "It's perfectly obvious that this body, these private experiences, must be yours. It couldn't be more obvious. How could it be otherwise?"

By "private" I mean that I don't experience your thoughts and perceptions, and no one else experiences mine. There is this body, this individual embodiment called "Steve," existing in awareness. Somehow, mysteriously, "Steve" is associated with a universe of experiences ("my" experiences). And that universe ("me") is somehow, mysteriously, walled off from each of billions of other universes (all you folks). I'm not seeing a way to explain the factor of privacy if "Steve" and "you" aren't real entities.

And yet when I look for Steve I can't find him except as a character in a story. It's very confusing.

I'll stop now because it's over-long and getting too heady.

Thank you.
Steve

PS: One more thing to report since I wrote the above and decided to sleep on it before posting. In watching what actually happens when my attention seems to vacillate between the "lost in the thought stream" state and the "more present" state, I now see that all I can say for sure is that sometimes awareness is mostly filled up with thoughts (while direct experience shrinks to the periphery) and sometimes it's mostly filled up with direct experience (with accompanying thought commentary). I don't find a "me" whose attention is shifting. I expect this insight to help lessen my fascination with the shifts. By the way, the "me" belief is strongly associated with the thought commentary during the "mostly direct experience" intervals. Those commentary thoughts feel like "my" voice.

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:03 am

Hey Steve,
Glad you're here....

Please take a look at the intro page of LU here, it contains our disclaimer and a short video too.

http://www.liberationunleashed.com/

Some guidelines that I would like your agreement on:

1) Agree to post daily or near daily, email if you are not able.

2) Please set aside any other spiritual practices during this inquiry. Instead commit at this time, like you would for a meditation practice, to begin looking for this separate self, this "I"; look for what is the experience throughout the day as this looking happens.

3) I will ask questions and you answer.... listen very closely to the answers that arise in you.
Answer to the very best of your ability at that time.

4) If you do agree to the above....please share what your expectations are to see through the illusion of the separate self, and if there are any concerns/fears about that?

If you could confirm you have seen all the above and are in agreement, we can go ahead and get started.

Bill

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:46 am

Thanks, Bill. I'm glad to be here too.

I've read the intro page. I understand the approach and the risks. I agree with the disclaimer. I watched the "Look With Honesty" video.

I do agree to the numbered points, and I'll share my expectations and fears.

Expectations
I expect life to be lived more smoothly, without so much struggle between competing impulses. I expect not to be rid of thoughts and feelings, but to be free from believing that they're real and can hurt me. I expect to live more in the present and less in the distracted state of being lost in the story. I expect to see creativity expressed more freely. I expect to be kinder and gentler toward my fellow creatures. I expect to take things less personally, to be less easily embarrassed, angered, flustered, or intimidated. Perhaps most important, I expect to see these changes happen involuntarily, without effort, after I've invested the effort to see through the illusion.

Fears
I fear I may not be able to succeed. I certainly have desire. I believe I'm capable of looking and responding honestly. But there's a huge investment of energy, since childhood, in being right, in validating my competency and my beliefs. In other words, it's hard for me to acknowledge that I could be wrong about something so fundamental. (Even though I'm beginning to see that the "me" is nowhere to be found in places where I expected to find it.)

I fear I may be too distracted by this exciting process to work effectively at earning a living during this dialogue, and also that after seeing the "I" as fictional, there would be "nobody home" who was interested in earning a living. I fear that my expectation about living with less effort may turn out to be unfounded and I could just find myself taking on an additional burden of responsibility and guilt, on top of those that years of failed spiritual study have already burdened me with. I fear feeling silly and looking stupid.

I fear losing the familiar feeling of being who I think I am. (It's often far from comfortable, which is why I desire to change, but it's certainly familiar.)

Comments
That's all that comes up for now, except that it's interesting to note that there's major fear of failure expressed and not too much fear of success. Just when I though I was very ripe and ready, I'm surprised to see all this resistance. I'll be looking more closely at what lies behind it.

Steve

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:51 pm

Steve,

Thanks for the detailed intro and all that you wrote. I can see you've had a long history of introspection and searching. We might be able to use some of it down the road. I can see your expectations are that somehow with this inquiry, a lot of your suffering is going to be relieved.... especially when it comes to thoughts of you and the world. This is all pretty normal and what you'll find is that it is not usually what happens. Life still goes on. And our conditioning is still there. We just have a bit of a different perspective. But all that can happen can still happen.. And there is also some fears coming up for you.... doesn't look like anything that will hold you back. We do seem to take care of things as they come up so I wouldn't worry about the job and all that. Just do this as you can, as long as you are engaged, that's all we want to see. Let's leave all these expectations here right now and if we need to come back and visit them, we can. Just drop them as best you can and be ready for whatever comes.

I can see your focus has been heavily on the conceptual... we will take a little different approach here. We want to move from the conceptual down to the experiential and on what you can see, hear, feel and touch... What's in front of us... What we know to be real. Thoughts are real for sure, but the content is usually suspect. So we will focus on you LOOKING at what comes up for you with each answer from your direct experience.

Tell me what comes up for you.... thoughts, feelings, perceptions.... when I say that there is no you in the real world? No 'you' thinking your thoughts. No 'you' living your life. Its just an illuson, this 'you' that you think you are and can't be found anywhere in the real world, except as a thought. Something is living your life, but its not 'you'. Look at your reaction to this. What is it?

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:49 pm

Hi, Bill. Conceptual, yes. My work is software development, which requires a very precise and analytical use of the mind when in that realm. I'll try to stick with the experiential for this.
Tell me what comes up for you.... thoughts, feelings, perceptions.... when I say that there is no you in the real world? No 'you' thinking your thoughts. No 'you' living your life. Its just an illuson, this 'you' that you think you are and can't be found anywhere in the real world, except as a thought. Something is living your life, but its not 'you'. Look at your reaction to this. What is it?
Deep relaxation in the body. Slower breathing. Sense of distance between "me" and my hands on the keyboard. My mind went very still -- not cessation of thought, but clear and focused, with just a weak stream of commentary thoughts going on. Thought: not what I expected while reading the words. I expected a surge of anxiety-flavored energy but instead there's this calmness.

On re-reading and letting it sink in more, there is a tightening in the chest and increased breathing rate, shallower breaths. This subsides a bit when I ask myself "To whom is this appearing?" The thoughts start to respond "Me, mine, mine!" but they're weak and subside.

There's also a new sensation around the eyes and forehead that's hard to describe. It feels something like tension but not at all unpleasant. Like energy is focusing there (but that's just a thought).

I get up and move around a bit. Movements feel jerky, unnatural and disconnected, not smooth and flowing. Thoughts: Like I've forgotten how to walk normally. Like an automaton. Puzzlement about what this means.

I notice in thought that I would be much more comfortable considering non-self as an idea. Then I could bring up all the familiar logical considerations. I'll try to stay out of that comfort zone and in the experiential.

Now after re-reading the paragraph again, it's again calm and quiet, with pleasant buzz still right around the eyes.

Bill, I have a question about commitment number 2, setting aside other spiritual practices. Is it all right and helpful for me to continue reading Gateless Gatecrashers and other threads on this board? Or is it best just to stick with the questions you're asking me directly?

Thanks!

Steve

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:14 am

Thank you Steve for the detailed description.
Yes any of the material here is fine to read and I do encourage the reading of the Gateless Gatecrashers book. You will more than likely relate well to many of the stories in there. We just want people to not get wrapped up in any dogma while they are here so they are able to take a fresh look at things.

Since thoughts are so prominent lets take a closer look at your thoughts..
Now I know you've been studying this for years and 'know' all the right answers.
Let's instead bring out what truly come up for you in your direct experience.

1) Can you look carefully and tell me where thoughts arise, for you?
Can you see a point of origin, in reality?

2) Looking at the thoughts, do they all start out with an I attached, or does the I attach to the thought somewhere? In other words, are they all about you?

3) Try this small exercise. Look at the computer.
Is it more to say, it is A computer? or a MY computer?

4) Can you attach a computer to a self? If so, how do we do it?
How do we possess something? What is the process?

Take your time and answer when ready.....

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:17 am

1) Can you look carefully and tell me where thoughts arise, for you?
Can you see a point of origin, in reality?
Thoughts are just sort of bubbling around somewhere near the back of my head. Often they're just echoes of something I just read or of other thoughts. Sometimes the same one echoes around for a while, like in a cave, fading out. Sometimes there's just the bubbling without any clearly defined thought, and sometimes one will just seem to pop into focus in the middle of my head. Did you ever see the 1960s TV show "The Prisoner"? There were man-sized balloons that formed under the surface of the sea and then popped to the surface. That's what thoughts are like.

Now I'm waiting for one of those storylines to come along that seems to sweep me away, because I want to observe how that works exactly. But the mind isn't cooperating right now. I'll have to come back to it. Interesting to see that I can't make that happen when I want to.

Except that the whole thing about "The Prisoner" was one of those storylines! Instead of popping into the middle of my head, it seemed to happen a bit farther forward, closer to right behind my eyes. As a storyline, it took up a bigger chunk of my attention, a bigger space within awareness, than the single thoughts seem to.

So after all that: NO, I can't see a point of origin in reality. They're just in awareness. How they got there and where they came from is a mystery.
2) Looking at the thoughts, do they all start out with an I attached, or does the I attach to the thought somewhere? In other words, are they all about you?
I have to say they're all about me, explicitly or implicitly. I don't see them arising without an "I" and later having it attached. (I expect that's the "wrong" answer. Do I need to look more closely?)

Answering my own question: Of course I need to look more closely. I'm going to table this one and return to it.

Okay, I'm back after some more looking. This one is hard for me to catch, but I begin to see a glimmer of separation. I had the simple thought "There's the cat," and another came in sort of sneaking along in its shadow "That's MY cat." It's subtle. It's almost like the "I" thought is trying to hide behind the original so I won't notice it, or won't notice that it's a latecomer.

I'm going to keep looking carefully at this so I can be sure I see what's really going on.
3) Try this small exercise. Look at the computer.
Is it more to say, it is A computer? or a MY computer?
It is A computer. But when I assert this I get a whole flock of thoughts buzzing "Mine, mine, mine. Me, me, me." It's pretty funny, actually.
4) Can you attach a computer to a self? If so, how do we do it?
How do we possess something? What is the process?
That's pretty comical. Even if the self were real, it would be immaterial and incapable of being attached to a material object like a computer. Hmm, that says a lot, doesn't it? Like I don't have the slightest fucking clue what I'm talking about when I refer to the self!

How do we possess something like a computer? I see only one way: by thinking "That's mine." Just like the cat.

And the more we reinforce the "mine" thought, the more we invest energy in having an emotional attachment to the object, which means that feelings come up to reinforce the thoughts. It's a positive feedback loop. Once started, it strengthens itself unless it's seen through.

Thanks, Bill. This seems really helpful. Please tell me if I need to adjust the way I'm approaching the questions.

Steve

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:01 pm

Steve - you're doing great..your answers are real. Great looking.

So looking at thoughts, we can't really find an origin point.
It appears we are thinking them, but are we?
Do you know what your next thought will be? For real. not a contrived situation.
How about sometimes some weird thoughts come in... where did they come from? You chose them?
Can you stop your thoughts from arising?
Yes sure, there is this seeming control.
But is it true?
Is is really true?
Are you really in control of your thoughts?
Check for yourself.

We look at the nature of thoughts and see, just like your first reaction
that they are almost always possessive in nature, about me, mine or I
in some shape or form.

Thoughts arise, labels are put on the thoughts and we have ownership.
Ownership is just another thought.
All possession is through thought alone.

Now how about the body? Is that owned and controlled in reality, by a self?

Now lets look at it and see if there is an owner or entity controlling it.
Lift one of your hands. either one.
Move it to the right. Now move it left. Look with your eyes what is happening. Did a self move the hand?
Or did the hand just move?
Direct observation. Move it again. Check it.
Which is more true, the hand moved, or a self moved the hand?


Just let this in..

Well its a very simple thing that needs to be resolved...
There is this thought, I,... and once you see that I is just a thought
And you see that thought itself does not think
It clicks!
Its very very simple.

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:50 am

Do you know what your next thought will be? For real. not a contrived situation.
No.
How about sometimes some weird thoughts come in... where did they come from? You chose them?
No.
Can you stop your thoughts from arising?
No way!
Yes sure, there is this seeming control.
But is it true?
Is is really true?
Are you really in control of your thoughts?
Check for yourself.
This general case is more challenging. There are times when a thought comes along, and then it looks like some "watcher" or "witness" vetoes it and replaces it with another. For example, the thought comes up "I'm going to eat that whole quart of ice creat." And the watcher says "No you won't."

Hmm. Know what? Sometimes there is a strong impression of a witness. But it's mighty hard to pin down. For sure there is awareness of this whole drama. But does there have to be a someone who is aware? I can dig and never find it.

What really happens in the "ice cream" example is simply one thought after another. There's an impression of two warring factions. Maybe there's even a real basis for that in the form of two clusters of conditioned mental patterns that are both attached to the thought of ice cream. But the only thing that really comes into awareness, into direct experience, is a thought and another thought. Everything else is speculation. Their origin remains mysterious.

So okay, I see it. I do not control my thoughts.
Now how about the body? Is that owned and controlled in reality, by a self?

Now lets look at it and see if there is an owner or entity controlling it.
Lift one of your hands. either one.
Move it to the right. Now move it left. Look with your eyes what is happening. Did a self move the hand?
Or did the hand just move?
Direct observation. Move it again. Check it.
Which is more true, the hand moved, or a self moved the hand?
This is much trickier because there are at least three kinds of direct experience happening simultaneously: the visual, the thoughts, and the kinesthetic -- body position -- sense.

When I look with my eyes, there's no self to be found. The hand just moves.

In thought there's an impression -- but not articulated in words -- that somehow my will is causing the hand to move.

The kinesthetic feeling agrees with the eyes. The hand just moves. But I've learned since I was a baby that the kinesthetic impressions have only one origin: this thing I learned to call my body. My kinesthetic sense doesn't register impressions about anyone else's body. This exclusivity is part of the reason for the strength of the belief that this is my body. I know that's just a thought, but I feel that if there's no self I have to have an alternative way to account for the exclusivity of those impressions and for the privacy of my thoughts and feelings.
Just let this in..

Well its a very simple thing that needs to be resolved...
There is this thought, I,... and once you see that I is just a thought
And you see that thought itself does not think
It clicks!
Its very very simple.
It's not clicking yet. I'll sit with it and see if it sinks in.

What do you mean by "thought itself does not think"? On the surface that seems obvious. But how does it relate to "I is just a thought"?

Answering my own question (the second one): If I is just a thought, and thought doesn't think, then I couldn't be thinking. That's how they're related. But is there more to "thought itself does not think" than I'm appreciating?

Thanks!
Steve

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:37 am

Hi, Bill. Some new stuff to report after sitting with this and reading more of Gateless Gatecrashers and the Liberations board.

I was working in the kitchen when it suddenly dawned on me that there was a performance going on even though no one was watching me. For example, I saw myself adding an unnecessary flourish to a hand gesture, just to enjoy the dramatic effect.

I see that every action is part of this performance. I'm playing a character called Steve.

But wait. WHO is playing the character? Just as I can't find a thinker thinking thoughts, I also can't find a player playing Steve. It just is. Steve is being played by the great unknown.

Seeing this, a buzz of energy happens throughout the body, and especially around the eyes.

Steve

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:13 am

Steve - you are looking right at how your I is constructed.
Starting way back when you were 2 or 3 yrs old it began.
Can you find this I, other than in your thoughts?
It's kind of like Santa Claus, a character that we believe in...
then we finally see, it's no where to be found in reality!
Can we still believe it after that?

This I is claiming to live your life.
LOOK to see if this is really true.
You don't have to lose the character, it's necessary to get along in the world.
Look at how its constructed, thought by thought.

If you LOOK and can't find anything...look at the 'nothing'
Right there.
What is behind the illusion of the I?

Is there a 'you' that really exists?
Can you find a 'you' anywhere if you truly LOOK?

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:47 pm

I sense some frustration creeping into my experience. It's one thing to look for the I and not be able to find it. That certainly helps clear the way. But it's quite another thing to actually observe it being constructed. That would shatter the illusion once and for all when seen clearly. So far I've had just tiny glimpses of the construction process. I will try to look at the 'nothing' and report back.

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:57 am

Hi, Bill. Some weird shit is coming up as a result of trying to look at the 'nothing.' I rely on you to tell me what to do with it. All I know is that it's a story but it feels true.

There was a little boy, Steve, who felt lonely and afraid. He felt incompetent in the face of a complex world with lots of rules. He wanted to be loved and comforted. So he started to tell himself a story about someone else named Steve who was competent, confident, and fearless, and who didn't need anyone else. It's as if this new Steve started out as the little boy's imaginary friend and gradually took over the chores of living on his behalf. And the story keeps being told to the present day.

End of story. This comes to me with an upwelling of emotion, part hurt and part relief.

If there's any truth to this, what ever happened to the little boy? And who is this fool here and now who's burning with desire to cut through all these knots and be released from the illusion?

I can't answer. There's still a strong sense of a "me" in here somewhere, but it slips away whenever I try to see it. And who's this "I" who is trying to see anything, anyway? Who is doing all this looking?

No answers, only questions.

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Bill » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:49 am

Nice job in looking Steve. Especially if this is new to you, this part about the little boy Steve.

It seems you are looking for sure at the construction of the "I" for you.
See how the story was built.
See how it continues to this day.
This is all we are pointing to here, for you to truly SEE this.
The rest falls into place like dominoes.

What did happen to the little boy?
And who is this fool here and now who's burning with desire to cut through all these knots and be released from the illusion?

Who is this "I" who is trying to see anything, anyway?
Who is doing all this looking?

Great questions for you Steve.... you're doing great here!
Take your time with them and answer when ready.

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Re: For Bill: Arrogant know-it-all ready for guidance

Postby Steve » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:27 pm

Nice job in looking Steve. Especially if this is new to you, this part about the little boy Steve.
It's not entirely new. I've seen a similar description in the work of Leonard Jacobson about how the ego is created. But it came to me with the force of a true vision of my inner experience. And some facets are original: the little boy telling himself a story to create an imaginary friend.
What did happen to the little boy?
And who is this fool here and now who's burning with desire to cut through all these knots and be released from the illusion?

Who is this "I" who is trying to see anything, anyway?
Who is doing all this looking?

Great questions for you Steve.... you're doing great here!
Take your time with them and answer when ready.
I'm still working with these, but there is something to report. Last night after reading your post I was concentrating on these questions. I wasn't finding much with 'Who is looking?' so I switched to 'What happened to the little boy?'

The answer hit me like a tsunami: The little boy is a story being told by the "I" now. It's being told to help keep me tied up in the illusion, as if I still needed the same protection as when I was three. This realization came with a very strong tingling sensation throughout the body. When that subsided I started to feel that some of the machinery of the illusion was relaxing its grip.

I'll keep looking at these questions and a new one:

Who discriminates? There are all these thoughts all the time. The content of some of them is off the wall and the content of some of them is a good description of reality. The content of some of them suggests doing outlandish things, and the content of some of them contains a good action plan. Who discriminates? I was taught I could watch my thoughts and choose which ones to hang onto. I see now that's not quite the way it is. But there does still seem to be a watcher and a discriminator, so:

Who watches?
Who discriminates?


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