Thread for Liam51

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Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:55 pm

Hi Liam,

Thanks for the invitation to guide you!

A few preliminaries:

[*]Please could you confirm that you have read the Disclaimer on the home page
[*]This site has a nasty habit of quietly logging you out while you are writing ... then when you click 'submit', it tells you "Oh look, you need to log in!", and you lose everything you have written. To avoid gnashing of teeth, it is best to write your replies elsewhere, then copy and paste them in to the reply window - this way, you still have a copy in case the website has logged you out
[*]You may find it helpful to click the 'subscribe topic' link at the very bottom of the page to ensure you get an email whenever a reply comes in
[*]Let's aim to write once a day if possible, it is a good way to keep up the momentum

.... so to get the ball rolling, please could you say a little about what brings you here, and particularly, what you think/hope could come out of the process if successful?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Perry

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Liam51
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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:42 pm

Hello Perry

Thank you for agreeing to guide me. Apologies for the slight delay in getting started but I have had my son and his girl friend to stay so have been a bit busy

I have read the site Disclaimer and take full responsibility for continuing

I will try to keep up daily communication though I will be away from 29 July for a few days without access to the intenet

As for my motivation...

...I have been a practicing Buddhist for about 25 years and over that time have reflected on the topic of ‘the self’ many times. I am of a fairly intellectual temperament and feel some familiarity with the idea of there being ‘no self’ but I have struggled to come to terms with what that might mean to me emotionally or experientially
When I first met Buddhism I was very taken with the pursuit of a path leading to ‘seeing things as they really are’ and feel that I have always had an open mind as to what that might mean. Because of my background I perhaps have a default assumption that this might involve a sort of scientific materialist approach initially but at the same time I realise that all views are provisional or even false so I realise that the exploration has to go beyond any immediately familiar categories. I have, on a very few occasions, had what felt like a direct experience of being part of the flow of conditions and I found that a very transforming – even blissful – experience but it faded and remains a faint memory
As for LU I know a number of friends who have engaged with the process and although I have not had very deep exchanges with them about it (with some I have felt there was something of a barrier to deep discussion because we were each of different sides of an experiential divide), my impression is that it has been an important process for my friends and so I am intrigued to explore the territory and the method provided by the LU structure. I have read about 5 of the case studies in the Gateless Gate book but found the material unconvincing since it felt like an edited version of what must be an experiential process. One friend did give me permission to read his complete dialogue with his guide but I did not feel I had access to what was really going on (as if it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments). I have not read any further about ‘direct pointing’ preferring to wait to experience it as an active process rather than research into yet another set of ideas (I have read a lot of western material on Consciousness but feel I understand less now than when I started and certainly don’t feel that any of the authors have unearthed the Truth.
What could come out of it? Difficult to say. I suppose that initially it will be an arena to clarify or even fully recognise what my views of ‘the self’ are and to be challenged to justify my position (to myself and to you maybe). But what happens beyond that I find hard to anticipate. Ultimately my position, whatever it is, is untenable but what the impact of taking steps down that path remains unknown – but exciting and worthwhile. Thanks again for the opportunity
Regards
Liam

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:16 am

Hi Liam,

Thanks, that was a very helpful intro.

It is well worth spending a bit of time at the beginning looking at assumptions and expectations - it can save a lot of time and confusion later...

... so to pick up on a few things:
feel some familiarity with the idea of there being ‘no self’ but I have struggled to come to terms with what that might mean to me emotionally or experientially
that's all good - direct pointing is the right tool for this job!

Code: Select all

I have, on a very few occasions, had what felt like a direct experience of being part of the flow of conditions and I found that a very transforming – even blissful – experience but it faded and remains a faint memory
I'm really glad you mentioned this - when it comes to expectations, it is crucial to be clear about the difference between a 'mental state' and a 'cognitive shift'. What you describe above is a mental state, a passing experience - while interesting mental states can teach us a lot, it is important to understand that the goal of the LU process is not to dwell in a particular mental state. Any mental state will pass, as surely as it has arisen - it is not possible to dwell permanently in a particular mental state.

The goal of LU is a cognitive shift, a new perspective, which is essentially permanent in the way that 'seeing through the illusion of Santa Claus' is permanent .... once one has realised that there is no Santa Claus, the illusion does not tend to reappear because the new perspective simply makes so much more sense.

It is a bit late right now, so I'll kick off properly tomorrow,

Best wishes,

Perry

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:18 am

whoops i must remember to 'preview' before I 'submit' .... I used the 'code' button instead of 'quote' !

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:29 pm

I understand the distinction you are making about 'mental state' and 'cognitive shift' but the significance for me of what I referred to was that it was an 'experience' rather than just an 'idea of an experience'. I tend to be stuck in a world of ideas most of the time. But maybe you would counter by saying that an experience is only an idea? Or is it impolite to put words in a guide's mounth?

Liam

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:48 pm

Hi Liam,
I tend to be stuck in a world of ideas most of the time.
Distinguishing ideas from "direct experience" is at the heart of the process ... the essence of the LU approach is to look very carefully at what is immediately and irrefutably present to immediate experience, to see whether there is any trace of "self" in actual experience, or whether 'self' is in fact simply an idea.... No doubt we'll return to this theme!

So let's start to look for this 'self' that seems to be so obviously to exist. We say "I saw this" or "I thought that", as if there is "I" separate from the seeing or thinking, but is this really the case?

As you sit here, right now, examine your experience and tell me:

Seeing is happening - is there just seeing, or is there an "I" doing the seeing?
Hearing happens - do "you" do anything to make it happen, or does it just happen?
There are physical sensations in the body - are there just sensations, or are they divided between 'sensation' and 'self experiencing'?
Tasting, smelling: are these simply present in experience, or are they happening to a separate "I"?
Thoughts arise and pass - are "you" driving them, or do they simply arise and pass?

What, then, in direct experience, is "I"?

Best wishes,

Perry

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:18 pm

Some of the senses seem ‘easier’ than others. The distinction I have come up with is that some seem ‘passive’ while others have a more ‘active’ element (maybe all have both in different situations)
Take hearing: sounds arise unbidden by me or anyone else and hearing occurs (I realise that interpretation almost instantly comes into play but that is distinct from hearing)
Taste seems similar. Leaving aside any questions of selecting what to taste, the taste is just there without me (again interpretation/likes/dislikes are something completely separate). Smell mirrors taste
If I am touched there is no me even if it is the sensations of say sitting in a chair. But reaching out to touch something seems different. The sensation is of something sought (by whom?)
Sight similarly has passive and active elements. I am often struck by the fact that a visual scene appears complete, all the details of shadows and depth and colour are there without effort from me (I know the words like ‘shadow’ and ‘depth’ are interpretations but the conditions which cause them to appear don’t need me to assemble them) But then if I set out to scan a vista I am back in that arena of something being sought even when there is no particular agenda being followed
I agree that some thoughts do arise and pass away without any control on my part – maybe even most thoughts. But sometimes that active seeking seems to be there and the question ‘who seeks?’ recurs for the umpteenth time. Is this just habit and recognition of conditions re-arising?
I am finding it hard to sustain an argument when I know that the ‘truth’ to be ‘directly pointed at’ says I am wrong but I wanted to report what I experience (or is it just think?). I think this is illustrative of where I have got to with this and other Dharma teachings. Intellectually I understand that there can be no self but my waking habits have too tight a hold on me to allow me to experience what my limited understanding means

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:27 pm

Hi Liam,
I am finding it hard to sustain an argument when I know that the ‘truth’ to be ‘directly pointed at’ says I am wrong
I know what you mean - the trick is to stick to reporting observations from direct experience. No argument required, just reporting what is found. This can seem sort of naive, since one is, quite literally, stating the obvious, but that is what is needed - and your observations on the nature of sense experience are a great starting point.

You distinguish between passive sense experience (eg the visual field simply assembles, no 'self' is doing it) from more active 'seeking'. In 'seeking', then, is there a self to be found? Can you investigate what this 'self' is made up of, where is it in experience? You may need to set yourself a task which will engage this 'active sensing', maybe you could look around the room and count all the things that are blue, for example.... Where, exactly, is 'self' in this?

Best wishes,

Perry

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:26 am

I was away yesterday getting back late so felt unable to engage. I think I was also unsure about what to say having reflected on your suggested exercise from time to time during the day.

I hear what you say about ‘no argument required’ but habitually argument is what I do. Just as background, I am/was a mathematician and so the whole arena of axiom and proof has always been important to me.

Anyway, on to ‘active sensing’: My experience in trying variations on your exercise is that there is a further subdivision of the ‘active’. If I try a pure version of your ‘looking for blue things’ It can becoming a sequence of passive perceptions where the scene in front of me happen to have patches of blue (it is easy to get distracted into interpretation and distraction like ‘oh, I don’t remember that the cover of that DVD was blue, almost the same shade as the border of the carpet...’ etc. Etc). I bring nothing to the scene I feel like a passive receiver even if the scanning process is quite rapid.

The second version of ‘active seeing’ has a much more ‘intentional’ component. This seems to start with a thought ‘I am going to look at the hill opposite...’ announcing where I am going to focus but then once the intention is engaged the seeing has the quality of ‘looking out’ in contrast to the passive seeing feeling of simply ‘receiving’ unsought visual data. The feeling reminds me of occasions when I successfully(?) focus on the breath in meditation, there is a ‘locked on’ quality rather than a feeling of just ‘ticking over’. This isn’t in any way rigid or forced but an easy concentration.

I have just looked back at your post and realised that I have not directly addressed you question of ‘where is the self in this’. I guess that feeling of ‘looking out’ is the nearest I can get to it. Out from where? But I guess that even in the passive situation there is the question of who is the receiver though it is easier to see there is no necessity for anyone to be there in this context. Intention seems to need an intender. Concentration seems to have no source in the scene in front of me.

I think a similar feel can be present in the other senses - certainly touch(I reach out and touch).

As for the mind...???? I'm sure somewhere I am with Descartes -thinking is being. It certainly feels 'internal'

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:41 am

Hi Liam,
habitually argument is what I do
:-)

as I'm sure you realise, we'll need to be go 'off habit' to discover anything new - if the habit is very strong, it will take a bit of patience, but we'll get there!

.... that said, if there are clear rational questions that crop up, please do feel free to raise them. It is probably better to take them as far as possible, and then explicitly put them down if necessary, rather than pretending they are not there.

So to be clear - I'm assuming that 'no self' make rational sense to you - is that true?

On the other hand, what emotional response arises when you read this? "There is no 'self' in reality, nor has there ever been - sensing, thinking, willing and doing are all happening without any 'self' involved in it all"

.... but to return to your post:
a much more ‘intentional’ component [...] Intention seems to need an intender.
yes, this is the thing - it can be fairly readily noticed that there is no 'self' involved in the arising of sense experience, but choosing and willing, these are where the illusion of 'self' is much more tightly bound up

Can we firm up that 'seems' one way or the other? Can you establish with some certainty whether intention really needs an intender? Rather than constructing an argument, try to observe what is actually going on when there is intention - what is the experience made up of? Where is the separation between intender and intention? What is the 'intender' in direct experience?

Best wishes,


Perry

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:38 pm

I am painfully aware of the existence of my habits and realise that the only way to move forward is to go beyond them (didn’t someone say that the fetter of self is habit :-))

Does ‘no self’ make rational sense to me? Yes. I have often revisited the exercises of looking for self (in the style of The Shepherd’s Search for Mind and reflection/meditation on the elements) and continue to arrive at the conclusion that there can be no permanent self (I wonder if that ‘permanent’ is a weasel word which I slip in as my ‘get out of gaol card’). My experience is that on a day to day basis I do change – physically mentally, emotionally. As conditions change, I change – as often as not without any conscious control on my part or anyone’s part come to that. Intellectually I see these mechanisms as analogous to the developments of evolution in response to environmental change – incredible development without any controller other than the flow of conditions. The more general concept of ‘emergence’ is also something I accept as a model of creative development without a ‘controller’.

In these theoretical analogies there are even examples of a continuity and the sustaining of traits over time (even vast spans). But when I turn to my emotional response to my ‘intellectual understanding’ it is this ‘sense’ of continuity – my awareness is always ‘me’ – is what trips me up. It’s one thing to see that the development of a goldfish eye arises on conditions without intervention but in the self-reflexive arena I lose confidence. So what is the emotional response? Bewilderment? Fear of dissolution? Certainly fear of loss of control. But also just straight denial because my experience (or what I tell myself about my experience) is an ongoing story of a continuity of sorts – the me who intentionally looked at the hill out the window yesterday is recognisably ‘similar’ to the me who looks it again now. Of course there are differences in hundreds of details but the ongoing sense of continuity persists – indeed the me who went to the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 is recognisably me even though it is more than just the wild black hair that has changed!! The persistence of memory.

Your last suggested enquiry into whether ‘intention needs an intender’ has me flummoxed. I am sure I could go off into some convoluted argument to try to justify my apparent position but I don’t think it would get me very far. I have tried, during the day, just to sit with it like a koan – the intenderless intention – but I have made no progress. Perhaps at base I believe my self is my ‘will’.

I can see that the intention might start as a thought – ‘what will I do in the future?’. Maybe the intender is a thought – ‘how was I in the past?’ The intention acted upon is a reinforcement of the habitual intender. But this is just theorising not direct experience. I have not yet got beyond the apparent experience of ‘I intend and something happens or not as a result’. So much for my rational belief in ‘no-self’. Maybe so much for rationality.

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:46 pm

Hi Liam,

Apologies - the weekend ran away with me, I've only just managed to find time to reply.

A very lucid set of replies, thank you!
continue to arrive at the conclusion that there can be no permanent self
mmmm ... what about an impermanent self? [weasel hunting...]

There are several themes we could pick up from your other replies, but one stands out:
Certainly fear of loss of control. [...] Perhaps at base I believe my self is my ‘will’. [...] Maybe the intender is a thought
OK, so in everyday experience, would it be fair to say that your sense of the reality of 'self' is strongest when there is a sense of 'agency' - as if your 'self' is that which controls, intends, wills, chooses, decides ... ?

I would not particularly recommend treating the 'intenderless intention' as a koan - this may be fruitful, but it is rather out of my (and LU's) working method. However, it is worth pointing out that the 'doer illusion' is closely bound up with language, so it may be useful to point out what is going on by analogy:

So when we say 'the wind blows', language separates the 'wind' from the 'blowing', but is there really any separate 'wind' or is there only 'blowing'? Likewise, we say 'I intend', but is there really an separation between 'I' and the 'intending', or is there really just intending? Is there any difference between these two examples?

... that may give a clue what we are looking for, but what we are actually aiming for is to notice what is going on in direct experience, to 'see through' the illusion of self, to witness it functioning. Really this just comes down to taking an interest and looking at what is going on during these 'self laden' experiences. I cannot do the looking for you, but I can suggest some questions that might 'prime' the process of observation for you:

so when intending/willing/choosing/controlling, can you determine what IN DIRECT EXPERIENCE constitutes this 'sense of self'? Is it a thought, a mental construction, a feeling, a sense experience? How does it unfold over time? (Of course, it all flickers past rather quickly, but it is possible to notice stages unfolding). Is the separation between 'intender' and 'intention' there all the time, or is it created through time? Does the 'intender' then pass away once the 'intention' has passed?

Be curious, have fun :-)

Perry

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:53 am

Hello Perry

Thanks for the reply. I just have a few moments to initially respond. This is getting tricky. I think I am struggling to work out what '...in direct experience...' actually means. One of my habits is to see the world through a series of thoughts and so filter the experience. I'll need to sit with this.

I am off for a few days but will take a laptop with me in the hope of tracking down some wifi but it may not be till wednesday that I reply (I've copied the text of your latest post so I will be considering what its implications might be.

Many thanks

Liam

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby Liam51 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:55 pm

Hello Perry

Managed to find a little whiff of wifi in the country air!

Looking at some of the thing you have picked up maybe I might want to back-peddle on ‘ ...my ‘self’ is my ‘will’...’. I would offer something more along the lines of ‘awareness’ and hence my comment about the fear of lack of contol maybe better than this would be fear of lack of ‘existence’. What would my response be if when I bring the hill to my awareness it was no ‘me’ that was aware? I think that would be seriously scarey. I remember in my very early days of meditation there were occasions when I thought I was not going to ‘come back’ probably because the mental state I had (accidently) wandered into were way outside my normal experience or habitual views of my self.

As for the intenderless intention I was not meaning I was doing some koan practice, ‘koan’ was just a shorthand for something to puzzle over since at first sight it seems paradoxical.

I’m very taken with the wind example it does illustrate how a noun is made to appear from the process. Clearly from a grammatical structure point of view ‘I intend’ looks similar but I cant yet swallow the analogy whole since ‘wind’ and ‘I’ are on opposite sides of a subject/object divide. I can ‘objectively’ see that there is no ‘wind’ without ‘blowing’ because I can ‘pick up the noun and the process and see them as two ways of describing the same thing. I realise that the aim is to see that ‘I’ am process but I don’t have the wherewithal to ‘experience’ it – intellectually ‘self’ as process seems quite a straightforward observation.

So can I see ‘intending’ or ‘being aware’ arising in experience? I clearly see that episodes of awareness arise and disappear. I am following the breath. I am distracted. How many times have I followed that cycle? ‘I am following the breath’ can be a thought but it can sometime seem a thought-less awareness. But either can arise and both pass away.

I am curious. I am having fun. But direct experience seems elusive.

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Re: Thread for Liam51

Postby perrym » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:17 pm

Hi Liam,

It would not be a bad moment to go into exactly what we mean by 'direct experience' - on LU it means something very particular, and is key to the method.

By 'direct experience' we mean sense experience, including internal feelings, and observed thoughts. This is as opposed to stories, interpretations, theorising, ie being carried along in thought.

For example, if asked 'what is being hungry?', a 'normal' answer might be along the lines of 'it is when I want to eat' ... this is of course quite accurate for normal purposes, but is not getting at the 'direct experience' of being hungry - it still begs the question 'how do you know you want to eat?' .... if one were to speak from 'direct experience', the answer might be along the lines of "a slight tension in the stomach area, thoughts arise containing images of food, and ideas about how to get food."

Why is this important? Essentially, what we are doing is learning to distinguish immediate perception from interpretation and thinking. This is not because thinking and interpretation are in some way 'bad', but because the delusion of 'self' is, precisely, an interpretation that is mistaken for an immediate perception, a thought taken to be a reality.

For our purposes, 'direct experience' is real, sense experience is real, thoughts are real, but the CONTENT of thought is not real. If you read 'King Kong', an image of a huge ape probably arises in your awareness ... this thought is real, but of course, it is only a thought, the ape is not real, there is nothing to run away from. This is, no doubt, obvious. Yet when we think about 'I' and 'self', we behave as if these are real.

And so we investigate what we mean by 'I' - what is actually directly perceived? What is present in Direct Experience? Where is 'I' to be found, and what is it made up of? Is 'I' a sense experience, or an observed thought, or what?

This is my take on 'direct experience' - another guide (Cosmik) has written a short introduction to Direct Experience that will give you a slightly different flavour, and is well worth a read

I'll return to your last post again tomorrow - there is a lot I'd like to pick up on, but I'll let you chew on that first....

best wishes,

Perry


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