it feels like I'm going in circles about the I = body.
Yeah, it seems to be an issue of language (not English vs Italian, but the fact that we use the same words to mean so many different things).
I'll make a series of statements, tell me if they are correct:
1. there is experience
2. we don't know what experience "is". We only know it's there.
3. experience, before concepts subdivide it, is just one piece.
True, though again this is something which doesn’t necessarily get fully seen until later on the awakening path, and isn’t necessary for seeing through the illusion of self, though for some people it can help.
4. experience gets subdivided into objects, and one of those it's been called "Matteo".
This one I’m not entirely clear on. Can you define what you mean by "object" in this sentence? Like cars, and chairs, and bird song, and the smell of cinnamon, or something different?
I would say that experience gets subdivided into individual senses, (seeing, hearing, bodily sensations, etc.) and thoughts about past, present, and future. (And some of those thoughts further subdivide the sense data into separate objects like cars, chairs, etc)
And some other thoughts mistakenly grasp at certain other types of thoughts, and certain sensations (physical and otherwise), and then create an illusory story out of them that they are proof of an unchanging entity that we refer to as “I, me, Matteo.”
It’s not that there is one discrete part of our experience which is “I/Matteo.” Does that make sense?
“I/Matteo” is only the concept, the label.
When you ask me if I believe there is an I, my answer is: as a concept, yes.
one of those shapes in the field of experience is perceived as an object by itself,
I'm sorry, this is the part where I don’t follow you. Can you describe exactly what you mean by “the shape in the field of experience” that is appearing as the self? With which sense faculty do you sense this shape? Can you touch it, see it, smell it, etc?
but that's only because the whole experience is fragmented by the overlay of concepts.
Again, this part I agree with.
I saw experience without concepts, so by contrast I know that objects are "less real" if compared to raw experience. I'm not presently perceiving that raw experience without divisions as clearly as I did during one of my experiences.
That’s to be expected. Again, this is in the realm of the 6th and 7th fetters, but we are still working on the first. So it’s great that you had glimpses of this, but don’t get too hung up on that now. Again, these aren’t necessary in seeing through the illusion of self. (I don't experience everything without division all the time either!)
I have the feeling that when you ask if I believe in the "I", you're not really asking about the body itself, but what the body does or is responsible for.
Okay, so to clarify, when I use the word “I” I’m referring only to a conceptual overlay. I’m not specifically referring to a body at all. Some people are convinced that the “I” is the same thing as the body. It is not, but it needs to be seen to be true by the person.
Others don’t believe that the “I” is the body, but they think that it’s somewhere in the head, or the chest, or that it’s an intangible awareness around the body, or any number of other things. And they all need to be investigated until it’s seen once and for all that it’s not in any of those places either. And then the whole illusion starts to crumble.
I’m not asking you if the actual physical body exists. Of course, it both does and does not. The narrative of all it’s been through is just thought. The label of this as being “my body” is false. Who is the owner of the body?
The idea of it as a whole unchanging unit is obviously, scientifically, false. However there is something there that can get injured, sick, and that can stop functioning altogether. So we treat it as though it’s as real as we believe it to be, even though we know that it’s really a collection of atoms that are mostly empty space.
The body is there as a concept, but maybe what's not clear is what are the implications of the body not "really" being there, but just being a concept? what does change if one knows this? I'm not getting that.
Good question. Again, I’m not really pointing so much to the notion that the body doesn’t exist. It can lighten up your grip on the solidity of objects to see this, but again, it’s not totally necessary for seeing through self. It can, however, be helpful for the people who are fully identified with the body.
Just to be clear, are you one of the “I am my body” people at this point?
As for the issues of doership, control, and responsibility, personally I never equated them with the body. To me, they always felt like they were coming from something which was using the body to act, like a person piloting a giant robot. But we can see through that too. Do you feel like doership and control are related to the body? Do we need to investigate those? Do you feel like you have agency and control?
I know what changes when those overlays of concepts become less prominent and direct experience "shines" through them, it changes everything, but from what you say that's beyond the scope of our conversation. Am I making myself clear?
Yes, that’s totally clear, thanks. Did my explanation clear it up at all?
I’m trying to find out precisely which elements of your experience you are still turning to as proof of a self. So we’re trying to rule out anything that pops up.
There can be a body, but is that body really Matteo? Is that body unchanging and the same creature that has existed for as long as the story of Matteo has been going on?
And if not, in which other sense faculty or thought does the self seem to be existing?
Does this help?
Thanks for asking!
That relaxation of the clenched "myself" feels like having been roused from a dream to find oneself alive and aware...Each moment feels fresh, different from any other, and entirely unspeakable...And that is sufficient.- Robert Saltzman