Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

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cwig
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Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Wed Jul 05, 2017 8:16 am

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
I understand this to mean that the pervasive sense of an "experiencer" of experience is an illusion, and that there is a way to recognize this fact directly. There is nothing of substance that can be called the "I" or "me" which is experiencing consciousness even though it feels like it.

What are you looking for at LU?
I am looking for a way to cut through the feeling that there is a "me" who is "getting interested in meditation" and that it is "I" who wants to cut through this feeling. My problem is that I feel like I understand this at the intellectual level, but it seems like that is not the same as seeing it directly. I know that the brain creates a personal narrative for itself and labels things as "me" or "I", and that these are nothing but thoughts themselves. And yet I still have the feeling that "I" began mediating and becoming interested in exploring this question and that "I'm" now posting on this forum in order to figure out what's going on, and that once "I" figure it out I will see it clearly. I am hoping someone here can help me get through this rut.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
Again, it's fairly clear to me intellectually that there is nothing I can point to that is "me", because everything is always changing, but I still feel like a self because it feels like I read and thought about it and then I became convinced of it. But now I'm a self that knows there's no self? It makes no sense, so I clearly haven't grasped it. I still feel like I am my awareness. My hope is that a guided conversation will be able to help steer me toward recognizing selflessness through immediate experience, and provide some insight as to whether I'm on the right track. I keep trying to think my way to the answer and doubting whether I've found it yet, and it seems like that's a common problem that a guided conversation can help with.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
I have been meditating for a few months (20-30 minutes a day) and listening to some talks and podcasts. I completed my first 10-day Vipassana retreat about a month ago and, while it was worthwhile, I feel like my sense of self keeps holding me back because I always feel like "I" am sitting down to meditate IN ORDER TO get somewhere and have some great realization. I have been utterly obsessed with the concept of nonself (completely counterproductive, I know) ever since and have been reading a few dialogues in Gateless Gatecrashers.

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

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:28 am

Hello Cwig,

My name is Wesley nice to meet you! Welcome :). I'm a guide here at Liberation Unleashed and I can guide you. I myself never got around to sitting one of those vipassana retreats, but I've sat several zen retreats and had a regular zen meditation practice.

I appreciate you sharing and giving a window into your experience. You're very honest with where you are, and where you feel perhaps stuck. It may make my job very easy ;).

I know what you mean when you say you feel like "a self that knows there's no self"! It certainly can get confusing, even frustrating.

Alright before we begin, I'd just like to go over a couple guidelines.

-I recommend posting every day if possible, it will help keep up the momentum.
-I understand you currently have a meditation practice, would you mind describing it to me? Does it seem to require effort, or support the idea that there's something for "you" to realize? I suggest that while we do this inquiry, you set aside podcasts, videos, books, teachings to focus on your own experience to keep it simple.
-Here is a link on how to use the quote function: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=660
-And here is a link to some FAQ, what LU is and what it isn't: https://liberationunleashed.com/about/faq/#faq-1041

Is this sounding good so far? Let's start:

Where is the "I" located that started meditating, that posted on the forum, and is going to figure it all out?

Are there any sensations associated with this I? And does "I" seem to fit this the best, or do any of these seem a better fit: (your name)/me/consciousness/the witness/the looker/watcher?

Any intense emotions, fears, or resistance that you'd like to address before going into this?

Sending love,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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cwig
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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:27 am

Hi Wesley,

I apologize for taking a few days to get back to you. Thank you for offering to guide! I'm ready to start and will try to post on a daily basis.

I'll answer your preliminary questions in order, but I'd just like to mention that there have actually been a few developments between the time of my original submission and your response, so I'll try to describe those as articulately as I can (a tricky task, I expect). From reading some more dialogues and trying to look on my own I've made some progress (I think). I have a feeling that I'm either extremely close, or have already realized it but occasionally doubt myself. Perhaps you can provide some insight.
I understand you currently have a meditation practice, would you mind describing it to me? Does it seem to require effort, or support the idea that there's something for "you" to realize?/quote]

I had been practicing the Goenka-style Vipassana before finding LU - it basically consists of systematically moving your attention up and down the body and noticing body sensations, while remaining equanimous with whichever ones are present. The purpose of this - as I understand it - is to weaken the habits of craving and aversion by recognizing the impermanent nature of everything.

On your question about effort... well... that's where it gets tricky for me. They emphasize not trying or hoping for any particular experience, but at the same time there is quite clearly a goal - namely, to follow this systematic practice which is supposed to lead to a deeper realization of impermenace (all the talk about "freeflow" and "body of light" makes it near impossible to practice without a goal-oriented mindset. This to me felt like a major pitfall, leading me to look into Dzogchen (since they emphasize no-self right from the start, cutting through the "striving" phase of practice).

Over the last week I've been attempting self-inquiry based on the Gateless e-book and a few videos, and while I'm not completely certain as to how successful that was something has definitely changed in my perception so I'm either really close or I've crossed and it just wasn't quite what I expected. I guess I'll answer your questions based on my current experience (note: my use of the words "I", "me", etc are just for simplicity of communication and not to be taken literally).
Where is the "I" located that started meditating, that posted on the forum, and is going to figure it all out?

Are there any sensations associated with this I? And does "I" seem to fit this the best, or do any of these seem a better fit: (your name)/me/consciousness/the witness/the looker/watcher?
It's pretty clear that there is no physical "I" that is located anywhere. I can't claim any relation to the "me" that started meditating, the "me" that posted on the forum, or the "me" that wrote the previous sentence. There is just an ever-present awareness, and it seems like that's a feeling. But that awareness can't be a feeling, because there would have to be an additional awareness of that feeling. So it's just... there?

So there's no fixed "me" entity, but there is a string sense of awareness, or presence, but the only time that feels like an "I" is when the thought "I" arises. This awareness is always there, but ever since this "click" moment last week, any time (or most times) a sense of "me" arises I recognize that's it's just a thought which popped out of nowhere. There is no entity choosing when the thought comes up or how long it stays. The only permanent thing in consciousness is consciousness itself. So "I" am just this ever-present awareness?
Any intense emotions, fears, or resistance that you'd like to address before going into this?
Interesting you ask this, because I think this is what gave me a firm push in the right direction. There was, in the beginning, a sense of fear. But then I realized that the fear is just another feeling (accompanied by a certain "tornado" sensation whirling in my stomach) that comes out of nowhere just like the feeling of me that it's trying to hold onto so dearly. There's a biological system here, and upon perceiving some imagined threat a defense mechanism was triggered. It's just part of the process of how biological systems work, and I just saw whole process unfold objectively, at a distance without any identifying.

Anyway, hopefully I made some amount of useful sense here. It's the first attempt at trying to formally verbalize it.

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cwig
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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:28 am

Completely butchered the formatting, sorry about that!

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WesleySPK
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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:50 am

Hello Cwig,

Good to hear from you. Don't worry about the formatting I can understand it just fine ;). I'm glad to hear you've had some progress in the mean time and it's good that you are motivated to look.

Okay so I understand you're doing the Goenka style vipassana. If it makes sense for you, I would say it shouldn't interfere much with what we'll be doing here.
Over the last week I've been attempting self-inquiry based on the Gateless e-book and a few videos, and while I'm not completely certain as to how successful that was something has definitely changed in my perception so I'm either really close or I've crossed and it just wasn't quite what I expected. I guess I'll answer your questions based on my current experience (note: my use of the words "I", "me", etc are just for simplicity of communication and not to be taken literally).
Great! We'll have a look. Yes feel free to keep writing "I" and "me" - I promise not to call the "me" police.
The only permanent thing in consciousness is consciousness itself. So "I" am just this ever-present awareness?
Let's start here.

Can you tell me the process of how "ever-present awareness" becomes "I"? When is the "I" added? Why isn't everpresent awareness just that, everpresent awareness?
Interesting you ask this, because I think this is what gave me a firm push in the right direction. There was, in the beginning, a sense of fear. But then I realized that the fear is just another feeling (accompanied by a certain "tornado" sensation whirling in my stomach) that comes out of nowhere just like the feeling of me that it's trying to hold onto so dearly. There's a biological system here, and upon perceiving some imagined threat a defense mechanism was triggered. It's just part of the process of how biological systems work, and I just saw whole process unfold objectively, at a distance without any identifying.
I see, I'm glad to hear you looked into it. Like the self, the fear that may arise can be looked into and seen for what it really is. If difficult emotions, fear, resistance or anything like that show up feel free to write about it and we can look into it :).

Okay that's enough for now, I'm looking forward to our dialogue!

Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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cwig
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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:21 pm

Can you tell me the process of how "ever-present awareness" becomes "I"? When is the "I" added? Why isn't everpresent awareness just that, everpresent awareness?
The I is added simply when the thought "I" arises, often in the form of a statement like "I did this", or "I should do that". The everpresent awareness is just that - just an ongoing "knowing" of... the isness of experience, I guess. The thought "I" comes up at random and for some reason it just has a feeling of familiarity (which I assume is because I've been so conditioned to feeling like a "me"). But there is nothing I can find that it actually refers back to without bringing in stories or additional thoughts.

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:45 pm

Hi Cwig,

By the way, would you like me to continue calling you cwig or by another name?
The thought "I" comes up at random and for some reason it just has a feeling of familiarity (which I assume is because I've been so conditioned to feeling like a "me"). But there is nothing I can find that it actually refers back to without bringing in stories or additional thoughts.
Good observation! Yes, it has that feeling of familiarity indeed, without any examination it absolutely seems to be "I". However, this may not be the case when a closer look is taken.

So there's nothing you can find without referencing a thought OF me, is this right?

We're going to use your vipassana power for a moment - please get in touch with that familiarity, any sense of "I" whether it's subtle or obvious. Are there any sensations associated with this, and what does it mean for a sensation to be "familiar"? What are some (recurring perhaps) thoughts associated with this familiarity?

Hug,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:49 am

By the way, would you like me to continue calling you cwig or by another name?
Just "C" works. I'm holding
So there's nothing you can find without referencing a thought OF me, is this right?
Kinda. I may not even reference the thought directly in the sense of identifying as the thought itself (more on that below), but you're right, thoughts are definitely needed for the self to appear real.
We're going to use your vipassana power for a moment - please get in touch with that familiarity, any sense of "I" whether it's subtle or obvious. Are there any sensations associated with this, and what does it mean for a sensation to be "familiar"? What are some (recurring perhaps) thoughts associated with this familiarity?
The sense is subtle but at the same time it's pervasive. It's not even actually a thought or physical sensation, which is why I can't really tell if I've already made the recognition and the mind is just throwing up doubts out of sheer habit, or if there's still something missing. But is different I think from what I can remember feeling before just recently, so clearly something HAS changed... yet at the same time there's an almost instinctual urge to identify with
something
.

It also seems like this sense is in a way different than many other people's sense of self. The common response people give when asked about the self involves some reference to a narrative about their life story, maybe some adjectives that describe their personality. Basically a list of relative conditions all lumped together to form an I.

When looking for a self now, I don't tend to think of my past or of any relative descriptors. All that presents itself, each and every time I look, is the feeling I have in that moment of kind of being at the "center" of consciousness. It's like the totality of my field of consciousness is in some way oriented around this "center" that I can't help but think of as "me". My name, history, relationships, beliefs, memories - none of those things are involved with this feeling (that's not to say none of those things ever arise, but when they do they're immediately recognized as insufficient and there's no need to even pay attention to them).

But actually, looking at that "center" feeling up close all I really see is the ever-present awareness of thoughts and sensations or other content. There's actually no "center" to consciousness, that doesn't even make any sense! Ha. Awareness is of whatever arise in the mind; it can't be "me", the "awar-er" centered over here looking out at mental content "over there" and awaring it. The awareness is wherever the content that is in awareness is!

I can see now when and how the awareness becomes "I". I sit down to look for a me with the preconception that the feeling of awareness is where me is - a thought appears "I'm that feeling of awareness, so look there to find the I". Then turning to the awareness, there's no me, just the awareness. A half second later comes a thought "ah! that's me!". It's not even really directed at the awareness or anything else now that I think about it. There's no intent there, the thought has no knowledge of what it's even claiming is me! How can it provide any real answers about anything? It has barely existed for a split second itself and it will dissolve soon after. It's just blabbing. There's no answer for it to provide because the question itself is utterly meaningless.

Alright. So.

There's nothing to find that could be an "I" without referencing a thought. I might momentarily mistake this ever-present awareness for a "me", but only when a thought arises saying "that's me" and retroactively seeming to refer to the previous moment of awareness. That thought is the only thing suggesting an "I" here; there's is nothing inherent about the awareness itself that's a separate I entity. There's no possible way it could be, because it doesn't have a unique shape or form to distinguish it from the awareness of others (<---now "others" doesn't even make any sense, but I'm not gonna confuse myself by attempting to think about it).

This is all too obvious.

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:07 am

Hi C,
When looking for a self now, I don't tend to think of my past or of any relative descriptors. All that presents itself, each and every time I look, is the feeling I have in that moment of kind of being at the "center" of consciousness. It's like the totality of my field of consciousness is in some way oriented around this "center" that I can't help but think of as "me". My name, history, relationships, beliefs, memories - none of those things are involved with this feeling (that's not to say none of those things ever arise, but when they do they're immediately recognized as insufficient and there's no need to even pay attention to them).
Ahh okay I think I understand. This sounds very alike where I was stuck when I began LU. It seemed obvious to me "I" wasn't anything like a name, history, relationship, memory etc etc. I seemed to be in awareness or consciousness.

Before looking at the awareness or consciousness, please read these questions and if you cannot find an answer, consider that is your answer ;).

-Do thoughts exist? Are they real things like the chair you're sitting on, the lamp, the cup?
-Is the content of thoughts real? As an example, when imagining a cup of water, can you then drink that cup of water? Has there ever been something in thought-content that you experienced through the senses, as real?
Then turning to the awareness, there's no me, just the awareness.
Exactly where is the awareness? What does it look like? Does it have any sounds to it? Can you touch it or smell it?

If you can't, how do you know it's there?

Hug,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:56 pm

Hi Wesley,

Before I begin to write this post I just want to say that a few minutes ago I had a moment which not only are words utterly failing me in my attempts to make sense of (even to myself), but the concept of language itself seems totally incompatible with the experience. I even briefly considered abandoning this thread because there's simply nothing for me to say, but I know that this is a mutual project and it'd be inconsiderate to do that. So I will try my best to answer your questions and apologize in advance if my answers aren't very helpful.
Do thoughts exist? Are they real things like the chair you're sitting on, the lamp, the cup?
-Is the content of thoughts real? As an example, when imagining a cup of water, can you then drink that cup of water? Has there ever been something in thought-content that you experienced through the senses, as real?
Thoughts don't exist as objects or entities, there is no solidity to them at all. They're merely an appearance and disappearance. They are not real in any sense. (I'm sorry if that isn't very explanatory, but I don't think there is much to be said than that.)
Exactly where is the awareness? What does it look like? Does it have any sounds to it? Can you touch it or smell it?
The awareness isn't anywhere. It's not a "thing" that can be somewhere. It doesn't look, sound, touch, taste, or smell like anything. It has no characteristics whatsoever. I can't even call it awareness anymore, because it's not a thing that can be assigned a label and then pointed to as "awareness".
If you can't, how do you know it's there?
It's not there! This is FINALLY so absolutely clear that I don't even know how it was ever possible for me to think otherwise. It can't be there, because there's nothing for there to be there or not be there. It's like holding an open palm and saying "in my hand is a nonexistent object, look for it and you'll see that it's not actually there". The moment you glimpse that the hand is empty, there's no point in looking for it. You can't find that something doesn't exist. It's so absurd that I ever felt I need to keep looking. I literally just burst out laughing at the absurdity of this whole exercise.

I thought the Gateless Gate was a poetic metaphor but this is pretty much what it is. I was trying to cross a gate even though I knew there was no gate, but wanted to see for myself and be sure that there's no gate and thought that the way to see that is to walk through the gate. But there was nothing to see and no gate to walk through. This is incredible.

Whew, what a relief. Thank you Wesley for giving that push.

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:53 am

Hi C,
I even briefly considered abandoning this thread because there's simply nothing for me to say, but I know that this is a mutual project and it'd be inconsiderate to do that. So I will try my best to answer your questions and apologize in advance if my answers aren't very helpful.
It is okay with me, I'm just here to help :).
It's not there! This is FINALLY so absolutely clear that I don't even know how it was ever possible for me to think otherwise. It can't be there, because there's nothing for there to be there or not be there. It's like holding an open palm and saying "in my hand is a nonexistent object, look for it and you'll see that it's not actually there". The moment you glimpse that the hand is empty, there's no point in looking for it. You can't find that something doesn't exist. It's so absurd that I ever felt I need to keep looking. I literally just burst out laughing at the absurdity of this whole exercise.
Wonderful, exactly :). Thoughts say something is there (self/awareness/me) that isn't there. Not as a thing at least. All that's needed is to physically look.
I thought the Gateless Gate was a poetic metaphor but this is pretty much what it is. I was trying to cross a gate even though I knew there was no gate, but wanted to see for myself and be sure that there's no gate and thought that the way to see that is to walk through the gate. But there was nothing to see and no gate to walk through. This is incredible.
Yep. What you see is what there is, minus thought-interpretations. Any gate anywhere? Anyone who is going to cross through it?
Whew, what a relief. Thank you Wesley for giving that push.
Very welcome! So if awareness isn't a thing, what is running the show? Is there something/someone to be found in your experience making decisions, choosing, controlling?

Put your hand in front of you, watch closely like a hawk and make the hand lift up and then down. How did "you" do it? Did you know when the hand would go up, and when it would go down?

Sending love,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Thu Jul 20, 2017 3:41 am

Yep. What you see is what there is, minus thought-interpretations. Any gate anywhere? Anyone who is going to cross through it?
Indeed, conceptualizing is secondary to seeing. Upon seeing there is only seeing, and then conceptual interpretations arise as thoughts quickly after. There's no gate anywhere and nobody to cross it. Both are nothing more than empty thoughts.
Very welcome! So if awareness isn't a thing, what is running the show? Is there something/someone to be found in your experience making decisions, choosing, controlling?

Put your hand in front of you, watch closely like a hawk and make the hand lift up and then down. How did "you" do it? Did you know when the hand would go up, and when it would go down?
Nothing is running the show - it's just playing on it's own. There is no-one making decisions and in some sense there aren't even "decisions" being made. I watch my hand resting on the table and a thought appears saying "okay lift it up now". There's not really a moment of decision because the same thought can arise several times in a row without there being any lifting, and then after the third or fourth (etc) thought the hand spontaneously lifts. I have absolutely no idea how my hand moves - it's not even "my" hand, there's no sense of ownership there. And the fact that it moves after the thought "move" means nothing because nobody "chose" that thought either. I did not know when the hand will move up or down until it actually happened.

No invisible decider or actor that's apart from the lifting itself. It's just an impersonal process that doesn't belong to anyone, and any feeling that it does is the same illusion as the "I". Any notion of intent is then also just another thought; we already saw there is no "intender" to intend.

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:19 am

Hi C,
Upon seeing there is only seeing
There is a sutta by the Buddha that you may (or may not) enjoy: Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.'
I did not know when the hand will move up or down until it actually happened.
Great ;). It looks to me the exercise worked well for you.

Well C, are there any remaining doubts? There are final questions we ask that are then looked at and confirmed by fellow guides when you feel you are ready for them. Would you like the final questions? There is absolutely no rush, I would rather you feel certain than let you go too soon.

Big hug,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby cwig » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:11 pm

There is a sutta by the Buddha that you may (or may not) enjoy: Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.'
I love it! Before now I would have thought this was just poetic as well, but it's an actual instruction!
Well C, are there any remaining doubts? There are final questions we ask that are then looked at and confirmed by fellow guides when you feel you are ready for them. Would you like the final questions? There is absolutely no rush, I would rather you feel certain than let you go too soon.
Absolutely no doubts. This can't possibly be unrealized.

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Re: Recently back from my first Vipassana retreat and looking for some further guidance.

Postby WesleySPK » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:09 pm

Hi C,

Alright here we go! You may answer these however you like, you could even do one at a time.

1) Is there a separate entity 'self', 'me' 'I', at all, anywhere, in any way, shape or form? Was there ever?

2) Explain in detail what the illusion of separate self is, when it starts and how it works from your own experience. Describe it fully as you see it now.

3) How does it feel to see this? What is the difference from before you started this dialogue? Please report from the past few days.

4) What was the last bit that pushed you over, made you look?

5) Describe decision, intention, free will, choice and control. What makes things happen? How does it work? What are you responsible for? Give examples from experience.

6) Anything to add?

Hug,
Wesley
"See with your eyes, hear with your ears, nothing is hidden."-Zen Master Tenkei


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