Request for an experienced guide, please

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willing
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Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:06 pm

Hello there,

I'd like to request a guide to begin a new inquiry with me, please. I have engaged in two dialogues at LU before and found them both extremely beneficial. I'd be grateful for the support of an experienced guide to help me find and move beyond any sticking points along the way, please. I have read and agree to the terms of the inquiry process here, and include below my responses to the introductory questions.

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?

That the sense of self is an idea or thought, not a fixed entity that exists in itself. It is not a genuine hook to hang how we make sense of the world on.

What are you looking for at LU?
I’m looking for a guide to help me see this directly in a sustained way. I believe that I have had experiences of non-dual awareness, and genuine glimpses into the illusory nature of this ‘self’ idea. But, the habits attached to it have in many ways continued, so this appreciation seems to be unstable, or not always accessible.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
I am hoping to find direct pointing from a place of deep understanding, that can support my experiential inquiry. I expect – and very much welcome – challenges to the concepts and beliefs I may be bringing to experience that blind me to the true nature of it. For the conversation to elucidate this baggage so that I can see it more clearly for what it is. I anticipate there may be some difficulty in releasing experiencing from concepts and beliefs – stories. It may be that resistance comes up that I’m not expecting. I’ve participated in two dialogues at LU before (in 2014 and earlier this year) and found both of them immensely beneficial in deepening my attunement to bare experience, so I feel comfortable with the format and open to a new dialogue.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
I have had a meditation practice for 7 years, first secular, then moving into a Buddhist framework, and am committed to this – it has become a central thread in my life. I also trained in Focusing several years ago and practice phenomenological enquiry; all primarily in the service of deepening my awareness of experience and supporting others to do so too. I have an appreciation of Buddhist psychology, western psychology and philosophy of mind, but make a practice of holding these lightly in experiential inquiry – hopefully with some success, although I can’t help but notice their influence seeping in at times. This is one of the main reasons I feel I need a guide - to get past book knowledge and plunge directly into experience itself.

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

Thanking you in advance if you are able to guide me here,

Warmly,
willing

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amrita
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:07 pm

Hi

I am happy to guide you if you are happy to be guided by me. If that is so, post back and we can begin our explorations.

warmly

amrita

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willing
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Mon Oct 16, 2017 10:52 pm

Hi Amrita,

Thank you for picking up my post, and for offering to guide me :)

I'd be delighted to work with you - looking forward to diving in!

Warmly,
willing

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amrita
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:13 am

Hi,

That's great! What would you like me to call you? Willing or something else?

I am very happy to have a dialogue with you to help you explore the nature of experience. As has been said many times before the essence of this inquiry is experiential. It's not intellectual or interested in various models of non-duality. The inquiry is about "looking" or exploring one's actual experience of the here and now in order to see there is no self or I at the centre of experience.

It would be good if we can make a commitment to each other to try and post at least once a day to keep the conversation alive as it were. The "looking" takes a certain amout of energy and focus which is best sustained through our dialouge so its good to report back as often as you can. I'm sure you know the inquiry takes the form of the guide asking questions or suggesting exercises and you reporting back on how you you got on with them. Does that make sense?
It would be great if you learn how to use the quote function it makes reading replies so much easier :)
Lets jump in and examine your expectations or preconceptions about this process

What do you imagine life would be like without a self or I at the centre of it?

What would you gain by seeing through the illusion of self?

What do you imagine you might lose?

Best wishes

amrita

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willing
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:50 am

Hi Amrita,

Sorry that I couldn’t reply to your questions yesterday – I’ve been travelling for work this week and just didn’t have a moment to myself. It’s not usually so hectic though and things have calmed down now. I do commit to writing every day.
What do you imagine life would be like without a self or I at the centre of it?
A strange combination of everything seeming completely ordinary and utterly different at the same time. Things just carrying on happening. Yet, often with a lighter or more expansive sense about them. A sort of freedom. I think this experience happens all the time actually, any time there’s a feeling of flow or absorption in just what’s going on. But the conscious noticing and knowing of this – so far for me at least – has often also been accompanied by a general feeling of warmth and sense of connection, openness.
What would you gain by seeing through the illusion of self?
I guess I can’t help harbouring a hope that the kind of experience I just described would be more continuously present – it feels good! But I don’t really think it would necessarily be that way. Perhaps a more ready awareness of habits of mind as just that, and not getting sucked into redundant ideas as much.
What do you imagine you might lose?
One thing I’ve noticed is that there can be a feeling of great comfort in the familiarity of habit, even when it’s unhelpful or ill-fitted to the situation. It can seem easier to rely on old, worn-in ideas about how things are, and effortful to stay alive and present to what is. So maybe a certain kind of ease might be lost. But there again, I already feel unease when those old patterns kick in and I see they don’t fit well, or are a narrow view, so that kind of comfort is less available than it used to be anyway.

All of these are just ideas, although they’re rooted in experiences I’ve had. Some of the motivation I feel for exploring experience in this way again is certainly in here. Some years ago, I had less pleasant – though also very instructive – experiences of troubling the idea of self, so I’m aware of a range of responses to looking deeply into experience. I’m hoping you can help me to set these ideas aside, even in their most subtle forms, because I’ve sensed that my ideas and knowledge of theories about experience can and have interfered with deep and direct looking.

Thank you for asking – these were interesting questions to reflect on.

Warmly,
willing

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amrita
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:34 pm

Hi.

In this inquiry the focus is on our actual direct experience of what is happening right NOW rather than thoughts about our experience which often pull us out of the present moment and into the past or future. Does that make any sense?

To get started here's an exercise that I would like you to try as many times throughout the day as you can. Label daily activities simply colour/image, sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.

So for example, when having breakfast, become aware of:

Seeing a cup, simply= image/colour
Smelling coffee, simply = smell,
Feeling the warmth of the coffee cup, simply = sensation.
Tasting the coffee, simply = taste
Hearing the spoon stirring the coffee, simply = sound
Thought about drinking the coffee, simply = thought.

When you feel ready post back in your own words what is the difference between actual, direct experience and thoughts (or fantasies) about experience?

Lots of love to you

amrita x

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willing
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:59 pm

Thank you, Amrita :)

Jumping right in...
When you feel ready post back in your own words what is the difference between actual, direct experience and thoughts (or fantasies) about experience?
Interesting. How to put this. There’s a nakedness to actual, direct experience. What I’m sensing is clearer and I feel closer to it. This afternoon I was in a café and really listed to the music playing, just the qualities of the sound. It was like it came into focus somehow. It felt like I heard more of it.

Visual images and colour have been interesting, too. It feels simpler to just see what’s in view. I realise I don’t do this much. It’s less emotive. By that I mean I found less of a trail of evaluation of what I see, after I see it.

One thing was kind of strange. Right after reading your message yesterday evening I found myself just looking at the text on the computer screen. I could see it as an illuminated screen, with black markings on a white background, visual information. But actually reading it, that was something else – it added another dimension to the seeing that didn’t seem to be only sensory – or not clearly one of the five senses, anyway. It wasn’t reflection, though, either. It was the experience of action, and I fell to wondering how that fitted into the sensory modalities in your question. Are the senses we know a simplification of the richness of direct experience? The experience of action – in this case reading – seemed like something else. Having the purpose of extracting meaning from the text – interpreting? – seemed to making it more that bare looking. I don’t know - I didn’t come to any conclusion about it, just left it there as a question mark in my mind.

More work to do with sensation, taste and touch, but just wanted to check in with you on where things are so far.

Love to you,

willing x

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amrita
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:27 am

Hi, thats a great answer as it segues right into what we are exploring here. In this inquiry we pay attention or "look" at our direct experience of life which consists of sensations, colours and shapes, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts. That is all our experience is made up from. There is nothing else apart from this direct experience of the ever-changing NOW so when we look we look at what is happening right now rather than thoughts about the future or past or what we think may be happening. I hope that makes sense.

Lets begin our looking with exploring sensations

Try this exercise to start with.

If you close your eyes and look at the sensations in your body can you find any self or I within any of those sensations? Do these sensations belong to you or are there just sensations?

With your eyes closed touch something. Can you describe what the sensations are like? If you push against something with your hand can you experience your hand separately from the thing you are pushing against or are there just sensations? Is there a self or I anywhere to be found in the sensations?

As you go about your daily life, try closing your eyes at different times of day whilst engaging in different activities and pay attention to the sensations. Can you find a separate self anywhere within the experience of physical sensations?

Love

amrita

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willing
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:14 pm

Hi Amrita, thanks again for your pointers! I feel like I'm only scratching the very surface here, but this is what I have for today..
If you close your eyes and look at the sensations in your body can you find any self or I within any of those sensations? Do these sensations belong to you or are there just sensations?


No, there’s no self, just the sensations. Sometimes there’s a reflex to ‘own’ the sensations – I’m seeing this, feeling this, but that quickly passes when I pay closer attention to the sensation itself. The actual felt sensations of the body were sparser that I might have expected them to be – not always many ‘points of contact’. It’s like a lot of filling in goes on when I’m not focusing on just attending to experience itself.
With your eyes closed touch something. Can you describe what the sensations are like? If you push against something with your hand can you experience your hand separately from the thing you are pushing against or are there just sensations? Is there a self or I anywhere to be found in the sensations?
I touched the surface of my desk with my hand – it feels smooth, cool and solid. It does feel different to my fingers, which are warm and soft, with creases that contact the desk differently at different points along them. But the actual contact is just contact. The main quality I sense is something I guess I'd call pressure?
As you go about your daily life, try closing your eyes at different times of day whilst engaging in different activities and pay attention to the sensations. Can you find a separate self anywhere within the experience of physical sensations?
No, I don’t find a separate self in these moments, just sensation. I tried with my eyes open too, and for some reason it’s harder. Maybe because I can see my body then, and that looks like a separate object that I have a long habit of identifying with…

With love,

willing

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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:15 am

Hi, this all sounds very positive.

Lets explore sensations some more.

If you close your eyes can you find a line where "you" or your "body" stops and everything else begins? Can you find the edges of your experience?

With eyes closed pay attention to any sounds that are present. Are these sounds arising inside or outide of you? If you listen carefully to any sound can you find a self that is listening or is there just sound arising? Listen to sounds that are far away, are they inside or outside you?

Amrita

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willing
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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:26 pm

Hi, Amrita!

I spent some time exploring your questions in a lovely park near where I live today. Diving right in..
If you close your eyes can you find a line where "you" or your "body" stops and everything else begins? Can you find the edges of your experience?
Well, I feel sensations on my skin – the breeze, my hair being whipped around my face by the wind, sometimes my clothes as I’m sitting or walking. The bench I’m sitting on through my trousers. At first, these sensations do seem to be at the edges of my body, and to be honest, that’s pretty much the default assumption I make in general. Looking closer, the sensations are more like something happening, and the location is not exactly identifying parts of my body as such – it’s more like there are areas of sensations happening. Not sure if that makes much sense! It is a very, very subtle move from sensation to sensation-at-a-location in my body. And I notice that I tend to picture the whole body – a kind of mental image – with the sensation within it. But that’s a step or two beyond the sensation itself. It’s not completely clear to me at the moment, though. More looking needed!

With eyes closed pay attention to any sounds that are present. Are these sounds arising inside or outide of you? If you listen carefully to any sound can you find a self that is listening or is there just sound arising? Listen to sounds that are far away, are they inside or outside you?
This was interesting. There wasn’t a self to be found in the sound, but there was something about distance that was quite hard to let go of. In the park there were lots of ducks and people close to me, the sound of the wind, sometimes rowing in the lake, all quite close. Then I listened for sounds further away, and heard the faint whooshing of traffic on the road on the other side of the park. It was quieter, and at first I heard it as further away. Not the sound, exactly, but the source of the sound. I tried to hear just the sound itself, and this sense of a soundscape came up, where everything that was happening – the different qualities of sound, volume, were just all part of it – and I lost that sense of distance, of some being closer and some further away. But it was quite hard to hold that sense in mind – especially when a person or a duck passed by quite close and my eyes flicked open to see who was there! Then, distance, or proximity, came into it again. I couldn’t really say that the sounds seemed to be inside me or outside – more out than in perhaps, but in those moments of soundscape, I’m not sure I could point to a spatial location at all.

This all seems kind of clear and unclear at the same time – looking forward to reading your response to my ramblings! And thank you for your kind guidance in this.

With love,

willing

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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:32 pm

Hey, lovely answers. Lets move on to look at thinking and the nature of thought. In this inquiry we look at the nature of experience or what our direct experience of life is made up from (sensations, images, thoughts) so we will come back to exploring the body and sense bases. In particular we will look at the interplay between thought and sensations and what thought says about sensations (ie labelling, interpreting, judging etc).

For now, let's look into the thought process in more detail.

Sit quietly, relax a bit and watch one thought after the other come up. Look at each question for about 5 minutes. You don't need to do the exercise in one piece.

Do you bring thoughts? If so from where and how?
Do you send them away?
Do you know what you're going to think before you think it? Sit quietly for a moment and try to predict your next thought. Does it work?
Do you plan what you are going to think before you think it?
Can you know your next thought before it arises and stop it from arising if you don't like it?
Is there is a thought that you can control?
What can a thought do – what power does it have?
Did any of these thoughts come on purpose?
You experience thoughts, but do you experience the content? Is the content real?

lots of love to you

amrita x

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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:00 pm

What a delicious set of questions to go exploring with! Sadly my plan to devote a good chunk of time to sitting with these this afternoon didn't work out, so for the moment I've just made a quick start with the first couple.
Do you bring thoughts? If so from where and how?
Do you send them away?
No, I didn't make the thoughts I noticed arrive or leave. Actually, for once my mind stayed uncommonly thought-free for much longer than usual when I sat down to notice their passing, conveniently demonstrating 'my' inability to will them into existence or otherwise! When a thought did arise, I was slap bang in the middle of it before even noticing its arrival, so I didn't spot the process of emergence this time. Will keep looking for subtler details. As for sending it away, no I didn't, although becoming aware of it did seem to have something to do with its passing. Possibly just appearances, though. Or simply that the noticing signalled to me that this task of looking at what happened could begin, so my attention just switched to that. But that's me speculating.

This is changing the topic slightly, but a couple of weeks ago I experienced a really striking example of not being able to trust the content of thoughts - that showed me they really cannot be taken at face value. It was negative content about a loved one that surprised me and that I knew really didn't reflect my feelings at all. It had a forcefulness about it that was a bit disconcerting at the time. But when I took a little time out for a walk, I saw that those thoughts had arisen from a constellation of things: stress (about something else entirely), tiredness, and a yearning for solitude and space. And it almost immediately became crystal clear that thought content is simply a function of the conditions at play, just like any other sensory experience that emerges into awareness. What's more, in this case it had served a useful purpose in encouraging me to take a little quiet time to myself in a hectic moment, without being anything like "true".

Although I've seen this before, it was just so abundantly and utterly clear this time that it's stayed with me. It's a bit off-track, sorry for that! Just thought I'd share it with you because it seemed somehow connected to these questions. I'll spend more time with them tomorrow and post back in more detail.

with love,
willing

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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby amrita » Wed Oct 25, 2017 8:21 am

Hey, this is a brilliant piece of observation, What does it tell you about the content of all thought? is some thought content more real than others?

This is changing the topic slightly, but a couple of weeks ago I experienced a really striking example of not being able to trust the content of thoughts - that showed me they really cannot be taken at face value. It was negative content about a loved one that surprised me and that I knew really didn't reflect my feelings at all. It had a forcefulness about it that was a bit disconcerting at the time. But when I took a little time out for a walk, I saw that those thoughts had arisen from a constellation of things: stress (about something else entirely), tiredness, and a yearning for solitude and space. And it almost immediately became crystal clear that thought content is simply a function of the conditions at play, just like any other sensory experience that emerges into awareness. What's more, in this case it had served a useful purpose in encouraging me to take a little quiet time to myself in a hectic moment, without being anything like "true"
What we call the self, me or I is just another thought story, a function of the conditons at play as you eloquently put it. It is not anything real. I hope all is well for you and I look forward to seeing your response.

Have a great day

amrita x

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Re: Request for an experienced guide, please

Postby willing » Thu Oct 26, 2017 12:40 am

Later than planned, but made it back today (just!). Continuing on with that lovely list of questions..
Do you know what you're going to think before you think it? Sit quietly for a moment and try to predict your next thought. Does it work?
No - I've tried this a few times through the day, and I don't know what's coming next. The annoying, logical part of my mind says that as soon as something is expected, it is a thought. But before then, no. I even tried baiting specific thoughts! Expecting content that relates to what I think is on my mind at the moment - nope. Seems I just don't know enough about the conditions at play to understand how they'll emerge into thought content. They just happen. Then sometimes I "claim" them as my own doing quickly afterwards - often that's quite implicit actually.
Can you know your next thought before it arises and stop it from arising if you don't like it?

Definitely not. I only know it when it's arrived.
Is there is a thought that you can control?
I don't know yet. I don't think there's real control, but I have noticed something like putting energy towards some thoughts, and that seems to maintain them in mind. I noticed it happening with thoughts about a situation I'm unhappy with earlier - thoughts came up and there was this kind of "stoking" effect going on. Quite subtle - it's not something I normally notice. Once I saw it I realised two things: that it was fed by unacknowledged anger, and that there seemed to be some kind of choice possible about whether to keep doing it or not. Seeing there was anger present, my attention switched to acknowledging that, and the "stoking" stopped. Not sure if that's control quite, but it felt like some kind of interaction.

I'll come back again to the final three on the list, because I'd like to spend a little time with you post from this morning, too. A very encouraging post. And although I know this isn't supposed to be a self-help/developmental type of process, I have to say just reading it, it felt like a load lifted fro my shoulders. Especially this:
What we call the self, me or I is just another thought story, a function of the conditons at play as you eloquently put it.
Yes! A little flicker of clarity happened upon reading this earlier. A whole constellation of self 'thought stories' flashed into my mind, and I saw how different and contingent they all are, or were. The vague, overarching impression of this 'self' is one of coherence and continuity, but these stories just aren't. There is a sense of vastness, or depth, to them that makes them seem like something more than just an ordinary basic thought, but in that moment I could see they were just the same. That seeing kind of closed up as the day went on, but it hasn't disappeared. I've returned to it a few times to kind of test it out, and find each time that it has a ring of truth about it, even if the current thought content says otherwise. Thank you for this.

with love,
willing x


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