From understanding to experiencing

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Wed May 27, 2020 5:50 pm

Hi Vivien,
No, you are not a difficult case :) Frustration and feeling stuck is the part of the process. It happens to almost everybody. The key point here is not to give up. Just keep going.

Actually, I enjoy our conversation.
You are too kind!!

Thank you!
“…and I start living live as I/me” – so how many selves are there? Two? One? Or none?
Great question! Of course, there is only one "self", but I can see that I / we refer to several iterations of "self". But, definitely only one that I can find. And I can't REALLY find that one! I asked myself questions today about "who am I" / "where am I" etc, and after a while it felt like I was asking rhetoical questions. i.e. there is no answer to the question, but the question is helpfu in pointing this out.
So what is it exactly that is starting living the life as I/me?
So, that would be "me", living as "me"! Seems silly now. It is clearer to say that life is lived, rather than "I" live life. Life happens, and it changes from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. All along, it is exerienced continuously. We don't so much go in and out of states, or different selves; it is more a case that we experience life as it flows through us (or infront of us, above us, around us....I can't quite pin that one down.)
Is there someone outside of the story of Christopher, sometimes living life as Christopher and sometimes free from Christopher?
No, it sometimes seems that this is the case, but actually there is no person / self watching the story - there is just the story, or rather, there is just the life, being lived. The story of "Christopher" becomes more prominent at times, often when I have been interacting with another person - e.g. in a meeting or some sort. I become aware of separation from that person. Then when i'm in nature, or in a peaceful environment, i notice my thoughts are generating a story, and then I let them go / watch them dissolve back to nowhere in particular.

I was struck today by our (human) tendency to classify things - in particular, biology and nature. For example, all life is classified by family / genera / species etc (in fact, things are classified prior to that as "life" or not life); but actually these classifications are arbitrary, as all things comprise the same "stuff". So all things are really all the same.
Sit for some time and just notice how thoughts come and go, and investigate:

Is noticing thought is done by something or someone? Or is noticing is just happening on its own too, just as thoughts are happening without a doer?
This is interesting, as I haven't done this before (seems strange that I haven't done this before). The noticing is strongly felt to be under some control...looking deeper to see if that control is itself a thought...that is difficult. I seem to have some ability to focus attention, and that is willed by me somehow. I can't find the words for it, and I wonder if i can inquire into that somehow. It may be just a belief.
Is there a thought + someone or something noticing it?
Belief is telling me (via thought) that there is someone noticing thoughts. So other thoughts say that thoughts are noticed by some entity - the "me".
Are there two things, two happenings there? A thought + noticer? Or is noticing inherent to experience itself? As one happening?
Aren’t the thought and the noticing it just different words pointing to the SAME EVENT?
Yes, I understand that last question. Great question! Yes, thought is divided into subject and object only via langauge, or conditioning. In actual fact, a thought is - by definition - noticed. So noticing is part of thought...they are indeed the same event. Gosh that's cool.
Now open your eyes. Look at the display before you.

Where does the visual information go? Where is it received? What is at the receiving end? Is there a place, a location where the visual information (colors and shapes) are received? Or all that can be said is that there are colors and shapes happening?
The object being seen, and the seeing itself is one event too. That's nice. Just like the thought and noticing are one event.

So this must be true for all experience!? So, I can revise my comments about my sense of ability to focus attention - the sense of will / agency to be able to focus attention, and the focusing of attention itself are also the SAME EVENT.
Language is dualistic, it always assumes a subject-object relationship.
Yes, I see this. It's actually an intellectual point! ?
We also say “I’m thinking” – but is there really an ‘I’ that is doing something or are thoughts simply happening?
Yes, this all follows now. The comparison with "It's raining" is really helpful here.
What is it that is here in this very moment? Everything is here: sounds, colours, tastes, smells, sensations, thoughts, feelings/emotions.
Yes, that is all there is.
But does experience happen to someone?
Is there someone separate from experience, which could notice or know what is happening in experience?
So...experience happens. Noticing happens. Thoughts, feelings, senses are happening. The thought that "I" am behind my eyes seeing things, or between my ears hearing things, or in my mind thinking things, or in my chest feeling emotions, is also a thought which is happening. It is experienced, because a thought does not exist if it is not experienced. Existence and experience are the same thing.
But is there a real knower or noticer as an autonomous agency here too in this very moment?
No! But there is a very active, loud, stubborn thought / belief that there is an agent here. It appears reflexively...actually all thoughts do that - they are automatic, just there or gone. But this one is recurrent and fixed. Although, I'm starting to see that it is not as fixed as it "thinks" it is! :)
Look at simplicity. The answer is there.
That's nice.

Thanks Vivien,
Best wishes,
Christopher

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Vivien
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Thu May 28, 2020 4:14 am

Hi Christopher,
But, definitely only one that I can find. And I can't REALLY find that one!
Now you can or can’t find a self? (not by thinking, but literally finding it)
What is it that is searching for a self? Is searching for a self is done by something or someone, or it’s just happening on its own?


Don’t think…. Just notice what is actually happening here now, WITHOUT any imagination or thinking.
So, that would be "me", living as "me"! Seems silly now. It is clearer to say that life is lived, rather than "I" live life.
Life is lived? By what?
Don’t think this through, but actually SEARCH for the one that is living life.
it is more a case that we experience life as it flows through us (or infront of us, above us, around us....I can't quite pin that one down.)
You are still talking as if there were a separate you, and life flows through this you. But is this really the case? Is this really what is happening? Or is this just an imagination?

What is it that could be separate from life, which life could flow through?
Is there something separate from experience, which experience is flowing through?
Is there an I + experience?

Is the body the experiencer to which life is happening to?
Or the body itself shows up AS experience?

No, it sometimes seems that this is the case, but actually there is no person / self watching the story - there is just the story, or rather, there is just the life, being lived.
How can life ‘being lived’ if there nothing living life? Do you see that there is still a hidden assumption that there is something living life?
I become aware of separation from that person. Then when i'm in nature, or in a peaceful environment, i notice my thoughts are generating a story, and then I let them go / watch them dissolve back to nowhere in particular.
“I become aware of separation from that person” – what is it that becomes aware of separation?
And what is it exactly that gets separated from the ‘other’?


“I notice my thoughts are generating a story” – So do you believe that there is a you outside of the story ABOUT you?

Is there an actual noticer of thoughts, outside of the story of thoughts being noticed by the me-character?

The noticing is strongly felt to be under some control...looking deeper to see if that control is itself a thought...that is difficult. I seem to have some ability to focus attention, and that is willed by me somehow. I can't find the words for it, and I wonder if i can inquire into that somehow. It may be just a belief.
This is important. It’s a common belief that there is control over attention.

The focus of attention is constantly moving. Watch closely.

Are you moving attention or is it going to the next thing automatically?
What is that moves attention? Is there anything moving it? Or does it move by itself?

How do you decide when attention spend enough time on one thing, and it’s time to move to something else?

How do you decide whether attention should land on a thought, or a sensation, or an object, or a sound or whatever?

How do you decide where to move attention next, BEFORE attention landing on the next thing?

V: Is there a thought + someone or something noticing it?
G: Belief is telling me (via thought) that there is someone noticing thoughts. So other thoughts say that thoughts are noticed by some entity - the "me".
You have fallen into a trap of not looking at experience, rather thinking it through. You didn’t look, you just interpreted how it supposed to happen based on what you’ve learned from this inquiry so far. This is a dead end.
“Belief is telling me (via thought)” – Is belief an entity that is communicating through thoughts?
Are beliefs are talking to you using thoughts?

Where is this YOU that beliefs are talking to? Where? Tell me the exact location of yourself to whom beliefs are talking to.

What I’m seeing from your replies to the topic of subject-object, that you were mainly thinking it through as a philosophical question, and understanding it intellectually. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough to understand this intellectually.

So, since you are so prone to conceptualization, we what to change this inquiry, to make it much simpler. As simple that you can find it boring intellectually.

I’m leaving my above questions for now, but be very very careful not to think it through. Forget about thinking. Ignore thoughts. Don’t go there.

Rather LITERALLY SEARCH for a self. Search through the whole body from head to toe and find the location where the self resides.
It’s very simple.
You have search for it as if you were searching for your keys.
You just search internally. Inside the body.

Which sensation feels to be yourself?

(take every word literally in the above question).

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Thu May 28, 2020 10:54 pm

Hi Vivien,
Now you can or can’t find a self? (not by thinking, but literally finding it)
No I can't find a self. There is no self in my body, or head, or anywhere else in the world.
What is it that is searching for a self? Is searching for a self is done by something or someone, or it’s just happening on its own?
Attention is searching / looking. Attention focuses on thoughts and sensations. It is not controlled by any thing. When it focuses on itself, there is nothing to find.
Life is lived? By what?
I don't know! Life happens. Life is whatever is happening.
What is it that could be separate from life, which life could flow through?
Great question. Life is just happening(s), it can't "flow" anywhere or in anywhere.
Is there something separate from experience, which experience is flowing through?
Is there an I + experience?
There is just experience.
Is the body the experiencer to which life is happening to?
Or the body itself shows up AS experience?
The body is not the experiencer. But, experience happens IN the body..or rather, experience is in the body - this is true for sensations. Thoughts are experienced but there is no location for thoughts. Emotions are experienced in the body. The body itself is also experienced.
How can life ‘being lived’ if there nothing living life? Do you see that there is still a hidden assumption that there is something living life?
Yes, I see the assumption here.
“I become aware of separation from that person” – what is it that becomes aware of separation?
And what is it exactly that gets separated from the ‘other’?
The separation is felt at a "body" level: this body is separate from that object (e.g. another person, a view from the window, a pet, a tree). The physical / material separation is felt, but I realise this is a thought. This is a belief. The experience of "My hand" is no different from the experience of " a tree" in terms of separation, yet there is a belief that they are separate. This comes as an automatic thought; a reflex.
“I notice my thoughts are generating a story” – So do you believe that there is a you outside of the story ABOUT you?

Is there an actual noticer of thoughts, outside of the story of thoughts being noticed by the me-character?
Yes, there is a belief that there is a "me" separate from the story. Again, this is an automatic belief, which is simply there before any other thoughts appear. When I try to look at this assumption / belief, I am immediately drawn to thinking. Again, a reflex.
Are you moving attention or is it going to the next thing automatically?
What is that moves attention? Is there anything moving it? Or does it move by itself?
This is interesting, as I can see that attention moves by itself. It is focuses on some recurrent thoughts (typically negative) more than others, but the movement is on the whole random. Certainly not under any control. When attention is focused on a task (like writing this now), there is a belief that attention is willfully directed towards the thoughts and sensations required for the task. This belief is a thought; it is not felt anywhere, but it is experienced. As I inquire into this, I notice that it is only experienced as an answer to a question - e.g. "am I focusing attention?" - the answer "yes" appears. If I then ask "how do I know this is true?", or something similar, the answer is blank. Completely blank, and then the thought "of course this is true" is there.
Are beliefs are talking to you using thoughts?
I meant this metaphically at the time, but I can see that even metaphors are too contrived for this type of inquiry. So most of the time beliefs are not talking to me!, but verbal thoughts do appear when I ask verbal thought questions. So when I challenge my beliefs by asking a question, a verbal thought appears as an answer. My intuition tells me I need to see past that.
Tell me the exact location of yourself
I did the literal search you suggested. Ignoring thought as much as possible, just using raw sensation. I searched every part of the physical body. At times, I had to reset to remember what I was searching for. I started to realise that I didn't really know what the "self" is - i didn't know what I was looking for. So i decided to simply search for the "one who is searching". There is still a tendency to use my vision to search (even with eyes closed), so the closest I can get to a location is behind my eyes. But it has literally NO sensation specific to "self" there. There is just bodily sensation like any other part of the body, but no sensation of self. So then I tried listening for self. Listening for the one who is listening, and found myself drawn to my ears. And same for touch - my fingers / skin were the closest I could get to touching the one who is touching. It took a lot of focus...and I know you will ask me "who is the one who was focusing!?" :)

I will practice this some more - searching for the one who is searching, using the different senses.

Thanks as ever,
BW,
Christopher

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Vivien
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Fri May 29, 2020 4:37 am

Hi Christopher,
The body is not the experiencer. But, experience happens IN the body..or rather, experience is in the body - this is true for sensations.
Let’s look at this, if this is really the case.

Close your eyes, and just pay attention to the sensations that are present.

How does the body is experienced?
Is there any other experience of a body (with closed eyes) other than sensations?

And do you find two types of sensations?
- One type of sensation for the body
- And another type of sensations that are inside the body-sensations?

Is there a visual thought showing the body and sensations being inside that image of the body?
Is this image giving the impression that there are separate sensations to the body + sensation inside the body?

If you ignore ALL thoughts, are there any types? Is one sensation inside another sensation? Or there are only sensations?
Emotions are experienced in the body.
With eyes closed, bring up a memory which triggers some emotions.

Are there two types of sensations there?
One for the body? And another for sensation?
Or there are only sensations and just thoughts divide them into parts, and label them as body + emotions?

he separation is felt at a "body" level: this body is separate from that object (e.g. another person, a view from the window, a pet, a tree). The physical / material separation is felt, but I realise this is a thought. This is a belief.
Non-separation is NOT about merging the body with a tree. It’s not about whether there is a body here and a tree there. Not at all. This is often misunderstood.

Separation is about whether there is something separate from experience itself (color, sound, taste, smell, sensation + thoughts) which is HAVING experience. Which is doing the thinking, doing the seeing, doing tasting and smelling, feeling the sensation. If there is something separate from experience itself.
The experience of "My hand" is no different from the experience of " a tree" in terms of separation, yet there is a belief that they are separate
It’s not about that. Not at all.

The hand itself shows up AS experience (of colors, shapes, sensations).
The tree shows up AS experience (of colors, shapes, texture, etc).
They BOTH ALREADY experience.

The question is whether there is someone INSIDE the body, who is FEELING the hand, and SEEING the tree.
Separation is about this ASSUMED FEELER, SEER, in one word, EXPERIENCER.
Yes, there is a belief that there is a "me" separate from the story. Again, this is an automatic belief, which is simply there before any other thoughts appear. When I try to look at this assumption / belief, I am immediately drawn to thinking.
It’s very important to notice that you’ve reverted to thinking. Thinking won’t help. It’s in the way.
You cannot think yourself into seeing that there is no experiencer.
This belief is a thought; it is not felt anywhere, but it is experienced. As I inquire into this, I notice that it is only experienced as an answer to a question - e.g. "am I focusing attention?" - the answer "yes" appears. If I then ask "how do I know this is true?", or something similar, the answer is blank. Completely blank, and then the thought "of course this is true" is there.
Thank you for sharing how you investigate. I can see where you go off-rail. You are asking a question, but then you are just waiting for an answer to appear in form of thoughts.

Looking is not a passive waiting for a thought reply to arise. If the answer comes in form of a thought, you can make sure that what comes up are your beliefs only. The answer is not in thoughts, and never comes in form of a thought.

The answer is in experience. Of course, after seeing what is happening in experience thoughts are formed, describing the experience. But before this verbalization, there is just the raw experience. All answers lie there.
I meant this metaphically at the time, but I can see that even metaphors are too contrived for this type of inquiry. So most of the time beliefs are not talking to me!, but verbal thoughts do appear when I ask verbal thought questions. So when I challenge my beliefs by asking a question, a verbal thought appears as an answer. My intuition tells me I need to see past that.
Exactly! It’s great that you noticed this. Without going beyond the automatic thought reply (which is based on your beliefs), reality cannot be seen. Reality is beyond, or ‘bellow’ thinking.

Thinking is superficial, just a conceptual cover up over experience. There is a continuous flow of experience under all thinking.
I started to realise that I didn't really know what the "self" is - i didn't know what I was looking for. So i decided to simply search for the "one who is searching".
Search for the doer.
Search for the doer, who is moving the body.
Search for the doer, who is doing the thinking.
Search for the doer, who is deciding what think next.

It’s essential that you do this inquiry not just in a designated time, but in the midst of your everyday life. When it FEELS LIKE that I am the thinker, I am the doer, I am deciding what to do next, I am moving my arm, I am feeling my emotions, I have headache, I choose what to eat, I decide when to go bed, etc.

When walking, is there a controller moving the body, or there is only waking happening?

When typing, is there a controller making the fingers move, or typing is just happening?

When eating, is there a chooser inside, which decides which piece of food pick up next? Or picking up just happens on its own?

When washing your hands and brushing your teeth, or having a shower, is there a mover which moves the body? Is there a decider who chooses what order to towel your body, or all of these just happen on their own?

When thinking, is there a controller deciding what to think next, or thinking is just happening?


Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Fri May 29, 2020 7:34 pm

Hi Vivien,
Thanks again for your guidance.
How does the body is experienced?
Is there any other experience of a body (with closed eyes) other than sensations?
If I close my eyes, the body is felt as sensations. Touch sensations at pressure points, the occasional itch or discomfort. THere are also occasional desires to move or reposition the body. These are often followed by movement, or occur at the same time as movement. Vision is also there, even behind closed eyes there are vague visual sensations.
There is actually no other experience of the body other than those.
And do you find two types of sensations?
- One type of sensation for the body
- And another type of sensations that are inside the body-sensations?
On close inspection, no there is only one "type" - i.e. the body; nothing else.
Is there a visual thought showing the body and sensations being inside that image of the body?
Is this image giving the impression that there are separate sensations to the body + sensation inside the body?
Yes, this is there. But I can recognise that to be an image / thought; like a map. And I can put it aside to experience the raw sensation. It takes some focussing of attention and is not easy, but I am able to do it.
If you ignore ALL thoughts, are there any types? Is one sensation inside another sensation? Or there are only sensations?
With quite a bit of concentration / focus, I can see that there are only sensations.
The question is whether there is someone INSIDE the body, who is FEELING the hand, and SEEING the tree.
Separation is about this ASSUMED FEELER, SEER, in one word, EXPERIENCER.
This is a useful pointer, thanks!
When walking, is there a controller moving the body, or there is only waking happening?

When typing, is there a controller making the fingers move, or typing is just happening?

When eating, is there a chooser inside, which decides which piece of food pick up next? Or picking up just happens on its own?

When washing your hands and brushing your teeth, or having a shower, is there a mover which moves the body? Is there a decider who chooses what order to towel your body, or all of these just happen on their own?

When thinking, is there a controller deciding what to think next, or thinking is just happening?
With focus, by really focusing on the raw sensation, I can see that these actions are just occurring with no controller / manager. But it takes focus and I wonder if it gets easier with practice.

Sending best wishes,
Christopher

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Vivien
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Sat May 30, 2020 2:44 am

Hi Christopher,
With focus, by really focusing on the raw sensation, I can see that these actions are just occurring with no controller / manager. But it takes focus and I wonder if it gets easier with practice.
Seeing this clearly is essential. So we have to dig deeper here.

1. Place both hands on a table in front of you, palms down.
2. When you have done that, rest for a moment and then raise one hand in the air but not the other.

Don't go to thoughts, examine your experience. Do this as many times as you like, and each time inquire:

What is it exactly that is choosing which hand to raise?
Can you find a self/me or anything that is doing the choosing?

Is there a me/I controlling and moving the hand?
Is there a ‘I’ controlling which and to raise?
Is there a controller? Where?

How is the decision made?
Is the decision is made by an I/self?
Is there a decision maker? Where?


Repeat this many times before replying.

It’s very important to look not just when doing these kind of exercises, but in the midst of your everyday life. We don’t want to create a division between looking and not looking. Like many meditators can see no self and that thoughts are just happening when meditating, but they jump back to believing and more importantly FEELING as a me thinking, doing, choosing, deciding, right after standing up from the cushion.

Investigate the notion of control, decision and choice throughout the day. Especially when it FEELS like that I am doing it.
Let me know what you find.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Sat May 30, 2020 10:00 pm

HI Vivien,
I have tried the exercise many times today, and also tried to "look" as much as possible throughout the day. Here are my findings:
What is it exactly that is choosing which hand to raise?
Can you find a self/me or anything that is doing the choosing?
On some occasions, prior to the hand raising, a thought was present about the action of raising a hand. This was followed by the hand raising.
There was absolutely no evidence of anyone or anything doing the choosing.
But there was a thought of having made the choice after the event.
This thought, like all thoughts, was simply present - it was here, and then it wasn't here.
Is there a me/I controlling and moving the hand?
Is there a ‘I’ controlling which and to raise?
Is there a controller? Where?
Interestingly, there was a sensation of the hand moving; and that was ALL there was. If I had not been looking closely, I might have said that "I" was moving the hand. But in actual fact, the hand was moving, and that was felt in the hand (and arm). It was not felt anywhere else. So, there is no sensation of a controller; there is simply the sensation of the hand being moved.
How is the decision made?
Is the decision is made by an I/self?
Is there a decision maker? Where?
I don't know how the decision is made. I don't have access to that information! "I" became aware of the decision as the hand was moving. Again, I wouldn't have seen this without very close looking.

I sense some fear around these discoveries. There is nervousness about discovering that I do not have the freedom to choose anything. When I look at this closely, I realise that choices ARE infact being made, but there is no single agent, or self, doing the choosing. Each time I repeated the arm-raising exercise, it was clear that one arm was being chosen, and there was awareness of which arm was being chosen (felt in the arm!); but there was no explicit process of choosing taking place. Throughout the day, I noticed the same was true for every apparent choice. It is happening now as I write these words - the words arise as verbal thoughts and there is no identifiable place from where they arise; neither is there an obvious decision-making process for choosing the words.

As I finish writing this now, a thought is present compelling me to get up and fetch a drink. I do not know where the thought has come from. It is building in intensity, and I am starting to notice anticipatory sensations in my legs and body prior to me getting up. I know that I will get up now, but no one chose that thought - it was just there.

Thanks Vivien,
Best wishes,
Christopher

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Sat May 30, 2020 10:00 pm

HI Vivien,
I have tried the exercise many times today, and also tried to "look" as much as possible throughout the day. Here are my findings:
What is it exactly that is choosing which hand to raise?
Can you find a self/me or anything that is doing the choosing?
On some occasions, prior to the hand raising, a thought was present about the action of raising a hand. This was followed by the hand raising.
There was absolutely no evidence of anyone or anything doing the choosing.
But there was a thought of having made the choice after the event.
This thought, like all thoughts, was simply present - it was here, and then it wasn't here.
Is there a me/I controlling and moving the hand?
Is there a ‘I’ controlling which and to raise?
Is there a controller? Where?
Interestingly, there was a sensation of the hand moving; and that was ALL there was. If I had not been looking closely, I might have said that "I" was moving the hand. But in actual fact, the hand was moving, and that was felt in the hand (and arm). It was not felt anywhere else. So, there is no sensation of a controller; there is simply the sensation of the hand being moved.
How is the decision made?
Is the decision is made by an I/self?
Is there a decision maker? Where?
I don't know how the decision is made. I don't have access to that information! "I" became aware of the decision as the hand was moving. Again, I wouldn't have seen this without very close looking.

I sense some fear around these discoveries. There is nervousness about discovering that I do not have the freedom to choose anything. When I look at this closely, I realise that choices ARE infact being made, but there is no single agent, or self, doing the choosing. Each time I repeated the arm-raising exercise, it was clear that one arm was being chosen, and there was awareness of which arm was being chosen (felt in the arm!); but there was no explicit process of choosing taking place. Throughout the day, I noticed the same was true for every apparent choice. It is happening now as I write these words - the words arise as verbal thoughts and there is no identifiable place from where they arise; neither is there an obvious decision-making process for choosing the words.

As I finish writing this now, a thought is present compelling me to get up and fetch a drink. I do not know where the thought has come from. It is building in intensity, and I am starting to notice anticipatory sensations in my legs and body prior to me getting up. I know that I will get up now, but no one chose that thought - it was just there.

Thanks Vivien,
Best wishes,
Christopher

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Glider
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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Sat May 30, 2020 10:00 pm

HI Vivien,
I have tried the exercise many times today, and also tried to "look" as much as possible throughout the day. Here are my findings:
What is it exactly that is choosing which hand to raise?
Can you find a self/me or anything that is doing the choosing?
On some occasions, prior to the hand raising, a thought was present about the action of raising a hand. This was followed by the hand raising.
There was absolutely no evidence of anyone or anything doing the choosing.
But there was a thought of having made the choice after the event.
This thought, like all thoughts, was simply present - it was here, and then it wasn't here.
Is there a me/I controlling and moving the hand?
Is there a ‘I’ controlling which and to raise?
Is there a controller? Where?
Interestingly, there was a sensation of the hand moving; and that was ALL there was. If I had not been looking closely, I might have said that "I" was moving the hand. But in actual fact, the hand was moving, and that was felt in the hand (and arm). It was not felt anywhere else. So, there is no sensation of a controller; there is simply the sensation of the hand being moved.
How is the decision made?
Is the decision is made by an I/self?
Is there a decision maker? Where?
I don't know how the decision is made. I don't have access to that information! "I" became aware of the decision as the hand was moving. Again, I wouldn't have seen this without very close looking.

I sense some fear around these discoveries. There is nervousness about discovering that I do not have the freedom to choose anything. When I look at this closely, I realise that choices ARE infact being made, but there is no single agent, or self, doing the choosing. Each time I repeated the arm-raising exercise, it was clear that one arm was being chosen, and there was awareness of which arm was being chosen (felt in the arm!); but there was no explicit process of choosing taking place. Throughout the day, I noticed the same was true for every apparent choice. It is happening now as I write these words - the words arise as verbal thoughts and there is no identifiable place from where they arise; neither is there an obvious decision-making process for choosing the words.

As I finish writing this now, a thought is present compelling me to get up and fetch a drink. I do not know where the thought has come from. It is building in intensity, and I am starting to notice anticipatory sensations in my legs and body prior to me getting up. I know that I will get up now, but no one chose that thought - it was just there.

Thanks Vivien,
Best wishes,
Christopher

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Sun May 31, 2020 1:40 am

Hi Christopher,

You did an excellent investigation! This time you really looked. Well done :)
I sense some fear around these discoveries. There is nervousness about discovering that I do not have the freedom to choose anything. When I look at this closely, I realise that choices ARE infact being made, but there is no single agent, or self, doing the choosing
When fear arises it shows that the self is believed to be real. Since the fear is that I have no control over what is happening, I have no freedom to choose anything.

So you’ve seen that there is no control, but then you interpret what has been seen through the lens and belief in a self/I.
And indeed, believing that I have no control in anything, and life is just happening TO ME, but I cannot do anything about it, seems to be a quite helpless situation.

But the good news is that this is just a half-truth. Yes, there is no control, but not because I have no control, but because there is no I whatsoever, no agency, no entity, literally nothing that would control anything or make anything happen.
Do you see the difference?

When I look at this closely, I realise that choices ARE infact being made, but there is no single agent, or self, doing the choosing
Exactly! So if fear comes up next time, look for the helpless ME.

So WHERE is the me who has no say in what’s happening?
Take your finger (literally) and point to the me who has no power to choose or decide.
Where does your finger pointing?


Now, go a step further.

Does the thought ‘I’ is the one who has no control over anything?

Or does the thought ‘I don’t have freedom to choose anything’ is the helpless self?

Does the thought of ‘I don’t have freedom to choose anything’ was thought by a REAL entity?

Thoughts are almost constantly talking on behalf of ME, but WHERE is this me that thoughts are talking about? Where?

I don't know how the decision is made. I don't have access to that information! "I" became aware of the decision as the hand was moving
The trick is in the third sentence “I became aware of the decision as the hand was moving”.

So it’s seen that the hand was moving by itself, without any agency making it happen, but then the self-belief arose (in a form of thoughts) claiming to be the witness of the process.

So please do this exercise again, but this time focus on the witness part of it.

Look, if there is someone witnessing the hand moving. If there is any sort of agency or entity watching what is happening. What is there? Is there a witness? Is there a watcher? Where?

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Sun May 31, 2020 2:45 pm

Hi Vivien,
Yes, there is no control, but not because I have no control, but because there is no I whatsoever, no agency, no entity, literally nothing that would control anything or make anything happen.
Do you see the difference?
Ah! Yes, this is a useful pointer! So the lack of control is something that can be observed, but I have been seeing this from the "me" perspective: i.e. nothing is in MY control. The actual truth is: nothing is controlled, period. There is no "me" to be concerned about being in control; hence the appearance of nothing being in control! Funny...
So WHERE is the me who has no say in what’s happening?
Take your finger (literally) and point to the me who has no power to choose or decide.
Where does your finger pointing?
The finger points to my chest and head. It tends to settle in a space just behind and above my eyes. When I do this, i notice that I can actually sense something in that position: it's not a touch sensation exactly, but it is a vague tightening of that part of my head / face. Then a realisation that this "me" is sensed in the same way that other things are sensed - thoughts are "sensed" there too, along with the contraction / tightening of my face / head when I point to "me".

Since starting this conversation a few weeks ago, there has been a growing sense of tension in the chest: like a mild anxiety. It is the same sensation I have noticed when looking at a logical, or mathematical problem; anticipating that the answer is just out of reach, but very close. I realise that this might be intellectualising things, but I'm reporting this so you know what is being felt. This is real sensation; anxiety is really felt and can be identified as raw sensation in my chest and a heightening of tension in the muscles in the body.
Does the thought ‘I’ is the one who has no control over anything?

Or does the thought ‘I don’t have freedom to choose anything’ is the helpless self?
The thought comes, "there is no freedom to choose", then instantly the thought arrives, "I" have no freedom to choose.

I can see that there is a difference. The "I" thought cannot be stopped. I have never managed to stop a thought, but I have noticed that all thoughts pass away (or disappear). The "I" thought, however, sticks. It attaches to EVERY thought; it is WITH every thought and sensation; automatically.
Thoughts are almost constantly talking on behalf of ME, but WHERE is this me that thoughts are talking about? Where?
Yeah - eactly - thoughts are always talking on behalf of me! The "me" isn't anywhere in particular - there is a "sense" of me in my head / chest; but that is a sensation. The "me" which is being felt is impossible to find. This is interesting: I can sense it, and I can locate the sensation; but I can't find it. So, the "me" which seems real is a sensation (which IS real), but is that all it is?
So please do this exercise again, but this time focus on the witness part of it.

Look, if there is someone witnessing the hand moving. If there is any sort of agency or entity watching what is happening. What is there? Is there a witness? Is there a watcher? Where?
I repeated the exercise. Movements like this are "voluntary", but I noticed that that is actually a label too. During the exercise, attention moved its focus (as it does) a few times, and I noticed that other movements had also taken place: e.g. I was breathing, the body position had changed, my toes were wriggling...but "I" wasn't aware of these...until "I" looked.

As I sit here waiting for words to type, I notice that my thumbs and fingers are tapping the table gently. I am only "aware" of this when attention falls on the thumbs / fingers. And then the movement is "noticed".

If I look for the witness / watcher - I can't find anything, but I use this term "attention" or "awareness" to try to capture what it is. I don't find this in any location, other than the location on which the attention is focused: if it is focused on an itch on my knee, then the attention is sensed there; if it is focused on the bees in the garden, then the attention is sensed there etc.

Something doesn't want to shift yet...but I am patient, and I am grateful for your patience. Please keep guiding / probing and I will get there eventually!
Thanks and all best wishes,
Christopher

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:51 am

Hi Christopher,
The finger points to my chest and head. It tends to settle in a space just behind and above my eyes. When I do this, i notice that I can actually sense something in that position: it's not a touch sensation exactly, but it is a vague tightening of that part of my head / face. Then a realisation that this "me" is sensed in the same way that other things are sensed - thoughts are "sensed" there too, along with the contraction / tightening of my face / head when I point to "me".
Look at this very closely.

Is it possible that you mistake a plain sensation for a me?
Is there anything behind and above the eyes other than sensations?

Is that sensation the person, Christopher?
Is this sensation the narrator of the story about Christopher?
Is this sensation thinking thoughts?
This is real sensation; anxiety is really felt and can be identified as raw sensation in my chest and a heightening of tension in the muscles in the body.
All right. So there is this sensation in the chest.

But what is feeling this sensation?
Where is the feeler?

Who or what does this sensation happening to?
Does this sensation happen to Christopher?
Does it happen to a person?


Don’t think, rather go scan through the body by FEELING, and look for the feeler.
I have never managed to stop a thought, but I have noticed that all thoughts pass away (or disappear).
Let’s try this out again, together.

Try to stop the I-thought from appearing. And as you try it, investigate:

What is it that is doing the trying?
What is it that is doing the noticing?
Is there a doer of anything? Where?

The "I" thought, however, sticks. It attaches to EVERY thought; it is WITH every thought and sensation; automatically.
So the I-thought is a special thought, which has the power to attach itself to every thought and sensation? Is this so?
The "me" which is being felt is impossible to find. This is interesting: I can sense it, and I can locate the sensation; but I can't find it.
So you are saying that you can SENSE the me, you can locate THE SENSATION of me, but you cannot find it? Is that even possible? Where is the catch here?

When you locate THE sensation of me, how do you know that it’s the sensation of me? How do you know that it’s a special sensation, that IS ME?

What other name would you give to this sensation? Why not call it as a muscle contraction? Or why not call it as head? Or eyes?

What makes this sensation into a person?
So, the "me" which seems real is a sensation (which IS real), but is that all it is?
OK. Gather ALL evidence for the existence of me, and please list them.
If I look for the witness / watcher - I can't find anything, but I use this term "attention" or "awareness" to try to capture what it is. I don't find this in any location, other than the location on which the attention is focused: if it is focused on an itch on my knee, then the attention is sensed there; if it is focused on the bees in the garden, then the attention is sensed there etc.
Nice observation.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:19 pm

Hi Vivien,
Is it possible that you mistake a plain sensation for a me?
Yes that is possible. I don't see a "me", but I don't see proof for the absence of "me". The proof is what I am looking for.
Is there anything behind and above the eyes other than sensations?
Honestly, no, there is nothing there in that physical location other than sensations.
Is that sensation the person, Christopher?
Is this sensation the narrator of the story about Christopher?
Is this sensation thinking thoughts?
No - I can see clearly that the sensation is not the separate self.
But what is feeling this sensation?
Where is the feeler?
I still find this difficult to answer. Is it ok to just be honest and say "I don't know"? I feel like I should then be able to "see" through the separate self, but this hasn't happened...yet :)
What is it that is doing the trying?
What is it that is doing the noticing?
Is there a doer of anything? Where?
Again, I really don't know. I can't find the answer. I can't find a doer, but that is not leading me to drop the belief of a separate self...yet!
So you are saying that you can SENSE the me, you can locate THE SENSATION of me, but you cannot find it? Is that even possible? Where is the catch here?

When you locate THE sensation of me, how do you know that it’s the sensation of me? How do you know that it’s a special sensation, that IS ME?
This is an interesting question. I believe the sensation is the "sensation of me" because it is what is noticed when I look for the "me". That, and the fact that EVERY thought is identified with the separate self. There is a very strong belief that there is a watcher / a witnesser; something which is separate. But when I consider from what is it separate, things get a bit vague. I'll expand on this below.
What other name would you give to this sensation? Why not call it as a muscle contraction? Or why not call it as head? Or eyes?
Yes, I agree, I could label those feelings / sensations as material / physical locations / parts of the body. I can do that quite happily, but the "I" label has been attached (very strongly) prior to this relabelling.
What makes this sensation into a person?
This is considered to be a person, because it is private. It is only "felt" by "me". My thoughts are personal and private. I am centering in on the belief in the separate self. It is really about the separateness. That sounds a bit obvious, but it is what I have observed today. I look at other people, or other objects, and find that they are being seen as separate from one another, so therefore they are separate from the body / mind / brain that is noticing them now.
OK. Gather ALL evidence for the existence of me, and please list them.
I have found this exercise very useful, as I've managed to determine what I consider the separate self to really be. i.e. this is my belief, which is hard to shake off / or to see through.

The evidence for the existence of me:
I am considering "me" to be "separate self" for this exercise:
1. Thoughts and sensations are felt or sensed, and these are unique to this body. If a thought or emotion is experienced in awareness, I am confident that the person sitting next to me is not experiencing the same thought.
2. I can experience separateness of other objects, and therefore my physical body is separate from other physical bodies and objects.
3. My body is a composite of tissues and organs, including a brain. These are combined into an autonomous organism which is physically separate from other organisms.
4. Thoughts are self-referential: every single thought is labelled with reference to a separate self.

I do realise that none of those points is PROOF of a separate self - they are just evidence.

Evidence against the existence of a separate self:
1. I can't locate the separate self in a physical location. There are sensations in the general area where self might reside (behind the eyes, or in the chest), but on close inspection, these are just physical sensations.
2. There is nothing else to be found other than sensations, thoughts and emotions.

I have young children who believe in Santa. Today, they asked me if Santa exists, and I simply asked them questions, rather than told them an answer. I could see them finding it very hard NOT to believe, because they wanted to believe. I wonder if the same thing is happening to me...

Thanks as ever,
Christopher

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Vivien » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:25 am

Hi Christopher,
Yes that is possible. I don't see a "me", but I don't see proof for the absence of "me". The proof is what I am looking for.
What other proof do you need then seeing that it’s simply not there?

Do you remember for the monster under your bed? Let’s look for him again.

Isn’t not seeing/finding the person is = the absence of a person?

Please go to your bed now, please do it.
Lean forward, and look under your bed.

Is there a monster under your bed?
Isn’t not being able to find a monster under your bed, is equal to the absence of a monster?


Please literally do it, don’t just think it through.

After this little exercise, sit down, and close your eyes.
Imagine a unicorn in the room with you. Imagine it as vividly as you can.
Then open your eyes, and search through the whole room for this unicorn.

Can you find it? If not, isn’t it because it’s simply not there, since it’s simply doesn’t exist?

Now experiment with a dinosaur, and then with Santa, not a person being dressed as Santa, but the REAL Santa. Let me know what you find.
I still find this difficult to answer. Is it ok to just be honest and say "I don't know"? I feel like I should then be able to "see" through the separate self, but this hasn't happened...yet :)
Yes, honesty is important. The problem is that you are trying to solve this as it if were a math equation. Meaning, by THINKING. And this is impossible.

You are not trusting your experience, rather you revert back to the old mechanism, thinking it through.
Reality is much simpler than you make it out to be with thinking.
There is a very strong belief that there is a watcher / a witnesser; something which is separate.
Let’s look into this.

What is it that is seeing itself as separate?

Can you tell what this separate self is separate from?

Where is the line that divides this I from the whole?

Where is the container that this separate self/I is being held in?
Is there someone being inside the body, if so, where?

And when there is a seeming separation, how do you know that it’s a feeling of separation? What is giving the information about separation?

This is considered to be a person, because it is private. It is only "felt" by "me". My thoughts are personal and private. I am centering in on the belief in the separate self. It is really about the separateness.
Do you think that non-separation means that different bodies would be all able to feel each other, know each other’s thoughts?

Or maybe non-separation is about feeling all feelings that happens in each and every body from a same single source?

Or that all thoughts belonging to each body would be known from one single source, all at once?

Or do you think that somehow the body labelled Christopher will merge with all the other bodies on the planet, and all the feelings and sensation become one big mash-up, as one unit, so no thoughts and feelings will be ‘private’ anymore, since all the living beings will be able to feel and think all the feelings and thoughts in the universe? And everyone would know about other bodies feelings and thoughts?

Seriously, how do you imagine non-separation?
I look at other people, or other objects, and find that they are being seen as separate from one another, so therefore they are separate from the body / mind / brain that is noticing them now.
We talked about this before. But this belief seems to be quite stubborn :)

Do you equate non-separation to not have individual bodies any more?

Do you expect when non-separation will be recognized, it will mean that you will be able to hear others thoughts and feel their feelings, so you don’t have to communicate by talking anymore?

And HOW do you know that the body and the mind and the brain is noticing other bodies, minds and brains?
Is this what experience show?
Or is this just a plain speculation, based on assumptions, on thinking, analyzing, theorizing, philosophyising but without any validity in experience?
My thoughts are personal and private.
You say MY thoughts. – so what is owning thoughts?
Is there another you outside of thoughts ABOUT you?
That sounds a bit obvious, but it is what I have observed today. I look at other people, or other objects, and find that they are being seen as separate from one another, so therefore they are separate from the body / mind / brain that is noticing them now.
What you did is NOT an observation. What you did was THINKING, SPECULATING.
The evidence for the existence of me:
I am considering "me" to be "separate self" for this exercise:
1. Thoughts and sensations are felt or sensed, and these are unique to this body. If a thought or emotion is experienced in awareness, I am confident that the person sitting next to me is not experiencing the same thought.
2. I can experience separateness of other objects, and therefore my physical body is separate from other physical bodies and objects.
3. My body is a composite of tissues and organs, including a brain. These are combined into an autonomous organism which is physically separate from other organisms.
4. Thoughts are self-referential: every single thought is labelled with reference to a separate self.

I do realise that none of those points is PROOF of a separate self - they are just evidence.
These are not just not proofs, but not evidences either.
These are thought speculations, without any root in reality.

So for now, let’s we just focus with the concepts of separateness and privateness, since these seems to be quite sticky beliefs in the moment.
I have young children who believe in Santa. Today, they asked me if Santa exists, and I simply asked them questions, rather than told them an answer. I could see them finding it very hard NOT to believe, because they wanted to believe. I wonder if the same thing is happening to me...
Yes, this is highly likely, almost certain.
The truth is right in front of you.
It’s just not matches your beliefs.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

Website: https://www.viviennovak.com/

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: From understanding to experiencing

Postby Glider » Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:59 pm

Hi Vivien,
What other proof do you need then seeing that it’s simply not there?
Good question...there is obviously a strong belief in the separate self. Because even when I look and see that it is not there, AND I can follow the intellectual argument that the separate self is a construct; there is still an automatic labelling of every thought with "I" or self-reference.
There are many things I believe in which I can't see: like atoms and air and galaxies, so the simple fact of not being able to see something is obviously not proof that it doesn't exist.
But, the atoms and galaxies are only "believed in", not actually "seen". So, using raw sensations alone, there are many things that I can't perceive...in fact, this is true for most things! I can't actually truly see anything except for the raw sensations - everything else is labelled. OK, interesting...
Do you remember for the monster under your bed? Let’s look for him again.

Isn’t not seeing/finding the person is = the absence of a person?

Please go to your bed now, please do it.
Lean forward, and look under your bed.

Is there a monster under your bed?
Isn’t not being able to find a monster under your bed, is equal to the absence of a monster?
I did what you said. I couldn't find the monster. But I knew he wasn't there before I looked. There was no evidence of a monster. The same with the unicorn or Santa. I can imagine them as thoughts, but they never "feel" material or real in thought - only like ghosts, or changable images.
I did find a pen under the bed though! And I wasn't expecting that. I didn't know it was there until I looked.
What is it that is seeing itself as separate?
Thoughts are labelled as "from" or "about" the separate self. So, the separate self is a direction; it is a view point. Thoughts are directed from "here" to (or about) "there". Thoughts concern either the self, or other. I understand that if self goes, then other has to go too. This feels like it should be obvious and easy to see. My intuition says I am trying too hard to see something which is actually very simple. Perhaps I already know it.
Can you tell what this separate self is separate from?
It is separate from other material things - such as people, objects, air, trees, pets, cars, concrete...It is also separate from other abstract things - such as hospitals, countries, schools etc. It is a collective noun for the contents of "my" body and brain, and therefore distinct from other collective nouns (other selves) and other material objects.
Where is the line that divides this I from the whole?
My first answer is that the line which divides separate self from the whole is its surface. The material surface, or edge, or interface with the rest of the universe. But...looking at my hand, I can see the separate self is not in there; so where is it? Again, I can't find it, but despite this fact, the illusion of the separate self is not being seen through.
And when there is a seeming separation, how do you know that it’s a feeling of separation? What is giving the information about separation?
When I look at my daughter, I sense love towards her. It is directed from "here" to "there". How can something be directed if there is not more than one location? If there is no separate self, then love would have to not move in any direction; it would have to just be there. That is actually a very nice idea, but it is not a direct observation, so i need to stop thinking!

When I rest my hands on the keyboard, and type this to you, I notice contact between hand and keyboard. The hands are "connected" to "me" and the keyboard is inert and separate. I "feel" the keyboard, the direction of "feeling" / "sensing" is there again: it is coming from "me" and going "there" to a separate reference point. Direction is important in identifying separateness.
Or do you think that somehow the body labelled Christopher will merge with all the other bodies on the planet, and all the feelings and sensation become one big mash-up, as one unit, so no thoughts and feelings will be ‘private’ anymore, since all the living beings will be able to feel and think all the feelings and thoughts in the universe? And everyone would know about other bodies feelings and thoughts?

Seriously, how do you imagine non-separation?
Yes, I think I have confused myself about separation and self to some degree. Clearly, I don't believe that if I see through the illusion of the separate self that I will be able to read minds, see others' thoughts, merge bodies etc. So what do I believe:

I believe that if I see through the self-illusion I will see that the universe is running on its own. There is no controller, but everything works according to the natural laws of the universe. The flowers grow, the winds blow, the planets orbit stars, the galaxies spin, the hearts pump, the oxygen binds to my red blood cells, the thoughts coalesce in "mind"; and all of this happens spontaneously. A small part of the universe is composed of the materials which make "me" - the body/mind composition which is connected to this keyboard, and engaged in this conversation. This too is running on its own because it is made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe. If I see through the self-illusion I don't expect to suddenly understand what it is that makes the universe run (i.e. I don't expect to understand gravity or quantum mechanics), but I do expect to see that my "body / mind" is just part of the same deterministic universe. The separate self is simply the illusion that there is a REAL internal reference point other than the material body. That's how I imagine non-separation. Once I've seen through the self-illusion, there will be interest in observing pure awareness. I'm starting to realise that pure awareness may not exist without sensation or thoughts, but I don't know this.
You say MY thoughts. – so what is owning thoughts?
Is there another you outside of thoughts ABOUT you
There is no owner of thoughts. The thoughts are labelled with "I" or refer to "I".
There is no other "me" outside of thoughts about "me".

Sorry - there has been a lot more thinking and not noticing directly. This inquiry is going up and down and some days I feel very close and other days I seem to be moving away from the goal. I'm sure when it is over, I will kick myself for missing the obvious for so long.

You are patient and very kind to perservere with me. Please don't feel obligated to continue with me if I am a hopeless case.:)

In the last few days, I have been distracted by a few things going on in my life. Waves of emotion have come and gone, and I have found it very useful to go straight to the raw sensations. Although this hasn't helped me to see through the self illusion so far, it has been a useful practice to take the sting out of negativity.

All best wishes,
Christopher


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