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Stuck in the mud

Posted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:47 pm
by DianeSt
LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
My understanding that there is no real 'self', that it is something not fixed, is something very hard for me to grasp. Yes it makes sense at some level in my thinking, but I don't really know this deep down because I have a deep rooted belief that 'myself' is fixed. This is contrary even to evidence that things change all the time.

What are you looking for at LU?
I am looking for help to understand and find a way to challenge this deep seated belief of no real 'self'. I don't seem to be able to do this on my own even though I have tried for many years. I do believe change is possible but I haven't found a way to do this in a deep lasting way. I think the structure of LU would give me an opportunity to challenge this illusion.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
I would like a guide to help me find a way to challenge this deep rooted belief. To point me in the right direction and then to guide me back if I go down the wrong track. To be guided by someone who has seen through the fetter of no 'self ' gives me confidence of the possibility of my seeing this for myself. I hope that the guide would stick with me all the way through the rough and smooth and even if possible further still. I would like the guide to help me see that the illusion is really an illusion, just like magic seems real until you see how the trick is done.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
I have been a Buddhist for 30 years. I have been searching for something to elevate my suffering since my early teens. I had and still have panic attacks and nightmares due to early childhood trauma. When I went to a Buddhist centre to learn meditation I held on to the belief that I could change. I attended classes, did study, puja, meditation and practiced ethics. The meditation was and still is difficult, my thoughts race and take me away in all directions. Two years ago I stopped meditating due to a change of circumstances and health problems. The health problems continued but when I recently tried to meditate again my heart wasn't in it. I decided not force myself. I kept practicing all those years because I felt that if I kept going I would find a way to free myself and live the life I wanted. I recently listened to a talk on the internet which mentioned LU and suddenly it seemed to pointing in a direction that I could head.

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

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 1:34 pm
by Andrei
Hi Diane,

Welcome to LU. I would be happy to help you with your inquiry.

For starters, when you say "I" (or "self", "ego", person") what do you mean by it? And I don't mean just a generic definition but what does it mean for you, what do you identify with? Where is the "I" located?

Cheers!


Andrei

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 1:40 pm
by Canfora
Hi Diane! Thank you for your introduction. I'm Sandra and I can be your guide if that's okay with you.
As you probably know by now, my function as a LU guide is to ask questions to help you explore your own experience.

When you say
I have a deep rooted belief that 'myself' is fixed
what are you talking about? If I was there with you, what would you show me to prove this isn't only a belief? What is present now, here, that is an I, a real you?

Have a look to what surrounds you and describe what you think the word I points to.

Looking forward to our conversation,
S

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:41 pm
by perrym
Hi Diane,

Apologies to yourself (and the other two guides who have responded) that I did not jump onto your thread sooner - I will contact Canfora and Andrei ASAP to explain that we had already agreed to work together before you registered with LU....

We will get underway shortly!

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:15 pm
by perrym
Hi Diane,

Thanks for the invitation to guide you - I am looking forward to an interesting journey together. Your introduction is very helpful for setting the scene.

First a few preliminaries:
  • Please could you confirm that you have read and understood the disclaimer here
  • Sometimes people find that they write quite a lot into LU, but when they go to post the message, it is lost. If you are writing anything lengthy, I suggest you write it into a word processor (like Microsoft Word) and then copy/paste into the LU thread, then you will not lose it in case the website plays a trick on you!
  • Let's aim to stay in touch daily. I can't always keep this up myself, due to family commitments, and I you might find the same, but it is a good goal to aim for
As you know, our enquiry here does not deal with theoretical understanding but direct experience. In fact, 'direct experience' is so important that it is worth spending a little time exploring what exactly I mean by it in this context, because I do mean something very specific.

By 'direct experience' I mean sense experience, and thoughts as passing experiences. 'Sense experience' is fairly self explanatory, but let's look at thought a little more....

When it comes to thought, the key is to notice thought as thought, as opposed to taking for granted the content of thought. This is quite subtle, and we may well return to the subject again, but for now, an example should be enough.... If someone tells you "I am busy", they have not reported direct experience - they have just spoken a thought arising in the moment. They might report their direct experience as "images of things I need to keep coming to mind, and the thought 'I have too much to do' arises each time a job comes to mind".

I should point out that examining direct experience is a method of enquiry, a means to an end, not some kind of new 'state of being' that you are training to dwell in. Ordinary life demands that we become absorbed in our interpretation of the meaning of things going on around us - it is not practical or desirable to witness all our experience in the bare, direct way that we will do during this enquiry. You might say that direct experience is a raft, not a goal.

As a warm-up exercise, could you write a paragraph or two describing some of your direct experience right now as you write? Pay attention to each of the physical senses, and also the mental experiences / thoughts that arise and pass,

Best wishes,

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:24 pm
by DianeSt
Hi Perry
I have read the disclaimer.

The warm up exercise.

There is a odd feeling in my throat as if the breath is not moving smoothly. Sometimes the breath feels like a deep sigh. Anxiety in my head about not being able to spell sigh. Now there is buzzing in my ears. My knees have a burning sensation. Will they always burn. Not sure I understand what I need to write about a thought, what if I don’t get it? My hands are resting on the keyboard they feel still, at ease. I can hear the engine of a helicopter overhead. Now a long load noise, now its gone. I strained and move my head forward to try to work out what the the next loud sound is. I wanted to identify what it was. Oh its the helicopter again.

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:51 pm
by perrym
Hi Diane,

It's good to be underway!

This may just be a 'warm up' exercise, but there are many important points to draw out. I can't overstate the importance of being really clear about what we mean by 'direct experience' - this is the foundation of everything that follows. It is worth going into some detail here, so I will make some comment on everything you've written, whereas normally I might just pick up on one or two points...
There is a odd feeling in my throat as if the breath is not moving smoothly. Sometimes the breath feels like a deep sigh.

OK, I'd call this 'direct experience', though it would be possible to go into more detail if it had been necessary.
Anxiety in my head about not being able to spell sigh.

I would say that 'Anxiety' is a high-level judgement, or a 'label', rather than a direct experience ... so the kinds of questions that could open this up into the realms of direct experience could be:
  • How do you know you are experiencing anxiety?
  • What are the physical sensations going on that you are labelling 'anxiety'?
  • What thoughts arise in connection with what you are labelling 'anxiety'?
Now there is buzzing in my ears.

Do you really mean 'ears'? In other words, are these physical sensations in your ears, or are these buzzing sounds?

If you meant a buzzing feeling in your ears, then fine ... However, if you meant 'sounds', then the question arises ... do you really experience sounds in your ears?
My knees have a burning sensation.

OK
Will they always burn. Not sure I understand what I need to write about a thought, what if I don’t get it?

I take it that these were thoughts that arose while you were writing, which is fine. For my benefit, it might help to report this explicitly, for example "Thought arises: 'Will they always burn?'", or even just using quote marks for the thought arising.
My hands are resting on the keyboard they feel still, at ease.

If we were being REALLY pedantic (which may become necessary at some points in the future) I might ask whether it is possible to identify 'resting on the keyboard' in direct experience .... OK, so you do KNOW that this is the case, but what is the direct sense experience? Some pressure on your hands, the visual impression that you label 'keyboard', the thought "hands on keyboard" - these kinds of things are the direct experience, while 'my hands are resting on the keyboard' is a higher level judgement.

This may seem very pedantic (it is pedantic) but do you get the difference?

I can hear the engine of a helicopter overhead.

Likewise, is there really a 'helicopter' in direct experience? Or is 'helicopter' an assumption, a thought-label to make sense of the sense experience you were hearing?
Now a long load noise, now its gone.

Yes, good - noise is what is actually immediately accessible to experience ... and perhaps a thought such as "Must be a helicopter!"

I strained and move my head forward to try to work out what the the next loud sound is. I wanted to identify what it was. Oh its the helicopter again.
OK, good. If necessary, it would be possible to go into even more detail (there will be quite a lot of experience hidden beneath "I wanted to identify what it was", for example) but there is no need for that right now...

-----------

Does that make any sense to you? It is worth spending as much time here as we need to, so do ask if you'd like any more clarification, since I will often as you to describe something 'in terms of direct experience'.

If you can identify any particular emotion or state of mind going on at the moment - particularly one that you might normally label with a one-word label like 'anxious', 'relaxed' or 'excited' - it would be good to see if you can write about the direct experience that makes it up.... If nothing comes to mind right now, don't worry, we'll move on to something else next time.

Best wishes,

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:51 pm
by DianeSt
Hi Perry

I do have some questions. You said:
'When it comes to thought, the key is to notice thought as thought, as opposed to taking for granted the content of thought'.
Even though I have read the paragraph a few times I understand it and then I don’t! Do you want the actual thoughts word for word?

The buzzing was in my ears and it was also a sound? I thought the buzzing described the sound?

When I read your explanation about 'my hands resting on the keyboard' I get it and then I don’t, its as if it slips away.

You asked me in the last but one paragraph:
"Does that make any sense to you? It is worth spending as much time here as we need to, so do ask if you'd like any more clarification, since I will often as you to describe something 'in terms of direct experience''
My answer is again it does and doesn't which is the best I can do at the moment.

As you suggest I will have ago at writing about an emotion that I am feeling ‘anxious’ at the moment as a direct experience.

Hot prickly sensations surge up from my feet to my face. “Why can’t I understand this” Tightness in my chest. “I don’t like this feeling” “Will I be able to do this” ‘I have spent a long time reading and rereading”. “These sensations and thoughts are ones I don’t want”. Rising heat in my face my cheeks are getting hotter”. “My breath is tight and is high up in my chest” “Why is this so difficult”

This may seem a short post but I have spent a lot of time on it.

Thanks
Diane

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:35 am
by perrym
Hi Diane,
'When it comes to thought, the key is to notice thought as thought, as opposed to taking for granted the content of thought'.
Even though I have read the paragraph a few times I understand it and then I don’t! Do you want the actual thoughts word for word?

The distinction I am trying to make is pretty simple, but not easy to express clearly!

One way to look at it is in terms of identification. If you are able to report a thought as a thought, then you are not completely identified with the thought - this is what we need when investigating direct experience.

It is also worth saying - when investigating direct experience, notice thoughts as they arise, but avoid following trains of thought, or engaging in speculation, or lengthy inner dialogue - all of these involve identifying with thought rather than just noticing them.

Typically, as a thought is actually arising, one is fully identified with it - it is in the gap after it has just passed that you might either notice the thought as a thought, or else 'take it for granted' and run onto some associated thought. When investigating direct experience, where possible, notice rather than follow thoughts.

Is that any clearer?
The buzzing was in my ears and it was also a sound? I thought the buzzing described the sound?

OK, I think you mean that the buzzing was some inner physiological thing rather than a sound you were hearing from the environment? In which case, my question may not apply....

What I was getting at was: if you hear a sound from the environment - not a painfully loud sound, just something normal - is this, in direct experience, related to the ears in any way? We know that the ears are responsible for hearing, but do we experience the involvement of the ears when we hear environmental sounds?
When I read your explanation about 'my hands resting on the keyboard' I get it and then I don’t, its as if it slips away.

OK, I expect this will become more stable as we go on. The distinctions we are making here are rather unusual, this is not the way we normally go about attending to experience, so it takes a little while to get the hang of it...

Let's take a slightly more concrete example ... I assume you are sitting? If you described your experience, you might say that "I feel my weight on the chair" .... stop a moment and notice! However, in terms of direct experience, is there anything other than pressure? 'My weight' is an idea, an abstraction, not a direct experience. Even 'the chair' is not a direct experience ... close your eyes, and there is just pressure, physical sensation, that you happen to know is caused by the chair, but you do not experience the chair directly - only pressure. Do you agree?

This example is of course not of any existential importance - it is just an exercise to illustrate a point. But the point is really important - we are making interpretations and using ideas all the time ('my weight', 'the chair') and it is extremely valuable, and crucial to this guiding process, to begin to learn to distinguish ideas and interpretations from direct experience.

Does this help make any more sense of the 'keyboard' example?

Hot prickly sensations surge up from my feet to my face. “Why can’t I understand this” Tightness in my chest. “I don’t like this feeling” “Will I be able to do this” ‘I have spent a long time reading and rereading”. “These sensations and thoughts are ones I don’t want”. Rising heat in my face my cheeks are getting hotter”. “My breath is tight and is high up in my chest” “Why is this so difficult”

Great!

Well, the experience might not be terribly pleasant, but your description of the direct experience is what matters, and you've obviously got the idea.
This may seem a short post but I have spent a lot of time on it.

I can well believe it - I find it can take quite a bit of time to reply too sometimes.

As a general point - if you ever feel that the level of time and/or effort you are putting in might not be sustainable, then you could just pick up one point from my reply, and invest whatever time/effort you feel is sustainable in that one point.

The process cannot be entirely effortless, of course, but it is important that it does not become a millstone! We can get to our goal with many small nibbles, we don't have to try to swallow huge gulps....

Best wishes,

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 2:42 pm
by DianeSt
Hi Perry

'
When it comes to thought, the key is to notice thought as thought, as opposed to taking for granted the content of thought'.
I will try to notice rather than follow thoughts.
The buzzing was in my ears
Just to see if I can be clearer about this. The buzzing was the noise that seemed to be in my ears not outside of it. The experience did feel as if it was in the ears or where I image the ears are! I realise when I hear a sound in the environment I just hear it but then I label it as taking place in my ear!
'my hands resting on the keyboard'
Your explanation about the chair has helped me to understand this.
Hot prickly sensations surge up from my feet to my face
This example of the 'anxiety' was very unpleasant but I am pleased that I was able to focus to some degree on the direct experience.

I can understand now that it sometimes takes time for your to reply to. Thank you. Also, thank you for pointing out that if the time and effort are not sustainable then I could pick just one point. I really like the 'small nibbles' as a goal. So it's good to have this pointed out.

Best wishes
Diane

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 4:21 pm
by DianeSt
Hi Perry
The example is of course not of any existential importance
Could you explain what existential means here?

Thanks
Diane

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:19 pm
by perrym
Hi Diane,

By "existential" I meant relating to the most profound questions about who you are - self and 'no self'. The 'warm up exercises' were not looking into these deeper issues, they were just a way of getting us used to the how will will be approaching the deeper issues later on.
I realise when I hear a sound in the environment I just hear it but then I label it as taking place in my ear!

Great observation! This interplay between direct experience and labelling is really important, I'm glad you've noticed it so soon.

OK, let's dip our toes into the water a bit more....

Sitting here now, seeing is happening - does this just happen, or does 'I' make it happen?
Hearing is happening - does this just happen, or does 'I' make it happen?
Tasting, smelling, feeling ... do these just happen?
Thoughts arise ... do they just arise, or does 'I' make them happen?

.... so what is 'I'?

Enjoy looking!

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:51 am
by DianeSt
Hi Perry
Sitting here now, seeing is happening - does this just happen, or does 'I' make it happen?
I make it happen when I open my eyes. I can open and close the eyes and I seem to be the one doing this.

"Oh but who is the one that is seeing?" "The eyes are seeing". "But I need light to see" "Without light I wouldn't be able to see.

The 'I' must be in the brain.
Hearing is happening - does this just happen, or does 'I' make it happen?
The hearing just happens I can't make it happened. "The humming overhead is just humming and the humming increases and decreases"
Tasting, smelling, feeling ... do these just happen?
Tasting
Tasting happens when I eat and drink something, so the I chooses to do this. But a bad taste in the mouth doesn't always come from food and drink, but the experience is not pleasant. So tasting is just happening I think.
smelling
A smell comes and I smell it.
Feeling
Feeling arises in me so there is an I who is feeling. The feeling I is in the brain.
Thoughts
Thoughts come from nowhere and seem to have a life of their own. Directing thought is very difficult but if that is possible then there is an 'I' that is directing them. The 'I' is the brain here I think, although is seems odd too.
.... so what is 'I'?
'I' is sometimes a belief, sometimes real and directing experience and sometimes the brain. 'This seems bizarre but it seems to be what I am saying.

Best Wishes
Diane

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:04 pm
by perrym
Hi Diane,

Nice work!
Sitting here now, seeing is happening - does this just happen, or does 'I' make it happen?

I make it happen when I open my eyes. I can open and close the eyes and I seem to be the one doing this.

"Oh but who is the one that is seeing?" "The eyes are seeing". "But I need light to see" "Without light I wouldn't be able to see.

The 'I' must be in the brain.

OK, let's leave aside opening and closing your eyes for the moment, and just consider what is going on when your eyes are open and "seeing is happening"....

In direct experience, is it possible to find a 'brain'?

Remember, we are not trying to work out logically what must be going on, but just report what is actually accessible to experience ... so in direct experience, when seeing is happening, do you find any "I" driving the process in experience?
The hearing just happens I can't make it happened.

Yes, good! This is also my experience.... It just happens.

And yet, when we speak, we will normally say "I hear the humming", which implies that "I" is somehow actively involved in the process.

Do you agree that our everyday way of saying "I hear the humming" is actually rather misleading? If we were to speak according to what we directly experience, we might say something like "humming sound arises", because no "I" can be found doing the hearing.....

Don't worry, I do not advocate changing the way we actually speak in daily life (that would be just weird) but it is extremely valuable for our investigation if you can see how the conventions of our language trick us into making assumptions that conflict with what we actually observe in direct experience.

Does this make sense?

Feeling arises in me so there is an I who is feeling. The feeling I is in the brain.

[...]

Thoughts come from nowhere and seem to have a life of their own. Directing thought is very difficult but if that is possible then there is an 'I' that is directing them. The 'I' is the brain here I think, although is seems odd too.

Again, is there 'brain' in direct experience?

In direct experience, is there any difference between feelings 'just happening' and hearing 'just happening'?

Or between thoughts 'just happening' and hearing 'just happening'?

'I' is sometimes a belief, sometimes real and directing experience and sometimes the brain. 'This seems bizarre but it seems to be what I am saying.

We've made a great start here already. There may be more than enough above for you to comment on, but if you still have the energy....

  • "'I' is sometimes a belief" - excellent observation, can you say any more?
  • "sometimes real and directing experience" - OK, so do you mean in the sense of decision making, 'free will'? Is it "I" that drives here?
  • "sometimes the brain" - well, as I guess you've already concluded, there is no brain in direct experience, so would it be fair to say that in these cases, in terms of direct experience, this is when things "just happen"?
Best wishes,

Perry

Re: Stuck in the mud

Posted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:23 am
by DianeSt
Hi Perry

I really do experience hearing as just hearing, that I don't need to put a label on it or feel there is an "I" involved.

But 'seeing' seems trickier.
In direct experience, is it possible to find a 'brain'?
Seeing is feeling more like seeing, but I notice trembling in my legs which I label as 'anxiety'. 'How do I know its 'anxiety' I ask myself'? Its just sensations that I label fear because it's unpleasant.

There is no brain in seeing. I can't find the brain in direct experience, but the same trembling sensations arise in my legs. I don't experience this when I am just hearing, I rather enjoy just hearing.

Feeling
A
gain, is there 'brain' in direct experience?
There is no brain in direct feeling, I can't find it in direct experience it just arises.
In direct experience, is there any difference between feelings 'just happening' and hearing 'just happening'?
There is no difference between feelings 'just happening' and hearing 'just happening?' in direct experience, apart from sensations that arise that I label as fearful and are associated with feelings.
"'I' is sometimes a belief" - excellent observation, can you say any more?
The 'I' must be a belief because of the experience I have with hearing, that is just hearing. Yet 'seeing' 'thoughts' and 'feelings' seem to be give rise to uncomfortable sensations that I believe have an 'I'. But again I am labelling them as uncomfortable when they are just sensations. So the belief must be that my 'labels' are real. But are they real or are they just 'labels'? They must be just labels.
"sometimes real and directing experience" - OK, so do you mean in the sense of decision making, 'free will'? Is it "I" that drives here?
Yes I believe its the 'I' that makes the decisions. But so far I haven't found the 'I' so is that again a belief? I think it must be.

I am not sure I understand what free will is? My body moves around the environment and my arms and legs aid this. So is the 'I' directing this? Again it could be another belief that I have to label as 'I'.
"sometimes the brain" - well, as I guess you've already concluded, there is no brain in direct experience, so would it be fair to say that in these cases, in terms of direct experience, this is when things "just happen"?
It is fair to say their is no brain in direct experience. When I ask myself 'in terms of direct experience, this is where things happen', I get the same arising sensations that have the label 'fear'. 'How do I allow them to just happen'? Well they are happening anyway, so if I can't control them because there is no "I", I am left with just experiences.

I am feeling a bit stuck so will post now.

Best Wishes
Diane