Who am I?

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Sat Sep 12, 2020 1:25 am

Hi Michael,
When I am deliberately counting (or deliberately saying the metta phrases from Buddhism - not sure if you are familiar with them - which is what I often do instead of counting), all I can notice is:
Yes, I’m familiar with metta.

You say: “when I am deliberately counting” – is there really such thing as deliberately or not deliberately thinking?
Or just thoughts try to make an artificial distinction between thoughts, a distinction that is actually not there?
It always feels kind of solid and dense in that area behind the eyes, whether I am deliberately thinking or not, and that solid density feels kind of like "me".
OK. Then stay with this feeling behind the eyes, which seems to be me.

But put aside all labels, all names, all interpretation, and just FEEL this sensation ‘naked’, without any name, any label.

What do you discover about this feeling / sensation, as a sensation only?

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Iznick
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:35 pm

You say: “when I am deliberately counting” – is there really such thing as deliberately or not deliberately thinking?
Or just thoughts try to make an artificial distinction between thoughts, a distinction that is actually not there?
I guess I'm using "deliberate" to denote thoughts that are preceded by a thought which says, "I think I'll think that thought now". And a "deliberate" action would be one which is preceded by a thought that says, "I think I'll take that action now". So "deliberate" is just a way of describing how one thought can appear to predict the thought or action that arises next. But, yes, that thought or action is not really chosen or controlled by "me" anymore than any other thought is.
What do you discover about this feeling / sensation, as a sensation only?
Okay, so this was interesting. In my meditation this morning I just focussed on the sensation behind my eyes that feels like a self.

At first I noticed that I had a mental image of the shape of my eyes and face, which didn't really map onto the cloud of sensations that I could feel there. And I felt quite tense and ready for activity, as I always do when I focus on this area and feel very much like a self.

Then I noticed that when I focussed on these sensations, my thoughts seemed to be coming from behind and around them, further back into my head. So it was as though the self had moved further back into my head.

So then I moved my attention further back to where the self now seemed to be, and when I did that my thoughts quietened, and I had much less of a sense of self, and felt more relaxed - it was similar when I meditate on some other part of the body, such as the breath. I felt much more relaxed than I had done, and the boundaries of my body felt less distinct.

Then towards the end of the meditation, I started thinking about how long was left on the timer, and wanted to finish and get up. At that point my focus shifted back to the area behind my eyes, and once again I had a strong sense of self, and felt kind of tense and ready to move, and had a strong sense of the boundaries of my body. This is how it usually feels when I am focussed behind the eyes, and feel a strong sense of self.

So what I noticed about the sensations themselves was simply that they are sensations and do not contain a sense of self. The sense of self, as before, seems more like a kind of mental label that can get applied to certain sensations.

Hope that all makes sense and is useful.

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Sun Sep 13, 2020 5:13 am

Hi Michael,
I guess I'm using "deliberate
With this inquiry it’s important that we don’t guess. Guessing won’t help. Rather, you have to check in experience if there is any actual difference between voluntary and non-voluntary thinking.

Seeing this is very important. Since the baseline belief is that there are such things as voluntary and non-voluntary thinking.

So you have to go to the roots, and check if this can stand up to scrutiny.

So I’m giving you the same questions again:

You say: “when I am deliberately counting” – is there really such thing as deliberately or not deliberately thinking?
Or just thoughts try to make an artificial distinction between thoughts, a distinction that is actually not there?
Then I noticed that when I focussed on these sensations, my thoughts seemed to be coming from behind and around them, further back into my head. So it was as though the self had moved further back into my head.

So then I moved my attention further back to where the self now seemed to be, and when I did that my thoughts quietened, and I had much less of a sense of self, and felt more relaxed - it was similar when I meditate on some other part of the body, such as the breath. I felt much more relaxed than I had done, and the boundaries of my body felt less distinct.
Our goal is not to get to state where there is no sense of self. We are not trying to eradicate it. We just investigating the appearance of the sense of self.

So please stay with the sensations that seems to be the sense of self.
Don’t move, stay there.
Just feel it.

When you stay with it for a longer period of time, without naming it, labelling it, categorizing or judging it, but simply staying with it purely as a sensation, then what do you discover about it?

Note: See you on Monday :)

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Iznick
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Sun Sep 13, 2020 8:34 pm

You say: “when I am deliberately counting” – is there really such thing as deliberately or not deliberately thinking?
Or just thoughts try to make an artificial distinction between thoughts, a distinction that is actually not there?
No, none of them are really deliberate, in that I don't know ahead of time which thoughts I will decide to think, or when I will think them.
When you stay with it for a longer period of time, without naming it, labeling it, categorizing or judging it, but simply staying with it purely as a sensation, then what do you discover about it?
I'm afraid I didn't notice anything new. I can just feel sensations, and a sense of self.

See you tomorrow!

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Mon Sep 14, 2020 11:11 am

Hi Michael,

Please investigate these questions one-by-one very thoroughly. Make sure that you don’t think, rather investigate them experientially.

Can the thought ‘sweet’ be tasted?
Can the thought ‘warm’ be felt?
Can the thought ‘fragrant scent’ be smelled?
Can the thought ‘beautiful sunset’ be seen?
Can the thought of ‘loud noise’ be heard?
Can you sit on the thought of a chair?
Can the thought of ‘walking on a beach’ make your feet wet and sandy?

If you say no, then why not?


This might seem very simple and clear, and yet, this simplicity is often overlooked.

Can anything be experienced other than with the 5 senses? Is there any other option?

Take a cup or any object into your hands.

And investigate if the cup can be experience in any other way then with the 5 senses. Can you?
Can anything be experience in any other way than with the 5 senses?
Look carefully. Don’t just think, but really try to experience outside the 5 senses. Can this be done?


Please experiment with many different things during the day.

Is there anything else than…
Experience (5 senses)
+
Thought / imagination?

Is there a third option?


You can stay with these for a few days, to really get to the bottom of it. Look until no doubt is left.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Iznick
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:05 pm

Hi

Thanks for these questions, and for our session on Monday, which I found very helpful.
Can the thought ‘sweet’ be tasted?
No, it cannot.
Can the thought ‘warm’ be felt?
No, it cannot.
Can the thought ‘fragrant scent’ be smelled?
No, it cannot.
Can the thought ‘beautiful sunset’ be seen?
No, it cannot.
Can the thought of ‘loud noise’ be heard?
No, it cannot.
Can you sit on the thought of a chair?
No, I cannot.
Can the thought of ‘walking on a beach’ make your feet wet and sandy?
No, it cannot.
If you say no, then why not?
Because thoughts are different from sensory experience. They are concepts, which might refer to objects and sensory experience, but are not the same as objects and sensory experience. But these are just more thoughts. My direct experience is just that those thoughts cannot be tasted, felt, smelt, seen, or heard.
Can anything be experienced other than with the 5 senses? Is there any other option?
No, it cannot.
Take a cup or any object into your hands.

And investigate if the cup can be experience in any other way then with the 5 senses. Can you?
No. I can experience a mental image of the cup, but that is not the same as experiencing the cup itself.
Can anything be experience in any other way than with the 5 senses?
Look carefully. Don’t just think, but really try to experience outside the 5 senses. Can this be done?
No, it cannot.
Is there anything else than…
Experience (5 senses)
+
Thought / imagination?

Is there a third option?
I am not completely sure, for this reason: when I notice certain sensations, I have a sense of them being pleasant or unpleasant, and I'm not sure if that sense of pleasant/unpleasant is a thought or something else. For example, the other day I had a headache. I could notice the actual sensations of the headache. And I could notice thoughts about the headache. But the sense of not liking the headache, of being averse to it, seemed to be neither a thought nor a body sensation. So I am not sure if it is a thought or body sensation that is subtle and difficult to perceive, or a third thing.

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:48 am

Hi Michael,
Thanks for these questions, and for our session on Monday, which I found very helpful.
I’m glad you found it helpful :)
Because thoughts are different from sensory experience. They are concepts, which might refer to objects and sensory experience, but are not the same as objects and sensory experience. But these are just more thoughts. My direct experience is just that those thoughts cannot be tasted, felt, smelt, seen, or heard.
And what if I say that the content of thoughts are never real? Is this sound true when you look closely?

What is the difference between real and not-real?

What is the difference between experience and fiction?

What is the difference between experience and thought?


Investigate these one-by-one very closely.
No. I can experience a mental image of the cup, but that is not the same as experiencing the cup itself.
And when there is a mental image of a cup, is that an experience of a cup or not?
Is the cup in the mental image real or not?
I am not completely sure, for this reason: when I notice certain sensations, I have a sense of them being pleasant or unpleasant, and I'm not sure if that sense of pleasant/unpleasant is a thought or something else. For example, the other day I had a headache. I could notice the actual sensations of the headache. And I could notice thoughts about the headache. But the sense of not liking the headache, of being averse to it, seemed to be neither a thought nor a body sensation. So I am not sure if it is a thought or body sensation that is subtle and difficult to perceive, or a third thing.
Aversion is always a thought.

This is where you have to look closely:

But the sense of not liking the headache, of being averse to it, seemed to be neither a thought nor a body sensation.
It’s not possible to like or not like something without thoughts.

Of course, certain sensations have a quality of pleasantness or unpleasantness, but liking or not liking is always just a thought.

But we don’t have to delve into this yet, since seeing this is not that easy.
So first, we have to be super clear on thoughts.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Mon Sep 21, 2020 8:47 am

And what if I say that the content of thoughts are never real? Is this sound true when you look closely?
Yes, it seems to be true.

The rest of my answers are going to be quite conceptual, because I can't find a way to answer without getting caught up in the definitions of the terms "real", "fiction", "thought", and "experience".
What is the difference between real and not-real?
I would say that "real" describes things that can be directly sensed and that have some stability. E.g. my car is real because I can directly sense it and it is always outside my house, whereas my dreams, which I directly sense but which change every night, are not real. Thoughts are not real because they involve thinking rather than direct sensing, and they change continuously and rapidly, and have very little stability.
What is the difference between experience and fiction?
"Experience" is what I sense directly. "Fiction" is thoughts that do not correspond to what I can directly sense. E.g. if I go outside and look at my car, which is grey, then that is experience. If I have the thought, "my car is grey", then it isn't fiction because when I go outside and look at my car, I find that it really is grey. So we could call that a "fact". Whereas if I think, "I own a helicopter", then that is fiction, because I cannot find a helicopter outside my house.
What is the difference between experience and thought?
Experience is what we directly sense, and it tends to be quite stable, and can usually be experienced by others as well (e.g. someone else can eat the same meal as me and experience the taste of it). Whereas thought is words, pictures, and unarticulated knowledge that don't have a clear spatial location, that shift and change continuously, and no one apart from me can see, hear, or know about.
And when there is a mental image of a cup, is that an experience of a cup or not?
Is the cup in the mental image real or not?
No, it is not an experience of a cup, and the cup in the mental image is not real.

I hope those answers are of some use. Let me know if not!

Best wishes

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Mon Sep 21, 2020 10:55 am

Hi Michael,

Yes, most of your reply is coming from thinking, but I actually I asked for an explanation, so there is no problem there. Except with this one:
Experience is what we directly sense, and it tends to be quite stable, and can usually be experienced by others as well (e.g. someone else can eat the same meal as me and experience the taste of it). Whereas thought is words, pictures, and unarticulated knowledge that don't have a clear spatial location, that shift and change continuously, and no one apart from me can see, hear, or know about.
Share something with someone. You don’t tell that person that you are doing the investigation, though :)

Just share some chocolate, or a cup of tea or coffee with somebody, so you both supposedly can have the same experience.

And while you are tasting the chocolate, investigate HOW do you know that the other person’s experience a taste too?

You can ask the other person, but are their words would be your experience?

Or you can only rely on a second-hand information?

What I’m essentially asking is that just because somebody says that they can also experience the taste of the chocolate is that proof for the realness of the taste YOU are having?

Or their words have nothing to do with the taste YOU are experience?

Aren’t their words just thoughts too?


The difference between reality (experience) and thought (imagination) is very simple.

Try to quench your thirst by imagining drinking water.
Try to quench your thirst by watching somebody else drinking.

Please, really try this out, regardless of being a strange request :) Don’t just keep this on an intellectual level.

The difference is that one is real (actually happening), then other is not, just a fiction with ZERO EFFECT on reality.
Can you see this clear, without any doubt?

Can you see that no matter what a thought is about, that thought content is never ever real?


Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Tue Sep 22, 2020 9:30 am

And while you are tasting the chocolate, investigate HOW do you know that the other person’s experience a taste too?
I only know it by thinking.
You can ask the other person, but are their words would be your experience?
No, their words are just sounds which trigger thoughts in my mind, about what I think their experience is.
Or you can only rely on a second-hand information?
Yes, it can only be second-hand.
What I’m essentially asking is that just because somebody says that they can also experience the taste of the chocolate is that proof for the realness of the taste YOU are having?
In a way, yes, because we use consensus as a way to distinguish reality from hallucinations, dreams etc. So if I go outside my house and see a helicopter, I might tell my wife, and if she says that she cannot see a helicopter, then I might conclude that I am hallucinating. Whereas if she says she can see it, I might conclude that it is real. If others also reported experiencing my dreams, I might describe those as real, too. But I cannot ever experience their experience, or know that it is the same as mine. I have to assume that it's the same as mine, which is a thought.
Or their words have nothing to do with the taste YOU are experience?
I agree. They could be experiencing something completely different.
Aren’t their words just thoughts too?
Their words are sounds that trigger thoughts in my mind.

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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Tue Sep 22, 2020 9:48 am

Sorry, I realised I missed out some questions:
The difference is that one is real (actually happening), then other is not, just a fiction with ZERO EFFECT on reality.
Can you see this clear, without any doubt?
I'm not sure that thoughts have zero effect on reality. If I think of something frightening, then I might feel my heart speed up, which is a real change in my body. So my thought has affected reality. Or if I think "I'll have a cup of tea", and then I go and make one, then that thought seems to have affected my behaviour, and so it has affected reality. And there is the placebo effect: if I believe that a sugar pill is an antibiotic, I might recover from an illness more quickly. So it seems that the content of thoughts can affect experience, although it is different from it.
Can you see that no matter what a thought is about, that thought content is never ever real?
I would say that the content is not real, but that it can sometimes affect reality.

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:52 am

Hi Michael,

Most of your answers are intellectual, coming from the head. You haven’t investigated the pointers I gave you, rather you wrote about your intellectual knowledge and what you THINK about the questions.
I'm not sure that thoughts have zero effect on reality. If I think of something frightening, then I might feel my heart speed up, which is a real change in my body. So my thought has affected reality. Or if I think "I'll have a cup of tea", and then I go and make one, then that thought seems to have affected my behaviour, and so it has affected reality. And there is the placebo effect: if I believe that a sugar pill is an antibiotic, I might recover from an illness more quickly. So it seems that the content of thoughts can affect experience, although it is different from it.
This is pure thinking.
You have to let go off your intellect.
You won’t be able to discover what is here now BEFORE or UNDER any thoughts, if your focus is on thinking and analysing.

The question was about quenching your thirst by watching somebody else drinking or imagining/thinking about drinking.

Try to quench your thirst by imagining drinking water.
Try to quench your thirst by watching somebody else drinking.

The difference is that one is real (actually happening), then other is not, just a fiction with ZERO EFFECT on reality.
Can you see this clear, without any doubt?


The point is that no matter how much you think about water, you won’t be able to quench your thirst, thus THINKING ABOUT water has zero effect on reality, on the sensations of thirst.

Similarly, no matter how many people you watch drinking water, that will have zero effect on the reality, on the sensations of thirst.

Similarly, no matter how many hours you spend imagining walking on a sunny beach, those imagination won’t have effect on reality, meaning you won’t get sunburn, and your feet won’t be wet and sandy.
In a way, yes, because we use consensus as a way to distinguish reality from hallucinations, dreams etc. So if I go outside my house and see a helicopter, I might tell my wife, and if she says that she cannot see a helicopter, then I might conclude that I am hallucinating. Whereas if she says she can see it, I might conclude that it is real. If others also reported experiencing my dreams, I might describe those as real, too. But I cannot ever experience their experience, or know that it is the same as mine. I have to assume that it's the same as mine, which is a thought.
This is thinking, nothing more. Total dead-end. It’s a closed loop.

You have to let go off your intellect.
In this investigation it is not just not useful, but actually in the way.
Reality cannot be found in thoughts.
You will never find answers in thoughts.

You have to get into a place of not-knowing.
As long as you know how things are, there is no room to discover how things actually are.
You are already full. Full of false knowledge.
You have to let go off everything you know. Just put them aside, you can pick up them later.
But put everything aside while investigating.

This investigation is not about answering the questions of the mind (thoughts), but rather questioning the answers and assumptions of the mind.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Iznick
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:58 pm

Sorry, yes, I was certainly thinking there. I did in fact investigate, but wrote down my thoughts rather than what I noticed. Which is:
Try to quench your thirst by imagining drinking water.
Try to quench your thirst by watching somebody else drinking.

The difference is that one is real (actually happening), then other is not, just a fiction with ZERO EFFECT on reality.
Can you see this clear, without any doubt?
Yes, I can certainly see that thinking about drinking water, or watching someone else doing it, does not quench my thirst. It it a fiction that has zero effect on my thirst.

But thinking DOES have other effects on my body, so I am curious about that. But perhaps that's not relevant right now, so feel free to ignore it.

All best

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Vivien
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Vivien » Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:21 am

Hi Michael,
But thinking DOES have other effects on my body, so I am curious about that. But perhaps that's not relevant right now, so feel free to ignore it.
Yes, this is not relevant right now. In everyday langue we can say that the thought caused the unpleasant sensations in the body, but when we look closer, it turns out that there is a thought and then a sensation, with no observable link between the two. Only thought content links them with saying that the thought caused the sensation. But this is just a logic, since one follows the other. But currently, this is not important.

Is this clear that a cup is real because it’s can be experienced, and Tooth Fairy is not real, because it cannot be experienced, right?

Look at thoughts. Remember a cup in front of you is real, tangible. It "exists" in a way that can be examined with the senses. Anyway, the cup can be pointed to and verified.

Why doesn't that happen with thought?

Why can’t you touch a thought?
Why can’t you smell a thought?
Why can’t you feel a thought?
Why can’t you smell a thought?

Why can’t you point your finger to a thought?


Can you see that there are ONLY TWO options:

Either EXPERIENCING something by touching, smelling, tasting, hearing, etc
or
IMAGINING = THINKING
Is this totally clear?


Please really-really examine these questions. Be very thorough. Don’t rush through this, since this is the BASIS of everything we are looking at here.

Vivien
The most profound discoveries arise from questioning the obvious.

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

Blog: https://fadingveiling.com/

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Iznick
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Re: Who am I?

Postby Iznick » Wed Sep 23, 2020 7:53 pm

Is this clear that a cup is real because it’s can be experienced, and Tooth Fairy is not real, because it cannot be experienced, right?
Yes, that is clear
Why doesn't that happen with thought?

Why can’t you touch a thought?
Why can’t you smell a thought?
Why can’t you feel a thought?
Why can’t you smell a thought?

Why can’t you point your finger to a thought?
Because thoughts are purely mental phenomena that don't exist in the physical, material world. They are not real in that way. As for WHY they are like that, I don't know. That's just the way they are.
Can you see that there are ONLY TWO options:

Either EXPERIENCING something by touching, smelling, tasting, hearing, etc
or
IMAGINING = THINKING
Is this totally clear?
It is not completely clear because I am not sure how dreams fit into it. Apologies if I seem to be thinking here, but this is based on experience. In lucid dreams (the ones where you know that you are dreaming) I have deliberately investigated whether the objects in dreams seem any less real than objects in waking "reality". And they don't. A cup in a lucid dream looks and feels exactly like a cup in waking life. Sensory experience in lucid dreams is identical, as far as I can tell, to sensory experience in the "real" world. So is it equally real? Or is it imagination? Or something else?


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