Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

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stephen.s
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Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:15 am

From around 20 I was drawn to Buddhist and similar ideas. Read some stuff on and off through the years and tried at times to commit to meditation without much success. Then, only in the last few years discovered non-dualism through the Internet and was surprised there's so much out there! I read some of this stuff and watched a lot on youtube.
I think I have a fairly good understanding of this thing called realisation and had a few "aha" moments of clarity (once spent an hour laughing whilst driving home). But this has not led to lasting change in perspective and I kinda feel my conceptual understanding stands in the way of direct seeing.

I hope LU can help me break free from conceptual understanding, or: help me break through the conceptual barrier.

i think that covers the 3 questions:-)

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:24 pm

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for letting me know a bit about yourself and how you've arrived at this point. My name's Pete and I live in Somerset in England. Can you say which time zone you are in.

Here are a few standard ground rules before we start:

You agree to post at least once a day, even if only to say that you're still around, and I'll do the same. Sometimes it might just not be possible for one of us to post substantively and of course we'd find a way to work round that.

I am not your teacher, all I can do is point and you look, until clear seeing happens.

In general, I will ask questions and you look deeply and respond with 100% honesty.

Responses require simple, uncontrived, honest looking. There are no wrong or right answers.

Responses are best from direct experience (the physical evidence of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, prior to the story or explanation about them). Long-winded, analytical and philosophical or stream of consciousness answers are best avoided and may even hinder progress. Just listen very closely to the answers that arise in you, and answer to the very best of your ability at that time. (Read the article at http://liberationunleashed.com/articles ... xperience/ for more help on distinguishing what is direct experience.)

Put aside all other teachings, philosophies etc. for the duration of this investigation. Really put all your effort and attention into seeing this reality, as it is. (If you have a daily and essential meditation practice, it's ok to continue with that. And it's fine to read threads in this forum and the Gateless Gatecrashers book.)

Please learn to use the quote function, see http://liberationunleashed.com/nation/v ... ?f=4&t=660 for instructions.

If you haven't already seen it, there is intro info at http://www.liberationunleashed.com/, together with our disclaimer and a short video.

Please confirm that you have seen these, that you agree to the disclaimer, and that you'd like me to be your guide and then we'll begin.

Let's start with a summary of what you're looking for and what you expect to find. I know you've already answered some of these, but please forgive any overlap and just fill in the gaps where you haven't, and we'll get started.

What are your expectations for this process?

What is it that you are searching for?

How will you know that you found it?

How will this feel?

How will this change you?


Finally, here's a couple of helpful points:

1) You can press 'subscribe to this topic' in the blue bar at the bottom of this page and receive a notification email every time I post here.

2) The site has a nasty habit of logging you out while you write a reply, which can mean you lose what you have written. One way to avoid this is to write elsewhere, then just paste the message into the 'reply' window when you're ready to send.

Don't worry, I don't intend to send any more posts this long, if I can help it! This is just to set things up for you nicely.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Pete
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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stephen.s
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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Mon Jul 06, 2015 5:09 pm

Hi Pete,

[This is a long mail, but the last such a one - I hope!]

Many thanks for your quick response!
And, yes I am quite happy to be guided by you.

I am in the same time zone as you. I am on the North West of England.

I will now try the quote function which seems to cause some people difficulty, so bear with me if this all goes wrong!
Please confirm that you have seen these, that you agree to the disclaimer, and that you'd like me to be your guide and then we'll begin
I agree with the disclaimer. I have seen the introductory stuff.

Let's start with a summary of what you're looking for and what you expect to find.
This is not as easy to answer as I thought!
Okay, it is a thing that has gradually grown over the years. My first contact w non-dual thought was reading J Krishnamurti. This is round about 1983/4. From then, my inquiry (let's call it that) proceeded with stops and starts. So, I've had long periods of not occupying myself at all with the inquiry (e.g. months, maybe years) alternating with periods of months of intense search. This would take the shape of reading, thinking and sometimes trying meditation. Despite this stop start, I have - I think! - always made some kind of progress towards a deeper understanding of reality.
Now I've come to a stage, I think, where the thought of enlightenment (i.e. both my understanding of what Reality is, and my wish to realise it) stands in the way of achieving it.

So, what I'm looking for I guess is a way around my own mind, a way for realisation to dawn that the mind is the problem so to speak. This is perhaps putting it simplistically but it will do. What I expect to find is a totally new mode of being/functioning: a more natural and authentic way of relating to life; and I hope this would give me a way to more effectively help those around me.
What are your expectations for this process?
I'm not sure of expectations, but:
My hope is that it will burn away the ego (or: cause a disidentification with the mind)
My fear is that the mind will find ways to fool the process (as it always does, haha).

What is it that you are searching for?
See above.

How will you know that you found it?
The inquiry/search will cease.
(To some degree, this search is like an addiction. The search is becoming an obsessional habit feeding on itself.)
How will this feel?
Something like: all is well; everything is okay; an acceptance (or surrender to) what is (happening right now).
How will this change you?
I will accept things as they are without moving away from them or distorting them. Without wanting to change them. Whilst, paradoxically maybe, I will be in a better position to help others.

Well, I hope that gives you something to work with.

Again, thank you for being so generous to do this.

Cheers
Ste.

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:45 am

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for agreeing to the disclaimer and all the other stuff, for accepting me as your guide, and for letting me know a bit more about how your long journey getting to this point.

As we both live in England, it's good that we don't have to bother about different time zones. Just so you know, I tend to post once a day, a bit later than I'll send this, mid to late afternoon usually. But sometimes earlier, sometimes more than once. So, it's far from written in stone :)
So, what I'm looking for I guess is a way around my own mind, a way for realisation to dawn that the mind is the problem so to speak. This is perhaps putting it simplistically but it will do. What I expect to find is a totally new mode of being/functioning: a more natural and authentic way of relating to life; and I hope this would give me a way to more effectively help those around me.

I'm not sure of expectations, but: My hope is that it will burn away the ego (or: cause a disidentification with the mind) My fear is that the mind will find ways to fool the process (as it always does, haha).

The inquiry/search will cease. I will accept things as they are without moving away from them or distorting them. Without wanting to change them. Whilst, paradoxically maybe, I will be in a better position to help others.

Also, thanks for sharing your expectations and your understanding of what seeing that you have no separate self might be like (some of which I've quoted above). Within the context of what I'm about to say, compared to lots I've seen, they're not at all unrealistic or overblown. It's natural, of course, to wonder and speculate about what this liberation/awakening will be like but, by its very nature, I can assure you that it's just not like anyone expects, although it does differ for each one of us. I'd just stress that the work we do is definitely not intellectual or thought-based. That being so, it's best to put aside any expectations, as they reside in thoughts about the future and so are not within direct experience.

Rest assured, that when you see that there isn't and never has been a 'you', a self-entity, with my guiding to help you see that fact for yourself, you'll just know. In exactly the same way that you know that unicorns aren't real, Batman doesn't exist, and there's no Santa Claus. It isn't fundamentally at all difficult, amazingly simple in fact, but only if you don't rely on trying to figure it out by thinking it through but, instead, just LOOK, LOOK, LOOK in direct experience.

Actually seeing for sure that there is no separate self, and never has been, is different for everyone. It can come with a definite pop of realisation, or it might creep up gradually until it is seen. Also the effects on life lived after liberation can vary widely.

It’s worth mentioning at this early stage that what can hold a lot of people back, and something that we can perhaps knock on the head now, are assumptions around what one would 'be like' or what life ought to 'look like' once it’s seen that there’s no self-entity. There is a view that 'getting it' is tantamount to kind of somehow seeing it all the time, or being in some kind of state in which negative emotions or problems don’t arise.

It's really helpful to be clear that it's not any kind of state - it's simply direct knowing, insight. The Santa example puts it very well - 'seeing through' Santa, i.e. knowing for sure that there is no Santa, doesn't mean that little kids then spend the rest of their lives constantly thinking, 'there's no Santa'! Nor does it mean that Santa isn't apparently spotted in shopping malls in December. It's just that the story has been seen through. The direct knowing of no-self may be recollected at any time, but states still continue to come and go - pleasant, unpleasant, 'positive', 'negative'. However, that said, changes will be noticed, some possibly quite dramatic, including in relation to suffering arising from a pre-occupation with a separate self that simply doesn't exist!

I hope that's helped to clarify the background stuff a bit. Don't hesitate to ask me about any of this.

Moving on towards the core of this work - just look at the following statement, and ponder it every which way you can:

Nothing exists outside the present moment.

Can you find anything, anything at all, that does?


And next:

How do you conceive the 'self' or 'I'/ 'me' that you hold 'yourself' to be?

Now look directly at the flow of experiencing. Where in that flow does the 'self' that you conceive reside? Can it be found, at all?


Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Tue Jul 07, 2015 9:41 pm

Hi Pete,
Thanks for the explanations. I'm happy with all of it.
I found these bits helpful:
Rest assured, that when you see that there isn't and never has been a 'you', a self-entity, with my guiding to help you see that fact for yourself, you'll just know.

It's really helpful to be clear that it's not any kind of state - it's simply direct knowing, insight.
In my better moments, it seems to me self evident that this is so (that there is no "i"), but 2 things tell me that i don't Know or See this, namely, i have to tell/remind myself of this, and, second, i have to look in a certain way (the looking/seeing of this truth doesn't come naturally).

About 6 to 8 months ago i regularly had these moments of clarity where i saw my surroundings, the people in it in "imax" so to speak, but this was still from my perspective, and i feel therefore that my previous insights were only of a certain depth and mostly conceptually derived, rather than direct experience derived...

Anyway, on with the task!
Nothing exists outside the present moment.
From direct experience this certainly seems to be the case. When I focus on this moment, there is no other possibility: this is all there is. But then - and this is the ponder bit - i observe movement, and movement implies the passage of time. So if a ball rolls by, how does this work? It seems that the moment stretches out as long as the ball rolls... So: how long is the present moment? Very tricky. I'm not sure what to make of this, but in direct experience, it seems there is only this moment. After all you can't jump from this moment to the one an hour away, or even a second away: you can't jump out of this moment.

Your question wasn't quite what I'm talking about here. I guess to answer it, I'd have to say nothing exists outside this moment. (but then, again: if the ball is rolling in this moment, there must have been a previous moment when it rolled. I can kinda accept that that moment is gone and therefore does not exist. It feels strange...)
Can you find anything, anything at all, that does?
No way José!
How do you conceive the 'self' or 'I'/ 'me' that you hold 'yourself' to be?
Firstly, I do not believe there is a self/i.
But, in my daily functioning i tend to take it for granted.
Mostly, I would say, when i am not thinking about these questions, I believe my thoughts to be myself. For instance, i might think critically about how someone tackles a certain problem. At that moment i believe (without thinking about it, and without question) that the thought is "me". To be more concrete, I might think, "what an idiot", or (and, yes, lucky for me, this happens regularly) "what a nice way of doing that" (ie. admiration for another), at that moment i am my thought (i am fairly sure that i don't experience this as: at that moment i think i am the thinker of that thought - this doesn't make sense to me). If someone hurts my feelings, especially my vanity, i am the feeling of anger. (again, i do not believe that in such a moment i experience the "i" as the owner of the emotion: i am the emotion.) (maybe i'm a primitive guy...!)
Now look directly at the flow of experiencing. Where in that flow does the 'self' that you conceive reside? Can it be found, at all?
No, indeed, it cannot.
About 6 months ago i came to the conclusion that the mind does not exist (it is a concept), and that thoughts just come and go in awareness, similarly feelings, and sensations. The problem for me is that despite this realisation, in my day to day life, i function as if i believe there is a self.

(NB. this is what makes me think that my clever brain (it isn't, really, it is just cleverer than me!!)(now there's an interesting phrase in this context: it is cleverer than itself...), that my clever brain thinks he has worked it out, and makes me (which is of course the same clever brain) twist and distort my experience so that "i" (yes, same guy) believe that i See the absence of the self).
Shit, i hope that makes sense!!!

I think I'll leave at that - i almost flipped my brain out of my skull...

Many Thanks
S

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:57 pm

Hi Stephen,
In my better moments, it seems to me self evident that this is so (that there is no "i"), but 2 things tell me that i don't Know or See this, namely, i have to tell/remind myself of this, and, second, i have to look in a certain way (the looking/seeing of this truth doesn't come naturally)

Just bear in mind that this is simply and solely a process of looking in direct experience to see whether a separate self can be found anywhere there, in experience. Once it's seen to be undoubtedly the case that there is no such entity to be found, thoughts may still arise insisting that that is definitely not the case. After all, such thoughts (and really, it's only thoughts that the apparent separate self consists of) have probably been arising for nearly all your life, but they can now be seen for what they are and so are no longer given any credence, they are not believed. So, this seeing through the illusion of a separate self is not a state, but a 'knowing' that can be recalled and known to be known at any time.
From direct experience this certainly seems to be the case. When I focus on this moment, there is no other possibility: this is all there is. But then - and this is the ponder bit - i observe movement, and movement implies the passage of time. So if a ball rolls by, how does this work? It seems that the moment stretches out as long as the ball rolls... So: how long is the present moment? Very tricky. I'm not sure what to make of this, but in direct experience, it seems there is only this moment. After all you can't jump from this moment to the one an hour away, or even a second away: you can't jump out of this moment.

These initial questions are really just for me to gauge where you're at before we enter into the process itself (which we're just about to do), so I don't want us to become distracted by discussions rather than direct looking. But direct experience can only ever be now, including thoughts of past, future and conceptual comments about present perceptions. When a ball is seen to be rolling there is just awareness of what is, plus thoughts that say things like 'ball', 'is rolling' 'movement' 'how long is the present moment?', etc., etc. But there's always just now, isn't there? As you say 'nothing exists outside this moment'. Anyway, enough of that. You clearly get it.
Mostly, I would say, when i am not thinking about these questions, I believe my thoughts to be myself.

Good. We'll soon be coming back to that and your further comments and musings around thinking and thinker. And I don't certainly don't get the impression that you're a primitive guy :)
About 6 months ago i came to the conclusion that the mind does not exist (it is a concept), and that thoughts just come and go in awareness, similarly feelings, and sensations. The problem for me is that despite this realisation, in my day to day life, i function as if i believe there is a self.

Excellent. It's good that you can see that. I touched upon thoughts and belief in a separate self earlier and we'll also deal with that as experience later on.

So, that's been really useful Stephen. Let's at now move on to the actual investigation. To reiterate, my job as your guide during this enquiry will be simply to point out to you where and how to look in direct experience so that you can see for sure for yourself whether there's a separate self-entity anywhere doing or being anything. I really like to maintain a specific skeleton structure to this process, which then allows us to explore much more loosely within each and every area within experience where a separate self might be found.

As you'll have seen, the initial questions point you towards looking into your experience, which is, as I say, where I'll be frequently pointing you to look, and where this investigation will take place. That's as opposed to thought content. Experiencing is the very core of what we're doing here with this. Essentially, and utterly fundamentally, all there is, and can ever be, is here right now in this moment. So looking to see whether a separate and separating self is to be found can only take place within the experience of this. Now. There's nothing else. It follows therefore that all of our work to realise and actually know that there is no separate self is done by investigating experience. To this end, (as I said above) we can divide experiencing into thought, sensations (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling [tactile and kinaesthetic] and an unmistakable sense of Aliveness (presence/being). I referred to the useful article on direct experience in the introductory post, and you might want to have another look at that.

As I keep saying, the whole of this investigation centres around looking in experience to see if a self-entity can be found anywhere there. This is accompanied by seeing that it is in thoughts and only in thoughts that 'I' ever 'occurs' and that 'I' doesn't actually occur there either because thoughts, or at least their contents, are neither reliable nor real in any sense.

So, let's start at last investigating where a self-entity might be by looking at sense arisings and the self as experiencer:

When you look at something, a book, a tree outside or whatever, can you find an 'I' that is looking or seeing, or is there just seeing?

If there is an 'I', where are the boundaries between what is being seen, the seeing process itself and the seer?

Please do the same with hearing: birdsong, music, a pneumatic drill or whatever; and similarly with each of: tasting, tactile feelings and smelling.


Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Wed Jul 08, 2015 6:18 pm

Hi Pete,
Just bear in mind that this is simply and solely a process of looking in direct experience to see whether a separate self can be found anywhere there, in experience
I couldn't agree more! From now on I will try to stick to direct experience. I am trying as best as i can to disregard all my past pre-conceptions and "realisations". They only stand in the way.


When you look at something, a book, a tree outside or whatever, can you find an 'I' that is looking or seeing, or is there just seeing?
Seeing/vision is for me probably the hardest of the senses. As you will see below I am more "succesful" or have more "facilty" with the other senses, especially hearing.

For now: no i cannot find a seperate "i" looking at the tree. It takes some focussing on the act of looking for me. At first, i notice a lot of thoughts such as, "there is the tree", "okay what's going on inside" etc. These thoughts at first glance make me think that there is an "i" looking out. But then, observing the thoughts, whilst looking at the tree, I notice that the thoughts are only just that - thoughts; they are not "me". So then, my looking at the tree clears up, until the next thought/supposition: i can feel myself looking at the tree: so there is an "i" looking after all! Then, on further observation, i realise that this supposed self is nothing more than the bodily senses around my eyes (lids, brows, movement of the eyes etc) and face (the touch of my lips on each other etc.). So now i finally see there is indeed no "i" looking at the tree: there is just the seeing of the tree. With this the tree takes on a difficult to describe change in its appearance: it seems to be more in space, more 3D, more sharply delineated. Somehow.
If there is an 'I', where are the boundaries between what is being seen, the seeing process itself and the seer?
There is no eye, there is only process. There is not even the tree that creates the visual object: there is only the seeing...

An aside: as said, i found/find the visual exercise, as opposed to other modalities, more difficult. Doing this exercise, I had to at times kind of refer to my experience in e.g. hearing, and then look again at the visual exercise. Sort of extrapolate from one modality to another. This may be cheating, haha, but i did get there in the end, genuinely with the visual modality as well...
Please do the same with hearing: birdsong, music, a pneumatic drill or whatever; and similarly with each of: tasting, tactile feelings and smelling.
The reason i think i find the hearing easy is because i've played around with this one for fun, over the years. I would put myself interesting questions such as, if what i sense is in the brain, then why is it that i hear sound "out there", etc. I won't bore you with this, as we are focussing on the now and direct experience.

With sound and touch, there is only the hearing, and the sensation of touch. So, with sound: there is no sound apart from the hearing and no "i" doing the listening. There is just the hearing.
With touch, it is a bit more difficult, i thought. If i press my finger against athe table top, or better still if i rub it against the edge of the table top (pressing and holding still makes the sense get weaker with time), i first associate the feeling with the top of my finger. Closing my eyes helps: after some moments, i can really concentrate only on the sense of touch. When this happens, something odd happens, namely, the sensation of touching becomes disembodied, in that, it is no longer associate with the finger. In other words, there is not the interpretation: "my finger is rubbing against the table". There is only the sensation. And again: there is no "i", there is just the sensation. There is no finger feeling the touch and there is no table giving the touch: only the touching sensation.

The other senses of smell and taste are the same. In all these exercises, i do get a lot of interference from an ongoing stream of thoughts (i like to use the term: the pure experience has been corrupted by thought, as in "this programme has been corrupted" ;-) ) I think it must be this incessant stream of thought that hides from me 99% of the time that there is no "i".
But interestingly, having started this process with you, i am now more inclined in my day to day activities, to dismiss my thoughts, or to become aware of them, and due to this, to become more directly aware that all my sensings just happen without an "i". (though i am still firmly embedded inside my head, have not had any feelings of Oneness, and continue to be the same annoying chappy...)

Cheers
S

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Wed Jul 08, 2015 6:19 pm

oops, "there is no eye" should read "there is no i".....

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:01 am

I'm not happy with what I posted about the looking exercise.
It sounds contrived and not genuine.
Re-reading it, it looks too much like I was trying to achieve a certain result (based on what I think I know).
Also, extrapolating from another modality (hearing), I moved away from direct experience.

Last night, after re-reading my post, I was sitting with my family by the TV, and spent about 10 minutes looking at a shoe that was lying on the floor. This morning, coming into work I have been looking at my coffee mug on the desk.

This seems to be very difficult for me. I'm not sure why. The other modalities are much more straightforward.

So:
I look at the mug. There are many thoughts in my head (this seems to be a problem of late, lots of thoughts).
The thoughts comment on my experience. I realise after some time that it is not the thoughts looking at the mug. Thoughts can't look or see. Neither are the thoughts "me". So, I ask (or perhaps: "it is asked" - but this is another inquiry), "who or what is seeing the mug?" (NB. throughout this exercise the mug remains the mug; there is none of that BS I was talking about in relation to the tree :-) ) And, "is there an "I" looking at the mug?"
After some observation and thoughts, the best I could come up with is to combine these 2 questions, and answer: it is consciousness looking at the mug. Better still: the mug is apprehended in consciousness. So then from that followed my next tentative conclusion, namely, "I" must be that consciousness.

This makes some sense to me: when there are thoughts, or when there are sensations, or bodily feelings, or emotions, they all appear before, or in consciousness, so that is the common factor, and that surely comes closest to this elusive "I".

Hmmm, I'm not sure if this makes it any clearer...: "there is no "I" other than consciousness itself".

(NB. I have steered away from any conjectures about whether this consciousness is "my" consciousness, or just something that floats around everywhere. That is, whether this consciousness is produced by my brain, or whether consciousness just is with my brain riding piggy-back on it...)

Okay, I'm still not happy but it will have to do for now.
NB. I think I am thinking too much!!
Haha!

S

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:00 pm

Hi Stephen,
For now: no i cannot find a seperate "i" looking at the tree. It takes some focussing on the act of looking for me. At first, i notice a lot of thoughts such as, "there is the tree", "okay what's going on inside" etc. These thoughts at first glance make me think that there is an "i" looking out. But then, observing the thoughts, whilst looking at the tree, I notice that the thoughts are only just that - thoughts; they are not "me". So then, my looking at the tree clears up, until the next thought/supposition: i can feel myself looking at the tree: so there is an "i" looking after all! Then, on further observation, i realise that this supposed self is nothing more than the bodily senses around my eyes (lids, brows, movement of the eyes etc) and face (the touch of my lips on each other etc.). So now i finally see there is indeed no "i" looking at the tree: there is just the seeing of the tree. With this the tree takes on a difficult to describe change in its appearance: it seems to be more in space, more 3D, more sharply delineated. Somehow.

When you're not 'extrapolating', or going off on other intellectual tangents but instead, stick to just looking in direct experience and finding no separate self, these are excellent observations. However, now you have gone on to say:
I'm not happy with what I posted about the looking exercise.
It sounds contrived and not genuine. Re-reading it, it looks too much like I was trying to achieve a certain result (based on what I think I know). Also, extrapolating from another modality (hearing), I moved away from direct experience.

Your further comments suggest to me that you have looked in direct experience and that you definitely haven't been able to find a separate self involved or present in seeing. It seems however, that you're allowing thinking to distract and cast doubts on what is being seen, and not seen. Thoughts will surely continue to arise whatever you're doing, including the looking exercise, and you may get carried away by their content but, so long as you realise that's what's happened, don't take as literally true whatever they are telling you during the exercise, and then just gently return to looking for any self-entity involved in seeing, whenever that happens, you'll be fine. It may well be that you are over-complicating this simply by thinking about it. It's really very simple which, paradoxically, can be the difficulty. All these exercises, including the looking/seeing one in point here, require a relaxed gentle approach, with neither the wilfulness nor the harshness that effort brings. So, imagine how it is when you are just simply gazing out of the window at the scene outside in an everyday, relaxed way, with no intention of achieving anything in particular. That's how to do this exercise (as well as being the approach to all of the other exercises). You then simply look to see whether there's any 'you' to be found in 'your' present experience. Or is it all just happening? Whether thoughts intrude or not is irrelevant, so long as they are not given sustained attention or credence.

Try this Stephen, and also look to see whether you can find any boundary or separation between that which is seeing, the seeing itself and that which is seen.

From what you've said, I don't think you had the same difficulty with any of the other sense arisings but, given what I've said about how to approach this looking in direct experience, please do the same with each of them, both in terms of looking for a separate self, and for any separation between experiencer, experiencing, and that which is experienced

I think it must be this incessant stream of thought that hides from me 99% of the time that there is no "i".

This is so. Indeed thoughts in themselves aren't the 'problem'; they're just present arisings like any other. It's believing that anything these I-thoughts tell you actually represents anything real or true that appears to cause problems.

But have no worries here Stephen, you're doing just great. It's actually really useful for your seeing through the illusion of a separate self to clarify all of this at this point, particularly as we move on to looking at other areas of experience.

P x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:11 pm

Okay, so here goes.
Hi Pete.
I think you're right, I am overcomplicating things.
And also you're right in this being a "gentle" exercise.
It is almost like a "relaxing into" seeing/hearing/etc.

One of the reasons I am cautious, is because I know I can fool myself into believing anything (well, not quite...) and I think especially in "spiritual" matters one can become very suggestible.

So, to the task:
Try this Stephen, and also look to see whether you can find any boundary or separation between that which is seeing, the seeing itself and that which is seen.

From what you've said, I don't think you had the same difficulty with any of the other sense arisings but, given what I've said about how to approach this looking in direct experience, please do the same with each of them, both in terms of looking for a separate self, and for any separation between experiencer, experiencing, and that which is experienced
I can find no "I" in any of the modalities of sensing.

I want to mention 2 things that relate to my experience that may imply an "I" but which are on careful inspection not indications of the presence of an "I".

First, I have noticed, as I watch my experience that there is a subtle feeling of the shifts in attention. When attention shifts from one object to another, other than the shift in the object, there is also some kind of feeling sensation of attention (or consciousness?) itself. It is almost like the kinaesthetic/proprioceptic sense of attention (or consciousness) (to give an analogy: if I stand upright and then bend my knees, apart from the perception changing of seeing everything from a lower perspective, there is the additional feeling of the legs having been moved; you know, the tension in the muscles, the angle of the knee-joints etc.) Similarly, when shifting attention, apart from the shift in perspective, I feel a subtle but definite something within attention itself. This is fine, but the reason I mention it is because it made me think that this could be either the "I" or be caused by an as yet unseen "I". However, just as I - for the moment! - accept that thoughts just come and go without any need to posit an "I", so do I accept that the shift in attention occurs just because it does: there is no need to bring an "I" into the picture.

Second, when I walk down the street and I look around me, everything I see refers to this body in the sense that I see through my eyes and they are in this particular position on earth. This gives the effect of the entire surroundings in my vision being circled around me, this body. This again gives me the feeling that the visual perimeter is seen by one central point, the "I".
separation between that which is seeing, the seeing itself and that which is seen
.
As I do not detect an "I", what happens is that "that which is seeing" kinda falls out of the equation: there is just the seeing of the object. But also, you cannot separate the seeing from the object. It seems to me (from DE) the object can only be perceived (ie. seen, heard, felt etc.) if there is the perceiving (seeing, hearing...), so the seeing and the seen cannot be separated. In fact, are not separated. So, there is no separation, in DE.

Thanks, Pete, for your patience. I feel I am way too analytical....

Best wishes
S

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:53 pm

Hi Stephen,
I think you're right, I am overcomplicating things. And also you're right in this being a "gentle" exercise. It is almost like a "relaxing into" seeing/hearing/etc.

That's it; exactly that.
One of the reasons I am cautious, is because I know I can fool myself into believing anything (well, not quite...) and I think especially in "spiritual" matters one can become very suggestible.

Yeah, I know what you mean. It can happen to a lot of us :)
I can find no "I" in any of the modalities of sensing.

Excellent. I'm pleased to hear that.
Similarly, when shifting attention, apart from the shift in perspective, I feel a subtle but definite something within attention itself. This is fine, but the reason I mention it is because it made me think that this could be either the "I" or be caused by an as yet unseen "I". However, just as I - for the moment! - accept that thoughts just come and go without any need to posit an "I", so do I accept that the shift in attention occurs just because it does: there is no need to bring an "I" into the picture.

I understand what you're saying, but notice that interesting though it is, again, this is about thinking rather than direct experience. I would add however, that the illusion of a separate self does appear to gain its potency and seductive power from 'piggy-backing' on that absolutely fundamental feeling/experience of awareness that each one of us appears to share. As you say rightly anyway, attention shifts just because it does.
Second, when I walk down the street and I look around me, everything I see refers to this body in the sense that I see through my eyes and they are in this particular position on earth. This gives the effect of the entire surroundings in my vision being circled around me, this body. This again gives me the feeling that the visual perimeter is seen by one central point, the "I".

I agree that this is a strong impression, but does it providen any experiential evidence of a separate self? Imagine if you were walking down the street but stripped of all memory and concepts, much as a newborn baby would be, which is like saying, without memory thoughts arising. There would then be no reference points of 'eyes', 'body', 'street', 'inside/outside', 'separate self'. No separate objects would be apparent. Just this, just as it is.
As I do not detect an "I", what happens is that "that which is seeing" kinda falls out of the equation: there is just the seeing of the object. But also, you cannot separate the seeing from the object. It seems to me (from DE) the object can only be perceived (ie. seen, heard, felt etc.) if there is the perceiving (seeing, hearing...), so the seeing and the seen cannot be separated. In fact, are not separated. So, there is no separation, in DE

Good observing. You've clearly got that.
Thanks, Pete, for your patience. I feel I am way too analytical....

No problem Stephen, it's my pleasure. Be as analytical as you like, so long as direct experience is always primary, and analysis is seen as merely a tool and no more than that; much as a map is in no way the territory it represents.

So, let's move on to looking at whether a separate self can be found in thinking and thoughts:

Not from what you think, but from direct experience, please say:

Where do thoughts come from?

Are you in control of them?

Can you stop a thought from coming?

Can you stop it in the middle?

Do you know what the next thought will be?

Is 'I' a different thought from the thought of say, a table?

Can a thought think?


Nice going S...

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Sat Jul 11, 2015 12:55 pm

it made me think that this could be either the "I" or be caused by an as yet unseen "I"
I understand what you're saying, but notice that interesting though it is, again, this is about thinking rather than direct experience.
This was about the senses.How true it is! Since then, it is becoming easier for me to see, when looking, or listening, that there is no "i", and in fact, when i look for it and see there is no "i", the obviousness of it is striking -and baffling that this was not seen before...

I may have more difficulty in relation to certain aspects of thoughts, and especially intentions and decisions.
We'll see.
On that note:

Where do thoughts come from?
No idea!
They just pop into existence. They just appear and then they disappear.
Are you in control of them?
This one is more difficult - but i suspect you will say the difficulty lies in thought (me thinking about thoughts) and not in DE! ;-)
Okay, basically, I am not in control of thoughts. They just come into being. However, thoughts don't come into being in an entirely random manner. For instance, your question "are you in control of them?" (i was almost going to say: makes me think...but i'll say:) causes thoughts to appear which are all related to that question, and they follow a particular logical sequence, and may sometimes lead to a conclusion. Now, I completely accept that in DE, this doesn't point at all to the conclusion that therefore "i" must be in control of thoughts. Clearly I'm not... But it is puzzling.

Also, but this might be something you wanted to go into in the future, so i will only mention it sideways: when i intend something, such as dedicate myself to this enlightenment question, this has the consequence that i behave in a particular way for the next weeks and months (and, yea, even years). It is hard not to believe in some central guiding force (i.e., an "i" or higher "Self") even if i can't see one.

But, to keep things simple: in DE i clearly have no control over thoughts.

Can you stop it in the middle?

I have a strange way of thinking (or rather of processing thoughts - that pop into existence!).
I tend to think in words, in sentences that unfold as if spoken. In fact, I speak my thoughts inwardly.
This i can stop in mid sentence.
However, i am aware that if i pay closer attention, the thought arrives (fully formed, i believe) in an infinitesimal instant, and only after this does the slower inward speech unfold. (as an aside, i have sometimes tried to just stick with the initial thought impulse, which i think is sometimes preverbal but contains the full thought, but maybe i am obsessional and can't keep that up for long). This first thought impusle i can't interrupt (it is a pulse not a stream) or stop.

So, no i cannot stop it in the middle.

Nor can i stop a thought from coming
Nor do i know what the next thought will be.
Impossible! those last two.
Is 'I' a different thought from the thought of say, a table?
No, there is no difference. We attach a different value to it but there is no difference.
Can a thought think?
No. Just as the thought, "I see the tree" doesn't see, the thought "i think" does not think.

My conclusions:
thought is not thought by "me", thought is a mechanical process whereby these entities which we call thoughts appear for no apparent reason, though they tend to relate to what's going on, and sometimes tend to follow a certain logical train.

If at all possible, Pete, I would very much like to explore what is it that decides to pursue a particular train of thought, and stick with this train (i.e. returning to it when thought strays): this to me implies a will or volition (though, i readily agree that i cannot see this entity, and also agree that this does not imply an "i" somewhere).
Basically, what i am saying is that "will, volition, decision-making" is a sticking point for me. If you've already got this somewhere in the future of our inquiry, that's fine, or if you think it is not relevant or fruitful, no problem.

Cheers
Ste

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby moondog » Sat Jul 11, 2015 4:31 pm

Hi Stephen,
This was about the senses.How true it is! Since then, it is becoming easier for me to see, when looking, or listening, that there is no "i", and in fact, when i look for it and see there is no "i", the obviousness of it is striking -and baffling that this was not seen before...

It's really good to know that you're already seeing this so clearly.
Where do thoughts come from?

No idea! They just pop into existence. They just appear and then they disappear

Don't they just!
Are you in control of them?

Okay, basically, I am not in control of thoughts. They just come into being. However, thoughts don't come into being in an entirely random manner. For instance, your question "are you in control of them?" (i was almost going to say: makes me think...but i'll say:) causes thoughts to appear which are all related to that question, and they follow a particular logical sequence, and may sometimes lead to a conclusion. Now, I completely accept that in DE, this doesn't point at all to the conclusion that therefore "i" must be in control of thoughts. Clearly I'm not... But it is puzzling.

But, to keep things simple: in DE i clearly have no control over thoughts.

Ok great, you can see that there's just no 'you' to be found anywhere in experience that controls thinking. I agree that it's puzzling when one tries to work out what actually does happen, impossible perhaps, but that's another matter altogether...
Can you stop it in the middle?

I have a strange way of thinking (or rather of processing thoughts - that pop into existence!). I tend to think in words, in sentences that unfold as if spoken. In fact, I speak my thoughts inwardly. This i can stop in mid sentence. However, i am aware that if i pay closer attention, the thought arrives (fully formed, i believe) in an infinitesimal instant, and only after this does the slower inward speech unfold. (as an aside, i have sometimes tried to just stick with the initial thought impulse, which i think is sometimes preverbal but contains the full thought, but maybe i am obsessional and can't keep that up for long). This first thought impusle i can't interrupt (it is a pulse not a stream) or stop.

So, no i cannot stop it in the middle.
Nor can i stop a thought from coming
Nor do i know what the next thought will be.
Impossible! those last two.

Good clear seeing how, in direct experience, thoughts simply arise in awareness, abide a while, and then disappear.
My conclusions: thought is not thought by "me", thought is a mechanical process whereby these entities which we call thoughts appear for no apparent reason, though they tend to relate to what's going on, and sometimes tend to follow a certain logical train.

Yep, that seems about it.

As regards intention, volition, deciding and choosing, no worries Stephen, we're coming to all of that shortly.

So, as you don't appear to have any problems in seeing that there's no self-entity present or involved in thinking, let's now have a look at doing - actions and control, to see if you can find a separate self there:

It's clear that when we breathe, blink, digest food etc. there's no 'I' involved, but how is it for you when walking?

How is it when doing various everyday things like say, brushing your teeth, washing up, that kind of thing? Try all kinds of stuff.

Is there any 'I' there for any of these actions, or are they just like 'automatic'?


You're doing great and I'm really enjoying our investigation so far Stephen. How's it going for you?

By the way, I'm going to be away tomorrow (Sunday) but I'll be back and ready to reply to your reply to this post on Monday. So I guess you can either reply when you normally would have, or you can take a bit longer to investigate these doing and control exercises before you reply; always remembering to maintain a relaxed, natural approach to them at all times.

Pete x
'Just consciousness taking the shape of experience from moment to moment.
Just this'

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Re: Moving from conceptual knowledge to direct seeing

Postby stephen.s » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:22 pm

It's clear that when we breathe, blink, digest food etc. there's no 'I' involved, but how is it for you when walking?

How is it when doing various everyday things like say, brushing your teeth, washing up, that kind of thing? Try all kinds of stuff.

Is there any 'I' there for any of these actions, or are they just like 'automatic'?
The straight answer is that all these actions are automatic, they are done by the body, there is no "i" involved at all.
I'll give some examples from my life just to put some meat on the bones...
(you don't have to read from here on, it's just to show you that I am enjoying this inquiry 8-) )

1. I got this from a book by J Searle, a philosopher, some years ago.
Test: (i asked my friends to do this, but generally got funny looks and exclamation like, "what planet are you on?").
Put your hand up with fingers curled. Then in the next moments you can decide (when) to straighten out your index finger, and then straighten it out.
Outcome:
i) I have no idea how I made the decision to move the finger - and why at that precise moment
ii) I have no idea who or what made the decision
iii) I have no idea how "i" moved the finger
My conclusion: there is no "i" involved in the decision-making, nor in the moving.

2. I used to be a biker, and as most bikers i used to weave between the lanes of cars to get to the front of the queue by a red light. As you're standing there w/ your bike wedged between 2 cars it is important to get away quickly when the light hits green. I always had a little niggle of doubt about this and fears of stalling the bike at such an important moment. So, how i coped with this was to tell myself, "just relax, and let the body do the work". And this is what i did, i just disconnected my thoughts from what was actually happening, and the body would take care of things. I hit upon this "technique" through previous repeated observations whilst driving a car that often my body would do the necessary actions whilst my thinking was lagging behind.

3. I play the guitar, and the same principle works here: you play the tune, but, really, have no idea how this is happening...

All actions by the body are done by the body and there is no "i" involved. In fact, the "i" (strictly speaking, it is not the "i" but thought) generally only impedes the actions of the body.

Hope you have a good sunday. The weather here is not too bad, i'll be watching a bit of the Wimbledon finals.


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