Anxiety about not falling into post enlightenment ego traps
you have acknowledged the issue of "ego traps", so that should be enough to prevent them. :)
i've got an exercise for you to look at thought, please take the time you need, and do it carefully:
Sit quietly for about 30 minutes and notice the arising thoughts. Just let them appear as they appear. Try your best to COMPLETELY ignore what they are saying and just notice how they appear, without you doing anything at all.
Where are they coming from and going to?
Well, that assumes a trajectory, which is an interesting question - whether thoughts have a spatial direction. But looking for entry and exit points of thoughts, no that's not really possible. Not for me yet anyway.
Did you do anything to make a particular thought or thoughts appear?
Yes I live my life in a particular way, being, like many, a creature of habit. But I know there is a question of free will here, both theoretical and experiential.
Could you have done anything to make a different thought appear at that exact moment instead?
I've been learning to change my thought patterns all my life, but what has been has been so I'll be fatalistic and say no.
Can you predict your next thought?
That's not so easy, although thoughts have a predictable quality to them. However there is some degree of chaos in most mind wanderings. This may be, actually, literally chaotic in the mathematical sense of the word as the brain is a complex system.
Can you select from a range of thoughts to have only pleasant thoughts?
Personally, no, but it may be possible.
Can you choose not to have painful, negative or fearful thoughts?
Personally, no, though I believe this is more or less possible and achieved by some people.
Can you pick and choose any kind of thought?
I can appear to, and experience what seems to be choice, but I don't really believe in free will.
Is it possible to prevent a thought from appearing?
I don't know, by the time it pops up it's too late to stop.
It seems that thought has some logical ordered appearance, but look carefully and just notice if there is an organised sequence? Or is that just another thought that says ‘these thoughts are in sequence’ or “they take content from previous thought”, or that ‘one thought follows another thought’?
Well, yes I do think that thinking may be predictable and follow mathematically describable laws. If and how the brain has chaotic activity is an ongoing field of study.. Chaos theory gives us a handle on what may at first appear to be random, including thinking.
I get that we are trying to see an agency-less way of being here, rather than thinking about thinking. (Science is sort of catching up with eastern philosophy here with modular views of the brain, the brain as part of a greater system including the environment, and no central commanding self.)
I think you can do both, being awake doesn't stop you being a psychologist and thinking about thinking. I'm sure an awake person could study chaos theory and how it relates to the brain.
But yes, thinking about thinking is yet more thinking and can be seen, subjectively, to have no actual thinker doing it, and be impossible to completely predict.
Well, maybe it's not so easy to see that there is no thinker thinking. It may take practice.
Look carefully when doing this exercise and do it several times if necessary.
Please answer each question individually.
What is found?
Thoughts about thinking. I'll do it some more.
when you have done the exercise, here are some more questions.
actual experience being sound, colour, smell, taste, sensation and observed thoughts.
the content of thought is not experienced, it is a story, it is only imagination. - the thought sweet doesn't taste sweet.
if awareness would show up, it must be seen, heard, smelled, tasted or sensed - if that is not the case, it's just thought-content, a story.
so please look again, observe your actual experience and answer the questions:
Yes to all three.
do you experience more than colour and thoughts labelling the seen as "hand"?
what exactly is it?
A sense of the hand being simultaneously me and not me. I've done plenty of jhana meditation, getting into the feeling of my hand, but never realised that I can feel it as part of me, but see it visually as being just another object. A contradictory state of affairs.
Interesting! Why is my body an object in this way, when it is me ?
Then I can keep concentrating and this sense of separation from my own hand goes away, if briefly.
I knew these things from meditation, that an observed phenomena is still just an observed phenomena, even if it's as intimate as the feeling of one's own body. It's kind of common sense really.
But I suppose the sense of there being one's own anything is what we are looking into here.
does something like awareness show up?
how does "awareness" show up?
is something like awareness experienced?
what exactly is the experience of "awareness"?
I don't really know.
is something like awareness needed to experience something like sound?
when you listen to music, do you experience awareness and sound, or do you experience just sound?