Freedom from Alex...

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Icarus
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Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:32 pm

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?

That the self is constructed by the flow of thoughts; I take 'myself' to exist because I constantly refer to this experience as 'I' and 'me.' Even writing this sentence contains so much 'I'! This 'I' is the product of believing that there really is a subject to which the thought 'me' refers. This creates a self-referential loop in the mind.

What are you looking for at LU?

A consistent reminder that this experience can be related to in a more complete way. Inquiry has already been valuable in allowing me to see the glimmers of freedom that have already occurred, and yet in my life I am not living among Sangha and so am immersed in a framework in which the I is taken as real. I am asking LU for a regular prompting to tease apart the assumptions that reify (i.e. make real) this self. I hope that this prompting will be enough to stabilise a view that does not take the self so seriously.

Enlightenment is still a meaningful word for me, but it no longer has the connotations of happiness, all-my-problems-gone-away isn't-life-perfect that it used to hold. Instead, it is much more about freedom from the narrowing of awareness that occurs when I take this 'I' as real. I'm bored of my self, and its preoccupations, and this Dhukka! I seek freedom.

I have patience with the seeking process, and equally recognise how close this 'realisation' is (at times!). I hope (and anticipate) that it will not take long to consolidate a state of less identification with the self. But I have been feeling that for a while, and here I still am!
What do you expect from a guided conversation? Mainly, encouragement to keep asking the questions that (on my good days) already come naturally to me. And in that, the perspective of someone who can be uncompromising in pointing out where I am perpetuating delusion. I hope that a guide will be able to point me towards a more inclusive experiential truth, which they hold within their own experience with lightness and sincerity.

[NB I live without a smartphone/computer etc more than most people. I anticipate being able to respond to posts on here at least 2 or 3 times a week, and hopefully more often. For me this feels fairly regular relative to my usual connectivity, and I don't want to deny myself the opportunity of LU's guidance because my lifestyle does not support as regular posting as the guidelines suggest. I anticipate that this regularity will still be sufficient to support a more intense self inquiry in between postings. I hope this is acceptable to you.]

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?

Quite eclectic. Mostly Buddhist-focused, but without wanting to hold 'Buddhist' as a separating label. Zen teaching probably resonate most deeply, and I have spent many months on retreat in monasteries in the Theravadan tradition. My practice is mostly playing around with Zen's 'just sitting' (i.e. opening the mind to this experience; nothing added). This is enriched by advaita teachings and self inquiry. Self inquiry has come through 'who am I?' as well as experientially exploring what Bhava (becoming) is, and the link between sensation and thought (can't find one; but most of the time still seem to be assuming there is one!).

My life outside of formal practice is aligned with letting-go; I live an unconventional life, wild-camping for long periods and spending much time by myself or on retreat, sometimes in service. I currently find myself at a transition between the initial exploratory period of seeking (looking at different teachings, trying to find the commonality between traditions), to now being ready to go deeper into the perennial truth that LU points towards. I see the recognition of not-self as a platform from which to launch deeper into Dharma.

In and out of meditation I notice a growing capacity to widen awareness, so that for short periods (perhaps minutes at a time) identity is no longer so intertwined with thought. A 'peak experience' occurred on retreat about a year ago, when the self was no longer believed in for a period of about 24hrs. I feel a long way from the truth as experienced then, and mostly I have put that experience behind me, trying to avoid the attempt to re-create it. Perhaps it is helpful to provide the notes I made a couple of days after that experience, as they show what I now aspire to;

"Gently contemplating the question "To whom does this thought arise?" has no-one to answer it! There never was, and never will be, any I! Ordinary. fantastic. Nothing changes, except doubts and opinions are let go of; thoughts continue to arise much as before but they are left free of selfhood, and thus dhukka has much less purchase. This insight felt unshakable; there is nowhere left for a self to arise from. ...
"I see that the progress I had made until this point was mostly cognitive.This time was an experiential shift that caught the mind off guard. There's a feeling of inevitability and surprised delight about the whole thing... then, without noticing, the following day the self is back. Dhukka returns, magnified; the limited self back in control. The same path cannot be traversed again - the self is wise to it now and appropriates insight. But the territory is known; extract the self from the thinking mind and there is nowhere for it to reside. Thus, everything becomes free to be just as it is."

Somehow that 'unshakeable' insight evaporated - I still don't know how, and haven't had any similar breakthroughs since. So, that is what I seek, I suppose...

Perhaps incidentally to the work I want to do here, I also appreciate devotional practice and creative myth-making in dharma. I feel that this enriching of our world adds fertility to the process of deconstructing self/language/thought, and that the two combined has the potential to make the seeker's path a dance rather than desperate grasping for truth. And yet here I am, desperately grasping!

[NB I am about to go on retreat until Sunday 14th April so will be offline from tomorrow morning until then; I'm posting this now in the hope that by the time I emerge I will have a guide, or if we're all prompt I may have some guidance to take into retreat with me... thank you]

[ha! to the following question! How can we know?... giving it a go for a while now, but the beliefs are persistent!]

On a scale from 1 to 10, how willing are you to question any currently held beliefs about 'self? 8
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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s-p-a-c-e
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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:45 pm

Hey Alex,

Thank you for your kind introduction.

If you'd like to explore this together, just let me know and we'll see what happens.

I tend not have to have rules regarding posting, so all is good.

With warm wishes,
John
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Icarus
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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:06 pm

Great, thanks John. I'm looking forward (in an entirely present way!) to seeing what unfolds. Let me know how we want to start...
Alex
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Icarus
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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Mon Apr 08, 2019 9:14 am

A reminder that I'm on retreat (so I'll be offline) from now until Sunday 14th. Hopefully some things may shift over this week, and we'll see where we're at next weekend. If you want to post some initial pointers for me, I'll be glad to pick them up on Sunday - from looking at some of the other threads on here I have some promptings of what to work with on retreat.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Mon Apr 08, 2019 10:45 am

quote=Icarus post_id=276198 time=1554711277 user_id=13803]
A reminder that I'm on retreat (so I'll be offline) from now until Sunday 14th. Hopefully some things may shift over this week, and we'll see where we're at next weekend. If you want to post some initial pointers for me, I'll be glad to pick them up on Sunday - from looking at some of the other threads on here I have some promptings of what to work with on retreat.
[/quote]


Thanks Alex.

Enjoy the retreat - see you on the other side. :)

Best wishes,
John
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:56 am

I'm back in the world of connectivity. Retreat was fairly gentle: I spent some time looking for the self, looking for the truth in the labelling process. Still no-one there, still very much acting and thinking as though there is. Able at times to let go of 'decisioning' and let things unfold as they do, but the decision-maker identification returns as soon as it gets a chance.

Now I'm out of retreat conditions I already notice the habit to identity with thoughts & stories is stronger. The world around me seems to demand my storied self; to expect me to be an "I". Although, looking right now, that's not true.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:20 am

Hey Alex,

I'm back in the world of connectivity. Retreat was fairly gentle: I spent some time looking for the self, looking for the truth in the labelling process. Still no-one there, still very much acting and thinking as though there is. Able at times to let go of 'decisioning' and let things unfold as they do, but the decision-maker identification returns as soon as it gets a chance.

Now I'm out of retreat conditions I already notice the habit to identity with thoughts & stories is stronger. The world around me seems to demand my storied self; to expect me to be an "I". Although, looking right now, that's not true.

Let's turn our attention to the decision-maker, to Alex, the "I" you take yourself to be.
And we'll take it at face value. In everyday life, sure, there's a strong sense of Alex as "I".

Ok, let's see what precisely is being taken as Alex, "I".
Sure, there are probably times when Alex doesn't seem around, but that's not of interest.
We want to know, when Alex is 'in the building', how do you know?
How is that apparent?
What do you feel, hear, see or intuit, that has the stamp of Alex?

Thanks,
John
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Icarus
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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:33 pm

Today I have been noticing that my sense of Alex is attached to the tension I feel in my brow, face and neck. When I am not explicitly looking into what makes them 'me', those sensations are associated with 'me' being here as a kind of background sense of existing as the rest of the day unfolds.

Also at times my sense of self is much more in the labelling & proliferation of thoughts. I can quite happily believe the "I" in the thoughts without really looking into the truth of it. Once I look for what that I is the assumptions tend to tease apart, but there is generally a return to believing that "I, me, mine" actually refers to something.

When I look into the truth of either of those experiences, the sense of I becomes more subtle. However, even in inquiry, there is some sense of an I that is asking "who am I?" or an I that will receive the answer, receive the insight, become free from self view. I can't see what that I-sense is; it keeps receeding into the question, or into the expectation of an answer. It has a subtle shadowy feeling of lurking on the edge of awareness, of not being able to be seen.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:32 am

Today I have been noticing that my sense of Alex is attached to the tension I feel in my brow, face and neck. When I am not explicitly looking into what makes them 'me', those sensations are associated with 'me' being here as a kind of background sense of existing as the rest of the day unfolds.

This is pretty much the sense of a human being.
Alex is added on top.

Also at times my sense of self is much more in the labelling & proliferation of thoughts. I can quite happily believe the "I" in the thoughts without really looking into the truth of it. Once I look for what that I is the assumptions tend to tease apart, but there is generally a return to believing that "I, me, mine" actually refers to something.

Habit is habit. In many respects, it serves us well, because it indicates the extent we're living in a dream.

When I look into the truth of either of those experiences, the sense of I becomes more subtle. However, even in inquiry, there is some sense of an I that is asking "who am I?" or an I that will receive the answer, receive the insight, become free from self view. I can't see what that I-sense is; it keeps receeding into the question, or into the expectation of an answer. It has a subtle shadowy feeling of lurking on the edge of awareness, of not being able to be seen.

Count to 10 out loud.

Were a camera to record that and play it back, you'd see a human being counting to 10.

That human being is you.

It has no name and doesn't need one.
It has gone through life playing at being some character called Alex, seems to keep everyone happy.

Sit with being this human being of no-name.

Share whatever shows up.

Warm wishes,
John
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Wed Apr 17, 2019 1:16 pm

Sit with being this human being of no-name.

Share whatever shows up.

I'm finding this one tricky to access. Mostly it doesn't feel particularly available - I'm not sure how to find my way into it. From the times it does seem to partially click into place, there is a feeling of no longer having a past and future, and the immediacy of what is happening now comes into sharper focus. There is a quality of 'being with' whatever is arising in experience (I find sight most helpful to work with for this process), rather than it being seen from a distance, through the usual filter of 'Alex the observer'. There is a richness to this quality, but I also find some sense of being uncomfortable without the stories-of-me being present. Quite quickly the sense of past-and-future, and the sense of 'me' making progress through time, re-establish themselves.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:19 pm

Hi Alex,

I'm finding this one tricky to access. Mostly it doesn't feel particularly available - I'm not sure how to find my way into it. From the times it does seem to partially click into place, there is a feeling of no longer having a past and future, and the immediacy of what is happening now comes into sharper focus. There is a quality of 'being with' whatever is arising in experience (I find sight most helpful to work with for this process), rather than it being seen from a distance, through the usual filter of 'Alex the observer'. There is a richness to this quality, but I also find some sense of being uncomfortable without the stories-of-me being present. Quite quickly the sense of past-and-future, and the sense of 'me' making progress through time, re-establish themselves.

Thank you for exploring. It is inaccessible, hence you won't be able to access. Which doesn't mean it's not there to spring forth, in a variety of expressions. If we look at the approach of access, we see we have already set ourselves apart, having made the human-being-with-no-name something potentially accessible, and thus we make ourselves, the accessor.
So our approach is what we can learn from and set aside.

“I, a mountain monk, tell you clearly… there is a true man with no-rank always present not even a hair’s breadth away.”
- Chinese Zen Master Linji

You do describe the passing aroma, the 'feeling of no longer having a past and future'.

'There is a richness to this quality, but I also find some sense of being uncomfortable without the stories-of-me being present'

From the perspective of 'Alex', probably quite uncomfortable, we are just so used to the feel of our stories, of our place in them, tension is expected.

Rather than accessing, what we're doing is opening up a possibility, the space of a possibility.
In entertaining that possibility, intuitively, it will likely feel odd with the normal way of seeing things.

So just keep wandering back to the well, the space of this human being with no name, or the man of no-rank, and sit. No need to access, to do anything other that sit peacefully with that space, however it shows up.

With warm wishes,
John
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Sat Apr 20, 2019 2:18 pm

So just keep wandering back to the well, the space of this human being with no name, or the man of no-rank, and sit. No need to access, to do anything other that sit peacefully with that space, however it shows up.
This seems comfortable at times - when things/"I" am still enough, there is a quality of just being with whatever is going on - sights and sounds arising, sensation arising. Thoughts still have some 'stickyness' to them and have a feeling of being 'about' rather than 'in parallel to' other experience, but that is fine and can be allowed in the space too.

As soon as there is much activity, the sense of agency comes back in, although I am also finding I can let go of that just now, and sometimes whilst walking.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Sat Apr 20, 2019 3:21 pm

Hi Alex,

This seems comfortable at times - when things/"I" am still enough, there is a quality of just being with whatever is going on - sights and sounds arising, sensation arising. Thoughts still have some 'stickyness' to them and have a feeling of being 'about' rather than 'in parallel to' other experience, but that is fine and can be allowed in the space too.

As soon as there is much activity, the sense of agency comes back in, although I am also finding I can let go of that just now, and sometimes whilst walking.

Ok, good. Now, as an aside, we're not trying to make thoughts less sticky, or make it so that sense of agency doesn't come back in. All of this is happening with a particular perspective, and this is what we're exploring.

So, when thoughts seem sticky, go to who, the who to whom thoughts seem sticky.
And don't go to who with a 'no who can be found' mindset, go to find that who, you must find who.

When sense of agency kicks back in, again, go straight to who, who is experiencing this?

Now, 'who' is a puzzling word, but still, it's all we've got, like following a length of string to the source.

Or even reading these words, who is reading these words? Loop back into yourself, penetrate in to a who, a who reading this, and this, and this, and this.

When you fail to find a who, stop looking for a who, and settle down, steady regular breathing.

Imagine who doesn't exist and read this sentence anyway.

Imagine who doesn't exist to have sticky thoughts, or a sense of agency.

/john
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby Icarus » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:01 pm

A similar response as in my last post. At times this feels easeful, natural. It feels comfortable to let go of the 'me doing something' approach to sitting. There is just sitting with whatever arises. At times there is more 'selfing' energy in the thoughts and emotions and there is a sense of being caught up in them - more engagement in the sense that there is a 'me' with a past and future that I have feelings and thoughts about.
...then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way -- Ryokan

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Re: Freedom from Alex...

Postby s-p-a-c-e » Thu Apr 25, 2019 5:37 pm

A similar response as in my last post. At times this feels easeful, natural. It feels comfortable to let go of the 'me doing something' approach to sitting. There is just sitting with whatever arises. At times there is more 'selfing' energy in the thoughts and emotions and there is a sense of being caught up in them - more engagement in the sense that there is a 'me' with a past and future that I have feelings and thoughts about.

Are you selfing?
Are you not-selfing?
"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there." - A.A.Milne
https://johnchristophercoaching.wordpress.com/


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