Is it like a baby looking out to the world with no vocabulary?
Yes, exactly, this is direct looking. Everthing else are labels, really each and every word you can use.
As you probably might have guessed colour, smell, taste, sound and physical sensation are labels, too. This is how far we can break experience down if we still want to use words and it sure helps with the work here in this forum.
It is quite good to have a look at labels, since many labels aren't only words made of letters but a whole concept in one word.
Think of light. Is it just a word. Can you think the word light without thinking much more, like perhaps, good, warm ect?
Take this in and find other words which are concepts, you will be astonished.
Can any word be thought without maybe a picture, an idea, an imagined taste, smell, vision?
Apple? Can you only think apple.
Rember we are talking non duality here, there is no separation AT ALL. We tackle the first illusion of all illusions here, the illusion of self - with self being something quite different than what we learned to believe.
But even with no labels there must still be distinction?
Are there really distinctions? Like between light and dark or good and bad?
In DE or only in thoughts?
Who or what is there to make it?
Isn’t there still pain & pleasure in DE? Smooth & hard. Hungry?
Strictly spoken, and for the sake of pointing we are very strict here, none of what you mention exist in DE. All three are broken down to sensation.
Does a sensation know that it is good or bad? Welcomed or not?
Next time something happens which is labeld "pain", or you can pinch yourself lightly! right now - stretch your senses.
Is 'pain' found anywhere else than in thought?
Or is there simply only a sensation?
Do you find the word 'pain' in the sensation?
Or do you only find it as content of a thought? Followed by many more thoughts, starting to tell a story.
Thoughts race off to tell me what other people are thinking - assumption
Thoughts, I need to put my food in the microwave so it will be warm when I have my break.
Thoughts drift off towards relationships, imagination, not that helpful
Good, you've seen assumptions appear in lightspeed. Some are helpful, some are mere comments which do nothing at all, influence nothing at all.
I notice that I become a little sad (only a little!)
I have emotional sadness, no thoughts seem to be explaining this feeling.
My assumption is the label, it’s sadness, but is it really sadness? There are a number of internal sensations & the collection of many sensations is grouped into a recognisable feeling & I call this sadness.
Good, you realized you can never be quite sure if that what thought offers as an explantion is true.
You might find that some offers are mere guesswork and not even good one....
I have to experience before the thought. Experience before the label
Beautiful. Experience happens, thought follows with the whole enchilada. ;-)
So for right now be strict in looking what is DE or not. This is very helpful on the way. The better you understand how thoughts build up the story of the self - the easier all further steps will be for you.
Let this all sink in and share what you find.