Video Camera metaphor

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Paul Anthony, modified 10 Years ago.

Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Hi folks,

I've had an experience/practice that goes back to childhood that I wanted to share and get some of your accumulated wisdom on. It's very simple: I just imagine that a video camera is running that picks up all of my experience, including private experience. Then I stay with the camera's perspective and just 'watch the movie'. This doesn't seem to be a dharma practice per se, at least not one I've heard of. It may be similar to a psychotherapeutic practice called 'cognitive defusion'.

My question is: Is this a type of noting, or similar to noting, or completely different from noting? If it's different then what is the difference exactly, and what are the implications of that?

My experience is that this approach is easier for me to grasp than noting but sometimes seems to have similar results (at the very modest level of practice that I'm at). There isn't the verbal thing, you just kind of flip into this third-person perspective and you can do this formally or informally. I guess noting has that additional element of articulation - breaking things down - and this is perhaps what makes it more rigorous and useful.But it would seem that the end result is a similar kind of disidentification with present moment experience?

Paul
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Your choice of metaphor works wonderfully for me as I tend to express these things in a very visual sense and have considered a similar idea.

I just imagine that a video camera is running that picks up all of my experience, including private experience. Then I stay with the camera's perspective and just 'watch the movie'. This doesn't seem to be a dharma practice per se, at least not one I've heard of. It may be similar to a psychotherapeutic practice called 'cognitive defusion'.


This sounds close to the experience of dwelling in the "observer". Is the camera visible to you, do you know it's there or do you see it as being hidden from view?

While there are similarities between the techniques of cognitive defusion and vipassana, the differences are to do with the level where awareness is being directed and the overall aim of the process. With psychotherapeutic techniques we deal with reality at an emotional and psychological level, getting insight into daily life which can bring the possibility of changing unwanted behaviours which, for whatever reason, interfere with out ability to live a "normal" life. Behavioural issues are at a different level of functioning since, on the whole, they exist as learned responses, conditioned by experience, environment and a whole host of other external factors.

Vipassana, or noting, deals with reality at the sensate level of awareness. Bare awareness of sensation on a second by second basis, it allows us to examine our most fundamental sense of reality as it occurs. One who practices vipassana has the goal of seeing every sensation as it is, impermanent, unsatisfying and devoid of any sense of self.

It's not a relaxing meditation and can be painful, exhausting and generally unpleasant but that's something it shares with any effective thereaputic process. The difference here is that one just notes each sensation arise and pass in vipassana, wheras one who goes through psychotherapy must examine the content of what's going on.

Another set of similarities/differences is insights. Insight into our present predicament, emotional issue or whatever it may be can be obtained through either process so while this is the point of the process during therapy, it's only a possible by-product of vipassana. Daniel Ingram makes it quite clear in his writing that someone engaged in vipassana should avoid dealing with the content of sensations, or "stuff" as he puts it, during practice and work solely with the sensations themselves as they reveal the truth at a much deeper and more fundamental level than present-day psychotherapy can address.

Basically, they're similar but different at a fundamental level and attempts to correlate psychological techniques with specific practices such as vipassana will lead you to a dead end until you actually sit and do it for yourself. You appear to have some knowledge of psychology and you're on here so you're probably looking for an answer to something and have probably realised that the truth doesn't lie in psychology. It's an area I have a great deal of respect for and intend to undertake the relevant qualifications to become a psychotherapist in the upcoming year(s) so please don't construe what I've said as being derogatory or critical of psychology. I know from experience that trying to find the answers to existential quandries in science, hard or soft, will leave you coming up short as the truth lies in our everyday experience which is something which can't be academically studied, only lived as it occurs. Science provides a good approach to thinking and remaining objective in the face of often startling experiences on the spiritual path, but the blind skepticism of the scientist is as useful as the blind faith of the religious zealot.

I hope you find what you're looking for. : )
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Paul Anthony, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
HI Tommy,

thanks for your thoughtful remarks.

Tommy M:

This sounds close to the experience of dwelling in the "observer". Is the camera visible to you, do you know it's there or do you see it as being hidden from view? )


I guess I'm aware of it as a presence. At other times I'm aware of my experience being 'on screen' which involves a subtle shift in the quality of perception.

I take your point that while the video camera metaphor, or noting, are describable as psychological processes, the resulting insight is not necessarily describable as such.So for instance within vipassana I might investigate the video camera perspective with regard to its impermanence, or the cause-effect relationships it sets up. Is this what you had in mind?


Paul
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
You're welcome, always happy to thrown my two cents worth in....Ha!

I guess I'm aware of it as a presence. At other times I'm aware of my experience being 'on screen' which involves a subtle shift in the quality of perception.


I know what you're getting at, in the first example you're aware of a seperate and distinct sense of there being an observer. In the second, there's the sense of being that observer (by this I'm assuming that when you're seeing what's happening 'on screen' you've got the sense of occupying the video camera, so to speak). Would that be correct? Bear in mind I'm making assumption based on the information you've given so I could be miles off.

So for instance within vipassana I might investigate the video camera perspective with regard to its impermanence, or the cause-effect relationships it sets up. Is this what you had in mind?


By the way, I'm writing this with the assumption that you don't have that much direct experience of vipassana and you should be aware that I'm fairly new to this particular technique myself so I'm offering this advice as a fellow traveller in the hope that I can help you avoid the same basic errors I've made.

What you want to be looking at are the sensations which make up that video camera perspective, by sensations I mean anything which can be observed and which makes up your experience in that moment. I'd recommend approaching noting in the same way you would if you were eating an elephant. A little bit at a time. Don't leap in trying to note at the rates Dan talks about in MCTB ie. 40+ each second. It's do-able but, like anything else, it takes practice so set yourself an acheivable goal like one or two distinct sensations per second.

Start with noting "rising" and "falling" on each breath in the area just around the abdomen, some people believe that saying the word audibly at first is a better way to start, others disagree so just do what feels right for you till you're confident enough to be able to maintain mindfulness of the sensations as they arise and pass. Once you've got that sorted you can start examining the Three Characteristics which is what you're getting at in the above quote. It's when you start noting these that things get interesting as this is where the progress of insight really begins.

Awareness of cause and effect arises naturally during vipassana, it's the second nana in the stages of insight. It's not about the cause and affect relationship of a particular perspective, it's awareness of fundamental causality.

I hope that's clarified the basics anyway, if you sit down for 10 minutes every day for a month and actually apply yourself to these techniques then all of the stuff that people talk about on here will become a helluva lot clearer. Getting the terminology is important for understanding and communicating with others but practice, genuine and committed practice with the intention of understanding your experience of reality as it unfolds in every single moment will get you even further.

Good luck and let us all know how you get on!

(EDIT: Formatting and grammar)
patrick kenny, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 34 Join Date: 9/30/10 Recent Posts
Hi guys,

I’ve been thinking about your film/camera metaphor for a few days now, and I’ve come to really like it. I’ve adapted it a bit, but I think that it really resonates with some key elements here on the DhO, at least as I currently understand them (still a long way to go though)…so I would love to hear others’ opinions.

(note: not to date myself, but in my head, I'm thinking about an old-school film projector, rather than a modern digital unit)

Consider:

Most people pass through their whole lives, accepting that what is on the theatre screen in front of them is objective reality.

Some think otherwise though, and through various practices (eg. – noting) manage to enhance or speed up their awareness to the point that they begin to perceive the existence of discrete frames, without fluid continuity between them, and thus that all objects lack any objective permanence.

Driven to refine their skills further, they begin to see the breaks between the frames, which immediately puts everything else in an utterly different context. They may then choose to focus their attention on these blank, inter-frame gaps, kind of like the formless realms.

In time, they may become aware of the Proscenium arch around the screen, which then leads to an awareness of the theatre space, completely outside the confines of the film.

And finally, if they persist, they come to realize that the theatre is empty…nirvana.

With this understanding cemented as a permanent facet of their psyche, they are then able to return their focus to the action in the movie, but with a much more accurate understanding of it’s true nature, informing their actions.

In many ways, it closely echo’s the holographic theory of the universe.

I wonder what Siskel and Ebert would say…
Patrick
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Video Camera metaphor

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Very nicely done Patrick, I'll see if I can add anything to this and relate it to the stages of insight if it would help.

Some think otherwise though, and through various practices (eg. – noting) manage to enhance or speed up their awareness to the point that they begin to perceive the existence of discrete frames, without fluid continuity between them, and thus that all objects lack any objective permanence.


This level of awareness really kicks off at the A&P, it's at this stage we're able to start perceiving objects arising and passing as individual sensations, like being able to speed up the sense of sight to perceive the flickering between frames but not quick enough yet to see the gaps. We begin to see that the motion picture of reality is really just a series of stills flashing past at the frame-per-second rate which helps create this illusion of continuity.

Driven to refine their skills further, they begin to see the breaks between the frames, which immediately puts everything else in an utterly different context. They may then choose to focus their attention on these blank, inter-frame gaps, kind of like the formless realms.


As we reach High Equanimity, formations become more apparent although are perceived as individual "frames" of sensate experience. However, even the gaps are part of the illusion of there being anything seperate from awareness itself and when mindfulness is high enough we can see through this too. While there are similarities with the formless realms at this stage, due to the formless quality of the vibrations, to solidify concentration into jhana would be to miss the point and possibly miss out on moving toward Fruition by not noting the sensations which make up this stage.

In time, they may become aware of the Proscenium arch around the screen, which then leads to an awareness of the theatre space, completely outside the confines of the film.


As we move towards.....

And finally, if they persist, they come to realize that the theatre is empty…nirvana.


Fruition!

With this understanding cemented as a permanent facet of their psyche, they are then able to return their focus to the action in the movie, but with a much more accurate understanding of it’s true nature, informing their actions.


If Path is attained then these changes in awareness become the baseline of the yogi as they begin the work of the next Path.

In many ways, it closely echo’s the holographic theory of the universe.


I think I know what you're getting at but would you mind elaborating?

I wonder what Siskel and Ebert would say…


Two thumbs up until duality collapses. emoticon