Message Boards Message Boards

Insight and Wisdom

Observing the Observer

Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 12:56 PM
Within my practice, I've been given the instruction to start spending some time doing some self inquiry when my practice proceeds to a certain place. I am still trying to wrap my head around how to approach this technique and would be interested in some feedback.

Once I've nurtured the pre-requisite conditions I am first to identify a sensation in the body (contact between two fingers, for example). With that I want to identify the boundaries and location of the object observed and do the same with the observer and then additionally parse between the observer and the "observing".

My experience so far has been to clearly see the observed and to have a much vaguer sense of an observer somewhere behind the sensations of my face and sense of eyes. I am trying to not put too much effort into the technique, but to ask the questions and let the mind react, but that is the current experience I am having.  I then go back and forth between the observed and the observer. I'm unsure what or how exactly I am to identify the "observing". I have to get more clarity on that.

Any thoughts on approaching a technique like this?

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 2:01 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
It sounds like you're headed in the right direction. 

As you describe, the sense of an observer typically consists of sensations located somewhere behind the eyes, inside the head. There is a kind of somatic flavor of contraction to the observer. As the energy of awareness increases, you will notice that the sensations of tension and contraction that comprise the observer are actually quite granular, you can "penetrate" the observer into fine vibrations just as you can penetrate any meditation object.

It can take weeks or months do this, even longer in some cases, consistency is key. I've found that resting into a more spacious, panoramic awareness can help to highlight the observer. Some helpful questions you could feel your way into:

How far back around your head does awareness go?
How wide is your field of vision?
How big is the space your head is "located" in?
Is there an end to this space?

Gentle, spacious awareness can take you far here, no need to make things more complicated than that. 

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 2:32 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Very helpful, thanks.

 I've found that resting into a more spacious, panoramic awareness can help to highlight the observer.


Ok, cool, this is something I've also been working on with my coach. I've been working a little bit with some of the practices you recommend. Does that sense of panoramic awareness just come with time? Mine is still quite limited around my body and visual field but occasionally can open a bit more. 

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 3:28 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.

Ok, cool, this is something I've also been working on with my coach. I've been working a little bit with some of the practices you recommend. Does that sense of panoramic awareness just come with time? Mine is still quite limited around my body and visual field but occasionally can open a bit more. 

In my experience, panoramic awareness in the head area grows from a consistent cultivation of it coupled with the dissolving of sankharas in the face, brow and crown area. The two go hand-in-hand, really. There are selfing-patterns in this region that habitually contract attention towards the center of your forehead, face and head, when these patterns are dissolved, energy is freed up and awareness expands. Eventually, a more panoramic awareness becomes your default resting state. 

One thing you could try, and I think this is something I saw shargrol mention in the past, is imagining that the entire world "out there" is filled up as far back as you can see from the ground to the sky with water, as if you were under the ocean. How would you look out at the world in this case? 

You can also feel into what it's like to see when you're walking around in the dark at night, trying not to hit your leg on the coffee table, etc. This is a sort of vision more inclined towards the wider field. 

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 3:35 PM as a reply to Zachary.
One thing you could try, and I think this is something I saw shargrol mention in the past, is imagining that the entire world "out there" is filled up as far back as you can see from the ground to the sky with water, as if you were under the ocean. How would you look out at the world in this case? 

Just to chime in here, as I start to prod at these awareness practices, I start to pay attention to the 'volume' or 'field' of experience and often times just looking at the space between me and other objects, I realize space is not a trivial thing. I've actually done this water exercise personally without seeing it mentioned anywhere else before which is funny. Like I can simply walk 30 feet to a tree and that's nothing, but I've imagined thousands of pounds of water filling the space between my body and the tree before and the space seems more important and less trivial. By imagining that I'm filling the space with water as I'm looking at it, I'm also filling it with awarness. A sneaky way to invoke non-contracted or non-local awareness.

Since the awareness of my thoughts and body and emotions is the same awareness that senses everything 'out there' why isn't my experience one of volume where awareness fills the space and the body/thoughts/emotions are just different qualities or maybe corners/points of that volume/space/field? My experience is still of a node in the head looking out at the world, but I've gotten subtle glimpses of the volumetric perspective which is neat. That said, when I get these glimpses of the volumetric perspective, I still suffer so it's not like I flip over to a completely awesome new perspective. 

Brandon, I haven't done much of these practices myself, but I understand folks like Michael Taft and Loch Kelly have great pointers for 'training' non-contracted awareness. I always understood EQ via noting or the PoI to be non-contracted and panoramic, but why not nudge it in that direction anyway?

Thank you Brandon for asking the question and for Zachary providing some really lucid and practical suggestions. emoticon

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 5:13 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:

My experience so far has been to clearly see the observed and to have a much vaguer sense of an observer somewhere behind the sensations of my face and sense of eyes.
This is typical architecture that people use.
Actually we copy these things from parents when we are little babies. Such baby literally doesn't know anything and we humans are born pretty undeveloped and stupid. It is all random noise. It however observes and imagines how other people experience reality and it is this imagination that is your current mind state... imagination of little undeveloped baby. No wonder it might have some flaws emoticon

You use the same process and imagine yourself how you like to experience reality with or without sense of self, whatever. I suggest making it pleasurable and remove unpleasant experiences and unskillful impulses from it. It is your imagination after all so you can do whatever you like.

Imagination or not but in order to experience such visualization you need to have the connections in the right places and trained to fire in just the right way. So process of imagining it is the same as creating this new mind. Even if your visualization has some flaws they will just show up in your visualization so if you are angry you will see how angry would you be if that was your mind state if you refer to it.

I call this mind state visualization and I already created quite a few versions of sensual experiences. I also believe this the best way to do it. Switching these mind states require knowing 5th jhana and it is the mind state from which you can switch mind states and make them persistent. To learn 5th jhana flavor just press your finger against the table and keep your awareness and notice how experience of it changes. If it the fifth one. It wont be ground breaking difference but you should only be interested in flavor not strength. You imagine this specific flavor along with your mind state and it switches and becomes your new mind state with which you go to sleep and with which you wake up.

Repeat it until you are satisfied with the mind state. Obviously the first time you do it you won't be able to imagine anything wildly different than you already have and probably formless jhana flavor will be only so so. Other than that it is pretty easy and you can always go back if you so desire.

ps. While keeping finger on the table do notice all nine (or however much there are...) jhanas. You might want their flavors in your mind state.
ps2. Be sure to not visualize tendency for some great "path of insight" progress with dark night, cycles, fruition and other bullshit like that in your new mind states. These are not needed other than perhaps giving monks something to do with their time.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/9/20 6:42 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:
Very helpful, thanks.

 I've found that resting into a more spacious, panoramic awareness can help to highlight the observer.


Ok, cool, this is something I've also been working on with my coach. I've been working a little bit with some of the practices you recommend. Does that sense of panoramic awareness just come with time? Mine is still quite limited around my body and visual field but occasionally can open a bit more. 
Coach? Are you still working with Abre? I thought she wasn't big on these self-inquiry investigations. Also, you may want to look into the Waking Up meditation app which has all of this self-inquiry investigation built into it.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 11:37 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Zachary:

In my experience, panoramic awareness in the head area grows from a consistent cultivation of it coupled with the dissolving of sankharas in the face, brow and crown area. The two go hand-in-hand, really. There are selfing-patterns in this region that habitually contract attention towards the center of your forehead, face and head, when these patterns are dissolved, energy is freed up and awareness expands.

Another quality of my practice at the moment is the presence of sensations of varying intensity at the brow area. Sometimes they can get to headache level off the cushion, and they intensify with any surges of piti that accompany practice. Is that a related thing?

One thing you could try, and I think this is something I saw shargrol mention in the past, is imagining that the entire world "out there" is filled up as far back as you can see from the ground to the sky with water, as if you were under the ocean. How would you look out at the world in this case? 

You can also feel into what it's like to see when you're walking around in the dark at night, trying not to hit your leg on the coffee table, etc. This is a sort of vision more inclined towards the wider field. 

I like the water visualization idea. This also gives me the sense that I'm on the right track. I've been relying a lot on imagination and visualization to nurture the sense of panaromic awareness, and it sounds like that's a useful way to do it.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 11:41 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Like I can simply walk 30 feet to a tree and that's nothing, but I've imagined thousands of pounds of water filling the space between my body and the tree before and the space seems more important and less trivial.

I've been playing with this a little bit. There is something about the mass of water that creates a different sense than just trying to imagine open space. I'll have to look up the reccomendation on Michael Taft and Loch Kelly. Is there a ep. of Deconstructing Yourself where they talk about it?

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 12:50 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:
Within my practice, I've been given the instruction to start spending some time doing some self inquiry when my practice proceeds to a certain place. I am still trying to wrap my head around how to approach this technique and would be interested in some feedback.

Once I've nurtured the pre-requisite conditions I am first to identify a sensation in the body (contact between two fingers, for example). With that I want to identify the boundaries and location of the object observed and do the same with the observer and then additionally parse between the observer and the "observing".

My experience so far has been to clearly see the observed and to have a much vaguer sense of an observer somewhere behind the sensations of my face and sense of eyes. I am trying to not put too much effort into the technique, but to ask the questions and let the mind react, but that is the current experience I am having.  I then go back and forth between the observed and the observer. I'm unsure what or how exactly I am to identify the "observing". I have to get more clarity on that.

Any thoughts on approaching a technique like this?

   You're on the wrong track. The only point to "observing the observer" is to realize the futility of the attempt.

t

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 12:53 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
 It however observes and imagines how other people experience reality and it is this imagination that is your current mind state... imagination of little undeveloped baby. No wonder it might have some flaws

I like this idea. I'm watching a new baby make sense of the world, so I can see what you are getting at. Some of the techniques you recommend sound interesting, although honestly they seem a bit beyond my skill level right now. Sometimes I end up crashing into 1st Jhana and I think I've stumbled into some higher jhanas a few times, but I've got a long way to go before I can approach those with any degree of control.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 1:02 PM as a reply to terry.
The only point to "observing the observer" is to realize the futility of the attempt.

Which can be a worthy effort. Whatever it takes! I also think folks are using the wrong words to describe this - it would be more accurate to say I want to "observe the sense of an observer." My former teacher, Kenneth Folk, called this chimera "The Witness."


RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 12:58 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
Coach? Are you still working with Abre? I thought she wasn't big on these self-inquiry investigations. Also, you may want to look into the Waking Up meditation app which has all of this self-inquiry investigation built into it.

Yup! I'm still working with Abre. This practice is only something I have the option to do as certain mind states arise, but it's not the core of my practice. 

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 1:13 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
The only point to "observing the observer" is to realize the futility of the attempt.

Which cab be a worthy effort. Whatever it takes! I also think folks are using the wrong words to describe this - it would be more accurate to say I want to "observe the sense of an observer." My former teacher, Kenneth Folk, called this chimera "The Witness."



  "Can I get a witness"....


   The problem cam be when we report success in observing this "observer." Not realizing that another observer has to be observing the observer observe the observer, and so on in infinite regression.

   Yes, realizing that there is no observer is fundamental insight, which is why "self inquiry" has been touted as a method. But self-inquiry is subtly different from "observing the observer." The former is a legitimate technique, the latter a contradiction in terms. Self inquiry investigates non-self. Observing the observer is impossible and can be a trap, a pitfall as we assign qualities to the putative observer and reify it.

   One practices to eliminate practices. True practice is no practice at all, thus it is really true practice, to paraphrase the diamond sutra. This does not mean that we can bypass practice, ony that we practice as though no one were practicing.

terry (practicng to be no one)

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 1:27 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
The only point to "observing the observer" is to realize the futility of the attempt.

Which can be a worthy effort. Whatever it takes! I also think folks are using the wrong words to describe this - it would be more accurate to say I want to "observe the sense of an observer." My former teacher, Kenneth Folk, called this chimera "The Witness."


another thing, chris: when you thoroughly investigate the "sense of an observer" you find out there is no sense of an observer...non-self means "no being, personality, self or liver-of-life"...any other active participant is similarly non-existent...the "actor" (ego) will creep back in by stealth if it can...



as diagreeable as it may seems, everything is totally out of control...this is true freedom...


t

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 1:32 PM as a reply to terry.
another thing, chris: when you thoroughly investigate the "sense of an observer" you find out there is no sense of an observer...non-self means "no being, personality, self or liver-of-life"...any other active participant is similarly non-existent...the "actor" (ego) will creep back in by stealth if it can...

Yes, as I said, "which can be a worthy effort." Thanks for reinforcing it!

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/10/20 3:33 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:

I like this idea. I'm watching a new baby make sense of the world, so I can see what you are getting at. Some of the techniques you recommend sound interesting, although honestly they seem a bit beyond my skill level right now. Sometimes I end up crashing into 1st Jhana and I think I've stumbled into some higher jhanas a few times, but I've got a long way to go before I can approach those with any degree of control.

Thankfully the control does not come by that easily and mind will protect itself from arbitrary changes until you really know how all this work and what you are doing emoticon

BTW. Since you have true reference observer in form of new baby I recommend observing it and maybe picking up a thing or two from it. There are certain things we loose over time and I do not think loosing them is all that beneficial for us. By observing how we naturally do it we might discover a kind sense of wonder in ourselves which we lost and perhaps even melt our petrified hearts making us more human.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/11/20 9:29 AM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
Been thinking a lot about this since you first mentioned it. If we learn to create a sense of self by watching others with a sense of self, there might be something to learn from watching a being before he self is fully formed.

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/11/20 3:31 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
Ni Nurta:

BTW. Since you have true reference observer in form of new baby I recommend observing it and maybe picking up a thing or two from it. There are certain things we loose over time and I do not think loosing them is all that beneficial for us. By observing how we naturally do it we might discover a kind sense of wonder in ourselves which we lost and perhaps even melt our petrified hearts making us more human.


+1

(smile)

RE: Observing the Observer
Answer
8/11/20 3:56 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:
Been thinking a lot about this since you first mentioned it. If we learn to create a sense of self by watching others with a sense of self, there might be something to learn from watching a being before he self is fully formed.

by the time they are 7 days old they are already amoral little demons...

soon enough the litle tyke will be under your skin...

besides, they are absolute dictators for the first couple of years...

I'd like to tell you it's all worth it but in the end they just leave you once they're raised...you gotta have a dog too...

(wink)

t