awareness & "following" thoughts

charlie williams, modified 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 4:47 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 4:46 AM

awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 2 Join Date: 11/19/09 Recent Posts
I'm trying to experience and understand the difference between awareness and being caught up in thought. Several different writers have characterized thinking as chasing after thoughts. But this idea of chasing seems different than what I experience, which is a more active riding of thoughts. It does not feel so much that I expend mental energy trying to keep up with and catch thoughts, but that I gain energy from the momentum of thoughts, riding one to another like a sled or a rollercoaster.

To me, the difference seems very fundamental to experiencing true awareness. I can't yet experience the moment that I switch from one to the other modes. I've searched this and a few other websites for writing on the nature of this shift from broader awareness to active thinking to try to understand and experience it more completely. Yet I haven't found anything.

Anyone have an thoughts or links they would suggest on these issues? Thanks.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 7:32 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 7:32 PM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hey, welcome to the DhO,

charlie williams:
I'm trying to experience and understand the difference between awareness and being caught up in thought. Several different writers have characterized thinking as chasing after thoughts. But this idea of chasing seems different than what I experience, which is a more active riding of thoughts. It does not feel so much that I expend mental energy trying to keep up with and catch thoughts, but that I gain energy from the momentum of thoughts, riding one to another like a sled or a rollercoaster.

To me, the difference seems very fundamental to experiencing true awareness. I can't yet experience the moment that I switch from one to the other modes. I've searched this and a few other websites for writing on the nature of this shift from broader awareness to active thinking to try to understand and experience it more completely. Yet I haven't found anything.

Anyone have an thoughts or links they would suggest on these issues? Thanks.


What happens if you just try to be aware of your other 5 senses (vision, sound, touch, in particular)?
, modified 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 10:36 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/3/11 10:28 PM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 385 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
Hi Charlie -
I'm trying to experience and understand the difference between awareness and being caught up in thought. Several different writers have characterized thinking as chasing after thoughts. But this idea of chasing seems different than what I experience, which is a more active riding of thoughts. It does not feel so much that I expend mental energy trying to keep up with and catch thoughts, but that I gain energy from the momentum of thoughts, riding one to another like a sled or a rollercoaster.
Buddhism considers the mental faculty of thinking a sensory factor like the five physical senses.

If being caught up in thoughts is useful to you and, in your experience, not causing aversion/attraction in a problematic way (in your opinion), then it seems there is no concern, yes? This may be comparable to a pianist that says her key-fingering (the touch, hearing and mental senses) gives energy, is like riding a rollercoaster or sled and is not like chasing or being caught up in key-fingering. It's ok if she's ok with it and no one is obliging otherwise.

To me, the difference seems very fundamental to experiencing true awareness. I can't yet experience the moment that I switch from one to the other modes. I've searched this and a few other websites for writing on the nature of this shift from broader awareness to active thinking to try to understand and experience it more completely. Yet I haven't found anything.
Michael R. Sheehy comments on this liberally and translates relevant work by Kamgon Kongtrul in his essay translating Rangjung Dorje's Variegation of Mind (beginning on page 69) [link removed until permission from author may be obtained]. Rangjung Dorje was Tibet's third Karmapa. I do not know if the author or Routledge gave permission for this online availability. I have the book and it is affordable, available generally.
charlie williams, modified 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 2:40 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 2:35 AM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 2 Join Date: 11/19/09 Recent Posts
BCD - EFG, I'm not sure about switching to senses - I'll try!

Katy, yes sometimes it is important for my work that I think a lot and sometimes just daydream about the topics I research. But I'm really just trying to see and understand this process within the context of meditation. Every instruction I've ever heard mentions that if the mind wanders, or chases thoughts, just to bring it back to centered awareness. I'm trying to both perceive and understand the difference in the nature of awareness in these two cases - centered awareness and thinking, or 'chasing thoughts'. And the typical descriptions I've heard don't quite fit my experience. I will try to track down the citation you mention.

Thanks to both of you for your responses.

Charlie
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 7:26 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 7:26 AM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
charlie williams:
I'm trying to experience and understand the difference between awareness and being caught up in thought. Several different writers have characterized thinking as chasing after thoughts. But this idea of chasing seems different than what I experience, which is a more active riding of thoughts. It does not feel so much that I expend mental energy trying to keep up with and catch thoughts, but that I gain energy from the momentum of thoughts, riding one to another like a sled or a rollercoaster.

To me, the difference seems very fundamental to experiencing true awareness. I can't yet experience the moment that I switch from one to the other modes. I've searched this and a few other websites for writing on the nature of this shift from broader awareness to active thinking to try to understand and experience it more completely. Yet I haven't found anything.

Anyone have an thoughts or links they would suggest on these issues? Thanks.


I'd say the difference is one of awareness. In a dream, I'm totally unconscious and unaware, so the dream controls me and my emotions. I'm lost in my dream. If I become lucid in the dream, I'm one step removed from the content, and I can watch and direct the content if I wish. Awareness provides that space. Similarly, I can be lost in my thoughts, or observe them in a detached way. The more detached, the less emotion they create in my body.
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N A, modified 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 12:23 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 12:23 PM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
My current understanding is that you're aware of whatever happens in the present (including the thoughts you are lost in, when you're lost in thoughts) but unless it passes into short term memory you will immediately forget it. Unless you're paying attention to something, only vague details make it into short term memory, the rest gets thrown out. We usually don't pay attention to the process of thinking, unless we're meditating.
, modified 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 5:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/4/11 5:09 PM

RE: awareness & "following" thoughts

Posts: 385 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
Hi Charlie

Here is a quote from the book mentioned
Fresh awareness of whatever arises…is sufficient. —THE NINTH GYALWANG KARMAPA,

Swanson, Eric; Mingyur, Yongey Rinpoche; Daniel Goleman (2007-03-06). The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness (p. 73). Harmony. Kindle Edition.


Bag chags is the tibetan word for habitual propensities. It may be somewhat memorable to think of bag chags like baggage, as in the American slang "s/he's got baggage" - something lingering and performed in an automated manner or with thoughtless assumption.

Awareness applies the mental faculty to observe the expression of itself (apperception) and the physical sensory faculties.

Developing this apperception can help in work and research - to detect/diminish assumptive thinking, for example.

Awareness arises the moment that the field of mind (EDIT: when empty of perception and non-perception (consciousness) in which the mental faculty produces something with form. This form creates a sense of distance and distinction. Without such form-distinction, there is consciousness (an unmoved state of apperception).

This progression is discussed in the Applied Psychology book mentioned above in Sheehy's essay.

What are your thoughts?