How to experience non-self?

M, modified 1 Month ago.

How to experience non-self?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
When considering the 3 characteristics, impermanence (anicca) and unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) feel very obvious to me, but I struggle with non-self (anatta). 

I can experience the lack of control "I" have over sensations in my body. I can also often see the lack of control "I" have over my thoughts. WIth both thoughts and sensations, it often feels like I am watching clouds pass through the sky. 

However, I still feel this strong sense that "I" am the one watching things happen, as though the thoughts and sensations are happening to the real "me". 

I have tried directing my attention back at my attention and figuring out where the watcher is. But it doesn't seem to do much? I'm just left feeling like "yup, there I am". 

Any suggestions for how to experience anatta more clearly? Does it sound like I'm already experiencing it? What might I be missing? 
Soh Wei Yu, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 2/13/21 Recent Posts
You are only experiencing the non-doership aspect of no-self but there are more faces of self/Self and it is not yet the realisation of anatta. See http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2020/04/different-degress-of-no-self-non.html

My suggestions on how to realize anatta:

1) Practice Vipassana according to this instruction by Daniel Ingram: https://vimeo.com/250616410

2) Read and contemplate on these two stanzas of anatta: https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html

3) Read and contemplate on Bahiya Sutta, the key to my own breakthrough - http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2008/01/ajahn-amaro-on-non-duality-and.html (comments section comments by PasserBy/Thusness is also great), http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2010/10/my-commentary-on-bahiya-sutta.html
M, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thank you! The first link especially helped clarify a lot of my confusion - seems like I was experiencing aspects of anatta but not all of it.
thumbnail
Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
M
...

I have tried directing my attention back at my attention and figuring out where the watcher is. But it doesn't seem to do much? I'm just left feeling like "yup, there I am". 

...


There is a principle in neurology where if you are doing something unintentionally and you want to stop doing it, it can help to first try to do it intentionally and then stop trying to do it. As you stop trying to do it, you gradually learn how to not do it. For example, sometimes if a person is seriously injured and they constantly hold a muscle tense to prevent painful movements, they may lose the ability to relax that muscle and they develop a "frozen" limb. In order to relearn how to relax the muscle and unfreeze the limb, they are told to try to tense it and then stop tensing it.

So to apply this to anatta, try to be conscious of your sense of self. Develop a clear sense of what your sense of self is. (What do you think of when you har your name? Who is observing thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations? What do you feel like in your different roles in life, as a child, a parent, an employee, a student, a supervisor, playing sports, playing music, going to a restaurant?) Then stop trying to be conscious of your self concept, and just notice how you feel when you are not holding that sense of self in your mind. It may feel like something is missing. Learn to cultivate that feeling of emptiness.

Something else that is helpful is: when you notice the dukkha arising in response to a thought or situation, try to see how the dukkha is based on your self concept. Behind unpleasant emotions is usually some thought about how reality is not matching what we want to be true about ourself. We want to be a person who is a winner. We want to be a person who is respected. We want to be a person who is in control. We want to be a person who can do various things. We want to be a person is happy, free from pain, enlightened, experiences anatta, etc. When reality shows us that our self concept is not being fulfilled, we suffer. As you make repeated observations of how suffering is founded on the self concept you begin to recognize that you do not have to adhere to this self concept. You recognize that the dukkha that arises is something that you are creating as a reaction to the understanding that your self concept is not correct.

The way we create dukkha is such a subtle process that we are usually not aware of it - sort of like the way we are not aware of air pressure at 14 psi outside and inside us all the time. But once you start to notice how you create dukkha and the role your self concept plays, you see how it works, you can take it apart, and begin to learn to abstain from doing it. The hardest part is to find all the subtle ways your self concept is involved.
thumbnail
Jim Smith, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith

...

Something else that is helpful is: when you notice the dukkha arising in response to a thought or situation, try to see how the dukkha is based on your self concept. Behind unpleasant emotions is usually some thought about how reality is not matching what we want to be true about ourself. We want to be a person who is a winner. We want to be a person who is respected. We want to be a person who is in control. We want to be a person who can do various things. We want to be a person is happy, free from pain, enlightened, experiences anatta, etc. When reality shows us that our self concept is not being fulfilled, we suffer. As you make repeated observations of how suffering is founded on the self concept you begin to recognize that you do not have to adhere to this self concept. You recognize that the dukkha that arises is something that you are creating as a reaction to the understanding that your self concept is not correct.

...

Once we can see the conflict between our self concept and reality we can surrender to it. We can more easily let go of our self concept when we acknowledge and accept that difference between the person we want to be and the person we are. A large factor in clinging is the refusal to acknowledge what we don't like about out self concept. If we won't allow it into consciousness we can't let go. Or, rather clinging is a lot like suppression. To a large extent, unsuppressing is letting go of our self concept.
M, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
When you talk about developing a clear sense of the sense of self, do you have suggestions on how to do this? Observing sensations? Intellectual reflection? 
thumbnail
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 5926 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Where are you at in your practice? The experience of no doer usually comes rather late in the practice. You don't need to start out there in order to investigate the three C:s. It's usually a lot easier to start out with realizing that all distinctions that single out something as a separate object are constructions and rather vague and arbitrary if you look closer at it. 
M, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Either in the dark night before first path or before second path. Not sure if I hit first path 4 years ago or not - I remember the afterglow but don't remember what led up to it clearly enough to be sure. I've been meditating mostly full time since June. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 2068 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I agree with Linda, this realization usually comes later in practice, but the sense of being the watcher/witness of experience, or of identifying with "attention" or "awareness" or "consciousness" is a false refuge of the (sense of) self/ego. It's one of the last ones to go, along with space and time, before a fuller realization of anatta.

It's a pretty core tenet - 'I am the one who is conscious/aware' - so it can be destabilizing to let go if you're not already in a relatively stable place with your practice. But if you feel drawn to chipping away at it then you can start to ask questions like - Is there really a thing called 'awareness' which is separate from individual sensations? Or is there just sensations + some ability to react (or not) to certain ones? And if so, then isn't 'awareness' just an unfounded concept?
Adi Vader, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 40 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Please see if this reddit post helps:

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/ooq1p7/vipassana_the_progress_of_insight_part_2_insight/
thumbnail
Dream Walker, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: How to experience non-self?

Posts: 1342 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
M:
When considering the 3 characteristics, impermanence (anicca) and unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) feel very obvious to me, but I struggle with non-self (anatta). 


Why not try a different approach. Investigate the 6 senses for things that are permenent, satisfying, and self.
These are the 3 delutions and that is great training to dwell on. Find a delution as it arises and stay on it until it dissolves/passes away. Repeat with all your focus you can muster, investigate it. Feeling tone, location, intensity, etc......stay on it doggedly as a bone and chew it up.......yes, yes, yes i know people said just let it all happen.  Well this is a different exersize to steer the mind upon the thing as it arises and passes over and over again until it becomes "empty". Is this Me? Does it last? is it satisfactory? Get deeper with all the stuff that makes up the 6 senses. Use your amazing skills to sit and stay, it's your meditaation and therefor no way to mess it up by manipulating the experience to spend time on it. Rub with a feather vs ruff textures. use colors and a flashlight to play with sight, do a drum, bell, kazzoo. come up with creative stuff to play with and train that brain to learn how to "investigate". Start slow and play and laugh. This stuff is fun, this is educating and training the brain to steer itself when in High EQ. As you delete stuff temporarly and it comes back over and over you will start to get inklings of the "no-self" "Impermenence" and "dukkha" attributes. Then after a path hits you will really get it.
Good Luck,
~D