Getting out of observer state

Gustavo de Souza, modified 4 Months ago at 7/10/22 9:36 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/10/22 9:35 PM

Getting out of observer state

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/10/22 Recent Posts
I'm at a point where I can somewhat easily disidentify myself with any particular sensation. The issue now is that I feel like i'm the space in which all sensations are arising. However, when I recognize that this is also a sensation I yet again feel like a larger space cointaining that previous experience of being a space in which sensations arise. This happens especially when once having stabilized access concetration with breath, I try to bring in other sensations to the foreground of consciousness. It feels like I'm stuck in an infinite recursion of observers.
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Sigma Tropic, modified 4 Months ago at 7/10/22 9:50 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/10/22 9:50 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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You want to try to hold the observed and the observer in the mind at the same time. If you do 3 iterations of this and hold that all in mind with equal clarity it should "break" in a sense and you may experience 'formations' which is just like a wide open vast space. Look up The Mind Illuminated Chapter 9 - heres a link
https://mybodhisattva.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/the-mind-illuminated-by-culadasa-john-yates-ph.d.-matthew-immergut-jeremy-graves-2017.pdf
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 4:53 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 4:49 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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Gustavo Brasil de Souza
I'm at a point where I can somewhat easily disidentify myself with any particular sensation. The issue now is that I feel like i'm the space in which all sensations are arising. However, when I recognize that this is also a sensation I yet again feel like a larger space cointaining that previous experience of being a space in which sensations arise. This happens especially when once having stabilized access concetration with breath, I try to bring in other sensations to the foreground of consciousness. It feels like I'm stuck in an infinite recursion of observers.


Focus on the feeling of being stuck. Why is it a problem? What is the role of your sense of self (observer or otherwise) in the sense it's a problem?

Can't you just accept the infinite recursion, let go of it, and focus on something else? Or meditate on infinite recursion?

Or, pick a number like 5 or 10 and when you get that deep in recursion start over at 1. Do this in synchrony with your breathing.

Maybe you should re-examine why you think it is a useful practice in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish? Why do you think this will help you achieve that goal?
Will G, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 10:36 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 8:22 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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Gustavo,

In the initial moment of feeling like an observer, even one that is 'larger' than the last, I would suggest that whatever is clustering together to form that impression isn't really being seen clearly. The flavour of the whole cluster is taking precedence over its components. What is it about this cluster that feels special or different from the rest of your experience?

​​​​​​​You might think of it this way: the mind generates a feeling of being an observer out of sensations and thoughts. You already know that you can play with this, that you can generate this feeling somewhat on demand. You might try as an exercise to move through the 'observers' in the infinite recursion as quickly as possible, until it becomes obvious that the feelings that make up observer-ness and the ones that don't are of the same nature, or have the same qualities, and the former no longer feel more real than the latter.
George S, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 10:37 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 10:33 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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 Hi Gustavo,

You have correctly observed the problem with trying to identify with a stable sense of an observer independent of sensations – any sense of being an observer is just made up of more sensations, observed by yet more sensations masquerading as an observer etc.

There are several ways out of this recursive dualistic trap. Like Sigma says, you can try to hold the observed and observer in mind at the same time until they collapse. Or as Will says, you can try to move through the recursion quickly enough that the whole stack of putative observers collapses. Either of these methods should lead to the equanimous experience of “formations” – i.e. “pure sensations” untainted by the sense of there being a separate observer. You should definitely read the section on formations in MCTB if you haven’t already.

You can also try to see directly how awareness arises & passes co-dependently with each sensation. This is classical stuff:

MN 38 Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta (The Greater Craving-Destruction Discourse)
“Yes, reverend,” Sāti replied. He went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to him, “Is it really true, Sāti, that you have such a harmful misconception: ‘As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another’?”
“Absolutely, sir. As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another.”
“Sāti, what is that consciousness?”
“Sir, it is he who speaks and feels and experiences the results of good and bad deeds in all the different realms.”
“Silly man, who on earth have you ever known me to teach in that way? Haven’t I said in many ways that consciousness is dependently originated, since consciousness does not arise without a cause? But still you misrepresent me by your wrong grasp, harm yourself, and make much bad karma. This will be for your lasting harm and suffering.”

Consciousness is reckoned according to the specific conditions dependent upon which it arises. Consciousness that arises dependent on the eye and sights is reckoned as eye consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the ear and sounds is reckoned as ear consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the nose and smells is reckoned as nose consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the tongue and tastes is reckoned as tongue consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the body and touches is reckoned as body consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the mind and thoughts is reckoned as mind consciousness.

SN 12.44 Loka Sutta (The World)
“And what, mendicants, is the origin of the world? Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. This is the origin of the world.
Ear consciousness arises dependent on the ear and sounds. … Nose consciousness arises dependent on the nose and smells. … Tongue consciousness arises dependent on the tongue and tastes. … Body consciousness arises dependent on the body and touches. … Mind consciousness arises dependent on the mind and thoughts.

For the purposes of this exercise, “consciousness”, “awareness” and “observation” are synonyms. I challenge you to try to find something called “consciousness” independent of a sensation arising at one of the six sense doors! You can also try to see how sensations are “aware of themselves”, or awareness “emanates from the sensations”, or even “sensations are observing you!”

What makes this exercise tricky is letting go of the sense of control – the implicit assumption that “I control awareness”. Even after not-self has been seen on some quite deep levels, there is a foundational level of selfing bundled up with the sense of being able to direct awareness independently of sensations. This sense of control is called manasikara (“attention”) and appears in link 4 of dependent origination, prior to contact. One way to try to debug this issue is by observing that attention, the sense of being able to control awareness, is also just made up of dependent sensations. Who controls the controller? Just more dependent sensations masquerading as a controller … another recursion.

​​​​​​​Another way is simply to observe that “the loudest sensations get attention”. The mind is constantly assessing incoming sensations to see if they are a threat or opportunity deserving of attention, most of the time this process is happening unconsciously, and selfing is an unnecessary afterthought which says ‘I chose to pay attention to X’. Concentration practice can even tend to strengthen this sense of control, at least in the earlier stages of access concentration (“applied & sustained attention”). When one gets into deeper nondual absorption states then that is a very nice way to see through the illusion of observation/control, without the edginess that can sometimes result from more insight oriented practices. Either way, once you have seen through this particular aspect of selfing then experience feels much more natural and less stressful. You can even try adding back the sense of observer/controller sometimes and it’s like “yuck, I can’t believe I used to fall for that!” 
Gustavo de Souza, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:16 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:16 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/10/22 Recent Posts
I really appreciate all the replies in this thread, so thank you all for the help.

Is it possible that I've grasped no-self and am simply expecting more out of it than is really there? 

Basically, I'm unsure if Im having non-experiences of self as opposed to experiences of non-self. By the former I mean that I have no difficulty failing to find a self and merely finding sensations whenever I actively look for it.

I have a decent amount of experience with psychedelics so I'm probably subconsciously mapping my experiences of no-self and setting up expectations for the meditative route approach to the same experience. At least this is what I suspect right now.
George S, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:35 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:35 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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It's not "no-self", it's "not-self", meaning that no experience constitutes a permanent stable central identity (a "Self"). But there are lots of "selfing processes" and "sub-identities" or "mini selves", which are constantly appearing, changing and disappearing (dependent origination). That doesn't stop happening, you just see through them and stop trying to make a "Self" out of them ("clinging"), which nixes the dissatisfaction associated with trying to construe constantly changing processes as a permanent stable identity.
George S, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:38 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 6:38 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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Just to add, clinging to "no self at all" is a subtle form of identity! (a.k.a "someone pretending to be no one")
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 10:45 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/11/22 9:45 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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Gustavo de Souza
I really appreciate all the replies in this thread, so thank you all for the help.

Is it possible that I've grasped no-self and am simply expecting more out of it than is really there? 
...

In my opinion, the point of investigating anatta, (not-self - everything is not self, you can't identify anything that is self), is to help you let go of your attachment to your self concept because that will reduce suffering. You can get that recursive thing going but it is besides the point. You see thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations, are not self so you feel like you are just an observer, then you understand that the observer (and every other self concept, "me" as a child, a parent, an employee, a student, a success, a failure, a good person, a bad person, rich, poor, happy, sad,  all your attitudes and poses etc etc.) is just like every other thought, emotion, sensation, etc, it arises from who nowhere (unconscious processes) it is not self either. Beyond that point, the recursive thing is not really helpful. The observer self is not more special than any of the other selves, get to know all of them.

If you are suffering, there is more to understand.

And there are many cases where people have a very deep experience of anatta in meditation but in daily life they act like they are still attached to their concept of self. So I don't believe experiencing / understanding anatta is really useful by itself. My suspicion is that various types of meditation can produce experiences of anatta but they are not actual changes in personality.

I would suggest you study anatta in how it relates to dukkha. What is the role of your sense of self in dukkha arising? Do different instance of suffering involve a different ideas of self? What happens to your sense of self as dukkha fades? What does it feel like when dukkha is temporarily absent? Does each sense of self have a different feeling? Can you notice the absence of any feeling of a sense of self?

Try to experience how suffering is related to your self concept. If you can really grasp through experience how the emotional pain of suffering is caused by your attachment to your self concept, then you will be ready to let go of your attachment to your self concept.

To do this you need to be aware of dukkha as it arises. I don't know anything about how you practice etc so this might not be necessary for me to say but the way to do that is to quiet the mind with some type of relaxing meditation (not intense suppressing meditation) then when the mind is tranquil, watch the mind and notice when dukkha arises. Noticing the physical sensations that accompany emotions can help too.

Most people have many attachments of different strengths. Some will be easy to let go of some will be very hard. So look for progress with the small things and be patient with the harder ones. I think it is better to look for gradual continuous progress rather than a single event that is going to change everything. 
Adi Vader, modified 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 12:16 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 12:16 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 182 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
You can try the following if it seems helpful to you.

Do mindfulness of thoughts and the thinking process.
Establish mindfulness, investigation, concentration - using any of the techniques you are most comfortable with.

Then start to pay attention to your thoughts. When attention lands on a thought ... stay with it ... track it .... but know only that quality of it which satisfies one of the following categorization schemas

1. Visual / verbal / meaning based (non visual, non verbal)
2. Past / present / future / fantasy
3. Self / other / world in general / fantasy
4. Habitual / random / carrying emotional charge / narration (of whats going on right now)

In one sit pick just one catgegorization schema (or maybe two) and train the mind to engage with the quality of thoughts that permit you to recognize and categorize according to that schema

Once you have gained proficiency in this so that you are very familiar with each schema and each category within it and canon demand engage only with that quality of thinking which helps to do the above sorting ... then look for meaning based thoughts, about the self, in the present, which are narrating what is going on

This particular kind of thought is like a post-it note that gets stuck on top of phenomena and creates a sense of self - I am doing this, I am not doing this or this is happening to me, this is not happening to me. This becomes the virtual vantage point of observation. It has no physical location inherently, any sense of physical location is just one more - meaning  based thought, about the self, in the present, narrating what is going on

Once you get good at finding this post-it note you can drop partcipation in it using simple techniques of acknowledging that such mental activity is happening and thenn relaxing the mind and body around it and into it - this denies it the fuel it needs to continue. It comes back, you find it, you soften into it, it goes away.
Will G, modified 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 4:05 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 3:56 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 28 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Gustavo,

The not-self of the observer, often experienced as a kind of momentary disembedding from the visual field, is just a small part of the meaning of anatta. Anything that relates to seeing the not-self of what we conventionally associate with a sense of self (thoughts, emotions, a fixed position in the visual field, etc.) is also just one aspect of anatta, which in its broader implications means that nothing has a self-identity, that not a single object, sensation, thought, exists independently as a stable thing from any other. Here anatta points to emptiness/dependent origination. There are likely more subtle and harder to describe aspects of your experience that congeal into things feeling like they exist inherently, 'out there', 'in here' or 'now' vs 'then'. Investigating your sense of time and agency are two other good places to look. You might also try reading and contemplating the bahiya sutta, or an in depth exposition of emptiness, which comes in many flavours. I can recommend this introduction by Greg Goode:

http://greg-goode.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Introduction-to-the-Emptiness-Teachings.pdf

Rob Burbea also has some great talks on emptiness at Dharmaseed, or you could check out his book Seeing that Frees.
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Dream Walker, modified 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 6:08 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 6:08 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 1478 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Gustavo de Souza
I'm at a point where I can somewhat easily disidentify myself with any particular sensation. The issue now is that I feel like i'm the space in which all sensations are arising. However, when I recognize that this is also a sensation I yet again feel like a larger space cointaining that previous experience of being a space in which sensations arise.
The progress of insight

This happens especially when once having stabilized access concetration with breath,
Access concentration? Ok look closely at the 2nd and 3rd stage of the progress of insight.

I try to bring in other sensations to the foreground of consciousness. It feels like I'm stuck in an infinite recursion of observers.
yep,
Cool
Keep going,
What is the problem?
gd luck,
​​​​​​​~D
Martin, modified 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 10:16 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/12/22 10:16 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 496 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
This is interesting Adi. Thanks for writing it. I have been investigating "meaning based (non visual, non verbal)" thoughts recently. They are quite subtle and, for me, easy to miss, except when visual and verbal thoughts have stopped, and even then, hard to distinguish as separate phenomena. I also like the idea of the post-it note. I have personally referred to this as "painting" phenomena with things like agency. If you have written more about thoughts somewhere, I would be interested to read it. 
Adi Vader, modified 4 Months ago at 7/13/22 2:30 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/13/22 2:30 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

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Hi Martin

You can use this exercise to gain proficiency with the post-it note

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/lun8bp/vipassana_samatha_vipashyana_within_the_jhanas/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share

And this reddit post goes into some details about thoughts and the thinking process:

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/h0yt0j/vipassana_mindfulness_meditation_on_thoughts_and/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago at 7/13/22 8:38 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/13/22 8:38 AM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 6847 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Interesting. I call it tags. They haven't been as accessible to me lately, though. Something to revisit once I have ramped up my concentration enough.
Martin, modified 4 Months ago at 7/14/22 7:58 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 7/14/22 7:58 PM

RE: Getting out of observer state

Posts: 496 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks so much, Adi!!