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Open Focus experiments
Answer
8/21/12 9:04 AM
Here are some Open Focus experiments I've devised and/or ripped off from Alexander Technique work. Any feedback is welcome, I'm interested to hear the results of any experiments as well, even if nothing happened.


EXPERIMENTS

So there are some concepts that might be helpful here. The first one is FELT. When someone pokes you with a stick, you FELT it. You didn't have to FEEL it, as in give an order or a mental command to FEEL something, you just FELT it. Like you might have just have FELT the ground beneath your feet when walking, and this is different to FEELING the ground beneath your feet when walking. Which is kind of an act of 'trying' to move attention to a specific thing to FEEL it more.

Another way of putting it is that you get incoming FELT stuff just by virtue of being alive, you go FEELING when following some set of instructions that might say something like 'feel your shoulder, or feel your back, or feel some space behind you.'

Ok so the above might all be bullshit but onto the experiments.

ONE

A)

Give yourself the command to be aware of your peripheral vision WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING OR EXPECTING ANY RESULTS. There 'might' be some FELT changes, like your body moving position or any kind of change really. Or their might not. The thing is you don't have to FEEL this stuff, it will either happen or not happen. It's an experiment.

B )

Try to be aware of your peripheral vision. Like you'd normally do it. See if there are any FELT changes. If you don't think there's a difference between A and B that's ok.

Make some notes if you can be bothered. Is there any difference in ease, tension, or whatever between the two? Try alternating between the two ways. Or if it makes no sense go to experiment two.


TWO

Ok different way around this time.

A)

Try to FEEL the space behind you. (then beneath you, then beside you, then above you). You Might get some FELT changes in trying to FEEL. That's ok, make a note of them or don't, it's all good.

B )

Give yourself the command to be aware of the space behind you (then beneath you, then beside you, then above you). Do this without trying to FEEL. You're just giving the command and then letting what happens happen, maybe nothing.

Try alternating the above a few times.


THREE

Giving a command.

Now it might be that when you give a mental command such as 'feel the space behind you.' Your attention seems to narrow, like you're 'trying' to give a command. Maybe anyway, how do we know if this is the case?

So look around 'taking' in your environment without trying to see, I mean your eyes work anyway it's not as if seeing is something you 'do'. Then give a command and see if any FELT information comes up. What we're trying to get at it here is IF your attention moves from the environment to the 'mind/inner world.'

If It does, then try giving the command and letting attention take in both the mind/inner world AND the environment. So it's a really causal thing, like 'oh there might be space behind me.'

Try playing around with this and seeing if there is any difference between the WAY you give commands and then apply the same kind of commands (in different ways) to the previous experiments.


THREE

You might notice a difference at this point between FEELING and FELT. You might also notice that you habitually FEEL and this FEELING is actually a weird and kind of slightly effortful thing. Or you might not have any of that (which is ok, we're all different). If you DO notice a difference then you might also recognise that 'just giving the command to be aware without FEELING' does some interesting stuff and requires no effort. Yet it MIGHT also feel weird and ineffectual because there is no effort and you're used to 'doing' stuff which requires effort. Or it might do something else or nothing,

If you DO notice a difference AND the difference makes conceptual sense. IE it's actually coherent and not some mystic bullshit you read on the internet that you're just hoping makes sense. Then you can apply this same conceptual clarity to Vipassana and Open Focus. Both require the deployment of attention and these experiments 'might' give you some insight into how you are habitually deploying it. Or they might not.

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
8/23/12 6:26 PM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
Exercises 1 and 2 remind me of exercises I did with Loch Kelly, a teacher in New York City whose sessions I've been to a couple of times. His courses are a day or afternoon of immersion in exercises/pointers of that ilk, including some self-inquiry and awareness watching awareness. It's always been worth a trip from Philadelphia for me.

I'm not familiar with the Alexander technique. I've worked with the Open Focus stuff before, and have been getting back into it again over the past several weeks.

Eric

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
9/11/12 9:48 AM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
I really enjoyed the tone and attitude of your experiment Alexander. Don't crave for or expect results, or stress about it in any way - this kind of grasping, gripping mind is exactly what open focus aims to undo.

Anyway I've been reading Les Fehmi's book 'The Open Focus Brain', which CCC mentioned in another post, and it has been very beneficial to my practice. I am working on a post that goes into more detail, but very briefly, he found that when people imagined, or tried to perceive space, nothingness, timelessness - things of this nature which the mind cannot grasp onto, their brain wave frequency very quickly lowered from beta to alpha. He discusses how detrimental a chronically narrow focused brain is, that it is an emergency mode of functioning, and if overused leads to stress and all kinds of ailments. To counter and relieve this condition attention needs to be diffused and absorbed. Absorbed into the perception of space, or nothingness, this is arupa jhana territory. All along Daniel Ingram has said arupa jhanas are good for brain, and Fehmi validates this. There's much more to it of course, but just wanted to encourage anyone who was interested in OF to check it out.

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
9/12/12 9:59 AM as a reply to John White.
The Open Focus excercises seem to lead to a width and breadth of awareness that's called for in the third vipassana jhana/dukha nanas, and can help smooth the way into the fourth vipassana jhana/equanimity.

Has anyone else tried this?

Eric

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
9/12/12 5:02 PM as a reply to Eric B.
I have found this as well Eric. The Open Focus exercises have led to noticeably more equanimity, and it's much more clear why this is so. Attention is much wider, more expansive, and the mind does not grip, or clench on things.

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
9/12/12 5:28 PM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
These are very cool. A lot of yoga teachers, especially Iyengar, are certified in the Alexander Technique. Now I totally see the connection is more than just a postural alignment thing.

RE: Open Focus experiments
Answer
8/9/17 3:00 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Hi, 

My last retreat was about 3 weeks ago and I finally get why I should be doing more open focus type style concentration for my system. It helps me relax. Thanks to you I looked into Les Fehmi's quided meditations and it seems to help calm my nervous system quickly and settle down. 

As for you question when I've gone through some really tough dark night stuff (terror/fear) I did open focus but I had no idea I was doing it.

How is your practice going?

-Jorge