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"Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"

The title really says it all.

How to decide whether the subtle phenomenon which became evident yesterday is really a sublte phenomenon now perceived by means of refined perception, and not just an artifact of selective perception, i.e. ignoring what doesn't fit the picture?

In other words, what tricks do you have up your sleeve to catch yourself in the act of ignoring?

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/20/12 5:02 PM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:
The title really says it all.

How to decide whether the subtle phenomenon which became evident yesterday is really a sublte phenomenon now perceived by means of refined perception, and not just an artifact of selective perception, i.e. ignoring what doesn't fit the picture?

In other words, what tricks do you have up your sleeve to catch yourself in the act of ignoring?

Cheers,
Florian


I ask myself the question : have I ended all mental stress including the subtle manifestations of it? If the answer is 'no' (as eventually it is seen that mental stress just got even subtler), then the intention arises to consider if anything is being ignored/overlooked/fabricated/set up as the conditions for that very stress. I know the absence of that mental stress. It was/is a peak experience and an important insight into the cessation of mental stress. It has informed and motivated this questioning. If mental stress ends in all manifestations, then I wont mind if there is something more ignored, though I probably will be conditioned to investigate that notion all the same.

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/20/12 5:56 PM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:
The title really says it all.

How to decide whether the subtle phenomenon which became evident yesterday is really a sublte phenomenon now perceived by means of refined perception, and not just an artifact of selective perception, i.e. ignoring what doesn't fit the picture?

In other words, what tricks do you have up your sleeve to catch yourself in the act of ignoring?


I never found selective perception (not noticing something) to produce the impression that there were other phenomena that weren't really there.

Is that what you mean? If not, maybe you can restate your question, or give an example?

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/20/12 6:40 PM as a reply to Florian.
interested to hear what this subtle phenomenon is
are you saying that you may have been selectively ignoring but now it has came to light. As this has been my experience with tigles,
They have been present for a while (maybe always) but once I started noticing their presence I became aware of many variations of their form

cheers
Jeff

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/21/12 12:01 PM as a reply to Florian.
Thanks for your replies.

My question is general, I'm not referring to any particular subtle phenomenon.

For the sake of an example, let me pick some insight stage from the "Progress of Insight" map which may be familiar to many people here. So a practitioner - let me call them "I" for the sake of brevity - so I begin to notice a very subtle sense of "all things being equal, this is just what it is", and after some time, I think, "hey, maybe this is what's called equanimity". And here's where the question comes in: am I able to perceive this subtle sense of "all things being equal" because I reached equanimity, or is it the case that I'm ignoring sensations which imply "all things not being equal"?


@Nikolai - peak experiences, sure, they stick out. But the subtle baseline stuff? Fudging the evidence or perceiving more clearly?

@End in Sight - I meant the other way around: phenomena, evidence, perceptions, "stuff", you name it, that really is there but which doesn't fit the subtle picture I'm trying to perceive.

@Jeff - again: not ignoring what's there but very subtle to notice, but rather: ignoring what's unsubtly there, and which would disturb my circles if not ignored, to use the last words famously attributed to Archimedes.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/21/12 12:22 PM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian. Your example made the question more clear to me. Is it possible both are true? In the example, that equanimity both allows you to (partially) see that "all things are equal" and simultaneously allows you to (perhaps for the first time, later for the nth time) to ignore that which doesn't fit?

Do you find that the stuff that may perhaps be ignored in a certain stage (such as during a period of equanimity in your example) will find plenty of ways to front-burner itself in the future, providing opportunities for investigation? (That is, that as one goes along, that which was previously ignored because it was too subtle to perceive gradually becomes perceptible, and thus can be investigated. Just as a beginner may be focused on very coarse sensations or thoughts, and gradually become able to perceive finer and finer layers of thought process and sensations and so on...)

I have found personally that stuff previously ignored finds its own way to the surface in its own time (perhaps the right time?). I suspect, though I can't know, that the various energy work practices I've done and do play a role in tilling the soil and throwing more rocks up to the surface, or something like that. Qi gong for example seems to regularly dig up and release previously unnoticed tensions in my body. Someone said (no recollection who) that the body itself *is* the unconscious, which occasionally seems apt. Vision work I've done in the past also seemed related to tilling up unrecognized unconscious stuff. All that rather speculative, but there ya go. And perhaps most of all just daily life: each moment offering an opportunity to recognize ignored stuff when one has a reaction to other people, situations, sights, sounds, events, and so on. I'm finding huge value in that right now.

Cheers.

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/21/12 2:38 PM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:

@Nikolai - peak experiences, sure, they stick out. But the subtle baseline stuff? Fudging the evidence or perceiving more clearly?


The act of ignoring (on purpose as well as blindly) triggers a subtle mental 'stress' in my experience in the current baseline. Therefore i don't rate the current 'baseline stuff' as a place to plant a flag. I think one is planting a flag if 'fudging evidence', no? "I have arrived at so and so and it is called so and so." I find the naming of experience or baseline tends to cement a 'view', which may then condition further practice and habits leading to possible stagnation and confusion.

Yes, I do believe I 'fudged much evidence' in the past, but I've learned that lesson (more than once), and prefer to let the horizon open up and out. This avoids 'fudging evidence' in my experience. The peak experiences though act as a lighthouse. Current baseline doesn't match that which for me was the complete absence of even the subtlest of mental stress? Then, there will be no intentional fudging of evidence by me. I'm sure from now on the question "Am I fudging the evidence?" will be another tool into the yogitoolbox. Before it was simply "What is being fabricated in this very moment?" among other questions that intend to keep me honest about experience.

When perception shifts to 24/7 peak experience, which i recognise as the absence of the sublte mental stress that still occurs from time to time, then I will also reassess that new baseline for anything missed as well. That conditioning probably wont stop. 'Seeing clearly' seems to have happened in layers over the past number of years. I see one level clearly, but there are more levels so to speak to see through as the baselines shift. The peak experience is the standard and (current) destination though to compare and keep me honest and avoid planting flags (though the peak experience may be seen as a sort of flag planted, it acts more like a valuable tool for practice, triggering the cause and effect relationship of exploration and discovery, not planting of flags and further discernment (seeing clearly).

Nick

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/21/12 3:16 PM as a reply to Florian.
I've been thinking about this lately as well and had a long discussion with a friend yesterday on it.
I think it comes down to creating conceptual frameworks and models about experience. If someone was free of this, or at least sees the process as it's happening, then they could be 'totally objective' and fresh in how they look at their perception of experience. Essentially from that point of view there would be no refining of perception. Then the questions would lose their importance.

However, practically it is a useful question to thinking about. Maybe one thing to add is the comment that Ingram makes in MCTB- assume that the only sensations that exist are in your experience of that moment. If you think you're being selective, maybe that's subtle anxiety?

What got me thinking about this was realizing I model and try to map experiences. More to the point, looking into perception of discrete experiences versus 'artificially' creating a concept of smooth reality. The concept is smearing together these discrete sense door sensations into a more complete mental picture of reality. So what I found that got me in trouble was adhering to this concept and then judging my current experience against it. If I'm looking at discrete vibrations is that just being selective? Is having an experience at the opposite end ie jhana being selective? If you see this process is going on, what direction can you go in to 'refine' it? That is, how can you refine something that is relative?

Maybe I missed the point of this original thread, but thanks for letting me hash this out a little bit

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/21/12 3:49 PM as a reply to Florian.
If you are ignoring something it will come back and bite your ass! You can't cheat on ending suffering, if there is some sort of active effort to maintain the "end of suffering" then you will clearly recognize it as not the end of suffering because the effort will show itself.

Really the only way to miss the end of suffering is to plant your flag and assume that something or other is unchangeable.

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/25/12 6:56 AM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:
@End in Sight - I meant the other way around: phenomena, evidence, perceptions, "stuff", you name it, that really is there but which doesn't fit the subtle picture I'm trying to perceive.


Ah. Good question!

I've found that the best way to approach this is to treat ideas about the "subtle picture" as working hypotheses, and use them for guidance in a more tenuous way than I otherwise might. So, if I have some theory of the stages of how concentration should progress, for example, and it seems that I might have moved from one stage to the next because of whatever change there is, I try to file those away (ideas about what changed, ideas about what caused the change) as observations that will prove their value or lack of value in the future, as I see how this state tends to evolve, time after time after time, even if it seems compellingly true at the moment that some change happened for some particular reason.

In summary, it's something like "don't toss useful theorizing, but try to behave more like I have; pragmatically, better to underestimate the value of anything I've worked out than to overestimate it."

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/28/12 1:49 PM as a reply to Florian.
Ona posted a link to this nice article, Even the Best Meditators Have Old Wounds to Heal on another forum. I only saw this today.

Jack Kornfield:
Where am I awake, and what am I avoiding? Do I use my practice to hide? In what areas am I conscious, and where am I fearful, caught, or un-free?


Good fit with this discussion here.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/28/12 7:04 PM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian -

Your thoughts here remind me of page 208 in Daniel's book: the blinking out of parts of phenomena, then "correcting" against that tendency naturally, unavoidably.

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/29/12 7:42 AM as a reply to Florian.
I consider this to be a very very deep question. I don't know how to solve it, but I have three tricks.

One is to have a scientific attitude. I try as much as possible to entertain only those opinions which can be satisfactorily tested. Try to hold my opinions to such a higher standard. For instance, the view that "all things are equal" has no meaning unless it comes accompanied with a procedure (a test, an experiment) which can successfully determine whether "all things are equal" or "not all things are equal." If there IS such an experiment, then the meaning of "all things are equal" is given by the experiment itself. If there is no such experiment, then the statement has no meaning (according to this scientific approach, it might have meaning in other contexts).

For instance, among certain mental masturbators such as myself, there sometimes arises the discussion of whether people have any "inherent good" or whether they always act out of "self interest", when appearing to sacrifice themselves for others. One might argue for both sides pretty strongly, but actually, if one applies the previous methodology, one finds that there seems to be no way of distinguishing between the two scenarios. Hence the question itself has no meaning, is uninteresting, and we should just move on. The same seems to apply to questions such as "essence vs appearance", "the existence of god" and so on.

The second trick is to realize that often the content of my thoughts is frequently determined from the presence or absence of pain and pleasure. For instance, the closest I've come to thinking "we are all one," or something along those lines, I was in a specific ecstatic state of mind. At the time I might have thought that "we are all one" meant quite literally what it said (the dictionary meaning). However, nowadays, when I think "we are all one" I actually interpret the meaning of that thought as "I am feeling pleasurable/energetic/euphoric." On the other hand, when I think "people suck" actually I understand that it means that I am myself in pain at that moment. I.e., the meaning of the words I think is not always found by looking at their meaning in the dictionary, but by paying attention to the causal chain that led me to say it.

The third trick is to avoid isolation. Genuine interaction with others, particularly those with different perspectives, has a way of bringing light to my own perceptual tendencies and biases. It helps to have intimate and highly perceptive friends that don't agree with everything you say, and are willing to spend the time and energy to confront their views with yours --- which is really a rare and valuable thing.

These three tricks are generally helpful to me, and I have uncovered several instances of "fudging the evidence" through their use. However, for the specific question of whether "fudging the evidence" can be completely avoided, or how can we be certain we aren't doing it, I really have no idea.

As far as I can tell, bias could well be an integral part of how the mind works. In fact I consider the belief that there is some sort of Truth (or actuality) --- to which the clear-headed meditator/actualist supposedly has access to, but the rest of the world does not --- to be a somewhat dangerous terrain, full of self-supporting loops and tricky traps.

---

Indeed I believe that there are two different, possibly coexisting scenarios: (1) perceptual changes caused by means of refined perception, and (2) perceptual changes caused by means of selective perception, i.e. ignoring what doesn't fit the picture.

What would we expect to see in scenario (1), versus scenario (2)? In yourself? Or in a friend: suppose that you have two friends, one of whose meditation practice has lead him towards the first path, and the second has had the misfortune (?) of heading mostly through the second path. How would you distinguish which is which?

I find this to be an extremely important question for the practice of meditation, and to me it has all sorts of personal reverberations.

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/29/12 8:17 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

As far as I can tell, bias could well be an integral part of how the mind works. In fact I consider the belief that there is some sort of Truth (or actuality) --- to which the clear-headed meditator/actualist supposedly has access to, but the rest of the world does not --- to be a somewhat dangerous terrain, full of self-supporting loops and tricky traps.


So it seems to me too. After a couple of decades of entertaining these notions, I can no longer even aspire to "see things as they really/actually are", and don't even regard it as a theoretical possibility. It's possible to seem to be doing so: If an aspect of the mind becomes unavailable/invisible to itself such that it's no longer possible to step outside its frame of reference, you get a kind of psychic inflation that results in complete identification with an absolute (and in some cases, one absolute after another).

And indeed it is dangerous territory. Self-supporting loops and tricky traps are bad enough; but in those rare cases when they're not necessary (ie. the absoluteness of perception is born of incapacity for relativity) it's arguably even worse.

It's painful to be finite, and insane to be otherwise. Nice choice eh?

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/29/12 12:15 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
Hi John,

John Wilde:
I can no longer even aspire to "see things as they really/actually are", and don't even regard it as a theoretical possibility


A thoroughly postmodern stance.

It's possible to seem to be doing so: If an aspect of the mind becomes unavailable/invisible to itself such that it's no longer possible to step outside its frame of reference, you get a kind of psychic inflation that results in complete identification with an absolute (and in some cases, one absolute after another).


Yeah... that place sucks. Self-similar like a fractal. Noticing the pattern is a good thing, though.

It's painful to be finite, and insane to be otherwise. Nice choice eh?


Is that (choice) how things really are, then? emoticon That damn fractal...

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/29/12 1:32 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
I consider this to be a very very deep question. I don't know how to solve it, but I have three tricks.

One is to have a scientific attitude. I try as much as possible to entertain only those opinions which can be satisfactorily tested. Try to hold my opinions to such a higher standard. For instance, the view that "all things are equal" has no meaning unless it comes accompanied with a procedure (a test, an experiment) which can successfully determine whether "all things are equal" or "not all things are equal." If there IS such an experiment, then the meaning of "all things are equal" is given by the experiment itself. If there is no such experiment, then the statement has no meaning (according to this scientific approach, it might have meaning in other contexts).

For instance, among certain mental masturbators such as myself, there sometimes arises the discussion of whether people have any "inherent good" or whether they always act out of "self interest", when appearing to sacrifice themselves for others. One might argue for both sides pretty strongly, but actually, if one applies the previous methodology, one finds that there seems to be no way of distinguishing between the two scenarios. Hence the question itself has no meaning, is uninteresting, and we should just move on. The same seems to apply to questions such as "essence vs appearance", "the existence of god" and so on.


Deconstructing the selective tendency. Nice one. So, when to stop? Can the deconstruction become an end in itself? I've run into this, so I'm wondering if that was just idiosyncratic of my experience or whether it's more widely experienced.

The second trick is to realize that often the content of my thoughts is frequently determined from the presence or absence of pain and pleasure. For instance, the closest I've come to thinking "we are all one," or something along those lines, I was in a specific ecstatic state of mind. At the time I might have thought that "we are all one" meant quite literally what it said (the dictionary meaning). However, nowadays, when I think "we are all one" I actually interpret the meaning of that thought as "I am feeling pleasurable/energetic/euphoric." On the other hand, when I think "people suck" actually I understand that it means that I am myself in pain at that moment. I.e., the meaning of the words I think is not always found by looking at their meaning in the dictionary, but by paying attention to the causal chain that led me to say it.


Yeah, that's an interesting phenomenon, too. Contraction around pain (or pleasure) is very selective.

In fact, a weird body-mind coupling of pain rose up within me a couple of months ago. On one level, it was obviously the result of personal upheavals of the past year. On another level, I can't help but wonder what course this would have taken in the absence of the clarity or refinemet which became accessible to me last year. Maybe I would have just ignored that pain in some way or another, pushed it away, resisted it. Maybe not. Hard to tell.

The third trick is to avoid isolation. Genuine interaction with others, particularly those with different perspectives, has a way of bringing light to my own perceptual tendencies and biases. It helps to have intimate and highly perceptive friends that don't agree with everything you say, and are willing to spend the time and energy to confront their views with yours --- which is really a rare and valuable thing.


Seconded. Human life is best played as a team sport.

These three tricks are generally helpful to me, and I have uncovered several instances of "fudging the evidence" through their use. However, for the specific question of whether "fudging the evidence" can be completely avoided, or how can we be certain we aren't doing it, I really have no idea.


Me neither. I have some hunches and suspicions though:

1. none of the evidence really is evidence (along the lines of your trick #1). That is, put another way, as long as we're trying to become something, we're always fudging the evidence, since the evidence that we're not it is abundantly there. This is very close to the "trying to become what you already are" red flag on the DhO, so maybe there's a better, more empowering way to phrase it, but I haven't found it yet.

Actually, thinking about this, the concluding joke of the last Being Ordinary episode kind of points in this direction as well.

2. in what ways is fudging the evidence a problem? In the end, there will be evidence for or against the case that originally, there was a selective bias, and we're into the next round. So is it really a matter of what we do with all the evidence? Again, more in the deconstructing vein of your trick #1. Hmmm... maybe I'm relying on that too much?

As far as I can tell, bias could well be an integral part of how the mind works. In fact I consider the belief that there is some sort of Truth (or actuality) --- to which the clear-headed meditator/actualist supposedly has access to, but the rest of the world does not --- to be a somewhat dangerous terrain, full of self-supporting loops and tricky traps.


Yeah, that at least is done away with at a certain point. It's kind of funny in a sad way to see how the clear-headed meditator/actualist never ever gets to own or become or be Truth (or actuality). But what a relief. That, at least, is strong evidence, in my book emoticon

---

Indeed I believe that there are two different, possibly coexisting scenarios: (1) perceptual changes caused by means of refined perception, and (2) perceptual changes caused by means of selective perception, i.e. ignoring what doesn't fit the picture.

What would we expect to see in scenario (1), versus scenario (2)? In yourself? Or in a friend: suppose that you have two friends, one of whose meditation practice has lead him towards the first path, and the second has had the misfortune (?) of heading mostly through the second path. How would you distinguish which is which?


Again, mostly hunches: What are they hiding? Whose welfare are they concerned about, and why? What is their motivation to keep going? Is their heart in it, or just their intellect?

I find this to be an extremely important question for the practice of meditation, and to me it has all sorts of personal reverberations.


Me too. Thanks for your comments.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "Refining perception" vs. "selective perception"
Answer
10/29/12 2:08 PM as a reply to Florian.
I've found it useful to assess whether I'm even asking the right questions in the first place or investigating from the right standpoint - which probably goes along with right view. Responses to a given query will yield relevant results, much like a search engine. If the same query is constantly input, differing results are unlikely to get discovered.

I've also tried to figure out how to work with my tendencies to see how they can be of benefit. I have often admired people who seem to have mastery over a very particular subject because I tend to broadbrush many subjects and have thought that was somehow insufficient, like I wasn't going deeply enough. I eventually found the broadbrushing approach useful in that it seems to balance things. I like taking the time to work on lots of areas because of the whole interdependence angle and seeing how things work together on lots of levels. I suppose the mastery angle allows for its own type of incorporation too, I'm just not sure how because it's not something I'm used to (and I'm also not saying one is better than the other, just saying how my mind seems to work).