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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

"who is the person speaking?" experiences


In the last few weeks, I have had numerous times where, basically, I "didn't know who was doing what I was doing." It wasn't just a conceptual or academic experience. It was more like "Oh crap, I really don't know." Sometimes there is a feeling of un-reality but that isn't the prevelant color. It is actually more of a pleasant experience, associated with stronger mindfulness, and I find myself seeking it out.

A couple examples - I am speaking to someone and hear my words but there is a feeling of 'who is saying this'. Or, I am about to walk into a meeting and I am wondering, 'who is going in the meeting'? I am able to create this mind-state fairly easily, with perhaps 30-45 minutes of strong noting practice, or even just 10 minutes of noting in the context of a very routine activity like walking to the bus or doing dishes.

By way of background, meditation until recently gave me anxiety, but that has gone away now. I had a lot of tension around the breath. I don't know if that was pre-AP or dark night. But it seems largely gone now, or at least much less and it goes away. More recently, I have had more calmness and these experiences, described above, of not knowing who was doing X. I have been able to induce rapture, and rising feelings in meditation. And yesterday, I had the strong sense (when meditating with eyes open, which I usually do not do) that the room got WAY brighter all around and I was rising. Less frequently, I have the feeling that I just want to drop fabrications/formations because they are so tiresome, and I have a little bit of mental quiet around that, but those experiences seem fairly limited in time and in depth.

So, let me know if you have ideas about my "who is speaking" type experiences, in this context. I try to do a bit of noting about my mental states around this time, things like 'mindful, mindful', 'uncertainty, uncertainty', but am still working on how to note that. It isn't a crucial issue, because I feel like much of my meditation-anxiety has gone away now, but I am still curious to hear from those that might have more experience than me. Are these just day to day insights, and not necessarily a big step on the stages of insight? Thanks!

RE: "who is the person speaking?" experiences
2/20/13 2:35 PM as a reply to Mike H..
This is an indication you are practicing properly. You're carrying less baggage with you into your experience, so that when your body generates words and your body hears them, you're no longer automatically taking it for granted that it's you. You're experiencing those things as sensations, and so you're just taking them as they are.

RE: "who is the person speaking?" experiences
2/20/13 3:44 PM as a reply to Mike H..
during the height of my retreat times when i used to practice more regularly, i would have these types of experiences quite regularly, and iirc i spent quite some time living like that (on and off repeatedly and vary variedly of course).

i remember experiencing some of the same examples you cite, particularly hearing my words and seeing my body speaking but not being the one doing it, and even talking about how strange that was while it was happening and even those words weren't coming from "me".

i stumbled into seeing this last month, by repeatedly asking "who is the person doing this action?" and not accepting any of my thoughts as answers. progressively everything that i experienced seemed to happen of its own accord, my movements, my questioning of them, my thoughts about them. "i" couldn't question or not question anything, or do or not do anything, everything just did itself. "reality" seemed quite complex, and there were multi-dimensional thoughts about reality being a huge multi-shaped matrix of cause and effect, where each particle node of the matrix is in touch with every other node, and consciousness and matter are the the exact same thing, not even opposite sides of the same coin, luminous becomes an apt description of reality, etc.

another way i stumbled onto this type of experience was by asking myself where my mind was, looking purely from the point of view of sensations, and upon seeing that all my "thought" and heady/mindy sensations were actually in my body (and in the physical space inside the head), it felt as if i had been taken outside my body, and there wasn't a mind anywhere, etc.

i don't know if these experiences are at all similar to yours and i don't know if they correspond to anything specific of the path.

i wonder if there is an attainment for seeing this type of thing permanently? it sounds some-what like a glimpse of what i imagine 3rd path to be like. MCTB p281 "perceiving the emptiness, selflessness, impermanence" in daily life at all times.

RE: "who is the person speaking?" experiences
2/20/13 4:22 PM as a reply to Mike H..
Fitter - Thanks for the positive feedback. Over the last few weeks, I have tried to follow Mahasi Sayadaw's instructions faithfully, going back and re-reading some of his books, and I think this has helped me greatly. I think many of my struggles over the last year and a half of meditating were due to jumping from one set of meditation instructions to another, without trying to really follow one, well-established tradition to the letter. Also, as you may be suggesting implicitly, perhaps these types of experiences are symptoms of correct vipassana and not necessarily a sign, in themselves, that i am at a specific stage of insight.

Andrew - I definitely see where you are coming from about specific thoughts/methods inducing this sort of state. I also had an experience, like you describe, where I felt a real sense of not-self by inquiring into my "spacial sense" of "where my perception was coming from". I have also tried asking the "who is doing this?" type of question to myself, and that tends to lead to these experiences as well. I almost wonder if the noting tradition could benefit from incorporating these self-directed questions (which are from the chinese "tua hua" tradition i believe) -- but that is way beyond my level to suggest. I also wonder if these experiences are sorts of windows or previews of more advanced stages of insight, like the sort of mental states brought on by Zen poetry etc.

RE: "who is the person speaking?" experiences
2/20/13 5:36 PM as a reply to Mike H..
Certainly. Though for what it's worth, your experiences remind me of my initial journey up and down the first four ├▒anas.

RE: "who is the person speaking?" experiences
2/20/13 11:28 PM as a reply to Mike H..
I had these kinds of experiences a lot when I was high school age, though I wasn't actively practicing meditation at the time. It led to a lot of unnecessary angst and existentialism. Haha. It is a relief for me to find out now that I wasn't just going crazy. Time to do more practice, though!

And I agree, if you are experiencing this, chances are you doing it correctly. emoticon Keep at it!