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Practices Inspired by Actualism

Essay: My Experiments in Actualism

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Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/25/13 5:09 AM
As I get asked about this so often, I finally wrote down a summary of the thing and then answered some questions about it afterwards based on two emails I received.

Perhaps something in this will help clarify something for someone.

My Experiments in Actualism and Responses to Questions

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/25/13 8:24 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Was that the first time you experienced the release of time pressure, or was it the first time you locked it in as a baseline? I experienced something very similar on my last retreat while practicing the jhanas at a very deep level of concentration with special focus on the processes of intention in the mind. I started out very time-focused on that retreat, too. "I only have 6 days here." "Why is lunch taking so long?" By the end of it, I couldn't care less how long anything was taking, and things on the retreat that had hitherto been bothering me a lot stopped bothering me. I attributed it to carefully building up to and hanging out in 4th jhana for so long.

Also, this part stood out:

Pay attention to feelings, meaning what you actually are feeling, whenever you notice you are feeling something. It is easy, given the ATF rhetoric, to do this in a somewhat aversive way: avoid that mentality like the plague. Instead, take a real honest approach to noticing feelings in the body, right here, and notice how they arise (causality), what thoughts go along with them, and what the stories in those thoughts are.


This is pretty much the only practice I've had time for in the last month. I'm in the middle of a move, so I'm frequently frazzled, frustrated, irritated, and dealing with problems I don't want to deal with or think I should have to deal with. And so I go back to the body and find the feelings in the body as often as I can remember, which is a lot considering how distracted I am right now.

What you describe is really similar to what Kenneth and some of his students who teach prescribe. In fact, that's where I got the idea to do this from. This seems ironic.

Do you think some emotions are better dealt with by turning the attention toward different sense modalities? I've found that shame is very easy to dissipate by returning to the body or the visual field. Anger is more difficult to deal with this way, though, especially when it's based in resentment. I was impressed by some of what you and Tarin said about resentment in that talk you did. It seems like a change in attitude helps a lot there in addition to returning to the senses. Any thoughts on different approaches to different emotions or different flavors of emotions?

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/25/13 12:23 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, thanks for this. It's always a pleasure to read your writing, especially this long-form piece. As someone who watched the various AF episodes from the sidelines, your narrative was an interesting recap and summation.

Eric

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/25/13 7:09 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Very helpful. Especially this:

Notice how there are tensions in the joints and muscles that seem to be bracing against life itself even when there is no threat: gently feel into those tensions, allowing gentle mindful attention and gentle reassurance to slowly relax them such that you learn to sit at ease, just here, appreciating this moment in a very ordinary, quiet, easy, simple, straightforward way.


Why is it that even the few people I do know who claim to have eliminated the internal feeling of all emotions (e.g. Gary Weber, a Vedanta practitioner, who I have just met briefly, and he seemed to be a very nice guy with an interesting message), still totally seem to manifest emotions externally? It is a mystery that I haven't sorted out yet.

I have met no living examples that I can confirm for myself who have totally eliminated all bad emotions, as the Theravadan model promises, including their external manifestations, and I have been going this long enough and run in enough circles of highly accomplished meditators that you would think I would have at least met one or heard enough reliable second-hand reports of one, but perhaps they exist and are either just hiding or being very clever to not let out what they have accomplished or somehow I have just totally missed them due to whatever factors.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/25/13 10:11 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for the post. Not that you care, but reading that I have no idea where you're at. Before I just assumed you were at 4th path, forgive me.. It seems you have indeed been progressing, if you're content, then there we are.. Again you could still be at 4th path, not for me to say.

Just one more word about it and then I'll shut up:

1. Weren't you satisfied and thought you were done after 4th, then much later turned out not to be? Could this not happen again?

2. Consider classifying yourself based on the Heart Sutra attainments:
Form is empty (which I know you've seen: 4th path)
Emptiness is form: subtle but pretty intuitive to figure out.
Form is none other than emptiness: pretty obvious if this is where you're at, everything seems like space.
Emptiness is none other than form: This attainment's a relief, it's like coming home. Everything is both clearly empty but clearly form, with no conflict. (If I had an opinion, I'd say you might be here, but I really don't know)

3. Confusion Arises as Wisdom, by Ringu Tulku is an awesome book on Mahamudra, which I advise you check out if you really think you're at the 4th HS attainment, and Mind at Ease by Kyabgon Rinpoche is another good one which has an impressive list of the gradual attainments.

Cheers, good luck, for the love of god don't give up till you're actually done, you've come so far!

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 3:03 AM as a reply to T DC.
T DC:


1. Weren't you satisfied and thought you were done after 4th, then much later turned out not to be? Could this not happen again?

Cheers, good luck, for the love of god don't give up till you're actually done, you've come so far!


Question for T DC:

It is kinda cute that you are encouraging to Daniel for him to get to the higher stage where you are at.

In your other post you said you were at school, so I presume you are quite young? In your twenties? And your attainments are all quite recent and happened in the space of three years? How do you know that YOU are done?

Weren't you satisfied and thought you were done after STAGE X, then much later turned out not to be? Could this not happen again?

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 11:02 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Sawfoot, no I'm done. Let's not get into it in this thread too. I saw your post in the other thread, and I'll reply to it.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 11:16 AM as a reply to T DC.
Whether or not this guy's for real, his response here is spot on.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 12:22 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you Daniel, superb article. Lots to think about and experiment with. I particularly liked your analogy of the train station and your hint at the end to settle back into here and now if you find yourself wanting something out there or in the future.

I'm wondering if you've thought of going to visit Richard yourself. Of course it wouldn't matter for your own state of experience as it looks like you've found what you were looking for, but aren't you curious to see what he's like for yourself? I think the politics stuff is all in your head or in the reactions of the people around, he's probably just a simple man enjoying his life.

One thing I've noticed when watching the DVDs is that Richard has no magnetism, unlike ordinary people who draw your eye or your attention it's as though Richard has no charge, there's just a body there functioning. You can really see how when Richard talks about the 'I' that did the practise he's really talking about someone completely different. It's as though he's extinct and there is just a body there. This lack of magnetism may be an interesting experiential indicator if someone is experiencing the same thing or something different, did you detect anything like this in trent etc?


Anyway, thank you for your writings, you always take these practises to the highest standard, and inspire others to do the same.

- Martin Potter

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 2:59 PM as a reply to Martin Potter.
T DC, sure thing. I was wondering if you saw yourself as one of the people that Daniel has never met:
A living example of somebody who has totally eliminated all bad emotions (though feel free to answer in the other thread).

[quote = D Ingram ] Why is it that even the few people I do know who claim to have eliminated the internal feeling of all emotions (e.g. Gary Weber, a Vedanta practitioner, who I have just met briefly, and he seemed to be a very nice guy with an interesting message), still totally seem to manifest emotions externally? It is a mystery that I haven't sorted out yet.

I found this especially interesting, particularly due to the recent postings of T DC. So you have people who report their phenomenological experience as one of no thoughts, and/or no emotions and/or no neurotic thoughts. Yet their behaviour seems to driven by emotions in way indistinguishable from normal people, and they display neurotic patterns of behaviour. Now I find it hard to comprehend what their experience is like.

But I would say two things. One is that some spiritual and advanced meditative states can screw with your sense of certainty - making you believe things with more certainty than is warranted - you definitely absolutely know that God exists, or that you are fully enlightened, or dare I say it, have psychic powers (see my conventional wisdom thread!). And secondly (though relatedly), it distorts your perception - such that your self-awareness can malfunction, and you miss out how your behaviour is driven by emotions and neurotic tendencies (this is where a teacher comes in handy, who can see what you can't). I wonder how this distorted sense of self image can distort your phenomenological experience in some ways. In some ways it seems almost like a split brain patient.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/26/13 4:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
wow! the best kept secret around the place. daniel, i loved reading this. thanks for the detailed and clear prose as well as inspiring us all with the reports of what fine things are possible.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
9/27/13 2:09 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
It's good to hear your take on this, after all these years.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
11/12/13 3:49 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Notice the beauty and niceness in ordinary and beautiful things, sounds, tastes, textures, feelings, the body, visuals, smells and the like. Really take time to smell the proverbial roses of the ordinary sensate world you find yourself in. Appreciate the feel of air on your skin, of the fingers hitting the keys, of characters showing up on computer screens, of your car going down the road, of the legs moving in space and balance shifting as you walk, of the taste of the food you eat, of the sound of your footfalls echoing off of the walls, of the quality of the light in the room, etc. It is very cliche advice again, but really do it all day long for a year or two and see what it is does to you: taken to that dose and degree of dedication, you would be surprised at what can occur.


:-) Reminds me of Gratitude Practice, relating to the mudita or joy category of the Four Apramanas. (I learned of this from a Zen teacher.) Basically the practice involves inwardly expressing gratitude (appreciative joy) toward whatever one's using or benefitting from, e.g floor, walls, carpet, chair, windows, door...pavement, sky...feet, hands...toilet-paper, whatever! emoticon Habitually I'd experienced a grey-tinged glass-half-empty perspective...things might be OK but... I was not intentionally cultivating glass-half-empty but I guess effects from past thinking continued to colour the present. When I heard about Gratitude Practice I decided to apply it and for the next few months my days were filled with joy and wonder coming from deliberate appreciation of any and every little thing that I was using or that was around in our interconnected world supporting things I benefitted from...I mean, where would we be without the sky!? emoticon In fact there was far more than I could direct specific gratitude toward, and rapidly I went from poverty-mentality/glass-half-empty-mentality to feeling incredibly rich! I was surrounded by riches! After several months the practice seemed to have done the trick, changing my outlook and the quality of how I felt, in ways I could not have expected (one can always take it up again if wished). Before starting it I wondered if the intention, thinking and effort would feel forced in some way, but I just practiced it straightforwardly and sincerely, no problems... Ah, what a wonderful feeling! (-:

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
12/3/13 9:04 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel I appreciate your practice and this essay. I have a few questions about this stuff if you don't mind, question 1 probably seems like it could incite controversy which you frequently recommend against, but I think it is important.

1. Where did Tarin renounce his claim to having eliminated affect on the DhO? I know that he renounced his claim to actual freedom but maintained that he has not experienced affect since attaining what he previously termed "actual freedom" on the "my thoughts on actual freedom" post. Also I don't know where any of the four you spoke of recommended against attempting to end emotion. Stef said she ended 99% of affect but then went in a different direction (not necessarily suggesting there was wrong with eliminating it all), Jill said she hadn't ended it all but was working to deal with the craving and aversion she still experienced, and I have never seen anything like that from Trent or Tarin. I ask about this because my practice goals are largely about finding the end of craving and aversion and so whether these guys claim to have attained it is relevant to me.

2. Now for a more practical question/set of questions...

This is what my practice is like now: if I am angry at someone or depressed, or worried, or anything else based in craving/aversion, and I repeatedly bring my attention back to perceptual immediacy with as much clarity and directness as possible, then the anger will dissolve pretty quickly. The more steadily my mind is focused on the immediate sensate field, the less craving and aversion arise to begin with. Sometimes conscious thought is necessary to deal with more powerful emotions, for example if I am really, really upset for some reason it might be necessary to ask of the emotion "is this useful" and engage in a cost benefit analysis, but for the most part I just gotta keep turning attention to sensations and away from objects/concepts/problems etc.

Is this what your practice was like? You said that once the field was perceived with clarity, emotions and all, you lost your interest in Actualism, does that mean that you no longer see emotions as any sort of a problem? or maybe the memory thing kept you from further dissolving? Or was it that some aspect of them seemed impossible for you to dissolve?

Also, it's too bad that Tarin and Trent have disappeared from the DhO scene, I wonder if there is any way to contact them still or if they really have no interest in that anymore...

Thanks,
Adam

edit:
Another thought on the practical side. Sometimes when trying to "pay attention" what is emphasized is awareness as a whole, the sense of experiencing can get very intense, but it also seems as if I am not really hearing, not really seeing, not really touching etc. not sensing the particular sensations. When in this mode it often seems like there are subtle expectations of what will happen next. When this type of paying attention gets intensified and refined it seems quite possible for emotions to stick around but it also seems calm and bright in a certain way.

Another way of paying attention, which is the sort of attention that might be called on when someone asks you to count the number of hairs on the back of your finger, does not have the same emphasis on a sense of awareness, and it also lacks the sort of subtle expectations of the first mode. This mode seems to be a bit more refined but a bit trickier to get into, and it also seems like the more this is practiced, the less emotions arise at all. I wonder if you have made any similar observations and what you think of my speculation that your practice that left the full affective range operative was more about the first type of attention.

This speculation comes from your comment about finding a different mode of attention that was easier to get into that was like a "muted" PCE.

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
12/3/13 9:09 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
As I get asked about this so often, I finally wrote down a summary of the thing and then answered some questions about it afterwards based on two emails I received.

Perhaps something in this will help clarify something for someone.

My Experiments in Actualism and Responses to Questions
Awesome Daniel, thanks much.

Do you explain your equation in detail anywhere? I would love to see the details and do my own calculus. Being a high school dropout I do most of my own studies. Calculus will be going into overdrive in the fall.

Looking forward to the new reading on your site.

Thanks again
-nathan

RE: Essay: My Experiments in Actualism
Answer
3/20/14 2:13 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for posting this essay, Daniel.

Ironically, I've been stalking the site without joining, and a few threads, this included induced me to join.

I stumbled across the whole "Actualism" thing recently.. gave it a test drive (for a few weeks), and frankly speaking can't see what most of the fuss is about. A simple pointer or device (and effective sure- it does deliver results), gets ballooned out into a website (and a very confusing website), practice group, personality cult, religion etc. etc.. and the practice is just so basic and simple to begin with. This isn't new though, similar things have happened with Ramana Maharshi's self-inquiry practice, which again is pure simplicity, but ends up over-analysed in a thousand books.

Great essay anyhow.. boils down the practice into its practical aspects and gives a few hints.