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Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?

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Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 10:16 AM
Hi everyone. Thought I'd throw some of my current experience out for comparison with others. I'd really like to know what your experience of thoughts are...

My current experience is one of easy mindfulness, free from discursive thought. It's not that I don't have discursive thought, just that I can easily choose NOT to have it. I have not really had any terminology to talk about this up until now. I am currently reading a little about self inquiry in the Advaita tradition and what Yogani in his book on this subject calls "the witness" seems to match up.

What I find more interesting about this though is this: I seem to have had this for a long time, but only recently have I been learning how to let it come to the fore. Kind of like a skill possessed, that just needed a little sharpening. Or using in a different way perhaps.

Does that make any kind of sense to anyone else?

What is your experience of mind free of discursive thoughts, and what did it signify for you?

thanks,

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 10:27 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I might know what you're referring to from my experience. It might seem like you could always choose to not have it. However, try choosing to not have it for, say, an entire uninterrupted hour, while you go about your regular day, and see how easily you can make that choice then...

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 10:45 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
One of the traditional things in buddhism goes something like "The monk train himself in thinking only appropriate thoughts and only when he wants to"... so, what you say is not unheard of.

As far as my experience goes I begun with Jon Kabat-Zinn material, and I ended up somehow thinking that meditation was just about not thinking; spent my first days in the first vipassana jhana suppressing every arising thought all day long, making a strong effort to focus on hearing, sights and body, wichled to a period were I was almost thoughts-free.EventuallyI realized that I partially got it very wrong, but the conditioning is still somehow in place, and that initial misunderstanding did a lot to protect me from the monkey-mind syndrome. During those days I ended up talking with a monk who had similar background and he told me that sistematically repressing thought was potentially dangerous, so I stopped doing that, wich led to my visionary/voices in my head period (i guess that was because the repressing thought period made me more sensible to subtler forms of thoughts, so I remember that in that period I had a thing for the various layers of discoursive thinking, also by the influence of A. Wallace's Revolution of attention, where he talks about using thoughts to develop concentration).
As time went by, I focused mainly in the body; somehow I can still silence the mind at will, but if I do that then there is some thinking-pressure going on in my head. Thoughts were never a problem for me, never bearing any obvious amount of suffering (apart for very specific circumstances), so I never really paid much attention to that side of the thing; I'd just meditate, some thought maybe in the background, but who cares, concentration is good regardless.

BTW, trying to do it when I write, I realize that I'm kinda developing the skill... Funny enought, I had other things to write, but now my mind stopped thinking, totally forgot that. Cool.

Interesting question, though.

Bye!

Yeah, here's an important thing for me: hope I'm not gonna forget it while I write.BAsically, the absence of thoughts for me implies totally forgetting what I was thinking the moment before that; so,someone might tell me, "Bring that out", I'd say "Yeah", and the moment afterward I'd totally forget about that. Gary Weber describes something like that as well, when hetalks about his not-thinking state. [forgot it multiple times while writing; it's kinda debilitating, in a sense; I'm feeling like adeas about what to write are coming to me one after the other, I'd feel them physically in my head and then they are just gone. Cool. Still writing somehow.

Another thing:there is somewhere and EiS thred about turning thoughts on and off, saying that it's like there is somekind of graduated switch, and with training you can learn how to go from crazy thoughts-storm to no thoughts and anything in between at will... maybe someone remembers it?

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 10:54 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
I might know what you're referring to from my experience. It might seem like you could always choose to not have it. However, try choosing to not have it for, say, an entire uninterrupted hour, while you go about your regular day, and see how easily you can make that choice then...


Right! Well I can tell you straight off that I would have thoughts emoticon Not many maybe, but they would bubble up from time to time.. I should have been clearer: large parts of my day are free from discursive thought. When they do arise, i can choose to follow them or dismiss them

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 11:00 AM as a reply to M N.
Mario your experience sounds very different. There does not appear to be any suppression in my own experience but..
Another thing:there is somewhere and EiS thred about turning thoughts on and off, saying that it's like there is somekind of graduated switch, and with training you can learn how to go from crazy thoughts-storm to no thoughts and anything in between at will... maybe someone remembers it?

...sounds about right.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/26/13 4:47 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
There were a couple of group video hangs where we talked about this. Most everyone reported a decrease in discursive thoughts. Definitely true for me. And I can just point or incline in that direction for a while (similar I think to what the OP was saying), but it doesn't exactly last forever. The higher jhanas tend to shut it down for me quite a bit.

To me the big difference is that when I began, there was a binary thing where if I realized there was a thought, it would just stop, go away, hide, whatever. It was almost like I was either completely embedded in thought, OR present and aware. After a couple of paths the thoughts became an integrated part of the whole experience, not separate, and this binary feel was gone. Thoughts are more like billboards I am driving by.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/27/13 11:31 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Hello,

What you seem to be describing is bare attention, Ian has a post for this, called bare attention and its uses, I think.
When no thoughts arise (inner verbalisation) there is also no wanting or not wanting arising, or in other words no craving arising. To me this is
a wholesome awareness. It seems that when nonsense thoughts, thoughts of greed, and thoughts of hate are let go of
consistently, they eventually stop arising, leaving the mind in a pure awareness. This does not seem to be a form of thought suppression. Look back to Ian's post and see if this describes what you are experiencing/practicing. Do you use the
formula for Right Effort?

Peace

Bryan

P.S.

Okay found the link:

http://dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3814120

Also, wanted to add 2 more cents.
There does indeed seem to be 2 modes of consciousness here.

First Mode Discursive Thought Process, basically thoughts arising from whatever appears to the consciousness from the sense bases, and the following storytelling mind train of associated thoughts. " Example: When driving, a car pulls out in front of you or "takes" your parking spot, unpleasant sight sensation, negative feeling arises, thoughts arise " That so and so, hands tense on steering wheel, maybe this leads to an associated thought of a car accident you were involved in , in Mississippi, which reminds you of your trip to Pensacola, which associates with thought of Pepsi-Cola, and you pull into a gas station for a soda, all the while believing your "Self" made a choice to get a drink.....

Second Mode Bare Attention, or maybe Pure Awareness, or insert term here, anyway, "Example when driving a car, a car pulls out in front of you or "takes" your parking spot, unpleasant sight sensation, Mind is back to driving while driving.

Same as Chop wood, carry water.

And, It occurs that there is indeed at least another mode of awareness and thought consciousness, that is one of directed thinking or contemplation. And that does require inner thought and verbalization.

So maybe that is 3 cents worth...

Bryan

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
11/27/13 3:07 AM as a reply to Psi.
Yeah, it's in the jhana post. (make ctrl+F search for monkey, you'll find it)

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 9:15 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I thought I'd post this link as it seems on topic and others may be interested:
Gary Weber has a new blog post that links to an article that relates to the idea of 'no thoughts' as a practice goal.
He mentions that he took part in Jud Brewers fMRI study with the result that his baseline was calmer then when he 'tried' to meditate. Apparently this was a very unusual result. Perhaps an indication that he's on to something, or just an anomaly.

As far as my own experience, it sounds very similar to yours. Over the past six months I've been a little more aware of discursive thoughts, and I've gotten much better at not having them, or least very quickly dropping them and settling back into stillness. The flip side of this is that I'm becoming more aware of more subtle 'moods' which now feel extremely unpleasant. Compared to a few years ago, though, suffering is drastically decreased to a point I couldn't have imagined.


Brian.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 9:40 AM as a reply to Brian Eleven.
Psi I see what you are getting at. I re-read Ian's post and maybe that is part of my experience when walking, doing stuff etc but it's not the whole thing I think. Im also not certain I am paying "bare" attention to phenomena as I make no effort to focus just on the sound/sight/touch etc but allow the mind to identify things etc.

Brian your experience does sound very similar. Sounds also like you have a really good opportunity to work with mind states as in the 3rd foundation of mindfulness. If you do not have Analayo's book "Satipatthana, the direct path to realisation" then I think you'd find it very useful.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 9:53 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
BTG,
Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll try to track down a copy.

Brian

Edit:
For anyone interested I found a free pdf of this and other of his writings here.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 1:58 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
1. My current experience is one of easy mindfulness, free from discursive thought.
2. It's not that I don't have discursive thought, just that I can easily choose NOT to have it.
3. Does that make any kind of sense to anyone else?

4. What is your experience of mind free of discursive thoughts, and what did it signify for you?


1. czeck
2. czeck
3. czeck
4. This kind of ongoing stillness provides considerable clarity and order which makes quite explicit the discursive thoughts of others, past, present and future.

Be these Iddhi 0s or one of the 1234s.

@ Brian Eleven, et al;
Thanks for the free pdf of this and other of his writings here.

Sweet - Sweet - Sweet !!!

hi Bagpuss,
I feel/think obligated to apologize directly if I caused any offense by unmindful-ly referring to your Gnostic Gnomish -ness as in any sense troll-ical, clearly it is not. so, whups, my deepest disregards. will keep eyes on ground when running on, fr. now on and thx for the heads up/down.

Uhh, yeah, sort of does, so just off w/ his head-ly b4 reading thread and ponder-ize-ing it further, yup I do relate muchly.

(After mini pond-er-w-brief- splash-in, got to add, deepends what the discourse is about.)

To be completly honest / no, no long times w/o thought objects or compulsive ordering or executing during waking hours / and up and about, it is prohibitatively dangerous for us majical dragons.

Peeps gets: toasted 'em
BIG WHOOPS is not good:
- see new flim re: hobittsies for instance.

But, come de blessed Knight time; distant thunder of 'de oh so many voices do settle some...,
sometimes enough for sleepin' some, sometimes...

This dragon do try to average ( over, say, the mortal's 'year' ) 4 hrs min. / knight, but never knows what U gets...
sometimes gets nope, sometimes 2, 4, 6, 8, maybe on rarest of daze gets even 12zies!

: : : : : +=>=>=<0>

- triplethink???/nahtan

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 2:32 PM as a reply to triple think.
>>apologise

No need. No offence was taken whatsoever. I didn't respond or reply because my original post in that thread was a bit irrelevant once I thought about it some more and I didn't want to derail the conversation further...

Most of your response here is gibberish. Is there a point you wanted to make?

Brian, that link is GOLD! Thanks. I love reading Analayo and complained just the other week taht there seemd to be no central repository / hub for his works. I shall devour the english language texts on that page emoticon Thank you, thank you, thank you!

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/7/13 11:50 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
1. My current experience is one of easy mindfulness, free from discursive thought.
2. It's not that I don't have discursive thought, just that I can easily choose NOT to have it.
3. Does that make any kind of sense to anyone else?

4. What is your experience of mind free of discursive thoughts, and what did it signify for you?

Psi I see what you are getting at. I re-read Ian's post and maybe that is part of my experience when walking, doing stuff etc but it's not the whole thing I think. I'm also not certain I am paying "bare" attention to phenomena as I make no effort to focus just on the sound/sight/touch etc but allow the mind to identify things etc.

Hi Bagpuss,

Don't fall into the trap of looking for the complex in the simple. Take what you are given and endeavor to make sense of it. Begin by looking at the obvious prima facie ("on the surface of it") advantages (characteristics) of the experience and do your best to figure it out for yourself. If you don't figure it out, then who are you depending upon to do so for you?

What you are experiencing is the opportunity to "see things as they are" without the interference of discursive (prejudicial or biased) thoughts directing your view (perception) of what is. This is a blessing (if you understand what I mean). It's what you have spent countless hours attempting to accomplish. . . that is, to obtain a quiet mind that will obey your command to quieten when you command it so that you won't be distracted by phenomena that are not real and not in front of you.

The first time I experienced this quietness of mind, the experience hit me like a ton of bricks as I could not recall a time in recent experience when I had been able to quiet the mind down to such a degree. It was literally a relief as well as a bit of a surprise that I was able to experience this accomplishment. It happened in a dramatic flash: one moment there was discursive thought, and the next moment complete and utter (but wondrous) silence when I commanded the mind to be quiet! From that moment on, I knew I had reached a watershed moment in my practice. Now I had to figure out how to use that experience to my advantage.

Suddenly, it occurred to me what people meant by the instruction "you have to be able to quiet the mind down before you can get anywhere with gaining insight." A quiet mind allows the insight to arise. Now, understand that I'm talking about a quiet mind that is bright, malleable, and able to see with clarity – not an empty mind. You can have a quiet mind without it being empty or unfocused, and allow it to focus on physical or mental phenomena about which you are seeking clarity, without the mind getting in your way with its incessant "opinions" about what it is that you are seeing. So, in that sense, at least, you are practicing "bare attention" on an object of observation. Bare attention, in this sense, just means void of any biased or prejudicial thoughts about what it is that you have under observation. In other words, you aren't allowing those biased thoughts to invade your mind to influence how you view (or think) about the object that you are observing. You are just seeing the object just as it is without judging it for its worth. You're seeing it "as it truly is" in its pristine simplicity, without all the worldly jibber jabber getting in your way. See?

In peace,
Ian

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/8/13 4:48 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Hi Bagpuss. Long-long time no see.

Have you been practicing shamatha-jhana lately, consistently? How is your daily mindfulness in relation to the frames/foundations, especially the first (the body)?

It has occurred to me that at some point during the development of meditative concentration one comes upon a "stage" that I affectionately call "released mindfulness". It is a tipping point where mindfulness seems to mostly maintain itself—one is "released" from most of the effort of maintaining mindfulness of the foundations—especially, initially, the first (the body).

One thing that accompanies this "stage" is diminishing of discursive thought—regardless of the ability to volitionally suppress thinking.

Have you noticed any changes in your habitual breathing patterns? What about in meditation: Have you observed any relationship between the flow and obstruction of breathing and discursive thought activity vs. clear, bright alertness?

Have there been changes in the process of falling asleep and dreaming—and the relationship of that to the breathing pattern while falling asleep and/or holding of attention?

Just some food for thought, hehe.

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/10/13 12:55 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian:

Don't fall into the trap of looking for the complex in the simple. Take what you are given and endeavor to make sense of it. Begin by looking at the obvious prima facie ("on the surface of it") advantages (characteristics) of the experience and do your best to figure it out for yourself. If you don't figure it out, then who are you depending upon to do so for you?


Ah.. that's me all over emoticon Hi Ian. Thanks for the direction. When I look back at my history I see other examples of this kind of thing...

Ian:

What you are experiencing is the opportunity to "see things as they are" without the interference of discursive (prejudicial or biased) thoughts directing your view (perception) of what is. This is a blessing (if you understand what I mean). It's what you have spent countless hours attempting to accomplish. . . that is, to obtain a quiet mind that will obey your command to quieten when you command it so that you won't be distracted by phenomena that are not real and not in front of you.


It is indeed a gift. It seems that a critical point was reached at some point, but that I have had to work at it, or encourage it to really come to the fore.

Ian:

The first time I experienced this quietness of mind, the experience hit me like a ton of bricks as I could not recall a time in recent experience when I had been able to quiet the mind down to such a degree. It was literally a relief as well as a bit of a surprise that I was able to experience this accomplishment. It happened in a dramatic flash: one moment there was discursive thought, and the next moment complete and utter (but wondrous) silence when I commanded the mind to be quiet! From that moment on, I knew I had reached a watershed moment in my practice. Now I had to figure out how to use that experience to my advantage.


Exactly! Only my own experience has been more gradual. I don't recall any sudden change, but do remember experiencing this quiet the first time I crossed the A&P on retreat some years back.

Ian:

Suddenly, it occurred to me what people meant by the instruction "you have to be able to quiet the mind down before you can get anywhere with gaining insight." A quiet mind allows the insight to arise. Now, understand that I'm talking about a quiet mind that is bright, malleable, and able to see with clarity – not an empty mind. You can have a quiet mind without it being empty or unfocused, and allow it to focus on physical or mental phenomena about which you are seeking clarity, without the mind getting in your way with its incessant "opinions" about what it is that you are seeing. So, in that sense, at least, you are practicing "bare attention" on an object of observation. Bare attention, in this sense, just means void of any biased or prejudicial thoughts about what it is that you have under observation. In other words, you aren't allowing those biased thoughts to invade your mind to influence how you view (or think) about the object that you are observing. You are just seeing the object just as it is without judging it for its worth. You're seeing it "as it truly is" in its pristine simplicity, without all the worldly jibber jabber getting in your way. See?


Yes. I do! Either you're getting better at simplifying this stuff for me or Im getting smarter. Hehe emoticon

Thanks Ian. Much appreciated..

RE: Thoughts on the Absence of Thoughts?
Answer
12/10/13 2:12 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Hi Bagpuss. Long-long time no see.

Have you been practicing shamatha-jhana lately, consistently? How is your daily mindfulness in relation to the frames/foundations, especially the first (the body)?


Hi Stian!

I think I've only ever experienced something like samatha-jhana a few times. My jhanic experience tends to be a continuum of pleasurable sensation that rarely has any "steps" in it these days. It has not always been like this exactly and it changes from time to time but essentially it's a gradually refining experience that is totally linked with the vipassana stages.

Stian:

It has occurred to me that at some point during the development of meditative concentration one comes upon a "stage" that I affectionately call "released mindfulness". It is a tipping point where mindfulness seems to mostly maintain itself—one is "released" from most of the effort of maintaining mindfulness of the foundations—especially, initially, the first (the body).


Shinzen calls this the "figure ground reversal". Where once meditation was something you did in life, now life becomes something you do in meditation. This seems true for me, but it varies during the day and according to the activity.

Is this your current experience?


Stian:

Have you noticed any changes in your habitual breathing patterns? What about in meditation: Have you observed any relationship between the flow and obstruction of breathing and discursive thought activity vs. clear, bright alertness?


Not really. In meditation my breathing is mostly minimal. Barely breathing most of the time.

Stian:

Have there been changes in the process of falling asleep and dreaming—and the relationship of that to the breathing pattern while falling asleep and/or holding of attention?


Only in that I often, but not always experience a rush of pleasure through the body close to falling asleep. This happend some time back also but has just started again recently and it is very strong.