PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago.

PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
I'd like to see some opinions about whether these words are referring to the same thing, or if they're different. I'd also like to see some experiential or phenomenological descriptions from first hand experience about how these things manifest for you if they're a part of your practice.

I think they are pointing to the same thing. I've spent the last few weeks focusing very intently on the senses, and I've become increasingly stabilized in a state of awareness that could easily be called "non-dual". It's a bit like a veil is removed and everything is now sharing the same space. I've been calling it the "outer world" because it feels a bit like stepping out of thoughts and emotions into a very still and panoramic awareness. This awareness shares qualities with the fifth and sixth jhanas in that a halo feeling will sometimes appear around the back of the head. A sense of space is predominant. Obviously, making the distinction between and inner and outer mode of perception is a dualism, but I'm not interested in philosophy so much as what the experiences are.

In this mode of awareness, I get the sense that I'm inhabiting the world with no separation, and if I've spent some time going deeply into it (because it seems to manifest in levels) I feel a bit like I've gone blind if it fades away. After lots of practice, it's become almost effortless to switch between them, so I can see clearly how emotions manifest as tingling and tightness at different centers in the body - mostly the chest and stomach, with a pressure in the head and occasional tightness in the throat. The feelings attached to emotional thoughts disappear instantly in this mode of perception, so switching back and forth rapidly can give the emotions an illusory quality. Even when I am feeling them in the "inner world" they will lose all sense of urgency or seriousness. It's also made it possible to see how positive and negative emotions manifest the same way - usually tightness with vibrations - making the open and spacious feeling of the "outer world" very preferable, even though it could be described as emotionless.

The main way I access this "outer world" is by placing all of my awareness outside of my body - if that makes sense. I've been keeping watch for any emotion at all, positive or negative, and if I feel one I realize I've closed back in and turn the awareness outward again. One of the best ways of stabilizing this is to see how effortless I can become. I think this is directly related to the sense of agency, and if I watch closely I can see how this sense of control is what causes the "inner world" to form.

Let me know what you guys think about this. I'm very interested to see how this relates to what other people do. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong, too, haha. emoticon
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hello Not Tao,

Non-duality is quite the red herring when it comes to PCEs. You can easily have a non-dual experience which is affective - the outer world is filtered through 'being' and is thus made of the same stuff that the 'inner world' is, hence "no separation" between those, yet still you are not experiencing actuality.

Focusing on the senses is also a non-starter as once again, you can be experiencing very clear and sharp senses, yet if 'being' is still around, they are affective nonetheless. You cannot get to a PCE by focusing very intently on the senses. Or rather, it is very unlikely, and if it does happen the main reason is not that you were focusing on the senses, but because of something else.

I could easily see someone describing a PCE as the "outer world" because of how different it is from regular self-centered consciousness. Also the "stepping out of thoughts and emotions" description into something that is "very still" could ring true. However you mention that what is still is an "awareness". The stillness of the actual world is not the stillness of awareness, however. It's more that you are aware of the stillness - the actual world is what is still, and you are thus aware of it. If there is a "still awareness" then that would be a point against it being a PCE in my book.

That it shares qualities with jhanas is also perhaps a point against, since in my experience jhanas and PCEs are really, really different. Maybe extremely superficially one could say they share some qualities, but a jhana is so laden with affect, and a PCE so bereft of it, that one can hardly draw a meaningful comparison.

A sense of space being predominant... well one remarkable aspect of a PCE is how *there* everything is, how everything is actually there. And the world does have a certain depth to it that it doesn't when experienced via regular consciousness. So here is a point for.

As to making a distinction between the two modes of perception, of course there is a distinction. If there weren't they would be the same would they not?

I can relate to feeling "a bit like I've gone blind [when] it fades away". Mostly I wonder why on earth I can't experience pure intent when I am not experiencing it. It is as if the affect completely blocks the perception of it. Well not "as if", that's exactly what 'I' do.

About it becoming almost effortless to switch between them, that is a bit strange to me, especially switching from feeling emotions so strongly that they are noticed as physical symptoms in the body, right into a PCE. The PCE has to be allowed to happen and 'I' (as emotions) prevent that from happening. This is perhaps a point to indicate that you are still 'being' and just switching between different affect-based modes of perception.

Also the phrase "the feelings attached to emotional thoughts disappear instantly" is a bit peculiar. This probably comes from not having realized that 'I' am 'my' feelings and 'my' feelings are 'me', and that feelings come before thoughts. Well here's a question: do thoughts still appear about what they usually would be about with regular consciousness, except it is as if some 'charge' is gone from them? If so that is certainly not a PCE since those sorts of thoughts don't arise at all in a PCE.

That you mention that emotions manifest as "tightness with vibrations" definitely indicates you are on the wrong track, as the primary component of an emotion is the affective component, which is non-sensate. If you want to make any progress along these lines you will have to stop reducing emotions to physical sensations, as to do that is in effect to ignore and/or repress them.

About placing all of your awareness outside of your body - I can perhaps relate as for me it is much easier to experience pure intent in an open space, when I look at something far-off. That helps me find it, but when I do it transforms *everything* - including 'my' 'inner world' by making it more felicitous - it is not limited to just "out there". And I don't really "place my awareness" anywhere, as such. I do notice a tendency to not allow pure intent to go 'inside', so to speak, but in a PCE it is noticed everywhere, including all over the body.

As to agency causing the "inner world" to form, not quite. The 'inner world' forms automatically with the 'outer world' as a result of 'being', and 'being' does not form from a sense of agency, but rather a sense of agency forms from it, I would say. 'Being' is just what you are born with, it isn't a result of any mental habit or anything like that, and it does take effort to eliminate it, as many have found.

But above all, you didn't make any mention of pure intent whatsoever. Pure intent is the single most important thing about a PCE, and the best way to find yourself in one, I find. You also didn't indicate the experience tells you anything about actual existence. You didn't mention that as if for the first time, you experience actual objects and people and things as actually being there. There was nothing about the intrinsic benevolence of the universe. And your words don't really indicate that it was anything that amazing. The most glowing thing you wrote about it is that it is "very preferable, even though it could be described as emotionless". A PCE is an astounding experience that blows everything else out of the water. Whenever I get close or am experiencing one, truly I cannot get over how amazing it is. And though it is devoid of emotion that never even comes close to being a consideration against it, as what is there instead of emotions - pure intent, sheer enjoyment, and actuality - is far better.

What have you been using as your source to determine what a PCE is? Here are some descriptions of PCEs from others which might also help you.

Thanks for sharing, and I hope this was informative!

Cheers,
- Claudiu
John Wilde, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem :
Hello Not Tao,

Non-duality is quite the red herring when it comes to PCEs. You can easily have a non-dual experience which is affective - the outer world is filtered through 'being' and is thus made of the same stuff that the 'inner world' is, hence "no separation" between those, yet still you are not experiencing actuality.


I agree with this. To further elaborate on the differences, from my own experience...

- The PCE tends to be sudden onset. It's not a mode of perception that you work up to and stabilise in, and it doesn't manifest in levels... it's more like suddenly an invisible membrane is torn or a bubble is burst, and suddenly there everything is in all its immaculacy. You can't help but be amazed by the actually there-ness of everything. I don't mean this in a philosophical sense... it's more immediate than that... like finding yourself actually present in a vast arena that has been there all along. It's not a mode of perception... it's the actual arena in which your life and everything else has been taking place. One of the most striking first impressions for me is that it's stunningly three dimensional... whereas normal experience of 3D is almost, by contrast, like a 2D representation. (Hard to describe, but probably easy to recognise).

- Sometimes in nondual mode, inner phenomena settle down leaving just the outer world unperturbed. There was a single unbroken nondual experiential continuum in which all phenomena were arising, but now no inner phenomena are arising. A PCE is not like that at all. Rather, the whole zone in which 'inner' phenomemena used to occur has disappeared, evaporated (hence the impression of a membrane being rent or a bubble burst or popped).... leaving just the infinitely open physical arena in which you're standing. It's not just that there are no mental images and no feelings... the whole zone of existence in which those things used to arise is just gone.

- In nondual mode, things which formerly were assumed to be a subject become part of the field of 'objects', and thus duality collapses. A PCE is not like that at all. It's not pure experience happening by itself, with no centre, being experienced by no-one or nothing or space or disembodied awareness. All that stuff goes. The very possibility of it goes, and what's left is an actual universe of actual things and actual space being experienced in all its immediacy by an intelligent human being, and there's no mystery about it. (And it's not that one suddenly adopts a realist materialist philosophy ;-) )

- Stillness... like Claudiu said, it's not an inner stillness, not a cessation of inner agitation (feelings, thoughts, etc); it's the nature of the arena itself. There's no flow or stream of time.... time and space are the arena in which events occur and things move, but time and space aren't going anywhere.

- There's amazement at the intricacy and immaculacy of a universe that generates all this amazing stuff, including a conscious, intelligent me... and suddenly you're free to marvel at it... as if you've been crazy not to notice and delight in the splendour of all this, all along.

Could go on and on... but those are a few impressions of how a PCE seems (to me) different from what Not Tao describes.
Martin Potter, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 86 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi John,

Could you say any up-to-date tips that lead to PCEs for you? (or a link if I've missed it).

Cheers
Martin
John Wilde, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Martin Potter:
Hi John,

Could you say any up-to-date tips that lead to PCEs for you? (or a link if I've missed it).


Hi Martin. For me there's a bit of circularity in it, which unfortunately will probably make it less than helpful to you... but we'll see.

I had PCEs early in life, so I've always known in the back of my mind that our human drama -- all the crazy and stupid stuff going on within us and between us -- is being played out against a backdrop of something unimaginably excellent, if only we had eyes to see it. And it's been confirmed often enough to convince me that it's no dream. So... knowing that there's something beyond excellent here, something that's available to us all and is not of our making, something that's not even a hair's breadth away, makes it impossible to be truly cynical or world-weary deep down. And I think it's this certainty that makes the human drama -- me and all my crap, and the 'world' that I create thereby -- less opaque than it otherwise would be.  (Though still plenty opaque at times!)

I never try to induce a PCE (been there, done that, won't do it again); but sometimes contemplating a theme or catching a glimpse of something extraordinarily interesting will open a little chink in the veneer of everyday reality... and suddenly that which is beyond me has a chance to shine through unobscured. Eg., couple of weeks ago I was on the island of Capri, walking around on a beautiful sunny day, and the intensity of the colours and scents just blew me away. For a moment it felt like we were strolling through an impressionist painting come to life... and then all of a sudden, whoosh... no veil, no veneer, no 'me'... just immaculacy in all directions.

That's generally how it happens for me: either contemplation of a theme, or a particularly interesting or vivid sensory impression, causes a parting of the clouds (of psychic reality), and lets something else take its place... something that's already always there.

(And that's where any overlap between me and actualists/ actualism ends nowadays).
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Hey guys thanks for the detailed descriptions. emoticon I obviously left some thing out that you both felt were important, but I went through your posts carefully and didn't find anything that conflicted with what I've been calling "the outer world".

There are a few points that are interesting though. While it was definately amazing the first few times it happened, there isn't really any sense of excitement or amazement these days because I've been spending a great deal of time in this mind-frame. Careful attention to the senses, especially sight, does bring them on for me fairly easily if I spend and hour or so sitting. Generally I just try to see how my emotional state is coloring the sense object I'm paying attention to, and then I step out of that overlay. There may be another, more subtle, one that emergese after that, so it can be a process. This has been lessening over time though. Also, the experience has a way of deepening if I spend a few hours in it, and I've noticed there are a number of subtle emotional overlays that can still manifest and make it unstable - awe and wonder being one of them. Thinking also has a way of fading out completely because there is no emotional refence to fuel the thoughts. When this happens the mind becomes very stable and still, and the state usually lasts for the rest of the day - sleep will always reset it so far in my experience.

As for pure intent, I'm not sure exactly what that means, TBH. I've read a lot of Richard's correspondences and found a great deal of similarity to what I've already been practicing, so that's what made me interested in actualism. Perhaps you're referring to his "happy and harmless" phrase? I always thought that wasn't the best advice because the experience itself is in a different place from emotional thinking. You don't need to be happy to make the transition, you just need to be able to see clearly and accept the current emotion you're feeling. That way you can remove your attention from that overlay back into the sensory realm. Once you're in the outer world, whatever emotions you were feeling previously are simply released - any thoughts of being kind or harmless or content are redundant because it's impossible to be anything else.

Would you guys be willing to write a bit about what you think non-dual awareness is and how that compares to what you are calling the PCE? I've found a lot of similarities between my methods and Dzogchen, as well as Zen, so I'd be curious to see where you guys think these things diverge.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Not Tao:
[...] I went through your posts carefully [...] Would you guys be willing to write a bit about what you think non-dual awareness is and how that compares to what you are calling the PCE?

This is a strange question especially considering the first sentence I quoted... What do you think John's entire 5/30/14 9:30 PM post was doing if not describing non-dual awareness and how it compares to what he calls the PCE?
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Ah, I read your posts the night before and answered in the morning, so I forgot he had mentioned non-dual awareness. I don't understand the difference between the descriptions "a collapse of subject and object," and "suddenly being immersed it the actual world." Perhaps I've never had a DhO non-dual experience, it's something I can't really understand. From my experience, the "outer world" is defined by there being no separation, and I am suddenly within and part of a space, rather than seeing it through the eyes or hearing it through the ears. This is why I compare it to the fifth jhana - though if you've never done jhana with eyes open, that probably won't make sense.

Beoman, you talk about "being" in your first post. Is this absent for you in the PCE or non-dual awareness (or both)? And what are you referring to with the word "being"? I can't point to anything specific about my experience that I'd use that word for. The main reason I focus on the senses is because that's the realm I find myself in completely when emotions are no longer present. I try to take as many cues from the experience itself as possible when trying to form methods to re-create it during practice.

Perhaps you could talk some more about non-dual awareness? I've gotten most of my information about non-dual awareness from other places than here, so I don't know if there is a specific DhO definition that you don't really like. From what I've seen of a lot of mahayana meditation practices, they're referring to what I've called the outer world here.
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Hi Pawel,

That's a pretty interesting way to describe things. It actually seems pretty close to what I'm talking about. emoticon

As far as emotions hurting, when I started meditation it was definately to heal emotional problems. I don't see that as the driving force for me anymore, though, since I seem to have reached that goal. I am now a happy and normally functioning human being. emoticon The elimination of emotions is not an escape, but a transcendance. I've experienced a lot of bliss and peace with the jhanas over the last few months, and none of it even comes close to the perfection of the sensory world devoid of emotions. After knowing that world once, I suddenly understood how every moment of my life spent separated from it would be bitter by comparison. The driving force behind my practice is the knowledge that I am severly disabled and mentally ill - not that I need to escape. Every time I feel the least bit unkind or unhappy or fearful or inhibited, I understand the emergency that is living as a "normal" human being. That's no longer acceptable to me, since I've seen what this mind can do once it's no longer asleep.
wwyww, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 10 Join Date: 3/31/15 Recent Posts
I read an essay a few weeks ago by a monk (?) who was calling out transpersonal psychology, and theosophy before it, for making the mistake in assuming that there was only one non-dual state in all contemplative theories. The monk pointed out that just in Buddhism alone there are actually many usages of the term non-dual as it pertains to states of experience which mean different things to different ends. Buddhism also challenged other traditions over time in regards to their assertions of non-dual and whether such was coherent or not.
Eva M Nie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: PCE vs. Non-Dual Awareness

Posts: 831 Join Date: 3/23/14 Recent Posts
I think you are right, there is no concensus on what is nondual vs other states.  I suspect that for a lot of people, if they experience something very clean, clear and different and that seems like it is nondualism, they assume that it is nondualism.  HOw many have even experienced both?  I am pretty sure I have experiences one of them but I'm not sure which one..
-Eva

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