Message Boards Message Boards

Practices Inspired by Actualism

Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy

Toggle
So in this thread I want to explore techniques, practices and methods that bring about a state I shall call state X. I also want to discuss phenomenological labelling and accuracy or the lack thereof, with a tangent into Actualism.

I'll begin with my own experiences. A few years ago I was doing a variety of techniques; noting meditation of various sorts, Somatics, Alexander Technique, Open Focus, general exploration of the structure of experience. At the time I had read MCTB and was also reading this forum. At a certain point after doing certain techniques or after certain explorations my experience began changing.

I had a several weird and trippy experiences, some of them profound. Overall though my experiences seemed to be moving in a certain direction along a certain continuum. These experiences peaked in a state I call state X. I'll try and describe state X in a minute but bear with me for now. After experiencing this state I looked for other descriptions of it on the net. I found some that kind of fit but there also a lot of descriptions of a similar state, this similar state was called the PCE. Now I'd ignored actualists on the DHO until this point, I thought they were kind of weird and cultish. Yet the PCE seemed to describe what I experienced better than other phenomenological descriptions of other states.

So now I'm going to describe state X. It seems to exist along a continuum but I'm going to describe the apex version of it:

Everything is perfect (which is a horrible phenomenological description for reasons I'll get to in a minute)
 
There is no desire for anything to be other than it is (also horrible)
 
There is a total absence of the feelings of physical tension, weight or effort, in fact there are no 'internal' bodily sensations at all.

Perception seems to change such that there is no inside/outside divide. Before I'd experienced the world as kind of coming out from where it was and into me, and me going out into it. In state X, thoughts and sensations all just seemed to be there. (also horrible in a very subtle way)

So I admit that of the four most salient features of this state, I have problems with the description of three of them. I also haven't written 'no emotions' and it wouldn't occur to me to do so. Which brings up a problem when trying to identify the state as a PCE, the PCE's most salient feature being no emotions.

Now I'm going to try and sketch a broad phenomenology of the rest of the continuum.

When attention is narrowed there seems to also be tension. This is unpleasant. It also seems to create the physical sensation of effort and weight. As attention becomes more open, so tension, weight and effort disappear. Emotional distress seems to only be able to exist within the narrow attention organisation. The more toward state X I am on the continuum the less emotions bother me. Even unpleasant ones can be beautiful (as long as the effort and tension are not also there).

So conversation point 1: Which practices seem to align with the State X continuum.

I also want to address why I think three of the features I discussed are really hard to describe, which I think is part of a broader conversation about phenomenological accuracy.


The problem with stating something is perfect is that anybody can say this about any organisation of experience. I can be being burned alive and be in immense fear and still say 'well yeah things can't be other than they are and so this is perfect.' When I read some non-dual descriptions it seems that some very small number seem to maybe go into state x territory. Other non-dualists really seem to still be experiencing the full range of tensions and unpleasantness that I find undesirable.

There is no desire for anything to be other than  it is. This has the same problems as the above. If I was in state X and someone said 'well there's a better state.' I'd be totally nonplussed because I couldn't even imagine a better state, the only good response would be 'Well if it happens then that's great but there's no point in me working towards it because there is nothing wrong with being here.' As before though, one can state they have no desire for things to be different while still experiencing a state I would consider unpleasant.

Perception seems to change such that there is no inside/outside. I've read a lot of different texts where people describe this or something similar. 'In the seeing just the seen and so on.' Maybe I can make my experience fit but it always seems a little weird doing so. Like this is such a broad description I'm not sure what to do with it. Yet it was still a fairly noticeable and dramatic part of the state x experience.

This leaves me with absence of tension, effort and weight as the only things that seem to clearly denominate the experience I am describing. Feeling like there is no longer a body might be another.

I'm not sure if there's much conversation to be had around those points. It's just strange how, 'incomplete' a lot of descriptions of experience seem to be. There also seems to be a lack of people contrasting before and after but maybe I'm not looking in the right places.
 
Alexander

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/14/15 7:20 PM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
Alexander Entelechy :
So in this thread I want to explore techniques, practices and methods that bring about a state I shall call state X. I also want to discuss phenomenological labelling and accuracy or the lack thereof, with a tangent into Actualism. (...) So now I'm going to describe state X. It seems to exist along a continuum but I'm going to describe the apex version of it...)


Hi Alexander. I'm not sure of the significance of "Not a PCE" in your message title. (Does it mean that you know that state X is not a PCE? Or you're intentionally staying away from that term (initially) to avoid complications? Or something else entirely?)

If you're interested in how or whether state X compares with a PCE, the first thing that comes to mind for me is: the fact that it seems to exist along a continuum makes it very unlikely to be a PCE, because one of the hallmarks of a PCE in my experience is a marked discontinuity with other modes of experience.... and its distinguishing characteristic, in my experience, isn't a matter of degrees.

(...) Which brings up a problem when trying to identify the state as a PCE, the PCE's most salient feature being no emotions.

Hmmm.... I wouldn't actually say that's it's most salient feature, not by a long shot. While it's true that there aren't any emotions in a PCE, sometimes you'd only notice that in retrospect. It wouldn't seem like the most salient feature at the time, because the experience is full of vitality, immediacy and freshness. In fact, if someone describes their experience primarily in terms of "no emotions" -- or, worse, "emotionless" -- then I'd be very surprised if it has anything to do with a PCE. Those words connote a flatness, an affective constancy rather than the immediacy and vitality of what happens when the root cause of emotion has disappeared.

If you can say that there definitely is an emotion present, then it definitely isn't a PCE. But, the fact that "no emotions" doesn't seem to be the most salient feature of an experience doesn't mean that it isn't a PCE.

Hope that makes some sense to you!

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/14/15 8:14 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
Space
 
Hey John

I'm deliberately avoiding the label of a PCE to avoid complications. Also I'm pretty sure that state X does in fact exist within a continuum, so that might well preclude it from being a PCE anyway.

I'll try and describe the difference between state X and the state(s) immediately preceding it. This is my experience but my reading also offers alternatives to what I'm about to describe.

Very low to almost no tension can exist without being in state X. Vision can be more 3d, colours more alive and vibrant, without state X. There isn't energy so much as a total lack of tiredness or fatigue, still without state X.

I'm going to have to use an analogy here unfortunately. As good as the states preceding X are, there is still like a splinter somewhere causing some very mild discomfort. I mean it can be almost imperceptible at the time. Things feel really good, immediate and alive. Yet when the splinter goes, there is perfection. So in all the other states things aren't quiet perfect. Perfection being the most salient trait of State X with all the attendant descriptive problems I mentioned earlier.

Now I've also read and heard first hand, descriptions by other people of similar states. In these states there is the total lack of tension and bodily feeling but emotions still arise. Which is weird to me because my emotions always have a physical feeling that occurs with them. The people I've talked to about this state list many of the same features and even use the word perfection while describing their state.

In my experience the state I was feeling would be incompatible with anger, excitability, anxiety, fear, lust, I think.

Whether I (or anyone) could experience some of the traits of the state. Such as lack of inside/outside division, total lack of tension, effort, weight. While still experiencing say 'annoyance' is an open question I think.
 
On a personal level. I tried the Actualist method and couldn't get it to work. So if what I experienced was in fact a PCE I'd like an open debate about PCE's without Actualism. Which means looking at phenomenological descriptions of states that are similar. Lastly, to me the lack of tension/effort is the real deal breaker. I don't, for example, have any interest in MCTB type Arhatship because descriptions of that state still include effort and tension.

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/15/15 9:07 AM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
re: Alexander Entelechy (6/14/15 4:30 PM)

Perhaps the title of this thread intends to mean
"… and the accuracy of phenomenal descriptions";
or
"… the accuracy of descriptions of experiential phenomena"?

The term 'phenomenology' is used 5 times; 3 times in "phenomenological descriptions"; once in "sketch a broad phenomenology"; and once in "phenomenological accuracy". All appear to refer to description of experience. And the word "description" is used 11 times, including once as "a broad description",which appears to match that 2nd use of 'phenomenology'. The overall focus appears to be on descriptions and comparing them, in the direction of clarifying use of some terms (e.g. 'PCE', 'state X',...).

Statements like "Maybe I can make my experience fit but it always seems a little weird doing so. Like this is such a broad description I'm not sure what to do with it" appear to confirm a focus on using, comparing descriptions.

On the other hand, I can't find in the discussion what I would consider proper phenomenological analysis (investigating the 'logic' of nature of 'phenomena' or mental appearances, arisings) -- for instance, deeper reflection on the relationship between phenomena and the choosing of the particular words used to describe them; or what is intended by "emotion", "feeling", "bodily", etc; i.e. what specific aspects of perception (and/or aperception) are associated with each such concept. Or having to do with the "structure of experience" (which is mentioned once), beyond just comparative description.

Perhaps your usage of 'phenomenology' derives from the way it's used in psychology, where it generally means a rawer form of description of particulars in subjective experience, rather than translation into concepts or generalizations?

I raise this issue because, on seeing the title, I looked into it, half-expecting something more than a descriptive focus.

For some background on this topic, see the thread "What is phenomenology (as used here)", from back in August – October of last year:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5570015

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/15/15 8:41 PM as a reply to Alexander Entelechy.
Yes!  I know this state, experienced it a few times lately, and also would like to know.  I think I've experienced it or something similar a few times long ago as well, but it's been too long and I didn't take any notes way back then!  Your description is about as good as I could give, probably better, other than that I also find my mind/thoughts are much more efficient and more perceptive as well, like I have way more processing power or something.  A whole bunch of not useful chatter in my head is gone.  I never realized how much of that was there until it was gone!  Things that I would normally have to think hard about to figure out seem rather obvious and easy to see when in my version of this state.  And it's a bit like that feeling when you were young and you fell in love and were in that euphoric mood except there is more to it, a sharpness and immediacy of mind but also a relaxedness as well. 

I now know what you mean about there being states that lead up to it or seem to lead to it or seem to be closer to it, although although for me tehy are not quite totally it. Also, I can feel more like it by remembering how it was and thinking about it.  But when it hits there is kind of a jump or switch over that sets it apart from the leadup or similar feelings and so far, it has always happened without any specific intention for it.  Lately I have set a goal to try to cultivate the aspects of it that are closer to it, I feel like I am in my natural and correct state when I am in that state, it is a very simple and completely naturally correct feeling state.  

For your narrowness of concentation being a bit painful, I had noticed that in general in recent months, or more like if I am too type A personality hard driving thoughts, it makes my head hurt.  In the past, I could drive out anxiety with that kind of concentrated determination and it felt good and 'grounded', but if I try that now, it yields head pain and seems wrong somehow, so instead I have to do a more tricky thing which is more like chilling out/anti type A personality.  Hard to describe but seems like things have changed and what was good in the past is now not the right thing to do anymore from where I am at now.  I am actually not really good at the antitype A method either, at least not so far, I think I am missing something but just a hair or two that I need to sort out with that.  

Now for your state X, I have been thinking it is either PCE or nondualism.  What is the difference between those two?  I have read accounts from both sides that sound like the state X.  In the MCTB, it is said you can have the 'wisdom eye' open and close or open for a while and then fade with time, it's not always just over to nondualism and stay that way forever.  I have actually not read any specific info on if you HAVE to be at any particular stage to experience nondualism either.  But if it's not nondualism at all, it's rather amazing to think there is a state more amazing to yet be obtained!  But when I am in the state or near it,  it feels obvious to me that it is nondualism and I find it hard to understand why I even doubt it at other times.
-Eva

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/15/15 9:57 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
[quote=Eva M Nie , Alexander, John, Chris, and All
]
I have been pondering this for a while.  It could be that alot of us place alot of mystical meaning around Nirvana, holding it up as a concept, or perhaps something sacred, and as a permanent all or nothing state. And we do not call Nirvana, Nirvana.   But, Nirvana may just be a state where the Mind is Stilled, The fires of attraction and aversion are quenched, and maybe this is just temporary at times, and at first based upon conditions, then later when the mind ripens and is further inclined in the direction of Nirvana, the state may someday become unconditioned and roll along , all by itself, unbroken and continuous.  It seems the mind has the capacity to lengthen these moments of Peace, or Nirvana, and start to string them together into more and more of an unbroken continuum. 

Anyway , and better explained, this is an interesting article by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, that everyone may or may not relate to.  But, it seems a good and wholesome view of the situation at hand.

Excerpt, with full article link to follow, 

Any reactive emotion that arises ceases when its causes and conditions are finished. Although it may be a temporary quenching, merely a temporary coolness, it still means Nibbana, even if only temporarily. Thus, there's a temporary Nibbana for those who still can't avoid some defilements. This indeed is the temporary Nibbana that sustains the lives of beings who are still hanging onto defilement. Anyone can see that if the egoistic emotions exist night and day without any pause or rest, no life could endure it. If it didn't die, it would go crazy and then die in the end. You ought to consider carefully the fact that life can survive only because there are periods when the defilements don't roast it, which, in fact, outnumber the times when the defilements blaze.

http://www.suanmokkh.org/archive/arts/message/nibbevry.htm

Psi

P.S. I am not making any claims to attainment or anything, yet at the same time, if people are practicing correctly, then the results will happen, no one should be shocked or surprised at people experiencing Nirvana.  This is the result of the Path, nothing to be proud of or anything.  It would be like, if someone throws a barrel of water on a small campfire, and the campfire was extinguished.  Would someone be shocked and surprised and say, WOW! Look at that ! The water extinguished the fire.  No, that would not be the case. Everyone would look around and think, well, sure, water puts out fire, makes sense, no surprise there.

So too, perhaps should be the view of a correct Path of Practice.






RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/16/15 1:04 AM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
[quote=Eva M Nie , Alexander, John, Chris, and All
]

I have been pondering this for a while.  It could be that alot of us place alot of mystical meaning around Nirvana, holding it up as a concept, or perhaps something sacred, and as a permanent all or nothing state. And we do not call Nirvana, Nirvana.   But, Nirvana may just be a state where the Mind is Stilled, The fires of attraction and aversion are quenched, and maybe this is just temporary at times, and at first based upon conditions, then later when the mind ripens and is further inclined in the direction of Nirvana, the state may someday become unconditioned and roll along , all by itself, unbroken and continuous.  It seems the mind has the capacity to lengthen these moments of Peace, or Nirvana, and start to string them together into more and more of an unbroken continuum. 

-I can't say I know the answer to that but Daniel did say that he flickered in and out of nondualism while on retreat for a bit before it stuck full time.  I am mostly going by what he said that it can happen that way.  Could PCEs be like a coming attraction preview of nondualism?  In some traditions, nondualism is only partway down the the oxcart road anyway.  I have been trying to figure out the difference between PCEs and nondualism and have asked that here in the past with no answers as of yet that I've seen.  There tends to be a lot more of an emphasis on euphoria for PCEs but that could be because right after the load of baloney in your head is suddenly gone, the difference is especially noticeable and appreciated and a relief.  And yes, it does seem that once the baloney is gone, automatically the natural states is a pleasurable one.  Like the baloney was blocking it before and now that block is gone and that the baloney was sucking up a lot of processing power but now that power is free and unhindered, as if you suddenly got a bunch of adware off your hard drive and now it is finally working properly without all those popups between you and the screen.  Since I was never trained to think of Buddhism and nondualism as a religious experience, I never developed a lot of assumptions about it, so I may think of it differently than a lot of other people who were trained differently. 

Anyway , and better explained, this is an interesting article by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, that everyone may or may not relate to.  But, it seems a good and wholesome view of the situation at hand.

Excerpt, with full article link to follow, 

Any reactive emotion that arises ceases when its causes and conditions are finished. Although it may be a temporary quenching, merely a temporary coolness, it still means Nibbana, even if only temporarily. Thus, there's a temporary Nibbana for those who still can't avoid some defilements. This indeed is the temporary Nibbana that sustains the lives of beings who are still hanging onto defilement. Anyone can see that if the egoistic emotions exist night and day without any pause or rest, no life could endure it. If it didn't die, it would go crazy and then die in the end. You ought to consider carefully the fact that life can survive only because there are periods when the defilements don't roast it, which, in fact, outnumber the times when the defilements blaze.

-Looks like he is talking here about a general cooling down that is like a partial cooling if defilements are stil present but that at least helps keep from spiraling out of control. 

http://www.suanmokkh.org/archive/arts/message/nibbevry.htm

OK, reading this, I found this passage interesting:
However much the defilements
are exhausted, there's that much coolness, until there is perfect
coolness due to the defilements being finished completely. In short, to
the degree that the defilements are ended, there will be that much
coolness or Nibbana

Makes it sound like Nibbana is on a continuum, less defilements equals more nibbana.  Anyway, getting a taste of it, whatever it was, was certainly motivating!
-Eva






RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/16/15 2:54 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Hi Eva,

Great post!

Shinzen Young has a practice he calls "Noting Gone". The idea is to watch a sensation until it disappears and then note "Gone" at the very moment it disappears. Very powerful practice. When the "Gone" disappears, Nirvana arises for a brief moment before the next sensation begins.

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/16/15 3:19 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Checked the wiki for stream enterer and it says:
"They have had their first glimpse of the unconditioned element, Nirvana
or Nibbana (Pali), which they see as the third of the Four Noble Truths,
in the moment of the fruition of their path (magga-phala). Whereas the
stream entrant has seen Nirvana and, thus has verified confidence in it,
the Arahant (who is at the fourth and final stage of Spiritual Nobility
/ sainthood) can drink fully of its waters, so to speak, to use a
simile from the Kosambi Sutta (SN 12.68) - of a "well", encountered
along a desert road."

So assuming that is correct, you only need to be 1st path to experience Nirvana.  Full time nirvana would imply 4th path. 

Has anyone had a PCE type thing and then later got full time nondualism that can compare them?
-Eva

RE: Not a PCE and phenomenological accuracy
Answer
6/19/15 9:14 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Space
 
Hey Eva

I'll try and give my perspective on how the different states line up, although my perspective tends to be pretty critical. The first thing is that any description of experience that still includes tension or effort can't be state x. This actually precludes most of the MCTB type paths. From Daniels descriptions, it seems he still experiences tension and effort. The same goes for a lot of people that have attained similar paths. Although one of Daniels descriptions of the PCE mode was that it DIDN'T include tension or effort. So it would seem state X is more similar to PCE's than technical paths.

The issue at hand is that peoples descriptions of experiences are kind of sloppy. I'll take NotTao as an example here. A lot of what he writes 'seems' to line up more with how I've experienced the state X continuum than the experience of MCTB style paths. The problem being is that his descriptions of the actual feelings he was experiencing was lacking. Is NotTao on the state X continuum, a really weird version of the MCTB continuum or something else entirely? It's difficult to tell.

Non-dual descriptions tend to be the same way. There's a lot of emphasis on the cognition of experience but less emphasis on the feelings of the experience. To lay it out more clearly.

Person A could be experiencing tension, effort, anxiety and sadness but not believe it is a problem.

Person B cold be experiencing tension, effort, anxiety and sadness and believe it is a problem.

Person C could be experiencing none of these things and have no problems.

It's hard, in practice, to tell apart person A's reports from person B's reports unless we get specific about what they are feeling. From my perspective it seems there's a lot of non-dualists who are suffering but are using their beliefs in non-dualism as a kind of balm to stave off the worst of it. Or maybe I'm totally wrong and the experience of there being a problem IS suffering, if you're somehow fine with whatever occurs, then in some sense there is no suffering. For me personally, having experienced state x, I use that as my test. I listen to people who report states similar to X and find out what their methodologies are, the rest I discount.
 
On that note though. There's a guy, Nick Drengenberg, who does describe the lack of tension and effort in a way that seems very similar to non-dualism. What's interesting is that he isn't really part of the non-dual tradition. I'll link an article and you can see what you think. The article starts off a bit dry and technical but it does get interesting.

http://www.learningmethods.com/bearablelightness.htm
 
Alexander