"Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between paths?

neko, modified 7 Years ago at 11/19/15 8:52 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/18/15 10:40 AM

"Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between paths?

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
I am not sure how much what I am going to write is going to make sense. It is a bit tricky to explain, but I will try.


What I mean by "backgroundness".

Daniel's "Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice"
was a pretty good map of my progress during my last path, through each whole cycle of insight, 1st nana to fruition. The higher steps of the hierarchy had a more or less precise correspondence with the traditional nanas, with
- Level (7) corresponding to the knowledges between A&P II and the Dark Night;
- Levels (8-9) corresponding roughly low and hi EQ
- Level 10 = Fruition.
I was even able to experience repeat fruitions which, with more detailed inspection, turned out to be either of the Dukkha or Anicca type. I may have got close to achieving Anatta fruitions, but never really managed to make it "click".

Within each single cycle of insight, the progression seemed to be mostly from foreground sensations to background sensations. During the lower nanas the more evident perceptual events that I noticed were the breath, physical sensations and sounds (foreground). Then the feelings and emotional components became more evident during the DN, with the interplay between thought, physical sensations and emotions (not as much foreground). Then, from low EQ and its formless realms aspect, I started noting the feelings of time, space, self, and how those flickered in and out of existence and all that (background). High EQ was marked by a synaesthetic synchronisation of those sensations (formations, incorporating both foreground and background), and then fruition.


What I mean by "rawness".

However, since my last cycle of insight, a different "mode" of perceiving / set of sensations has become available to my noting practice. I can either access the "old set" of perceptions described above, or something that I would describe as more raw sensations. What do I mean by this?

Although I dropped verbal labels during an "old" cycle of insight, for several reasons:
- I was noting too fast to have time to label each sensation
- in any case, from High EQ, after the senses synchronised and I was experiencing formations, I was noting synaesthetic "balls" of sensations for which labels would have been inappropriate (except for maybe "formation", "formation", "formation", "...")
However, up to at least the synaesthetic phase, each of the sensations noted had some kind of intelligibility, be it "elbow", "pain", "spatial location"... you name it. And, even with formations, those were made up of individually labellable sensations.

The sensations I am able to access at the moment, on the other hand, seem to be raw. By raw, I mean that it's like... I get this primordial events of perception which are like crude data before my brain interprets those events as "this physical perception of a body part" or "this specific sound coming from outside". They certainly cannot be labelled, because I cannot really understand what they are in the first place.

An appropriate metaphor would be: it's like, you try to open a file on your computer, and the OS needs to understand what kind of file it is (probably from the extension, or by looking at the first handful of bytes in the file); then call the appropriate application/process to open it; then open it... here:
- the "raw sensations" are the file,
- the OS/CPU is the "interpreting process" in the brain, and
- whatever is displayed on the monitor or comes out of the speaker, are the sensations I would be noting during one of my "old cycles".

Or, another metaphor: if you have watched The Matrix (who hasn't??), a bit like when Neo sees the ideograms that make up the Matrix' code:


Now the questions:

Does this make sense to anyone here? Is it familiar to anyone?

It is hard to work with that level of sensations and a bit confusing. It gives me kind of a headache and it is very disorienting. It feels that I would have to try and go from this:

to this:

or maybe "see" how the first image becomes the second. But it seems very hard to do. Does anybody have any advice on how to go about this?

Mahamudra seems to have a way to work with this, in which you have to see an object before the brain interpretes it as a specific object, but it is a bit different here. Any advice on how to work on this using Mahasi noting?

And, most of all: Is it useful, or do you think this is a "wrong turn"?
neko, modified 7 Years ago at 11/19/15 2:59 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/19/15 2:59 AM

RE: "Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between path

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Thank you Paweł!

Paweł K:

My only advice would be to watch this static, this background, loose yourself in it, trust it.

Do you mean that I should let go of "rigid Mahasi-style noting" and proceed a bit more "free form"?

Paweł K:

Whatever you see emerging from it do not let its form to be more important than background.
There is a catch though, it (the background) can emerge as an object. If it does then do not let it fool you and fall onto real background which is not an object.

I did make this mistake at one point, or something very close to it. While in the Nothingness aspect of Equanimity, I tended to "solidify Nothingness", making it an object of contemplation as opposed to breaking it down and seeing the 3C of it. Kind of switching back to samatha, but doing it unintentionally and... basically just wrong.

Paweł K:

This practice is kinda ridiculous and that is exactly the point. If you can do it then you will see exactly how mind create all steps of perception and able to reconstruct image from this noise to your likings and discover what is it that you actually desire the most (I write it with big grin on my face, lol)

That is encouraging, thanks.
neko, modified 7 Years ago at 1/7/16 9:23 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/7/16 9:23 AM

RE: "Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between path

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Wow Paweł, thanks for your feedback! I had missed this reply of yours, but it is extremely useful to me right now!

Paweł K:
I can however give hint that looking into actions of your body, thoughts and perception in general can be greatly beneficial. See if you actually do anything, from gross directly doing stuff to more subtle intentions and how mind can see how things happen. There is great release from suffering when realizing few things about agency and how agency is just after-the-fact interpretation.
Agency is something I am starting to have an intuition of. Occasionally, during moments of greater clarity, I will have the feeling of sitting back and seeing "the doing" happen on its own. But I have noticed it during daily activities for the most part, not paid attention to it during formal sitting. I will give this a shot, it seems to be good advice at the point I am at now.

Paweł K:
Other hint would be to try to experience various formations that appear that seem to contain experiences in them. For example when you see something how do you know its propeties, especially sensual like how it would feel if you touch it? there is formation for that with experience of objects you see. Sometimes some seemingly irritating sensations within mind can be actually such formations and contain detailed all-sense experiences about things brain try to figure out. It can make sensual experience much much better like eg. making flat images representing 3d world (eg. on computer screen) appear stereoscopic 3d, literally life-like with all qualities being actually experienced, even smell of places that are being seen, or eg. enable perception of music on other senses giving it depth, mass, taste, kinestetic, imagery, etc.

This 3d thing is also spot on. I have recently had a slight shift after an anatta-fruition in which the emotional "centre of gravity" or "point of view" has shifted outside of the body. With it has come this heightened sense of depth perception, particularly when I am walking outside, which is partly spontaneous, but also something that I can voluntarily tune into. I had not thought of this in terms of formations but it makes total, crystal-clear sense to me. Thanks a lot!
neko, modified 7 Years ago at 1/7/16 9:28 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/7/16 9:28 AM

RE: "Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between path

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Note to self (and to whomever might be interested): my perception of "rawness"-level events reminds me of the description of seeds in Dan Brown's Pointing Out the Great Way

neko, modified 7 Years ago at 4/19/16 6:47 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 4/19/16 6:47 AM

RE: "Rawness" vs. "backgroundness" of perceptions: differences between path

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Paweł K:

[...] or eg. enable perception of music on other senses giving it depth, mass, taste, kinestetic, imagery, etc.
This is uncanny. You actually predicted an experience of mine. I have learnt how to "translate" music into light and physical bliss by doing concentration practice on it. I had forgot this answer of yours, was rereading this thread this morning looking if there was something I had overlooked... and there it was emoticon 

If you are still reading this, kudos to you, Paweł emoticon