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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

How to investigate no-self?

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How to investigate no-self? Florian 9/23/08 5:21 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Vincent Horn 9/23/08 7:33 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Wet Paint 9/23/08 11:27 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 9/23/08 1:53 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Jackson Wilshire 9/23/08 3:30 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Jackson Wilshire 9/23/08 3:39 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 9/24/08 9:31 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? tarin greco 9/24/08 11:52 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Hokai Sobol 9/24/08 1:19 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Martin Mai 9/24/08 9:06 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 9/25/08 8:15 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Martin Mai 9/25/08 9:04 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 9/27/08 4:42 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? beta wave 9/27/08 9:33 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Nathan I S 9/28/08 8:05 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 9/30/08 4:28 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 9/30/08 1:40 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? beta wave 9/30/08 2:32 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? beta wave 9/30/08 2:45 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/1/08 7:20 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 10/1/08 8:34 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/1/08 9:13 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? tarin greco 10/1/08 10:21 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Hokai Sobol 10/1/08 11:17 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/1/08 12:20 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/1/08 12:47 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/1/08 12:53 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/1/08 3:19 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/2/08 2:08 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/2/08 3:53 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/2/08 3:54 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/2/08 3:55 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/2/08 4:56 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/2/08 12:42 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Wet Paint 10/3/08 1:32 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Wet Paint 10/3/08 1:37 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Hokai Sobol 10/3/08 4:27 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/3/08 6:49 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? tarin greco 10/3/08 7:21 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/3/08 7:40 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 10/3/08 9:31 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Martin Mai 10/3/08 9:40 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? beta wave 10/3/08 10:02 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Hokai Sobol 10/3/08 10:19 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/3/08 10:56 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/3/08 12:18 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? beta wave 10/3/08 2:04 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/3/08 4:20 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? tarin greco 10/3/08 5:32 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 10/4/08 12:58 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 10/4/08 1:08 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/4/08 1:52 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/8/08 9:41 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Florian 10/10/08 5:02 PM
RE: How to investigate no-self? tarin greco 10/11/08 2:13 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/11/08 4:16 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Martin Mai 10/12/08 1:02 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/12/08 4:25 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? David Charles Greeson 10/15/08 4:24 AM
RE: How to investigate no-self? Chris Marti 10/16/08 10:01 AM
How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 5:21 AM
Forum: Practical Dharma

Dear Dharma Overground

Any good hints on investigating the no-self characteristic in meditation, specifically when noting?

In my practice I currently use the time-honored notes "not-me" "not-mine" and "not-myself" (actually not the last one, since the difference to "not-me" seems to subtle for noting). As a variation, I also often note these as questions: "me?" "mine?".

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 7:33 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hey Florian,

Good question. I've never tried noting "not-me" or the other notes you mentioned (very interesting) but one thing that really brought home the recognition of not-self for me had to do with noting mental images. Particularly those mental images that were of "me" (an image of myself, etc.). I would simply note them as "seeing, seeing" and notice their arising, their passing, and feelings of contraction, expansion, etc. related to the mental images. When I did this consistently, especially on retreat, the sense of no-self really began to pre-dominate.

Another way of doing this is with noting mental auditory phenomena. Notice what tone of voice thoughts are in. Are they in "your voice" or in another voice? Again, I often note these as "hearing, hearing".

If you try either of these approaches, I'd love to hear how they play out. emoticon

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 11:27 AM as a reply to Florian.
Author: Dan_K

Great points Vince. I have tried what you are advising, and it really breaks the immersion in 'my' thoughts, and they are seen as distant. What is strange is to the notice the difference between thinking mindfully and when thoughts slip in 'under the radar.' For me, the latter is accompanied by a sense of anxiety, and 'intimacy' which I tried to describe in a thread "Immersion and Intimacy" but pretty much failed to explain well. I end up feeling like a thought junkie, addicted to the false sense of observership, and there is a great forceful push toward identifying with a thought chain, with me cold turkey holding onto the 3 characteristics.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 1:53 PM as a reply to Florian.
Cool topic, Florian. What brings not me into focus best seems a lot like what Vince said: paying close attention to mental phenomena, sounds and the like, as they play out, arise, vanish, dance. Noting that these things are just what they are, only occur one at a time as they arise and pass, and that they are *only* what they are with no intervening/governing or observing entity.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 3:30 PM as a reply to Florian.
Great topic, Florian.

I haven't considered noting "not-me." I can see how that may be helpful when noting. Thanks for sharing.

This may be very basic, but I tend to notice no-self while noting how mind seems to be drawn to sensations and thoughts. I notice that the mind that is drawn to the sensation is much like the recognition of thoughts as they arise. But as sensations and thoughts pass, so does mind. Honestly, it sort of freaks me out when it happens, but in a good way.

In doing this, I believe I am coming to the recognition of no-self inductively -- at least that's how I have read Mahasi Sayadaw explain it in The Progress of Insight. By seeing how one process breaks down, I am able to see how others break down in the same way.

Does that make sense, or do I just sound like a novice blowing smoke?

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/23/08 3:39 PM as a reply to Florian.
Also, this totally reminds me of that scene in the movie I Heart Huckabees where they keep repeating aloud, "How am I not myself? How am I not myself?" Great film.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/24/08 9:31 AM as a reply to Florian.
Thanks for all the great advice. I'm busy trying out my new toys emoticon

I'll get back with results after some more meditation sessions.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/24/08 11:52 AM as a reply to Florian.
hey vince,

i really resonate with this, not images of 'me' in a concrete way but images that somehow seem like 'me'. it seems like my concentration needs to be strong enough for this to happen cos it doesn't often. when it does, it causes a big perspective shift and things get really open and clear and for lack of better word, transparent (empty?). then what seems to happen is these images stop happening altogether or happen rarely. then what's left seems to be the immediate physical stuff or more immediate (not sure how to explain what i mean) mental phenomena, and that's got a really no-self aspect to it. to me, it seems to be just as much a change in what arises as in the way it's seen.

anyone else here relate to this?

tarin

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/24/08 1:19 PM as a reply to Florian.
theprisoner: "it seems like my concentration needs to be strong enough for this to happen cos it doesn't often. when it does, it causes a big perspective shift and things get really open and clear and for lack of better word, transparent (empty?)."

I just wish to comment briefly how the word "empty" has caused a lot of trouble for many people in the West. You give several good alternatives here, like open and clear and transparent. Spacious and limpid and free also work, while sharp is another aspect that comes along. Although "shunya" (pali sunna) indeed means empty and zero, the connotation is quite different in original languages, as it is with Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese renderings and alternatives. The negative and almost nihilistic semantics of "empty" still haunts many meditators, especially when realizing not-self is defined as emptiness (as in the three doors of liberation).

As to your practical point on more immediate stuff and phenomena, that's how I would describe access concentration (in its major sense, certainly). What remains when "these images stop happening altogether or happen rarely" is that those processes that make up the activity of mindfully attending to bare sensation and/or bare awareness become more prominent, while the processual and almost automatic nature of gross awareness becomes apparent. Sounds right?

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/24/08 9:06 PM as a reply to Florian.
Ha, what you´ve discribed is quite (not exactly) what I wanted to post but didn´t have the right words to do so, theprisonergreco. It fits relatively well to what happened to me during the last week or so during the majority of my sits. The word that came to my mind was "tasteless" but I wasn´t happy with it. What´s sure is that it had some strong no-self touch to it. After the frequency and intensity of this increased to its maximum I´ve experienced an A&P (but am not 100% sure about it). Now the vibratory speed and precision is down, there is constantly something like selftalk, daydreaming, and a huge effort to maintain even weak concentration.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/25/08 8:15 AM as a reply to Florian.
Some results (after five meditation sessions, two of them walking, three sitting): Noting my "silent talk" as "hearing" has had some interesting effects so far (previously, I used "talking" for my "own" voice, "hearing" for other auditory sensations, both internal and external): an increased alertness for my own internal chattering, with less likelyhood of going along with it; and a few times, the impression of being perpendicular to the line of perception. Let's rephrase that: "I" was to the right, "the perceived" was to the left, and "perception" was going on between these, in plain view, so to speak.

The increased alertness may be due to renewed interest in seeing how the change plays out, and is very welcome at the moment, when even a simple skin itch becomes hugely distracting, something I used to be able to note in an instant and move on.

The perpendicular thing is totally new, however. It's short-lived. After the second occurence, when I realized I was trying to solidify this fascinating perspective, I started to note it as "seeing" - thoughts on this strategy?

As for images: I already label these as "seeing". I seldom imagine myself or parts of myself visually, but I tend to get into lengthy internal rants easily.

Thanks again, everybody, for the valuable advice!

Noting "not-me" or "me?", "not-mine" or "mine?": this is my naive way of applying some of the suttas to practice, such as the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta (SN 22.59).

Martin, the "tastelessness" or "blandness" of vibrations sounds interesting - in what way do you associate no-self with this "no-taste"? Also, congrats for crossing the A&P. Keep up the practice!

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/25/08 9:04 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian,
it is difficult for me to find the right words in discribing the connection between this tastelessness and no-self. It is what happens when you can percieve vibrations of the primary object fast enough so that things from the background can be percieved, interfering with these vibrations. Somehow like you were on the Titanic, watching the iceberg before and after the crash. You realize that there is more to it than what was above the surface. The taste refers to the notion of the watcher and tastelessness to this notion being interwoven with the vibratory perception of objects. Tastelessness wa the fist thing that came to my mind after this had happend although I´m not happy with this expression. This only happened when concentration was stron enough.
I found that there were certain blinking sensations that were associated with a self between sensations of the object and investigating these would cause the background to get into the field of perception. Reminded me of Daniel´s "360°-perception" he mentioned in the "Measuring the progress of the world"-threat. Basically everytime vibrations get very fast it gets a sense of no-self. Personally impermanence and No-self seem to predominate my practice.
I´d like to hear more about your "not-me,-mine"-notes, Florian. How exactly do you apply them? And which are the effects compared to other notes?
Love this conversation,
Martin
PS.: In the face of this more difficult phase I now understand why you told me to better save the congratulations until first path is reached emoticon

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/27/08 4:42 AM as a reply to Florian.
In paying very close attention to the generation of the sense of self I notice several things:

- there is a mental map being generated by the pointilist nature of sensation and attention
- the processes doing the sensing are doing the sensing from an assumed "place"
- the combination of these two things places an assumed "me" in the center of the universe, which is the center of the mental map

This series of processes is fascinating to watch in real time and doing so causes the unstated assumptions being made to deconstruct so that sensations start to float and the perception of centrality starts to disintegrate. I find that this is doable at any time, which makes me think of Vince's earlier comment that the emptiness of things becomes apparent at will.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/27/08 9:33 AM as a reply to Florian.
Great discussion!

Mostly I instinctually know that the basic premise of noting is that "anything noted can’t be self". As a result, I rarely investigate not-self, except in this one scenario where it really does seem powerful:

After going past a solid period of really active and strong noting, which then eventually begins to fizzle out and I start to fundamentally flounder -- not floundering because of laziness, but just some inability to feel like noting or meditation matters anymore -- I've been finding that searching for me/mine in a more active sense (that's how I feel, that's my mood, that's my visceral stance/position regarding what's happening) kind of gets me on track again. Not looking for not-me or not-mine, but rather actually looking for me and mine. Then I try to see those things from a more objective sense, essentially noting it.

Sometimes it can be very humbling. It's as you describe “being perpendicular”, I think. I see myself as my-familiar-self, note it as "just a sense of self, but not self", then I note the fact even that observation occurred. Which puts me in a very place-less place. But usually only for a few seconds, because usually my head is reeling a little and the investigation falters. I had one sitting where it kept it up for about fifteen minutes and it felt like a whole lot of “me” was washed away. Hard to describe otherwise. Humbling is the word that seems to apply the most.

If it doesn't go that deep, then at least noting seems to include more of the things that Florian and Vince pointed toward: "seeing myself" as images, hearing my thoughts as hearing, "being myself" as physical sensations, etc.

Hope this adds to the conversation!

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/28/08 8:05 AM as a reply to Florian.
The language you use sounds similar to something I experienced, albeit a little different. I was sitting and working on my concentration about a year ago during a day-long retreat, and my thoughts started to take an odd, not-quite visualized nature, but i kept returning to the breath. I was in access since the factors of piti and sukkha were absent. In any event one of the things transpiring in my awareness was so odd that in between watching the breath, realizing the weird thing was just an object as it was far too weird to have been "me", and coming back to breath as an object, it was like going full circle around something only to see that there was nothing there. It was a very rich experience, and I spent the rest of the day energized, but then found that i woke shortly after going to sleep and was pretty much freaking out, desperately looking for the breath. I'm not going to call it an A&P event since it was way boring compared to one or two other suspect A&P experiences I've had, and because this was well before I went through a kriya crack-up, but reading my description it sounds like it could be.

now, one thing where this differed is that I wasn't going for speed of perception via noting but rather was working on shamatha via anapanasati. but the language I'd have used, "full circle", "before and after" seems oddly similar

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/30/08 4:28 AM as a reply to Florian.
I'm wondering: is this - and my "perpendicular" experiences - some foreshadowing of "formations"? I'd love to hear expert opinions.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/30/08 1:40 PM as a reply to Florian.
I'm certainly no expert but I don't seem to percieve no-self in the way you guys are describing it - at least I think that's the case based on your language. Of course, language could be the problem. But anyway.... when I experience no-self it's more like the removing of a veil or a shadow. It becomes much clearer just how much the implementation of a self interferes with the mind's interpretation of perception. The artificiality of the implementation of an I/me/mine is revealed as being an invention of mind processes and completely conditional and without essence or permanence. The I/me/mine becomes much more trasnsparent, to use Hokai's word for emptiness.

Funny thing, too, it's also clear that we *need* to have an I/me/mine to live in the world. The bulk of the suffering and the beauty of the human condition appears to lie in this seeming contradiction. It's the combination the necessary appeariance of a self that is then recognized for exactly what it is by just observing how the self is being implemented.

That all sounds convoluted but that's the best I can do on short notice.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/30/08 2:32 PM as a reply to Florian.
I'm wondering the same thing Florian! emoticon

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
9/30/08 2:45 PM as a reply to Florian.
It seems like we're using different words, but it might be the same.

This experience is seeing the "ownership" of the experience as something being necessarily implemented, and observing the observing of that... which is what??? That's the odd feeling: "the observing of the observing of the moment", for lack of a better word. It is a very chunky and disconcerting experience. And I get thrown off this pattern of observing really easily.

If these are formations, it's a little frustrating to be off retreat and not being able to really intensify and extend the duration of the experience... For me it's about a once a week experience of getting "in there". And it really does throw me off fairly quickly.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 7:20 AM as a reply to Florian.
You can't "perceive no-self." Anything you "perceive" is not self. You can have an insight regarding this aspect of experience though...

I'll set up a dialectic to illustrate this - a kind of koan:

David Hume criticized those thinkers who claimed that there was no self, saying "They are like the man that leaves his study, goes outside to look through the window, and concludes that he is not home."
My counter: "Those who claim there is a self are like someone who leaves his study, goes outside to look through the window, and points to the desk and empty chair saying "See - there I am!""

Now does the self exist or not? How can the man investigate it when he can not see himself, and has no mirror?

There is only the field of experience.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 8:34 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Haquan

The practice I do is noting, labelling - but if I were doing koan practice, I suspect I'd be getting to the same spot (or a similar one) where I am now: a "situation" of three "positions" (or "roles", though that doesn't carry the spatial quality of the set-up), which I'll call here "perceived", "perceiver" and "watcher" (the latter aware of all three) I've come across this only a few times in the past few days, so it's not easy to put into words without sounding totally daft.

The practice I do, and the experience I had in meditation, are not about an intellectual comprehension whether a sense of self exists, but about the internals of perception, how this sense of self "works". At least, that's what I think I'm doing. emoticon

Do you have experience with koan practice? Any succinct no-self koans?

Fred von Allmen sometimes tells the story of Nasruddin going to the bank to withdraw money. Asked to identify himself, he pulls out a mirror: "Yep, it's me all right".

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 9:13 AM as a reply to Florian.
Haquan says, "You can't "perceive no-self." Anything you "perceive" is not self."

Sure, but you *can* perceive the processes that are employed by mind to create a sense that there is a permanent self at the center of perception. And you can perceive what those are and what they aren't, when they occur and when they don't and what they cause in turn and what they don't. So what I have assumed people here are talking about when they talk about perceiving no-self is the perception of those "selfing" processes -- as they truly are and when they truly occur. As Florian very eloquently said, this is not an intellectual understanding of our situation but rather a "felt" intuitive sense of it.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 10:21 AM as a reply to Florian.
that does sound right.

is this the way to go, with regard to enlightenment? or are these qualities of openness and immediacy (no image-forming) themselves also fleeting, and as such, not themselves the answer (or leading to the answer)?

i intuitively feel that these conditions are necessary but don't really know for certain..

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 11:17 AM as a reply to Florian.
Well, it's hard to anything for certain at that juncture, if that's what I think it is. But yes, these qualities ARE definitely the way forward, and they tend to have a twofold nature at first, one fleeting and one growing deeper. This second one is what leads to the answer. Specifically, some of that openness and immediacy is not an object, i.e. not a quality remembered or observed, but somehow the gestalt or context within which the process gradually becomes self-aware directly without division. As one moves further in refining this sort of awareness, one finds parts of the whole dynamic structure becoming witnessed which before where actually constituent of the very act of attention. First gross and then increasingly more subtle aspects of bare experience become obvious and yet not separate from what is essentially sheer cognizance or wakefulness. Hope this also sounds right.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 12:20 PM as a reply to Florian.
I like this quote from Hokai.

To Florian, No I have no formal experience with koans given that I've never had the opportunity to work with a Zen master, and feel I'd be a poor judge of whether or not I'd solved one. Much of my work, however, has been involved with transcending the rational intellect though and have worked with various methods of creating cognitive dissonance and sticking with them until insight was achieved. I've always appreciated koans for the interesting tools they are - a classic one related to this issue might be "Show me your original face before you were born."

To Cmarti, you said "So what I have assumed people here are talking about when they talk about perceiving no-self is the perception of those "selfing" processes -- as they truly are and when they truly occur."

Well - I had hoped that was what they meant, though it was not precisely what was said - no-self can be inferred, but even the inference process is a set of sensations - the process becomes progressively more subtle as Hokai expounded above.

I'm primarily here to learn, and I have found that by sharing what limited insight I have, sometimes such insight can be furthered. The "koan-like" nature of what I presented is limited by my own degree of insight (I seem to be engaged in understanding more fully the nature of the processes that direct the focus and scope of the attentional field itself). I perceive that beyond the simple identification of sensations and processes, there is a sort of paradox at the heart of this that I'm having trouble wrapping my linguistic head around (that is, I'm having trouble putting it into words).

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 12:47 PM as a reply to Florian.
Hokai -- "First gross and then increasingly more subtle aspects of bare experience become obvious and yet not separate from what is essentially sheer cognizance or wakefulness. Hope this also sounds right."

That sounds very right to me.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 12:53 PM as a reply to Florian.
Sorry to post again but I have to add that making this (what Hokai just addressed) sound like an expanding field of awareness is, in my humble opinion, the right way to describe "it." More of what is experienced becomes obvious for what it is. It's kind of like what you hear when the Zen folks say "Big Mind," by which I take them to mean this same expanded perception. More of what you experience is in your filed of conscious observation, overtly witnessed, part of actionable reality.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/1/08 3:19 PM as a reply to Florian.
Initially when I read this I had the urge to self-deprecatingly comment how I had been misguided in my captivation with Hokai's reference to Gestalt rather than this notion of "sheer cognizance and wakefulness" and then to ask the "dumb question" of whether this "wakefulness" was a sensation. (Is is sort of how you feel when after you've had a couple of shots of espresso? Or 200 mg of modafinil? The subtle kinesthetic sensations of increased histaminergic and noradrenergic tone, and increased activity of the reticular activating system? - And what exactly is aware of this "sheer cognizance"? I only include the questions as illustrative of possible misunderstandings.)

The key phrase is, of course, "and yet not separate" in Hokai's rather eloquent description - this is all hard stuff to put into words, so I should cut y'all some slack. In terms of the "expanding field of awareness" that Cmarti refers to, I don't think this is at all unrelated, but I'm not sure I'd identify it as "it." Are you guys familiar with Les Fehmi's "Open Focus" work? One of the pioneers of Neurofeedback, who has worked with Zen masters and so forth - This sounds a little like his stuff - you can have a "narrow focus" limited to just the sensations of your nose, or expand it to include the whole body, all senses, the sense of time passing, etc.

Heres the thing - the flip side of no experienced phenomenon being self, is that all phenomenon experienced are equally self, without any being particularly privileged in that regard. This is why I found the notion of Gestalt captivating - because it implies an intuitive grasp of how the elements of experienced phenomenon relate to the whole field of experience - the implicit relationships between. This is Void. "The utility of a clay pot is a function of the Void inside it."

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/2/08 2:08 AM as a reply to Florian.
Haquan, words are inadequate to describe most of what we experience. But then words are all we've got until we can record our unique individual experience and play it back to each other. You seem to come into our discussion from an analytical angle, which is interesting. I have to say that analyzing experience on and off the cushion in endlessly entertaining. I do it a lot. But my analysis has to be informed by experience which, as I said, cannot adequately be put into words, leading to inevitable confusion when I talk to others. Yet those who have certain experiences tend to recognize those experiences in the descriptions of others. It's not exact or perfect, of course, but I'll float that idea out there for further analysis. For example, there is a definite "rings true" element for me when I read most of what Hokai posts here. That experience is undeniable.

Also, it's true that what we experience is not self, but that's not always obvious as we live through our experiences. There is an intellectual understanding of that which is important and real. Then,too, there is the expanding of perception/awareness to include all or most of immediate experience that is quite different and far more intuitive. That is a "felt" thing, not something that needs to be called up by the analytical mind. It takes some time to develop that second "view," and that's why I practice.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
Answer
10/2/08 3:53 AM as a reply to Florian.
Cmarti, I realize I have an analytical style, and that the fundamental goal of practice is to achieve an intuitive, rather than intellectual insight. I also don't intend to be either critical or obfuscate the material presented here, or make it more difficult to communicate. I might point out the term "Vibhajjavada which is an umbrella classification for Buddhist denominations that promote analysis as a primary tool for developing 'insight' (Sanskrit: prajña). " (Wikipedia)The Theravadic school is classified Vibhajjavadic and considers it orthodoxy.

I also am aware that I'm the FNG, and I'm probably irritating the heck out of you guys. By all means, challenge me - that's what I'm here for.


On the other hand, I have generally found that it is more helpful in terms of achieving insight to focus on the perplexing, confusing, and paradoxical aspects of material, and to stay with it. It's rather the opposite of the appropriate strategy in most life situations, which is to focus on the solution rather than the problem, in the case of contemplation it's generally best to stare at the problem until the Gordian knot is spontaneously sliced through. Even noting practices involve a subtly increasing cognitive dissonance that leads to insight, for reasons I'll expound upon below. Milton Erickson once said "Until you are willing to be confused by what you already know, what you know will never become bigger, better, or more useful." So I don't want to settle on an "answer," as beautiful and resonant as Hokai's description is.

RE: How to investigate no-self?
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10/2/08 3:54 AM as a reply to Florian.
The paradoxical part of there being no actual self I can point a finger at, for me, is that there is also a certain sense in which this field of experience is "personal" - an intuitive sense in which solipsism can't seriously be considered. There is no doubt there are other beings in the world and that these memories, for instance, relate to what might be labeled "David "and no one else. Yet there's no "David" I can shake stick at! Maybe someone else can help me understand that.

Incidentally I read in the FAQ that we should not speculate on half understood concepts so I did some rather intense investigating of the processes regulating the scope and content of the field of attention and found that they are related to perceptions that arise in the field of experience that the field changes in response to - rather like thoughts in some ways - this happens on a level where intention and perception are fairly contiguous.

Nothing you or Hokai has said was "wrong" and it's more than fine to communicate this way with someone that you know shares similar experiences, but if not, there are lots of ways it can be misunderstood. I'm going to speak from my own experience here, and I should mention that the intent is not to speak authoritatively though I know I come across this way at times. I don't make any claims to a particular attainment, but I can say that the structure of my consciousness is different from the way most people experience it, and seems to roughly correspond to what you guys are aiming at.

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10/2/08 3:55 AM as a reply to Florian.
One point I think needs to be underscored, which is not brought out by Hokai's description is that not only is an a more wide open attentional field (and I would add, more flexible attentional field) part of the result desired, but also that experience is relatively unmediated by symbols and linguistic constructs. The "selfing processes" that you refer to are sensations that are created such that the linguistic structures we habitually translate our experience into (and implicitly involve a subject object duality in their grammatical structure) have a referent for the subject (of a sentence). Once this translating can be bypassed (the world stopped) and things can be directly experienced in terms of formation structures, the need for an identified "self" disappears. Noting practices involve becoming increasingly aware of more and more subtle aspects of the field of experience to the point where language becomes less than adequate to describe the sensations, and one ends up chasing their own tail linguistically speaking, and the cognitive dissonance of trying to name what can't be named produces insight, where one sees through the process. Similarly Zazen produces a situation where one is given an impossible task - Not thinking. One first silences the internal monologue, then become aware of more subtle aspects of cognition, one silences those, until a crisis of consiousness is produced and BANG! Insight. This process lays bare formations, which one must become "fluent in" in my view, before one can abandon the use of "selfing."

Probably Florian is begining to get a taste of these with his hints of "space" between the sensations of percieved, perciever, and watcher.
David

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10/2/08 4:56 AM as a reply to Florian.
Haquan, I think now, after your last series of comments, we're saying the same thing but using different approaches and different language. Nor did I mean to make you feel unwelcome or unappreciated. The analytical approach tends to be my native approach, too. I've noticed in my own practice that intellectual understanding generally precedes insight. They're both important. Please keep saying what you want to say in the way you want to say it.

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10/2/08 12:42 PM as a reply to Florian.
Cmarti, thank you. I'm absolutely certain that we are saying the same thing, but wanted to milk y'alls thoughts for insight. I don't feel unappreciated or unwelcome, and am grateful for the opportunity to have these fascinating discussions with you people. I have a few more comments I could share, but feel I should give someone else the chance to talk, given how long-winded I can be.

I think it might be interesting to hear about Florian's 'set up' if he's willing to risk "sounding daft."
D

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10/3/08 1:32 AM as a reply to Florian.
Author: AlanChapman

This is a great topic! Here’s my take on it:

Nothing that is experienced is self, and so every single sensation that arises is regarded as such. Now invariably sensations will arise that are self, and the practice of recognising these sensations as not-self is applied. This has the curious progressive effect of ‘unsticking’ those sensations previously considered self, but instead of finding nothing, you find more sensations, somehow buried deeper and usually not in the field of awareness, that are still identified with and considered self. Should the practice persist, yet more new sensations will become included in the field of awareness that were once hidden (and this can be a very strange experience indeed and may even be considered ‘not-self’ itself), and eventually this ‘pushing back’ (which engages the stages of insight) leads to the one thing that is not not-self, which is emptiness.

Of course, all three characteristics are also perceived during the practice, but I didn’t want to confuse the issue.

I would hesitate to consider any sensation outside of fruition to be ‘not-self’. Rather, this seems to be identifying a self made out of sensations of ‘selflessness’ or ‘there is nothing behind the ‘I’’, if you see what I mean.

What is the classic Theravada take on this Hokai?

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10/3/08 1:37 AM as a reply to Florian.
Author: AlanChapman

Oh, and to answer Florian's initial question then, I would say that it doesn't really matter too much what words are used, and I would even make the case that so long as the correct attitude of observing sensations is maintained the process will occur regardless of the concept of 'no-self', as more and more sensations become included in the field of awareness until formations arise and...bingo!

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10/3/08 4:27 AM as a reply to Florian.
Alan: "What is the classic Theravada take on this Hokai?"

There are actually two classic Theravada takes on this: first, the scholarly perspective of Abhidhamma (especially Buddhaghosa) which divides phenomena in conditioned and unconditioned, and then classifies them into five aggregates or eighteen dhatus (object+sense+awareness times six) to disprove the notion of a unitary experiential subject as a fundamental truth (some would go to the extreme of disproving its relative truth) but then treats these basically as the real stuff.

And then there's the yogic, forest tradition - more profound and more directly descriptive in my opinion, including a recognition of mind's inherent luminosity - but I'd love to hear what someone more informed would offer on this perspective. (My knowledge of Theravada is limited to readings of Pali canon and later commentarial stuff.)

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10/3/08 6:49 AM as a reply to Florian.
I want be a little more careful about the description of formations - they "arise" in the sense that one becomes aware of them as such as one becomes more aware of increasingly subtle aspects of experience, but in another sense they were always already present as the "atomic structure" of ideation (to be metaphorical). In my view, you can experience them without being aware of them as such, or grasping their nature. Initially, they are present as types of sensations - but we tend to filter out most of the composite sense modalities and emphasize or recognize just one element of that portion of our experience (the texture, shape, color, tone, or whatever instead of noticing the blending and apprehending the meaning directly). We also, at first, do not experience them in an unmediated fashion - we name them, explain them, describe them, etc. Some here may disagree, but in a certain sense I think a verbal noting practice could actually be a barrier in some respects to beginning to really apprehend them - they are prelinguistic structures after all. What seemed to work for me, was a kind of "gazing at" them (rather like being absorbed in a beautiful painting) and noticing elements of them (without naming) until it became clear that I already "knew" what they "meant" on an intuitive level without referencing anything else but the experience of them. That's the beginning of becoming "fluent." (One can actually "note" with them at a certain level of fluency - and much more quickly than one can verbally - but I think part of the point of the speed with verbal noting is the increased cognitive dissonance created). David

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10/3/08 7:21 AM as a reply to Florian.
my natural inclination is to just watch sense impressions come and go without doing anything about it (including naming). but i think part of the point of verbal noting is seeing how those linguistic structures, where they happen, are part of formations too. purposely involving things like thought and effort and intention that are ordinarily assumed as 'i' helps me to not habitually ignore or resist those things.

i have mixed feelings about this as i never quite reach the same level of clarity when i note or think much.. but am still open to trying both tacks..

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10/3/08 7:40 AM as a reply to Florian.
Count me in on having a preference for what is now being called "gazing." I think noting practice - using words - is great when you're very new to practice but I've not had deeper insights while using it. Those have always come at the pre-ideation and naming level. I dropped noting while sitting quite some time ago in preference for observing the pointilist flow (gazing).

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10/3/08 9:31 AM as a reply to Florian.
Noting vs. gazing: In my experience, there are times when "gazing" simply doesn't work for me: when exploring new territory, such as a new stage of insight. Currently, I'm dropping the noting, but for the past month noting was the only thing that would keep me on track.

I'll post about my recent meditation experiences in another post.

Cheers,
Florian

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10/3/08 9:40 AM as a reply to Florian.
Can´t wait to read about your experience, Florian. Noting was the only thing I did in the first 6 months or so but quit it quite some time now. I found that it is mostly a question of concentration wether noting is helpful or not. I now do samatha to the point that I feel is sufficient to switch to vipassana and this works quite well. Concentration itself is also great to investigate no-self.

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10/3/08 10:02 AM as a reply to Florian.
Wow, interesting. Pretty much same thing here.

Noting gets me on the track and I call upon it to get back on track, but intuition tells me that a combination of gazing and participating in what is actually occuring gets me closer.

But in practice, its actually a moment by moment and messy thing for me. I suspect that there isn't any alternative to just spending more time getting buffetted here and there.

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10/3/08 10:19 AM as a reply to Florian.
"Gazing" seems a rather unfortunate expression, or quotation marks wouldn't be necessary. There are indeed practices where gazing is used, with and/or without a specific object. If simple "attending" isn't enough to describe observation without noting, I propose we use "noticing" to go along "noting". Just a thought.

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10/3/08 10:56 AM as a reply to Florian.
I agree, "gazing" is too visual a metaphor and like both "attending" or "noticing" better. The one thing that gazing had going for it that isn't communicated by these terms is the sense of absorption in the subject of observation it conveys.

The original definition put forth by Heinlein in "Stranger in a Strange Land" of "grok" comes fairly close, and if it didn't have all the hippy baggage/connotations I might like that (but that baggage really does ruin it for me).
D

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10/3/08 12:18 PM as a reply to Florian.
I'm happy using noticing as opposed to gazing or noting. Nice to see we're discussing terminology and adopting it together.

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10/3/08 2:04 PM as a reply to Florian.
The practical challenge of choosing a word seems to be relevant because most words hint at particular side of the subject-object spectrum. I'm not sure if this is unintentional or part of the teaching...

Sheesh. I had a longer post typed in, but I guess it really just comes down the nuance of how words imply a particular style of observer.

Attending conveys both awareness and participation, both subject and object, like "attending a football game". As in both "attending with" and "attending to"? Hokai did you intend this?

Gazing seem very objective to me -- maybe because it's usually use in the form "gazing at" -- but Haguan it seems like you use it as including a sense of absorbtion, implying a subjective effect.

Grok seems a bit intellectual, because it isn't just what is occuring but also implies an secondhand interpretation and knowing... implying an active role for an observer.

Noticing implies a noticer doing the noticing, whereas noting implies a greater focus on what's noted. (to me anyway)

More and more I think I'm of the spectulative/deluded temperment because these thoughts can trip me up so easily during meditation! I've never felt comfortable with what I'm doing in part because the emphasis on either subjectivity or objectivity seems appropriate at different times and even moment to moment. Here ends the confessional emoticon

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10/3/08 4:20 PM as a reply to Florian.
Well - we could create a neologism... It's times like these when I wish I spoke Hopi...
How about "apprehending"? It implies a prehensile grasp of the object perceived, and therefore an engagement of subject and object. From the online dictionary:
"apprehend
1. To take into custody; arrest: apprehended the murderer.
2. To grasp mentally; understand: a candidate who apprehends the significance of geopolitical issues.
3. To become conscious of, as through the emotions or senses; perceive.
v.intr.
To understand something.
[Middle English apprehenden, from Old French apprehender, from Latin apprehendere, to seize : ad-, ad- + prehendere, to grasp; see ghend- in Indo-European roots.]
appre·hender n.
Synonyms: apprehend, comprehend, understand, grasp
These verbs denote perception of the nature and significance of something. Apprehend denotes both mental and intuitive awareness: "Intelligence is quickness to apprehend" Alfred North Whitehead." D

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10/3/08 5:32 PM as a reply to Florian.
re 'noting' / 'noticing'

funny thing is, mahasi specifically advised that mental naming *not* be used in noting practice. on page 4 of my BPS copy of 'practical insight meditation', he writes, 'never verbally repeat the words rising, falling, and do not think of rising and falling as words. be aware only of the actual rising and falling movement of the abdomen'.

it's u pandita that recommended people mentally say the words to themselves in noting.

--

on another note, something else that i do sometimes (that a former teacher taught me to) is 'hit' things in my mind in a way that is very much like noting practice, except instead of using words or even quick, monosyllabic sounds like daniel suggests, the object is attended to with an impulse of mental effort. i've had good results come very quickly that way.

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10/4/08 12:58 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Martin,
My concern currently is more about the opposite direction: the tendency to solidify the "good vibes" into some samatha state. I find that in my current practice, a few well-placed, inquisitive mental notes now and then (I use "really?" and "is that so?") tend to keep me investigating more reliably than easy-going "noticing" of (predominantly pleasant) sensations does.

Cheers,
Florian

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10/4/08 1:08 AM as a reply to Florian.
@David & Marin: Here are my daft-sounding descriptions of the evolution of my formations-like "perpendicular set-up". Note that meditation is currently mainly simply good, nice, wide, inclusive, cool, and pleasant almost all of the time, and so my investigation is mainly into these qualities. Since they are not spectacular to write about, here are the few, short, and far-in-between "interesting" ones which occurred in the past few days:

An impression like clouds passing overhead, or moving through a maze of shrubs: the good, concentrated awareness blurs for a moment, accompanied by a feeling of "exclusion" - this one is recurring in most meditations.

Watching clear "visions" of objects dissolve into the random background of eyelid colors (also a recurring one). There is often a little wrenching sensation halfway through this process.

Breath sensation in abdomen "merging" with a visual-like impression of something bulging and spiky with ridges and the audible "ear noise" - these three sensations don't separate for quite a few moments.

The vibrations of the breath sensations "moving out" and bouncing back and forth rapidly between the breath sensation and another sensation with an external source, usually a sound. This one is most like the "perpendicular set-up" I described a few days back.

A build-up of "bias of significance or affinity" to the right-hand side of my awareness. Related, a "bubble membrane" growing into the left-hand side of my awareness, sectioning it off somehow.

The edge of my visual awareness gently lighting up - this one is distinctly different from the "headlights" and "bright visual field" and "dark eclipse of bright background" ones I experienced in previous weeks.

Hope that was entertaining,

Cheers,
Florian

RE: How to investigate no-self?
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10/4/08 1:52 AM as a reply to Florian.
Most of these seem like the usual sensory artifacts of meditation practice - the mind generating material in the relative sensory deprivation environment of the asana, except for these two above. These could be the beginning perceptions of formations. Notice in the description is a merging of sense modalities (particularly in 1) and actual "significance" or meaning. The next step, I would say, would be to begin to "play" with these - notice that you don't have to name them or verbalize anything to know what they mean. Notice how they respond and evolve to your perception of them, notice that you can "extend" them.

By the way - a quick note on noting vs. "apprehending" or "noticing" or whatever we decide to call it - it's not a necessarily case of either/or - one could note for a while and then when a phenomenon occurs that one wants to examine more closely, switch modalities, and then if one realizes one is wandering off switch back.

The noting by "hitting" is probably close to, if not identical to what I meant when I mentioned "noting with formations" - here's a case of direct intentionality/perception encoded in a primarily kinesthetic sense modality - it would be interesting to notice whether the "hitting" impulses contain any other sense modalities submerged in the sensation - if so it's the beginning of formation fluency. David
'

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10/8/08 9:41 AM as a reply to Florian.
Awake, thread!

Next time you sit, maybe you can try this experiment: once you settle in and get concentrated see if you can perceive watching/observing at exactly the same time that you perceive an object. Watch the minute steps that occur and in what order when you do that. CAN you do that? What happens when you try?

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10/10/08 5:02 PM as a reply to Florian.
Chris,

I tried your experiment for the past few days, but somehow got sidetracked into chasing around within the space, the distance, or axis between the "watching place"and the "perceiving place".

I think I'm back on track now, however, since this morning I finally got it that the "watching place" was just the "place where I hear", the location I associate with hearing, and thinking in words (and noting!), somewhere in the back center of the head, right behind the "seeing place".

With this confusion out of the way, I think I'll be able to really do the experiment.

Cheers,
Florian

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10/11/08 2:13 AM as a reply to Florian.
'chasing, chasing...distance, distance...'

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10/11/08 4:16 AM as a reply to Florian.
Florian, I view the process to be more about time than about space. Does that help? I find it less productive to try to actually "locate" thoughts because they really don't seem to have a location that makes any sense and, as you are finding out, that effort just gets confusing. Other objects have location (sights, sounds, touch, and so on) but the mind's assumption is that those locations are in relation to something else. That "else" is the me process. Once that becomes apparent the issue is time - when do these things take place, and how does that timing effect the image of self?

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10/12/08 1:02 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi cmarti,
I agree with you that it is more about time than space but I have to disagree that the other sense objects do have locations. For me, in the same manner as thoughts can lose their locations, sights, sounds, touch, etc. can lose theirs, too. Especially when things are percieved really fast, everything seems to be in front of the watching process and the more that the background interferes into this "space" the better, I think.

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10/12/08 4:25 AM as a reply to Florian.
Mai88, don't you maintain an assumed mental map of where sights, sounds and touch objects are? Yes, once we observe them closely they can lose that sense, but that's what I was aiming at by focusing on it. A vipassana deep dive does that for all phenomena.

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10/15/08 4:24 AM as a reply to Florian.
Just to interject here, I know this may seem off the wall, given that the discipline I'm referencing doesn't have any orientation towards achieving higher degrees of awareness, but Neurolinguistic Programming concepts can be helpful in thinking about this stuff. The basic idea is that we tend to encode things in terms of our basic senses (visually, aurally, or kinesthetically), and also in terms of where we place these things positionally in our sensory field - this can be somewhat idiosyncratic, but tends to be consistent in the same individual. So let's say you are considering a possible future event - you might perceive an image representing the event "in front of you", another one that is in the more distant future as an image farther away and slightly higher up than the first image, and events in the past might be represented as "behind you." This is a level of representing cognitions that is not yet at the level of language in most cases, but not at the level of primary intuitions or formations. Why do we represent our own intuitions to ourselves? So that we can represent them to others in language.

The point is that by becoming aware of our own internal representation schemes, we can better understand these rather obscure impressions of "space between the perceiver, perceived, and observer" and the like and get at the fundamental nonlinguistic intuitions that underlie them. David

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10/16/08 10:01 AM as a reply to Florian.
Yes.