Exploring the observer

 

When do inquiry as a client (self-inquiry or facilitated), I sometimes have images and sensations of me as an observer come up. So I look at those too.

I see an image of me (my face) looking at at image or word. Is that image X? (X = whatever I am looking for in that inquiry.) Is the sensation associated with it X? And so on.

Sometimes, it can also be interesting to explore me the observer more fully.

Look at the image of you looking at another image. Is that you the observer? (Q1) Yes, it feels like it. Sensations in the face.

Feel those sensations. Notice the space they are happening within. Do you see an image? Yes, I see an image of my face with eyes closed, relaxed.

Look at that image. Is that you the observer? (Q1) No. 

Where do you find you the observer? Can you find him in images, words, sensations? Yes, sensations in roof of the mouth, slight contraction in upper throat, sensations in the lower back of the head.

Feel those sensations. I see an image of my head.

Look at that image. Notice the space around it. The space between you and the image. Q1? No.

Rest. Rest with what’s here.

Feel the sensations in the mouth, throat, lower back of head. Q1? No.

Look at the images of your face. Q1? No.

Where do you find the observer? Picture of my body sitting here.

Look at that picture. Q1?  No.

Where do you find the observer? Sensations in throat.

Feel those sensations. Q1? No.

And so on, continuing to explore whatever initially appears as the observer. This allows me to see how my mind creates the appearance of an observer, and the charge in it may soften or fall away.

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Free will

 

I came across a new blog called Freedom or Necessity, which is an exploration into the question of free will.

It is an eternal question for us humans, and interesting to explore in our own lives.

The first thing that comes up for me is a set of additional questions: what does free will mean? For whom may there be free will? Who or what is choosing, if there is free will? Is there an entity choosing? Someone or something somehow set apart from everything else? Is that possible? On what basis are these choices made? What are the influences on these choices? What are the restrictions on these choices? If there are influences and restrictions, to what extent is it free?

My take on it is very simple-minded, and not so different from what I have explored earlier in this journal.

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All awake to itself

 

I am attending an intensive for the type of bodywork I am doing. The bodywork itself is a laboratory for practice and exploration, for self-inquiry, and it is a wonderful practice in many ways. Deep, nourishing and soulful. 

But one thing is left out, and it is a crucial step – and also quite obvious when we see it. 

With its emphasis on mindfulness of the “me” only (the human self and its identities and dynamics), an identification as first the doer (shifting into observing) and then the observer may easily become “invisible”. If it is habitually there anyway, it may not be strengthened, but there is also not a direct invitation to bring it to attention and notice it. The sense of “I” may continue to lurk outside of attention. 

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Exploring the doer and observer

 

A few things I notice in exploring the doer and observer….

The doer and observer are both made up of sensations (in the throat/head area) and images of a doer and observer. 

They function as “middle-men”, or as they say in Zen, a head above the head. 

Something happens and the doer gestalt is taken as the doer of it, through an image of doing. 

Something happens and the observer gestalt is taken as the observer of it, through an overlay of an image of observing. 

What is overlooked is that whatever happens happens on its own (no doer needed), and whatever happens is also awakeness itself (no additional observer needed). 

There is an image of something happening, an image of a doer and observer, and an image of doing and observing connecting the two, all happening within my own world of images. 

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Copartner

 

…. this is the principle: To deem oneself exalted is to claim copartnership with God. As long as you have not died and become living through Him, you are a rebel seeking a realm for your copartnership. 
– Rumi, Mathnawi IV 2763-67. [In Chittick’s The Sufi Path of Love, p. 183] 

This pointer is the homework for our CSS group this week, and also the section of the reading that most speaks to what is going on for me these days. 

I recognize this here and now. “All” is recognized as God, awakeness, form with no substance. And yet, there is also a sense of a separate I here as a doer and observer. Sometimes, it is taken as more real and substantial. And when attention is brought to it, it is recognized as the same as everything else: Content of awareness. Awakeness itself. Form with no substance. 

Taking this separate I gestalt as real is to set it up as a copartner with God, and when it is taken as real it is identified with and taken as what I am, so “I” then appear as a copartner with God. Since it is a lie, it is a precarious situation, and it generates friction which invites attention and questions, which in turn may allow this to be recognized as it happens. (Friction between “my will” – stories of shoulds, and “God’s will” – stories of what is.) 

When there is this copartnership, there may be a sense of being one with God, a separate I (as doer and/or observer) one with God. And when the separate I gestalts are recognized as they happen, there may be a shift into oneness, God as all including any gestalts temporarily appearing. 

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Shifting refuge

 

A shifting refuge….

First, we take ourselves to be a me. This human self and its body, identities and roles in the world. There is an inside and outside, and it all seems real and substantial.

Then, we may notice that the me is content of experience, it comes and goes as any other content of experience, and it is not what I am. There is a softening or release of identification with the me. This process can appear as a dark night of the senses, called so since there is a release of identification with the senses. The temporary outcome is an absence of a sense of inside and outside, a recognition of all as awakeness itself or God, and possibly insights, clarity, bliss, a clear inner direction and so on.

The remaining refuge here is the separate I and the spiritual joys mentioned above.

Finally, we may notice that the separate I is content of experience as well. The doer, thinker, chooser, owner, observer – all of those – are content of experience just as anything else. That too comes and goes. That too is not what I really am. As I keep noticing this, maybe first in formal practice and then in daily life, there is the possibility of a softening and release of identification out of these. This process is called the dark night of the soul, experienced as a death of the core of what we take ourselves to be.

When identification is released out of the separate I, what is left is doing without doer, thinking without thinker, observing without observer and so on. Everything is as before, although now all content of experience – including the doer and observer – is recognized as living its own life. The center falls out, and the bottom or ground falls out.

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Tail of the ox

 

An ox passes through a window. Its head, horns, and four legs all pass through. Why can’t it’s tail pass through?

This is a koan that has come up for me now since it reflects immediate experience.

The ox passes through the window. The world and this human self is recognized, in immediacy, as awakeness itself. As no thing appearing as something.

Yet the tail does not pass through. There is still identification with the doer and observer. Even as the doer and observer is recognized as awakeness itself, even as it is recognized as a gestalt made up of sensations and images, there is still some remaining identification there.

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Boundary between I and other

 

Sometimes, it is said that awakening means the boundary between I and Other is recognized as imagined

That is true and a helpful pointer. It helps us see that boundaries are created in the mind. They are, quite literally, imagined. This is a good starting point. 

And it is just that, a starting point, because it leaves something out. It can be taken as saying that the boundary may be imagined, but the I and other is real. There is an I here and a wider world, but it is part of the same seamless whole. 

The truth is more radical than that. So the next pointer is to say – as many do – that there is no separate I, no other, no world, no boundaries. All of those are imagined. All of those happen within our own world of images. 

This is an invitation to notice not only boundaries as imagined, but any object is as well. They all happen as a mental field overlay on the sense field. They all happen within our own world of images. And this includes the wider world as well as any sense of doer and observer. They all happen as content of awareness. They all come and go, on their own schedule. They are all gestalts, made up of mental field overlays on each of the sense fields. 

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Mindfulness, including of doer and observer

 

Something simple about mindfulness….

In mindfulness practice, I can notice what is happening in the different sense fields. Sensations. Sights. Sounds. Smell. Taste. Mental field activity. 

And included here is noticing the doer and observer. What is it that appears to be doing this practice? What is it that appears to be observing? For me, I find a set of sensations in the head area, and a set of images in the mental field. The doer and observer too is content of awareness, just as any other content of awareness. 

In this way, mindfulness practice shifts into and includes atma vichara, self-inquiry, and becomes even more inclusive and helpful. 

If the doer and observer is left out, mindfulness practice may only reinforce an unconcious (pre-conscious) identification with the doer/observer gestalts. When the doer and observer is included in what is noticed, they may be found to be content of awareness just as anything else, and identification may release out of them. 

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