Experience of time

 

Time is a mental field creation, so no wonder our experience of time changes.

When I look at my own experience of time, I find a few different aspects…

First, a sense of infinite time between now and something that happened in the past. It seems very far away, even if it happened recently in conventional (clock) terms. For instance, between now and when I got up – which is only a couple of hours ago – it feels like a very, almost infinitely, long time. It feels like centuries or millenia may have past, although I of course know that is not the case. Right now, this experience is relatively stably in the middle or foreground in daily life.

Then, a sense of collapsed time. Of the time between now and a particular memory from the past – or scenario about the future – as nonexistent. It feels like no time between now and particulars in the past and future. No time between my birth and now. No time between now and my death. There is a sense of immediacy here. This experience comes into the foreground when I look at it, but it otherwise more in the background.

I can also access conventional clock & calendar time of hours, days, months and so on. I can easily funciton within this framework, although my experience of it is more along the lines of the other ones mentioned here. This one is available as needed.

And finally, a sense of timelessness. Of everything – including my mental field creations of time, memories and scenarios – as happening within and as timelessness, this timeless now. Everything happens within and as timeless awakeness. This is the context of all of the other ones, independent of how they show up. And it is in the background or foreground of experience depending on where attention goes.

Trigger: Sometimes surprising myself in realizing that something that feels like it happened a very long time ago, really happened just a few hours earlier or the day before.

Cue to take as more substantial

 

Whether I work with allowing experience, inquire into beliefs, noticing whatever happening as awareness itself, or something similar, I can notice a tendency to take certain gestalts as more real than other.

Some gestalts serve as cues to take them as more substantial, more real, more true, and to act accordingly: to resist experience, take a story as true, take them as more solid than awareness itself.

At some point, it is helpful to become more familiar with these dynamics for ourselves. 

Which gestalts do I tend to take as more substantial? What are the cues? What happens when I shift into take them as more substantial? What happens when I shift out of taking them as substantial? What do I fear could happen if I don’t take them as substantial? 

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Facing death, and growing & waking up

 

Facing death squarely can have a few different effects…

In terms of growing up (healing/maturing as who I am, this human self in the world), facing death invites in a motivation to grow up. I have limited time here, and want to make the most of it. Similarly, facing death helps me clarify my priorities. I am invited to clarify what is most important for me, and align my life with that.

Facing death at this level happens mostly within the dynamics of stories. I realize that everyone and everything I love and know, incluing myself, will die. I see it. Feel into it. Find genuine appreciation for it. (After all, death at all levels of the holarchy of the universe is what makes life possible. We are made up of stars that died a few billion years ago. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the whole process of life and death that went before us, at the levels of stars, species and individuals. Also, life is dynamic, dynamic=flux, flux=death.) Make it alive for myself. Allow it to work on me and reorganize me as who I am.

In terms of waking up (noticing what I am), facing death may invite in a motivation to wake up. This human self is around for only a limited time, and I want to make use of this opportunity to invite what I am to wake up to itself.

Equally important, I can explore death – or rather, impermanence – here and now, through the sense fields. I can notice how anything happening within each sense field is flux, guests living their own life, coming and going on their own schedule. There are no stable anchors within content of awareness that I can place an “I” on. But still, there is a sense of what I really am not coming and going. What is it that is not coming and going?

Exploring what I am

 

There are many ways to explore what I really am, such as headless experiments, the Big Mind process and exploring the sense fields.

For instance, when I explore the sense fields, I can…

  • Bring attention to each sense field (sensation, sound, sight, smell, taste, mental field), one at a time, and ask myself:
    • Is what is happening – here now – within this field, content of awareness? Content of experience? (And maybe notice that That it is all content of awareness. Content of experience.)
      • Does it stay? Is it ephemeral? Even if it looks stable, is it really stable? (Notice that it all comes and goes, on its own time, living its own life.)
      • If it is content of awareness, is it I? If it comes and goes, it is I? (An invitation to notice that since there is a seeing of this content of awareness, there is no real “I” there. And although content of awareness comes and goes, something does not come and go.)
      • What is this sensation/sound/sight/smell/taste/mental field activity made of? Is it awareness itself? (Maybe notice that it is all awareness itself, taking the form of sensation, sound, sight, smell, taste and mental field activity.)
      • I can find what I tend to identify with most readily.)
        • Maybe certain sensations, the head area (sensation/image gestalt), thoughts, a sense of being center, a sense of being on the inside of an I-Other boundary.
        • And then ask myself:
          • Is this too coming and going? Is it different from other content of the sense fields in this way?
          • Happening as content of awareness?
          • Is this content different from the content I don’t identify with- like the sound of a passing car?
          • What am I if this content was not around? What am I right now, if this human self is not here?

      (more…)

      Setting aside discursive thought?

       

      One of the questions that come up for many is how do I relate to thought? Or how do I relate to stressful thoughts?

      I can try to push them aside, or even learn to set them aside through certain practices, but that only gives a temporary relief. They have a habit of coming back, and with them, my tendency to get caught in them.

      I am aware of two especially helpful ways of relating to (stressful) thought.

      One is to shift identification out of them, even as they continue to go about their business. I can do this through the Big Mind process, headless experiments, choiceless awareness and other practices. Here, I shift into that which is witnessing thought and other content of awareness, or into that which content of awareness happens within, to and as. There is an increasing familiarity with seeing thought as thought, and not getting caught up in them as if they were anything else.

      Another is to inquire into them in different ways.

      I can inquire into the content of them. Is it true? What happens when I believe it? What happens if I don’t have that thought? What are the truths in its turnarounds? In this way, I become more familiar with some of the dynamics around thoughts, what happens when they are believed in and not, and what is more true for me than the initial story.

      Or I can explore it through the sense fields. I can see discursive thought as a creation of the mental field. I can explore what happens when it combines with the other sense fields, creating gestalts. I can explore what happens when I take those gestalts as substantial and real, and what happens when I see them as just gestalts – created by an overlay from the mental field on the other fields.

      One of the things we may notice, doing either of these practices, is thoughts as innocent.

      They are awareness itself, ephemeral, insubstantial and transient.

      They appear in verbal form, one at a time, and usually noticed as thinking. And they appear in wordless form – for instance as images – and are then often not noticed.

      (The wordless thoughts function as source and guide for the verbal thoughts. They are stories, just as the verbal ones. For instance, there is a sound and then a mental image of a car placed where the sound seems to come from. And they can be taken as true or not, just as verbal stories.)

      They are questions about the world. Stories created in the mental field to help our human self function and navigate in the world.

      They appear stressful (stress inducing) only when they are taken as true, when we try to make them into something they are not.

      Beliefs are shoulds that clash with our stories about how the world is, was, or may be, and this creates stress.

      And beliefs differ from what is more true for us, which is also stressful. (What is more true may be the truth in each of its reversals, and the limited truth in each of those stories.)

      In becoming familiar with thoughts in this way, there is a natural compassion and kindness for myself and what happens when they are taken as true. There is an appreciation of thought, for what they are and their inherent innocence. There is an easier noticing of when stories are taken as true, and the tension and sense of having to protect something (a view, position, role) that goes with it. There is a familiarity in how to relate to and work with them. And there is a deepening into a trust in the whole process.

      Trigger: An email where someone mentioned a practice of setting aside thought. And also Jill Bolte Taylor’s video which could be misunderstood and taken as anti left-brain/thought.

      (more…)

      Sense fields at the levels of who and what we are

       

      So far, I notice a few different effects from exploring sense fields…

      At the level of who I am (this human self), there is a release from being caught up in habitual patterns, and also a softening of the patterns themselves.

      So in a purely psychological sense, it seems that exploring sense fields can be helpful in a range of different ways. There is a release from being caught up in habitual patterns, including taking stories as true and its effects such as reactiveness, compulsions and more. There is a release from being caught up in content of experience, including emotions and moods. And there is a release from being caught up in narrow identities, and its effects of being in struggle with oneself and life in general.

      Especially noticing what is happening in sensations, how the mental field overlays interpretations and stories, and the difference between taking those gestalts as real and substantial, or seeing how they are made up of sensations and mental field activity, seems helpful.

      When I take the sense field + mental field gestalts as real and substantial, I tend to get caught up in them and be identified with content of awareness. When they are seen as gestalts, and I notice what is happening within each field distinct from the other, there is a softening and release from being caught up in it, and identified with content of awareness.

      (I am not the first person to notice that, which is why these types of practices are being used more in psychotherapy.)

      At the level of what I am (that which experience happens within, to and as), exploring the sense fields helps what I am notice itself more clearly. For instance, I can explore impermanence in each sense field, see how it all is in flux, and that what I am is not in flux. Or I can notice that what happens in each sense field is awareness itself. Or that a sense of an I-Other, center-periphery, inner-outer, all comes from a mental field overlay on each of the fields.

      And at the transition between taking myself as who and what I am (the shift from one to the other), I can explore impermanence in each sense field, and find that I am not content of experience. I can notice whatever is happening within each sense field as awareness itself. I can notice how the mental field creates an overlay of I-Other on each sense field, and see that too as content of awareness as anything else, and what I am is not quite that.
      (more…)

      Working with death

       

      Working with death is like working with anything else.

      I can visualize my own death sometime in the future and see what comes up. What if I knew I would die in one year, a half year, one month, one week, one day, one hour, one minute, one second? If I make it as vivid and real as possible for myself, what comes up?

      I can notice beliefs and stories coming up an take them to inquire later on. I can fully allow and be with emotions, as they are, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way.

      I can allow myself to reorganize within this new context of knowing that my death is imminent. How would I live my life differently? What becomes more important? Less important? How can I bring that into my life here and now?

      I can do the same with the death of those close to me. I can bring up the memories of people in my life who have died. I can visualize those alive dying in the future.

      I can do the same with human civilization, the earth and this universe. I can visualize it all being gone, which it will be – first when my human self dies, and then when it dies.

      In all of these cases – visualizing my own death, the death of those close to me, and the death of everything I know and appreciate – I can work with what comes up in the same way. I can notice beliefs coming up and take them to inquiry. I can fully allow and be with emotions in a heartfelt and kind way. I can allow my human self to reorganize within this new context, seeing how priorities and motivations change, and see how I can bring it into daily life.

      Daily life offers other opportunities to work with this, such as when death is a theme in the news and movies.

      These are all ways of working with death and impermanence within stories.

      But there are also ways of working with impermanence outside of stories.

      The simplest I have found is to explore impermanence within the sense fields. I bring attention to the sense fields, one at a time, and notice the impermanence there. Each sense fields is flux.

      The appearance of permanence is only a mental field overlay of a story of permanence, whether it is an image or discursive thought, or a mental field memory/mimicking of sense fields such as touch or taste.

      Sensations as a test

       

      Some teachers use how we experience sensations as a quick test for where we are.

      Bring attention to where your foot meets the ground. (Or your hand on your thigh, or anything else.) What do you experience? Do the sensations belong to the body, with the floor on the other side of the boundary? Do they appear in space?

      It seems that there are at least three possibilities for how these sensations are experienced.

      Sensations may appear in space, with not much else happening. There is no sense of an I with an Other associated with it.

      Sensations appear in space, but with an overlay of mental field activities such as an image of the body and the foot, and an image of the ground. But these mental field activities are seen as just that, imagined boundaries to aid our human self function in the world. They do not have substance.

      Sensations belong to this foot, with the floor on the other side of that boundary. There is a strong sense of an I with an Other, and of the sensation/mental field gestalts (body, foot, floor) being real and substantial.

      So to summarize: Sensations can appear in/as space, and that’s it. There are sensations, and mental field activity seen as just mental field activity. Or sensations are entangled with the mental field, and the gestalts are not seen as gestalts.

      For me, I see that when I bring attention to it, sensations appear in and as space – with or without a mental field overlay, and although both are awareness itself, they are also distinct from each other. But sometimes in daily life, there is still the habit of taking the gestalts as real. (Beyond just a gestalt.)

      Offering tools for working with beliefs directly

       

      Vince has a good post on ways teachers and traditions sometimes speak about enlightenment, and what types of dynamics it may set up in the group.

      The verbal level is of course important, partly because it sets up maps people use to navigate by.

      Yet, something else is as important: The tools we are given. First, to have an immediate taste of what we are. Then, to work with beliefs and stories directly, no matter what they are about.

      The tools I am familiar with here are the ones I have written about many times before.

      Some tools for inviting in a taste of enlightenment include headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These give a taste of what we are and ways to explore it for ourselves, although obviously not with the same clarity as a full blown awakening. Doing this can be helpful in letting go of some of the more exotic ideas about enlightenment. What we are is something that is quite simple, available to be noticed here now, and not really out there in others or the future.

      And there are also good tools available to help us unravel beliefs and stories about enlightenment, teachers or anything else. The Work helps us explore the effects of beliefs, and find what is already more true for us. And exploring the sense fields helps us see thought as thought, and how an overlay of thought on each of the sense fields create gestalts. It also helps us find ourselves as what we are, outside of what any story tells us.

      At least for me, having and using these tools – with some sincerity – is far more important than any models, mainly because they first help me explore the terrain for myself, and then because they help me unravel beliefs and attachments to any story and identity.

      Also, any model can become a belief, an identification with a story. So it is helpful to work with any model we are presented with – or come up with on our own – in this way, no matter how accurate it appears to be. In a conventional sense, some models are more accurate, meaning they have more practical value. But really, all models are equally far away from what they appear to be about.

      I also see that I personally prefer practices aligned with awakening, but with an emphasis on the practical and day to day aspects of it. So in that sense, I would be more in the “no need to talk about it too much” camp. (Although I obviously explore it quite a bit here, but that is on my own.)

      (more…)

      Constructing reality

       

      It is popular these days to talk about the ways language construct reality, slicing it up in a particular way and creating objects, relationships, characteristics of both, and more.

      When I explore the sense fields, I see that language is doing this, but I also find another layer which is equally important: the wordless activities of the mental field. And these do the same.

      I find images, and these are an overlay of boundaries on each of the sense fields, they serve as a source and fuel for language and discursive thought, they combine with activities in each sense field to create the appearances of gestalts, and much more.

      It seems that language informs these images, including where boundaries go. But these images certainly inform language as well. There is an activity in the sense fields, an image of a singing bird overlaid on the sound field, and this can inform discursive thought about a bird singing, and also other activities of our human self such as walking over to the window to take a look.

      Seeing this overlay, it is pretty clear that it is arbitrary. Boundaries can go anywhere. What happens in the sense fields can be sliced in innumerable ways. Yet since its only function is to help our human self live in the world, we tend to do it in the ways that are most functional, and this is determined in part by our particular culture and individual circumstances.

      Of course, we can also go into stories about all of this. We can tell ourselves that language early on in our life helped informed where the boundaries go, including the wordless image ones. And that these images then helps support language, and serve as a guide and material for discursive thoughts. And that where the boundaries tend to habitually go, the relationships of the objects that emerge, and the characteristics of both, have infinite causes, stretching out to the extent of the universe and back to the beginning of the universe – going through the habits of this universe, the characteristics of this solar system and this living planet, the evolutionary history of this species, culture, individual experiences, and more.

      All of that may be quite helpful and functional, but it is also good to see that those are just stories. Just other activities of the same mental field, constructing a partly imagined reality.

      Exploring space

       

      When I explore space, I find two quite distinct ways space appears.

      One is how the mental field creates a sense of space. When I close my eyes, the mental field can easily produce a visualization of space and its content. It can easily visualize this body, the various body parts and their relationships to each other, the room, the relationships between the objects in the room, how my body moved and was positioned in the past and may be in the future, and so on. And when I open the eyes again, I can get a quite clear sense of this mental field overlay on top of the visual field.

      Space does not seem inherent in any field, and only appears through an overlay of the mental field. An overlay that helps map whatever happens in each field (visual, sound, sensation, smell, taste) in space. Even the mental field itself is mapped in space, giving a sense of thoughts happening in/around the head/body area.

      This overlay of a visualized space is crucial for our human self navigating in the world. And also, it is crucial for creating a sense of a separate I. Without space, no I with an Other. A sense of a separate I is anchored here, in and around this body, and the rest of the world is out there, in the periphery.

      The imagined separate I depends on visualized space to exist. And when I don’t notice how the mental field combines with the other fields to create a sense of space, space and the sense of a separate I seems solid, real and substantial. When I notice it, the sense of a separate I softens and fades.

      The other seems to be free from an overlay from the mental field. This is just a sense of spaciousness absent of any end, inherent in awareness itself.

      The first type is essential for mapping the sense fields in space. The second may be just an inherent property of awareness, existing independent of the first one.

      Filtering in inquiry

       

      In inquiry, we put the mental field to good use.

      We bring attention somewhere, guided by the mental field.

      And we filter content of awareness in different ways, also through the mental field.

      For instance, in exploring sense fields, we use the mental field to filter out what is sensation, sound, sight, taste, smell and mental field, and we also use the mental field to guide attention to different parts of these.

      This filtering itself can be investigated.

      How does it happen? How is sensation filtered out from everything else? Do I find an visualized/imagined boundary in the mental field, telling me where to look? A memory of sensations from the past that I compare whatever is happening with, so I can decide what is a sensation? Does the imagined boundary look real and solid, or ephemeral and an overlay without substance? What happens if it is taken as real and solid? If it is seen as an overlay without substance?

      What is attention? How is the mental field used to guide attention? Is there a visualized/imagined boundary there too, with attention brought to what is inside of it, and the rest going into the periphery?

      There is doing. Can I find a doer? Who or what is observing? If I have an image of a doer or an observer, is that too in the mental field? Can I find it outside of the mental field? What is left if this doer is seen as just a creation of the mental field?

      Intension, tension and moods

       

      A small additional detail in what I notice when exploring intention through the sense fields.

      First, when I explore moods (atmosphere), I find that they are made up of sensations and thoughts. Just as emotions, pain, and so many other experiences. Sensations in a specific area of the body create the quality of a specific mood, and these are then enhanced by mental images and more, and interpreted and labeled as well.

      If the particular sensations needed for a particular mood is not stable or strong, the muscles in that area tense up to create clearer, stronger and more stable sensations to create the experience of the mood.

      With emotions, I notice that – for instance – a belief is triggered which brings up sadness. This sense of sadness is created by tightening certain muscles in the chest, which bring up certain sensations there, which in turn are combined with a mental image of sinking (so there is a sinking feeling in the chest), and there is the interpretation or label “sadness”. All of this creates the experience of sadness, and it seems very real and substantial, unless I notice how it is created here now.

      The same happens with moods, which seem to be vague or more complex emotions, and maybe combinations of several.

      And when I explore intention, I notice how also intentions are made up of sensations combined with the mental field. Muscles tense up to create sensations which then, combined with images and interpretations, create a sense of intention.

      I have an intention to get up and open the door to let in fresh air. The sensation aspect comes from is a slight tightening in the back of the mouth, the mental aspect is an image of myself getting up and opening the door, and if I bring attention to it, there is also the label “intention” to the gestalt created by both of those. The slight tension of the muscles in the back of the mouth gives a sense of determination, and also power or energy, an ability to do it. (The back of the tonge presses gently to the roof of the mouth, and the muscles in the roof tighten slightly.)

      And these two – moods and intention – combine as well. An intention is often associated with a particular mood, for instance of anticipation, excitement, bliss, lightness, fear, drudgery or heaviness. Sometimes, the same sensations serves as the sensation component of both the mood and the intention, and sometimes these are different sets of sensations.

      For instance, an intention that is associated with bliss (Breema, for me), has as intention component the familiar slight tightening of the muscles in the back of the mouth, and the mood component is the sensation of air flowing through my nostrils.

      When I notice this, there is a sense of all experiences being very simple in their components, and also a growing familiarity with how each particular one is created.

      (more…)

      Exploring sleepiness through the sense fields

       

      When I explore sleepiness through the sense fields, and bring attention to the sensation part of it, it is no longer sleepiness or drowsiness or dullness. It is just a set of sensations, and parallel with it, a set of thoughts.

      Together, they make up the appearance of sleepiness, and when attention is brought to the sensation aspect of it, it is revealed as something else. And I also notice how awareness itself is never sleepy or drowsy or dull or anything else. It is always and already clear and awake.

      The thought aspect of sleepiness is still a little unclear to me, but there is a slow downward movement there, like a thick sticky fluid. And when it combines with the sensation aspects, the gestalt created is sensations with a slow viscous downward movement, which appears as sleepiness.

      When this is seen, the gestalt of sleepiness falls into its components of sensations and thoughts, which may make the sleepiness go >poof<. Unless the movement is too strong, in which case it brings sleep. And awareness is either aware of itself through that process, or not.

      Intention

       

      During the retreat, I also explored how intention shows up in the sense fields.

      What I find, as so often, is a sensation and a mental image.

      In general, intention shows up as a slight tightening of certain muscles in the throat. And a mental image related to the intention, either a direction, a goal, or some intermediate stages.

      When I explored intention of moving parts of the body, I noticed how attention goes to the limbs I want to move, and specifically sensations in the areas closest to where I intend to move them. Almost like where imaginary puppet strings would be fastened.

      I also noticed how intention seems to be the easiest and most effective way of honing a stable attention. When it is distracted to some extent, sharpening up the intention seems to help.

      There is of course a lot more to the effects of intention – such as how it helps align the different parts of us in a certain direction – and some of it is explored in other posts.

      Middle man

       

      At the CSS retreat, Todd briefly mentioned the middle man, the imaginary figure we create to mediate between awareness and content of awareness. Something happens in the sense fields, awareness is aware of it, and the mental field creates an image of a middle man/woman/person that is aware of it. And that is of course the whole point, in a nutshell, in discovering what we are. To see the middle man as a mental creation.

      (more…)

      Exploring sense fields

       

      I have enjoyed exploring sense fields for a little while now, and appreciate how simple and practical it is. A great tool for exploring some of the basics such as what arises in each sense field, how thoughts and the other sense fields combine to create appearances, and the dynamics that makes these appearances seem very real and substantial.

      As always, what I write here are questions rather than statements, even if the question marks may be missing.

      (more…)

      Nostalgia for samsara

       

      I have been pretty sick this morning, with not much energy for anything deep, so I decided to do the movie equivalent of comfort food, which meant watching an episode of Cosmos.

      Up until my mid-twenties, when I got a crash course in the topic, I was somewhat of a mood junkie. I was hooked on the sense of magic, awe, wonder, beauty, love created in me through books, movies, music, art, theater, the Universe Story, conversations with friends about the big questions, being in love, having picnics in beautiful places, imagining my life in the future.

      (more…)

      Dream: Antartica

       

      I am in Antarctica with my wife and a group of other people in their twenties and thirties. We ice skate, kayak, row in inflatable boats, swim in dry suits, and overall have a great deal of fun. There is a sense of being completely at home in this clear, brilliant, stark and immensely beautiful place on earth.

      We are here together for a few weeks before heading home, and I realize that I would like to stop over and experience the deserts in Australia on my way home to Norway.

      I help one guy with his skates, and I notice he is buoyant somehow. It turns out that there is an anti-gravity effect around him, which helps him in his professional ice skating.

      (more…)

      Sensations as anchor

       

      I was reminded of this a couple of times in recent days, waking up with a sensation in the body that I didn’t have a ready story about, and then trying out different stories to see how they would fit. Is it a mood? An emotion? A body symptom?

      This is a good example of how thoughts combine with sensations to create a gestalt, a new whole that seems very real and substantial in itself, until we see how it is made up of just a sensation and a thought.

      In this case, I could tell myself it is a mood, and how it must have come from a dream or maybe something going on in my life. I could probably have found something in my life that fitted the mood, almost whatever the mood might be, and then go into and fuel those stories, which in turn would fuel the mood. (Nothing wrong in that, we do it all the time.)

      I could tell myself it was an emotion, find something in my life that would be a likely trigger for the emotion, and go into stories about that in a similar way.

      Or I could tell myself it was just a body symptom, from whatever germs are living the high life in my body this week, or maybe something I ate a little too close to bed time the night before. And if I did that, I would most likely just leave it alone, without going into many stories about it apart from many a reminder to myself of not eating too late in the evening.

      I could also, as I did, notice what was going on. A set of unusual sensations in the body, a set of stories being tried out to see which one fits, and then seeing those stories as just innocent questions. Is it a mood? An emotion? A body symptom? Is there anything I need to do about it, whatever it may be? No, it seems quite innocent whatever it is.

      Approximate stability practice

       

      I know there are lots of guidelines and maps about stability practice out there, based on the cumulative experience of thousands (millions?) of practitioners, and I am neither very familiar with it or very experienced on my own. As with everything else here, this is just a snapshot of what is alive for me right now, and each statement if followed by a question mark even if it doesn’t show up on the screen.

      It seems that many practices are, most of the time, approximate. It is approximate shikantaza, approximate allowing experience, and also approximate stability practice, an approximately stable attention on something.

      Here are some of the things I notice which makes my stability practice only approximate. In this case, using the sensation of the breath at the nostrils as the object of attention, with or without counting.

      • If I count my breaths, I notice that attention is often split between the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and the number thoguht. Attention also tends to shift between the two, with one in the foreground, then the other.
      • If I have my eyes partly open, even with a soft gaze, I notice attention being split between the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, and the focus of the visual field. (It may be subtle, but still a noticeable split.) This happens whether I count, in which case attention is split four ways (imagined bulls eye as guide for attention, thought of a number and through of sequence of numbers, focal point of visual field, and sensations at the nostrils), or not.
      • When I bring attention to the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, I use a visual thought – almost an imagined bulls eye – as a guide for attention. So attention is split between these two as well, with one in the foreground then the other. Even without counting, and with eyes closed, attention is split between these two.
      • Sensations themselves flicker inn and out of existence. When they flicker out of existence, the imagined bulls eye remains so attention shifts there. When they flicker into existence, attention shifts back to the sensation. (This rapid flickering happens during inhalation and exhalation, and the sensations also fade in and out of existence during the in/outbreath and the pause in between.)
      • Any belief tends to catch attention, in obvious or more subtle ways, either by attention going on the inside of a thought and following it, or by just a flicker of interest when the thought arises. (Belief here means identification with a story, any story.)
      • These flickers of interest also happens with non-discursive thoughts, such as image thoughts overlaid on the sense fields. (Imagining what the sounds are, where the sensation is located in the body, and so on.)

      So this is one way stability practice, in itself, invites in insights.

      Through stability practice, we gain insight into some of the dynamics around a stable, or in this case not so stable, attention.

      We may notice the sense of clarity that often comes as a side effect of a more stable attention.

      We may notice the sense of energy that comes with it, and other side effects such as a sense of luminosity (even visually) and so on.

      We discover how it is much easier to observe and notice what is going on when we can place attention more stably on something alive here now. A more stable attention helps insight directly.

      We may notice how thoughts, as anything else, lives its own life, coming and going on their own schedule.

      We may notice the difference between attention seeing a thought as a thought, and getting absorbed on the inside of a story. In the first case, allowing it to come and go as a simple thought. In the second case, fueling and elaborating it into a more complex story, and often getting lost in it.

      We may notice how attention is more easily drawn to stories we identify with. Stories that seem true, real, important. Stories that define who we, temporarily, take ourselves to be.

      We may notice how the activities of thoughts naturally quiet down when attention rests stably on the breath, or something else.

      We may notice how the effects of the different layers of thoughts fall away when identification is released out of them. When identification goes out of discursive thought, drama falls away and there is a sense of quiet presence. When identification is released out of more basic layers of thought, such as those creating a sense of extent and continuity, this falls away, and whatever happens in the different sense fields happens without being mapped onto space or time. When identification goes out of a sense of I with an Other, this field of awakeness and its content is revealed as inherently free of an I with an Other, inside and outside, center and periphery.

      (The discursive layer is needed for daily functioning, but only to a limited extent, and when identification goes out of it, drama goes out as well. The layer creating a sense of extent and continuity is obviously needed for daily functioning, but it can be interesting and helpful to explore during sitting practice. And the final layer, of a sense of a separate I, is not needed for the functioning of our human self.)

      We notice the ephemeral nature of sensations, rapidly flickering in and out of existence, and the ephemeral nature of any sense field.

      We may notice sensations, and any sense field, as awakeness itself.

      We may notice how the content of each sense field comes and goes, but something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? Am I the content of the fields, or that which does not come and go? Are they really separate?

      And this is just scratching the surface. Something as simple as stability practice is fertile ground for exploration, going right back to the core of what we really are.

      No value beyond the practical

       

      This is another of those topics that seem so simple and childish on the surface, but goes to the core of our life and who or what we take ourselves to be. (I seem to specialize in those…!)

      Any story is a tool. One that helps our human self orient and function in the world, or as a guide to awakening. And as any other tool, it has no value beyond the practical.

      It is easy to see when we look at physical tools, like a hammer, or nails. We see that they have a purely practical function. They help us in daily life. And they have no value beyond that. If they didn’t help us, we wouldn’t use them or even bring attention to them.

      (more…)

      Noticing content as awakeness

       

      The practice emerging for me now is noticing content of awareness as awareness itself.

      It can be done formally, through for instance exploring the sense fields, and also informally, throughout the day.

      When I explore the sense fields, I select one, notice what arises there, and find a curiosity about what it is made of. Is it awakeness itself? Anything else? After doing this for a while, I explore the gestalts the same way, the gestalts formed by a thought combining with the other sense fields to create the appearance of an emotion, sleepiness, a sense of a separate I, or anything else.

      In daily life, I usually bring attention to what appear most real, dense and substantial, and in the same way ask myself what is it made of? Awakeness? Anything else?

      It is interesting how even a sense of a separate I can be noticed as awakeness itself in this way. It is there, yet recognized in immediate awareness as nothing other than awakeness itself.

      “Ego” here now

       

      The word ego can refer to a sense of separate I, or the psychological ego, the operating system for our human self.

      When I explore ego – in the first meaning – through the six sense fields, I find that it is just a thought arising here now, taken as true.

      Attention gets absorbed in the inside of the thought, there is an identification with it, it is anchored on certain sensations which lends it an appearance of substance and reality – and also a location in space, it becomes a fixed view and identity, and with the sense of the thought being right and true, its reversals become wrong and false, so there is a sense of I and an Other.

      “Ego” then is as ephemeral and insubstantial as a thought, since that is all it is. But taking a thought as true has very real effects for our human self in the world, as we can explore through for instance The Work.

      This is of course a simplified version of it. When we explore, we can always find new layers of complexity and richness of this – quite beautiful – process.

      In terms of the layers of thoughts, I find a layer of space, mapping the five sense fields on a sense of space and extent. And I find an identification with a thought, any thought, which is then mapped on sensations appearing in particular locations in space, guided by an image thought of this body which maps sensations, and this creates a sense of a separate I, of center and periphery.

      Archetypes here now

       

      All the conventional ways of looking at archetypes (the Jungian ones) are of course valid and useful. Looking at them in an evolutionary/biological perspective, arising in stories of all types, shared among people from different cultures, and so on.

      But there is also a way of exploring them as they arise here now, and this one has been alive for me since I started working with the sense fields, noticing each sense field for itself, and then how thoughts combine with the four others to create gestalts.

      When the fields are each seen for itself, the thoughts component of archetypes becomes very clear and distinct. I see that the archetype is a gestalt, arising here now, and I also see (some of) the different components of the thought, and how and why it has the effects it has as a gestalt, when it appears solid and real.

      And as with any other gestalt, when it is seen in this way, simply, clearly, there are no hooks in it anymore. The hooks are there only when I get absorbed into the gestalt, when it appears solid, real, substantial, when I don’t see it as a combination of simple sense fields.

      Not stage specific

       

      There are of course stage specific tools, both teachings and practices, and these have practical value.

      But at the same time, I can’t help noticing that the tools I am currently using are not stage specific. They can be used by anyone, from novices to people familiar with the terrain, from those firmly in grips of a great deal of beliefs to those verging on the border of selfless realization.

      The Big Mind process can be helpful at any stage of the path, inviting our human self to function better in the world, refining our insights into dynamics, finding ourselves as Big Mind/Heart, and bringing it more fully into the life of this human self.

      The Work can be used by anyone, including children, those with few beliefs apart from a subtle one of being a separate I, and also those from whom awakeness is awake to itself, helping them gain a more detailed insight into the dynamics of stories and their effects.

      Allowing experience can be used by anyone, at any time. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Can I fully allow it, wholeheartedly, in a heartfelt way, as if it would never go away? Can I allow it all, including resistance and what is resisted? This invites a release of identification with resistance, and a release of identification out of content of experience in general. It also helps us notice how content of experience appears one way when resisted, and often a quite different way when allowed.

      Headless experiments can be used by anyone, and most of them can be used any time and any situation. We find ourselves as headless, as the no-thing that things arise within, to and as. And we explore how this is lived through our human self.

      Exploring the sense fields can be done by anyone, at least after a short period of inviting in a more stable attention. It helps us explore impermanence, notice thoughts as just thoughts, noticing the difference between attention absorbed into the inside of thoughts and not, exploring how thoughts form gestalts with the other sense fields that may seem very substantial and real, and much more.

      Each of these are tools available to anyone, with just some basic pointers. Most of them are largely self-regulating, having built-in feedback mechanisms to guide us. All of them can be used by novices and those more familiar with the terrain, up to selfless realization and beyond.

      Synchronicities

       

      Yesterday, I listened to music while doing a sense field practice, exploring specifically how thoughts creates a sense of continuity. And as I did so, I noticed the lyrics I listened to:

      Only this moment (Holds us together)

      Which is a perfect reflection of what I was exploring. Only this moment holds it all together. Past and future, continuity, time, it all happens right here now. Thoughts happening here now is what holds it all together.

      Only this moment holds it all together.

      Röyksopp: Only This Moment from The Understanding.

      Cloudiness and sense fields

       

      I continue to explore the sense fields and how they combine to create gestalts, and in particular how thoughts combine with the other sense fields. (The sense fields: sound, sight, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts.)

      I see how sensations combine with thoughts to create a sense of particular moods, emotions, pain, and much more.

      Today, in the dentist’s chair, I noticed how particular sensations combine with thoughts to create a sense of discomfort. Seeing sensations as sensations and thoughts as thoughts, the gestalt loses its substance and sense of reality. The same happens when I bring attention to the sensations serving as anchor for the sense of discomfort. The gestalt cannot arise with any sense of substance when attention is brought to its anchoring sensation because the mechanism is seen through.

      In the past, I have explored how sleepiness – for instance when it arises during practice – also is just a sensation combined with a thought.

      And tonight, in exploring a sense of cloudiness, fuzziness, murkiness, I find that too as being made up of sensations and a thought.

      In addition to all this, I also find that when there is an identification with any of these, it is as if a bulls eye for a sense of a separate I is placed on the sensations. They then not only serve as an anchor for the gestalt of an emotion, pain, discomfort, sleepiness, murkiness and so on, but also for the sense of an I with an Other.

      And that is when, for instance, identity gets absorbed into the sleepiness or murkiness gestalt, and I fall asleep during practice, or the practice gets lost in murkiness.

      Seeing all this, as it happens, allows the center of gravity to shift out of these sensations and gestalts. Now, I not only see how the gestalts are made up of sensations and thoughts, but the sense of a separate I is released out of them. (Either placed on other sensations, or seen through as awakeness itself.)

      Now, they are objects happening within and as awakeness.

      Working with body symptoms

       

      I had an opportunity to explore ways to work with body symptoms last week, this time mainly just by fully allowing the experience, exploring the sense fields, and also resting attention on certain sensations.

      Here are some ways of working with body symptoms…

      • Allowing the experience, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as they are, as if they would never change. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Bringing in the heart at times.
      • Resting attention on sensations, gently, stably, over some time. This is using body symptoms as an object for stability practice.
      • Exploring the sense fields, what is happening in each, and the gestalts that appear when they are combined. What is happening in sound, sensation, smell, taste and thought? How do thought combine with the other sense fields, such as sensations, to create certain appearances and gestalts? What happens when these appear solid, substantial and real? What happens when I notice how a thought combine with other sense fields to create those appearances?
      • Noticing the beliefs I have around body symptoms, health, disease, life, death, and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for me. (The Work.)
      • Finding myself as headless through the headless experiments. Am I the content of my experiences, or that which these experiences happens within and as?
      • Being curious about the process behind the symptoms, allowing it to unfold. What is left out of my conscious awareness that wants to be seen and included? (Process Work.)
      • Explore the voices that come up, such as the body, pain, illness, health, and so on. What do they have to say? How does the personality relate to them? How do they relate to each other? How does each one contribute to and help the human self? How can they do this in a simpler and more straight forward way? (Big Mind process.)
      • Deepening into empathy for myself and others. What I am experiencing now is universally human. Shared by all living creatures. We are all in this together. It is not (only) about me, but about us.
      • And then all the conventional ways of dealing with the symptoms or illness… going to the doctor, taking pills, changing diet, get more sleep, exercise, getting surgery, going to an acupuncturist, and so on depending on the situation.

      As with anything else in life….

      • We can work with the content of it in a conventional way. In this case, going to the doctor, getting acupuncture, changing our health habits, and so on.
      • We can explore how we relate to it. Do I resist the experience? What happens if I more fully allow and stay with the experience? What happens if I bring attention to the symptoms in a stable and gentle way?
      • We can explore what is already more true for us about it. What are my beliefs around it? Are they true? What happens when I believe that? Who would I be without that belief? What is true in the reversals of my initial story?
      • We can allow it to work on us. When I fully allow experience, sincerely investigate beliefs, find myself as headless and so on, I can invite it to work on me, placing myself under it.
      • And we can use it as an invitation to notice what we already are. Am I the content of my experiences? These sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts that all live their own life, coming and going on their own time? Or am I that which these come and go within and as?