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The practice of abstention

To abstain from putting effort into ones mind-ing is a wonderful thing. It can happen before something have grown tangible enough to be an object of letting go, before you are able to say for sure what to let go of.

There is a subtle movement of mind that awaits to be picked up and cared for. That is the habit of mind, to pick up movement from outside or inside
and “make something” out of it;
an instruction, an answer, an idea,
a question, a decision, an insight,
anything to make it real and useful.

When movement have formed to a mind-object;
a thought, a physical sensation,
a melody or even the concept of “silence”,
as soon as you consciously “know” it, there is some “thing” to let go of.

Now, if you can identify and connect with the energy of minds movement, there is the possibility of letting go of picking up. This is a delicate practice at the heart of effort vs. relaxation. I have spent many hours in meditation putting effort into letting go of something already present as a mind object. I guess that’s how the show goes for most of us.
You sit, things come up and then there’s the struggle involving effort, relaxiation, acceptance, naming, breathing, concentration and so on.

Having exhausted – enough of –  my capability to work along those lines, I have come to a place where all these concepts are words on paper. They look different but seems to come from the same place.
That place is where the energy of minds movement resides. I could not tell where that is, and anyway that’s besides the point of this post.
The point is to let that place open up.
That is where the “not- picking up” can happen.

The wierd(-est) part is of course that in a place where no thoughts or mind objects are defined or understood, there is no “you” that can “not-pick up” anything. Do you see the hillarious paradox?
Therefore, you cannot go to this place by intention alone. The intention itself keeps you stuck on the level of ready-made mind objects. If you start off with the intention of “opening up to the place where mental energy, or movement, has not yet been formed into specific mind objects“, you are already knee-deep in all those concepts.
“You” have to “open up” – whatever that means.
“You” are looking for “the place” – wherever that is.
Worst of all, you’re supposed to identify something that is without form and therefore cannot be identified as some “thing” without “form”.

The process I suggest is instead related to the acceptance of whatever will appear in your mind before it actually appears. The familiarity with an ever present mind- energy that doesn’t need to be care for.
You can read about it HERE and HERE.

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Let’s Not Talk About This

As long as there is thoughts as words
There is no way out of reality as a concept
As long as there is no thoughts as words
There is only reality

Trying To Be Is Not An Option

Everytime you put effort into “trying” to be something, you are already being it. There is no such thing as “trying to be present”, because either you are present or you’re not. If you are present, then what’s the problem. If you are not present, what’s the problem? Precense is Existence and that which exists is always present. It may not be percived by someone or something else, but that doesn’t mean it is non-existent. The tree deep in the forest doesn’t vanish as soon as it isn’t seen or felt by some “other”. If it “is” then it “exists” and so do you. It takes no effort. The deed is already done and there is nothing you can or need to do trying to change that.

A common task on spiritual to-do’s is to “practice the capacity to stay present in the moment”. What a red herring that is! How could you ever be out of the present moment to begin with? The practice suggests that you are in fact floatin in and out of time and space. Sometimes being “here”, sometimes being “elsewhere”. When we say that the mind wanders, where the heck does it wander off to? Does it go to the local pub for a pint of Guinness or what? Isn’t it more likely that your mind always is in it’s right place? The thoughts that arise as a result of your mind doing what minds do, now that’s  a different beast altogether.
We never say that “the current content/thoughts that, without someone controling them, arise in your mind is sometimes in line with what is happening around them, sometimes they’re not“.
Instead we build the misconception that the mind wanders as a concequence of the “minder” being inadequate in controling the mind. So the solution to this propoused problem is generally that the inadequate minder corrects that by doing mind-practice, like meditation.

By this practice we hope to become more “present in the moment” and “mindful”. A lot of things can come out of this. It is not bad or useless in any way. It is what it is and that’s it. The point I’m trying to make is not to discard meditation. Not at all. All I’m saying is that you don’t need to train yourself in any particular way in order to gain anything in particular. It might happen so that you are practicing meditation. Well, then you are being “meditation”, together with the cushion, the incense, the guru and/or whatever makes up the concept of “meditation”. If it changes you in any way, than you are “changing” for a while, together with thoughts, actions, feelings and whatever constitutes “changing”. Meditation isn’t a “thing” that changes “you”. It’s a living process along which a lot of happenings arise and then fades away.

If “trying” is happening somewhere in this process, then so be it. There’s no one to stop it anyway. But beware of the tendency to separate “trying” from “being”.
I never tried to write this. It was written, and I was totally present when it happened. It took no effort at all. It couldn’t possibly have been any other way.

When you meditate, you are always there.
You are what’s happening all the time.
There is no separate part of that “meditation” that can fail.
It is existence doing what existence does.
That’s the Doer and it needs no to-do list.
It Is the to-Do list and everything is on it.

Just let yourself be done…

How To Play Hide And Seek With Your Thoughts

I only have 10 minutes for this post so this it’s very “on the go”. I just read This:

For all thoughts the source is the ‘I’ thought. The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry ‘Who am I?’ The thought ‘Who am l?’ will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be ‘to me’. If you enquire ‘Who am I?’ the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased.
Sri Ramana

I then thought  of a litte game I sometimes play with my mind during meditation, try this:
Ask yourself  “What am I thinking right now” and then be attentive.
You might try to gently leave out the “now” like when you count in a song – 1,2,3,-. Just so you don’t mix up counting with playing the actual song. Leave some space after you’ve established the rythm.
“What…Am…I…Thinking…Right…” and then full attention.

In my experience, when I succeed in nailing down my attention to that space (usually take nine inch nails and it’s hard work), then I find nothing, When I say “nothing” I mean no Thoughts. There is of course awareness of whatever is prominent in my perception, but I have no Thoughts about them. It is as if the five senses can be experienced without thought, but the sixth sense of thought itself dissolves when it tries to look at itself. That would be rather “so what”-ish since the eye cannot see itself. But it’s kind of interesting anyway. Maybe this assignment of attention creates a situation where Thought dries out as a result of not getting any input.

If not hearing, touch, taste, smell, vision and not memories or fantasies, then what?
Space, emptieness, peace…?
I dunno.

Is this what Sri is saying with “the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased”. Or is it the other way around? Probably it’s a matter of word-entanglement and misconception on my behalf. My experience is Sri’s but inverted, haha.
Asking my question gives me the answer;
– If Thought is the forerunner of all things, then all things are based on emptieness because when I pay close attention to my Thoughts it seems like they’re totally dependent on other sense input and/or memories to arise at all. A consequence of that would be that all things are the forerunner of all things. They just pass through our minds in order to manifest as action.
– Thought, seen as such a transformer between input/output, past/future is only present here and now and is inherently empty in itself. You can either let it be filled with all that is here and now (mindfulness), or you can direct it to your vast archive of then and there-memories to build fantasies about when and where (mindlessness). If you direct it towards itself, thought looking at thought, there’s nothing to find.

Oh well, times up and Old Joshu screams, MU! I’d love to hear from anyone trying this.
Maybe it’s just me?

 

The state of agency

Doing my regular lunch-meditation I had one of these frequent flashes of dots being connected. Mr. Benjamin Libet came to visit just as I was looking at my breath, or att least trying to. He said- “There’s half a second gap between you being conscious about an action and the action being done. The gap tells us that half a second before you are consciously aware that you will do the action, the part of the brain that is responsible for the carrying out of it has alredy begun the action”. Yeah, I’ve read that before and it’s a cool finding, but how’s that related to my meditation? Benny had gone so I had to figure that one out myself. This is what I came up with:

If the consciousness always is lagging behind the action, there would be an experience of having to catch up on what I’m doing. There would also be a general feeling of not being in full contact with ones body. I think we all have experienced this. So what could you do to close that gap? How do you manage to be fully present, or aware, in your body and it’s actions if your consciousness is constantly lagging and, so to speak, trying to catch up? One might say, in the rearview mirror trying to make sense of what just happened. I think this relates to Susan Blackmore’s question – Am I conscious now? and the subtle difference between being consious (which we are most of the time) and being aware of being conscious (which we practice in meditation).
Well, you could try to speed up your conscioussness. To make it faster in some way. Is this possible? I don’t know! Maybe some drugs are designed to do such a thing? My guess is that such an approach will lead to even more unexplainable behavior. Perhaps some drug will, not close the gap, but blur it in some way so that the experience of “lagging” is transformed to something else. Myself I take methylphenidate for adhd, but in regard to this idea I think that effect is more of getting better hold of past and future, not closing the gap itself. Actually, I haven’t thought about that before…hmmmm, interesting, but that’s another post. That one will be about the advantage of having adhd in meditation practice, but only if you totally let go of your difficulties with memory and planning. After all, if meditation is about Not thinking in past and/or future, you might argue that having adhd is almost like being there already. Then again, I believe most people with this type of functioning regards meditation as a practice to overcome exactly these “deficits”. Stop and save the rest you restless motorbrain.
Continued on topic: Another way is to slow down action. That was my flash. The gap being one dot and sitting still the other. What if meditation in the shamatha form of “just” calming the mind is in it’s essence a practice in closing the gap between, not consciousness, but awareness and the organism?
I sketch a diagram over consciousness-action-perception-awareness. Underneath I scribble;

Perception cannot know itself
Action cannot know itself
Consciousness cannot know itself
Awareness knows them all

Am I aware that I’m aware know?

Awareness cannot perceive
Awareness cannot act
Awareness cannot think

Awareness is an observer in chains and thus, totally passive. By default we see a totally passive function/entity/object as of no use. It only comes into action if we explicitly calls for it.
-Am I conscious now, and the answer is always Yes. Then awareness is placed in the backseat again. Passivly waiting for the next assignement. When called for by consciousness, it is at your service again.

Back to the gap then. If there was no gap maybe awareness was the default and the sequence would be perception – conscious action instead of perception – action – conscious effort in making sense of what happened. I don’t have time to elaborate on this right now. We have to work out the role of mind in being one of the senses/perceptions. It’ll all be crystal clear by the weekend.

How to How

To realize that there is only a vague connection between what you Do and what you Are is a rather disturbing discovery.
The thoughts I have about Myself seems to be nothing but Thoughts about Myself. Oh so obvious, but nevertheless, that’s what my whole life plan is built upon.
The feelings about My Self has rarely been a part of that plan. They were probably shut up ages ago.
The idea regarding Myself starts to look a lot like a comercial break. Made up to sell something to someone. Desperate to be bought.
Learning how the world works has produced an endless agenda of trying to “fit in”. As if I didn’t fit in to begin with. Who said that? Where did that come from?
An early and consistent separation and then years and years of trying to get back in. All the striving for nothing, but to maintain the idea of being separate.
Only to find that the world, the someone supposed to buy what I’m selling, is actually a fiction. Finding out that, honestly, I don’t wanna be bought. So why keep advertising?
There is no buyer so no need for a salesman. They are one as far as reality goes.
If I can stop selling, there’s nothing that can be bought.
If I can let my Self be, then I’ll be in-valuable to the world.
I can be used for nothing. I can do it all.

When that perspective shows up, and when it’s more than just an intellectual understanding, it’s quite sad. How to be creative in that picture? How to adjust when so much of what you Do is based on foggy thought patterns? How could  the same “thinking”  that got me here get me out of here? Yeah, I know how of course. Acceptance, compassion and bravery towards the Self that is finally showing up. Still I wonder how to “how”.

Still I wonder; How to How…

Meta-cognition revised

I’m out on the freeway. Cruise control is on, seat adjusted and I’m enjoying the ride. Listening to the Alan Watts-ness of it all, a wonderful talk on our basic assumptions about existence, I get an idea regarding cognition and the so called meta-cognition. You know, the thinking about thinking, just the way I was doing at the moment. I recall the tiersome and confusing experience of sitting in meditation and labelling “thoughts “. I usually end up in the game of “thinking about thinking about thinking about thinking about..” and so on. It’s like putting layer after layer upon the first thought until it gets completly buried in endless meta-meta-meta-meta-cognitions. It’s as boring as it’s pointless, but obviously not boring enough to not think of. Ah, paradox. Anyway, suppose there is no addition involved in the process. Maybe it’s not thought+thought about thought+thought about thought about thought = 6 thoughts in 3 layers of 1-2-3, but rather thought x thought x thought = 1 thought on 2 basic levels. How about that? There is no linear process where complexity builds. There’s just the optional roundabout of re-cognition where you can go round and round for as long as you like. You’re not going anywhere as far as complexity goes. Everytime you pass the entrance gate you read “Thinking about thinking” because that’s the ride. Thing is you don’t notice it’s same same because you want to believe that there’s some progress.
What if the coscious cognitions are all on the bottom floor? Everything below is unreflected perception as in the brains recieving and structuring sight, sound etc. and there is no second floor. From the little I know on Buddhist theory of mind, “mind” is regarded as one of the senses, and if so, sensing a thought differs not from sensing a sound or a sight. Then I paint a picture of my mind that is not so flattering. Instead of getting more and more complex as in the image of meta-cognition and “higher” reasoning, my mind is running up and down between basement and ground floor. Probably in search of a luxurious penthouse with a panoramic view. With time it folds and quit because it’s not getting anywere. Too bad, the mind then produces the “I’m stupid”-thought when in reality, it has only taken itself on a ride.
The Niklas-ness of it all smiles and gets back into what-is-gear.

The Light of Enlightenment Explained

Given two theoretically “perfect” mirrors facing each other, the only thing reflected would be light. In the absence of friction or other interference, the light would travel infinitely and eternally. If one were able to look directly at this, one would literally just see light, as far as the eye could see. 

The above is from wiki.answers and I have not checked the scource or accuracy of this answer to the question – What does a mirror reflect facing a mirror? Given that this is a correct answer I play with the idea that this has something to say about enlightenment.

In meditation we practice looking into our minds with our minds. We have no other instrument at hand but ourselves, right. One could restate the assignment as – Trying (ooops) to have consciousness looking into itself. Now, it is proposed by J.R. Searle, and I agree on this, that consciousness is nothing but a reflection of more basic processes. It adds all available information as to “make sense of it”. In itself it is just a material based (as in the physical brain) event with the function of a mirror. It can reflect sensations like pain but also the occurence of memories and thoughts. This is not to be regarded as either “physical” or “psychological” because they are all physical as stated above. Usually we accept without hesitation the “physical” part while we seldom notice the “psychological” one. We are, so to speak, in our heads without knowing where we are.

In meditation we address this by taking the observers perspective on thoughts. Our consciousness is therby made to observe our thoughts. Cool, but immediately we ask ourselves – who then is watching the observer? If we could answer that, next question woud be – who is observing the watcher observing our thoughts and so on ad infinitum. Where does this infinite regress come to an end. Where do we end up in our search for the Ultimate Observer or the Highest Consciousness?
I have no deeper knowledge of buddhist thinking since I’ve just started to practice/learn, but maybe we could name it The True Self or Your Original Face.
Well, if consciousness has the function of reflecting physical events while being a physical event in itself, it’s easy to conclude that we’re talking about a mirror reflecting a mirror. If so, then “Enlightenment” may be a very apt description of what happens when we finally get our mind to reflect itself “In the absence of friction or other interference”. Meditation practice is, in that perspective, a way of clearing the mirror from interference so it can produce an accurate image of itself. When it does, and it can easily do that if it wasn’t for the friction/stains of exernal events, then we have, tada, infinite light.
Since I made up this Theory of Consciousness on my way home from work, there might be a bit of fine tuning left to make it waterproof and ready for the Nobel Pize. Like finding out that this is an idea as old as it is buried or that my train of thought derailed off the bat or that the wiki.answer was from a witty porn surfer filling dead time between downloads.
One thing I’ll ask my wife is how One Mind can split into Two Mirrors.

If nothing else, it was fun making it up. I’m surprised by the effect a whole weekend of meditating seem to have on my little mirror. Feels like it’s dancing on the green grass after a long cold winter in Head Quarters.

Side note: The zen story on the mirror and the bohdi tree states that ther is no mirror since all is void, but I think that is getting the concept of “void” wrong. I read in some buddhist text that “void” is referring to how things are when stripped of all our mental projections. That should read “void in relation to how we normally percieve them” and not “void in themselves” because if they were, there would be no form. And there is form, right? And therefore, everything is at the same time just as we percive them and nothing like we percive them.

Tomorrow I will explain why, contrary to common belief, being absorbed in activities like gardening and cross words are the opposite to meditation, unless you’re already awake or at least getting out of bed. When awake, every action is per definition mindful as we all know.

Head’s Up

The last post was a random thought on the subway home. Something for my mind to play with (thanks Beate for that gentle way of labelling a restless mind “playful”). After picking my daughter and dog up at the party where I’m not to spend my night, I sat in my car and had this brilliant conversation in…yeah, right…In My Mind. I was talking to my teacher about all the things I didn’t talk about earlier, corrected some mistakes that appear in the Shambhalian literature and revealed a couple of zen-deep insights regarding human nature. As a by-the-way I also picked apart the concept of spontaneity and how ridiculous it is to even mention it. All in all, biz as usual when my mind is let loose. Needless to say it was pretty wild after 12 hours in a strait jacket, and I just let it run wherever. Actually, I’ve got a headache as it is and need not push that envelope any further.

So anyway, first thought (now that’s a laugh) was to blog all that crap just to keep record. I mean, that’s the whole point of writing this stuff anyway so why not? Then I felt like – Nah, there will be so much more from where that came and all the water from that particular well has the same muddy taste to it. I’ll spill a bucket tomorrow.
Now this “not posting too much” is obviously turning into “posting enough to almost make it too much anyway”, so I’ll soon pull the plug on this one. What I did was to write a brief celebration, or cerebration if you will, of my mind. After all, I’ve been wrestling with it all day and it did put up a good one, so here’s to it:
Words are not just words

When mindfully concieved

Thoughts are not just thoughts

When mindfully perceived

Do not reject illusion

Be careful with that head

If it wasn’t for illusion

You’d already be dead