We can work on Adventure in Awareness, By Bruce K. Britton

Chapter 1: Describes what I did

Q: Oh, welcome, welcome, you are finally here… hmm… maybe that’s not the most tactful way to put it, but you will see we are not too much into tact here. It’s just no guile, no guile anytime. Shall we begin?

  Yes sir… nice to meet you… finally… Begin?  If you say so…

Q: What I usually like to start with isthe beginning, not alwaysthe beginning in time, but the beginning of the important part. Do you know what I mean?

 Oh yes, yes. I know, I know.

Q: (pause) Maybe first you’d like to have coffee …tea ……water…No? The bathroom is through there by the way…Up the stairs and all the way through the first passage and on your left.

No thanks, not just now. I'm getting ready to start… now… just give me a few more seconds to get my ducks in a row here.

Q: Oh, no, no, let me just suggest you leave your ducks alone, don’t line them up, just jump right in…that’s the best way to avoid guile, the dreaded guile…

All right…Here goes…The beginning of my adventure was really… something happened… that happened to me one day when I was 14…

Q: Come, come, no guile, just spit it out.

I'm just trying to… never mind, here goes.

The day I’m talking about is in high summer at the Rockland County Summer Playhouse…. We are a summer stock theater, which means we put on a new play each week. Six performances. Opens Wednesday, Matinee on Saturday. Closes Sunday. This week I’m in Five Finger Exercise by Peter Schaeffer. Big part.

Q: Excuse me, are you off by yourself away from your home for the whole summer? Who let you do that?

Yes, my parents are a few towns away; for some reason they let me go off for the whole summer; they visit every week for a few minutes just after the show.

This week I’m acting; other weeks I do tech work, lights, sound, props, stagehand, raising and lowering the curtain, gofer. All of us are stagehands after the play closes Sunday night about 11, right away we are swarming over the stage, striking the set and then over several days of mostly sleepless nights we construct the next set and all that goes with it, until we open the next play on the Wednesday.I’m sleeping in a bunkbed in the dormitory in one of the converted barns along with the rest of the company.
(long pause)
Trying to get to… it really starts the night before it really happened, so that’s Saturday night. I’m going to bed about midnight, still coming down from the high from two shows.
I’m struck in the head by a powerful conviction. I’m going to die. Keen, sharp, biting…I don’t know where it comes from. It hits me like a sledgehammer. There is no particular…

Q: Wait. wait… I beg your pardon… sorry to break in on you… you’re doing fine… but I might as well tell you now… this is a cliché free zone… there will be no further ‘hitting like a sledgehammer’…got it…

Oh… Ok… thanks for telling me that…

Q: And by the way, just so you know… You are doing gloriously on the guile…

Oh, And may i ask, how do you know…

Q: I’ll be asking the questions here… do you mind? … actually, whether you mind or not…that’s how it is.

I see…

Q: Go on… Do you remember where you are…

Oh yes, oh yes…. I do, I totally do…Death hit me…in my face? …

Q: Wait. Wait! Where did this come from? Was it something in the play? Was it something someone said to you? … Were you depressed?

Nothing like that. Even now I can’t think of any reason: I’m not sick; none of my family or anyone I knew is dying, died recently; I’m not a brooder on death…It's just a fact isn't it? Don’t you think it's probably pretty normal for people to… for children to at some point realize they're going to die? Am I a child at 14?

Q: (kindly) I’ll ask the questions here….

Oh really… you said that before… Where is it written only you can ask questions; can you tell me? What are the rules here? What have I gotten myself into?

Q: More questions… three more questions …never mind for now…maybe you’ll find out later. Anyway, go on…

Anyway, in my case I remember it being a powerful impression. Every Sunday the whole company has its day off. All while I'm lying in bed Sunday morning…. death is back in my mind…. or still in my mind. I’m musing, lazy, under the covers. The idea of death is there with me, but it’s not that I’m frightened. I think I'm trying to solve a problem. Death is a problem, big problem. I think I was taking a rational kind of problem-solving attitude toward it.

Q: Then what happened?

As I'm lying there, there is coming into my mind a way to solve it, a partial solution, or just a way of making the best of it. I'm sure I must have known I couldn’t be immortal; even though the idea of me being immortal came up often in my day-dreams those years…

Q: Really? Do tell…

    Dreams… my daytime-dreams are not actually the point right here. They do turn out to be important later, so I'll tell you about them later. Also, a sleep-walking thing happens…  I'm not asleep, but I find myself walking around caught up in a daytime dream. What I call sleep-walking.  You can't see this while I’m talking but I'm actually typing a dash between ‘day’ and ‘dream’ and between ‘sleep’ and ‘walking’, so you'll know in the transcript I'm talking about dreams that occur during the day, and walking is occurring during the day but as if I am asleep… I’m walking but not conscious of walking. So, just while we're talking here, I will put a pause between ‘day’ and ‘dream’, and a pause between ‘sleep’ and ‘walking’, which is like a dash that you hear…

Q: Oh goody, goody. By the way, in case you’re not noticing, there is an Irony Alert on right now. Anyway, go on. Don’t just stick to the main points; I want full complete details, no summaries.

Here's what’s coming into my mind as I'm lying there."I must not waste any time at all, starting right now because later I'll be dead.”

Q: Did you think you were going to do that?

I didn't think about it. By the time I get out of bed, I am already decided to live a fully conscious life that day, for all of that day. Was I thinking I could do it for all of the other days? I don’t remember.  All this is happening while I’m still lying in bed.

Q: I have to know what you mean by ‘fully conscious.’

You'll get it, you'll get it… for now, I'll tell you 2 ways; I’ll give you some of the words… I could just as well have said fully aware, fully awakened, fully present, simple feeling of being, I-am-ness. If you want to get technical, take the overlap of the meanings of all those words, and then take that overlap to be the meaning of each of them.

Q: Ooooo, technical, technical…I’m really scared now…

Oh, shut up….

Q: You promised me two definitions; you’ve only given me one.

The other definition is the operational definition, which basically is what operations are necessary to do the activity, in this case what operations are necessary to be fully conscious.

Q: Like Bridgewater, Carnap and all that business…

Oh. you already knew about… I didn't realize…

[Bridgewater and Carnap are 20th century philosophers who use the idea of ‘operational definition’.]

Q: Just get on with it… get on with it… I could say I don’t have all the Time in the world, but that’s not exactly true. Remember, I’ll always tell you the truth, except …Anyway, getting back to your little experiment in defeating death, you thought that was the best use of your time?

Come on. I have the day off, Sunday completely off…. so the best use of my time isn’t really coming into it. I can do whatever I want. This is what I want to do. I’m not wanting to want it; I’m just wanting it… do you know what I mean?

Q: Good answer.…
Q: What are you thinking?

 I’m thinking my life has only a certain number of minutes in it. I may have tried to calculate how many, but I probably quickly noticed I had to know how long I would live…

Q: Yes, the Life Expectancy; old, old calculation problem. Comes up a lot these days in insurance, apparently. But what makes you think you can even become fully conscious?

Oh, I'm certain I can because I had sometimes become fully conscious without intending to. I know from experience I can; I had earlier in my life. So, if I can be conscious for all of those minutes, as many of them as I can, then I’m filling up my life with fully conscious time. For the time I had left, whatever it was. In that time, I'm being fully conscious. It seems to me it’s a good thing to do. Worthwhile.

Q: I’m still not quite understanding. What do you mean by fully conscious?

That morning, I don’t have any idea how to use words to define what is ‘Fully Conscious’. What I do know exactly is how to get into the fully conscious state. By the way, nobody had even told me such a thing exists, certainly not how to get into the fully conscious state… Yet I can do it immediately, with no sense of effort or strain or pushing…

Q: Is that a special talent you have?

Yes, it is…. Yes, it is… and I’m telling you right now it's a talent everybody else has too.  Just as much as I do.  Even you, probably.

Q: Oh, so now you are going to get sassy? Is that it?

What do you mean by ‘sassy’?

Q: Oh just go on. You mean to tell me you didn’t really know what it was you were going to do?

No, I hadn't decided about anything. Except to be fully conscious.

Q: What happens next? You get out of bed, presumably?

I leap out of bed. I probably had the feeling I was embarking on a great adventure. The adventure of full consciousness. I was like that at 14. I went down to breakfast, which the whole company took communally downstairs in the same barn. Do you want to know what we had for breakfast?

Q: You really don’t know what sassy means? What century are you in?

That would be the 21st. What century are you in?

Q: Just go on with the story. Just the facts.

 After breakfast I walked outside.

Q: What is the Rockland County Summer Playhouse like?

 The campus is about 10 acres, lightly wooded, big lawns, four large, converted barns widely spaced. A clear day, cool, light breezes eddying around. I stroll about 50 yards away into the trees, to where I'm pretty much alone. I pause there for a while…. All this I'm telling you is what it looks like from the outside. All day it would just keep looking like: here is this guy, standing, walking, stopping, looking, standing…It is inside where all the interesting stuff is going on. As I'm standing there I purposely get into the ‘fully conscious state’. Best I can tell you, I'm making a gesture with my mind. Similar to a gesture. It is like I move my mind from wherever it is to a certain place. At the end of the gesture, there is ‘fully conscious’. I can do it again right now. One of the things left over by this experience is I know I can get into my fully conscious state at any time. This will change my life forever.

Q: As you think about this gesture, what comes to mind?

What comes to mind is… I am not thinking about the gesture at this time, I'm thinking about something else. (I don't mean to be rude; maybe later I will tell about the different kind of gestures I make. OK?)

Q: Oh let me thank you very much, profusely, thank you…

Zip it. Anyway, here is what I am thinking about at the moment —you will just have to take that. At the time I'm having this experience, this is what I'm thinking. … this is a big adventure for me. I am 14 years old, definitely up for big adventures. So, it is OK that I don’t know at all what will happen: I'm basically in a war with death, I'm up for defeating death. Anyway, it is my day off.

Q: All right, so go on. You put your mind in this conscious, fully conscious state. Then what happens?

Before I do that, I'm telling you right now I’m dropping into the present progressive tense… it’s the tense for continuing action, something going on right now, this gives me the remembrance of the feeling of it happening right now …it puts me directly in the picture… so it’s easier…Instead of saying ‘I was doing such and such’ I say ‘I am doing such and such’…

Q: Oh fancy fancy, is this more of the technical stuff you were showing yourself off about earlier….

Oh, shut UP…So, I’m putting my mind into this conscious state; it works immediately. Turns out to be easy. Then I'm just maintaining this conscious state standing here.

Q: So it was as easy as falling off a log…

Cliche Alert on you! There will be no further clichés. This is still a cliché free zone. So watch yourself…

Q: !?!…

Soon I notice I’m not remaining in the conscious state for more than a few seconds at a time: I keep dropping out of it into daytime-dreams. After a while of this I decide I might have more success maintaining it if I do it walking around. Also, I probably thought it would give me something more interesting to do than just stand there. It was my day off. The way I do this, as I'm doing it, I see it going on at a high level of detail. I'm first making sure, before I start any part of any step, I'm definitely in the conscious state. So, I'm looking into my mind to be sure about being conscious. Then I start off the mental process of deciding to take a step, and then only after the deciding part is over, then I start the step, meanwhile looking often into my mind to confirm I'm remaining in the conscious state from the beginning of the impulse of the step, all the way to the very end of the step itself.

During all of this time what I am looking at is things like: what I am doing with my mind as I’m deciding to take a step, and then I’m looking at my muscles and my muscle movements as I plan them out and then carry them out and then they come to an end. This I do for maybe 15-20 minutes. I’m dropping out of the conscious state often. And each time I’m having to reinstate the conscious state before I go on. One step at a time, which makes it hard to keep my balance.
Then I decide to try several steps in the direction of a nearby tree. Then I hold onto the tree to keep my balance easy. I do this very slowly with many pauses in between steps to look in my mind, to check on my conscious state and re-up it if need be. I am doing this all day long until I went to sleep that night. 15-16 hours?
What happens during that day that changes my life forever? I’m asking myself. Now I’m going to try to answer it with what I tell you next.

Q: I was wondering when are we going to get to the changing your life forever part…

First, I have to describe what happened with the conscious part, the intervals when I was fully conscious. I'll describe what happens when I'm conscious in the situations that are most common. First in my sensory mind and then in my daytime-dreaming mind. For example, a situation where I'm standing outside. I'm already looking at a certain tree, maintaining my consciousness unbroken. After an interval passes, the tree begins to fade, mentally fade, not physically fade, but so it doesn’t stand out as sharply in my attention.  This happens over a second or two.  It is gradually losing attraction to me, to my consciousness.  Then I'm noticing my eyes are on the move.  I (my consciousness) is urging me to move on to something else; it is ready. Before today, I would ‘just see’ the next object my eyes stopped on, maybe a patch of grass. When I say ‘just see’ what I mean is I was seeing with my regular consciousness, instead of seeing them with this heightened level of consciousness that I mean by ’fully conscious’. (Here I'm comparing what is happening during my experience of this day with what had been happening during the whole previous part of my life, before today. I wasn't making these comparisons during my experience, only afterwards.) Today, I’m fully conscious of much more happening in this setting of the leaves and the trees and the grass and my mind itself. What I'm seeing is more like this; starting with me already looking at the tree. The tree begins to fade mentally.

In my peripheral vision I’m seeing there is something to shift to (a patch of grass over there), then I’m checking on my conscious state, then I’m very slowly moving my eyes until I reach the patch of grass, really first deciding when to move my eyes and then moving them, very slowly; I am doing it on purpose, and keeping my consciousness going while I’m doing it.When I get there, to the patch of grass, over half a second or so gradually ‘it comes to be seen.’

Q: …Meaning what?

That is, when I first got my eyes to the patch of grass, it was vague … over less than a second it gradually comes into focus, except it was not eye-focus, as if I were focusing binoculars, it was mental focus.  In this way my mind would have to catch up with my eyes. It is not just that a patch of grass had captured my attention, and my eyes were on it.  It is also that reality would blow up, its real-ness,, like blowing up a balloon. Then the same sequence happens again all day long. At this point I have to tell you… as a much younger child, up to age 10, my sister tells me I had a habit of doing certain movements and certain thoughts over and over again at a high level of detail. Like before I went into our dining room at home, I had to stamp my feet three times in an exact pattern and if I didn't get the pattern right, I had to do it over again until I get it right… I'm guessing this would now have been diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Q: (drily) No kidding…

But I'm lucky, I was lucky I didn't fall into the hands of anyone who would mess with me to do that …,what you're probably thinking about right now. I was just allowed to go my own way. So there.

Q: Hey!…

(interrupting) At that point the fine detail of the patch of grass would start to appear, what I later learned to call ‘zooming in’. Then there was an interval of drinking in the detail. Then there was the phase of losing interest/ fading for the detail. Then I would do a bit of ‘zooming out’. Then there would be an open interval.  Then another detail of the object might appear in peripheral vision and I would zoom in to the detail of the object, and then its realness would blow up, and I would drink it in. Soon whatever I was looking at would begin to lose the quality of insisting that I look at it. The losing of the insistence was what I called fading. Then there would be an open interval. And the sequence would repeat. And then there would be another open interval. This detailed sequence actually happened in a short time, sometimes fractions of a second or a second or two. Over and over and over again…The only times I could be conscious of all of it was when I was maintaining my consciousness persistently, often checking on and maintaining my conscious state successfully. Here is what I have so far: there are 5 phases to each sensory event: the attracting, the zooming in, the drinking in, the fading, and the open interval. Sometimes the drinking in was not there, and often I missed other phases: they went by so fast. I’ll describe this another way: arising, staying, which includes the zooming and the drinking in, the fading, and the open interval.

Q: How was it during daytime-dreaming?
During daydreams it was different. I could only get access to the very last part of the day-dreams, the part just before I woke up from the day-dreams, which I was remembering backwards.

Q: That certainly makes it perfectly clear… Irony Alert!

What I mean is when I wake up from the day-dreams I remember only the last few seconds of what had been happening in the day-dream. In there, some of the phases were still there, but less distinct; sometimes not there at all.
The day-dreams… I couldn’t possibly go to them on purpose; they occurred without my knowing they were starting. I could only notice them looking backward when I woke up from them. They are like falling asleep; it’s as if I never go to sleep but I always wake up. Meaning I could never notice the moment at which I’m going to sleep; but waking up from sleep is easy to notice. I had been carried away by the daytime dream for an unknown interval of time. I wasn’t really sure how long the interval was; I didn’t know when the carrying away had started.
This means the attraction phase was hidden from me. I now think this is an important fact. In day-dreams there may have been an attraction phase; whether there is or not I don’t know. I always come awake from the day-dreams. Then I look back and see the very last part of what had been going on in the day-dreams, the part during the few seconds just before I came away from the day-dreams.
This was like the ‘zooming in’ phase in the sensory realm. But the day-dreams were usually so sparse and vague, you couldn’t see much or at all. Then it would fade away quickly, almost as if it were embarrassed. So, for day-dreams the attraction phase was entirely missing from consciousness, and the other phases were not much to see.

Q: Are you saying you are not able to notice when any daytime-dream started?

Yes, and that is true to this day years later. 

Q: Is it true you are unable to notice what wakes you up from any day-dreams?

Yes…sometimes I infer…

Q: Is that still true?


Q: Was all of that about what was happening when you were fully conscious…Was it was looking at it from the standpoint of the fully conscious part?

Good point, yes. So, on to the next part. The next part is about when my consciousness went away, and I realized I had to get back into it. This dropping out of being conscious would happen often, seemingly at random, on the average every minute or two. Now I can measure how much this happened.

Q: Wait ! You mean how much of… what… exactly…

How much of the time I'm in the fully conscious state, and how much of the time I'm not…

Q: You what?? Wait! How do you…

 I’ll tell you later.

Q: You certainly will… In fact, you should tell me right now, because…

Moving right along… getting back to when I do drop out of consciousness, as I said I'm not aware at the time that I have dropped out. After a lot of this happening, I get the idea to start doing this: As soon as I notice, as soon as I come to, I stop abruptly wherever I am and stand completely still and LOOK DIRECTLY AT MY MIND.    (Mark this carefully, it turns out to be important later on.) I go directly to… I still think of it as… yes … as the place in my mind where I find… what …the consciousness apparatus…  machinery?  Here’s what happened: As I get there, it seems as if there is nothing at all there, it is completely empty … void … featureless.  At the exact same time, consciousness is already present there; I didn't have to construct consciousness or make any effort to return to it except to LOOK DIRECTLY AT MY MIND. And there is nothing there, and then…No that's not right… it's not that I go to the place in my mind and then there I see the consciousness apparatus. There is no ‘then’.  Actually I don't go to a place in my mind at all, what I do is I look directly at my mind, and there the emptiness is, in full, and also the consciousness is, in full.  Without any separation between looking directly at my mind and seeing an empty void, and there is consciousness. No separation in time, and no separation in sort of space. I make the gesture and there it is. Then I go on from there. Then all the sequence repeats. Sometimes I’m in the sensory realm, sometimes in the daytime-dreaming realm. Sometimes my consciousness is there; sometimes it is not. Another event sometimes happened when I regained being fully conscious. I would stand still wherever I happened to be, and I'm looking at my mind. I am immobile in my body, and in my mind. I don't remember having any experience happen during these times.  As to what happened during those still intervals, I don't know if I had any experience of it as it was going on; I don’t have any exact memory of any experience.  All I do remember of it was a mental image of me standing there, as if I was looking at this person from outside, and he was just standing there. It seems these were long intervals, very, very long conscious intervals. 

Q: What do you think is going on there?

A Look, for the whole time of the experiment, I had no idea what was going on. So, don’t ask me what is going on…

Q: !… Ohhh…kay…
(long pause)
Q: You did promise to explain more about what you mean by consciousness and fully conscious.

Did I? Yes…here it is. When I wake up from sleep or from anesthesia, I return to one form of consciousness, I will call that everyday consciousness. That's not the kind of consciousness I'm talking about here. Another meaning of conscious I don’t mean is self-conscious, which always has an element of other people looking at me and me being embarrassed… such as not wearing the right clothes to a wedding… So, no. I'm talking about a level of consciousness above the other two kinds… actually all the other kinds. ‘Above’ in the sense that it can look down on both every-day consciousness and self-consciousness. It can look down look down on everything else in my mind.  This means it is higher than everyday consciousness and self-consciousness, and higher than everything else in my mind.

Q: You’re going to give me an example of what it sees when it looks down?

 Suppose my body is affected by the emotions of self-consciousness. These are embarrassment, shame, chagrin, flustered-ness, guilt, mortification…  The fully conscious… entity? … can observe this.  I later learned that for this reason it is called the Witness, the Watcher, ‘The One Who Knows’ the Observer… and other names.  This consciousness can witness... the witness has other facets, and they’re in my plan of defeating death and connected with the idea of this great adventure I’m having. In other words, the great adventure I'm having is not just a matter of observing things going on in my nervous system. It has other facets.  Those facets turn out to be so valuable…. the value cannot even be measured in terms of anything else at all: it’s literally immeasurable.  I'll get to that later. Back to the witness. It does not itself feel the emotions, it is completely detached from the content of what is happening; it is the context of what is happening. There is the content of what is happening.  Then there is the context from which the content is being seen: that is what I'm talking about.

Q: I still don’t…

I’ll tell you later; just wait.

Q: OK, I think it’s time for a break, let’s turn off the machinery. Take five? Or how long of a break do you want?

I just got here, I'm not tired for some reason … I really want to look around and see what's what, so how about tomorrow morning… You said ‘the machinery’…

Q: OK, OK, Never mind. See you tomorrow.

Chapter 2: What it was

Q: Thanks for coming back.

 You were worried I wasn't going to come back?

Q: Indeed. Sometimes… incidents … happen…… then… never mind, shall we just go through. I’m glad you’re here, is what I meant to say…
(moving indoors) Do you like this chair… good…this one is my favorite. So…
Q: I have one issue I want to clear up from yesterday. Is it true that you claim you did this all by yourself without any help? In other words, you had this, shall we call it a mystical experience; a religious experience…

Ha!  Mystical, schmystical! In the first place you seem to have forgotten this has  been declared a cliché free zone, also the irony alert is still on, so… if you want to ask me a question that I can answer within the rules, so-called…

Q: (patiently) Independently of everyone else, there was no input from anyone else, this was done completely on your own?

Yes, and one of the big events of the day was a conviction of my aloneness and the independence and self-reliance from the aloneness. Tell you about that later.
As I am doing this whole day, I’m noticing what is happening, and just on the side, particularly that what is happening is different… different from what usually happens in my mind during regular days.

Q: Do tell.

What hit me the most was about time. Two things about time.  I remember feeling to myself what I would now say as “I am moving at the speed of time”.  At 14, it is only a thought, not a formulated statement. It is as if time is a car passing by; I get into it, riding along with it. I feel I'm occupying time.  I'm grappled to time.  It was like Einstein's picture. I don't remember if I had read his little book at that time: Was it a picture of a little boy riding on time? No, I think it was a little boy on a rocket, sitting on a rocket looking over at a light wave next to him… are they going at the same speed, was that the point? I need to get his book which is a simple version of the theory of relativity. It has in it the pictures Einstein actually had in his mind while he was figuring out the business about the speed of light and all that.  It is not a choice: I have to go to at the same speed as time. It’s not that I'm commanding myself.  It is inevitable that I am going at the same speed as time. There is no other speed I can go at.

Q: I don’t know if this bothers you but you just ended a sentence with a preposition…

Yes…this is a cliché free zone. right… so shut UP… It wasn't that time slowed down; it was me having slowed down to the speed of time.

Q: The speed of time is kind of a strange idea, isn’t it? Speed is distance divided by time; so if I go 3 miles and one hour has passed, I am going at the speed of 3 miles an hour, right?

 3 miles an hour…what are you, walking??

Q: What do you think?

Oh… yes…. OK…I do see… anyway, at 14, I didn't know this was not a physics statement, meaningless in terms of physics. I didn’t care at all… But the notion of ‘the speed of time’ has psychological reality.  My image at the time is of a thick black line running along next to me. I'm grappled to it, with big hooks…  It is moving with me, as I'm moving with it. The distinct impression of direct connection with something of the Universe … Time? At this moment moving continually with it seems inherent in the way I'm doing my walking. That's number 1 about time.  Second about time is there is so much more of it. Every moment is long: the whole day is very long. Very, very long.  Far longer than any other day; far longer than I thought a day could even be. I was fully conscious all during the passage of time, maybe that was why the time seemed so much longer, it was so full of … stuff. Even now at any time whenever I am getting fully conscious, I become aware of the time passing, at its own rate, without it rushing by. Just meandering by — sauntering by —I am it… By the way, from now on when I'm talking about my Experience at the Rockland County Playhouse, I need to distinguish that particular Experience from other uses of the word experience so I will utter the word ‘Experience’ in a particularly portentous Tone of voice…

Q:( ironically) Did you say pretentious?

(ignoring) A third thing about time is when I had a day-dream, after I woke up from it, the events as I experienced them inside the day-dream are in their own realm of time. Day-dreaming time is a separate realm of time. I only see this retrospectively: when I get back to consciousness and the actual speed of time, there is some of the actual time missing; the intervening time has gone by in a flash … I wasn’t aware of it passing. 

Q: A flash??

All right… time has gone by without my being aware of its passing. It is as if there are two realms of time, one being the actual speed of time, sauntering along; then there is a time outside of time, which is day-dream time. Actually, three realms, to include when I'm standing still, immobile; there seems to be no time at all.

Q: So three? …

That’s three about time.  Then another category different from regular days before was how objects and events looked. During the Experience day stuff is happening.… Jam-packed …oops, I mean filled with events at all times…   In my everyday persona, what was happening all the time would have looked totally mundane to me: walking; stopping; seeing… trees, grass, sky, clouds, barns…hearing… the breezes, the sounds of 20 humans living together; feeling the ground, the grass, my feet… All mundane… the kind of mundane as in ordinary life, just a nothing , not even really there, or else a vague cloud of just glop…  During my Experience, everything looks totally mundane, even more mundane than in an ordinary day.  Was it just mundane to a higher degree? I could even call it super-mundane, but I won’t.

Q: …. This is a cliché free zone…

 Each event and each object has more parts than it had before. This I noticed for my body as well as my surroundings: particularly the feelings of my fingers and my toes, or my hands and my feet, the feelings of my feet, and the exact muscles of my legs and back and neck, and my balance as I walked and stood, and my breathing, and the trees and grass, breezes I was in direct physical contact with.  The breezes rose and fell, meandering…the light from the sun… changing as the clouds pass by. More remotely, seeing the 4 barns: the shops, the biggest one for putting on the plays, the house of the producers, living quarters for the company.  The only one I actually get inside during today is the big barn for the shows, empty, wandering around backstage and in front. Except of course for lunch, and my nap. Particularly when I was standing completely still, pervading all of the mundanity there emerges another quality, that I can’t put my finger on …

Q: Alas…Cliche Alert!

( talking over him) It has Un-finger-put -upon-ability… so there!

Q: (applauding) Good save!

And the body and the trees and barns seem to stand out more than before. I later learned this is called ‘numinous’, which is ‘sacred’ for atheists.

Q: Hmm…. So it is a religious experience…

HA!  I say HA, HA! Moving right along… … is that, unlike regular days, all the events are happening without interference, without trying to push it around. All that is happening inside me and outside me? I let it happen. I don’t interfere . It doesn’t seem as if I'm particularly in charge of what is going on.

Q: You were definitely exerting control, interfering with your consciousness, either purposely staying in full consciousness or else going back to becoming conscious.

Yes.  I’m definitely controlling either staying in full consciousness or else going back to becoming conscious … otherwise the events that occurred around me I just let them go.

Q: This corresponds to William James’s “Passivity —the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power.” from Varieties of Religious Experience

Oh, shut UP!

Q:What I was going to mention is more that he says there that seems relevant.:

Noetic quality —Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule, they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.

Transiency —Mystical states cannot be sustained for long…

I suppose you’re now going to  remind me, in respect of my whole discourse here, what James said about 

Ineffability — no adequate report of its contents can be given in words…its quality must be directly experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others… mystical states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect. No one can make clear to another who has never had a certain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it consists.

Q: You said it. I didn’t say it…

Fifth is two surprises. When I lost consciousness I turned round and looked at my mind… and found nothingness and also consciousness. There was a definite feeling of physically turning around. What happens next is amazing to me… What happens is that when I turn around and look directly at my mind, the first surprise is that there was nothing. It was only years later I learned this was a common experience for people who are doing what I am doing:

In this condition an utter mental Silence prevails. This is remaining with what is…. ‘remaining’ in this ‘is-ness’, this Silence, this Stillness… [ emphasis in original ]
Wilber, Spectrum of Consciousness p 345

And the second surprise is that consciousness is there. I later learned that this consciousness was the witness, and this was what I contacted immediately when I turned around and looked at myself… looked at my mind. I was looking at myself from the witness, as present… Try it out for yourself, see if it happens in your mind.That is, get conscious, keep at it until you discover you have lost it, then turn around and look directly at your mind. What happened to me is that when I turned around and looked directly at my mind, I saw nothing and that nothing was consciousness. That Nothing IS Consciousness. This was the other big surprise, not what I expected at all. Please can we take a break?

Q: Have to stop for today, your time is up … what I am missing is what you might call the lessons of your experience…what you said so far is very detailed-scale, and were there more higher level…

Actually it’s ‘Experience’, not just ‘experience.’

Q: (moving right along) …what I am missing is big lessons from the experience, Experience. Were there any of these? Was it all just this lower level stuff? Is there anything at a higher level?


Q: Considering the whole day as a whole what happened? Is there anything you are able to tell me? Think of it like this: When I ask you to think about the day as a whole, what comes to mind? We’ll do those tomorrow.

Chapter 3: Up in a Balloon

Q: About yesterday… I need a broader perspective…from the whole day as a whole…

What do you mean?

Q: Suppose you went up in a balloon and saw the whole day from that perspective. When you think about that, what comes to mind?

(long pause) … Gosh… first, I'm alone, I'm doing this all by myself, except occasionally one of the company would come up to me to say something like "Are you OK?” I would say something like “Yes, I'm just thinking.” But I am all alone.   I never told anyone in all the years since then until I told you. Its not a lonely feeling. I'm doing what is most important to do in the world. I have to do it.  It is I who have to do it; no one could help me. I didn't want anyone to tell me; it was not possible for anyone to tell me: it was all going on inside my mind. I had to do it all.  Anyway, it was my day off.   The result is I feel like an island, self-reliant, independent. This is tying back to the beginning of the Experience; the aloneness was a result of the most important thing to do being, in a way, to defeat death. It all started the night before when death became a presence in my life, larger than ever before — really larger than anything. As I was sleeping, I came up with a compromise solution, which was that I couldn't actually defeat death, but I could beat it every day as I went along by being fully conscious. What I was doing was saving myself from a life of day-dreams …time passing…clock time passing… without my presence. Which is to save my life from passing by without my being there. This felt at the time like a desperate move, as if I were in danger… I was in a pit… I had to get out of it. This was the daytime-dreaming pit. I was definitely on the expedition of saving myself from death…It came into my mind that I might, at the end my life, say, “Gosh darn it, I missed it all”. I was in danger of missing it because of the day-dream domination. Now I know that living fully can be travel, sexuality,  drugs.… But I seem to have thought of a full life in a literal way… I had a certain amount of time left before I was going to die. I could waste that time in day-sleep or in day-dreams, which is a kind of waking sleep… day-dreams are …out of real time into the sort of illusory time that happens in day-dreams. When I wake up from a day-dream, I realize my time has been wasted. Also, I don't know how much time has passed: I'm not happening within that time. I have to emphasize that day-dreams were a big part of my life… the amount of time they took up; I had noticed this. I was trying to defeat death. Later I learned about Terror Management.

Q: !??…

Yes, you can look it up. It is a field in psychology that starts with the idea that the most important motivation we have is to deny death. We name buildings after ourselves…build monuments to ourselves … try to leave something behind after we die so we live on.…sort of. Now I understand it’s this impulse which I'm tapping into.  Ernst Becker wrote the book on this: “The Denial of Death.” I assumed my way is new; as far as I know I am the only person who has ever done it, even who could do it. But in a new way, a way I had developed; as far as I knew at the time no one else had done in the history of the world. It was only later on I learned otherwise. 

Q: Ok… is there anything else that comes to mind as you look down on it from your balloon.

There was something I thought of… this next part is about my fingers and toes…maybe I should leave it out…

Q: No! No, no guile, no guile whatsoever…

As I go through the day I'm developing somehow a strongly held idea that not only do I have to do it myself, independence/self-reliance part, but also the independence and self-reliance has implications for action:  I must do it with my fingers and toes, that's the way I’m saying it to myself. Maybe I'm thinking about hands and feet, that was mainly what I was using that day, walking around and also keeping my balance, mainly with my hands and feet. The strong-willed idea is that I have to do all the parts of it, from the planning of the idea, then in a hierarchy all the way down to the actual movements of my body to actually implement the idea: down to my fingers and toes. Maybe this part has to do with building myself monuments in a bid to defeat death or in one of the other ways Becker suggests. I'm not sure that is true. I think it’s a way of making sure my ideas come to fruition, leave fruit behind. It might be a consequence of the wish for successful independence. In order to be successfully independent I had to make the whole plan all the way down to the bottom. As opposed to what I might have otherwise been doing, just having day-dreams but not bringing it down to my hands and feet and actual bodily movements. What I meant was that everything, ultimately everything, came down to the physical movements of my actual body. In other words, This is not at a high level, it is a concrete level, not an abstract level, not the level of ideas; the high level had to be brought down to the actual physical movements of my fingers and other muscles. I could imagine and hope whatever, but unless the actions are planned out to come down to the actions of my muscles, nothing is going to be happening. In other words, I'm not going to be saved. I was not going to be saved in a practical, real-life oriented way, unless I had the whole hierarchy carried through. So I carried out the whole hierarchy all the way to the bottom - to my fingers and toes.

Q: Anything else, from your balloon.

(long pause, then suddenly) Wait. Wait. I’m seeing the whole. It’s like a continent …what I told you before was more like just one province at a time. This is really the highest possible view, the whole continent I see underneath me, which is… All in all: the events of the day are showing me that the mind is the only important thing. I am spending an entire day with my mind. This convinces me the mind is the only important thing. Not convincing me logically… but just seeing, straight out…

Q: Stop! Stop right there. Did you just say the mind is the most important thing…?

I'm not exactly sure what I said, but what I meant was the mind is the only important thing, not just the most important thing.

Q: How did this conviction come about?

By spending the whole day with it, my mind, that did it. But I didn't have to spend the whole day. In three minutes, I can convince you of it: just sit where you are and spend the next three minutes just paying attention to your body. Set a timer. Try anything else: try being fully conscious all through it as you are doing something, taking a shower, doing the dishes, but all the way through. I spent the entire day with nothing but my mind. Later I found my conclusion is common. For me it’s right there in the statement "This is your introduction to the real condition of things.” This from Padmasambhava( c. 767 ) (Pod-ma-sahm-BA-va)

Now, when you are introduced [to your own intrinsic awareness], the method for entering into it involves three considerations:
Thoughts in the past are clear and empty and leave no traces behind.
Thoughts in the future are fresh and unconditioned by anything.
And in the present moment, when [your mind] remains in its own condition without constructing anything,
awareness, at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary.
And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly [without any discursive thoughts],
Since there is only this pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity …
only a naked manifest awareness is present.
[This awareness ] is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever.
It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness.
It is not permanent and yet it is not created by anything.
However, it is not a mere nothingness or something annihilated because it is lucid and present.
It does not exist as a single entity because it is present and clear in terms of being many.
[On the other hand] it is not created as a multiplicity of things because it is inseparable and of a single flavor.
This inherent self-awareness does not derive from anything outside itself.
This is the real introduction to the actual condition of things.
from Self Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awaremess. Padmasambhava

At the time of my Experience, I had the clear idea that my experiment showed that everything I know is a phenomenon of the mind. Everything. Later I came up with this logical argument:

‘Knowing’ is something that only the mind can do.
So, the statement “everything I know is a phenomenon of the mind” is close to a tautology, like this:
I say (1) “everything ‘I know’ is a phenomenon of the mind”.
Then I say (2) “ ‘To know’ is something that only the mind can do.”
Then I substitute (2) into (1).
I get “everything (that only the mind can do) is a phenomenon of the mind”.
It’s a tautology; tautologies are true, kind of.

What else I saw from my experiment and direct Experience is that the mind is the only thing to which I have direct access. Everything else is derivative. This had the biggest possible influence on my life: it lasted all the way through up to now. Is it time for a break ?Are we done now?

Q: Done for today. Good work.

Chapter 4: Same as Buddha?

… I will teach you the all. Listen to this…

Q: Thank you for describing your Experience. You attribute a lot of significance to it. Couldn’t it be just another adolescent in puberty, mistaking his hormone storms for insights into reality?

Well put. One reason is prospective: it was important in the effect it had on my life. But I didn't know that at the time.   It was only later I came to know that this was what many other people in history had tried to have. I was reading them because of the Experience; it gave me an interest in higher levels of consciousness. In my Experience I had found these out for myself; others often put them in exactly the same terms as I did that day. Of these the first one I read about was Buddha. What I found, not much to my surprise at first, was that apparently he and his followers had exactly the same experience as me.

Q: ( impatiently ) How could you possibly know that?

I’m convinced by evidence that the Experience I was having is the same as the experience Buddha and his followers had. As soon as Buddha had his experience, he said, ‘This enlightenment has two grounds: things … arise … and they cease.’ This sounds similar to my Experience of looking at things and hearing and feeling and ending up identifying three or four or five phases, which collapse into the two  main ones that he mentions. In the stories Buddha tells, this comes up over and over again, just as it did in my Experience. The next story Buddha tells was about finding his five companions so he could tell them about his experience.  By the end of his talk there was one of them who immediately reached enlightenment, named Kondana. The sign of his becoming enlightened was that he said, “Whatever arises, passes away." Buddha said, “Bingo!" (Actually Buddha seems to have said, “The stainless dharma eye arose in Kondana, who said, “whatever arises passes away.”) Later on he reports an experience of two of his favorite followers: two pals named Sariputta and Moggallana. They had promised each other that if either of them found the answer they were seeking they would right away find the other one to tell him what it was. One day Sariputta was walking along the road when he saw one of the followers of the Buddha. He was impressed by his bearing and appearance. Sariputta said, "You look marvelous. Who is your teacher and what does he teach?” The follower said, “He teaches that things arise, and they cease…” Sariputta’s eyes got really big; then he smacked himself on the forehead, saying, "Holy cow! That’s the answer I've been looking for.” He ran off to tell his friend Moggallana saying, "I found the answer." Moggallana said, "What is it?” And Sariputta said, "Get this: things arise and — they cease!” Moggallana thought for a few seconds; then his eyes got really big, and he smacked himself on his forehead saying, “Holy cow!” And so on. There are lots of stories like this. ‘Whatever arises passes away’ became one of the slogans in early Buddhism.

Q: Anything else?

 Another thing I did during my Experience was I decided to be ‘fully conscious’ in my bodily movements. I don't know where I got that idea at 14, but it appears to be the same idea  used by Buddha…     To be awakened:

You should be fully conscious
when you are sitting, standing, walking, lying down,
when you’re bending and flexing your limbs,
when you are urinating and defecating.
You should be fully aware
when you’re having feelings,
whether pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.
You should be fully aware
when you’re in various states of mind
such as greediness, anger, hatred …
source access to insight

and again

…breathing in long he discerns, I am breathing in long, or breathing out long he discerns I am breathing out long. Or breathing in short he discerns I am breathing in short, or breathing out short he discerns I am breathing out short…When going forward and returning, he makes himself fully alert, When looking toward and looking away he makes himself fully alert… When bending and extending his limbs… when carrying his cloak… When eating, drinking, chewing, and savoring… When… falling asleep, waking up, talking, and remaining silent, he makes himself fully alert… when feeling a painful feeling he discerns, “I am feeling a painful feeling.” When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns,”I’m feeling a pleasant feeling.” When feeling neither a painful nor pleasant feeling, he discerns, “I’m feeling neither a painful nor unpleasant feeling.” When the mind has passion he discerns that the mind has passion. When the mind is without passion he discerns the mind is without passion… when the mind has a aversion… delusion… constricted…

He goes on and on with these lists, to the point where it’s obvious that he isn’t intending to leave anything out. Can I say, “He didn’t specify that I should be fully conscious when taking a shower or washing the dishes, so those are exempt?” No. He means fully conscious goes for all my activities.

This shows up in reports from other periods of Buddhism. For example, here is Torei (1721 – 1792).

You must search for your true nature. How do you search? In the eye seeing of colors; in the ear hearing of sounds; in the body feeling distinctions of heat and cold; in the consciousness feelings of wrong and right: all these must be seen clearly as they are. This seeing and hearing and knowing is at the root of the practice… the training… is: when looking at some color, to ask himself what it is that is being seen; when hearing some sound, to ask himself what it is that is being heard; when feeling hot or cold, to ask himself what it is that is being felt; when distinguishing wrong from right, to ask himself what it is that is being known…
on page 336 of A New Zen Reader: The Roaring Stream.

Q: So, sensory awareness, that shows up in your experience. Anything else?

The awareness is not just sensory. When Buddha first became enlightened, he described the experience in several ways, among which he said it is 'clearly visible.' Later on, one of his followers named Sivaka said to him, 

“What do you mean, clearly visible? It doesn’t seem clearly visible to me at all.”
Buddha’s response was “Well Sivaka, when you are greedy, you are conscious that you are greedy, right?”
And Sivaka said “Well, yes.”
“And when you’re not greedy, you’re conscious that you’re not greedy, right? “
“And when you’re feeling hatred, you’re conscious that you’re feeling hatred, right? And when you’re not feeling hatred, you’re conscious that you’re not feeling hatred?”
“And when you’re feeling confusion, you’re conscious that…” And so on.
At the end, Buddha said “Well, Sivaka my friend, it is in exactly in that way that it is clearly visible.”

Another thing happened during my Experience: I was tackling my daytime dreams. I believed I would only be successful when I wasn't having daydreams.

One day the Buddha was conversing with a Prince. The Prince asked him, “What do you and your monks do in your monastery?” The Buddha said, “We sit, and we walk, and we eat.” The prince said, “How are you different, then, from my people, for we do those things as well?” The Buddha responded, “When we sit, we are conscious we are sitting. When we walk, we are conscious we are walking. When we eat, we are conscious we are eating. When your people sit, they do not simply sit, their minds are busy with all kinds of imagination; when they walk they give reign to a thousand idle thoughts; when they eat, their minds churn with schemes and images and imagined conversations”…
Benoit page 31

Q: Fine, fine. But don’t some people claim you are wrong; these stories don’t represent the real thing at all?

Yes, I have read such claims. “That's not enlightenment. This is a bunch of bull.”  But when I write to these people, ‘What do you think enlightenment is?’ they don't reply. There is one document I have found that gets directly at this question. It's the subject of an article by Ajahn Brahmavanso (Ajahn being an honorific title in Buddhism). I’ll summarize it fairly. It starts with another story about a Buddhist follower named Bahiya. Here's what Buddha told Bahiya, as translated by the Ajahn.

Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: in the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard there will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized…

The Ajahn’s comment is “And then Bahiya became fully enlightened.” Sounds easy, doesn't it? 

Q: Is there an irony alert on for that last bit? Irony Alert! I declare it…

Geez, yes. But the story about Bahiya  as Brahmavanso tells it is the same as all the other translations I have seen. And Buddha said in a later part of the story that Bahiya had become fully enlightened as a result of this advice. The irony comes in…where… I'm trying to analyze this…

Q: Don’t bother, it’s obvious….

The story looks to me like further evidence that my Experience was the same as Bahiya had… would've had if he followed that advice… which he did, is the implication of the story. In my Experience what I perceived was just the ‘bare particulars’, plain.  Events and objects seemed mundane and ordinary, but exceptionally mundane with ‘ordinary’ in a special sense, meaning uncontrived, not manipulated not fabricated — just itself.

The Ajahn goes on to cast doubt on this:
…an example of how the Buddha’s teachings became distorted… there is more to the story… in his previous life, Bahiya… together with six other monks… climbed a steep mountain, throwing away the ladder, and determined to remain on top of that rock until they became enlightened or died… five died on the mountain. Bahiya was one of the five. In Bahiya’s final life, he was a sailor… Bahiya thought he was an Arahant [had already achieved enlightenment]…. a deva [a god] … reprimanded him… informed him about a true Arahant, the Buddha, living that time on the other side of India, at Savatthi [800 miles away]… Bahiya immediately left… and reached Savatthi … in only one night.

This counterclaim doesn’t convince me. It makes implausible claims: Bahiya had two previous lives; a god speaks to him; he traveled 800 miles in one night; the Ajahn knows all of this.  It was common 2500 years ago in Buddha’s time to make claims of supernatural events like previous lives, gods speaking to people, and levitation as part of implausible travel stories.  But the article was published in 2005. I don’t buy it. [The rest of the article is interesting and makes little further supernatural claims: it was worth reading all of it.]

Q: But shouldn’t it take more time … don’t you have to do it for years and years?

Here is what Buddha said about how long it would take:  “… should any person practice… in this manner for 7 days…”

Q: But you only did it for one day…

But look at this: he started out the document that comes from by saying “… should any person practice… in this manner for seven years…” and then he went to “,,,6 years…five…four…three…two…one…seven months…six months…five…four…three…two…one…half a month…” and then he gets down to “should any person practice… in this manner for 7 days…”

Q: Oh… But still… OK, I see what you mean. At the beginning you said you were going to tell us the All.

… I will teach you the all. Listen to this. And what is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and tactile sensations, the mind and Dhammas [mental constructs]. This is called the all.
If anyone should speak thus: ‘having rejected this all, I shall make known another all’ – that would be an empty boast on his part. If he were questioned, he would not be able to reply and, further, he would meet with vexation. For what reason? Because that all would not be within his domain.
From Stephen Bachelor, Pali Canon. The all on page 2

Shall we take a break…

Q: Let’s stop for today. Tomorrow then?…

Chapter 5: Getting Here

Q: You could call it ‘high consciousness’…’High consciousness’ has a nice ring to it. How do I get there ?

This is what I found out. First, I always have to start with the intention to become fully conscious, get to high consciousness or whatever I'm liking to call it… I change the name whenever I want…

Q: You keep changing the names of these things all the time. Could you pick a name and stick with it?

 It helps to change it…what I'm talking about can't really be captured in words… you said yourself that it is ineffable , which means “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words”.  (I put a list of all the different names I use in an appendix.)

Q: William James said that. But if it can’t be captured in words, then the thing to do is not to say any words… I see that would lead to problems…

More like it has facets; it’s like a jewel, if you turn it around in the light it shows different aspects.

Q: (musing) Should I be calling a metaphor alert on this jewel business?

(hurrying) Getting back to the first thing I need, which I said was "intention”. I have to ask myself whether this is a good time. I might be hungry, thirsty, tired, horny or any number of things — I have to take out the garbage — competing thoughts that are in the rest of my nervous system. Getting to a feasible intention means I have to ask for my consent to do this at this time.

Q: Can you do it at the same time you’re eating and drinking?… not I suppose when you’re sleeping.

Yes, I can, but only sometimes, and I still have to get my consent to start doing it, to start doing the two things at the same time. Not sleeping, I’m talking eating and drinking and all that.  Actually, there is more on this later, hold your horses…

Q: I call a Cliche Alert!

I mean be patient. Now I'm going on to what else I need. Second, I need confidence I’m in a safe place; no immediate dangers — lions, traffic… Third, I need some free time. Fourth, I start by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Its a peaceful and receptive part of the nervous system. It’s the ‘rest and digest’ system, or it’s sometimes called the ‘feed and breed’ system. Sound good?

Q:But wait, resting and digesting; not the same as feeding and breeding…

You’re telling me! But if I’m not in the parasympathetic system, the only other choice is the counterpart sympathetic nervous system —the ‘fright /freeze/ fight/ flight/ faint’ system. I have to use that when it's dangerous to feed or digest or rest or breed. 

Q: Aren’t those names mixed up? Shouldn’t it be that the nervous system that is sympathetic is the other one, the rest, digest, feed, and breed…

Moving right along…When I'm in high consciousness I’m doing self-actualization.  That would be dangerous when I should be fighting or fleeing.

Q: Complicated. Did you say I can get to the parasympathetic nervous system?

Yes. It’s easy.  First, I have to be sure I’m in a safe place where no fighting or fleeing is needed. Then all I have to do is take three deep breaths. The out-breaths have to be the same length as the in-breaths; you have to count. When I say deep, I mean very deep, breathing in all the way into my chest and abdomen all the way down to my pelvis, slowly and then slowly letting it out and then doing it again, and then again. I got good at it. I can sense clearly when my body flips over into the parasympathetic nervous system.

Q: OK. What’s next?

You could just do what I did in the first chapter, which was to decide to be fully conscious and then keep at it all day. But that may not work for you. That is why there are other tricks to get to the state of high consciousness.

First trick: Hubert Benoit (oooh-Bear ben-WAH)
Hubert Benoit (1904 – 1992) was a French psychoanalyst, after being a surgeon and a war hero. Much influenced by Zen, he uses the Japanese term ‘satori’ to refer to full consciousness, awakening and the other terms.
He claims that if we repeatedly and faithfully carry out a particular “inner gesture” then we will realize that “each one of us lives in the state of Satori and could not live otherwise…” His book is about what causes “…our illusion of not living in the state of Satori. We will see that they are our imaginative emotive processes…”
Benoit, writing mainly in the 1950s, used movies as a root metaphor. This grabbed my attention immediately; my main obstacle to full consciousness is little movies where I am the star; usually movies of imaginary social interactions. These are my imaginative-emotional processes.
My movies are daytime dreams. As in my Experience, I am slowly walking along in a state of full consciousness, which is consciousness of the real world of the trees and the grass and the sky and the sound of the breeze…. Then suddenly I wake up to the real world and looking back in my memory of the last few seconds I see the last part of the movie that had replaced the real world.

Q: I’m not following you … you left something out…

Yes, indeed. I’m glad you noticed. It was apt. I’ll say it again but I’ll put in stars, like this *****, at the place where I left something out, and then I’ll explain what the stars mean. Here goes:

“As in my Experience, I am slowly walking along in a state of full consciousness, which is consciousness of the real world of the trees and the grass and the sky and the sound of the breeze* Then suddenly I wake up to the real world and looking back in my memory of the last few seconds I see the last part of the movie that had replaced the real world.”

What the stars mean is that without noticing it I had dropped into a daytime dream…  I  didn’t mention it the first time around because in reality I don’t notice when it happens. I’m just going along fully conscious and  “Then suddenly I wake up…”

Q: Join the crowd. What does Benoit say about that?

Benoit says straight out:

The aim of the inner task is to install myself entirely in the real world, to reach reality by elimination of the dream.
p 94 Benoit

Q: I see… now I suppose you’re going to tell us what the real world is, what reality is?

Actually I am.

Q: Please… Take a break?

Not yet. Here's how it goes: I start out with the most basic thing there is: existence itself. There is no way even you can deny that there is existence.

Q: Why not?… Oh, I see… if I did, then… OK… Go on…

The perception of existence is a basic perception, maybe the most basic of all. For Benoit the aim of my inner gesture is to install myself in my perception of existence, in reality, in the real world, to occupy existence, to situate myself in it, emplace, station, lodge myself…

Q: Are you reading this out of a thesaurus?…

And in order to do that I have to eliminate the dream.

Q: You mean to discard, get rid of, get clear, remove, cast away, cast aside, reject…

You bet!

Q: How is this to be done? Pray tell…

The simplest way Benoit suggests to install myself in real existence is simply to make the inner gesture that perceives my sensation of existing. Just existing. ‘I exist.’

Q: Hmmm… Exactly what is that gesture?

Exactly that!

Q: …??

It is exactly the inner gesture you just now made when you perceived you exist.  That you made. The gesture you made; did you not just a few seconds ago see that you exist? Experience existence?

Q: ( protesting )Wait a minute… Is it fair to bring me into this, I mean the actual me… My perceptions… don’t you need my informed consent…

Moving right along … I was just guessing when I said you just made the gesture. If I guessed wrong let me know…

Q: …

 I tried to make Benoit's mental gesture. I find out that I perceive my sensation of existence easily, but only intermittently. It is like there is a film of my existence, but what I'm perceiving at first is only the stills. To reach reality by elimination of the dream:

I need to go from relative, separated perception to a continuous perception which will then be just perception of existence. I can do that by training myself to have more and more of these those instantaneous perceptions.
Benoit p 85

Q: How am I supposed to do that?

As with all the skillful tricks I have to start with the intention.

If at any moment I wish to perceive, by means of an intuitive inward movement of perfect simplicity, the informal impression I have of existing … I can do so, but as soon as I cease to wish it, I cease to do so…

Q: OK, what if I have the proper intention. Then what happens?

Are you asking, “What do I get?”  Good question. Best question. I congratulate you for that question! When I make this gesture with the necessary intention, and install myself in the real world, then here’s what I get:

… My mind is active concerning the ultimate reality of my condition at the concrete moment that I am living …the ultimate problem of man’s state as the problem is manifested in the present moment…

Q: Can we take a break please? This is making my head hurt…

Are there any more snacks?…


I think this keen feeling of existence is what has happened to me when I have been in real danger, in a life-threatening event.

Q: Like what?

Once when I was adjusting the lighting during a technical rehearsal in a big auditorium, I was crawling along a girder in the space between the ceiling of the auditorium and the roof, which was about 4 feet of space. All of a sudden as I took a step my leg went through the ceiling, except I managed to catch myself, and ended up with just my leg dangling below the ceiling. All the beautiful plaster work of the ceiling crashed down on the seats below (I’m sorry… I’m sorry…) The seats were 100 feet down. I would probably have been dead.    Here’s a worse one: Many times, I got lost on the ski slopes and fell and found myself neck deep in a pile of snow in a place where nobody would show up until spring. I’m struggling desperately to get out, with fantasies of “We’ve moved from rescue operations to body recovery”; only being found next August.  Anyway, after I escape from things like this I'm grateful for simply existing, existing all by itself, being alive, without having to add anything extra to it. There is a strong feeling of tranquility, along with a powerful determination to be more in the here and now in life, rather than getting lost in imagination. I say to myself, “Everything will be different from now on. I will behave in a different way that will be more appreciative of just being alive.” It happens like that every time…  Benoit describes it as like the feeling of someone just before a duel: He promises himself that if he survives, he will completely re-organize his priorities and resolve to live a new way.

Q: Was he in a duel? I mean, how would he know… Never mind, side issue…
(pause) Isn’t that the same as…

Yes. You noticed!  It is! Exactly like my Experience; it was triggered by my sudden powerful impression that I was going to die….All of those examples are.

Q: Moving right along…

Where was I?

Q: Exactly…

Oh… I was making this inner gesture.

Q: That is supposed to pause the thinking machinery in my mind…

But I'm guessing you’ve noticed that just telling myself to make the inner gesture is not entirely satisfactory.  Yes??

Q: Yes.

Me too.   Benoit suggests other ways. One is that the inner gesture “… is realized when I authorize the totality of my tendencies before the conscious appearance of any one of them, and then none of them appears”. So, I try to authorize everything…Let’s try that…

Go on… authorize…

Q: (long pause)…I’m not getting anything…

Me too. Me neither.  Here’s another one from Benoit: Go to the place in your mind from which the day-dreams will come. But be there before they come out, and lie in wait for them.

“A new vigilance… an active attention lies in wait for the advent of my inner movements. It is no longer my emotions which interest me, but their coming to birth”

Q: (long pause) I’m trying to do that but… I don’t know how to do it…

Eckhart Tolle is a contemporary teacher who puts it like this:

Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘Oh I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?

Try that…

Q: (Long pause)… No, I’m getting nothing…

Me too…Shall we try another one, which is to say to your mind, “Speak! I am listening!” Or “Do what you please, but I am going to watch you doing it.” If you discover that thoughts have already arisen, you say, “So you want to talk to me about that. Go on, I'm listening.” Shall we try that…

Q: (long pause)… I’m still getting nothing…

Good, good.  

Q: . What good is that…

OK, OK. Now you get the punchline! I asked you to do all that without telling you this; the whole point of these is to stop your mind.  Not to suppress your thoughts, but to intervene before any thoughts arise…”it suspends thought without suppressing it—and that is the key “ (Wilber) [emphasis in original].You tried these out and you saw clearly that they are good at stopping anything from arising; there suddenly becomes for you nothing to notice.

Q: You’re admitting you tricked me!

Er… but…

Q: Oh, shut UP…But it strikes me this is a paradoxical outcome… my thought machinery has all the time been putting out an endless train of thoughts, but then when I’m inviting something to arise, it completely turns off. It’s almost as if it were offended or…

Hmm, I don’t really go with ‘offended’. Nevertheless it certainly does have the immediate effect of stopping my mind. If I start out with the intention of escaping from the dream….. no, not escaping….. the intention of preventing?….. preempting?….. any thoughts from happening, and then I invite the dream to happen and what happens is nothing….. it's a mystery to me…..

I observed that my monologue stops… does not start up again until my attitude of vigilant expectations ceases.

The ‘attitude of vigilant expectations’, that's what I am calling the intention. If my intention lapses, then the dream machinery starts up again. The ‘inner gesture’ is maybe the intention itself, rather than those other things…

Q: …?

Shall we do some more. Here’s the next thing Benoit suggests:

Let us suppose that I ask you: ‘How are you feeling at this moment?’You will ask in reply: ‘From what point of view? Physically or morally? ‘I answer: ‘From all points of view together; how do you feel?’
You are silent for [2] seconds then you say, for example… ’Not so bad’, or ‘So-so’ or ‘Very well’ or something else…
Of the 2 seconds during which you were silent, the [2nd second] does not interest us, for you were using it in order to put into a form of expression your perception…You had already slipped away from the inner presence which interests us.
It is during the [1st] second that you perceived what is really in question for you all the time and of which you are habitually unconscious…

Q: What? You lost me in there…

Me too at first. What he means is that during the first second I was looking inside my head, looking directly at my mind, for how I felt ‘from all possible points of view together’. What I found was exactly the same as I found in my Experience when I turned around and looked straight at my mind. That is the same as what I find when I do Benoit’s suggestions: make the gesture toward existence; authorize all my tendencies in advance; lie in wait for my thoughts before they arise; say,‘Speak. I am listening’; ask, ‘How do I feel from all possible points of view together. All those are the same as what I found during my Experience (quoting from myself in chapter 1)

… LOOK DIRECTLY AT MY MIND. And there is nothing there…there the emptiness is, in full, and also the consciousness is, in full. Without any separation between looking directly at my mind and seeing an empty void, and there is consciousness.

Q: I think I know what you’re going to say… but say it anyway, just in case.

By now you know I'm unable to really put into words what it is; it is exactly nothing, emptiness, the void… But then they also call it ‘the fruitful void’; why is that?

Q: … That’s not what I expected at all…you’re going too fast…

I'll tell you later. Here's the fourth (is it the fourth? I lost count…) of Benoit’s gestures;  I call it ‘the glance’:

This gesture… is like a look which, cast on the full center of my inner world, transpierces the plane of this world toward that which is unknown to me. This look, because it does not prefer any object, because it is sent, without pre-conception, toward no matter what, meets nothing and so results without my having wished it in the suspension of my imaginative film… it is an attention to everything, which has no object. The suspension of my imaginative film, thus obtained without having been sought, is instantaneous: it is without duration, an in-temporal flash of lightning in the heart of time…

Q: That sounds like what you said about your Experience, when you looked straight at your mind….But, it makes no sense at all…


Q: …. But I’m wondering…


Q: … These all work but I’m wondering whether they work well-enough or… what…

 Good! Me too, and Benoit too:

… if someone, after having read this, tries to obtain the informal perception of which we are speaking, let him beware; there are 1000 ways of believing that one has it, whereas one has it not; in any case the mistake is the same… one is not simple-minded enough.

Q: Oh, really! So I should be more simple minded? Is that it?

Fortunately for you,  he does give two ways of being more simple-minded about this. 

Q: Oh, goody, goody…Just what I wanted…Irony alert!

First go directly to the emptiness, what I was doing in my Experience when I simply stood there, still, immobile (quoting myself)

…when I regained being fully conscious. I would stand still wherever I happened to be, and I am looking at my mind. I am immobile in my body, and also in my mind. I don’t remember having any experience happen during these times. As to what happened during those still intervals, I don’t think I had any experience of it as it was going on: I don’t have any exact memory of any experience.

 Benoit says “… when my attention operates in the active mode, there is nothing to perceive…” Others say:

… you won’t see anything in particular…witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of freedom or pure emptiness…
One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber, from Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston. Copyright Ken Wilber, 1998

…when I am completely attentive… there is no image forming…At the moment of attention all the conditioning disappears, all the image building comes to an end…
J. Krishnamurti, in Krishnamurti in India 1970-71, p. 69

In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivity is the fasting of the mind… it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives but does not keep.
Chuang Tzu, Ch. 4, from Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India, p. 648

Benoit has another reason why staying in the emptiness is difficult: I am unwilling to do nothing. This is his second way of getting to simple-mindedness.

I have a primordial preference for agitation over immobility [/stillness/slow motion] and this is the cause of my misery. … I have a false belief according to which immobility [ /stillness/slow motion] is dangerous, mortal; I believe that I myself must achieve my salvation, realize by a personal activity my total accomplishment. As long as I have this belief I cannot prevent [myself] from releasing a new imaginative film, and that is a vicious circle of agitation. When I am no longer afraid of immobility [/stillness/slow motion] I become free of the imaginary film.

Q: You added ‘slow motion’…

I'm thinking about my Experience, of walking around in slow motion.

Q: This willingness to be still, will do what?

… the growth to Satori will take place by itself if… we cease to oppose it by our restlessness and our inner manipulation.

Q: I want to take a break…

Me too. And did I smell some more snacks…can I go in…?

Q: Go on.


Steven C. Hayes’ skillful trick: identifying as the witness

Steven C. Hayes, besides being a practicing psychotherapist, psycholinguist, founder of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, and a professor who has published more than 600 papers and 15 books, calls the witness the Observer Self. He also calls it ‘you-as-perspective’ meaning that I'm identifying myself as the perspective from which I'm observing my mind. He also calls it ‘you-as-context,' meaning that the contents of consciousness are being seen within the context of the Observer Self.

Q: What was that again?

It is not the con-tent of consciousness; it is the place from which the consciousness is observed: the con-text. Others have called it the Witness, the  Watcher, the One Who Knows, and other names… Did you see what I did there with those dashes…

Q:…Very clever…

The witness has no content of its own so it gives the dominating impression of emptiness. At the same time, it has the peculiar property, as I noticed in my Rockland County Playhouse Experience, of giving simultaneously the dominating impression of that which is fully conscious. The simultaneity of these two properties: emptiness and full consciousness……Can I explain it .…in words?  No. The only way to understand it clearly is to go there. As soon as you realize that you have just come out of a day–dream, then turn around and look directly at your mind. If you’re like me, what you'll see is complete total emptiness, and simultaneously you’ll experience full consciousness, awake-ness, awareness. Are you with me?

Q: Not at all with you. This is sounding mystical to me …

Ha! Mystical- Shmystical! Look. I go straight within myself to my Witness. I easily go to the place from which I observe, then I have the witness.

Q: …?

Shall we try this? There is a place in my mind from which I am observing what is going on in my mind. When I want to identify with the Observer, I easily put myself in that place in my own mind: the place from which I am observing.For example, suppose I’m angry, and I’m dwelling in the content of my consciousness, which is the feeling of anger. I can step back and look at my anger. At that point: ‘there is anger.’  Then I take another step back and find the place in my mind from which I look at my anger.

Q: Ok, I’ve got the ‘from’…

 Another example: I’m walking, and I’m dwelling in the content of my consciousness (unless I'm lost in a daydream while walking: waking sleep-walking). Then I go back in behind my eyes and look at myself walking, and then I take another step back and find the place in my mind from… from which I'm observing myself walking.  In the same way I can see ideas, feelings, plans, fantasies, daydreams, and the rest.  I can always find the witness from which I see that I'm seeing them. From which I see that I see that I'm seeing them…

Q: That could be confusing to some people, by which I mean me.

Ok, ok. Let’s try this. Imagine the witness as an extra sense organ. What it senses is what is going on in my nervous system.  The extra sense organ is the place from which I am observing what is going on in my nervous system.

Q: Is that supposed to be helpful?

 OK, I’ll get rid of all this talk. Just look. Think back to your early elementary school days; didn't you have a watcher within yourself? Go up behind your eyes at that time; wasn't there a neutral presence there? Isn’t that same presence here now? In this room? In you?

Q: …I remember…

I’ll try it another way.  I get to the same presence right now by making a simple gesture, a physical gesture. What I do is I ‘back up’ into myself until I get behind my eyes. [Here I take 2 steps back…] This is a physical gesture that I'm using to stand for the actual mental backing up. While I'm saying ‘back up’ I put my hands out at arm’s length in front of me [Here I gesture….]. I start wiggling my fingers, then gradually pull my hands backwards until they're right next to my ears; this symbolizes ‘backing up.’  Into my mind. Here’s another physical gesture:  I hold out one hand at arm’s length with the fingers spread out as if I was reaching for a large grapefruit. Then turn my hand 180 degrees, now with the fingers pointing at my face as if I was trying to grasp my whole head.  Then I move the hand inward toward my mind, toward my own head. In my Experience I imagined my body turning 180 degrees to look directly at my mind. Or I could use ‘gestures’ in speech: "Speak. I am listening.”

Q: That’s better. … Aha! I go there right away.

 Good! You have this place in your mind. Everyone has it:  I've never had anybody claim, “I can't get to that place.” I don't have to create it when I want to go to it. There’s no sense of strain in getting to it; with just the intention to get to it, there it is. It is available to me at any time: in that sense, it is present all the time.

Q: Is it built in or do I learn it?

I learned it. When I was a little child, I didn't have knowledge that there was a ‘me’ who had a ‘point of view’ or ‘a perspective from which I saw’. An infant has no concept of self as separate from others. The mother’s eyes - the father’s chest - his/her own fingers and toes are equally his/hers. As the child develops, these distinctions come to be “real" to the child.

…children are taught to distinguish their perspective from that of others. Young children have a hard time with the issue of perspective. For example, young children seated across from a doll will, when asked, report that the doll sees what they are seeing. Gradually, however, a sense of perspective emerges. A child learns what he or she sees is seen from a perspective. Similarly, a young child, asked what she had for breakfast, may respond with what her brother actually ate, but an older child will not make such a mistake. Through correction (“No, that is what your brother ate. What did you eat?”) a child must learn to see from a consistent locus.”
Hayes, Relational Frame Theory

Q: What is this witness like?

In the first place you should look at your own mind to see what it's like. How about I'll tell you what I find; you tell me whether you find that too. Get ready; it's peculiar; a strange place…

Q: Can we please take a break?

Yes, please. These snacks are delicious…


OK, where was I?

Q: The witness, what kind of place I have inside myself…

First, when I get to it, I'm in absolutely no doubt that it is actually there. This is even though there's nothing at all in the way of specificity. It is completely empty.  Secondly it doesn't have any edges. It doesn’t have limits.  Edges and limits are what all thing-like entities have. If something doesn't have edges and limits, then we don’t say it’s a thing. What are the only other things that have no edges? ‘Nothing’ has no edges. ‘Everything’ has no edges. Nor does the witness have any shape or weight or color or intensity or any of the other characteristics things have. So, it’s not a thing.

Q: So if it’s not a thing, then what is it?

What do you think it is?

Q: Maybe we could take a break…

We just took a break. I have found the witness from which I sense what's going on in my nervous system, and two of its properties: it is undoubtedly actually present, and it doesn't have any edges or limits or any other of the properties that thing-like entities have. In the third place it’s definitely a sense organ, but it doesn't have a physical presence in a specific location like the other sensory organs: the eye, the ear, the tongue and the rest. In the fourth place I can't observe it; I can’t observe the place from which I am observing.

Q: Why not? You could just get outside it and observe it from there.

No, except if it was seeing itself, then who would be seeing it, who would be doing the seeing. It must be a higher witness.  Here is how Hayes puts it, using ‘You-as-perspective’ as a name for that from which you are witnessing. 

We can readily examine other people and see their “you-as-perspective behavior” as a thing. Even as we do this, however, we are observing this from our own you-as-perspective behavior, and this context or perspective is not experienceable as a thing by ourselves. Thus, you-as-perspective behavior can be a stable thing only when it is someone else being observed. For the person doing it, it is not observable and describable in the same way as all other events are observable and describable.

Now go back to the place from which you are seeing these ideas and feelings and thoughts…are you there…

Q: (short pause) Yes, yes, ok…

What are its characteristics? Its qualities or properties?

Q: (pause)… Gee whiz…you’ve told me that it has no edges and no shape or color or weight and that it has no limits that I see… Those are all qualities that it doesn’t have. Now you are asking me about what qualities it does have… no, all I see in my mind is blob-like, but even that… I can’t really see it, I’m just saying that to have something to say…

Exactly… We find it has no qualities (a quality is a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by something). It is un-qualifiable. A good word from Tibet is un-finger-put-upon-ability.

Q: Nice word! However, then what is it? If it’s not a thing, then it isn’t made out of matter…

Maybe that’s where the matter-spirit distinction came from. That distinction seems to be present in all cultures and all languages.  Hayes goes even further in Making Sense of Spirituality (1986 Behaviorism, pp xxxx):

…What I am claiming is that the qualities of a metaphysical God can be understood as a metaphorical extension of the experienced qualities of the behavior of seeing seeing-from-perspective [the observing self].

Q: So what is the upshot of all this?

If I'm identifying as the witness, then that is the same as being fully conscious.  And getting to the witness is easy; you did it about 5 times today. Do you want to take a break?

Q: No, lets push on…

Padmasambhava (Pod-ma-sahm-BA-va) trick: Is awareness ordinary?

The tricks I've shown you so far are from 20th century Americans.  This one is from 7th  century Tibet:  Padmasambhava’s ‘Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness’: 

…the method for entering into it involves three considerations:
Thoughts in the past are clear and empty and leave no traces behind.
Thoughts in the future are fresh and unconditioned by anything.
And in the present moment, when (your mind) remains in its own condition without constructing anything, awareness, at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary…
only a naked manifest awareness is present…
This is the real introduction to the actual condition of things.

Or is it 6th century, or 8th? Anyway, about 767 CE he was.  

Q: I know, I know…

Let’s take this one piece at a time. Take “Thoughts in the past are clear and empty and leave no traces behind. Thoughts in the future are fresh and unconditioned by anything.” What he is referring to is the situation after I have drawn the sting from repetitive, persistent, disturbing outside thoughts from the past and the future. He writes this as if that had already happened.  What he doesn’t  mention is that I have to actually do it first.

Q: And how do you do that?

That’s in the next chapter.  What does he mean by “awareness… is quite ordinary”? For that we need a special meaning of ‘ordinary’;  this from a 20th century Tibetan: 

When we are practicing… We are not seeking to recover something far away or concealed, and we are not trying to remove the obstacles that prevent us from acquiring something. Instead, we are simply looking for the nature of our own mind which is right there in our own mind. What could possibly be more accessible than that?
We could easily think that the nature of our mind is extraordinarily fine, extremely pure, and utterly unusual, and so we should discard everything that is old and familiar and arrive at something that has never been experienced before.
But that would be to manipulate and contrive; we will never discover the nature of our mind that way. So, to dispel such misconceptions, the term ‘ordinary mind’ was used to indicate that it is and has always been just the mind’s nature without any manipulation or any contrivance.
from Essentials of Mahamudra by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, pp.176-177

What does he mean by “naked manifest awareness”? ‘Naked’ refers to  emptiness; ‘manifest’ refers to its being present unquestionably .  Most important to me is what Padmasambhava means by ‘This is your real introduction to the actual condition of things’.  I think he means what I meant when I said the mind wasn’t just the most important thing among other important things; it was the only important thing. Elsewhere he puts it like this:  Everything that appears is but a manifestation of mind. Even though the entire external inanimate universe appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind.  And then he extends it to everything else including  … even though intrinsic awareness which is self-originated primal

awareness, appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind…
There exist no appearances whatsoever that can be understood as not coming from mind.

Q: That sounds like you are claiming the real physical world doesn’t exist. Isn’t that mystical/shmystical?

 You’re talking about ‘… the entire external inanimate universe …’?  What he means is that my knowledge of anything in the outside world can only be the result of collaboration between my senses and the energy touching my senses from the outside world. If no energy from it is hitting  my senses, I have no knowledge of the thing. Let’s just go on, shall we?

Activate your attention without dwelling on anything.

Ken Wilber was 23 when he wrote The Spectrum of Consciousness. He then continued his job as a dishwasher for 10 years while writing more books; more than 20 books, all still in print. At 23, he'd looked at the world’s methods of getting full consciousness, and found they share three characteristics in common.

Factor 1: Active Attention — a special type of intense yet relaxed alertness, which can be described as a “Speak[!] I am listening.” attitude, as a total authorization or total acceptance of my tendencies, as an active vigilance and watchfulness directed at the very birth of thought and emotions. It is an attention-authorization to what is Now, watching inside and outside with equal eye.
Ken Wilber Ch. 10 Spectrum of Consciousness page 345 in collected edition volume one. [emphases in original].

During my Experience, daytime dreaming was passive attention. Once I wake up from a daytime dream, I am in what Ken Wilber calls active attention. For me, along with the activated attention, the witness shows up. Maybe activated attention is the same as the witness? The observer self is the place from which I can sense the contents of my mind. The observer  has no con-tent of its own. It is the con-text within which the content shows up.  When I activate my attention, my observer self detects a ‘sensation of awareness’. This is definitely a sensory experience, a thoroughly mundane sensation like any other sensory sensation, such as the sensation of my feet in my shoes —the taste of sugar. My sensation of awareness is a felt thing; a felt consciousness; my consciousness has a feel to it; it isn’t abstract. It's like a light goes on in my mind.

Q: Metaphor alert!

I can give you a clear perception of the switch from passive attention to Active Attention right now. Just close your eyes. Then suddenly I want you to first ‘look’ at the inside of your eyelids, and then ‘see’ what is on that screen. In between looking and seeing, you may notice the sudden coming awake of your eyes; your eyes come alive. For me active attention usually ‘pops on’ with a click, a slide.

Q: Metaphor alert! Enough about active attention. What happens next?

Then your mind just stops.

When this active attention is carried out correctly, it results in: Factor 2: Stopping – the suspension of thought, of conceptualization, of objectification, of mental chatter…. It is a suspension of space, time, form, and dualism, and in this condition an utter mental silence prevails… this is remaining with what is… [emphasis in original]

In my Experience this is what happened when I was just standing still, immobile, ‘for long intervals,’ along with:

If this stopping is clear and complete, it will result in: Factor 3: Choice-less Awareness – a special seeing that is seeing into nothing… not a looking into a mere blank or vacuum, but a looking into nothing objective– it is pure timeless awareness… it is complete in itself, with nothing external or objective to it. Because nothing is outside it, it operates without any effort whatever, in a completely spontaneous fashion, without reference to past or future. It operates above space – time in the absolute Now, pointing to nothing beyond itself and seeing nothing beyond itself…[emphasis in original]

In my Experience choiceless awareness lasted a long time. Er… Rather, it’s not exactly time; I need to put scare quotes around ‘for a long time’. Wilber calls it ‘above space – time in the absolute Now’. Other times the choice-less awareness phase goes by so fast I completely miss it.

Q: What happens after choice-less awareness?

What is sure is eventually I go back to ‘dwelling in’ daytime dreams about one thing and another: tasks, plans, memories, fantasies. Ken Wilber doesn't go into this much and the other teachers don’t mention it either; it is important: more on this in the next chapter.

Q: (quizzically) Oh…

Daytime-dreams are in passive attention. Once passive attention takes over, my mind is disconnected from the witness.   As long as I'm immersed in the day-dream, there is no opening to look straight at my mind. Later my mind goes back to active attention. And back and forth it goes. Passive attention may last a long time.  Active attention may wake up seldom. At 14 I was unhappy at how much time daytime dreams were taking up. As it turned out, the more I practiced, the shorter the daydreams were, and the longer the ‘times’ of active attention. Any questions?   No? Moving right along…

Clapping one hand?
The wild and crazy men of Zen came in about 1000 years after Buddha. Hui-neng burst upon the scene (638 – 713 CE). At 14, he heard monks chanting: ‘Activate the mind without dwelling on anything.’ At 16, he ran away from home to join a monastery, working as a kitchen boy. The Abbot decided to retire. He pledged to pass the office on to whoever wrote the best poem. The head monk had seniority; in bold strokes of black ink, he wrote on the wall:

The body is the tree of enlightenment,
The mind is like a bright mirror’s stand;
Time after time polish it diligently,
So that no dust can collect.

As soon as it was read to him, Hui-Neng (illiterate) asked his friend to write on the opposite wall:

The mind is the tree of enlightenment,
The body is the bright mirror’s stand;
The bright mirror is
originally clear and pure.
How could there be any dust?

Secretly in the late hours that night the Abbott shook Hui Neng  awake and sneaked him up to his lodgings. “You are the proper successor.” He warned Hui Neng that the monks would rebel over this. So he hurriedly passed on his robe and bowl and rushed him out to escape at once. Which he did.   When the monks cottoned to what happened they sent an army after Hui Neng. Much later it was the General of the army all alone on a dark and stormy night who finally tracked Hui Neng to the pinnacle of a mountain. As dawn broke Hui Neng had retreated into the bushes. The General called out for Hui Neng, who replied "Show me what your face looked like before your parents were born. “The General was suddenly and completely awakened — fully conscious — at that moment.

Q: Whaaat?!?

Exactly. That's what I thought. Then I learned that the men of Zen believed that being ‘fully conscious’ was exactly ‘your true face’. ‘True’ meaning ‘proper, right, straight, such as it should be.’ ‘Face’ stands for the whole person as in ‘I see some new faces around here. So it’s ‘Show me what your face [as it should be] looked like before your parents were born. “ As for the parents’ parents, the light of full consciousness is the same in everyone, including me and you at five years old. It is the same in everyone's parents, and their parents… it is the true face of all, according to the men of Zen. I showed this to you earlier when I asked you to remember what it was like when you were a little child: "Think back to your early elementary school days; didn't you have a watcher within yourself? Go up behind your eyes at that time; wasn't there a neutral presence there? Isn’t that same presence here now?’ That was the witness, and it is present in you then and now and in the future. And in me and everyone else too, at all times in the past and the future. And it was present in my parents and their parents, and before their parents were born… is the point of that.

Q: I suppose you could take it all the way out: all the minds are interconnected and all are in the same hive and…

Metaphor alert! Not for me! No hive mind……. Bullshit alert! Eventually the Emperor made Hui-Neng abbot of a big monastery.  One stormy day a student arrived after a grueling and dangerous journey from his distant monastery, eager to study with Hui-neng. Hui-neng politely asked his name and where he had come from. The student politely replied "I'm so-and-so. I came from Mount Sung.” Then Hui-neng said "But what is this thing? And how did it get here?”  The student was so struck by Hui-neng’s question that he fell silent and immediately went to his cell to meditate — for seven years, the story goes!  He had taken Hui-Nengs’s question as a directive to …  what?… look deeply at…what is there to look at…, if you go back in far enough…what comes first…his existence and his consciousness/emptiness are there to look at…So….  After seven years , Hui-Neng asked him again “What is this thing?  The student: “To say it is like some ‘thing’ misses the point.” Then Hui-Neng said “Aha! Now you are enlightened!” Or words to that effect.

Q: Wait, wait. Whaaaat?!??

What sense does that make, you mean? Good sense, actually because, when I look into my consciousness itself intently, what I see is not a thing. It’s moving all the time; it’s the ongoing flux of consciousness; it’s the activity of looking itself. Certainly, it isn’t a thing nor even similar to any thing-like-entity at all. When I look into my consciousness and find nothing— no- thing— and instead I find what is really there, which is no thing at all, I can only say “ To say it is like some thing misses the point.”

Q: But suppose the student were to attach himself to a thing, and spent his 7 years dwelling upon it, how would he reply then?

 I suppose he would have to say, ‘It is like a thing, namely the thing to which I attached myself, the thing upon which I dwelt.’  In other Zen stories the student just straight-out asks the teacher ‘What is enlightenment?’ Sometimes the question is put metaphorically like: ‘What is the heart of the Buddhist teaching?’ Then the teacher’s punchline enlightens them suddenly and immediately.

Q: Really? How does that work?

As usual, the intention has to be there. Then the student has to take the teacher’s punchline as a hint that indirectly tells him to do what is needed: Perceive his existence or activate his attention, or enter into ‘ordinary’ awareness, or identify as the witness, or whatever.

Q: Why just a hint? Why indirectly? Why doesn’t the teacher just tell him directly?

Sometimes more directly, Sometimes less directly…Actually, I’m damned if I know why they think it has to be indirect…Maybe so the student has to do some of the work of getting there?

Q: OK, you have told me that the student basically asks how to become enlightened. What does the teacher answer?

One Zen punchline is to draw the student’s attention to a commonplace object, as by answering 'The cypress tree in the garden' or 'A piece of cake', or to a commonplace event, as by answering 'Do you hear that waterfall?’   In 21st century Zen, the teacher might say, ‘the blue van in the parking lot’ or ‘do you hear the traffic?’ Or the teacher asks: ‘Have you had your breakfast?' And when the student replies 'Yes,' the teacher’s punchline is 'Then go wash your bowl.’

Q: How is that supposed to help?

If I have the intention, and if I take the hint properly, then I may suddenly go fully conscious; perceive my existence or activate my attention, or enter into ‘ordinary’ awareness, or identify as the witness, or start attending to the consciousness itself as the direct path into the depths of being, or whatever…

Q: And all that

Indeed, all that…

Q: I’m guessing that all of the students don’t suddenly go fully conscious….

If the student has the intention but takes the hint the wrong way, he might just get into dwelling on the waterfall or on going to wash his bowl. If a student has the intention, but is unable or unwilling to take the hint at all, he might say:‘What? I don't get it.' 'You are not answering my question. I don't understand. What does a waterfall or a piece of cake have to do with enlightenment?’  If the student doesn't have the intention at all, he might just let the punchline be, just set it down and let it lie there. "Oh, I see, enlightenment is a piece of cake.”

Q: What makes the difference between those who get it and those who don’t?

It may be too difficult for them to understand, just like my description of the witness earlier may have left some people behind. After all, we are trying to attend to some thing which is in a certain sense not there, “pure attention, attention without any manifested object… there is nothing to perceive… the energy stays formless… active attention to my inner world is object free.”  At the same time "it is not a mere nothingness or something annihilated because it is lucid and present.”  Plus all the other difficulties that I explained earlier.

Q: Some do get it. How do they explain that?

Hui Neng said: “… among people some are keen and others dull…”

Q: Isn’t that an elitist answer?

You think? There was a lot of elitism around in those cultures at that time in history, as there is even now in my culture.  In fact, I am feeling quite superior right now…

Q: Actually, so am I…

Moving right along…   Another kind of Zen punch-line is a real punch: The teacher replies by punching the student, or kicking him, hitting with a stick, shouting, tweaking his nose. …..

Q: That’s just rude! You would never get away with that in the 21st-century!

Maybe not, but let me help you into sympathy with this. Imagine the teacher senses that the student is in a daytime-dreaming state, close to sleeping even when he is awake, he is sunk in a 'waking sleep,' trapped in a vacant state of mind, 'spaced out...’ To urgently awaken a person who is asleep I might have to poke them with a stick, shake them, shout at them. 

Q: Or punch them…

Here again the right intention of the student is essential for rightly interpreting the teacher’s act; otherwise, it's just an occasion for fear, or a provocation to fight or flee. Instead, the student is being invited to wake up to the witness, to full consciousness, activated attention. Just remember how it feels in your consciousness when you just 'came awake’ from a daydream. Reality dawns; Being bursts upon the scene. It's not about dwelling on the punch or the stick or the kick or the tweak or the fear or the anger; It's about noticing: I 'came awake.’ ' I am existing.’  When the student does that with the intention of fostering the light going on in his mind, he finds that the Zen ‘punchline' is an invitation into the heart of consciousness, of my actual being in time. That is, if I come awake, if attention to the witness is activated, I find that I have entered the stream of mind, the mind-stream. Ongoing. My mind stream has the fullness of the constantly changing flux of my being. It doesn't stay still at all. It's this right now, in the next now it’s something else, and then something else again… It cannot be gotten hold of at all; it cannot be grasped; it cannot be dwelt upon.

Q: And all that hoo-ha…

Exactly …Later a few of these Zen questions became famous as ‘koans.’  ‘Show me the sound of one hand clapping.’  I found a book with the ‘correct’ answers to hundreds of koans. The answer is: “the pupil faces his master, takes a correct posture, and without a word, thrusts one hand forward.” Makes sense to me; in fact, I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. 

Q: Me too!

Many of the other koans sound simply impossible , such as "a monk put a gosling in a bottle and fed it until is full grown. Show me how to get it out without breaking the bottle or hurting the goose.” (Not in the book, and I can't figure it out, so no answer here.) My hypothesis is that all the important work takes place before the koan is solved.

During that interval, the koan makes the student think furiously but without acceptable results. Eventually the student follows back his thinking, going upstream; eventually he ends up at the place from which he is thinking, and that puts the student into the witness. Then he identifies as the witness and his mind is stopped, by his attention getting activated, by perceiving his existence, by entering into ‘ordinary’ awareness, or whatever.

Q: Are we done yet?

Other ways
Shinzen Young’s Basic Mindfulness: Shinzen Young was my main teacher. He was a wonderful teacher and I respect him greatly. He has written so perfectly on his ideas that I could add nothing to what he has said. I suggest getting his books such as Five Ways To Know Yourself: An Introduction To Basic Mindfulness (2011), which at this time is available on his website Shinzenyoung.com. He’s mentioned that in progress is the most complete list of intentional enlightenment activities that I have heard of, called ULTRA (Ultimate List of Trainings for Attentiveness). It isn’t yet available at the time I’m writing this. Fortunately, he has published a list and classification of 30 of the major techniques from the world enlightenment traditions. Among other things, he finds a striking degree of commonality among the techniques described in Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Islamic, and secular traditions, with many examples. He has identified three activities claimed to accelerate one’s progress: Motion challenges ( e.g., do it sitting, when you’re good at that, then while walking, then while running, etc); Trigger practice ( e.g., start with a short video that triggers me, like of a politician: first play it while watching out of the corner of my eye with no sound, notice my body-mind’s emotional reactions, then gradually increase visual and sound levels until it carries me away, then back down to lower levels while I keep noticing my body-mind’s emotional reactions ); Duration training refers to practicing for many hours a day in 10-day silent retreats. I have done about 2500 hours at retreats organized by Shinzen and by seven other teachers.

There are also many ways of talking myself into the right frame of mind, imagining myself into it, thinking myself into it. One good way is to read a book that puts me in the right frame of mind. I know people who get into it by looking at Buddhist art, such as statues representing the Buddha. Another good way is to put myself into a semantic field which helps me, which I do by thinking about words that remind me of it: suchness, thusness, it’s just this; or I use groups of words: ‘stillness, effortlessness, serenity, pacific’ for that aspect; or: Open, free, space-like, etc. for another aspect…  Ken Wilber suggests pretending I'm making a video tape of everything that goes on. I have found this useful to do, applicable in all circumstances.

What do they have in common?

Q: What do all these have in common?

They all pause thinking. Everything in this chapter causes a suspending of thinking without suppressing it. Can you see that all of them do that? If you can't I can go back and explain it.

Q: (long pause) I think I can see that for everything that you’ve mentioned, they are going to stop thinking’; but it’s temporary so a better word is ‘pause.’

Chapter 6: Baby on the Battlefield

Q: Where were we? Were you implying that if we follow those instructions we will get to full consciousness?

Does Ken Wilber imply that if I get to active attention that will result in pausing the thinking machinery? But for me quite often it didn’t. My thinking machinery clanked on, producing a seemingly endless clamor of chattering and babbling in my mind, an incessant stream of thoughts and feelings pelting me as strongly as a firehose. Benoit gives 4 or 5 ways of pausing. Same result. Zen? Same result. Padmasambhava dodges the problem by presupposing from the start  that thoughts of the past and the future are simply not there. Steven Hayes is clearest on the subject: he says that pausing the thinking machinery is only one of the outcomes of identifying with the witness. How to tackle this problem? Buddha did suggest ‘ antidotes’  as a way of tackling the problem of outside thoughts and feelings. An example is ‘When you think of sex, replace that with thinking about dead bodies rotting.’ In other words, just do the opposite. This doesn't work for me. All the antidotes have gone out of use as far as I know. What  I needed were methods that work. The problem is that teachers after Buddha often confine their advice to ‘Just keep on meditating.’ Fortunately,  Shinzen Young recognizes the problem and  showed me one way, and I have since found several others.

Q: What?… Oh I know what I wanted to ask you…What do you mean by the daytime dreaming mind? Why do you call it daytime dreaming, why not call it daydreams?

Good point. During my Experience I called them daydreams. Later I decided that that the common meaning of ‘daydream’ doesn’t get across that they are so much like night-time dreams, so now I call them day-time dreams…sounds like night-time dreams, see? …to make the point that I’m going through life in a daze, my mind isn’t on what I’m doing. ‘Spaced out’ we called it, zoned out, out of it. ‘Daytime dreaming’ makes it stronger than just ‘daydreams.’

Q: Fair enough. Can you give me examples? Examples would help.

Good point. My daydreams are little movies in my head. I am always the star. Just like in a real movie I get images and dialogue, in this case mental images and mental talk. My ‘movies’ are better than real: I get the emotions too. Should I call them ‘ Feelies’…?

Q: …?

Anyway, sometimes my movies are complete fantasy; other times they have some basis in reality. Sometimes it’s a present reality, like I’m sitting in a meeting and I’m imagining… not killing certain people… I’m just hoping they go away for a long, long trip and never come back. Sometimes it’s the reality of the past, and I'm replaying events that happened to me. Sometimes they are unfinished situations, and I imagine finishing them up a better way. Then there is the reality of the future, which is sometimes useful as when I'm making plans and anticipating things, but it’s usually just fantasies.   Sometimes what goes through my head is just a lot of unconnected fragments:

…cross currents, bits and ends of unfinished thoughts …stifled emotions and passing moods…Frustrated desires and suppressed resentments … vacillations, whims and many other shadowy figures…greed and lust, hatred and anger…
Source: Nyanaponica Thera. The power of mindfulness: an inquiry into the scope of their attention and the principal sources of its strength.

Usually all these are tangled up with each other, like what happens with my charging cords for my electronics: when I go to look for them, they're all tangled up with themselves and with each other. I have to untangle them, wondering how they got so tangled up all by themselves. This mental entanglement has been happening to people for a long time.  …this generation …for the most part is submerged, become like a tangled skein, like a knotted ball of thread, like matted reeds and rushes.           Buddha SN 35.229  It’s even worse. Bad thoughts and bad feelings are 80% of what goes through my mind. This is because I have a Negativity Bias which guarantees that out of every 6 thoughts and feelings, 5 of them are negative. (You can look it up.)  I have negative thoughts and feelings about all kinds of things: not getting what I want, not being associated with what I want to be associated with, being associated with what I don't want to be associated with, sickness, old age, death, grief, lamentation, despair… My negative thoughts cause negative feelings, and my negative feelings cause negative thoughts… and that builds up in a feedback loop so it all gets worse and worse…  Suffering is the result.

…Throughout your lives from beginning-less time …you have spent every moment as a miserable, pathetic slave of your thoughts! …

… like a baby left on a battlefield: you’ll be carried off by the enemy, the hostile army of your own thoughts!

from Dudjom Rinpoche, Counsels from my Heart, Shambhala, Boston 2001, The Heart Jewel of the Fortunate.

Q: Can I take a break?


Where were we?

Q: About this daytime dreaming mind? That isn’t the only kind of mind, is it?

Excellent point. I started by talking about the fully conscious mind, that was during my Experience, and the daytime dreaming mind was in there too. Up to now I've been focusing on the fully conscious mind, which I’m now calling the witness. There are also two other kinds of mind I’m using. One is the problem-solving mind. This is important in this chapter because I’m trying to solve a problem, namely the problem of having too much daytime dreaming. The other is the sensory mind; it comes in later. In this chapter my witness detects problems by resonance, and then my problem-solving mind is used to reduce my daytime dreaming so as to keep it from interfering with my witness. Does that make sense?

Q: Wow, that was fast but I think I get it. So… what do you do? Hit me…

Things to do and not to do (this is my problem solving mind talking…)

First, I mustn’t  try to suppress my daytime dreams. I’m unable to get rid of daytime dreams once I have them. I know this. I’ve tried to do it many times, and failed. It’s far worse; if I try to suppress my daytime dreams, they rebound back stronger. (You can look up the Thought Suppression Rebound Effect.)  This doesn’t apply only to daytime dreaming thoughts; I can’t get rid of any thoughts by trying to suppress them; they will always rebound stronger. Second, I must not try to distract myself from my daytime dreams. The problem isn’t that distraction doesn’t work; the problem is it works too well. Our society provides me with an unending stream of distractions. When one distraction wears out, I can always find another one. I can easily be  “…distracted from distractions by distractions” (T. S. Elliot. Four quartets). I could waste my entire life. Third, I must not try to psychoanalyze myself. I don’t try to ‘trace back’ the daytime dreams to their source, or try to find how they are related, or any of that. Years wasted….

Q: So…


Q: Is that it? Is that all you have: things that don’t work? Is there anything that does work?

OK. Best of all is no daytime dreaming.

Q: Wasn’t that the whole idea of chapter 5? You get to the fully conscious mind and then just stay there permanently — no daytime dreaming. So, what is the problem?

Aha! That is the question of continuity… It always comes up; not only in your mind but in mine too…the possibility of continuity. I’ll deal with that later…

Q: Cut to the chase! How does the problem-solving mind reduce the daytime dreaming?

First, know this: Nothing works…. I can’t get rid of a daytime dream once it has occurred. It’s far worse than that: I can’t get rid of any thought. This means I need to be careful what I put in my mind.  If I put in horror movies, then I will get horror stories in my mind. Similarly for the news.   Second, I’ll show you a quick and easy trick that makes the daytime dreams less disturbing and less persistent. This trick only works if the daytime dreams and feelings are relatively shallow ones, not very disturbing and not very persistent. (Later I’ll show you a different trick for ones that are more persistent and disturbing.) The trick is that I can always add thoughts to any daytime dream or thought or feeling. After I have added the extra thoughts, what is stored away in memory is the added thoughts combined with the original thought. What I remember is that updated version of the original thought. Not an obvious trick, but once I knew how to do it, it works like a ….

Q: … watch out…

…like a magic trick.

Q: OK, not a cliche, but it is still a metaphor. You will give examples… yes?

Let’s imagine a new story where I am being tormented by useless and negative daytime dreams,  one after the other…  What I do is take each daytime dream one at a time and add new thoughts to it. An easy way to do this is to imagine that I'm sitting by a running stream with leaves floating by on it (credit to Hayes). As each of the daytime dreams comes into my mind, I simply place it on one of the leaves. It will then float by me and away.  Can you imagine that?

Q I suppose so; what good will that do?

You can only tell whether it does any good for you by trying it out.Try it out. 

Q: …Let’s move right along…

Should I wait to watch you try it out???

Q: I…

…And here is where we insert your excuse for why you can’t try it out right now, also possibly a resolution to try it in the future…

Q: …..

Anyway I will explain what is happening here, if you did it or if you didn’t. The thoughts I'm adding are these: the original thought, besides being inside my mind, is also now outside my mind, namely on a leaf; the original thought was heavy when it was inside me, but it is so light I can pick it up easily, and put it on a leaf without sinking the leaf; along with being close to me the thought is floating away from me. Those 3 thoughts are added to the original thought and the whole package is stored away. When it comes back, it is outside my mind and lighter and floating away from me… Then I wait for the next daytime dream, and do the same thing, until I run out of daytime dreams.  At that point the occasion is set for full consciousness to be experienced. Or I think about it like this: the original daytime dream was occurring in the here/now. After it has floated away on the leaf, I added the thought that it is now in the there/then. Or I think this: “I’m having the thought that…” This adds one thing to the original thought: that I am also outside the original thought. (Credit to Hayes, and many other tricks. He is incomparable.)

Q: Any other tricks?

Here’s one that has subtle and elegant effects. It only works one single dream at a time. I take whatever came up in my mind. I start looking at it and then keep on looking at it- keep on keeping on. What I'm looking at will start to change, and then it will continue to change, and change… Each of these changes gets added to the original thought.  After a surprisingly few seconds it begins to fade away, just as in my Experience. I don't do anything; I don’t take any action except to keep looking. And soon, just like all the millions of thoughts I’ve had in my life, it just fades away.

Merely allowing (thoughts) to settle into their own condition, without trying to modify them in any way, is sufficient, …allowing (thoughts) to be just as they are, without trying to do anything about them, is sufficient.

What should you be certain of? … Just like the waves that rise up out of the sea and sink back into it, all thoughts that appear sink back into awareness. Be certain of their dissolution… [emphasis in original]
from Dudjom Rinpoche, Heart Jewel of the Fortunate

Untangle and be free

If the tangle is so persistent and disturbing that it resists any of these tricks, I may have to bring up the big guns. (Cliché!) If a daytime dream seriously interferes with my life the biggest gun of all is psychotherapy. I have used it a lot. I tell you emphatically that I am not a psychotherapist of any kind:  you should not take my advice about any mental health problems at all. Also, as any therapist will tell you, if you have persistent thoughts about doing harm to yourself or other people, you should go immediately to the Emergency Room. Short of psychotherapy there are things I have done that have worked.  I put the toughest ones on the plate of the problem-solving mind to reduce their power: that sets the occasion for the witness.  One trick was shown me by Shinzen Young, which he called ’divide and conquer’; or, without the military metaphor, ‘untangle and be free.’ I start by writing down on a big pad everything I remember about the big, tangled mass.  This gives me a start on dividing it into smaller parts, meaningful parts, cutting it at its joints, as it were. Then I address each part individually, rather than trying to deal with the whole tangled skein at once. Hence ‘divide and conquer’, ‘untangle and be free.’ Part of this trick is to make maximum use of my body.  My nervous system isn’t only in my brain; it’s all over my body, right down to the tips of my toes. This is where the sensory mind comes in: I see my emotions much better if I am aware of my emotional bodily sensations.

Q: You’re going to give me examples of emotional body sensations?

When I’m Angry, the knot in my stomach with the heat I feel — incensed, livid; when I'm Terrified, the petrified sensation of my body; in Aversion, the repulsion as a physical movement of turning away, backing off;  the bodily sensations of Embarrassment — blushing, shrinking away; the dazed sensation of Confusion; Disconnection has sensations of coldness, numbness, withdrawn; Disquiet has bodily agitation; Fatigue has sleepy eyes; Sad — heavy hearted. Positive emotions too: warm and open-hearted go with Affection; with Excitement go animation, arousal, giddiness, vibrancy; Joy goes with tickled; Exhilaration — radiance; Peaceful feels still, clear-headed…

Q: Shut UP! …

At 14 I hadn’t had much contact with my emotions. Emotions weren’t expressed much in my family.  Presbyterians were the ‘chosen frozen,' to whom I was sent for Sunday school. I had a long way to go even to be aware of my emotions.

Q: Why is it important for you to see your emotions, in the context of what you are talking about?

What was it I am I talking about? …

Q: Daytime dreams… we were talking about fully conscious, awakening, Satori, and all those other names.

Ahh… and up to now I’ve been talking about the thought part. I do always mention the feeling part, but only as an aside…

Q: You didn’t do anything about it?

Yes, and this was a big empty hole in my life when I was 14 and for years afterwards.

Q: You still haven’t explained why it is important…

It’s that bodily feelings cause thoughts, and thoughts cause feelings, and then those feelings cause further thoughts… and so on in a feedback loop, a feedback loop that increases, meaning more and bigger thoughts and more and bigger feelings … bigger and bigger….

Q: Then what happens? …

I get overwhelmed and then I start doing crazy-ness…

Q: You’re asking how to get this under control so you don’t do crazy things…

In my case, it was once I started being more aware of my feelings. The royal road to my feelings turns out to run through my whole body. I’ll give the gory details later, for now I’ll just give one example. I will bring in the tricks I’ve already talked about, and new tricks.

Q: Before you do that, I have a question.. from ..well…it would have been my superior… whatever…He writes: ”How could you use this mindfulness thing to ‘deal with’ anxiety and anger over daily outrages stemming from the present political situation and grave serious worries and concerns about the future — actions and inactions that will have long-term consequences. I’m in a constant state of stress about this.”

I see… I wouldn’t have thought that you have ‘political situations’ here…

Q: Shows how much you know…

And can I assume that your ‘superior’ has anxiety and anger and all that?

Q: Just answer the question…

Ok… Let me think about this…

(long pause)
Can I have some more snacks and something to drink…this is thirsty work.
Let me see if I can restate the question.
In the outside world I’ve got a political situation which causes outrages and actions and inactions and consequences. In my inside world I’ve got anxiety, anger, worries, concerns, and stress. Putting them together, I’ve got the political situation causing outrages that cause anxiety and anger; and the political situation causing actions and inactions that cause worries and concerns about consequences. And all of the above is causing stress. Is that about right?

Q: That’s what the question says… are you supposed to get credit for saying it again? Never mind…What comes next?

What I want to end up with is the psychological flexibility to be able, when I deem it desirable, to not be angry, anxious, worried, concerned, and stressed in situations like this. Or, to be able to leave those emotions alone, if I deem it desirable.

Q: “Deem”?

Meaning I want to have a choice; more choices in general. Choices about my mental state. Made possible using my awareness. My witness can see from the tone of the question that at this point I'm pretty frantic; the experience I'm having is disturbing and confusing.  My problem-solving mind tackles this problem. (What follows in italics is from Hayes.)  It helps if I can quiet the situation. I do that by normalizing the experience. I point out that such experiences are normal experiences of human life. … “that's a normal reaction… Of course I feel angry… Yes it is hard… I can understand why I would feel that way based on my political experience and opinions…”

Q: Stop! That is way out of bounds; it isn’t based at all on the business about being fully conscious…

Taking on anxiety has two parts. One part is based on being fully conscious. That is the witness, which is looking at my nervous system from above, and sees me frantic. Normally of course I would be swirling inside my frantic-ness.  But if I know how, I can take a step back and see it from above. The other part is the problem-solving mind applying a method from Hayes.

Q: Fair enough. What comes next?

That depends on whether I’m mainly concerned with the outside world, or with the inside world. On the face of the question it seems possible that I’m mainly concerned about the inside world and my goal might be reducing my stress. Going a little beyond the face of the question, it could be that I’m mainly concerned about the outside world: my goal might be taking action to change ‘the present political situation.’ Actually the most likely interpretation is that I'm concerned about both.

Q: My head is spinning… could we just do one at a time please?

Sure, sure. First we have to find out which is most important for the questioner.

Hayes has some questions (in italics below) that will get us that information. I’ll start by giving you his questions, and if you want you can answer them.

… when I get angry (or anxious, etc) what impact does that have on…?… Does that help?…What results did I get so far by reacting in this way?… on the one hand, I can do what I’m doing now and that results in the stress; on the other hand I can do something else and that will result in much less stress. Which option works better for me?…[is having less stress] a way of serving an important part of my life?… When I feel less stress, do I feel [better]…

The answers I give to these questions can show me that I want to head down one of two roads. One road is to my inside world and trying to reduce my stress. The other road is toward my outside world and leads to efforts to change the ‘political situation.’ I can show you that by improvising alternate responses to Hayes’ questions.

… when I get angry (or anxious, etc) what impact does that have on:
—my happiness or
— my efforts to change the political situation…

…Does that help [improve the situation?]
—being angry (anxious, etc ) causes my happiness to be reduced; my positive mood states are reduced, or
—those emotions might help to power my activism to change the political situation

… What results did I get so far by reacting in this way?
—The result is that my positive mood states are definitely reduced , or
— No results. I have had no effect on changing the political situation

… on the one hand, I can do what I’m doing now and that results in the stress; on the other hand I can do something else and that will result in much less stress. Which option works better for me?
—reducing stress is what I am seeking, so the option that leads to less stress would work better for that goal, or
— change in the political situation is what I am seeking, I’m not sure which option would serve that goal better

…[ is having less stress] a way of serving an important part of my life?
—An important part of my life is fostering positive mood states, so yes, having less stress serves that goal, or
—An important part of my life is working toward changing a political situation; it’s possible that having less stress might serve that goal; maybe not; maybe the opposite.

… When I feel less stress, do I feel [better]…
—yes I do feel better, or
—yes I do feel better but if it interferes with my other main goal of changing the political situation, then I would feel less good

Q: Can we take a break…

Please… my head is spinning too.

( later)

Which side do you want to start with?

Q: It sounds to me from the question that your ‘superior’ is mainly concerned with reducing his… hers…their own stress, Let’s do that side.

Q: Moving right along… you’re reducing stress…

The trick I'm going to start with is the ‘divide’ part of ‘divide and conquer’; this is the same as the ‘untangle’ part of ‘untangle and be free.’ I need to focus on something specific. Pick the most recent outrage in your news and the actions and inactions that went with it.

Q: You pick one… from your news…

News?? You don’t have news here?


(thinking) OK, I picked one from this morning’s ‘news.’ By the way, the best way to avoid future stress from this is to stop watching the news. This is done with the off button. You do have an off button?


Next I get to my mental states by replaying my memories of the incident. As I replay them, those memories have three parts: mental images; mental talk —there are words in the memories; and emotional sensations in my nervous system. There! I've got off to a good start on the dividing part. Then I get completely specific about each of those, all the way to the bottom. The mental images: who is in them — here I'm seeing the faces of two politicians. The mental talk: the words that are being said — I’ve got what one politician said — a phrase of five words; I’ve got the name of a policy — three words; I’ve got what I’m saying to myself— two sentences. Next I identify the emotional sensations in my body for the particular outrage/action/inaction I chose. (I used to assume that my emotions were all located in my head, in my central nervous system, the brain. Then I learned by study and experience that they were also in the other parts of my nervous system, especially my peripheral nervous system, which is all over my body.) For this particular outrage, what does my witness detect for my anger? I’ve got a knot in my stomach; I've got tension in my arms and legs in a pattern as if I am getting ready to take action, like fighting or fleeing. At this point I have untangled the situation inside myself into three strands: mental images, mental talk, and emotional body sensations. Each of these strands I have further divided into particular images, particular words, and particular body sensations.  Now I'm replaying the movie again…to see about my anger, anxiety, and so on…Am I done…? No, I'm not done; I have to do something more.

Q: There is more?

First there are several things I don’t do. I don't try to suppress my feelings. I don't try to distract myself. I don't try to feel the opposite of my feelings. I don't try to psychoanalyze myself about this. I have to realize that these feelings are never going to go away. The trick is to know that I can always add to these feelings. What do I add? In this case I'm taking the whole situation seriously, so I'm going to add thoughts that make it ridiculous. I take my mental image of the two politicians and I imagine them having sex with each other; this in a great deal of detail; and I have them flying through the sky and doing it; then I have them doing various sexually deviant acts to each other.

Q: Will that work??

It won't work just by my saying it; it only works if I actually do the imagining.  I'm always surprised how easy it is to do. I'm sometimes surprised by how unwilling some people are to do the imagining. Then I work on the words of the mental talk.  I take the politician’s phrase of five words and I say them backwards. I take the name of the policy and spell each of the three words backwards; I take the two sentences I'm saying to myself and make up two new sentences made up of every other word. Then I work on the emotional body sensations, in this case anger. I start with the knot in my stomach and ask myself questions about it: how large is it, what knot is it tied in, what color is it, how heavy is it, how much money does it make, what book does it like the most, where did it go to school…. I have to answer each of the questions. Then I work on the tension pattern in my arms and legs, the same way.

Q: Then what?

Then I go back to the original outrage I selected and see if there's any less distress when I replay the situation.

Q: Doesn’t this only deal with the single outrage that you were addressing?

Try it out on another outrage, and you can see for yourself. In my case, once I learned how to do this once, I can do it again easily.

Q: Let’s get back to the other…Won’t this make me less likely to be enough of an activist to change the political situation?

What do you think?

Q: The activist part said it was powered by these emotions.

Yes… Probably the activism is also powered by rational considerations.   I'm improvising here…could it be that the rational part is able to be more clear if it's not clouded by the emotions.

Q: Cliche alert!

 (ignoring the interruption) Suppose I'm giving a speech or writing an article about changing the political situation. Is my audience going to be more persuaded by the rational considerations or by the emotional ones or both?

Q: That depends on the audience.


Q: Do you have anything else useful to say about this? Is there any way the fully conscious business could help ‘deal with’ being a political activist?

…I got nothing… I'll just say one more thing. From the question, I'm wondering how much the person’s life is being interfered with by this. If what I told you has not been effective, there are many approaches outside the mindfulness tradition.  Short term, besides avoidance of ‘news’, there is always distraction. A philosophical therapy— only concerning myself with what I can do something about —is known by the misleading name of stoicism. Brief psychotherapy might be useful: anger management, talking therapy, even prescriptions for drugs. If there is psychopathology: anxiety disorder, obsessive disorder, paranoia, acting out; then a psychiatrist is called for. If you are a danger to yourself or others, go to the emergency room.

Q: Could you give me another example?

I said that mostly imagined social interactions are the daytime dreams that interrupt me. I’ll go through a real example… not imagined, it actually occurred.

Here’s the set up: I was giving a presentation to my boss… The imaginary part was afterwards when I was brooding… brooding…yes…I do a lot of brooding…

Q: Tell me about it…

Brooding over what I said in the presentation itself, and how I said it, and what I should have done differently.  I imagined how he was reacting, and what he said, and also the aftermath, and how I felt about the aftermath and how he felt about it, and also how I felt beforehand getting the preparation ready… it’s just endless, the brooding I can do.   I took this up because this dream was taking over my entire day. I could’ve gone on like this for much a longer time, for days at a time; I’ve done it before, many times.   Changing gears…at this point my problem-solving mind is going to take over dealing with my brooding. My first trick is to write it all down on a pad, titled: My emotional states as a result of my offer to provide [Mr. X] with material on my [thing] in response to his invitation.  Divide and conquer is the trick I'm using; same thing as untangle and be free. I start by dividing the situation into three parts: before, during, and after. It helps me to divide it up; in my brooding those parts are all mixed up together in a tangle. The way I found these emotions (in boldface below) is by replaying the situation in my mind and watching my bodily reactions. I picked from a list of 230 emotions I got from the Center for Nonviolent Resolutions of Conflicts. 

Page 1 on the pad

BEFORE — feelings about myself before he rejects me: Yearning, hopeful, expectant, encouraged, optimistic.

AFTER —feelings about him, once I realize he has rejected me: anger, annoyance

What I assume is his reaction to me: he is embarrassed, he will think badly of me, he will be annoyed at me, he will have aversion to me, contempt, rejection

Feelings about him, my response to him personally: aversion—animosity, hostility, dislike

Feelings about myself: sad, confused (don’t understand why he rejected me); low self-worth —I am no good

The implications for my future—discouraged (I will never succeed); disconnected (I give up)

Page 2 ( after replaying it again)

BEFORE—before he rejected me: anticipation, gratefulness, elatedness

About my work: optimistic, confident,  About me in regard to him: yearning, hopeful, expectant

DURING — my reaction to him, emotion directed at him: anger, annoyance, aversion at him

AFTER— his reaction to me — inferred, I inferred he will feel these ways: annoyed and angry at me; thinks I’m stupid (contempt)

My reaction to his inferred reaction to me

Embarrassed- mortified at my failure
Hurt- that he is annoyed at me
Lonely- at my rejection
Confused- about why

Feelings about implications for my future

I fear I will get disconnected (give up)
I fear I will feel tired, exhausted, not able to work
I fear I will get tense, stressed out as the result of getting overwhelmed and resulting in failure

Oh WAIT, WAIT, WAIT… Go back. I should’ve told you about another kind of sensation in my body I have gradually gotten good at … I think of it as resonance….reverberation…like an echo… I use the resonance to identify the particular emotions I'm experiencing in the replay.   Here’s how it works here. My list of the 230 different emotions is arranged in 23 categories.  Under each main category name are listed subcategories. For example, one main category name is ‘Angry’: under angry are listed various kinds of anger: enraged, furious, incensed, indignant, irate, livid, outraged, resentful.  Another main category name is ‘Excited’: the subcategories are amazed, animated, urgent, aroused, astonished, dazzled, eager, energetic, enthusiastic, giddy, invigorated, lively, passionate, surprise, vibrant.    By the way, notice how many of these emotion words are from bodily feelings: incensed, livid, animated, aroused, dazzled, giddy, vibrant. Also I noticed there were about 140 negative emotion words and 90 positive words, as per the Negativity Bias.  Here’s how I used this list of emotions: first I replayed one of the time periods: before, or during, or after. Then I would to start to scan through the main categories one at a time: afraid, annoyed, angry, aversion, confused, disconnected, and seven other main categories of negative emotions; and then scan through the positive headings: affectionate, engaged, hopeful, confident, excited, and five other main categories. As I got to each main category I would pause and look inside. What I was looking for was whether that category ‘rang a bell.’

Q: Cliché alert!

Wait, Wait! That’s why I put it in scare quotes… Here is where the resonance comes in.  In my case it wasn’t like a ringing bell … more like a buzz from inside me which answered the buzz that the name of the category induced. It’s as if I have two violins next to each other. If I pluck the A string on one of them, then the A string on the other vibrates: that’s resonance in physics. However, if I plucked the G string, the A string on the other wouldn’t answer.     As I go along, I write down any main category name that resonates inside me. After I get through all the main categories, I go back and read the list of their subcategories, to see which ones of those resonate. That was how I got the emotions in my descriptions above, like ‘sad, confused, discouraged, disconnected’ and so on. This resonance trick only works if I'm looking within my whole nervous system, including my whole body; not just my brain–mind, also my body-mind.

Q: And my mind-body and my mind-brain…


Q: OK, now you have this list of emotions for before, during, and after. What next?

 I have already untangled a lot of chaotic messes; I have laid out the different strands separately. ‘Before’ is much smaller than ‘before+ during+ after.

Q: Is this where I say ‘duh’ or ‘du-u-u-u-h…

Yes, Yes, it is…. Already each time interval separately is less disturbing and persistent than when all the three intervals are entangled with each other. That's ‘divide and conquer,’‘untangle and be free.’  Sometimes that untangling is enough; for this incident my body-mind agitation was way too much. I was still lost in brooding.

Q: Is there anything else to do?

More divide and conquer. My emotional-imaginative movies of imagined social interaction have three tracks: mental images, mental talk, and emotional body sensations. Those start out entangled with each other, and there are feedback loops among them, like this: the mental images cause new emotional feelings and mental talk; the mental talk causes more new feelings and mental images; the feelings cause new mental images and mental talk. And then the new mental images cause more new feelings and talk; and the new talk causes….

Q: (drily) I get the idea.

 What we have here is a classic entangled mass. Then the feedback loops make it bigger and bigger.  Buddha described what happens like this in terms of brooding in mental talk:

‘I am like this’ … ‘I am otherwise’ … ‘I am bad’ … ‘I am good’ … ‘I might be’ … ‘I might be here’ … ‘I might be like this’ … ‘I might be otherwise’ … ‘May I be’ … ‘May I be here’ … ‘May I be like this’ … ‘May I be otherwise’ … ‘I will be’ … ‘I will be here’ … ‘I will be like this’ … ‘I will be otherwise.’ ‘I am here because of this’ …’I am like this because of this’ … ‘I am otherwise because of this’ … ‘I am bad because of this’ … ‘I am good because of this’ … ‘I might be because of this’ … ‘I might be here because of this’ … ‘I might be like this because of this’ … ‘I might be otherwise because of this’ … ‘May I be because of this’ … ‘May I be here because of this’ … ‘May I be like this because of this’ … ‘May I be otherwise because of this’ … ‘I will be because of this’ … ‘I will be here because of this’ … ‘I will be like this because of this’ … ‘I will be otherwise because of this.
Access to insight

Sound familiar?  Shinzen Young gets the credit for this notion of separating mental images, mental talk and feeling bodily sensations, and to dispel their interaction.  He talks about the original situation of entangled positive feedback loops in terms of arithmetic. Let’s suppose the distress caused by the mental image alone is equal to 10 units; the mental talk is 10 units, and the feelings are10 units. If they are positively feeding back with each other, they are multiplying.  So, we get 10×10×10 which is 1000 units of distress.  Then he suggests doing the untangle and be free trick by dividing my movie into three separate parts: emotional bodily sensations, mental images, and mental talk. Since they are separated, they are not interacting with each other, so there is no positive feedback, so what we have is just adding:10 units +10 units +10 units is 30 units.

Q: I’m keeping score here… We have …is it… 9 …things…


 I have no idea what you're talking about…

Q: You have before, during, and after, and now you have images, talk, feelings…

…?? … we should just go on… do you mind if I just go on here… Sometimes even this isn’t enough. So I just add more thoughts. For example, I take one of the  mental images of Mr. X and imagine Mr. X upside down, or sitting on the toilet, or streaking at a football game. For the mental talk I identify the exact words that are being said (I have to count them one by one) if it’s a sentence, and then I say the sentence backwards. If the talk is a single word, I spell it backwards.

Q: (long pause) Ye-e-esss…does that really help?

It does indeed. Here I’m adding thoughts that challenge the seriousness of the situation. I’ve done the mental images and mental talk. For each emotional body sensation: first I get its exact location, by asking: Is it above the waist or below the waist? (usually it’s above). If it’s above, is it in the torso or in the neck-head area? Or possibly both? Feeling in the eyes? Throat? Stomach? And so on until I come up with a more-or less specific location.   Then for that location I add thoughts to it by asking myself questions like this: is it still or moving? If it’s moving, is it throbbing in place or moving to another place? What color is it, how large, what shape is it, what income, what kind of house does it prefer, what are its politics, what trips did it take recently, what country does it like? Anything…  Always I can give an answer to these questions no matter how silly-crazy they are. It is easy. Strange. The result is that coming up with these answers disrupts the feeling; and, the answers themselves are added to the original daytime dream.

Hayes suggests other addings of thoughts, very entertaining. For example, I take the situation and just sing it out as a grand opera. I can chant it as a parody of a nursery rhyme, like ‘Mary had a little lamb’:

 Mary had a little presentation  and its cover was darkly brown  and everywhere the presentation went  Mr. X was there to knock it down. 

Nasty birthday to you
nasty birthday to you
a presentation like this
just looks like goo.

I made these up — off the top of your head….I mean my head… I could talk about it in a Donald Duck voice, in a French accent…anything… 

Q: In what way does that work?

It’s our old friend…

Q: Cliché alert!

It’s the trick of adding thoughts again. In this case, I have added thoughts that are inconsistent with the original daytime dream. In this case the dream was serious, so I added ridiculous thoughts so that what gets stored is different from, opposite to, what was there before. It is much less disturbing.

Chapter 7: More Awareness

From the only real point of view, of my realization, there is not value or anti-value, but that all things are fit to be used for this realization.

Q: I’m glad we’re getting back to awareness! Now that I’ve had a little experience with it I’m wondering: can I do it continuously?

Hey!… I asked that question too. Eventually I learned that continuity is not on the menu, not at all. Buddha never claims continuity; he explicitly goes in and out and so do his followers. Here is Krishnamurti on the subject:

Questioner: I find it impossible to be aware all the time.
Krishnamurti Reply: Don’t be aware all the time! Just be aware in little bits. Please, there is no being aware all the time, that is a dreadful idea! It is a nightmare, this terrible desire for continuity…That is not being aware at all. When you say, “I must be aware all the time,” you have made a problem of it, and then you should really find out why you want to be aware all the time. See the greed it implies, the desire to acquire. And to say, “Well, I am aware all the time,” means nothing.

Here is Ken Wilber: he says we allow

…awareness to arise — gently, randomly, spontaneously, through the day and into the night.
source Eye of Spirit p 69

And Hubert Benoit:

… inner work has to be discontinuous and, in this respect, it conforms to the law of alternation which rules the whole of creation —day/night, summer/winter, the heart’s systole and diastole -…

… the method of alternation … can be carried out all day long without involving the slightest element of spiritual exercise, deliberate discriminative thought, moral rules of conduct, or wish to do ‘good’.
source Benoit p 99-100

Q: (dejectedly ) That’s disappointing…

Not really. If you think about it, it would be suicide… you would be walking out into traffic…

Q: I have to say I was expecting something a little more exciting, really a lot more exciting.

You mean something more like  rainbows,  fireworks going off in your mind a big boom, a bright light or…

Q: Are you making fun of me? I was expecting… something more …

 I expected that too and that expectation comes from …where?  Damned if I know… In my Experience, what happened when I got to full consciousness was that it was just empty, remember?  And I later learned that that's the experience everybody reports.

Our attention, when it functions in the active mode, is pure attention, without manifested object…
Hubert Benoit, Zen and the Psychology of Transformation, p. 19

…when I am completely attentive… there is no image forming…At the moment of attention all the conditioning disappears, all the image building comes to an end…
J. Krishnamurti, in Krishnamurti in India 1970-71, p. 69

… When our attention is operating in the active mode… there is absolutely nothing objective to perceive. In the active mode of attention, mental objects (thoughts) do not arise… [emphasis in original]
Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness, Page 342-5

In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivity is the fasting of the mind… it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives but does not keep.
Chuang Tzu, Ch. 4, from Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India, p. 648

In the present moment,
when your mind remains in its own condition without constructing anything,
awareness at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary.
And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly,
Without any discursive thoughts,
since there is only this pure observing,
there will be found a lucid clarity …
only a naked manifest awareness is present.
This awareness is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever…

Here's the way it goes in actuality; you get to the witness and:

…But then people usually make a big mistake. They think that if they rest in the Witness, they are going to see something or feel something-something really neat and special. But you won’t see anything…all you will notice is a sense of freedom, a sense of liberation, a sense of release…So you won’t see anything in particular. Whatever is arising is fine. Clouds float by in the sky, feelings float by in the body, thoughts float by in the mind—and you can effortlessly witness all of them. They all spontaneously arise in your own present, easy, effortless awareness. And this witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of freedom…
from One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber, from Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston. Copyright Ken Wilber, 1998.

Q: (musing) No fireworks… (decisively) Then I have to ask… what good is it? I mean what are the rewards of it, the benefits of it? Why would someone do it?

I can only tell you my intention in doing it. Most important to me is high consciousness. To me, consciousness is the most valuable thing in the world. If I lost everything except  my consciousness I would be…what…or suppose I lost my consciousness but kept everything else… 

Here it is: if I had a choice between (1) keeping my consciousness and losing everything else, or (2) losing my consciousness and keeping everything else, I would choose keeping my consciousness.
…Somehow this isn’t coming out as strong as I would like.

Q: What about people who sacrifice their life for a higher cause? They lose both.

Not me. 

Q: Is high consciousness the only reason you do it? Are there any other rewards or benefits?

The other rewards and benefits are side effects of high consciousness.

Q: And what are they? And why do you want them?

They make my life so much more pleasant.  The things I value the most are maximized. I’ll give you a list and you can tell me if I need to explain any of them: decreased daydreams, decreased suffering, increased equanimity, increased sensory clarity; increased achievement of personal goals; increased perception of the amount and density of time as it passes. 

Q: I get some of those right away. Of course if you pause your thinking machinery, you’re going to get less daydreams. And already in your original Experience you had these increases in time. The increased sensory clarity you also had in your original Experience.

Do you want me to explain the rest?

Q: I dare you to convince me of increased achievements of personal goals. It sounds like snake oil to me.

Once my thought machinery has paused, then as it slowly starts up again, sometimes what floats up first is what is most important to me, the directions I value the most. I recognize them by resonance. Then I naturally start moving in the direction of what I value. Every time I make a successful move my brain gives itself a shot of dopamine, popping a marked sensation of pleasure. (You can look it up.) You see how that makes my life so much more pleasant?

Q: Fair enough. But you say that once your thought machinery has stopped, the things you value float to the top. On that I call Metaphor Alert!

I said that only sometimes do they come into my mind first. Not always; sometimes.  I don't know about other people, but I would suggest they try pausing their machinery and see what comes in first. I’ll qualify that: often my valued things do not come in first and sometimes the things I value most are a little disguised inside what comes into my mind. But I have gotten into the habit of looking for what I value inside whatever comes into my mind first.

Q: I don’t get the decrease in suffering and the increase in equanimity.

Those go together. When my suffering decreases, I get an increase in equanimity. I’ll start with suffering. Suffering was the main preoccupation of Buddha. He said. "I teach one thing and one thing only — suffering and the end of suffering.”

Q: Pretty strong statement, that is.

You’re telling me! Of course he could only have been talking about suffering that is avoidable. In my life that is mainly every-day suffering.

Q: And what avoidable suffering do you…

I impose suffering on myself by what I say to myself. (All of this suffering section is based on the research of Steven C. Hayes and his associates.) When I have an empty mind, I can’t  say things to myself. So I avoid that suffering.

Q What do you mean by what you say to yourself? What can you say to yourself to make you suffer?

You want examples? I’ll give you examples. Suppose I am on vacation in the Mediterranean sea, sailing my yacht on the wine-dark sea in the golden light of the evening and I say to myself:  ‘If only Kerry was here.’

Q: Oooh, that’s gotta hurt.

Yes, it does.  This is the dark side of using my words. (Of course using language also has massive upsides; it makes possible all kinds of problem solving, and so much other good stuff, I can't even start…)

Q: Do you have more examples of the dark side?

When I think of something good, I immediately use my words to think of the opposite that is bad. Suppose I draw a picture and show it to my Dad, who says “that's wonderful, that is a really good picture”. That puts me immediately in contact with the opposite: ‘ Not a good picture. I did not do it well.’ Starting with any experience, I can immediately use my words to contact ‘something worse after this.’ Starting with any action,  even without the action being there or ever having been there, I can use my words to immediately contact ‘not doing this action,’' more of this action,’ ‘this action earlier, or later, or over there,’ ‘what could go wrong.’ Positive affirmations put me in contact with the negatives that are under  them. Stuart Smiley was a comic character who would insist "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. ?????” This to gales of laughter: the audience immediately contacts what would cause someone make such an affirmation, which is the great big negative underneath it. It's the unconsciousness of the hypocrisy that gets the laugh. None of this needs any connection to anything real in the world. Using my words I can easily build  a castle in the air. And I can just as easily make an image of myself: ‘immured forever deep within the dungeons beneath the castle moat.’ When I  think and feel and remember independent of the actual world or what I’m doing, then later I remember what I thought and felt and remembered.

None of this can happen on an empty mind.
I also use my words to make rules to guide my behavior, and these can go dark too. As an ignorant child I made some bad rules for myself: I must be popular with everyone; I must be good at everything; it is awful and terrible when things are not the way I want them to be; if something is fearsome I must be constantly concerned about it and constantly dwelling on the possibility of it occurring; the world must be just…
Do you see how following these rules blindly can buy me big time suffering? And blindly is how I followed them. After I used them for a long time, following the rules went automatic, and I forgot they were controlling my behavior. (Of course many automatized rules are good, as in driving.) When my thinking machinery stops, the whole automatized system grinds to a halt.
In short, by talking to myself I can greatly broaden my interface with pain. None of this talking can happen on an empty mind.

Q: I can sort of see how that might increase equanimity, but….

 Equanimity means “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper.” The opposite of equanimity is agitation, worry, alarm, anxiety, apprehension, disquiet, uneasiness, nervousness…

Q: Are you reading out of a thesaurus again?

There is a big universe of things I could think about.  Within that is a much smaller universe of things I can do something about. Those are the ones I should think about first.  ‘Some things are in our control and others not…Exercise yourself in what lies in your control.” Epictetus  But as long as I can think about everything in the big universe, my life is much harder than it needs to be. In the outside world I struggle to change things beyond my power… traffic… waiting in line… changing other people’s opinions…”the oppressor's wrong …the pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, the insolence of office…” I would turn into a curmudgeon. In my inside world  I’m struggling with my mind to stop certain thoughts and start other thoughts. I exaggerate thoughts to buttress my ego…  or to feel like I’m winning the game of  life… grasping at more control than is actually available to me.   To stop struggling, I pause my thinking machinery. Pausing puts me distant from thoughts and feelings, which encourages equanimity.

Q: And ‘curmudgeon’? I’m not familiar with that word…

It’s a kvetch, crosspatch, sourpuss, a bear with a sore head.

Q: I see..

Actually there are a couple of benefits I didn't put in the list. They’re not fireworks exactly, but…

Q: Do tell…

 Real-ization pops up immediately. As soon as I am in full consciousness the feeling of real-ness POPS up. Real-ization. I become a real-ized person. Suddenly I am fully present in all my bare particulars… (Did you see what I'm doing with those dashes?)

Q: You’re doing that thing with the dashes again. You’ll have to do better than that.

Does it help if I call real-ization by other names: the simple feeling of being, the sheer is-ness of being, I-am-ness, presence, my true face, naked manifest awareness, perceiving existence?

Q: Are those all different things?

Do it like this. Take the overlap of the meanings of all those, and then take that overlap to be the meaning of each of them.

Q: Is the overlap that thing with the circles that overlap with each other…

Exactly. You did it before with ‘fully conscious’.

Q: I’m certainly not getting it from that!

Real-ization feels like this: if I suddenly come real in the daytime, it is as if the universe POPS into being in my consciousness.

Q: Metaphor Alert! No ‘as if’…

You’re right.  It’s not that the universe pops into being in my consciousness. It's my high consciousness that POPS into being in the universe. POP! It happens suddenly. A treat.

Q: Sort of like fireworks…. Is there another one you didn’t mention before?

Would you like something more along the mystical-shmystical line?

Q: (excited) Yes please!

There is the numinous. Sometimes it pops up at the same time as real-ness, but not always. For religious people numinous means ‘suggesting the presence of a divinity.’ For me, it's more like a clear light, luminous, like the whole empty sky just before dawn on a cloudless day.

Q: Metaphor alert!

When my thinking machinery pauses its grinding away, everything that arises is clear, utterly clear of any interference from the chattering and babbling.

Q: I still don’t understand, can you make it clearer?

Was that supposed to be a pun?…  I can’t make numinous clearer by using words.  

Q: Try this with your words. Tell me what is the difference between the real-ness and the numinous?

The real-ness is about me and the numinous is about the world.

Q: That doesn’t help much…If you can’t do it with words then how are we going to…

What I can do is get myself to numinous through my sensory mind. First I pause my thinking machinery. Then I pick up a leaf, and then I look at the leaf, and then I go deeper and deeply see the whole of that single leaf; or I listen and then I fully hear the sound of one strike of the bell all the way through; or I fully sense the tasting of all of a peach, and the smelling and all the feeling of it in my mouth and throat, from beginning to end… 

Q: Too bad! I don’t have any of those right here.

Here. I’ll come over to where you are. (moving close to Q) Now, with your eyes, look into my eyes. 

(long pause)

Q: Enough, enough..

(going back to my favorite chair) Did that get you to numinous?

Q:Was that numinous I felt?

Let's try this with more words. I can remember what it was like when I was a little child walking around in the world. Every experience was “new … vivid …intricate, multitudinous, and long drawn out…” (more William James; this from Principles of Psychology 1890). In another mood: “The world is charged… it will flame out, like shining from shook foil…It gathers to a greatness…”  In another mood: “ There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…”(from God’s Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins). Pausing my thinking makes the numinous happen, but not always. 

Q: More fireworks…Thanks for that.

You’re welcome. Can you get some more snacks for me?

(long pause)

Q: Next question: Is there any way I can do this in every day life?

Wow! We got there!  Finally! I’ll tell you like this. At the beginning of chapter 5 you asked, “How do I get there?” and I just went ahead and told you various ways to get there. Now I need to back up to the beginning of that chapter. At the very beginning of the chapter, you say…(prompting) go on…what you said…

Q:( complaining) What, you mean I have to say it again? Who’s in charge here anyway… OK, here goes: “How do I get there?” Are you happy now…?

Now suppose instead I reply "You are already there. What you are seeking is already present. Therefore, there is no need to get there.” And the chapter ends right there, bang.

Q: Whaa-t?! But, but, but…

I'll explain. First, it isn’t just me claiming this. You already saw that Hubert Benoit says that we are already in satori.  Ken Wilber said the same in a chapter titled "That Which Always Is Already.” Actually he said that in all of the first half of the chapter; then 

he put in a transition sentence:

But if we do believe that the earth is flat, that we lack Buddha nature, our only real choice is to start traveling. The means whereby we travel….

Then he goes into his version of the skillful trick I told you about before. So do the Zen people, and Padmasambhava implies it. Only Steven C. Hayes doesn’t claim that we are already there.

Q: What do you mean when you say it is always present?

I could say that ‘it’s always available’. First, do I need to convince you that this is a widely held point of view?… I have lots of evidence, from Buddhists, from Hindus, from Christians?

All beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.

… you have always been one with the Buddha…
Huang Po

… we never leave the way for a moment. What we can leave is not the way…
Amakuki Sessan

Like the empty sky it has no boundaries, yet it is right here ever serene and clear.

Q: OK, stop with the quotations. I’m convinced that they say it; are you going to explain… what…

Wait! I have to give you Hindus:

Brahman… would not be something to be obtained; for as it is omnipresent; it is part of its nature that it is ever present to everyone.
Zenrin poem

…You are already That.
Ramana Maharshi

Q: All right now I get it…

Wait, wait, I have to do Christians:

Simple people conceive that we are to see God as if he stood on that side and we on this. It is not so; God and I are one in the act of my perceiving him.
Meister Eckhardt

See! I am God; See! I am in all things; see! I do all things; see! I never lift my hands off my works, nor ever shall, without end; see! I lead all things to the end that I ordained them for, by the same Might, Wisdom, and Love whereby I made it. How should anything be amiss?
Dame Julian of Norwich

And secularists…

All that needs to be experienced for cosmic consciousness is already present.
Alan Watts

Q: Stop… stop. Get on with it, please.

What they are telling you is that the ‘there’ in your question “how do I get there” is always present in grown-ups. The problem is it is in a passive state. For me to real-ize it, make it real to myself, know that it is present, it has to be in an activated state. 

To summarize, everything seems to be going wrong in me because the fundamental idea that everything is perfectly, eternally and totally positive is dormant in the center of my being, instead of being awake, alive, and active.
Hubert Benoit

What happened during my Experience is that I put it in an activated state.  It can be activated without any effort. At any time it can

… arise in your own present, easy, effortless awareness.
source Ken Wilber in One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber, from Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston. Copyright Ken Wilber, 1998.

 It's very close… just the tiniest movement of my mind is able to activate it.

Q: Let’s get back to my question at the beginning. Is there anything wrong with “How do I get there?”

Yes, there can be, but only if it’s held onto in the wrong way. Then it can get in your way. It goes in a pile with several others of the same kind, all of which imply that what you want is only in the future; it's not in the present. “I want to get there,” “I am a seeker,” one meaning  of  “intention”  along with anything else that ?????????????implies that it is only in the future and not now.  I said it was important to start with intention. But if you stick with only the future-aiming part of intention or if you stick with the implication of the future in “How do I get there” or “I want to get there” it may keep you always at arms length from what you are seeking.

Not knowing how near truth is, people seek it far away—they are like him who in the midst of water, cries in thirst so imploringly.
Hakuin Zazen Wasan

Zen tells us that we are here and now in a state of satori, but that our restlessness prevents us from recognizing this fact.
Hubert Benoit from Let Go

Follow it, and behold, it escapes you
Huang Po

In fact, all this in pointing toward every-day life, whenever you deem it…

Q: Yes, ‘deem’…Now get ready. Here’s the big question. And when I say big question I mean Big Question. What happens from this with the rest of your life?

I’ll do that tomorrow.

Chapter 8: I Go Wherever I Want

 May I ask you? Where do you want to go in your life?

Q: OK, I’ll take the bait. Where do I want to go?

 (Musingly) What should I do next? … the most commonly asked question in human life. I ask it many times every day, starting at the first moment I wake up in the morning.


Q: Are we to be graced with your answer?

"Go wherever you want”. That is the answer of the Buddha. As soon as you know the witness…Be on your way!

Q: I don’t suppose he said anything about how you might find what your goals are?

I don’t say ‘goals’; say ‘Directions.’  Directions are courses along which I can continue to move; like East is a direction, connecting with nature is a direction, improving my relationship with my children. I will never be finished with these.  Directions are things that I can go toward as long as I want; I don’t say, “OK now, I have gone east and that’s over” or “I’m done improving my relationship with my children.” ‘Goal’ is a different kind of thing: I can aim for it but then once I get there it’s over. A ‘Goal’ is more a mile-stone.

Q: You mean once you have picked a direction, you have to stay with it forever?

No. No. I have many times chosen new directions in my life. Sometimes following up my Experience; advice from a teacher or a mentor; something I have read or heard about or done.

Q: OK, let’s go with direction. What directions have you wanted to go in?

With my fingers and toes!

It’s not just a matter of directions. Directions alone get me nowhere. What I need is Actions that will move in those directions. Actions that have to be at a level that I can actually do them with my body; with my hands and feet and fingers and toes and eyes and ears and the other body parts…

Q: OK, let’s start with the directions and then go onto the actions.

I'm giving a list of directions that includes the subject of this book, because that is one of my current directions.  Here I call it ‘Waking Up’. My list includes other things that call out to me, that resonate…There is more to life than waking up. However, frankly, for me I don’t see that the rest of my Directions would be worthwhile in any way if I'm sleep-walking through my life in a day-time dream.

Q: How did you figure out that all these were directions you wanted to go in?

The witness detects for me what I value: this by way of resonance. I look at various lists of directions, ask people and so on.  I'm all the time alert to hear a resonance, that I feel and hear in my mind when I come across something that grabs me. For example, I resonate with flow experiences. ‘Flow’ was first defined and investigated by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (chick-sent-mi-hal-yi). Flow is my mental state when I am totally absorbed in an activity:

Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
Merging of action and awareness
Loss of reflective self-consciousness
Sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
Distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Immediate feedback
Feeling the potential to succeed
Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible
source Wikipedia article on flow december, 2020

Q: Oh, yes definitely.

What would be flow experiences for you?

Q: Nice try, but we’re not talking about me; what about you?

Ok… winter sports, sailing the rest of the year, some others… I'll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.

Q: Rude boy! Have respect for your elders.

With all the respect that is properly due to you, I will move right along…I’ll show you mine even though you aren’t showing me yours.Here’s a typical list of directions for someone in my world:

Waking up:
Spirituality/ awareness practice
Benoit alternation
Non dual
Consciousness/ daily life
Connecting with nature
Awareness during activities
Benoit alternation
Growing up
Adult development
Understanding of life
Understanding the mind
Flow maximization (Czikszentmihalyi)
Active flow experience of life
Exciting life
Adventurous life
Novelty and change in life
Sporting activities
Sexual activity
Passive flow experience of life
Enjoyable leisurely life
Positive mood states
Educational values flow
Researching things
Curiosity and discovery
Physical values
Physically fit
Weight lifting
Aerobic exercise
Physical therapy
Sexually desirable
Safe from danger
Family values
Safety of loved ones
Other family
Close Friends

As you will see, only ‘Waking up’ is directly related to the subject of this book; this makes the point that I have other things going on in my life.  ‘Growing up’ is a term I got from Ken Wilber.  For ‘Waking Up,’ it doesn’t seem to matter who the person is in other dimensions. You can be fully awakened but immature; you may have not grown up.You may have a high level of full consciousness, are highly awakened, but have weak development in the other areas such as social skills, intellectual knowledge, other things.  He points out we have records of people ‘waking up’ at all levels of cultural development, including societies that had human sacrifices, polytheistic religions, monotheistic religions, the inquisition, 100-year wars, monarchies, modern democracies. ‘Growing up’ has to do with my social development, cognitive development, moral development, body-mind development, aesthetic development, emotional development and the others.  For a few of these directions I give a list of New Actions (in boldface) to move me in those directions. Notice that all the actions have to be brought down to the level of my fingers and toes, my hands and feet, movements in space of my physical body.

Waking up:
Spirituality/ Awareness practice
Benoit alternation
Non dual
Consciousness/ daily life
Connecting with nature
New actions
Go out of my house
Sit outside
Go outside and watch the clouds
Go outside and watch the birds
Go to a park and watch people
Visit a museum or Art Gallery
Awareness during activities
New actions
Do specific motion challenges, 1 per day
Keep track of results in app
Do specific trigger challenges, 1 per day
Keep track of results in app
As I watch movies and read novels watch the arising of emotional reactions and their fading away
Benoit alternation
New actions
Do specific alternation challenge, 1 per day
Keep track of results in app
Growing up
Adult development
Understanding of life
Understanding the mind
Flow maximization (Czikszentmihalyi)
Active flow experience of life
Exciting life
Adventurous life
Go sailing
Novelty and change in life
Play video games
Make a list of 10 things I would like to do before I die
Then make specific actions to do one of them
New actions
Put on music and dance around the room
Up beat Happy music
Read a trashy celebrity magazine
Sporting activities
Creative activities
Write a book
Sexual activity
Educational values flow
Researching things
Curiosity and discovery
Passive flow experience of life
Enjoyable leisurely life
Positive mood states
New actions
Watch a funny movie
Read a funny book, like Terry Pratchett
Eat my favorite ice cream
Watch TV
Read novels
Read positive things on the Internet
Mild intoxication
Make a list of achievements daily and number them
Physically fit
Physical therapy
Aerobic exercise
New actions
Dancing around the room to music
Riding bicycle
Go for a swim
Learn how to do rock climbing
Sexually desirable
Safe from danger
Family values
Safety of loved ones
Other family
New actions
Send a text message to a family member
Write a letter to a family member
Call a family member
Visit a Family member
Invite family member to visit my home
Close Friends
New actions
Send a text message to a friend
Write a letter to a friend
Call a friend
Visit a friend
Invite friend to visit my home

Another take

Coming up is another take on going wherever I want. This is a list for the ‘Waking Up’ category. I'm following up on my Experience: exploiting the fully conscious state I discovered.

Q: Exploiting, eh. That’s an interesting word to use here.

Thank you very much. Do you want me to tell you about this? Shall we just explore your disapproval?

Q: Oh, just go on.

My mind is an interesting place. In fact, in a way it is the only interesting place: if there weren’t a mind, there wouldn’t be even the concept of ‘interesting’. It’s a large place, and there’s a lot going on in it . Many things are happening at any one time, most of which are independent of most other things. I mean many lines of activity are going on simultaneously, in parallel. I say ‘many’ strongly, meaning this: there are about 100 billion nerve cells, each of which is connected to about 1000 other nerve cells, which makes 100 trillion connections. Each nerve cell can fire off a message about every thousandth of a second. This all multiplies up to about 100 quadrillion events every second: 1,000,000,000,000,000 every second. Many. I can’t witness all of them at any one time.

In the fully conscious state, I witness an unending stream of events at any of many different levels of abstraction. Exploration of this is endlessly fascinating. Mammals, like me, have an exploratory instinct. If you put a rat in a cage, he immediately starts sniffing around exploring every corner. Me too.  However, exploration of one’s own mind can be taken to extremes, way beyond where I would go. Shinzen Young has claimed that a person in the witness state would be entirely willing to be closed up in a box with no windows for the rest of time. Presumably exploring his mind? Bodhidharma brought Buddhism from India to China and then spent nine years in a cave, facing the wall. Not for me…


Playing games with my consciousness is playing around with my mind. Sensory games, body games, emotional games. When playing sensory games, I could be using the senses in the usual way: caught up in them, inside of them. Now I have a choice; I can position myself above them, looking down on them.Take looking at things. I look at something…. try out these ways of looking (credit to Shinzen Young).

I am zooming in
I am zooming out
I am Following
I am Tracking
I am knowing
I am Noticing
I am perceiving like a bee crawling around in a flower
I am a moving flashlight lighting up one thing after another in my mind
I am taking note
I am opening up to
I am aware of
I am aware-ing
I am penetrating 4 levels: my species mind, personal unconscious, conscious, super-conscious
I am activating my mind
I am dividing into strands
I am anchoring/merging
I am piercing/penetrating
I am Groking {from Robert Heinlein}

Another sensory game is to use a sense fully. If I'm fully listening, I'm listening at the speed of time. If fully looking, I'm looking at the speed of time. If fully feeling my body, I experience feeling it at the speed of time. Sometimes it’s easier to sense when it's moving —  a fire in the fireplace or music. I can tell exactly when the witness kicks in — by a certain click-like thing that that I hear in my mind when I go from just looking to looking at my looking. 

Q: Metaphor alert!

 It’s easy to notice that click if I suddenly look at what I see on the inside of my eyelids. I do it in three steps like this: 

1) shut my eyes and look at what appears to my eyes — what do I see on the inside of my eyelids.
OK now 2) stop doing that and start doing two other things at once: listen fully to something —the crackling of the fire— and at the same time feel the bottom of my left foot. Do that for a full minute.
OK now, 3) look at the inside of my eyelids. Between 2 and 3 I get a sudden clearly noticeable change, like a gear change…a click… a sudden light —metaphors.
Bodily games include scanning the body very thoroughly, going from the top of my head all the way down to each toe. Moving in slow motion is another good one. I could use movement challenges as graded tests, such as to stay fully conscious while sweeping, then once I succeed at that, while walking, etc, but I don’t. I try to stay fully conscious throughout a whole task, while washing all the dishes or taking an entire shower. Shinzen Young says movement challenges are an accelerator. Also I can start up and then track bodily sensations that last an amazingly long time. For example, if I gently scratch my forearm with my fingernail I can follow the course of the changes in the sensations for more than a minute…. If I happen to get an itch, I can hold off on scratching it to track it as it evolves.
Emotional games — trigger practice, which is choosing something that triggers a strong emotional reaction, such as a video of a chosen politician, and then trying to keep my self-possession, starting at low levels, such as turning off the sound and just watching the video out of the corner of my eye, then gradually turning up the sound —also recommended as an accelerator by Shinzen Young.
With all of these games, if I want to buttress my consciousness, a good trick is to start to label what is happening in my nervous system: ‘…now I feel tension in my stomach… now I am watching, …now I am listening; any set of labels I like: fantasy… memory… judgement… plan… Or ‘left side of body,’ ‘right side of body.’ Anything. Labels do a good job at reinstating the intention, which is essential. One of the easiest problems is to lose sight of my intention.

Q: Please, can we play those games right now? I’d like to see what it’s like… purely in a spirit of scientific investigation, of course…

Great! Let’s take a break and try them out. Are there any more snacks?

Q: (much later) How will this make my life more pleasant…

I developed a taste for the fully conscious state. I get the sensations  of realness and the numinous when I get into it. That sensation has the kind of value that daytime dreaming and daytime sleep walking doesn’t. Also  I get a good feeling of making the most of what I’ve been given, namely a human life and time to live it. Making the most of that has a positive feeling to it. This is the same impulse that led me that summer morning to leap out of bed and set off on this fully conscious adventure.

Q: And now here you are?

What happens next?    Wait! I have to tell you a trick to estimate the amount of time I'm spending in the fully conscious state….Can we do that tomorrow?

Q: (long pause) Tomorrow?

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