Thank you both for the replies. The funny thing is, I'm in one of Thrangu Rinpoche's centers, on retreat, but I'm a bit confused by the lama (the language barrier certainly contributes). It could also be my pride getting in the way, since he suggests spending one week (12 hrs/day) doing *each* of the 9 preliminaries, prior to taking on the 5 or so different objects of shamatha (one week each) mentioned in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya. This, despite being pleased with my shamatha progress on 3 month retreat 4 years ago (which has only improved). He also thinks I should be getting a pointing-out before reading "Clarifying...," but when I ask how to get one, he says "don't ask"!
I must say I'm breaking the rules a bit, and that I've been practicing the teachings of Greg Goode in the "neo-Advaita" tradition. After reading and practicing, the words of DTN and TUR (sorry for the abbrs) seem much more starkly clear. It feels presumptuous to believe that I have any understanding whatsoever of emptiness, but boy does some of it (particularly the things they both suggest one get a grasp on*) ring true from my experience now.
A related question: I've been practicing what Alan Wallace calls "awareness of awareness" (or "shamatha without a sign", similar to "unsupported shamatha"). But after (what I think is) a bit of experience of emptiness, it feels a bit more contrived to take on some particular focus (be it "stillness," "the present," or particularly awareness itself). These are all concepts that perhaps I had reified more strongly before. Perhaps this in itself is a sign I should switch to "uncontrived naturalness"?
It is all a sign that you should try to find a Guru.
Thrangu Rinpoche is an amazing teacher, did you read "Vivid Awareness"? He probably already tried to give you pointing-out. But if you don't get it and keep mixing up instructions from other traditions/religions you will just get confused, I think maybe you should look for someone that will teach you in a way you can relate to. I studied many years in a Karma Kagyu center and in my opinion, with your inclination, you might become very frustrated. How do you even know that your local Lama is capable of giving pointing-out, just because he wear a red robe?
* In particular, that:
- external and internal phenomena have no confirmable identity other than awareness
- "mind" (as a construct, a container for thoughts) is not to be found
- awareness itself has no substance or location or identifying characteristics other than being illuminating and "permissive"
- awareness is not happening "to" anybody (although I haven't lost the suspicion that there's someone that awareness and thoughts might belong to)
(By the way, if I'm being obnoxious or improper by posting what I think I experience, please tell me and I'll stop immediately.)
You are intellectualizing your practice a little to much I think. I think online discussion on these subjects will only confuse you in the end.