stopping thought completely

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Queequeg » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:17 pm

Azidonis wrote:Looks like the thread went from practical experience, to theory.


:)

In my experience, I remember going into meditation, getting my mind very still, but the running narrative - or the source of the narrative - wouldn't stop. "Ah, look how still it is!!!" and then a moment later, "Doh. Shut up!" I'd try to then stop the commentary by trying to stop the commentary. "OK, stop... it... now!" and then "Damn. Still there. OK. NOW!" "Arrhhh. Still THERE!" Eventually, I'd find myself, without forming words in the mind, observing and waiting for the narrative to stop. But it was still, even without forming words in the mind, that same "me", looking at myself as an object, getting in the way of something I could sense beyond - so even though there was no verbalized thought, there was still this discursive thought. Anyway, I banged my head against this for a while... and then I gave up because life just got in the way and I didn't have enough time and the care-free lifestyle anymore - I have found that meditative life is a full time occupation. Even when not meditating, you really need a whole lifestyle that is conducive to entering concentrated states. If you have too many things going on, its just more stuff that you have to shut down thinking about when you sit. Back when I was a carefree person in that special stage of life that more and more of us are getting to experience - between high school/college and becoming a useful human being - a wonderful gift of modernity (ahem) - I could spend days doing nothing but filling time with necessities - eating, sleeping, study - between meditation sessions.

Anyway, skip ahead to more recent times where I use meditation as a daily practice to keep my sanity. I don't have much intention behind it anymore, really. Its just another acquired habit to stay healthy - like flossing. It was one of these meditation sessions where I was just dwelling in breath observation, that all of a sudden, even the breath observation faded, and I found - and its difficult to describe - but I stopped observing and there was instead nothing but observing. It was as if something had flipped and I was no longer the observer, but the thing observed - I no longer was trying to accomplish the impossible task of seeing the back of my own head, but instead settled into the head. These descriptions of my experience do not do it justice. But the sensation was expansive, there were no limitations - but as soon as I slipped into it, it was gone, because that narrative started to flip out, "Holy Sh-T! What was that?!!!!"

Anyway, it seems various teachers have their peculiar vocabulary for all this. I assume that they are generally cataloging the same experience. The question comes back - what methods work to get to these states, and what significance do they have? This latter point may seem counter to the whole endeavor - especially given the fact that such "meaning" tends to make practice more difficult. However, it seems to me, this is critical as the meaning has the effect of defining the limitations of the meditation. Strange how conditioning works, and how conditioning is, apparently, inescapable.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:05 pm

Queequeg wrote:I no longer was trying to accomplish the impossible task of seeing the back of my own head, but instead settled into the head.

Azidonis wrote:...then the thinker too is a mirror, attempting to examine the mirror of thought. Instead of reflecting the nature of reality, it is reflecting what occurs on the mirror.

Brings to mind the Tibetan saying, "a sword cannot cut itself" - equally a flame cannot burn itself, and a mirror cannot reflect itself. It also suggests the nature of reality (at least the reality of mind) IS the reflection occuring in the mirror - without a thought it is like a mirror in the dark reflecting nothing.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:10 pm

seeker242 wrote:I would not say that "thought stopping" is something that "you do". But rather something that just happens by itself with continued practice in meditation. Trying to "stop thoughts" is itself a thought and you really can't stop thinking by engaging in thinking.



What I means specifically there is if you 'freeze' a thought and try to examine it's characteristics, you find it doesn't have any..that's what I mean by it going poof. Of course this in itself is analytical and a form of thought I guess. Like I said, the thing I experience is more like moving away from the constant stream of thoughts, they sort of recede from view, I have only had a few times (focusing on nothing as an object rather than something) where it seems like they might have actually stopped.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Ayu » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:31 pm

Maybe that is one of several methods.
There are many methods for many different people. :twothumbsup:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:51 pm

futerko wrote:
Azidonis wrote:...then the thinker too is a mirror, attempting to examine the mirror of thought. Instead of reflecting the nature of reality, it is reflecting what occurs on the mirror.

Brings to mind the Tibetan saying, "a sword cannot cut itself" - equally a flame cannot burn itself, and a mirror cannot reflect itself. It also suggests the nature of reality (at least the reality of mind) IS the reflection occuring in the mirror - without a thought it is like a mirror in the dark reflecting nothing.


And when that occurs, how is there any way to know for certain that a mirror is there?

The gaps in which there are no thinker/thought are only gaps when a thinker/thought is considered.

When no thinker/thought is considered, there are no gaps.

I think this is the meaning of "arising", that the thinker/thought "arise" from nothing, and begin their interplay.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby wisdom » Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:39 am

I have always enjoyed the following quote:

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu relates that once someone asked the famous Dzogchen Master, Yungtön Dorje Pel, what his practice consisted of, and he replied with the negative “mepa” or “there isn’t.” Then his startled questioner asked again, “Then you don’t meditate?,” to which the Master replied, “And when am I ever distracted?” This is the essence of samaya in Dzogchen teaching: not to meditate or to practice something with the mind and yet never to be distracted, for one remains uninterruptedly in the self-perfection of the single state of rigpa or Truth.


Johnny Dangerous wrote:My thoughts are always going, I can view them, kind of makes them go "poof" by analyzing their qualities


This is the method of liberating thoughts by turning your attention to them, which is a natural stage on the path of meditation.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:, I can detach from them and just watch them, sometimes it seems like I can move "far away" from them to a kind of stillness, but they are always there in one form or another, even if it's just self-referencing thoughts of knowing I am doing meditation - even if I try to not actively meditate, and just sit this is there most of the time. Sometimes I do try to just sit with no thought of what i'm doing, this is the closest i've gotten.. I can keep a state like this for a couple minutes, but eventually concentration starts to slowly wain.


Its OK, its a learning process and one that takes time. The point is to just return to the focus of your meditation whether its your body, breath, an object, a visualization or emptiness.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Jinzang » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:07 am

Queequeg wrote:
Azidonis wrote:Looks like the thread went from practical experience, to theory.


:)

In my experience, I remember going into meditation, getting my mind very still, but the running narrative - or the source of the narrative - wouldn't stop. "Ah, look how still it is!!!" and then a moment later, "Doh. Shut up!" I'd try to then stop the commentary by trying to stop the commentary. "OK, stop... it... now!" and then "Damn. Still there. OK. NOW!" "Arrhhh. Still THERE!" Eventually, I'd find myself, without forming words in the mind, observing and waiting for the narrative to stop. But it was still, even without forming words in the mind, that same "me", looking at myself as an object, getting in the way of something I could sense beyond - so even though there was no verbalized thought, there was still this discursive thought.


The most important point to remember is to simply observe without trying to change your thoughts or resolve the sense of confusion you feel. It's going to feel uncomfortable, but just stay with that sense of discomfort. As for the sense of something beyond, of almost but not quite getting it, that too is just another thought, no different than any other. You should just let it be.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:21 am

Jinzang wrote:
Queequeg wrote:
Azidonis wrote:Looks like the thread went from practical experience, to theory.


:)

In my experience, I remember going into meditation, getting my mind very still, but the running narrative - or the source of the narrative - wouldn't stop. "Ah, look how still it is!!!" and then a moment later, "Doh. Shut up!" I'd try to then stop the commentary by trying to stop the commentary. "OK, stop... it... now!" and then "Damn. Still there. OK. NOW!" "Arrhhh. Still THERE!" Eventually, I'd find myself, without forming words in the mind, observing and waiting for the narrative to stop. But it was still, even without forming words in the mind, that same "me", looking at myself as an object, getting in the way of something I could sense beyond - so even though there was no verbalized thought, there was still this discursive thought.


The most important point to remember is to simply observe without trying to change your thoughts or resolve the sense of confusion you feel. It's going to feel uncomfortable, but just stay with that sense of discomfort. As for the sense of something beyond, of almost but not quite getting it, that too is just another thought, no different than any other. You should just let it be.


Honestly, I struggled with this concept for YEARS back in the day.

I always thought that I had to somehow control my thoughts, and force myself to think of only one thing.

Eventually, it just donned on me somehow, that what I was doing was not going to ever work. From that point, I just held the mantra and let everything else do whatever, and became as a passive observer. Soon enough, all the thoughts fell away but the mantra, and then I figured I might be getting somewhere.

It was a long struggle that I would have appreciated formal training for. Glad its over though.

Keep at it, op!
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Martin007 » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:21 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Also, if one does succeed in not having thought at all, how does one know the difference between simple thought-free clarity or just obliviousness?


One is still aware of sensations rising and falling.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby greentara » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:38 am

'Whenever there is a thought, there will be inevitably forgetfulness or veiling. Instead of trying to 'catch' ourselves as if we were an object of thought, we should remain still and attentive. It is stated clearly that Pure Consciousness cannot be grasped by thinking mind.It is not an object of awareness. What is it in me that is thinking, seeing, hearing? The intention of self inquiry is to bring us to that point where we who are perceiving, wonder, who is asking this question? Keept the attention of the mind focused on that feeling of 'I' is Self Inquiry.'
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:20 pm

greentara wrote:'Whenever there is a thought, there will be inevitably forgetfulness or veiling. Instead of trying to 'catch' ourselves as if we were an object of thought, we should remain still and attentive. It is stated clearly that Pure Consciousness cannot be grasped by thinking mind.It is not an object of awareness. What is it in me that is thinking, seeing, hearing? The intention of self inquiry is to bring us to that point where we who are perceiving, wonder, who is asking this question? Keept the attention of the mind focused on that feeling of 'I' is Self Inquiry.'


It would be better, in my opinion, to let the "I" just go away somewhere. It creates so much trouble, what with it's attempts to link everything up all the time in an effort to continue its illusory existence.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby greentara » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:22 am

Do you agree that you exist? I do understand where you're coming from, your arguement is reasonable, so lets say 'you' exist and thats the only thing you can be sure of! Everything else is external, mixed with emotion coloured by imagination. Change the word 'I' and use the word 'awareness' or we are always 'aware' but distracted so we are not conscious of it.
I don't want to say too much and clutter the mind. Lets say you stay with the 'seedbed' of being and leave it at that.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:02 am

greentara wrote:Do you agree that you exist?


It depends on what you mean by "you".

If you mean the body, sure.

If you mean the 'thing in my head that I identify with as me', then not sure sure.

"I think therefore I am," doesn't make sense when compared to the question, "If you don't think, are you there."

When I don't think, and it's all shut off, there is no "me" anywhere. Even when this happens while the physical eyes are open, the body is there. The identifying apparatus simply is shut off. The identifying apparatus is really just a labeling of a series of chemical processes in the brain, so to collectively call it an identifier indicates that it is a thing that identifies, or gives the sense of identity. However, it's not a separate thing that can be called as such, as aforesaid. It's more like an apparatus, a series of mechanical and chemical workings that result in the appearance of one who identifies.

Do I think that exists? I think that exists insomuch as it thinks it exists. But if it isn't thinking, then it isn't existing, and therefore it's existence is not independent. It's existence is also dependent upon a physical body, for without the mechanical and chemical working it simply wouldn't be there. So it's existence, in essence, is a figment of the imagination.

greentara wrote:I do understand where you're coming from, your arguement is reasonable, so lets say 'you' exist and thats the only thing you can be sure of!


From this it seems that you are equating the mental image, or cumulative identity with existence, and not the physical body that creates the cumulative identity.

greentara wrote:Everything else is external, mixed with emotion coloured by imagination.


For practical, conventional purposes, I do see and interact with things appearing as 'external'. However, the words and images the body is interacting with are built from the internal apparatus.

What really separates me from the tree outside? It's the thought that there is an "I" which is a separate entity than the "tree". This line of thinking returns the idea that the body is "a part of" the universe, and creates a sense of separation from the whole universe. This is isolation, which is in my opinion the very opposite of compassion.

greentara wrote:Change the word 'I' and use the word 'awareness' or we are always 'aware' but distracted so we are not conscious of it.


I don't so easily equate the word "I" with "awareness".

greentara wrote:I don't want to say too much and clutter the mind. Lets say you stay with the 'seedbed' of being and leave it at that.


Too late. If you have the answers, give it straight.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby greentara » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:21 am

Azidonis, You're getting too intellectual about the discussion. This is what I meant by 'cluttered mind' you're also confusing awareness with a 'me'. This is what I meant by saying too much, the mind comes up with an absolute 'riffle' of answers. You cannot deny that you exist...more then that is laced with uncertainty.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:44 am

Both of you seem to have taken a wrong turn as regards existence. Both extremes of absolute Being and absolute non-Being are unchanging states - hence the middle way.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:58 am

greentara wrote:Azidonis, You're getting too intellectual about the discussion. This is what I meant by 'cluttered mind' you're also confusing awareness with a 'me'. This is what I meant by saying too much, the mind comes up with an absolute 'riffle' of answers. You cannot deny that you exist...more then that is laced with uncertainty.


It was very clearly stated, and nothing "cluttered" about it. You asked if I thought I exist.

You are equating the awareness of existence with a sense of personal existence.

futerko wrote:Both of you seem to have taken a wrong turn as regards existence. Both extremes of absolute Being and absolute non-Being are unchanging states - hence the middle way.


I didn't say anything about absolute?

If anything, what I've said is conditional.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:36 am

Azidonis wrote:
greentara wrote:Azidonis, You're getting too intellectual about the discussion. This is what I meant by 'cluttered mind' you're also confusing awareness with a 'me'. This is what I meant by saying too much, the mind comes up with an absolute 'riffle' of answers. You cannot deny that you exist...more then that is laced with uncertainty.


It was very clearly stated, and nothing "cluttered" about it. You asked if I thought I exist.

You are equating the awareness of existence with a sense of personal existence.

futerko wrote:Both of you seem to have taken a wrong turn as regards existence. Both extremes of absolute Being and absolute non-Being are unchanging states - hence the middle way.


I didn't say anything about absolute?

If anything, what I've said is conditional.


"Awareness of existence..." as what? 50% existing? - the point is that we have no concept of this. If something is constantly changing then what can be said to exist?
Surely the word "exist" implies something constant rather than in flux?
If it is constantly changing then different things are "coming into and out of existence" every moment - which is an equally inadeqate concept to describe it because nothing is really created or destroyed.

Going back to your previous post - that your body is somehow "present" despite not being able to find a "me" - and your inference that therefore chemical processes in the brain hit some level of reality which exists is just as conceptual as any notion of identity.

The idea that a "self" cannot be found means that nothing establishes any identity from moment to moment, therefore no existence, and the only constant to (not) be found is the nature of mind, which cannot strictly be said to exist in terms of the meaning of that word.
Last edited by futerko on Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby greentara » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:42 am

I've made a comment. Okay some of the scriptures have a different slant. Very few of us are talking from direct experience. Now everyone is defending their position. Are we all going to dig our heels in? Can we be quiet? Can we remain in silence? That I think is of utmost importance.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:56 am

greentara wrote:I've made a comment. Okay some of the scriptures have a different slant. Very few of us are talking from direct experience. Now everyone is defending their position. Are we all going to dig our heels in? Can we be quiet? Can we remain in silence? That I think is of utmost importance.

Sure we can remain in silence, but I think it would be better with a correct view.
greentara wrote:...so lets say 'you' exist and thats the only thing you can be sure of! Everything else is external...

The issue here is the difference between ancient and modern skepticism. Modern skepticism is sure of the "self" and doubts the outside world whereas ancient skepticism doubts both. Buddhism starts from a position of ancient skepticism.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:13 am

futerko wrote:
Azidonis wrote:
greentara wrote:Azidonis, You're getting too intellectual about the discussion. This is what I meant by 'cluttered mind' you're also confusing awareness with a 'me'. This is what I meant by saying too much, the mind comes up with an absolute 'riffle' of answers. You cannot deny that you exist...more then that is laced with uncertainty.


It was very clearly stated, and nothing "cluttered" about it. You asked if I thought I exist.

You are equating the awareness of existence with a sense of personal existence.

futerko wrote:Both of you seem to have taken a wrong turn as regards existence. Both extremes of absolute Being and absolute non-Being are unchanging states - hence the middle way.


I didn't say anything about absolute?

If anything, what I've said is conditional.


"Awareness of existence..." as what? 50% existing? - the point is that we have no concept of this. If something is constantly changing then what can be said to exist?
Surely the word "exist" implies something constant rather than in flux?
If it is constantly changing then different things are "coming into and out of existence" every moment - which is an equally inadeqate concept to describe it because nothing is really created or destroyed.


Pulsating.

futerko wrote:Going back to your previous post - that your body is somehow "present" despite not being able to find a "me" - and your inference that therefore chemical processes in the brain hit some level of reality which exists is just as conceptual as any notion of identity.


That which pulsates.

futerko wrote:The idea that a "self" cannot be found means that nothing establishes any identity from moment to moment, therefore no existence, and the only constant to (not be) found is the nature of mind, which cannot strictly be said to exist in terms of the meaning of that word.


This is fine. But how does it apply?

If nothing establishes identity from moment to moment, but something appears as thought it is establishing identity moment to moment (otherwise where is the existence?), then what to do with what appears to establish an identity? Just leave it alone and forget about it?

greentara wrote:I've made a comment. Okay some of the scriptures have a different slant. Very few of us are talking from direct experience. Now everyone is defending their position. Are we all going to dig our heels in? Can we be quiet? Can we remain in silence? That I think is of utmost importance.


I don't mind remaining silent. But if you look at the thread, I've pretty much put what I can in here from direct experience. I haven't quoted any books, any sutras, or anything like that. I'm just saying, "This is as far as I've gotten" - which isn't very far when you think about it. Sure, it's all gone out many times, but I don't know what that means, or if it means anything.

Be silent if you want to, but this discussion is actually helping me to understand because what I look at it, there are just a bunch of pieces, and I don't honestly know what to do with them besides leave them in pieces.

futerko wrote:Sure we can remain in silence, but I think it would be better with a correct view.


Thank you.
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