‘self’ is a sensory experience

dreamstime_s_22196618.jpgPOSTCARD #28 Delhi: Thinking about things in the darkness. Stories come and go, pondering over this and that, and the awareness of being caught up in the thinking thing gets included in the meanderings – searching for a way out. If I start thinking about how to stop thinking, the mind gets busy looking for a solution; finding something and comparing it with other reasons why I can’t stop thinking. Thinking has its own momentum, takes time to slow down; that’s the nature of the vehicle I’m driving. Letting it all fizzle out until it can go no further and everything evaporates for a moment.

In that instant there’s no thinking and the mind is alerted… an empty space opens up; a great mirror showing Mind looking at itself – the awareness of being aware. Silence and emptiness, held on ‘pause’. There’s the desire to be actively thinking, and I see the invitation to be involved with thought but pay no heed, it’s just part of what the software does.

The breath coming from the nostrils, so faint and light it stirs only the tiniest thing; a single strand of hair. No other sensory input the mind needs to be engaged with; no sense object activates the chain of events and all that remains is the mind’s cognitive function. There’s a curiosity about this: The ‘self’ is a sensory experience; the experiencer is an experience – there is only experienc-ing. What is it? Consciousness is the sensory organ of the the universe. By seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, the universe experiences itself. [See below: Note 2.]

A wave of thoughts comes rushing in, stays for a moment and goes out again, as if in another reality. I see it as an observer watching from some hidden place. Then the observer disappears and only the awareness itself is left there. Another wave of thoughts comes rushing in, forms appear and disappear and in their place, a sequence of obscured mental events, each one linking with the next; small bursts of electronic energy explode then it’s quiet, and again more explosions, like a fireworks display, arising and falling away. Fainter and fainter. Some time later sleep comes and the whole world disappears…

“… stopping the mind, stopping the flow of thoughts that are proliferating, stopping the flow of moods that get drawn into either attraction or aversion. We return to a clear center, to awareness.” [Ajahn Passano, on Becoming And Stopping.]


Upper image replaced from the post: uncertainty
Note 1. This post is developed from an earlier post (click here: the thinking thing)
Note 2. ‘The self is a sensory experience’ arose from a dialogue with Truthless Truth last year
–   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –

15 thoughts on “‘self’ is a sensory experience

  1. It took me a long time in a less recent past to acknowledge this. It is difficult to catch into words. Any experience is part of consciousness and so is ‘self’. But there seems to be much more to consciousness than experience alone. When the experiencer disappears, consciousness is still there. This is the paradox that words/mind seem(s) to be unable to fathom at all.

    • Thanks for this. Yes, we need to approach it from a different angle, first there’s consciousness then there’s self. And you’re right of course, the world doesn’t disappear when sleep comes, it just seems to be like that. “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” I read something about language having the function of naming things…

      • All very well spoken. I can attest to the truth of these words from personal experience. And I suppose the only way to know the truth of these words IS to have the personal experience.

      • You’re right. There’s conscious experience and there are words that describe it. I’m finding more and more references to the fact that language has the function of creating an ‘identity’ for things in the same way that we have a constructed ‘self’ we believe is ‘me’ but it’s mostly fictional

      • The description never approaches the actual experience. In my experience, the only way to find the true-Self is by destroying the image we create of ourselves, the false-self.

      • I agree, and understand what you mean although we could say the description ‘true-Self’, itself, suggests there’s an identity in it – I can’t find a way around it. If though, I see it as the opposite of (or maybe the absence of) the ‘false-self’, it’s easier to accept. This is the Theravada Buddhist view that I’m used to, speaking in terms of what it is not…

      • I believe it is an identity of sorts, though not in the way we’re accustomed to thinking of identity. I like the way of seeing it in terms of the opposite, what it is not. It gives a more experiencial feel rather than simply attributing characteristics to it. And if the union of opposites is ever to be had, opposites must be acknowledged.

      • Yes, it’s not an identity in the way we’re accustomed to thinking of it. It’s something that satisfies the craving for identity. An understanding found in what it’s not or in knowing that all the craving for ‘false-self’ will come to an end; the cessation of it: “… the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving…” SN 56.11

  2. What would happen if you went to sleep and never woke up, in a mental sense said Alan Watts. I Still ponder about this question and of course there is no answer because it will be from the mind. It is frustrating to understand all this intellectually but the true experience of just experiencing only comes and goes. Although everyone (many) say its ever present and always in being. Why is it so obvious that I (we) don’t see it….Why!? As you can see I am just ventilating….my mind has been very active lately….Your post bought me back to the essential questioning and more of awareness. Thank you!

    • I do a lot of this mind ventilating too… asked somebody wise a similar question, he said it ‘comes and goes’ (as you say) because it’s a different kind of consciousness. It has an incremental effect, there’s no answer in the way we normally expect there to be, and forms into an insight later on, or a number of insights. I can understand the theory of this…

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