I guess I’ll try and do one of these every week. the last one filled up pretty good.

I’m settling into my new condition, whatever that may end up being. Some kind of fundamental suffering seems to be radically reduced. The thing way down the perceptual stack that drives suffering seems to now be largely absent, right in the center of the field. the habit patterns keep spinning, but now all I have to do is look, and they unwind themselves in a way that seems completely obvious and progressive in a way it didn’t used to be. Kind of like pedaling downhill instead of uphill.  I think the thing that gets overlooked a lot in insight practice is that there are usually two interconnected reference points; the ‘watcher’ and the ‘feeler’. most aspiring arahats manage to see through the watcher, and hence take a big bite out of ignorance, but the feeler is often neglected, which explains how you end up with hardcore arahats having emotional flame-outs with surprising regularity. feelings always arise and always will, but when those feelings become the property of some delusional ‘feeler’ then you get the phenomena of conditioned emotions, much the same way as when visual /auditory experience becomes the perspective of a ‘watcher’, you get pathologies associated to the witness and the separation sense and whatnot. if you have no self and no feeler, then there are no such things as emotions, either, as long as we define carefully the difference between feelings and emotions: emotions are feelings that become tied into conditioned relationships with concepts, the self and the external world.  In that light, the whole controversy of limited emotional range models and ‘affect-less’ pseudo-arahats playing with their own brainstems and amygdalae becomes a moot point: there never were any emotions to argue about in the first place. just feelings that a false self tried to make the property of a false feeler. let them rise and fall.

it really is completely obvious. all you have to do is quit distracting yourself with things that aren’t there.

8 thoughts on “there is no feeler / open thread

  1. Haven’t given “the feeler” (sounds a bit dodgy, doesn’t it?) much thought, but I think what you mentioned on Twitter about how practice can lead to solidifying more and more subtle forms of the watcher is right on the money. As far as I can tell, there is a certain belief that the practice is pretty much all about making the watcher more and more subtle until all you can do is surrender, which I find quite lacking, to be honest.

  2. Zac, when you say unwind, I think it is cool to see how we got here in thougth & feeling, but to “include” these things is it necessary to ‘go back’ or just to ‘include’? Would to ‘go back’ be more psychological & ‘include’ more insight based? I don’t have vipassana experience but I do tend to “look, include &/or go back” as I go about my day. Just curious & hopeful that some input will help me in my day to day insight.

    I know what you mean by watcher & feeler. Now that you mention it, for me, when I observe, emotions tend to come from my gut & thoughts from my head. That explains why I can ‘see’ myself & still act like a shithead.

    Since I grew a goatee, I have a wandering hand that always is messin’ with it unconsiously… maybe that’s the “dodgy feeler” 🙂 ; perhaps better labeled sensation?? any input?

    JF:When you say that surrender is lacking, I might I know you mean. As in: why just go back into your conditioning? If this is what you mean, I’ve been working with the understanding that conditioning is okay & will never go away, but also that the choices we make are composed of pre-determination AND free will. But, biologically, I don’t think conditioning ever stops, but we CAN strengthen our will. Thoughts? -thx, S.S.

  3. Pied Piper: First of all, as how-tos go, “surrender” is practically meaningless. Second, any notion that you have to whittle away at something up to a point and then you have to wait for Valis or Elmer Fudd or whatever to get a move on and finish the job for you at their convenience doesn’t add up with the rest of the practice, at least not in my mind. Of course, that may not be what is meant by “surrendering” in this context, but then we’re back to my first point.

  4. @JF – Since my pratice during the last months has been all about surrendering, I think I can talk a little about this subject. When I was at the lower nañas – the beginning of the path – surrendering was a complicated business. My instructions were: be conscious of everything arising and passing, but accept everything. I spent half of time embeded in my attention, trying to catch everything, and the other half imersed into content, trying to be “open”. I don’t know if things got easier because I moved up through the nañas or if due to simple training on this technique (hopefully I’ll know very soon). At some point, I noticed that most of my “actions” (like moving attention around or thinking) were preceded by intentions, flying like sparks around perceptual field. Then it turned into a nonsense to “control” attention – it was happening by it’s own – I could just be with it. This proccess repeated over and over, everytime desengaging me from another layer – and this desengaging was surrender in action. Surrender is not about DOING something, obviously – it’s about noticing how you don’t need to do anything because stuff just happens by it’s own. Then I got to a point where it’s about desembeding from sense of time, sense of space and the subtle sense of a watcher – and I guess I could get here breaking objects in a vipassana manner, as I got here surrendering, distilling awareness from phenomena – but from here and on, I don’t think “I” can do anything about it. Everytime I try to control the proccess, everytime I try to look at these subtle stuff, I embed into a watcher, an “I” further back that try to control stuff. “I”, this sense of self, can’t see the very subtle sense of self arising and passing – so in my pratice now it’s all about surrender to some vague (dual) representation of non-duality, a symbol for the boundless mystery (the HGA, in my case) in order to allow desembeding from the sense of self. It’s not on my control, and there’s progress everytime I stop mixing awareness with phenomena and allow phenomena to be on it’s own, to a point where the sense of self is sufficiently desembeded to arise and pass without “sticking” into awareness and coopting it into forming an watcher.
    This is the way I see it. VALIS or the HGA or Elmer Fudd (I don’t know who is Elmer Fudd) may or may not exist, depending of your take into “existence”, but I see them as an operational component of surrender-based pratices in order to allow you to refuse identification with phenomena and bring you further and further into the mystery.

    What do you think?

  5. You say that every time you try to look at the subtle stuff going on, you embed into a watcher, and all you can do is not do what embedded you into a watcher and hope something will allow you to move along. And that’s exactly what I take issue with. Because the watcher’s not there to begin with. Never was. Just a bunch of perceptions mistaken for a watcher. And my point all along was simply that any kind of practice that seems to reify the illusion of the watcher is a faulty one. Insight is about seeing clearly, after all; if your technique is always obscuring some of the things you need to see clearly until all that’s left is what you haven’t been seeing and you don’t know how to see that, then that’s not the technique for me.

  6. well, to speak in generalities;
    -every sensation is aware of itself. awareness cannot be separated from its object. if it appears to be standing off by itself, you’ve just taken emptiness, or blankness or spaciousness as an object in some kind of formless jhana like fashion and confused yourself even more. there is no where to distill awareness to, and nothing to distill it from. you could think of it as some kind of featureless background, but this is just solidifying certain subtle perceptual features into some kind of ‘super-space’ that doesn’t actually exist, which is another of these traps like the watcher or the feeler.

    -taking that into account, the trick to avoiding the watcher is to discard this idea that there is such a thing as separate awareness, or anything apart from the sensation itself, aware of itself, and falling into higher order patterns with other sensations in some spontaneous way that is totally out of your control.

    -re the control issue, I find my mantra this last couple weeks has been ‘ cannot cause to arise, cannot cause to not arise, cannot prevent from arising, cannot prevent from ceasing to arise’ … it really is quite helpful to start to divest this watcher of its supposed properties, such as separateness, watching, controlling etc. once you’ve debunked all the things it supposedly does, its a lot easier to quit doing it.

  7. @Zac Clarifying my thoughts: this distillation I refer is about realizing that every sensation is just arising and passing, so none of them is the subject who watches, even the sense of self. And I agree with what you’ve said everywhere on your post (if not by experience, at least by theory).

    @JF Surrendering isn’t “hoping”. Hoping can be actually an obstacle (if it engineers sufficient frustration to put you out of the cushion) but it’s also a learning opportunity (all this wanting, hoping, wishing is so painful!). You can be hoping and surrender successfully (surrendering the very hope itself) and you can be hoping and fail to surrender (getting caught in the “hope story” – embeding yourself in content). Re. Insight, I don’t know enough from pratice to say anything. All I know is that mahasi’s noting technique can take me up into the nañas very much like surrendering, sometimes even faster. So, I think both techs produces VERY similar results, at least up to the first 3 nañas (I’ve not tried noting again since then).

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