LU Guiding Exercises
All exercises are suggestions only, and can be modified to suit your needs. __________________________________________________________________
Learning to LOOK Exercises/Direct Experience Coloured Socks
There is a big difference between knowing that there is nothing to give up and seeing that there is nothing to give up.
Here is an example to illustrate the difference:
If I ask you what colour socks you are wearing right now you have two ways to come up with an answer:
• You can have a think about it, you can think back to this morning and try to remember putting your socks on, and you can probably tell me what colour you think they are.
• Alternatively, you can take a quick look at your socks and tell me what colour they actually are!
Hopefully you would agree that you can only be 100% certain by looking.
For the purpose of our dialogue together, it is going to be very important that you are clear about this difference. Knowing is about knowledge which is all in the mind and we are not interested in that. We are only interested in looking at and seeing what is actually going on in your present moment to moment experience. We are only interested in your direct experience in the moment.
Please let me know if you are clear about this or if you would like any further clarification.
As a variation of the socks exercise
Sit quietly and relax, take your time just looking at what is in front of you for awhile. Observe how the mind is dividing and labelling every thing into objects and is embellishing them with stories about what they are.
Sitting in a room, curtains closed, you wonder what the weather is like outside. You can
think about it, look it up on the internet, watch the forecast on TV, call your mother and ask
her – or you can simply open the curtains and have a look.
Give it some time
Then, stop watching the objects as labelled objects. Just look at the seeing itself. Observe the pure process of seeing. This is direct experience (DE).
Direct Experience – Labelling Daily Activities
Here’s an exercise that I would like you to try as many times throughout the day as you can. Label daily activities simply colour/image, sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.
So for example, when having breakfast, become aware of:-
Seeing a cup, simply= image/colour
Smelling coffee, simply = smell
Feeling the warmth of the coffee cup, simply = sensation Tasting the coffee, simply = taste
Hearing the spoon stirring the coffee, simply = sound Thought about drinking the coffee, simply = thought
Just break down daily activities into these categories (which are all actual/direct experience) and report back how you go.
Actual/Direct Experience – Apple
Have a look at an apple. If you have a ‘real’ apple, you can use it for this exercise.
When looking at an apple, there’s colour; a thought saying ‘apple’; and maybe a thought saying, “I’m looking at an apple.”
What is known for sure? Colour is known and thoughts are known.
What about the content of thoughts, what they describe?
Actual experience does not refer to thoughts ABOUT something…because that is only just more thought. Actual experience is sound, thought, colour, smell, taste, sensation.
Is there really an ‘apple’ here, or only colour and a thought ABOUT ‘apple’? Can ‘apple’ be found in actual experience?
While these thoughts are known, what they talk ABOUT can’t be found in actual experience.
This is what is meant by ‘looking in actual experience ‘. What you know for sure, and, is always here.
Taste labelled ‘apple’ is known
Colour labelled ‘apple’ is known
Sensation labelled ‘apple’ is known (when apple is touched) Smell labelled ‘apple’ is known
Thought about/of an ‘apple’ is known
However, is an apple actually known?
Thought Exercises Finding the Gap
This exercise has a dual purpose. Firstly, to become aware of each and every though as they appear. Secondly, the careful looking for the gap is an example of how carefully to look when looking for the ‘separate self’.
Here is a step-by-step description of how to look at thoughts. First thing is to sit for at least 10-15 minutes quietly somewhere, several times throughout your day. Close your eyes and just notice thoughts. Don’t engage with any thought, just notice them.
1. Notice the current thought that is present.
Like when you sit observing the body, a thought might arise “this is my feet” or “here is a pain” or “my breathing is too quick” or “I am bored with this exercise” or “I have better things to do” or any sorts of thoughts.
2. This thought will pass and another thought will come. So just observe this thought passing.
3. Then wait for the next thought to come.
4. When the next thought is present, just notice it, and see how it passes.
5. Then wait for the next thought to come.
6. Repeat #4 and #5 many-many times.
Between the 2 thoughts there is a gap. It can be very short or subtle, just a second or a few seconds before the next thought come in.
This is how to look at thoughts:-
Looking how they come and go, and Observing the short gap between them. Noticing how the current thought is passing. And waiting for the next thought to come.
Please do the following exercise:
Throughout your waking day, try to observe the gap between thoughts as often as possible. It can be done by noticing that ‘thinking’ is happening right now, then stop and just simply wait for the next thought to come. In the ‘waiting’ there is a gap between two thoughts.
Let me know how you go.
Here is a thought exercise. Sit quietly for about 30 minutes and notice the arising thoughts. Just let them appear as they appear. Try your best to COMPLETELY ignore what they are saying and just notice how they appear without you doing anything at all.
Where are they coming from and going to?
Did you do anything to make a particular thought or thoughts appear?
Could you have done anything to make a different thought appear at that exact moment instead?
Can you predict your next thought?
Can you select from a range of thoughts to have only pleasant thoughts?
Can you choose not to have painful, negative or fearful thoughts?
Can you pick and choose any kind of thought?
Is it possible to prevent a thought from appearing?
It seems that thought has some logical ordered appearance, but look carefully and just notice if there is an organised sequence? Or is that just another thought that says ‘these thoughts are in sequence’ or “they take content from previous thought”, or that ‘one thought follows another thought’?
Get a sheet of paper and draw a line that divides that sheet in half. Label one half ‘self’ and the other side ‘other’. Sit down and start a timer for 5 minutes. Every time you have a thought make a mark on the sheet. If that thought is about the self put a mark on the self side, if it’s about something else, mark the other side. If a thought about food occurs due to feeling hungry, mark that on the self side. Any thought that refers back to a self should go on the self side. (I’m bored, I’m tired, is the door locked (my safety) that video was funny (I was amused), my back hurts, I am frightened) get it?
Let me know how you go and what you notice.
Mind labelling experience
Here is an exercise which examines the way in which the mind labels experience – it takes about 20 minutes and you will need a pen a paper.
This exercise is broken into 10 minute lots. For each 10 minute period pay attention to any bodily sensation ie is there any tightening, or any relaxing?
For the first ten minutes write down what you are experiencing right now using the word “I”.
For example: I am sitting on a chair, I am hearing a clock ticking, I am looking at a computer screen, I am feeling hungry. Get right to the point, no past or future fantasy, just a plain description of your experience right here and now.
Then for the next ten minutes continue writing down what you are experiencing but this time without using the word “I”. Just describe the experience as it is happening using verbs. For example: sitting on a chair, typing, breathing, blinking, hearing the clock. (Again, watch what is happening in the body.)
At the end of the twenty minutes compare the two ways in which the experience was labelled and answer the following four questions:
1. Is one truer than the other, and If so, which one? 2. What is here without labels?
3. Do labels affect the experience or just describe it? 4. Did you notice any differences in the body?
There is a belief that labels have a one-to-one correspondence with ‘reality’. But there isn’t. Just like it is a generally accepted belief that labels like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are inherent characteristics of ‘things’. But actually, they are not.
When you look at the word label ‘GREEN’, what is the actual experience?
Is the colour red ‘experienced’, or is the colour green ‘experienced’ as the label suggests?
Does the label ‘GREEN’ have a one-to-one correspondence with ‘reality’? Or does the label suggest something else other than what is here now (red colour)?
Is ‘green’ associated in any way with the experience of the colour red; or is green just a label that overlays the actual experience of red?
If the label ‘GREEN’ is replaced with the label ‘GOOD’ or ‘BAD’, is the redness affected in any way as the labels suggests?
Does redness become ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or do the labels have no affect whatsoever on ‘reality’?
Bring up a thought about a character labelled “friend”.
Then bring up a thought about a character labelled “stranger”.
Compare these thoughts.
Is there a difference in these thoughts?
Is there a true difference or is it just different content?
Now, bring up a thought about a character labelled “friend”. After that, look at a thought about the character labelled “me”.
Is there a difference?
Is there anything special about thoughts with the content “me-character”?
Looking at an Object
Wherever you are sitting right now, look for an object to use. Don’t pick up the object or turn it around, only look at what can be seen without touching it or turning it.
Now look at it and describe what you see. Give yourself a bit of time with it. Just look, nothing else.
Now describe the back side of the object.
How is it known what the back side looks like?
What tells what it looks like?
How can it be known that there is a back at all? That the object is 3D? Can this be known in direct experience?
Can an object be known at all?
Please note that you will have to check the link when using this exercise, to make sure it is still viable, as sometimes they are removed from Youtube.
The following link is a 7 minute clip of a soccer game. If you prefer another sport…please feel free to find one to do this exercise with.
1. Watch one minute with the sound turned OFF, watching ‘people’ messing about with a round thing on a field, up and down, up and down. Let it sink in, the whole experience.
2. Once the first minute is completed, now watch another whole minute with the commentary turned ON.
Notice the differences. Notice how the commentator (thought) offers lots of know-how, even advice. It seems to feel as though they can influence, somehow, what is going on, as though one outcome is much preferred to the opposite outcome. The commentary may seem to heighten any supporter feelings which are there, and call for an identification with one team or other, and with the importance of the game itself.
3. Now turn the volume OFF AGAIN and just watch the action with NO audible commentary, the shapes moving around on the screen etc. Again notice all the differences in what is appearing as experience.
4. Now turn the volume ON again and ignore what you think you know thought is talking about, and just notice it as sound.
What did you find when doing this exercise?
Is the commentary on the soccer game a necessity for the play to happen?
And in the same way, is the inner narration of thought a necessity for the play of life to happen?
Simple individual thought exercises
1. Can you find an inherent self anywhere, outside of thought?
2. Can thought experience thought? Can thought experience anything? (Thought is so very overrated – by thought).
3. Does thought make any contact with other kinds of sense experience, such as sounds or sensations – or are they totally separate from each other?
4. For a moment take note of exactly what is being experienced in this moment: Notice all sound, all sensation, all smell, all taste, all colour. Notice how you’re making absolutely no effort to be aware of them. And notice that you’re not making them happen. You’re not conducting the orchestra of experience that you’re aware of. And notice that thought is exactly the same as the rest of experience. You’re effortlessly aware of it, but you’re not orchestrating it. You’re not even orchestrating the thoughts which say that you’re able to orchestrate thoughts.
5. The story of “me’ can seem to have continuity. Is it really continuous? Or are there simply isolated thoughts that never can truly touch each other, some of them claiming that there’s one continuous story?
6. Observe thought closely. Try to determine what your next thought is going to be before it appears. Can you do this? Isn’t a thought only known as it appears? In that case, can you possibly claim to be in control of the thinking process, the thoughts, choices or impulses that arise, unless you can somehow instigate them beforehand?
7. Sit quietly and pay close attention to your thoughts for 20 minutes. Notice that thoughts seem to pop out of nowhere and have no obvious cause. They are a total surprise and you can find no cause or reason for their appearance. It should be obvious you were not involved in any way in the creation of these thoughts.
8. Do you have unpleasant thoughts? Do you want to have them? If you had any control over thoughts, don’t you think you would choose not to think such thoughts at all? Wouldn’t you be able to choose never to have thoughts that seem to make you unhappy?
9. When we look very closely and precisely we come to see that “me” thoughts only refer to other “me” thoughts, not to an actual abiding “me.” Observe thoughts with precision; can you ever find a ‘me’ within the “me” thoughts and feelings, or just a sense of me?
10. Pay attention to mental activity – to thoughts and images in the mind. Where are they arising? Are they inside something? Are they central to you, or are they peripheral? Do they leave any trace when they have gone?
Content of Thought Exercises Word “I”
Let’s look at thought and the content of thought a little more,
Write the word “I” on a piece of paper. Look at the word, is that YOU?
Now say the word “I” aloud. Is that sound YOU?
Is the combination of any of these, the word, the sound, the thought YOU?” Is the thought, “I exist” you?
Is the thought “I” you?
The following exercise is designed to let you ‘feel’ the difference between actual experience and imagined experience.
Close your eyes and imagine that you are holding a spoon. Imagine the spoons form, its size, its weight, its temperature. Look and feel at the imaginary spoon for a while.
Then open your eyes … is there a spoon here, in real life? So how did you see that there is no spoon?
What happened to the spoon?
Did it disappear or did it never exist?
Notice that there was no boom and no bright flashes of light when the imaginary spoon was no longer imagined. Remember this, the shift to seeing through the illusion of a separate self is not going to be any more than this, it is just a dropping of a belief – the belief is the glue that holds the illusion together.
Now go and get a spoon from the kitchen and hold it in the same way that you imagined it.
Feel the spoon’s form, its size, its weight, its temperature. Close your eyes and feel the spoon for a while.
Now open your eyes … is there a spoon here, in real life?
Are the image of the spoon and the experience of the spoon the same? How does imagining and experiencing the same thing differ?
Now close your eyes again and bring your attention to the image of “me”, the separate individual entity. Spend some time exploring this, and then answer the following question:
Speak the word “I” silently; be aware of any sensations or responses to this word. Are any
of these reactions in your body or mind by themselves YOU?
Is it an image or is it an actual entity?
The questions are really just there for you to consider as you do the exercise, I do not need detailed answers to each one, just some reflections on how the exercise went for you, or if you have any questions or need any clarification.
Have a piece of fruit handy, or something that you like to eat.
For the first couple of minutes imagine you are eating the fruit…..feel the sensations of chewing, the taste, the texture, the fragrance, hear the crunching sound that the chewing makes. Really enjoy the imaginary piece of fruit as much as you can.
Then for the next couple of minutes actually bite the fruit and see the difference. Experience the fruit with curiosity and dive into the sensations of chewing, swallowing, the sounds and the taste. Really enjoy the experience of actually eating the piece of fruit.
Then for another minute or so describe the taste and smell in as much detail as possible. Write about it here. What was the experience like?
After you have done this, tell me what you noticed when you compared these three experiences:-
1. Imaginary fruit
2. Real fruit
Here is an exercise which points out the difference between direct experience and content of thought.
There are two types of thoughts:
(1) Thoughts with words “Here is cup” (2) Visual mental images of a ‘cup’
So I invite you to do this exercise:
Think of a cup. Get a very clear picture in your mind. See clearly the size, shape, colour and volume of the cup. Notice whether it is decorated or plain. Notice whether it has a handle. Notice whether it is heavy or fragile. Do you have a clear picture in mind?
Now, can you physically grasp that image of a cup? Can you pour tea into it?
Can you drink from it?
Is there a ‘real’ cup or just an image of a cup?
Is there an appearing mental image?
Is the content of the mental image (the cup) ‘real’?
The thoughts and mental images are real only as arising thoughts and mental images, their ‘presence’ cannot be denied. However their contents, what are they about are not ‘real’, they are just fantasies. Can you see this?
Over the course of the next day or so, I’d like you to notice the content of thoughts. Whenever there is an arising thought or mental image, check whether its content (what it’s about) is really happening, or the content is just pure imagination. Let me know how it goes.
Close your eyes and imagine holding a watermelon in your hands.
Imagine it so vividly that you can feel its weight, the shape and texture of the skin. Hold it there, sensing it.
Then open your eyes.
What happened to the melon?
How about the sensation that was so believable?
Was there ever a melon in ‘reality’?
Was there an appearing mental image?
Was the content of the mental image (the melon) ‘real’?
The thoughts and mental images are real only as AE of thoughts and mental images, their appearance cannot be denied. However their ‘contents’, what they are about (like the watermelon) are not ‘real’, they are just fantasies.
Can you see this?
If you were in a desert, dying of thirst, could you quench your thirst just by thinking about water (thoughts), or would you need to drink ‘real’ water?
Let’s say I’m with you in the desert and offer you two options:
(1) In my left hand there is a piece of paper with the word ‘water’ written on it, and (2) in my right hand there is a bottle of water.
Which one would you choose to quench your thirst, the label or the water?
So, can the label ‘water’, which is actual/direct experience (AE) of thought, quench your thirst?
Labels are ‘real’ as appearing thoughts but its ‘content’, what the label/thought is ABOUT is not ‘real’ and is NOT the AE of ‘content’.
Is this clear?
Drink of Water Exercise
Let’s look at the difference between thought content and the content of direct experience.
Close your eyes and imagine a glass of cool fresh water in your hands.
Feel the weight of the glass, its texture, the temperature. Does the water sparkle? Have a sip. Feel the coolness in the mouth running down to the stomach, the refreshing feeling.
Now open your eyes.
Drink the water you just imagined.
What is the difference between thought content and the content of direct experience in the world of the 5 senses and what do they have in common?
Decisions, Choices & Control Exercises Palm Flipping Exercise
1. Hold a hand in front of you; palm turned down.
2. Now turn the palm up. And down…and up and so on.
Watch like a hawk.
Don’t go to thoughts – examine your direct experience. Do this as many times as you like, and each time inquire:-
How is the movement controlled?
Does a thought control it?
Can a ‘controller’ of any description be located?
How is the decision made to turn the hand over? Track any decision point when a thought MADE THE DECISION to turn the hand over and the hand turns over immediately.
Who or what chose which hand – the left or right hand for the exercise?
Can you find a separate individual or anything that is choosing when to turn the palm up or down?
Raising Hand Exercise
1. Place both hands on a table in front of you, palms down.
2. When you have done that, rest for a moment and then raise one hand in the air but not the other.
Don’t go to thoughts, examine your direct experience. Do this as many times as you like, and each time inquire:-
What is it exactly that is choosing which hand to raise?
Can you find a separate individual or anything that is doing the choosing? What is it that is controlling the hand?
Can a ‘controller’ of any description be located?
Can anything be found that makes the hand move?
How is the decision made?
Imagine for a moment a scene, one of a little mountain stream which is tumbling down a hillside gully, not far from its source. It has been raining and so the level is quite high. Consider in your mind’s eye, if you can, how it flows to the right over a little rock (where, had the level been lower, it would probably have gone around the rock), then the flow goes to the left over a tree bow, and then slows a little in a broader place, before splashing over a small cascade into a pool, and so on down the mountain side. Does it choose any of its directions? Is it even really a separate entity different from the water deposited in it, the rocks, the depressions in the ground etc? Is it even the same entity moment by moment, or more the product of weather conditions and water, like an ever-changing pattern?
1. Can you find anywhere where ‘insert name’ autonomously intervenes into life, choosing something that is not the product of all the elements; that is not a part of the overall flow?
2. Now please consider a regular decision made eg; what to wear in the morning, or what to eat for lunch, and describe to me what happens. There are environmental factors, there are colour preferences (but where did those come from – any autonomous intervention there perhaps?), practical issues (such as what is available), available time for preparation, purpose (eg; need to fill up for the day, or to look hip and cool for that person!) etc. Where in there is an autonomous entity intervening in the flow of life? Can you find someone somewhere?
3. Can anything be found for which ‘insert name’ is responsible – if so responsible to what and for what?
The aim of the following exercise is to discover whether the function of choice can really be found or confirmed in actual experience. The idea of making ‘choices‘ is a very clear example of a function that we wrongly identify as the basis of our identity.
Here’s what’s needed – a chair, a table and two different drinks. Any two drinks you like are okay for this: coffee, tea, milk, water, juices, smoothies, beer, wine, etc.
Preparation – Place the two drinks side by side on the table in front of you, sit comfortably on the chair and mentally label them as drink A and drink B.
Experiment – Finding the function of choice
Sit for a few moments, take a few relaxed breaths and let the dust settle. When you feel ready:
1. Look at drink A and at drink B. Think about their respective qualities, the things you like about them, compare and weigh the pros and cons of each. See if a preference is manifesting for one or the other.
2. Count to 5.
3. Choose one of the drinks. Pick it up and take a sip.
Remember that we’re looking for some kind of function, a something, an ‘I’ which is doing the ‘choosing’.
In step 1 when thinking about their respective qualities, did you ‘choose’ the qualities? Or did they kind of appear by themselves? If some preferences manifested, did you ‘choose’ these preferences? Or did they just pop up by themselves?
In step 2 when you counted to 5, if the preferences took the back seat while the numbers took the front seat, did you ‘choose’ this sequence of event? Did you ‘choose’ to shut down the preferences to give way to the counting? Did you directly experience a mental function or faculty doing the ‘choosing’? Have you seen this function in action?
In step 3 where you made a choice, did you actually witness or directly experience a mental function or faculty doing the ‘choosing’? Did anything arise that announced, ‘I am the chooser’? If so, what does this function look like?
Sometimes we describe this sense of choosing as a ‘feeling’: It feels like ‘I’ did the ‘choosing’. But the question is, can a feeling ‘choose’? Is it in the nature of a feeling to ‘choose’?
So taking a closer look, is it that these voices (thoughts) are controlling these behaviours in any way? Try this out.
Get two foods you like, one that is a ‘bad’ food, like a piece of chocolate and the other a ‘good food,’ like a piece of apple. Thoughts might come up while looking at them saying stuff about eating one or the other. Eventually one of them will get eaten first.
Look carefully for any evidence in direct experience to see if those thoughts controlled the behaviour; rather than just guessing and commentating what might happen.
Simple Individual Exercises
1. Can you see a self making you leave the bed?
Where does the “decision”, the “command” to get up come from? What makes the body get up? Does a ‘you’ or a thought command the body?
It’s always interesting to see the difference between thought content and what really happens.
“Can you see a self making the body leave the bed?”
2. ‘On a count of 5, raise either your left or right arm, or not.’ Dead simple.
3. Can you choose to fall asleep? Can you find the moment / point / spot or realm where you choose to fall asleep?
4. Can you choose the very content of the next thought? Can you choose willingly the next thought that will arise?
5. Can you choose the very quality (tightness, openness, vibration, hardness, contraction etc) of the physical sensation, that will arise next?
6. Can you choose the next emotion, mind state, attitude that will arise? Sit and look at what is happening. Can you find any choice – point where you willingly chose any emotion that appeared in response to a stimulus?
7. Think of a number between 1 and 20. Try to notice the exact point when the choice is made. Did you know what number would be chosen before it appeared?
9. Close your eyes and sit quietly for 10-15 minutes. Watch what focus does. Focus on focussing, watch attention itself. Do you move it? Or it moves by itself? Hold focus on
Ask the client to go to another room, pick a random object and bring it back to the
computer. Ask questions to why they decided to choose that object.
breath. See how it moves to thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds. Is this something you control?
What moves attention? Is thinking in control of attention? Describe what you see.
Although you see that there is no noticer/observer/witness, there may still be the feeling of identification of being the ‘doer’. That it still ‘feels’ like there is a self that is the ‘chooser’. So let’s have a look at this as it has to do with the sense of seeing.
Take a few relaxed breaths to let the dust settle for a while, and then: Look on your right.
Then look on your left.
Finally, bring your head back to centre, close your eyes and look in front.
Okay, so when you look on the right, the view on the right is seen (whatever that is).
When you look on the left, the view on the left is seen (whatever that is).
And then, when you look in front of you with eyes closed, the view in front is seen (ie ‘black space’).
So, when the view on the right is seen, do you have the ‘choice’ not to see? I’m not asking can you ‘choose’ to see something else like another view or ‘black space’ if you close your eyes. The question is; can you turn seeing off? Can you NOT see what is seen?
Same thing with the view on the left, can you NOT see the view on the left?
Same thing with the view in front with closed eyes, can you NOT see the ‘black space’? Can you turn off seeing?
What did the ‘chooser’ choose? Did a ‘self’ choose something?
If you are unable to choose what you’re aware of, then what else is there to choose?
Body Exercises Head Exercise
Let’s examine the solidity of the head.
Press a finger down onto the top of the ‘head’.
Notice what is actually present.
Is it a head, or is it just a sensation labelled ‘pressure’ and a story ABOUT a head?
Do the same with a finger on each side of the head.
Is a head actually found, or are there just sensations again?
And is there anything between the pressure points, or is it just a thought that says there must be something between them?
Introductory Body Exercise
Sit with eyes closed for about 15 minutes.
Paying attention only to the pure sensations, without relying on thoughts or mental images:
Can it be known how tall the body is?
Does the body have a weight or volume?
In the actual experience does the body have a shape or a form?
Is there a boundary between the body and the clothing? Is there a boundary between the body and the chair?
Is there an inside or an outside?
If there is an inside – the inside of what exactly?
If there is an outside – the outside of what exactly?
What does the word/label ‘body’ ACTUALLY refer to? What is the ACTUAL experience of the body?
Look very carefully, especially with the last question. Take your time, don’t rush. You can look several times during the day while doing other things (like washing hands, showering, having a short break from work, walking, etc) before replying.
Simpler Body Exercise
Please find a quiet place and a quiet time.
Sit or lay down and relax. Close your eyes and relax.
Can you attend to sensation exclusively?
Not minding thought babbling about this and that?
Not minding thought labelling sensation for a bit?
Thought may tell: “I am lying here” or “My body is lying here” or “A body is lying here”.
But could this be known from pure sensation?
Thought might suggest: “There is a soft pressure against the back”.
But could you know about “pressure” or “back” from pure sensation?
Once arrived there, while ONLY attending to sensation, please have a look at the following
Can be known how tall the body is?
Does the body have a specific size, shape or weight?
How many toes are there?
Deeper Body Investigation
Here is an even deeper investigation of the body. Please follow each step, don’t leave out any. Take your time. Don’t move to the next step until the previous one is clearly seen. Repeat the exercise several times.
Stand in front of a bigger mirror.
(1) First, close the eyes and feel the sensations labelled ‘body’.
(2) Then open the eyes and look into the mirror while still paying attention to the sensations.
Is there any connection between the felt sensations and the image in the mirror? Or just thoughts (and/or mental images) suggest that there is?
(3) While still paying attention to the sensations move one hand and observe the movement from the mirror.
Is there any connection between the felt sensations (labelled ‘hand’) and image of movement in the mirror?
(4) Now do the same movement with the hand, but this time look at the hand directly, not from the mirror.
Is there any connection between the felt sensations (labelled ‘hand’) and the image ‘of movement’? Or only thoughts suggest it?
(5) Now, pay attention only to the image in the mirror.
Does the image by itself suggest in any way that is ‘you’ or ‘your body’? Does the image itself suggest in any way that it is a ‘body’ at all?
Or are there only colours and shapes?
(6) Where the mirror ends, some parts of the body (probably legs) cannot be seen.
Just by the image in the mirror, is there any ‘knowledge’ that there must be legs, or only thoughts and mental images suggest so?
(7) Now turn away from the mirror and look forward (don’t look directly to any body parts).
Is there a ‘body’ anywhere when all thoughts and images are ignored, or are there only sensations?
(8) Start to walk slowly.
Is there a ‘body walking’, or are there only sensations?
Is there actual experience of ‘walking’ at all?
Or just THOUGHTS ABOUT ‘walking’?
Can such a thing as ‘body’ be found OR just THOUGHTS ABOUT a ‘body’? Can such a thing as ‘walking’ be found?
(9) Are the sensations localized in space, like ‘going through the room’; OR is there only an image that is labelled ‘room’ and appearing sensations without any location?
Sight-Sensation Correlation Exercise
1. Close the eyes and hold up one hand. Pay attention only to the felt sensations ‘of the hand’.
2. Open the eyes, and now observe the hand by looking only.
3. While looking at the hand, pay attention to the felt sensations.
Repeat 1 to 3 as many times as needed and investigate…
Normally we believe that the sensation is coming from the sight, the ‘object’ seen (hand). But if you look, is there any link between the sensation and the sight? In other words, is the sensation ‘coming from’ the sight (labelled as hand) or only thoughts and mental constructs link them?
Can you see that both the ‘visual sight’ and the sensation appear simultaneously but ‘separately’, meaning that none of them is coming from the other or contained by the other?
So they just appear equally, ‘beside’ each other without any hierarchy or link between them?
You can repeat the exercise with all of body parts. For the head you can use a mirror.
Witness/Observer/Senses Exercises Exercises Seeing Exercise – Part I
The usual belief that ‘I am this body’ is usually tied in with the belief that the body as a separate item is responsible or ‘DOING’ the senses – ‘I see’, ‘I hear’, ‘I feel’ etc
We will begin with ‘seeing’ – Just that one sense on its own.
Close your eyes.
With eyes closed, you will now experience ‘blackness’. There may be other things you can find going on, sure. If you are looking at a bright light, there may be a red glow. There may be sparkly bits or cloudy flecks appearing and disappearing – It really doesn’t matter about the specifics.
Just to make things simple, whatever you can see with eyes closed, I’m going to refer to it as ‘black’ or ‘blackness’ just for simplicity.
1) With eyes closed, can you confirm that what is experienced is ‘blackness’ as I mentioned?
2) Is there anything else in ‘seeing’ other than ‘blackness’?
3) Can what is witnessing the blackness be found?
4) Can a pair of eyes, an ‘I’ / ‘me’, a person be found that is witnessing the blackness? Or is there just ‘blackness’ to be found?
What do you find?
Can an INHERENT SEE-ER be found? Would anything that is suggested as the see-er, be anything other than a concept/idea/thought?
Seeing Exercise – Part II
Let’s move on to opening the eyes now.
Again, address this very simply – The ‘seeing’ sense only for the moment.
With eyes open, a world of objects appears . . . a room . . . a computer screen etc
What you can specifically see isn’t of interest here, and whatever it is, I am simply going to refer to it as ‘what can be seen’.
This might be a little more tricky, but give it some consideration.
1) With eyes open, can you confirm that what is experienced is ‘what can be seen’ as I mentioned?
2) Is there anything else in ‘seeing’ other than ‘what can be seen’?
3) Can what is witnessing ‘what can be seen’ be found?
4) Can a pair of eyes, an ‘I’ / ‘me’, a Justin be found that is witnessing ‘what can be seen’? Or is there just simply ‘what can be seen’ to be found?
What do you find?
Can an INHERENT SEE-ER be found? Would anything that is suggested as the see-er, be anything other than a concept/idea/thought?
What is Seeing?
Look at whatever is in front of you. It is seen from the perspective of two windows (eyes) or is it like a windscreen view? Now zoom back in and try to find the thing that’s seeing. Is there seeing separate from what’s seen, or is there just what’s seen?
Is there any awareness separate from experience or is there just experience?
Find somewhere quiet to sit. Rest for a moment and listen to the sounds in the room where you are, or sounds from outside. Whatever it is, I’ll just refer to it as ‘what can be heard’.
1) In ‘hearing’ can anything be found other than ‘what can be heard’?
2) Can what is doing the hearing be found? Or is there only ‘what can be heard’?
3) An ‘I’? a ‘body’? a ‘person’? a brain? a pair of ears? Can these be found doing the hearing? Or is there just ‘what can be heard’?
What do you find?
Can an INHERENT HEARER be found? Would anything that is suggested as the hearer, be anything other than a concept/idea/thought?
Hand on desk
Please close your eyes for this exercise, just notice any ‘mental’ images or thoughts that appear and put them aside.
Place a hand on a desk or table (flat surface) – Close your eyes.
Now ‘go to’ the feeling/sensation which we would normally refer to as ‘hand on desk’ and answer from what you can FIND.
1) How many things do you find? Are there two things (hand and desk) or is there one thing – sensation?
2) Can a ‘feeler’ be found in ‘what is being felt’?
3) Do you notice ‘one thing feeling another thing’? Or is there just ‘a sensation’?
4) Do you find an ‘I’, a body, a hand ‘feeling’ . . . or is there just ‘a sensation’? What do you find?
Can an INHERENT FEELER be found? Would anything that is suggested as the feeler, be anything other than a concept/idea/thought?
Scales – Sensation-Thought Correlation
1. Imagine holding sensation in the right hand and thought in the left hand.
Does thought, on the one hand, and sensation, on the other, know about each other? Is there a link between the two?
2. Imagine sensation and thought are resting on either side of a pair of scales. When sensation is looked at it gets heavier. When thought is looked at it gets heavier.
Is it possible to look at both thought and sensation at the same time to balance the scales?
Time & Memory Time Exercise
There is a general assumption that there is linear time that started (if started at all) somewhere very far in the past and advances to the distant future. The present moment (now) is considered to be a very small fragment of time, or an event that is moving forward on a linear line, coming from the past and advancing to the future.
But is there an experience of the ’now’ moving along the line of time? Any experience of one ‘moment’ giving way to the next?
Is there any actual or direct experience of one event following another?
How fast is the ‘present moment’ actually moving?
Just look at ‘this moment’, can you find a point where it began? How long does the ‘now’ last?
Where does the ‘now’ start, and where does it end?
When does the ‘now’ exactly become the ‘past’?
What is the ‘past’ in actual experience?
So is there actual experience of ‘time’ or thoughts about ‘time’?
Almost everybody believes that a memory thought is referring to something that has happened. That a memory thought is a different thought than a non-memory thought.
Please don’t go to thought explanations, but just let a memory be there, and look at it. Look at what is actually going on and not what thoughts say – but what actually is.
What is memory exactly?
What is the memory ‘made of’? WHEN does the memory appear?
What is the exact difference between a ‘general’ thought and a ‘memory’ thought? How is it known EXACTLY that a ‘memory’ thought refers to something that has happened?
Then, look at a thought about the future.
What is the future thought ‘made of’?
WHEN does the future thought appear?
What is the exact difference between a ‘general’ thought and a ‘future’ thought?
How is it known EXACTLY that a ‘future’ thought refers to something that will happen?
Then let’s compare a thought about past and a thought about the future. What is the EXACT difference between the thoughts about past and future? If there is difference and how is that difference is known exactly?
Sense of “Self/Me/I” Find “me” in the body
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie.
Take in a few deep breaths to settle the dust and then relax for a bit.
Spend only 30 to 60 seconds on each component of this exercise.
Bring your awareness to your entire body – sense it fully, head to toe.
Run your hands down over your torso. Feel the solidity of it.
Now bring your awareness to your feet. Again, feel them. Move them a bit. Then bring your awareness to your hands. Open and close them.
Bring your awareness to your face – all of it. Touch it with your hand.
Now point your index finger to where “insert name” is located.
Touch the exact location of “insert name”.
Answer these questions:
Were you able to find and feel “insert name” in a direct way like the other parts of your body?
Where is it?
What did you find? Something? Anything? Nothing?
What sensations did you feel in your body that identified “insert name” (If any). Tell me what you experienced and found, by way of direct experience.
Thought points to the feet being ‘down there’, so presumably you are above your feet. Where are you?
Sit quietly, take in a few deep breaths and then close your eyes.
Locate where you feel yourself to be. Locate yourself vertically in the body, horizontally to the left or right, and depth, how far in. Feel how big you are, where you reside. Then point with a finger to ‘you’. Open your eyes, where is your finger pointing?
Explore ‘Sense of Self’
Let’s say that you have lost your keys and you swear that you left them in your coat. You go to look and check all the pockets – the keys are not there. You swear they must be as that was the last place you remember them. You have a vivid memory of putting them there after you left the house. But when you check they are not there. At this point you can keep believing that the keys are in your pocket, or you can admit you were mistaken. This is just like that. You may see clearly that the self is an illusion but still feel a sense of self – just like the keys. But feeling something to be true and seeing that it is or is not is different. This is why we may find ourselves coming back to your expectations at the start and at the end.
Now, I’d like to ask you to explore this SENSE of self very-very thoroughly. Not by thinking about it, but by FEELING it.
Keep the focus of attention on the sense of self and inquire:-
Does the sense of self have a location?
Does the sense of self have a shape or a size?
Does the sense of self say or communicate anything?
If the answer is yes, how does the sense do this exactly?
Does the sense of self have any characteristics or attributes?
What is the sense of self ‘made of’? An image? Sound? Taste? Smell? Sensation? Thought?
Taken from The Headless Way
Have a look around you. You can see colours of the room, of your ‘feet’, of your ‘knees’, of your ‘chest’ and perhaps of your ‘hands’.
Now point a finger towards the place where others see your head and face.
What do you see? Do you see your face? Do you see your head?
Do you see anything at all there – any colours, shapes, or any movement?
Looking into the place where others see your face, do you see colours or shapes there? What do you find?
Throughout the day, when a thought about “I” comes up, replace the letter!
“I want to have this” ->
“O want to have this”
Can “O” want to have anything?
How then could “I” want to have anything?
“I don’t like that” ->
“A don’t like that”
Can “A” dislike anything?
How come there is an idea that “I” can dislike anything?
Observe this throughout the day and report what comes up!
Many experience the ‘me’ as being centred in the head.
What I would like you to do is imagine a small apple centred in the head. Before the apple disappears….
…imagine a canary centred in the head, tweeting away. Before, the canary flies off (weird huh?)….
…imagine a ‘me’ centred in the head. Stay with it…
…imagine it is completely transparent. See straight through it… …imagine there not seeming to be a ‘me’ in the head anymore. Give it a go, see what happens.
Like cookies? If not, any food will do.
I can give you an imaginary cookie – here you go!
Imagine that you take a cookie and eat it – really feel it happening – the sensations, texture, taste, sound.
If you have some cookies, eat one, if not, eat something else for the exercise (fruit), and compare: what is the difference between an imagined cookie and the real one that is experienced? See if you can dive in the sensations of taste, smell.
Take your time to investigate how a real cookie smells and tastes, feels in the fingers and so on. Focus on sensations and perceiving, without naming it.
Then for a couple of minutes describe the taste and smell.
What does description have to do with actual experience?
Is sense of self referring to imaginary self or something that is experienced? Is there a self/I in the experience?
What is found?
Really look at a chair.
What exactly gives that object it’s ‘chairness’?
Imagine back when that chair was being made.
When exactly did the components become ‘chair’
Think and picture in your mind all the infinite different sorts of chairs. Really make it vivid.
What makes them all ‘chairs’?
– Then think of the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ in the same way…imagine all different people saying “I did this”, “I am that”. Try this also when watching TV with all the different characters etc. – When with a group of people in conversation, what makes them all ‘I’?
Tell me what comes up.
Space & Distance Ceiling & Body Exercise
Lie on your back and relax. Have a look at the ceiling.
There is thought to be a distance between that what is thought to be known as ‘body’ and that what is labelled ‘ceiling’.
Close your eyes. Now focus on the space between body and ceiling. Take your time, breathe in and out and simply look. Keep the eyes shut. What do you notice?
Is there a body? Is there a ceiling? Is there a distance?
Exercises in the Witness/Observer section can also be used for this purpose.
Clock Exercise – Part 1
For this exercise you will need to sit yourself near a clock that has an audible second hand. If you don’t have a ticking clock, then here is a link to a clock on Youtube.
Allow your eyes to close gently.
Listen to the sound. “Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock”
Focus on the tick tock. Attune to the sound itself. IGNORE any explanatory thoughts about what must be creating the sound.
Try to find the clock.
1. Going just by the tick tock sound, do you find a clock present?
2. Is there any direct/actual experience of a clock in the sound?
3. Does the sound come self-labelled as originating from the clock?
4. Do you find a clock hidden in the sound?
5. Do you find a clock beyond the sound?
6. In your direct/actual experience of the sound, do you find any evidence that the sound is caused by a clock?
Allow your eyes to open.
Were you able to establish that in your direct/actual experience of the tick tock sound, that there was a clock?
Were you able to find a division between hearing and sound?
Were you able to establish where hearing ended and sound begin, or was there just pure experience labelled as sound?
For a sound to be ‘known’ then there must be a ‘knowing’ (experience) of sound! Can a dividing line be found between the ‘knowing’ (experience) of the sound and the sound (known) itself? Or is there only ‘knowingknown’?
Clock Exercise – Part 2
Ok, let’s continue with the clock and try to find a sound…if sound is actually heard. Again the clock:
Again focus on the experience of the tick tock sound. Set aside all thought, images, ideas or theories about what must be going on. Attune to the sounds themselves.
Going by hearing alone, do you directly experience a sound apart from your sense of hearing?
Do you experience a sound getting closer to your range of hearing before you actually hear it?
Do you experience a sound after you hear it?
Do you experience an unheard sound of any kind?
Allow your eyes to open.
Were you able to establish, in your direct experience of hearing, that sounds enter your sense of hearing. In other words, in direct/actual experience is there a hearer AND sound?
Go out into nature and spend some time watching the movement of the whole. See how clouds move, trees swing, leaves wiggle, grass moves, insects, birds – all move all the time.
Then move focus to sensations and see how they too are in constant motion, thoughts come and go, sounds, colours, sensations come and go.
Notice that everything is part of one movement.
Then close your eyes and see if there is a line between you and out there, between you and life itself. If yes, where is the boundary?
Is there an inside and an outside of Life?
Is there something which is not included in the movement of the whole?
Is there a witness that is watching life happening from a distance? Is witnessing part of the one movement too?
Is there anything which is not just happening?
Go out, come back and tell me what you found.