Watching the thinker

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GiveUpTheGhost
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Watching the thinker

Post by GiveUpTheGhost » Thu May 10, 2012 8:21 pm

In my exploration of Eckhart's teachings I have found that the 'technique' of observing mind activity is the most reliable way of becoming present. I am now wondering if this is unusual as Eckhart seems to talk about other 'portals to now' (silence, inner body) far more often than he talks about watching the mind. There doen't seem to be much discussion about the experience of watching thought.

Sometimes I struggle to perceive what I'm thinking at a given moment, Eckhart makes it sound so simple, as though thoughts pop up one after another in clearly defined form, like thought bubbles in a comic strip. My experience is that thought is often hazy and ill-defined, I don't even think in language most of the time, it's purely conceptual. I suspect the reason it is sometimes difficult for me to 'see' thoughts is that I am so deeply identified them, it's like looking for my nose when it's right in front of my face.

Another thing I have noticed is that when I do perceive thought, I automatically become aware of inner body sensations that were previously inaccessible to me, this is without any effort or intent to focus on the inner body. I suppose this is because 'thought' and the 'inner body' exist on a continuum and aren't acutally separate at all.

I don't really have a specific inquiry here, I just wanted to open up a discussion on these points and see what insights or clarity people might have...

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ZenDrumming
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by ZenDrumming » Thu May 10, 2012 9:26 pm

The difficulty in simply watching the thinker comes from the fact that, as you mentioned, there are many layers of mental conditioning that must be peeled away. I think this is why many teachers stress the practice of focusing on that "nothingness" beneath them. From that point of nothing, you start to notice the deeper thoughts. This is also where psychedelics have played a role for me, in helping me to see what a thought is and where it comes from.

Until we live from that stillness, we're only observing the thoughts of the layer we are operating from. Everything else is unconsciously driven. I don't really know what gives us the ability to witness deeper layers on occasion, but I'd assume that the willingness to question ourselves and be open to the truth helps. Beyond that, I can only call it Grace.

For me, the act of observing my thoughts is a way of bringing my most unconscious moments a little more into the light. It's almost like being present is "coming up for air", and when you go back underwater you are better able to figure out what keeps pulling you down. (sorry, analogies aren't my strong suit!)

Good discussion topic.

-ZD

GiveUpTheGhost
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by GiveUpTheGhost » Thu May 17, 2012 1:41 am

It's funny you should mention psychedelics, I remember when I took LSD I was able to perceive thought on a very subtle level, I was able to sense thought as though it were a physical thing with a clearly defined shape, I saw the nature of thought very clearly. It's that clarity of perception which I need to bring in to my everyday life.
Gather up the lost and their souls...

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Rick
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by Rick » Thu May 17, 2012 9:57 pm

Every time my wife would hear someone say "watch your thoughts" she would say "but I can't see my thoughts". One day it occurred to me to ask her "can you hear your thoughts...can you hear the voice that sounds like you speaking to yourself inside your head?" and she said "yes, I can hear that". I explained that "hearing" thought in this case was the same as "seeing" (witnessing, observing) thought. The witness may "perceive" by use of any of the senses.
Daily life IS spiritual exercise.

GiveUpTheGhost
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by GiveUpTheGhost » Thu May 17, 2012 10:11 pm

But that's the thing, I can't "hear" my thoughts, there is no voice in the head for me, there are no words, It's all totally subliminal. I'm starting to suspect my experience of thought might actually be quite different from the norm... Do most people actually have a verbal commentary in their heads that is not unlike their speaking voice? The only time it's like that for me is when I'm mentally preparing what I'm going to say to someone.
Gather up the lost and their souls...

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Rick
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by Rick » Thu May 17, 2012 11:19 pm

GiveUpTheGhost wrote:But that's the thing, I can't "hear" my thoughts, there is no voice in the head for me, there are no words, It's all totally subliminal. .
It is difficult to see the mountain when your nose is pressed against its wall. But not to worry. It is Awareness Itself that informs you that your view of your thinking is not clear. If you leave this situation alone completely, if you don't touch this insight in anyway, if you don't fret or roll up your sleeves to fix anything but just let it go, Awareness will do the work and a time will come when you will see your mind activity quite clearly.
Daily life IS spiritual exercise.

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ashley72
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by ashley72 » Fri May 18, 2012 12:15 am

giveuptheghost wrote:My experience is that thought is often hazy and ill-defined, I don't even think in language most of the time, it's purely conceptual. I suspect the reason it is sometimes difficult for me to 'see' thoughts is that I am so deeply identified them, it's like looking for my nose when it's right in front of my face.
This is a really good analogy.

IMO our attention is key. Our attentive nature is dynamic and can move from thing to thing. From watching the breath, to listening to the silence, to listening to a conversation, to contemplating a future event, to pondering the past, to feeling the inner body, to watching or listening to thoughts which arise.

Our attention is not thinking.

Where our attention goes energy flows.

When you place your attention on attention... you start to put space between what arises in our attention and the attention itself. Some people refer to our attention as awareness or consciousness.

I've found it useful to practice training my attention towards the inner body, on the breath, on the stillness whenever I can remember.

When my attention is purely absorbed in thinking, the thinking usually completely obscures my attentive nature.

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DavidB
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Re: Watching the thinker

Post by DavidB » Wed Jun 13, 2012 3:30 am

Eckhart isn't prescribing any techniques, he's only offering suggestions that might help us arrive at NO technique.

Eckhart has nothing to teach us, he is paradoxically, it might appear, offering an unlearning by showing us that life is something that we are already, from moment to moment, in the ever present Now, regardless of what we might think or feel or presume.

There is nothing that we need to do however, nothing to achieve, no lesson to be learned. Life is as it is already, in need of nothing.

Being aware of thoughts though, can help us to unlearn delusional or obsessive compulsive automatic thought patters, helping to free us from unnecessary grief and suffering. Being free from these automatic thought patters, allows us to experience the peace which surpasses all understanding, allows us to be free to be present in the emptiness of being, experiencing the fullness of life in it's unconditional nature.
“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.” ― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

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