*editors note: I really like this piece by Gary Weber because developing my inner sense of “feel” has been the most important thing in my healing process…
By Gary Weber
One of the most frequent misunderstandings is that nondual awakening is something that can be intellectually achieved. On my own journey, as pointed out in the video “Upgrading Your Mental Operating System”, i used no philosophy, religious literature or teaching other than simply doing Ramana Maharshi’s self-inquiry practice and letting go of attachments.
Only after the page turned did i look for, and find, a philosophical perspective, some ancient teaching, that explained and accurately described the state i was living in…advaita Vedanta. It alone was able to put at rest the the highly-trained intellect searching for an understanding with a clear logical framework, subsequently, and increasingly validated by cognitive neuroscience.
Developing an internal sense of “feel” was the most critical skill in navigating the thousands of hours of practice that was basically DIY w/only sporadic contact with two Zen masters.
This internal “feel” for what was working, and what wasn’t, and who really “knew”, was vital as the process went through many teachers, teachings, disciplines and practices. The practices that manifested and the role that feeling played were:
a) Feeling the difference and extent of individual attachments, like my dog, car, job, kids, house, etc. Bringing them into consciousness and then feeling how strong their presence was and then when they weren’t there, feeling their absence, to see just how great that attachment was. Following this by actively engaging them, and then letting go/surrendering them and feeling them fall away. Then when an attempt was made to re-engage them, feeling if anything remained for future “letting go”.
b) Feeling the beginning and ending of each breath. Feeling the subtle end of the exhale and what it “went into”, feeling that still space, and then sensing the faint beginning of the inhale. Then following the inhale to its end, feeling the still space, and then the beginning of the exhale, and following it down its length…
c) Feeling emotions, sensations, memories, stories and fears. Feeling how sticky, emotionally-charged and powerful they were as they arose in consciousness. Focusing on a particular memory or story and feeling what its energy and structure was, what its “one line summary” was, and what the entity was that had it.b) Feeling the beginning and ending of each breath. Feeling the subtle end of the exhale and what it “went into”, feeling that still space, and then sensing the faint beginning of the inhale. Then following the inhale to its end, feeling the still space, and then the beginning of the exhale, and following it down its length…
Feeling where in the body-mind these emotions/stories/memories/fears were “held” and manifested. Moving the focus of attention “into” them, opening to them and allowing them to manifest fully. Feeling if there was a “message” there, or a story.
Then using the Sedona Method and Byron Katie approaches (Blogpost “Surrendering the ‘I’; letting go of suffering”) to focus attention on the “feel” of the letting go/surrendering of them. As the letting go/surrender occurred, feeling if it was connected to other related networks of stories, fears and memories “underneath”, and then exploring and releasing them.
d) Feeling how a new modification, practice or sequence “fit” and whether it was adding, or subtracting, from the existing elements. Feeling the changes of a different affirmation, negation, chant, sitting posture, self-inquiry question or a different yoga posture or sequence.
After some time w/a given practice, feeling if it was still “working”, or if it had become “flat” and “lifeless”. Then if it had become flat, feeling whether it was the ego/I making up some story to get rid of it, or if the practice had done all of the useful work it could do, and a next step or a new approach was needed.
e) Feeling every aspect of chanting. Where it came from, where it went to, the space it occupied and was surrounded by, and what remained after it ended. Feeling the energy change in body-mind during and after the chant.
f) Feeling the energy and stickiness of thoughts. Seeing if they were sticking together, if they were in longer or shorter strings, if the subject frequently changed, or if their number was decreasing. Feeling if they were I/me/my thoughts, and whether they were about the past and future.
Watching carefully where thoughts came from, and where they went to and who thought them up. Feeling their arising so carefully and closely that they actually stopped, almost like a Heisenberg uncertainty event in physics.
g) Feeling if the subject and the object of a bhakti/devotional practice were One or two, nondual or dual. The old Indian saying is “I don’t want to become sugar, i want to taste sugar”. However, the exact opposite is what is critical for nondual awakening, i.e. the subject and object need to dissolve into, merge with each other.
Could the object of the bhakti/devotion fully enter and displace the “me” that felt it was the body-mind? Was there even a trace of anything resisting this? If so, where/what was it?
Working with different objects, perhaps even “non-religious” ones, like trees, flowers, oceans and mountains, etc. could any distinction from them dissolve? Could any resistance to this dissolution be felt?
h) Feeling for the nature, substance and location of the subject/watcher. Could i “stand” on the objects being perceived and look back at what had been the subject/watcher, and feel into what/where that subject had been, like feeling one’s way into a dark cave?
i) Feeling if the “I”s that manifested were the same or different as situations, functions and relationships changed during the day. Feeling the differences in the sensation of the “I”s that manifested ad-hoc. Feeling them as hundreds or thousands of “I”s.
As the many “I”s became dissociated in the “When am I?” practice, feeling them as mere blips on the great ocean of Stillness and Presence. Feeling it so closely and carefully that they disappeared into the Stillness.
Feeling so completely and carefully when an “i” was beginning to manifest that it just didn’t manifest.
j) Feeling what changed, and what didn’t, in manifestations in consciousness. Feeling how it would be to always be part of what changed, or to be within that which didn’t change.
It all comes down to feeling, carefully and with great curiosity, honesty and integrity into each of these practices, always keeping in mind Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Only you can know, at the deepest level, exactly what your reality is, what you really feel in these situations. No teaching, no guru, no process can so directly and truthfully show you where you are in this path as can the feeling of what your Truth is.
First published on happiness beyond thought