Apech

The necessity of thought.

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A lot of meditation instruction tells you to still or even stop thoughts – and holds up as a goal the idea of being thoughtless or at least non-conceptual. And yet trying to stop thoughts has been described as like trying to dam up a river using water. It doesn't work so why even try?

 

OK, to sit for while you have to be able to settle physically and mentally. Letting go of a stream of distracting thoughts is essential – but beyond that, if you are practicing does it matter if you are thinking?

 

For a start, the word 'thought' is very bland. There is a huge spectrum of energy intensity, from raging anger, say, to an abstract formulation. Are these the same thing? Then we can also distinguish between object orientated thoughts – which are in essence like commands – and, imaginative thoughts, like dreams or visions – are they the same thing? What about pure-perception into the nature of our mind, a realisation of whatever kind, is this the same as object related thoughts or creative imagery?

 

We have at least three types of cognition and therefore thought going on in our minds simultaneously, and with varying levels of energy. And if we are not trying to put a stop to this continuous process, then what are we trying to do?

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Apech said:

And if we are not trying to put a stop to this continuous process, then what are we trying to do?


Learning to not get so lost in our waking dreams?

 

Interesting topic, thanks for presenting it,

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2 hours ago, Apech said:

... if you are practicing does it matter if you are thinking?

 

Yes...  

I+Think+Therefore+I+am.gif

 

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2 minutes ago, Limahong said:

 

Yes...  

I+Think+Therefore+I+am.gif

 


Actually rather astute, as it is the thinking process which reifies the sense of self, and can limit it imo.

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, ilumairen said:

Actually rather astute, as it is the thinking process which reifies the sense of self, and can limit it imo.

 

Yes ~ limit... limiting... limited...

 

giphy.gif

 

The sky? 

 

 

Edited by Limahong
Enhancement

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@Apech

 

Stopping the thoughts is a negative way to put it. It would be much better to put it positively, like achieving higher states of mind, subtler states of mind, and states beyond the mind.

 

It matters if we are thinking during our practice or not, as average thinking is the lower frequency of mind compared to more abstract levels. This is especially true for mental chatter, as it drains energy, waists time, keeps us in habituation, repetition, memories. Abstract thinking is getting closer to the root. There are levels in abstract thinking like there are levels of the subtleness of emotions.

Beautiful forest-beautiful scenery-beauty, these are different levels of abstraction. Sages say that we can directly experience beauty.

 

It’s refreshing to have no thoughts, there’s a sense of clarity, purity, lightness, transcendence, freedom, an emanation of Grace.

 

What can we do? As a matter of fact, a lot of things! Purification on all levels, diet, body, energy, emotions, thinking, spirituality.

As an example, purifying rational function would imply learning to think with less selfishness, ego, prejudice, emotions in general.

 

And of course, climbing the ladder of subtleness, always aiming at the higher levels. These also include going back to what is often thought of as lower levels, the Taoists were very well aware of that. Buddha attained enlightenment with the sensory function, which is often considered as a lower function, but it is not, it is most of the time the pillar of meditation.

 

In Yoga Sutras we have a famous line:

 

Yoga is arresting of the turbulencies of the mind.

 

But then after that one, the one less famous but even more important:

 

Then the seer dwells in his own nature.

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5 minutes ago, mYogi said:

@Apech

 

Stopping the thoughts is a negative way to put it. It would be much better to put it positively, like achieving higher states of mind, subtler states of mind, and states beyond the mind.

 

It matters if we are thinking during our practice or not, as average thinking is the lower frequency of mind compared to more abstract levels. This is especially true for mental chatter, as it drains energy, waists time, keeps us in habituation, repetition, memories. Abstract thinking is getting closer to the root. There are levels in abstract thinking like there are levels of the subtleness of emotions.

Beautiful forest-beautiful scenery-beauty, these are different levels of abstraction. Sages say that we can directly experience beauty.

 

It’s refreshing to have no thoughts, there’s a sense of clarity, purity, lightness, transcendence, freedom, an emanation of Grace.

 

What can we do? As a matter of fact, a lot of things! Purification on all levels, diet, body, energy, emotions, thinking, spirituality.

As an example, purifying rational function would imply learning to think with less selfishness, ego, prejudice, emotions in general.

 

And of course, climbing the ladder of subtleness, always aiming at the higher levels. These also include going back to what is often thought of as lower levels, the Taoists were very well aware of that. Buddha attained enlightenment with the sensory function, which is often considered as a lower function, but it is not, it is most of the time the pillar of meditation.

 

In Yoga Sutras we have a famous line:

 

Yoga is arresting of the turbulencies of the mind.

 

But then after that one, the one less famous but even more important:

 

Then the seer dwells in his own nature.


Those are a lot of thoughts on not thinking. :lol:

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6 minutes ago, ilumairen said:


Those are a lot of thoughts on not thinking

 

No. 1 ~ go and sleep. 

I will.

Good night. 

 

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15 minutes ago, mYogi said:

@Apech

 

Stopping the thoughts is a negative way to put it. It would be much better to put it positively, like achieving higher states of mind, subtler states of mind, and states beyond the mind.

 

Depending on the definition of 'mind' (as this term is used in many different ways).

 

15 minutes ago, mYogi said:

It matters if we are thinking during our practice or not, as average thinking is the lower frequency of mind compared to more abstract levels. This is especially true for mental chatter, as it drains energy, waists time, keeps us in habituation, repetition, memories. Abstract thinking is getting closer to the root. There are levels in abstract thinking like there are levels of the subtleness of emotions.

Beautiful forest-beautiful scenery-beauty, these are different levels of abstraction. Sages say that we can directly experience beauty.

 

Yes there are different categories of thought to be sure.  We could say serial thoughts and conceptual thoughts for instance.

 

15 minutes ago, mYogi said:

It’s refreshing to have no thoughts, there’s a sense of clarity, purity, lightness, transcendence, freedom, an emanation of Grace.

 

I would argue that the refreshing comes from a separation between the observer and the observed and is not dependent on the cessation of thoughts.

 

15 minutes ago, mYogi said:

What can we do? As a matter of fact, a lot of things! Purification on all levels, diet, body, energy, emotions, thinking, spirituality.

As an example, purifying rational function would imply learning to think with less selfishness, ego, prejudice, emotions in general.

 

And of course, climbing the ladder of subtleness, always aiming at the higher levels. These also include going back to what is often thought of as lower levels, the Taoists were very well aware of that. Buddha attained enlightenment with the sensory function, which is often considered as a lower function, but it is not, it is most of the time the pillar of meditation.

 

In Yoga Sutras we have a famous line:

 

Yoga is arresting of the turbulencies of the mind.

 

But then after that one, the one less famous but even more important:

 

Then the seer dwells in his own nature.

 

yes I was hoping someone would mention 'yogas citta vritti nirodha' .

 

But I will comment on this later.

 

Thanks for your interesting reply.

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If stopping thought was the issue, we'd be enlightened every night when we go into deep, dreamless sleep. According to Tilopa, "The appearances of the world are not the problem, it's clinging to them that causes suffering."

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1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

If stopping thought was the issue, we'd be enlightened every night when we go into deep, dreamless sleep. According to Tilopa, "The appearances of the world are not the problem, it's clinging to them that causes suffering."

 

What is your practice Forest?

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10 hours ago, Apech said:

 

 

 

A lot of meditation instruction tells you to still or even stop thoughts – and holds up as a goal the idea of being thoughtless or at least non-conceptual. And yet trying to stop thoughts has been described as like trying to dam up a river using water. It doesn't work so why even try?

 

I am going to jump in here without reading any of the following posts .

 

I have always had an issue with people that talk about 'meditation' .  Whats that ?  I might ask . The reason I do ask is I think there are so many types of   and purposes for 'meditation' or 'mental practices' , or even physical practices which might be 'mindful'  or done with 'awareness'  that to term them all under one word, or to use that one word to describe a practice is far to general .

 

Its like me inviting you to  exercise ..... that could mean anything from a boxing match or going for a jog together  or  ....

 

So when people say 'let's meditate'  or 'I meditated ' I am likely to ask them what they mean . The general answer seems to be to sit still , i  some version of attempted 'lotus' , close their eyes and drift off .  Only they can tell if they have 'no thoughts' . because of my views on this I became very interested in what an elderly Tibetan lama  taught about it on his visit here years back (our community used to hold such events back then ) .  We where in our meditation sanctuary and he asked about the building . Some person who didnt live there and was unknown sprouted up that it was for meditation. Lama asked " Oh ? You meditate ?  What is that ? "  The answers where diverse and confused . Lama declared "let's all meditate then " and most assumed the position, closed eyes and 'went spiritual' ... exept for Lama    :D    Anyway, I have written about all this before , how he informed them that was NOT meditation  " Some of you where sleeping ! "

 

I have a VERY active mind , so yes, a break of stillness in thinking is refreshing , but it doesnt last long . yes, it is like trying to dam up a river ... and that does not seem like 'the way of the Dao' . I say, in teaching sword art ' , 'dont think, if you can not stop the mind thinking , think only of clear blue sky ' .   One reason I enjoy sword (and other weapon practice )  is I am not thinking when I do it , its all feeling and response and reaction. It seems one , or at least for me , needs something else going  to stop the mind  wandering .

 

And for me that is the key , if we can control the minds thought process, or only think of one thing , then the mind works better for us.

 

So the reason is develop the use of and improve control of the mind .  This is what makes magick and yoga the same thing .  And I think that is the purpose of meditation and magick .

 

" To obtain Magical Power, learn to control thought; admit only those ideas that are in harmony with the end desired, and not every stray and contradictory Idea that presents itself

 

". Fixed thought is a means to an end. Therefore pay attention to the power of silent thought and meditation. The material act is but the outward expression of thy thought, and therefore hath it been said that “the thought of foolishness is sin.” Thought is the commencement of action, and if a chance thought can produce much effect, what cannot fixed thought do? "

 

- Liber Librae

 

and

 

" In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.

It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.

 

 The advantages to be gained from them are chiefly these:
(a) A widening of the horizon of the mind.
(b) An improvement of the control of the mind. "

 

- Liber O

 

But yes, it IS very common for people that practice either magick or meditation  to not know really why they are doing it .

 

10 hours ago, Apech said:

 

OK, to sit for while you have to be able to settle physically and mentally. Letting go of a stream of distracting thoughts is essential – but beyond that, if you are practicing does it matter if you are thinking?

 

Well, my first meditation practice was to think of one thing only. I could have  myriad thoughts but they had to relate to one thing .

 

Eg.  if  I could not   have no thoughts, I was encouraged to have one thought , say a candle  flame . It was permissible to have the candle and flame present , to help focus and discourage mind wandering . Thoughts like ; the flame gives heat , what is a flame anyway ,  is the candle beeswax,  why does it flutter, etc are permissible , if I think I am hungry and wonder what dinner will be , I have broken my meditation.  I am learning to focus the immensity of my mind that is usually occupied with a zillion conflictual processes  onto one point or subject .

 

So IMO, it doesnt matter IF you are thinking , but it matters WHAT you are thinking .

 

 

 

10 hours ago, Apech said:

 

For a start, the word 'thought' is very bland. There is a huge spectrum of energy intensity, from raging anger, say, to an abstract formulation. Are these the same thing? Then we can also distinguish between object orientated thoughts – which are in essence like commands – and, imaginative thoughts, like dreams or visions – are they the same thing? What about pure-perception into the nature of our mind, a realisation of whatever kind, is this the same as object related thoughts or creative imagery?

 

I would say raging anger is emotional fuelled thought  but abstract  formulation is intellectual thought .  The two should be separated , how you FEEL about something should be sorted out before you intellectualise it (so not exactly the same thing ) .  Fire  first (inspiration ) then water (feeling ) then air (thought  and intellect ) then earth (put it into practice ) . If you only ever meditate with no thoughts whatsoever  then you will have nothing to put into practice .

 

One thing a period of no thought (and no emotive reaction ) can bring is a space for new inspiration , but what good is new inspiration unless it filters down through the elements of the psyche into 'practice' ?

 

Commands and visions  /  objective thoughts and imaginative thoughts , I see as two aspects of 'soul' . Soul is that unique human ability to not only have  visions and  most essentially IMAGINATIVE PROCESS   that lead to outcomes that can then be turned into decisions  but to also  put them into practice .  The imaginative process throws up all possible potential practices and  outcomes  and navigates through them to select best outcomes for, not only what IS happening but what MIGHT happen in the future .  The commanding or decisive process in thought , hopefully, selects the best solutions .   So I see them as the same process but different parts of the process .

 

 

 

10 hours ago, Apech said:

 

We have at least three types of cognition and therefore thought going on in our minds simultaneously, and with varying levels of energy. And if we are not trying to put a stop to this continuous process, then what are we trying to do?

 

 

 

 

 

Develop the faculty of concentration .

 

Well, thats what I try to do with meditation . I have noted that many people that say they 'meditate' can not answer your question .

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Candle flame is good, ldt is good, or the point just beyond the tip of your nose,,,

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14 minutes ago, zerostao said:

Candle flame is good, ldt is good, or the point just beyond the tip of your nose,,,

,,,snot.?  Bless you.

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I liked the way I once heard John Butler describe it.  You can look at the thoughts in your head as you would the rumbling of your stomach.  The stomach goes through a certain process to digest food, and the mind goes through a certain process to digest information or experiences.  Part of this mental digestion process is the phenomenon of thought.  I have heard people with very deep meditative practices describe that thought will lesson of its own accord as you become more centered in stillness, but nevertheless, the cessation of thought need not be any sort of goal of itself.  What you are fundamentally changing is not your thoughts but your relationship to thoughts.  You cease to identify as being only the thinker.  These of course being only my thoughts about the subject, so take that for what it's worth lol

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58 minutes ago, zerostao said:

Candle flame is good, ldt is good, or the point just beyond the tip of your nose,,,


It seems to me there would be a world of difference in the long term outcome depending on which area you choose to place attention on. 

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1 hour ago, Nungali said:

I have always had an issue with people that talk about 'meditation' .  Whats that?

 

Hi Nun,

 

I am more comfortable with 'meditation' ~ re touching base with myself.

 

- Anand

 

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45 minutes ago, Bindi said:


It seems to me there would be a world of difference in the long term outcome depending on which area you choose to place attention on. 

Absolutey

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Bön dzogchen teaches us to take the thoughts and feelings themselves as the path to liberation. That liberation has nothing to do with the absence of thought but rather with the release of identification as a thinker, as Hypnoape pointed out. You can follow that very thought or feeling  until it, and the thinker grasping it, collapse or dissolve. That’s the core practice. In the beginning finding and occupying this state of meditation is elusive and fragile. With time it can become powerful and effortless. One can integrate all activity into that state but it’s not easy.

 

On the other hand, it’s also instructive to take inventory of just how much time we spend in thought, or busy with physical activity, or in speaking, to ourselves and others. When going through a 5 year cycle of dzogchen teachings, we went through this sort of exercise. We paid attention to how much time we were wrapped up in activities of body, speech, and mind. We contemplated how much of that was really necessary, or beneficial, and how much was simply habitual or dysfunctional, even toxic to self and others. Then we were invited at the end of each annual retreat to try and let go of the unnecessary and habitual stuff in the coming year. We started with a goal of reducing activities of body, speech, and mind by 5-10% or more if we could. It was a wonderful experience and I encourage anyone to give it a try. When we think less we see more, when we talk less we hear more, when we act less we can connect more. 

 

This is one of my favorite teachings -

Self-originated primordial wisdom is the base.

The five poisonous mental afflictions are the dynamic energy.

Chasing after them is the way you are deluded.

Viewing them as deficient is the error.

Leaving them as they are is the method.

Freeing them into vastness is the path.

Non-duality is the realization

~ from The Twenty One Nails 

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so thoughts are things and forms and to identify ourselves as being some aspect of such is not freedom, although thoughts and things can be and are used by freedom to deal with the "world"...

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Thanks for all the interesting replies so far.

 

@Myogi mentions Patanjali's definition of yoga as being the cessation of mental disturbances – citta vritti and @Nungali mentions one-pointedness or concentration.

 

In terms of yoga, I would suggest the nirodha of citta vritti is not a suppression or stopping up of thoughts but more an awareness of how they naturally evaporate of their own accord – because of course they are like waves in the sea or clouds in the sky – which rise and cease of naturally – and return to the 'base' which would be the field of citta itself. Something like that. But even that, while it describes a method of observing your mind in a helpful way to realise that there is a base and it is not just an inherently unstable flux doesn't explain why you are thinking and what the thoughts are for.

 

I think that one-pointedness – or more simply right concentration – has part of the answer. But I don't necessarily see one-pointedness as being about fixing your mind on one thing. Or of excluding irrelevant thoughts to the subject – although this is of course a recognised technique. I see one-pointedness as being more about unifying your self (or your being) so that a level of coherence is achieved. A level of continuity between one moment of being and the next.

 

This is not such a simple thing – although it might be simple. Unity, or one pointedness can be seen in many ways and have several outcomes or expressions. To illustrate this I'm going to draw from an Ancient Egyptian text which I studied recently (yes really :) ).

 

In this there are four illustrations of unity which are located in different cardinal directions.

 

The first is called Imy-wt, which means 'in the skin' and refers to the unity we have from being in a body – which is one thing. It has many parts – organs, cells and wot-not – but it is a unified organism with one purpose of maintaining life. The skin of our being might be physical, or it might be a subtle energy 'cocoon' and so on. But principally it is the same – unity from being in one skin. This is placed in the West.

 

The second is called the 'Union of Two Souls' – we have two aspects to our selves, one is our substantial presense and the other is awareness or consciousness. Like oil and water they do not normally mix – so we have the duality of mind and body, or spirit and matter – and within ourselves we have a soul which is luminous, of consciousness and another which is of power, is dark and condenses to the material. Unity is to achieve the embrace of these two souls. This is the non-dual actuality which underlies our existence. This is placed in the North.

 

The third is unity of the new born babe. It's called the perfect soul in the East. It is how new things, like babies, appear fresh and whole and somehow perfect. Perfectly full of energy and perfectly clear in sight and naturally joyous and blissful. You could think of this as an embryo – which is able to grow because it has achieved a core unity like the intent to become one thing.

 

And lastly is the unity of the path of life itself. What causes us to exist, what energy makes us grow, do actions, get old and return on death – is a unity. A life-force which drives us and indeed drives time itself forward, with the unifying purpose of expressing its potential in as many beautiful and varied ways possible. This unity is placed in the South.

 

I just mention this to illustrate what one-pointedness or unity might mean.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

the matrix for the Self comes and goes, the Self (or the freedom) does not come and go thus remains...

Edited by old3bob
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I recently have been listening to teachings on the 21 Nails from Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung, a Bön teacher in Nepal. The 7th Nail, I believe it was, was a discussion of unities, I think there were 10. The take away message was the pointing out of non-duality of subject and object or of Rigpa (intrinsic awareness) and the 3 visions (often referred to as sound, light, and rays).  

 

PS - if anyone is interested there is an excellent translation of the root text and core commentary here

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