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This is a guest post by Glenn Thomas Davis. Mark is not responsible for its content. Great to find your writings on meditation. I’ve been trying to find “meditation geeks” who talk about this stuff from a rationalist mindset, free of mystical trappings, so you are a breath of fresh air. I’ve been meditating seriously for almost a year. After recently reading a post by Sam Harris in which he says:
Consciousness is already free of the feeling that we call “I.” However, a person must change his plane of focus to realize this. Some practices can facilitate this shift in awareness, but there is no truly gradual path that leads there. […] Looking for the mind, or the thinker, or the one who is looking, is often taught as a preliminary exercise in Dzogchen, and it gets your attention pointed in the right direction. It’s different from focusing on the sensation of breathing. You’re simply turning attention upon itself—and this can provoke the insight I’m talking about. It’s possible to look for the one who is looking and to find, conclusively, that no one is there to be found.
After a bit of reading on Dzogchen, I came up with this practice, which I’ve been doing for a half hour in the morning, and often in the evening as well:
- Sit and breathe. Breathe deeply a few times if it feels natural to do so. Gradually allow your breathing to happen by itself.
- Pay attention to everything in your field of awareness, without preference or mental commentary. The question is: “what am I experiencing right now”?
- The most important thing to pay attention to is your own act of paying attention. Bring your focus to what is happening with you in the present moment.
- Gradually allow your attention to expand to your entire field of consciousness — to all the contents of your awareness at this moment. Follow your sense of “self” to where it begins (or disappears). Notice (without making a big deal out of it) that your consciousness is a “bubble” in which everything you are experiencing is taking place. Allow yourself to Just Sit, and gradually drop all commentary or mental activity aside from attention. Exercise the least amount of mental energy you can.
- As you do steps 2 thru 4, sometimes you may lose focus. This entails discovering that you’ve been following a train of words and feelings. You lost consciousness while “thinking.” (Surprising insight: “Thinking” is an [usually?] unconscious activity!!)
- When this happens, try to actively and consciously *inhabit and carry out* the mental, emotional and physical process you were carrying out while you were “thinking”. Try to be in this state of consciousness without adding anything to it.
- As you continue to do this, you may drop into a state in which there is no explicit verbal chatter happening in the foreground of your awareness. There may still be voices “bubbling up” from below your conscious awareness. Allow these voices to remain preverbal noise. Return to step 4 as necessary.
- See if you can drop *everything* you are mentally *doing,* including *”focusing,”* without just losing the thread completely.
- Anything that comes up is fine.
- Rinse and repeat.
This seems to take me very deep, very fast. Perhaps too fast (thinking of your admonitions about Dark Night Of The Soul), although I *think* I have tools to deal with that if it arises. Curious to hear what you think of this. Thank you for the opportunity to post/correspond/consult.