kithpendragon's Comments

On the construction of the self

That tracks with descriptions I've heard from other meditators of working with the mind in rarified states, but it's unfortunate for the purposes of discourse. Ah well; back to the cushion, then!

On the construction of the self

It sounds like the memories generated by a mind with a substantial amount of enlightenment should be notably different than those of a person who still has a fully established sense of self. I think I see a little of what I'm pointing at hinted in "An example of a no-self experience". If I'm right, it suggests (yet another way in which) I've got a lot of work to do in my own practice, and it might be diagnostic as to how a practice is progressing along one axis; I'd be interested to see a discussion on the topic.

A Taijitu symbol for Moloch and Slack

Beautiful! I love that pair of concepts that each have seemingly limitless dimension to explore can be represented together so elegantly by a single curve!

From self to craving (three characteristics series)

I've been examining anatta recently, and this article really helped clarify some thinking for me! It clicked when my training in computer science began framing the problem in terms of a Self class that gets instantiated each time a subroutine needs a Self object to manipulate for some project. If the brain doesn't do a good job cleaning up old instances, or if multiple instances of the same class have a tendency to coincide and share memory space (perhaps they cross-link heavily to save RAM, as it were), it might lead to a sense of a continuous entity.

Decreasing the coincident instances of Self by reducing dependencies in the decision making processes on the craving subroutines that heavily depend on Self objects could lead to times where some processes looks for any current instance of Self but finds none available (because they've all been cleaned up for once), then returns a code for NO_SELF_FOUND. This could lead to a feeling of "there is no self" as an observation on the current state of the Global workspace. The calling process may also elect to work in Global directly. If another process then notices self-like code hanging out nakedly in Global it might start acting like Global is an instance of Self, leading to a sense of "all is self".

If true, this would explain why there's so much disagreement on the best translation of "anatta", and also why teachers sometimes claim that no-self and all-self amount to the same thing in the end.

I don't know if all that is functionally representative of what's going on, but it seems worth playing with for a while. At the least, it gives a good sense of why we might pretend to "be the sky"!

Why do you (not) use a pseudonym on LessWrong?

Names are a complicated thing. I have several, myself. I hardly ever use my birth/government name for anything except official documents. At work I'm mononymously known as Red for reasons so old they're forgotten to all but myself; but it's not so much a nickname anymore as it is my work persona; I even use it on the phone now. A very limited set of people call me Dad or Daddy. Almost everybody else calls me Kith, and that's the name I use online. It honestly wouldn't have occurred to me to use one of my other names here. I don't normally think of it as a pseudonym, but since it's not on my legal documents I suppose at least some people would.

Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it

As I understand it, the sense of self eventually vanishes entirely, leaving only the immediate psycho/physiological phenomena that "know themselves", whatever that means. ;)

Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it

The usual move the teachers suggest is to imagine the mind as the sky with thoughts and feelings and sensations as clouds floating through it. You don't have to get involved with the clouds, just watch as they grow and change and float on by. Let them be. You could also use the ocean or a river if you like waves and eddies and fishes better than clouds. I like the ocean, myself, because the waves on the shore analogue pretty well with the breath (the breath is the standard meditation anchor, though you could actually use any sensation).

Another move would be to imagine the whole of experience as taking place on a stage, with each of the "sense doors" (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, thought) as an actor. The role of attention itself becomes more obvious here (maybe use a spotlight if you like concrete images), but it's a step back toward the movie/viewer metaphor. Come to that, tho, I've never heard a teacher talk about an audience...

As for changing cognitive habits, the effect is something like taking things less personally; stuff just unfolds and you can choose to get involved or not.

In my experience, even a little taste of anatta has helped me to better notice -- and take more advantage of -- the space between impulse and action. I've found that skill to be extremely beneficial, even at what I assume to be the lowest levels!

Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it

I've been using Ten Percent Happier (app, podcast, and books) for a few years now. The app subscription is $80/year, and there are a number of ways to get free content, including a short free trial period on the app.

The app has guided meditations, short talks, and courses from a number of widely respected teachers. It tends toward the beginner-level stuff, but there's a ton of content available for a variety of interests and experience levels.

Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it

The Buddhist teachings include the "three marks of existence" which are "Anicca" (pronounced [ah-NEE-cha], almost always translated as "Impermanence"; everything with a beginning has an end), "Dukkha" ([DOO-ka], usually translated as "suffering", maybe a closer English language equivalent is "stress"; no experience can really be deeply and permanently satisfying), and "Anatta" ([AH-nah-tah], usually translated as "non-self" or "no-self" or "not-self"; this is an observation of the non-personal nature of experience). The closest to what you are describing is probably anatta/non-self. When experiencing non-self, the boundaries between "me" and "not me" can seem to become less defined or disappear altogether. Using the screen/watcher model can be a step toward that experience as you move more and more of your experience from the watcher to the screen until you realize there simply isn't anybody there watching, just experience unfolding. That's pretty advanced stuff, tho. I've only had a few small glimpses of anatta after meditating pretty often for the last three years or so.

If you're interested, you can find talks from a number of excellent teachers on this topic at [link to search results]. I generally find Mark Nunberg to give particularly accessible talks for some reason. He's conveniently just given a series on anatta, so at the time of this comment he's right at the top of the results.

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