Strangeness while turning off toughts

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Nosta
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Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Nosta » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:52 pm

As a dull minded person, lately I increased my attention and concentration because of meditation. One thing that I notice is that sometimes I am able to simply shut up all my toughts, all my discursive toughts, the internal speech that is always present. I know, from reading, that one should just be mindfull about our toughts, without erasing them or without chasing them. Nevertheless, sometimes I try and just shut up my mind completly. And If I am doing this while driving or walking for example, I will be more aware of my mental silence and thats where things get really strange because it seems that I am loosing that feeling of myself. No one is there, just a screen (my vision) seeing things happening (the cars on the road or the trees, whatever). Its not easy to put it into words, but when my mind shuts up all the internal talk and I just observe I feel so strange that after some while I need to comeback to the normal "mode". That doesent mean that I am getting crazy or achieving something so dangerous that I need to switch to the "normal-thinking-mode", quiet the contrary, its something so...powerful?...or maybe something so different.

1) Do you understand what is this "blank" thing I am feeling? I mean, have you ever feel the same kind of thing?
2) Why is not usual to see masters motivating students for such "switch off" toughts? The most usual thing is the midfull stuff, be mindfull of your toughts (but dont chase them) and observe them passing away, etc?
3) Is that idea (switch off toughts) something related to a given buddhist practice?

Thanks for your insights. :)

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by catmoon » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:17 pm

You could look at it this way. The mind is a little like a blackboard covered in writing, so crowded that it is hard to find room to write anything more. You have learned to clear the board. You have some space.
Now you are in a position to decide what you want to think. You can fill your mind with whatever you please, or leave it empty. What do you choose?
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:25 pm

Nosta wrote:As a dull minded person, lately I increased my attention and concentration because of meditation. One thing that I notice is that sometimes I am able to simply shut up all my toughts, all my discursive toughts, the internal speech that is always present.
So you see - it's not always present. But ... you can cut the thoughts with attention/concentration. But they will restart at some point. You can also just let the mind settle on it's own and sometimes the thoughts will settle like this as well.
1) Do you understand what is this "blank" thing I am feeling? I mean, have you ever feel the same kind of thing?
Blankness? feeling? I'm not sure what you mean by "blank thing". When thoughts cease I always still have a body feeling (almost always - no body feeling per se has only happened I think once ) and I still have emotions at least very subtly.
2) Why is not usual to see masters motivating students for such "switch off" toughts? The most usual thing is the midfull stuff, be mindfull of your toughts (but dont chase them) and observe them passing away, etc?
Switching off thoughts like this is difficult for most people (I have had people tell me it is impossible) and it can lead to a blank mental state which is neutral and unproductive wrt liberation. People can just let their thoughts settle and then see what remains. That can be productive.
3) Is that idea (switch off toughts) something related to a given buddhist practice?
Yes there is a practice to cut through thoughts and see what remains. Threkchod in Dzogchen comes to mind. Also forcefully stopping thoughts is taught in common Mahayana if thoughts are negative and unmanageable.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by A Ah Sha Sa Ma Ha » Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:50 am

I used to say mantras when i was driving....but it can switch off your minds thoughts to the point you forget where you are , and miss some turns you should of taken....so don't meditate when you drive !!!!!!!!! You need to be fully present !

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Nosta » Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:51 pm

Catmoon: thats the feeling I get sometimes: open space, and I like it :)

Kunga Lhadzom: I dont get to the point I forget myself, because while driving I do it just for a few seconds/minutes.

Kirt: by blankness I am refering to the absence of toughts, not feelings. I dont know if its impossible or not to cease toughts, but I think thats what I am getting: no toughts. Nevertheless, thats something that I can get only sometimes and for very few time! I also tought that such no-toughts mind could be useful for learning, for achieving liberation. I feel peace (when not feeling the strangeness) and I feel I can understand myself better, because if I have not toughts I can see what remains.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by lostitude » Thu Jul 23, 2015 6:46 pm

Nosta, I'm curious about your experience.
When you 'switch off', do you feel as though you were holding your breath, sort of? That's the feeling I get (which is why personally I don't feel I can make it last for more than a few seconds).
Secondly, when the inner voice shuts up, are you saying that no thought at all remains? Not even non-verbal, unspoken thoughts?

Thanks.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 6:50 pm

... because while driving I do it just for a few seconds/minutes.
Don't do this while driving. Your awareness may or may not be enhanced. Later when you know if your awareness is enhanced this can happen spontaneously but you still have to be carful not to "space out" - because this is an extreme neutral state compared to what people normally experience.
Nosta wrote:Catmoon: thats the feeling I get sometimes: open space, and I like it :) ....
Kirt: by blankness I am refering to the absence of toughts, not feelings. I dont know if its impossible or not to cease toughts, but I think thats what I am getting: no toughts. Nevertheless, thats something that I can get only sometimes and for very few time!
Your description above is somewhat different than what I understood you to say previously.

I had thought to send this to you privately but I'll just put it out there. I have been doing this since I was a young teenager. It began when I began meditating with no instruction at 13. However I didn't pursue it per se and when I began Zen meditation in my 20's I was told to avoid it.

So this is a kind of samadhi because it is unwavering concentration). But the object of meditation is a kind of cessation. However this can also be done differently so that the object of meditation isn't a kind of cessation but thoughts naturally disappear and then later reappear.

The closest thing I can see to this state is jhana as taught in some Theravada. However my infrequent contact with Theravada has not brought this up as a subject of study. This is an inference that I am making. So from the description it is possibly similar to a form of first jhana (you technically would have to say second jhana but there are elements missing). So you might want to read about the jhanas from the Theravadin school but there is a good deal of disagreement amongst certified Theravadin masters on these points.

As you note, you can only continue this for a short time. The basic value of this kind of meditation at this point is to investigate impermanence and suffering (is suffering attenuated as a result? What about for others?). You can in fact extend this more of less indefinitely (that's what the teachings say - personally when I was younger I could extend it for 10's of minutes maybe longer). But - this is a kind of blankness and doesn't reduce our negativities. It might be able to reduce negativities but it looks like people become addicted to the state or develop pride in their meditation. There are stories of non-Buddhist meditators coming out of the state, getting angry at some circumstance and then ending up in the hells eventually (however their is a difference between the Buddhist and non-Buddhist practice of these states).
also tought that such no-toughts mind could be useful for learning, for achieving liberation. I feel peace (when not feeling the strangeness) and I feel I can understand myself better, because if I have not toughts I can see what remains.
Well that sounds like a Buddhist approach to the state. I'll tell you that I mentioned this to one of my Zen teachers early on and they flat out said that suppressing thoughts or becoming thoughtless was not a goal of Buddhist practice because it is just an unproductive blank state. However if you experience peace then this could be seen as a form of the first jhana. The classic instruction at this point would be to shift your meditation to the feeling of peace (or you could just shift it to awareness itself). In a Mahayana context however a state of blankness is creating the cause to be reborn in the gods realms (there is a difference between blankness and just a state of no thoughts but the difference depends on other aspects of the experience). Nonetheless it seems to me that you could pursue this form of meditation for your own education in meditation. At the very least, you can experience a foretaste of Nirvana (this is from Buddhadasa) albeit in a low level form. This is not conducive to liberation in a Mahayana sense however. But you can deepen this and see if it is helpful to you.

This state is difficult for adults because of the five hindrances: sensual desire, anger/hatred/animosity, laziness/dullness, restlessness and worry and doubt. Various kinds of adults and variously plagued by these and in the context of meditation, made progress difficult. For example you cannot have a lot of sensual desire and be successful in this. It may be why some children report these experiences spontaneously.

While I said that this form of meditation is not pursued in the Mahayana Milarepa did teach a form of this to a shepardboy who was said to be a "natural" for it and fell into a deep thought-free samadhi state for some time, until he was roused from it. Also the Zen Master Hsu Yun fell into such a state while be was cooking potatoes and getting reay to visit other monks later in the evening: he was roused from it after an estimated two weeks when the people we was going to visit went out to look for him.

Is it liberative? In a certain sense yes. It can result in higher rebirth within Samsara. Can it cut the negativities? It would appear not but that may not be the whole story.

For example, what is the purpose of shamatha, calm abiding meditation? To produce a peaceful mind at least for a short period of time. To do this people need some degree of concentration. However a side effect is that shamatha does in fact suppress negativities. I have not heard it taught that an intentionally induced thought-free state suppresses negativities or provides insights into negativities. The evidence appears to be to the contrary. However I would think that people with positive intentions would experience an increase of positive qualities and would experience a decrease of negativities due to the experience of peace carrying over from the meditation. But if I am correct and this is a form of jhana or similar to it, then it can be pursued further to develop those attainments when coupled with rigorous morality.

If you know a Theravadin teacher I would discuss this with them just because most Mahayana teachers will not be familiar with this experience except ephemerally (although the same could be said for many/most Theravadin teachers).

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 6:51 pm

lostitude wrote: Secondly, when the inner voice shuts up, are you saying that no thought at all remains? Not even non-verbal, unspoken thoughts?
See, most people don't know that these even exist even though they experience them all the time.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:00 pm

Sounds like good shamatha, emptiness. Next step is vipashyana, insight.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by lostitude » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:01 pm

kirtu wrote:
lostitude wrote: Secondly, when the inner voice shuts up, are you saying that no thought at all remains? Not even non-verbal, unspoken thoughts?
See, most people don't know that these even exist even though they experience them all the time.

Kirt
Could you tell me what this kind of thoughts is called? I've often been *thinking* about those, because I always found it easy to suppress the little voice, especially as a child as you said, but it seems that the thoughts that come and go without words, and which are so quick that you barely have time to look at them, are a lot harder to control. At least I never managed not to have them... do they have a specific name?

Thanks

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:05 pm

lostitude wrote:
kirtu wrote:
lostitude wrote: Secondly, when the inner voice shuts up, are you saying that no thought at all remains? Not even non-verbal, unspoken thoughts?
See, most people don't know that these even exist even though they experience them all the time.

Kirt
Could you tell me what this kind of thoughts is called? ... do they have a specific name?
Not as far as I know (although they must have somewhere) but I am not well-read on the classifications of though and mind categories in the classic Theravadin teachings or in the rigorous Mahayana. I do not see a classification of them in the Abhidharma for example although I cannot claim anything other than passing acquaintance with those teachings.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:12 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Sounds like good shamatha, emptiness. Next step is vipashyana, insight.
There are different kinds of shamatha but this is definitely not a form of meditation on emptiness. You could experience what was described forever and not get a step closer to realizing emptiness even in a completely conceptual way. In fact this kind of meditation is not uncommon in eternalist systems.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by theanarchist » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:17 pm

Sounds like a dissociative state. That's not powerful but psychiatrically relevant.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:24 pm

theanarchist wrote:Sounds like a dissociative state. That's not powerful but psychiatrically relevant.
It doesn't have to be dissociative at all. Just a state of not thinking isn't dissociative (and for full disclosure I was subject to severe psychological trauma as a teenager and sometimes slipped into mildly dissociative states for protection - meditation where thought is suppressed or disappears on their own spontaneously is not dissociation).

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Nosta » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:18 pm

This is not a dissociative state, because its something done intentionally. Sometimes is weird, sometimes is peaceful.

Honestly I tought that observing that emptiness of toughts could be similar to the experiences of observing the "natural state" (tibetan buddhism) but I have no idea of what natural state means so...:D In fact, when reading about dream yoga, I tought that entering awake in the dreamless sleep and observe that state could be similar to my experience. What do you think about this?

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by kirtu » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:46 pm

Nosta wrote:Honestly I tought that observing that emptiness of toughts could be similar to the experiences of observing the "natural state" (tibetan buddhism) but I have no idea of what natural state means so...:D
No, forcefully stopping thoughts is a cessation and generally results in a blankness. You could switch from that to awareness (watching awareness) after you have initially stopped thoughts while letting the mind just do what it wants but that would be different. Stopping thoughts and actively keeping them stopped and/or from that pursuing blissful states (which arise naturally) are techniques from non-Buddhist or Theravadin schools. You need a real introduction to the natural state. But - what does it mean to be a Buddha? what happens if you just meditate on awareness from the start and let your mind just do whatever? without changing anything what happens if you just watch you mind without adding anything to it or taking anything away? But stopping thoughts is not the natural state.
In fact, when reading about dream yoga, I tought that entering awake in the dreamless sleep and observe that state could be similar to my experience. What do you think about this?
I suppose it is similar but in fact dreamless sleep for most people is just unconsciousness (you did say entering awake into dreamless sleep though). Stopping thoughts is not unconsciousness (although it can drift into that) but it is also not clarity. Thoughts can stop on their own with other techniques and without a loss of clarity.

At any rate, forcefully stopping thoughts is temporary. what do you experience? You mentioned peace but also strangeness - what do you mean by strangeness? Is this just the observation that you are aware for the first time of experience without thoughts?

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by joy&peace » Thu Jul 23, 2015 9:16 pm

Hello Nosta, this was really fascinating to see;

Simply in reply to this. .

1) Do you understand what is this "blank" thing I am feeling? I mean, have you ever feel the same kind of thing?
2) Why is not usual to see masters motivating students for such "switch off" toughts? The most usual thing is the midfull stuff, be mindfull of your toughts (but dont chase them) and observe them passing away, etc?
3) Is that idea (switch off toughts) something related to a given buddhist practice?


Very good observations - especially since so many of the poets and teachers of the past mentioned it so highly. . the practice of cutting thoughts off at the root is so helpful. . I do remember reading a couple articles on it in my early years.

It's so helpful because when you cut off a thought-tree at its root, only then do you have a chance of really achieving quiescence.

In fact, there are so many shortcuts, and the principle of selectivity, or discrimination - it's perhaps a paradox, that discriminating mind can be both helpful and something to be overcome. On the one hand, it's the guiding principle of everything we do and choose - selectivity.

We want to select the right path, the right words, etc., etc., so there is some principle involved, that helps us determine right from wrong - and indeed, determining true from false can really be said to be paramount. . .

One thing I have found useful to determine whether things are useful or accurate is to give them time, what seems to remain true throughout my life, what applies to all situations, that sort of thing, that's what I can accept as true, generally.

Anyway - so that is one part of it - the other is naturally, letting go of discrimination entirely, non-grasping, not seeking, not even seeking for enlightenment or change. . .

Yet we see that both are wisdom - both are the right path, it all depends on circumstances. . .

Well, one thing is, you might look for teachers or teachings that have to do with cutting thoughts off at the root - or practices there about.

Just as life is always growing and changing, practice is always changing and new as well. . So it's pretty normal to focus on one aspect of Buddhism for a period of time - that helps to master that particular aspect. A good learning skill for most activities.

So in the same way I might look up 'ancestor liberation,' or something else like that, I might focus on that particular aspect, quiesence or cutting off thoughts. . . and it's very great. . probably the best! :) naturally, that's the main thing of the path, so you are right about that, I think.

Good job.

:smile:

Just a few I've been looking at lately, Han San, 'silly mountain poems,' or 'cold mountain poems,' Seng Ts'an, the 3rd Zen patriarch, is attributed to the poem the Hsin Hsin Ming, or - the dozens of translations - song of faith mind, etc., i like b. watson's transl. . .

Zen has a nice literary tradition as well as meditation lineage. . I do like to sail those waters; I don't think I've ever been disappointed coming across a new renowned poet from that tradition. . so I won't mention a lot more, just wanted to mention a few.

Oh, lately, too, have been thinking about stories - similar to the former; there's all kinds of stories we tell ourselves. . so, it seemed lately that first step is only tell stories that are helpful or good, and second step - which can also be taken any time along the way; let go of the story-line, let go of all stories, and simply be.

That's the whole of existence is simply learning to 'be' in the present moment, without any hang-ups or conflictions. To dive into it and be part of it. . . and what - is it a mystery? no, not really; but we make it out to be so,

It's like simply a fixed belief we fell into one day, for no apparent reason - 'hey we are all separate' -

when in fact, the truth is - 'hey, we all inter-are.'
Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate bodhi svaha

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Jul 23, 2015 11:00 pm

Apologies what I meant is that since someone was paying enough attention to concentrate on blankness perhaps there is enough there for insight into emptiness. No there mere absence of thought is not emptiness. I seem to remember reading somewhere that it can be a support for insight however.

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Jul 24, 2015 1:11 am

Some instructions i've seen say that at this point, you should gently turn your attention towards the perceiver of the blank state. Further, they say that the blank state itself is not the goal, but it is a stepping stone to the real deal.
Why is not usual to see masters motivating students for such "switch off" toughts? The most usual thing is the midfull stuff, be mindfull of your toughts (but dont chase them) and observe them passing away, etc?
My understanding is that the reason for this is this "blank state" can get quite addictive, and lead away from insight rather than towards it.

There are even stories about these states leading to people being reborn as animals, putting people in basically a "spiritual coma" etc.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Strangeness while turning off toughts

Post by LastLegend » Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:55 am

"What is meant by 'no-thought?' No-thought means to view all dharmas with a mind undefiled by attachment. The function pervades all places but is nowhere attached. Merely purify your original mind and cause the six consciousnesses to go out the six gates, to be undefiled and unmixed among the six objects, to come and go freely and to penetrate without obstruction. That is the Prajna Samadhi and freedom and liberation, and it is called the practice of no-thought."

"Not thinking of the hundred things and constantly causing your thought to be cut off is called Dharma-bondage and is an extremist view."
Make personal vows.

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