I have read Waking Up twice, and feel like I have a general understanding of the books message.
1. I am consciousness itself
2. The things that arise and fall in the plane of consciousness are not who I am
3. Looking for what you call “I”, and realizing consciousness itself does not have emotions/thoughts, helps to experience the realization that you are consciousness and not its ever changing contents.
But two parts of the book seem to be saying the opposite. I am just a little confused and hope some of you could provide some clarity.
1. On page 140, Sam writes “You will still see this book ... but it will be an appearance in consciousness, inseparable from consciousness itself.”
This sentence seems to imply that the book you are perceiving and consciousness are the same thing, inseparable. I thought consciousness was the awareness behind all sensations/perceptions, not the same thing as the sensations/perceptions themselves.
A similar statement is made on page 144, which brings me to the same question. “this luminous and absolutely pure void, which nevertheless is- rather than contains- all things”. Again I thought consciousness is the thing that is aware of, and contains all things (sensations/perceptions), rather than consciousness being the sensations/perceptions.
Some clarification or insight would be greatly appreciated!
Good point, if in this condition of pure consciousness, there is “just seeing, hearing, tasting” etc., then there should be also just “thinking”. But if you are lost in thought, you are in the condition we all want to break (sometimes )... To me there are contradictions as well!
E.g. being lost in thought is a state where some nice ideas emerge and one is often fully devoted, pretty similar to solving a task at work. If this is then always interrupted by realising “oh I’m again lost in thought” - it feels schizophrenic to me and really doesn’t improve anything?! Another thing is the definition of the self: of course you are more or less a continuum, you will not become Einstein overnight, the way you think and connect things doesn’t change a lot - the only things that change are experience and growing older. It’s clear that there can’t be a totally fixed state, but the “self” moves in a tight corridor, doesn’t it? Hope someone finds time to respond, would help me a lot!
To me there are contradictions as well!
E.g. being lost in thought is a state where some nice ideas emerge and one is often fully devoted, pretty similar to solving a task at work. If this is then always interrupted by realising “oh I’m again lost in thought” - it feels schizophrenic to me and really doesn’t improve anything?!
Sam isn’t discounting the utility of thoughts. He clarifies his view on this in the Waking Up app in “The Necessity of Thought”. I’ll give my take on this, for Sam’s view you can listen to that audio in his app.
The goal isn’t to stop thinking. That assumes the problem is thinking, when the problem is the power thoughts have over our well-being in any given moment.
My interpretation of the goal (at my relatively early stage in this process mind you) is to be able to take a step back and see thoughts as they are, just appearances in consciousness. In an attempt to make that more concrete, this is the difference between (1) a negative thought appearing and being stuck thinking about it for an extended period of time, and (2) a negative thought appearing, acknowledging it, then moving on (i.e. not letting it consume you). The problem with that description is that it seems to imply the solution is an avoidance of negative thoughts, which isn’t how I see it. If you need to think about something and thinking about it also causes you suffering, being able to take a step back is a method of easing that suffering.
Others may interpret this differently and I’d love feedback on this if anyone is willing. I hope that helps hchenn.
Good and helpful answer. What I still struggle with is, since you can’t really do 2 things at once (i.e. thinking and realising you’re thinking), as soon as you step back and realise you were deeply thinking, also useful streams of thought get interrupted. Therefore, mindfulness also prevents concentrating on ideas worth following, as well as preventing identifying with negativity… At least if one is not able to reconnect to the thoughts.
What I still struggle with is, since you can’t really do 2 things at once (i.e. thinking and realising you’re thinking), as soon as you step back and realise you were deeply thinking, also useful streams of thought get interrupted.
This is a very interesting and valid concern, thanks for bringing this up. I’ll try to answer it from my own perspective, which may or may not align with how others view this.
Mindfulness isn’t something I’m doing in the same way being happy isn’t something I’m doing. It’s a change in perspective. It’s a perspective where thoughts are simply the contents of consciousness. The other side of the coin is when we identify with the objects of consciousness and generate a narrative that often results in suffering, this as far as I can tell is “the self”.
I took the last few days to verify this for myself so I wasn’t telling you something that isn’t a fact about my own personal experience. Since mindfulness is not something I am doing, I haven’t experienced any restriction on my ability to think. I don’t stop myself halfway through a useful train of thought with “oh I was stuck in thought”. There are three possibilities here:
1. I was aware of the train of thought all along.
2. I’m not aware of it and I’m not causing myself suffering. This quickly deteriorates into case 3.
3. I’m not aware of it and I’m causing myself needless suffering. Here I’m very often wasting time thinking about things that have no possibility of improving my situation. This means I’m being less productive than I otherwise could be. In these situations I eventually realize what’s happening and stop the narrative. I can then be productive again.
So the net result appears to be an increase in productivity and a decrease in suffering. I hope this helps.