This post explains three methods by which Daniel P Brown led students to a "taste of awakening" , ie non-duality: metaphors, mixing inside with outside, and switching between the mind-view and event-view.
Non-duality is a theoretical concept when one meets it first. Our thinking in subject-object terms is firmly entrenched in our deepest perceptional apparatus. "I" am here, as awareness or consciousness or attention, and everything else is "not me", "out there".
However, many people may have had a non-dual experience, but not recognised and labelled it as such. For them, usually it is just a unique experience, long remembered for its weirdness.
For example, one of my friends, when in this twenties, used to be a rock-climber. He deeply remembers one day of very strenuous climbing, when he suddenly, out of the blue, could no longer feel a distinction between his hands gripping the rock, and the rock itself. There was just "it". But, unfamiliar with philosophy or Buddhism, he did not categorise it as non-dual experience, on par with mystical experience. But it left a deep impression.
As in this simple example, to experience non-duality, the inner and the outer, Self and Non-Self, awareness and objects of awareness must somehow be
I read all of these terms in the Buddhist meditation teaching literature.
Here are different way to express it:
One has to experience, that awareness and objects, inner and outer, are one and the same, or more precisely, that the seer, the seen and the activity of seeing are the same.
Or, in an expression favored by Sam Harris, that everything is appearing in consciousness as a form of consciousness itself, where consciousness is mirroring itself to itself.
Here are typical ways to experience non-duality no only conceptually but at a deep level:
Spontaneously: One is just lucky and it happens apparently out of the blue, which happened to Byron Katie ("Loving What Is").
Flow states: One may be in a flow-state, like my friend the climber
Meditation: One meditates until, again with some luck or a lot patience, one gets such an experience of non-duality. As Culadasa said jokingly about awakening:
Awakening is an accident, but meditating on the mind is a practice that will make you accident-prone (Yates (Culadasa) and Immergut (2017), p 539)
Psychedelics: The easiest, lazyest, and most convincing way, in my personal experience, may be psychedelics. Lucky me, I encountered it in an Ayahusaca ceremony. Non-dual mystic experiences through psychedelics are not guaranteed, though. Perhaps one experiences endless grief, or resolves trauma, or drops one´s personality mask etc without ever having a mystical experience that shakes one´s perception in a fundamental way.
Daniel P Brown teaching non duality: metaphors, mixing and switching
There are multiple for teaching non duality. Daniel P Brown, who had been teaching non duality for The Pointing out the Great Way Foundation (POGW) that he had founded, had systematised it.
Here are their three approaches to help students approach or get a non-dual experience:
Metaphors: using metaphors or analogies that stimulates imagination
Mixing: this classical approach instructs the student to perform some kind of "merging" operation in his mind
Switching: repeatedly alternating between "mind view" and "event view".
The metaphor approach uses images, pictures, the visual imagination to let the student´s mind adopt a non-dual mode of viewing.
Probably the most famous of the traditional metaphors is the ocean and wave metaphor, where the student imagines to "be the ocean watching its own waves". Here, the ocean stands for awareness, and the waves stand for the mental events or objects (sensations, emotions, thoughts etc).
When executed correctly, the student has adopted a non-dual view, since he "is" now as well awareness, and equally the events that are the objects of awareness. The student meditates from the position or vantage point of the being the ocean, rather than being - say - "Peter".
Chandaria (2022) in his explanation of meditation and the Baysian brain lists a few key metaphors:
2. Using the imagery of mixing, merging, blending, or uniting
This approach guides the student through an imaginary merging process. Typically, the student mixes inside and outside. For example, the student imagines mixing or merging the outer visual scenery with the the Self, or space with awareness.
Mixing or blending or mingling or uniting of awareness and space is a key Dzogchen practice. In fact, it is the root of Dzogchen practice. (Barth, P. (2017))
Here, I want to show three ways to use "mixing" in pointing out instructions, in increasing degree of complexity:
Mixing space with awareness - basic instruction
Mixing the visual field with awareness using the breath
Mixing inside and outside using imagined energy bubbles (thiglets)
2.1. Mixing space with awareness - basic instruction
Here is the simplest pointing out instruction schema, derived from Tilopa:
Become aware of your inner space of awareness. Now, with open eyes, stare into the space in front of your. Now mix your awareness with space, and mix space with awareness.
2.2. Mixing the visual field with awareness using the breath
This exercise can be made more sophisticated, for example as taught by Sam Harris in one of the Daily Meditations of the Waking Up app:
With open eyes, see the visual field in front of you as a totality. As you breathe in, imagine to take in the visual field into your center of awareness. As you breathe out, imagine to breathe out your Self into the outer visual field.
In this method, the breath is used as "carrier-wave" out of and into the body. The meditation asks the meditator to quickly switch between an "event-view" (the outside world of - in this case - visual objects) to the "mind-view" (the subject view of the Self/Awareness).
2.3 Mixing inside and outside using imagined energy bubbles (thiglets)
This is a more elaborated variant of the breathing approach described above.
This method also uses the breath as carrier-medium between inside and outside. In this method, one imagines that on the outbreath, one breathes out colored energy-bubbles (called "thiglets") in Tibet. On the outbreath, the thiglets merge with the outside world and permeate them.
On the in-breath, one imagines to breathe in the thiglets. In the body, they merge and dissolve with the coarse and subtle structures of the body.
If they are colored, the body, in one´s imagination, will then take on the color.
A more detailed post on mixing is here.
An an example of an AI generated meditation, using the mixing / merging approach, here is me reading it. Just follow the instructions!
3. Switching mind view / perspective and event view / perspective
For a more detailed description, see here (tbd)
This method aims at repeatedly and often and fast switching between the perspective of viewing the mental universe from the perspective of "mind" or "space" or "ground" , and then from the perspective of the arising events. In each case, both mind and events are perceived, but with different focus. The mind view focuses on the container, the event view on the appearances.
The simplified pattern of the pointing out instruction is this:
Take the mind perspective (pause a few seconds)
Now, take the event perspective (pause a few seconds)
Now, take the mind perspective (pause a few seconds)
Eventually the mind perspective and the event perspectives will collapse into one unified field of ground and appearances.
A mode detailed post is on mind and event perspective is here.
In which contexts is the term "mixing" important in Buddhist meditation training
Barth, P. (2017). A Guide For Mahamudra Meditation - Kindle edition by Barth, Peter. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Mahamudra-Meditation-English-ebook/dp/B077JHGZ3P
Gebel, T. (2022ae, October 22). Mixing space with awareness: experience of non-duality. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/space-meditation-tilopa-sam-harris-dissolving-the-mind
Gebel, T. (2023g, March 20). Mind view and event view as meditation tool - Daniel P Brown and Sam Harris. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/mind-view-and-event-view-daniel-p-brown-s-retreat
Shamil Chandaria. (2022, October 30). The Bayesian Brain and Meditation [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg3cQXf4zSE
Yates (Culadasa), J., & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.