What can be in 10 minutes guided meditation?
This post analyses one full Sam Harris Daily Meditation from his "Waking Up" app.
To make it short: it´s quite a lot of advanced Mahamudra/Dzogchen stuff! All compressed into 10 minutes.
I have no clue whether these meditations are useful for the novice meditator. I came to them with the background of Culadasa´s "The Mind Illuminated", a 6-day Level 1 retreat with Daniel P Brown, and lots of reading. So I had some background.
With my background I find them useful.
If one listens day by day to the Daily Meditation, which have a lot of (useful) repetitiveness, one can "get it" after a while.
As Sam Harris says in one meditation: "the practice is doing this thousands of times". Repetition makes mastery. That's the principle of Mahamudra and Dzogchen : many short repetitions.
Five minutes may be ok if they are of high quality. Or, in an original text, the time it takes to milk a cow.
Sam Harris´ meditations
Sam Harris, through his Waking Up app, publishes a daily meditation, which can be used as a 10 minute or a 20-minute version. Both have the same text, but pauses for inner mental processing of the instructions have different length.
Some of the meditations are fairly simple, and others contain a wealth of implicit references to concepts from Mahamudra and Dzogchen (to my modest knowledge).
I believe I can say this, because I recognise much of the explicit and implicit content from my knowledge of the style in which meditation is taught by "Pointing Out the Great Way", my only formal teachers so far who I experienced teaching in a live context.
I highly recommend the Sam Harris´ meditation app "Waking Up". I value it for the immense breadth of content that Sam Harris assembles through the collaboration of many teachers of different traditions and styles. Further, the Waking Up app contains a growing set of dialogues between Sam Harris and luminaries of this or related fields. As an example, it contains a dialogue on psychedelics. Or, the Buddhist nun Samaneri Jayasara contributes her readings of classical mystic texts, and some of her own.
In this post, I will "re-engineer" one of Sam Harris´ highly content-rich meditations by annotating each statement to its source concept in the meditation tradition. The meditation refers to a large number of such concepts, meditation stages, meditation techniques etc.
Note regarding copyright
Here I take the liberty to quote an entire Sam Harris meditation. I have no intention to violate his copyright and do not believe that I do:
I only use it for analytical purposes
It is only a small fraction of the hundred+ Daily Meditation
The full Sam Harris product consists of the text and the verbal delivery in the Sam Harris style, without which this meditation may be quite useless other than as academic text.
I believe, that the Buddhist tradition does not encourage a very narrow interpretation of copyright. However, I am also aware that there is at least one organisation which threatens use of their languaging with "hundred-thousands of dollars".
Overall, I believe that my reproduction here falls under fair use. If this is not the case, I will delete this post.
Word for word transcription
Ok, take a comfortable position.
And let's begin the session with eyes open. Simply gaze into the visual field. It doesn't matter what you look at. It can be trees or sky. It can be a blank wall. A cluttered desk. It really doesn't matter. And as you gaze into space, see if you can resolve your visual field
into an expanse of colour and shadow. Don't fixate on any particular objects. It's as though you were watching a movie
and you could choose to focus on the screen itself. It's the difference between seeing people and objects
and seeing mere light on the wall. But in this case you ARE that condition.
You are not merely looking at it. Consciousness is aware of itself. As a matter of experience,
everything you see in this moment is made of consciousness, including the seen. There is just this one condition. Simply rest as that. And thoughts too are an expression of that same condition. They appear like waves on the surface of consciousness. Again keep your gaze very wide
and look to see whether you can find the seat of attention. Is there someone or something looking out from behind your eyes? Or is there just this condition
and hearing? In the last minute of the session close your eyes. And simply become aware of hearing. And sensations. Just let your mind be wide open like space. Now as you go about your day today take a moment to pause before specific actions, and engage your visual field in this way. Seeing it as a totality, you might do this anytime you look at the mirror or brush your teeth or pause before picking up the phone. Just puncture your day with the moment of clear seeing and look for what's looking. In those moments see if there is something to find, and see what the failure to find anything feels like. Does it change your relation to what you see? Is there a relationship with what you see?
Overview of the meditation
The meditation uses the pointing out style, where the teacher gives direct instructions for mental operations , questions and observations about the mind.
The meditation has roughly the following structure
Sam Harris is quite loose with this
Resolve conceptual perception into its sensory elements (field of shadow and light)
Experience the visual field as a reflection or projection like a movie or screen
Becoming consciousness itself
Change the perceptual position (the "view") from being the observer to being the field of consciousness itselt
Notice that consciousness sees consciousness (=awakened mind)
Thoughs are waves on the ocean of consciousness
Clean perception of the feeling of being "localised" in that field - be that field
Overview of some key concepts
It combines a few meditation concepts of Tibetan Buddhism. Here I give a short overview.
Emptiness of Self
This is the key idea and meditative experience, that what we usually imagine to be a solid, self-existing Self is a fleeting construction, a fabrication. The Buddhist term for this is "empty" or "emptiness" . It does not mean "nothing"!
This is the concept of the mind/ awareness / consciousness being aware of itself and looking at itself. The mirror is a very frequently used key metaphor.
This is the theory that everything we think we perceive as external objects is our own mind, our own consciousness. In a modern form, this is Donald Hoffman´s "The Case Against Reality" theory, subscribed by Sam Harris.
This is a late stage of meditation where everything we perceive as experience is basically of the same character (the same "taste") without any judgement, evaluation, good-bad preference etc. That is the case because everything is "just" an appearance in consciousness. Ken Wilber´s meditation diary book is called "One Taste".
This is a technique of de-focused looking into empty space. The technique is often used, for example, to imagine that the meditator "mixes" his own mind or Self with outer space, thus creating a single field of one single "substance" (knowing awareness-space). It goes back to Tilopa.
These are instructions to search within one´s own mental space for certain search targets. One of the most important search targets is the "Self". The point about these search instructions is usually, that nothing will be found - everything is unfindable as a separate, self-existing entity. As Sam Harris sais in one meditation: "The not-finding is the finding".
Ocean and Wave Meditation
This is a meditation technique in which the meditator takes the perspective (vantage point, base of operation) of being ocean looking at its own waves. It is a so-called "non-dual" perspective.
In my opinion, the unobtrusive climax (but not the end) is the sentence
"consciousness is aware of itself"
This is a simple formulation of what in some forms of Buddhism is "the awakened mind": awareness being aware of itself at all times.
Analysis of each instruction
(The Sam Harris quotes are right-aligned in yellow. Other longer quotes are left-aligned)
Ok, let's begin the session with eyes open
This is an initially eyes-open meditation (eyes will be closed later to allow the hearing and feeling senses to become predominant).
Eyes-open meditations facilitate transition of the formal meditation into everyday life. These meditations foster the ability to eventually be in a meditative state all the time. Open-eye meditations avoid anchoring the meditative state to the sitting position with closed eyes.
Also, only with eyes open will one eventually experience the unity of consciousness, including all external visual perceptions, and thus the everyday world.
For example, some types of advanced Tibetan meditation require that one experiences perceptions not as objects "out there", but as projections on the back side of one's open eyes, as if they were a movie screen. This only works with open eyes, and visual content.
In the tradition, though, meditations where the meditator switches between eyes open and eyes closed are frequent. In other meditations, Sam Harris too uses that switching technique.
Simply gaze into the visual field
This is an instruction for a specific way of looking.
This line contains two important terms: simply, and to gaze.
"Simply" and "just" are two of the most frequently words in Sam Harris Daily Meditations. The "simply" encourages two things
Effortlessness is foundational for Dzogchen meditation. Effort is connected with the efforting self, and with the idea to reach a goal. Below you see a Sam Harris word cloud, generating from a number of meditations."Just notice moment"....
"To gaze" implies a relaxed wide, defocused view. One cannot gaze strenuously at an object.
It doesn't matter what you look at
This instruction releases the mind from the necessity or from the compulsion to judge and to chose specific objects.
Sam Harris frequently uses the phrase "It doesn't matter" . It doesn't matter, because in Mahamudra / Dzogchen the content of the experience (mental events, perceptions, sensations..) is, in a way, all the same: it is all appearances in consciousness, and all is of the same nature, of One Taste. In this meditation, Sam Harris will return to this aspect.
It can be trees or sky
This and the following two suggestions of the "meditation object" give the listener options.
This is an option for people who happen to be outside at the time of listening to the daily meditation, or who are looking out of a window . The instruction leaves open the option to chose anything else ("It can be" - but it doesn´t have to). This permissive formulation comes from hypnosis.
It can be a blank wall
This is an option for people who, for example, happen to be in a closed room. Also, no decor is required, no candle or buddha figure.
It doesn't matter. Relax.
A cluttered desk
This is an option for people in some kind of office, who wrongly believe that for meditation the desk must be like a freshly raked Zen garden (clue: messy is ok - everything is ok) that appears in consciousness.
It doesn´t matter. Relax.
It really doesn't matter
Again, the formulation that it doesn't matter. This instruction reinforces the equanimity towards everything that appears in consciousness. There is no need to chose, to pick, to select, or to judge.
This is an inkling of the "One Taste" Meditation level in Mahamudra . All appearances are of the same taste - the same nature - namely an appearance in consciousness.
It becomes obvious here, that Sam Harris strongly reinforces a sense of equanimity in many instructions of this meditation. Some texts describe this equanimity as "indifference", although it is a special kind of indifference. Rob Burbea calls it "holy indifference" in "Seeing that Frees".
And as you gaze into space
This is an instruction for space gazing.
Gazing into the space in front of you is a very specific extensive old Tilopa meditation technique which is only touched lightly here. It it not the fully formed version where the meditator then "mixes" awareness with space.
See if you can resolve your visual field into an expanse of colour and shadow
This is an instruction for de-conceptualization, or "pattern recognition in reverse" (Daniel P Brown).
"The chair" or "the tree" is a concept, constructed by the mind through a series of abstractions from the lower-level senses. The instruction guides the listener to cut through that process and to come closer to the lower levels of sense perception, such as edges, contours, line orientation, color, form, pitch, volume, and movement. (Note 2)
The instruction is easily given. However, it is a very difficult step to follow. Overcoming the propensity of the mind for abstraction and conceptualization is very hard. It takes practice.
In other meditations, Sam Harris frequently uses the kinesthetic, felt sense to achive this de-conceptualization. He then typically sais: "Let your body resolve into a field of sensations. Pressure, tingling, heat..." etc. This is actually easier for me to do than dissolving the visual field.
In another field of application, namely in drawing, the non-conceptual way of seeing is skillfully trained in Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain". Through this book, I once learned to not see "a hand" but an abstract pattern of shapes, lines, shadow and darkness. It became the best hand I ever drew.
De-conceptualisation can be experienced relatively easily through the hearing sense. Just repeat the word "house" 50 times in a row, and you will notice that after some time it will just be a sound without meaning. This is called "semantic saturation" by Chandaria (2022).
Don't fixate on any particular objects.
This is an instruction for "de-particularising".
This instruction , a continuation of the preceding instruction, directs the listener to stop "particularising" (yes this verb exists). In Buddhist Tradition, particularising is a process whereby the mind selects something from general awareness, "goes out" and shapes what it will later see as a particular distinct object. This is a very fast, subperceptual process.
In the Buddhist mind model, perception does not start with sensory experience, but with the mind having an intention to go out and "lasso" things in. It directs energy to the world in a pre-perceptual phase. The instructions intends to stop this process.
Also, as Rob Burbea points out, "when we focus on one object, there is usually a tendency to solidify that object" (Rob Burbea 2015)
It's as though you were watching a movie and you could choose to focus on the screen itself
Personal note: I was jumpstarted into Mahamudra through an extremely realistic, lifelike and "real" experience of a screen or mirror-like way of seeing through a psychedelic substance (Ayahuasca). For a few minutes, the world had turned into a screen which was a mirror of myself Thus, I have the privilege of having an "embodied" representation of what this is all about, and not only a conceptual idea.
This instruction is a key instruction to change the perspective of looking from looking at things as outer objects to looking at things as objects appearing in consciousness.
This is an extremely important key instruction of this meditation. Sam Harris uses a modern metaphor: a screen on which something is projected. The Tibetan yogis had no movie-screens yet, so instead, they used the metaphor of a mirror in which something is reflected. Another famous metaphor is the water surface, eg a quiet lake in which the moon reflects itself.
The mirror (screen) is a central metaphor for directing the mind to not perceive an objective, self-existing world "out there", but as an appearance in consciousness, in a mind-stream of mental events.
Here is a classical description of the significance of the mirror / screen as metaphor:
The mirror of Kun tu bZang Po... is an extraordinary place, the main place that the gods and humans, eternal boddhisatvas, mahasattvas and dakinis aspire to...This is the initial metaphor of all metaphors for pointing out" (The Precious Treasury, p 985)
Daniel Brown refers to the yogic training:
Recall that representation is an act by which the mind takes the shape of or creates the pattern for what it perceives. Advanced Yogis can turn this awareness back on itself. Though they gaze upon an outer object, they perceive only its inner reflected image. At a certain stage of proficiency, all yogis are instructed to dismiss the outer image and focus only upon the reflected image" (Mahamudra Meditation Stages, p. 256)
Culadasa makes the same point. His meditation model makes a clear, neurologically based distinction between focused attention and peripheral awareness. On this basis, he instructs the student to use awareness "meta-cognition" to observe the act of perceiving, rather than the perceived objects.
No matter how you use attention, hold the intention for peripheral awareness to become more and more metacognitive, working toward a complete and continuous observation of the activities and state of the mind itself. You don’t exclude extrospective content from peripheral awareness or attention. Rather, to whatever extent extrospective sensations are present, they’re experienced as part of the activity occurring in the mind, rather than as objects in and of themselves. For example, in the hearing of a sound, the primary object of your observation isn’t the “sound” that’s being heard, but the mental act of “hearing.” This is also true for mental objects. Remain metacognitively aware of them as content of field of conscious awareness, but with the objects themselves being secondary. It’s as much about how you know as it is what you know. [This] can be used for many other purposes in the future as well. (Culadasa, "The Mind Illuminated", p305)
Here another example for how this particular way if looking is practiced. In his introduction to the chapter "The fluid eye lamps of the extensive lasso", Dan Brown describes in the introduction how the meditator doesn´t look "out". Instead, his gaze ends at the back of his eyeballs. Obviously, what changes is not the physical act of seeing, but the mind´s processing of it.
The practitioner sets up the gaze looking out from the universal ground and looks up at an angle..just below the lower boundary of the eyebrows (called the "eyebrow fence"). The distance of the gaze is to look far as the outer surface of each fluid eye lamp much like looking at the film projected onto a movie screen or like looking at images appearing on the surface of two crystal balls. It is important that the practitioner not see the visions dualistically as out there, but rather sees them as self-arising and generated inside the eye lamps"(Tapihritsa, p14f) .
Here, the term "eye lamp" denotes the idea, that the eyes "send out" attentional energy before any sense impression is formed.
In fact, the diagram below depicts a particular phenomenon of our perception which illustrates that thought. When we see a person watching an object, our brain activates areas for movement that are also activated, when we see other people move. So, our perception imputes this energy (Bach et al 2022)
For those who really want to get the original tone of such instruction, here is one:
The Skillful Means by which Special Insight Arises First, the skillful means by which special insight arises. The root text says "The great ocean stirs and moves upwards (ie the eye lamps). " With respect to mixing together the eyes (upward) the external ocean (of space) , and awakened awareness internally, move the eyes upward and turn them higher. Awakened awareness moves into the space like planting a spear. The root text adds: "...as does the focus on the domain of space at the fence of darkness (just below the eyebrow boundary)". The eyes turn upwards, so that the irises of the eyes (remain showing) turned upwards , and then focus (just below) the eyebrow fence. To show what "focus on the domain of space at the fence of darkness" means, it means to concentrate on the lamp of the seemingly outer surface (of the fluid eye lamps); focus on the A in the internal lamp of the (eye) sense organ, and activate the secret lamp of awakened awareness" (Tapihritsa, p 174)
This is a far way from the Sam Harris instruction: "Don't fixate on any particular objects. It's as though you were watching a movie and you could choose to focus on the screen itself."
It's the difference between seeing people and objects and seeing mere light on the wall.
This statement is an explanation by example.
This statement explains what is meant in the previous statement: it encourages to de-conceptualise, and to come closer to the direct sense experience ("mere light" ).
That´s because "people and objects" are concepts that we overlay on the lower level perceptions.
For the science behind it see Note 2.
But in this case you ARE that condition. You are not merely looking at it.
This instruction again changes the perspective or "view" of the meditator such that the meditator "becomes" the space of awareness in which everything appears. The meditator is asked to not stand beneath it and watch it from the distance.
"The condition" is a term preferred by Sam Harris. He prefers abstract terms over the more imaginary and metaphorical tradition teachings. "The condition" means the space of awareness, or the ground aspect of experience.
This instruction is a condensed pointing out version to take a non-dual view: there is no seer and seen.
Consciousness is aware of itself
In a further wide jump, Sam Harris here goes right to the core of the teachings.
This statement, in my view, is a quiet and nearly unnoticeable culmination of the meditation. The statement is not an instruction, but it is a description of the result of the preceding instructions.
Simply said, this is the culmination, because this is the classical definition of being awakened or enlightened (well, with some simplification).
In a formulation by Daniel P Brown: it is "awareness showing itself by itself through itself to awareness" ( formulation used in retreat)
As a matter of experience everything you see in this moment is made of consciousness, including the seen
This is a reference to a specific frame of thinking in Buddhism and in modern science and philosophy: the "mind only" theory.
There are no free-standing separate objects: everything is "made of consciousness". In other meditations, Sam Harris uses a different formulation: "Everything that appears is a modification of consciousness".
The frame of thinking here is the "mind only" theory of some strands of Buddhism: everything is mind.
Here is an example:
"All the various appearances that arise are the magical display of the mind. In an absolute sense, they have no basis, and by appearing, they are self-occuring. Therefore, besides the mind, nothing whatsoever exists. Without relying on the mind, there is no Buddhahood. Besides the mind there is no practitioner. Besides the mind there are no sentient beings. ...Besides the mind, there are no phenomena. Everything is the magical display of the mind." (The Precious Treasury of the Expanse, page 797)
Without going into too many details and ramifications, the "mind only" theory comes close to modern scientific philosophical theories such as the cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman´s theory that consciousness is not created from matter (brain), but that consciousness precedes matter. And, in fact, Sam Harris (according to his wife Annaka Harris) has adopted Donald Hoffman´s position.
Or, the philosopher Bernardo Kastrup´s theory that everything is mind.
There is just this one condition.
This is another statement about non-duality. Again Sam Harris uses the abstract term "condition" instead of metaphors like space, ocean etc.
There is no duality of the seer and seen, of experienc-ER and experienc-E
Simply rest as that
This instruction directly guides the meditator to "become" what had been pointed out before: the "condition" or space of awareness.
This wording ("rest as") is a traditional formulation of the pointing out instruction to "become" the awareness space, to adopt this non-dual view. The "resting as" emphasises that no effort is needed to do this. In many meditations, Sam Harris uses the expression "drop back.." to give the same sense of relaxation.
And thoughts too are an expression of that same condition
This instruction lets the meditator integrate thoughts as further objects, in addition to sensory experience.
This is Mahamudra/Dzogchen: there is no need to suppress thoughts, to silence them, to blank them out, to modify them, or to prolong them etc. That is because thoughts are nothing else than expressions of consciousness, of awareness. It is enough to "recognise" them.
This is "meditation with the thoughts".
They appear like waves on the surface of consciousness.
This pointing out statement uses one of the most famous teaching metaphors for non dual awareness.
It is also one of the very few traditional teaching metaphors ever used by Sam Harris, who normally prefers abstract terms.
It is 50% of the famous "ocean and wave" metaphor and meditation. The ocean and wave meditation essentially consists in the instruction "be the ocean watching its own waves". It is another formulation of non-duality. Ocean and waves are one, just as awareness and thoughts, or - metaphorically - the sun and sunlight, wind and moving leaves.
This ocean and wave meditation, when executed by a trained meditator, induces measurable changes brain wave patterns. It has been researched extensively.
Again keep your gaze very wide and look to see whether you can find the seat of attention.
Here, Sam Harris begins a set of pointing out instructions to overcome perception from the sense of being a localised Self. This is a precondition for "becoming" the entire field of perception, for fully merging with it.
While defocusing and not directing attention to a particular object, the student is instructed to "look" inside. This "looking" is of course only meant metaphorically, it is not a visual search. It is awareness turning itself to the inner "landscape" and trying to identify a center of attention. As with the search for the Self, this center will not be found.
Is there someone or something looking out from behind your eyes?
This is a question to our everyday way of being conscious. In the following question it will be denied.
We instinctively feel that our attention and awareness comes from a place of looking, a center, eventually a "Self" which we feel normally located behind the eyes. We associate consciousness with the head. This was not always so: in India and Tibet the seat of consciousness was the heart.
I have tried to imagine that "I" or my self is "in" my heart - I can´t do it under normal conditions. However, it may be possible when meditating, I have to try!
Or is there just this condition of seeing and sensing and hearing?
Again formulated as question, it is actually a statement, or at least suggestion.
Maybe, Sam Harris leaves the answer open in order for the novice meditation student to explore it for themselves, instead of protesting too quickly.
On the other hand, he may trust or imply that the meditator has found - nothing. In reality, nothing can be found. As Sam Harris sais in another meditation: "The not finding is the finding".
The question is open, but it implies that the student will have no luck finding this Self. There is only awareness itself.
In Daniel Brown´s hypnotically tinged formulation: the more one searches for the Self, the more it will recede.
Try it yourself.
And in the last minute of the session close your eyes.
This statement changes the meditation from open-eyed to closed-yes.
Its function is to prepare the listener to use additional sense channels and sense objects. Until we had meditated using visual objects and thoughts only.
In addition, eyes-closed meditation results in a measurably calmer brain state.
And simply become aware of hearing and sensations
Now, after having switched off the external visual sense and instead, he adds hearing and feeling. The meditator's inner experience is now a panorama of hearing, feeling, thinking, and of the visual phenomena behind closed eyes.
Again, the adverb "simply" (like "just") instructs the listener to do this without effort. Efforting in the later stages of Mahamudra / Dzogchen meditation is a superfluous activity, a meditation fault.
Just let your mind be wide open like space.
This instruction, again, guides the meditator to be the space-like awareness.
Again, the adverb "just" instructs the student to go for relaxation and easing up.
In Mahamudra meditation, the meditator is instructed to keep his mind in a balance of easing up (or loosening) and tightening (focused concentration). Too much easing up of the attentional system will lead to drowsiness, and too much tightening leads to flightiness. Drowsiness and flightiness are basic meditative faults. They have to be balanced out, which is a meditative skill. Daniel P Brown compared it to sailing a boat before the wind: too hard and it will capsize, too little and it will dumple.
Then, the "like space" metaphor is now used to equate mind and space. This is a traditional comparison. Mind is "like space" in that it is without edges, borders or limits. Like space, the mind is without time, and it is changeless. Events occur in this timeless changeless space of mind, seemingly in time. But even time is an illusion.
However, there is one crucial difference between space and mind (or awareness) : awareness seems to have a knowing quality, it is vibrant and alive. It is "luminous". Space is not. Thus, such metaphors like "space" have limitations. They point to something but are not it.
In classical literature, there are additional instructions to practice the experience of the openness, and limitlessness, of the inner space. For example "As soon as you notice a border or edge, move into it with your awareness and see it dissolve" (Daniel P Brown). Again, this is a very abbreviated version of the full meditation instructions in Brown´s retreats.
Rob Burbea expresses this in a simpler way:
Sometimes a perception of open space may be kick-started by imagining it. You can, for example, imagine the mind like a vast, clear sky containing and allowing all phenomena in it. With repetition, this will become less strained and feel more authentic (Burbea, 2015, p. 195)
Now as you go about your day today take a moment to pause before specific actions, and engage your visual field in this way.
This is an instruction to take this meditation "off the cushion", to step over into real life.
To repeat: the "engage your visual field in this way" means to take a defocused relaxed view of the whole, and to experience it as a movie projection on the screen of your consciousness, rather than to see the objects themselves.
Sam Harris suggests using breaks in the normal flow of activities, and to in particular to use this new way of perceiving for the visual sense.
Seeing it as a totality, you might do this anytime you look at the mirror or brush your teeth or pause before picking up the phone.
Reinforcing the above, Sam Harris suggests to use natural breaks in the flow of the mind- and activity-stream to use the meditative view.
Just puncture your day with the moment of clear seeing and look for what's looking.
Again, the "just" accentuates the no-effort approach.
"Look for what´s looking" is again a search operation where the search target is the subject that is doing something: nothing will be found.
Again, the instruction directs the student to regularly adopt a specific "view", or perceptual position, or "base of operation" (Daniel P Brown's preferred term).
The suggestion to "puncture the day" encourages to take the meditation off the cushion repeatedly. Meditation does thus not have to consist in long-ish meditation sessions. Instead, very short (it could be seconds) repeated switching of the way of perceiving, in everyday settings, is OK. The repetition that will eventually result in a more and more permanently "awakened" self-mirror mind. This way of practicing intelligently is in principle also useful for many other activities, eg, piano practice.
And this is the last stage of the yogic education.
In those moments see if there is something to find, and see what the failure to find anything feels like.
Nothing will be found. How does it feel to have no Self? This is another search operation, where the search will find nothing. It will confirm the "emptiness" of the search object.
The illusion of Self is a key recurring topic for Sam Harris. That includes his view that there is no free will.
Does it change your relation to what you see?
One might find that what one sees is no longer far out there. It is more like "myself".
Is there a relationship with what you see?
An intriguing Koan-like question. My guess at an answer is: if there is no looker and no Self, but only the condition of awareness, then there cannot be a relation between two things, because there are no two things. A relation can only exist between different things. but "There is only one".
This is similar to "unity consciousness" in Christian Centering/Contemplative prayer.
"The Keating school teaches that , ultimately, there is no difference between self and God. Thus unity consciousness lacks the constituents for a relationship. ...Centering prayer starts out as a "relationship with God", but this relationship appears to change - and may disappear entirely - as practice matures" (Blaschke 2017)
All of these elements can be found explained in great detail in Daniel P Brown's "Pointing Out the Great Way". A great overview of the Buddhist mind model can be found in "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa.
Contrary to popular belief, the brain does not operate like a camera that takes in a whole scene. It is more like a feature detector that detects individual stimuli, (for example, edges, contours, line orientation, color, form, pitch, volume, and movement) and processes them in separate regions of the brain. The term quale (plural qualia) refers to discreet attributes of reality such as green, round, or hot; the experience of a quale (say, green) is generally never in isolation of other attributes (long, sharp, cool). Given the absence of a computer-like central processor in the brain, each quale is processed in its own separate region of the brain and has its own neural networks. The experience of qualia is based in the wiring and activity of an individual’s nervous system. Each and every perception is actively constructed from the building blocks of individual sensory cues under the guidance and influence of emotion, motivation, and prior experience. How a person experiences qualia is therefore highly personal and is believed to be a large part of what shapes individual consciousness. Through a process known as reentry, the brain weaves together the information entering in different regions to create a full picture of what is happening. For example, information entering the visual cortex (dark, red) is automatically connected to information in the auditory cortex (loud, sudden) and vice versa: what we see influences what we hear, and what we hear influences what we see. The attention we give to qualia and our brain’s capacity to blend them together comprise our perception of reality. It is believed that reentry could be the unique, single-most-important feature of higher brain organization, the vital component of integrated, complex cognitive tasks (Laurence Heller, Healing Development Trauma, p 103)
Bach, J., Graziano, M., Cohen, J., & Lal, V. (2022, February 23). Vectors of Cognitive AI: Self-Organization. YouTube. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEf8LnTD0AA&feature=youtu.be
Blaschke, B. A. (2017). Consciousness of god as god is: Phenomenology of Christian Centering Prayer. XXX. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/6608/thesis_access.pdf%3Fsequence%3D1&ved=2ahUKEwjX6-OVu4T-AhWWT6QEHTWdCwEQFnoECAgQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1XSS6sXYbd31t0uAaIbHUL
Judd Brewer, Daniel Brown et. al
Brown, D. P., & Brewer, J. (1999).
"Mapping complex mind states EEG neural substrates of meditative unified compassion awareness"
Daniel P Brown (Meditation Stages)
Brown, D. P. (1981). Mahamudra Meditation-Stages and Contemporary Cognitive Psychology (Dissertation). http://abhidharma.ru/A/Tantra/Content/Raznoe/0028.pdf
This dissertation is a free download. It is a massive, highly technical volume that nevertheless gives an unparallelled insight into the education of a yogi. It draws on the knowledge of cognitive science as of the late 1970s, so it is not the newest in this regard. As compensation, Daniel P Brown gives some insight into the experiments with tachiscopy. to which he still referred in his retreats in 2021.
Daniel P Brown (Pointing Out)
Brown, D. P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated ed.). Wisdom Publications.
Rob Burbea (Seeing..)
Burbea, R. (2015). Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising (English Edition) [E-book]. Hermes Amāra. https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00SI7PQD8
Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Study
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.
Betty Edwards (Drawing)
Edwards, B. (2012). Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition (4th ed.). TarcherPerigee.
Lex Fridman. (2022, October 5). Annaka Harris: Free Will, Consciousness, and the Nature of Reality | Lex Fridman Podcast #326 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6zEzZCtkXw
Till Gebel (Awakening)
Gebel, T. (2022e, July 29). Awakening for dummies. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/on-awakening-experiences
Till Gebel (Piano)
Gebel, T. (2022a, May 24). Practicing meditation like the piano: Short, frequently, perfect. Till Gebel.
Till Gebel (Pointing Out)
Gebel, T. (2022b, June 21). Pointing out instructions in Mahamudra meditation. Till Gebel. https://www.till-gebel.com/post/pointing-out-instructions-mahamudra-dzogchen
Till Gebel (Ayahuasca Mirror)
Gebel, T. (2020b, June 4). My core mystic experiences with psychedelics and in meditation. Till Gebel.
Daniel Hoffman (Case against Reality)
Hoffman, D. (2020). The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. Penguin.
Daniel Hoffman (on Lex Fridman podcast #293)
Fridman, L. (2022, June 12). Donald Hoffman: Reality is an Illusion - How Evolution Hid the Truth | Lex Fridman Podcast #293 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reYdQYZ9Rj4&feature=youtu.be
Bernardo Kastrup (Podcast TOE)
Jaimungal, T. O. E. W. C. (2021, February 20). Bernardo Kastrup on Analytical Idealism, Materialism, The Self, and the Connectedness of You and I [Video]. YouTube.
Shar rzda bKra' Shis Rgyal mytshan (The Precious Treaury)
Gyaltsen, T. S., Brown, D. P., & Gurung, G. S. (2022). The Precious Treasury of the Expanse and Awakened Awareness: The Ornaments of the Definitive Secret (English Edition) (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation.
https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?t=36767 (critical review)
Waking Up app
Laurence Heller (Healing Development Trauma)
Ph.D., H. L., & Psy.D., L. A. (2012). Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship (Illustrated ed.). North Atlantic Books.
Lodpo, G. N. (2022). The Six Lamps: According to the Zhang Zhung Oral Transmission Lineage of Bon Dzogchen. Mustang Bon Foundation.