22 Comments
Feb 14, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

Thanks, Sasha. This is valuable. Experiencing non-dualism feels like freedom, feels self-evidently worth pursuing, regardless of whether there’s no proof that it’s the correct way to perceive. After all, we are explorers.

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If one is interested in self-inquiry, I can wholeheartly recommend the "liberationunleashed" app with the bit cheesy name "Enlightening Quotes".

It is very basic and just a collection of self-inquiry questions & contemplation points.

Contemplating/Meditating on these pointers triggered for me the most intense non-dual/non-self experiences. So that i even slowed down to remain my seperate sense of self. Together with the book " I am that", this quotes were the most "effective" for me personally. And also kind of playful explorative.

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And Thank you Sasha for your great articles/blog posts! :)

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Feb 13, 2023·edited Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

You should check out Jan Frazier's When Fear Falls Away -- probably my favorite memoir of someone's awakening. Very resonant - found myself highlighting something on nearly every page.

One small suggestion -- I find that thinking of non-duality as an "experience" can be unhelpful, since in a sense any particular experience can be compatible with the perspective of non-duality. For that reason I like to describe it more as a perspective on experience rather than an actual experience. This is also how the Tibetans talk about it -- as a "view".

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i think this is the more sophisticated perspective!! however, i think from a newbie perspective, it's helpful to have the "thingness experience" as a goal/reference/entrypoint. then you can sort of get pilled on the rest of it...

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

yeah, the trap though can be confusing the experiences that co-occur with the perspective (freshness, boundlessness, love etc) with non-duality itself. Once people start looking for something in experience then they aren't unclenching and then they move further away from it. This can also be a danger for people who have a unstable awakening from a pointing out -- they have those special states and then confuse non-duality with those states (that happened to me for a bit!). Relatedly, I find the focus on jhanas that seem very popular in TPOT adjacent circles unhelpful for similar reasons -- the goal is to stabilize awakening so you can buddha in the world, not trying to get yourself into more impermanent fancy states. I'm a Dan Brown student, and this was something he was very adamant about - don't jhana! There's a great line from Rainbow Painting (another great book worth reading):

My root guru Samten Gyatso once said, “I have not had a single special experience. As the years pass by, my trust in the authenticity of the Dharma grows. I am confident in the truth of the three kayas. From the age of eight I looked into the essence of mind, and since then I have never forsaken it. My diligence varied and of course I became distracted at times, but mostly I have kept to the practice of mind essence.” I only heard him say this once; otherwise he would never discuss such personal matters.

Urgyen Rinpoche, Tulku. Rainbow Painting (p. 204). Rangjung Yeshe Publications. Kindle Edition.

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

Ocean and Waves, thank you for articulating this so well, I was in the middle of writing a reply with a similar note.

I'll add that I think one potential place to articulate this important nuance is in framing the "long term/dedicated non dual practice", here is where I'd introduce the point that this is NOT about maintaining a permanently "altered state".

This is absolutely central because misunderstanding this actually leads to "fabricating more", moving around, away from, or out of what is happening moment to moment. It makes sense to me that this sort of "manipulating perception" would lead to what you characterize as "a state of floaty expanded awareness all the time". I think it is absolutely vital to emphasize that that is NOT what non dual practice is. Nor is it what long term practitioners are attempting. Making the following sentiment misleading: "...patch their minds... so that no sense of separate self ever arises again.".

This leads to another issue with this framing in that it is essentially demonizing the "sense of separateness". This is misleading in two ways: 1. it lends credence to the notion that duality is real, (as apposed to a very convincing illusion and) could serve to, paradoxically, further solidify a sense of duality. and 2. Is an impossible and possibly damaging "goal" since it vilifies an impermanent "sense". I'd suggest, for instance, framing it more as: ultimately the recognition that the "sense of self" is just another phenomenon that arises and passes away, could become more and more stable. Or, ultimately what part of the pool one is swimming in matters less than the recognition that one is swimming in a pool.

I commend you, Sasha, for attempting this feat and I think you did a good job breaking it down and defining your terms and making practical suggestions. In may ways the truest way to talk about non-duality would be to not talk about it at all so I appreciate that most of the parts I'm critiquing were unavoidable due to the dual nature of language itself. Still this bit feels worth mentioning for the sake of treating this material with an over abundance of care.

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yeah, this stuff is really hard!! it's complicated that like... your baseline state will change, and it's okay to work in that direction, but insisting on an extreme rate of change, or fetishizing one aspect of the experience, will result in doing yourself damage, and the sense of self does become more transient, but pushing it away entirely is kind of enforcing another "duality" in a sense

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wonderful post, and great nods (no pun) to the headless way - Harding's work got me poking around this rabbit hole to begin with. Jed McKenna and Jim Newman were clockwork orange-like pointers for me to what is. i would be keen on hearing your thoughts on their angle on nonduality

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Wow, this actually worked! This helped bring together and push forward a few different strands for me. Getting the nondual perspective made me start laughing - a common response.

Joshu Roshi used to stand at the window and point out: that's me! and that's me!

It's a beautiful experience and perspective to have. Thank you so much. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this, especially in my daily sits.

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this response makes me so happy

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Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

I want to expand on a bit that is sort of mentioned above but that I am particularly passionate about (in this fleeting moment) and has been super helpful/clarifying/fun for me to play with and explore.

(note that this gets a lil technical (as in, assumes some prior knowledge of Buddhist concepts/philosophy and possibly some solipsism for extra measure) and that it is possibly also articulated a little messily; this feels ok but also like it'd be responsible to warn you to take it all with a good pinch of salt)

It is this: Lean INTO "identification" as the proposed lens. Equal identification with all "phenomena". The emphasis is on "I am everything" as apposed to "I am not anything", in both ways the field is one, there are no "real" distinctions (in all of the ways duality manifests which are so beautifully articulated in this piece). The felt sense here is located on the "intimacy with phenomenon" axis.

In some ways I think this practice does a lot in the way of unbinding the sense of "doing something", efforting, or manipulating phenomenon, because it points very saliently to something that is already happening: you know how you already feel like you are at the center of every experience? Notice how this can actually include EVERYTHING. This doesn't mean bringing far-away-feeling things "closer", it means noting that you are equally identified with the experience of far-away-ness as you are with "closeness", equally "at the center of" insideness and outsideness, equally intimate with the experience of being located inside your head as you are with the experience of attempting to dislodge that sense, or, as one of my teachers likes to phrase it: "the awareness with which your purest, most elevated, noble thoughts/experiences is known, is the SAME awareness with which your worst/most shameful thoughts/experiences is known". This also "flattens" a lot of practice-born moralizing tendencies (like being in "now" is better than being "in the past/future" etc.). Essentially all phenomena is "taking place" in the same place and it can (and does) feel like equally "you" (except the "you" or "I" part is almost nonsensical in its all-inclusiveness).

I cannot emphasize enough that you are not "doing" anything here, in the sense that you are not trying to warp/manipulate/move in or out of/relax or tense a sense of ANYTHING. It is just noticing (and here one could claim that this is the "doing", which of course, it is.) that all of this activity is being known EQUALLY (yes including the sense that the phenomenology of some phenomenon IS that it is distant, "feels less knowable" etc. AND including a sense of selfing/separateness. That is not outside of the purview of this exploration).

This practice invites a deliberate development of a taste for "intimacy" with all phenomena and of course carries all the risks of getting lost in phenomenon and identification. (Note that, on the other hand, dissonance or dissociation (feeling removed from experience) is a possible danger of misunderstanding or misapplying "non-identification" that is not widely discussed).

My thinking here is greatly influenced by Rupert Spira's work/books and Dharma Talks.

I'll add that this specific flavor of experimentation happened for me after years of sitting with Anata-type practices that resemble the ones outlined in this essay, and that I can't speak to the necessity or non-necessity of this order of practice development (first non-identification and only then full "identification").

And also that this is another shiny piece in the mosaic and that I'm sharing it out of love for both the practice and anyone encountering it.

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A wonderful overview - especially including the pitfalls. I compiled some notes on my journey as well: https://ejhong.medium.com/nonduality-algorithms-23e27fea2aa5

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Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

Weirdly enough, I'm now reading abt such stuff. I find "Shock Amazement" and "Spectrum of Ecstasy" incredibly useful.

"Roaring Silence" didn't do so much for me though. Maybe it will feel differently when I re-read it.

I am a software developer so I am inclined towards STEM-y topics and STEM-y approaches towards non STEM-y topics.

I don't quite like the typical religious/superstitious/vague/hand-wavvy descriptions/approaches about this topic.

Though both titles I have recommended are written by a person with training in a religious context, the precision in these two books appeal to my STEM-y mind.

I also had a meditational experience (I'm using this term as described in Shock Amazement. I'm abt 70% certain I'm using this term correctly) that was triggered by stress many years ago, so I know there's something "there". What exactly is over "there" -- that I'm less certain of.

That experience led to a kind of relaxing that sounds awfully similar to your "mental move". IT lasted about a week or so for me.

Best description i have for it is it feels like walking on air.

Sadly, I have not been able to replicate it.

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

Tl;dr; mu

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D:

^ that is my original face

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

the only thing i'd want to add is that the soto zen people i know are also very big on self-inquiry. besides just sitting there in posture you're supposed to avoid getting caught up in "stories", which leads to becoming an expert in the ways you can avoid getting caught up in stories. i use some simple ones as a way to soften hard selfs (ie "i'm angery ... WHO is feeling that anger exactly")? i sit, myself, with a soto zen sangha in nyc - i don't know if you've been to village zendo but, good people, high recommendation.

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this is a good addition! one problem i faced writing this is that zen is hard to write about, there are so many different zens, etcetera

i have great respect for zen (koan practice is utterly beautiful, the poetry is good, the aesthetics are A+) while also finding some aspects of it infuriating, which is, i gather, how a lot of zen people also feel about zen

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

yeah, i think zen practice wouldn't be zen practice if it didn't trigger your resistance to zen in ways that continually teach you about your resistance to life.

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Sasha Chapin

But it's interesting to see how, in real time, how this can work.

1) I wrote a clever comment to you, so I expect a reward, so I have an expectation in my mind of that reward=reply.

2) I'm wired for synchronous communications, so my mind gives me a kind of token to *wait for something* and I kind of reserve a thread for that reply.

3) This makes me pay attention to something that isn't present, and takes me out of the moment, at least somewhat. It also gives me a story, that I can follow in my mind, instead of paying attention.

4) That process might or might not lead to a lot of other things, like me wondering if Sasha likes me, or if anyone likes me, or if I am simply and completely unlikeable.

When I was an early stage meditator, I would have just followed the instructions to bring my mind back to my breath, or to whatever I was focusing on (in my case often ambient sounds).

At this point, I'm a bit of an intermediate level, so I can often just see this process occurring, and I can even enjoy it, as it spontaneously begins and lets go. Sometimes I just get curious about the process of thoughts arising and going. Sometimes I have a sense that something nonverbal is "stuck" and if I want, I can try to loosen it up with curiosity and awareness. Etc.

Why do this? Personally I'm not stuck on the non-duality aspect, or any of the bits about truth or meaning or true self. I do it because it gives me a sense of freshness and and space and what I'd call clarity, though often clarity is just seeing the muck for what it is. It gives me insight into how to stay true to myself even in challenging circumstances.

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Great read. I would recommend checking out the Youtube channel Simply Always Awake for those who are interested.

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I think a good therapy session was the catalyst led me down path of self inquiry and to eventually discover non duality - took about a month.. and has since made therapy more productive

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