I know that I must have walked home from the supermarket because I find myself at home with the groceries but I can’t remember how I got there…I was obviously lost in my thinking.
Is it possible for you to notice the process of falling out of observing self and falling into identification with the thinker? As it happens? Can we do this now, as we are listening, thinking and speaking to each other?
Yes. This seems to be possible. Observing self, there is a sense of experiencing what is happening inside me but then I become the thinker and I do not have this experience. Everything is on the surface. Also, as the thinker or the one who is speaking, I am contracted. Attention narrows down to my thinking and I have very little sense of what is happening around me.
It is very important for you to notice this narrowing of your experience as it occurs. It is a real experience, fully sensible, not just a concept. If you know it in this way, you can do something about it.
When you have become the thinker, does it seem that thinking is taking up all the attention? Can this narrowing be prevented or reversed? Is it possible to have thinking without becoming the thinker? What is required?
I guess it would be helpful to remain aware of sensations.
Yes. As you sense yourself falling into being the thinker or the speaker, you could grab onto other sensations. Perhaps you could continue to look at the person you are speaking to. Perhaps, while you are thinking, you could continue to ‘see’ the line of your thought, the logic of it and its resonance in your body, perhaps even the feeling of it; these experiences anchor attention outside the thinking process. Perception is an antidote for identification.
What is needed is voluntary attention. Falling into identifying as the thinker is involuntary attention, which we call sleep. That’s how people in our culture fall into ambulant sleep…they identify with their thinking. They think they are the little voice in their head.
How does this relate to pondering?
This is an interesting question. Did you just come across this term accidentally? Pondering is a technical term in this work. It means a three–centered questioning or consideration of an issue. The issue is simultaneously penetrated by sensing, thinking and feeling. This is quite different from our usual thinking which moves mechanically from one thought to another by association rather than staying on one point. Pondering is not possible if I am identified with the thinker. There is not enough attention and not enough space.
Pondering in this sense is real thinking. It requires voluntary split attention and a different level of energy from the lazy, associative, reactive mental process we refer to as thinking.
Not falling into thinking requires intention, does it not?
It can arise from intention but if I have to depend upon my intention to access voluntary attention it will not happen very often. Many things around me can call me to be voluntary…my conversation with you, my wish to eat, my need to get to work on time. These demands could engage a conscious response…they are rich in sensations… if I do not continually fall asleep. What is critical is to notice that I am continually falling asleep. I need to know this process intimately. When I do, perhaps I can use the events of the world around me to be awake.