For those who missed out on the Still-mind meditation retreat, try this fun little exercise in no-mind, no-self… it is very simple: Count from 1 to 10… and then read on! The rest of the exercise follows after you comprehend the following two points.
1) The point of no-mind, no-self is the same as that of still-mind meditation
No-mind, no-self… it sounds very Zen, doesn’t it? It is obviously a state where there wouldn’t be any entanglement with thinking. Well, that is the point of still-mind meditation. When we know how to disentangle from thinking, we can think when it is good to think, and rest when it is good to rest.
2) Consciousness is bigger than the thinking mind
It is a bit weird that we never notice this… thinking is relatively a small part of consciousness. You need consciousness in order to think, but you do not need thinking in order to be conscious. We perceive and react faster than thinking. We interpret perceptions faster than we think about them. So what?
Here is the rest of the exercise
Count from 1 to 10
Did you do it? Counting is thinking, it is cognitive work. It is simple, but basically it is not much different from reading, or talking, or arguing. It is thinking, and you have the sense of the “me” who does it. That is entanglement in the mind’s activity.
Count from 1 to 10 again, but with this difference
Now, count from 1-10 again, but this time, watch yourself counting. Watch as the mind finds each number. Watch the sense of the “me-doer” as it is happening.
What did you find?
Perhaps you found this:
Watching yourself thinking (counting, in this case) was not the same as thinking. Instead, it was awareness of a thinking process.
Awareness is mindfulness. It is non-cognitive. It not entangled in the mind’s activity. That sort of awareness of the mind’s activity has also been called “witness consciousness”, and sometimes “The Seer” (cf the Yoga Sutras).
It is a touch of no-mind, no-self. It is a quiet awareness that notices the mind thinking. As such, it can be called “no-mind”.
Thinking gives us our sense of being a person
Your name is just a thought. Your memories are all only clusters of neurons which wake into action now and then. Your ethnic background and values are taught via thoughts. You may have a genetic inheritance from your parents, but the idea that they are in fact your parents is transmitted by thinking (and sometimes incorrectly!) A state of still-mind meditation can then be called “no-self”.
No-mind no-self opens possibilities for a new experience of living
When we learn to notice the mind instead of being entangled with it, many new possibilities become available. One is inner peace. Another is that, with a new capacity to see the mind, there comes a better capability for being objective about our own mind and its opinions and problems.
The noticer is not the object that it notices
When you notice the clock ticking on the wall, you don’t say, I am that clock ticking (unless you want to be poetic). We are not what we notice. The noticer is the subject, what is noticed is the object.
Quiet awareness notices the mind and its sense of “me-doing”. Quiet awareness is the subject, while the active thinking mind and its sense of self as the doer is the object.
We’re not used to understanding that… oops, big mistake. Time to learn to how to keep the mind still, and find out the truth of it. Watching the mind counting from 1 -10 gives us the tiniest little glimpse.