A method of self-enquiry
pioneered by Douglas Harding
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Experiments

 

Video Introduction
Pointing Here
Two-Way Pointing
The Bottom Line
The Single Eye
The Mirror
Seeing Your Nose
Spinning the World
Touch
No Head Circle
Closed Eyes
Being All Things
For the Blind
The Tube
Seeing Who You Are
Handling Problems
Time

CLOSED EYES EXPERIMENT

Commentary by Richard Lang

Explore what it is to be First Person singular, present tense, with eyes closed. Practically speaking, probably the best way to do this would be to read a question, then close your eyes and investigate your experience. Then open your eyes, read another question, and so on…

With EYES CLOSED … consider the following:

Going by your own, present experience, not by memory, hearsay or imagination, how big are you?

What shape are you?

Could you be any size or shape?

Do you have boundaries?

Is there a place where you stop and the world begins? Or is there nothing dividing you from the world?

You can probably hear a range of sounds, from distant to near ones. Do you hear any sound right where you are? Don't sounds come and go in silence where you are?

You experience sensations such as warmth, discomfort, pleasure, breathing and so on. Do these make you into 'something' at centre, solid and limited – a thing separate from the world around you? Is there anything solid and unchanging at your centre? Or do these sensations come and go in aware no-thingness?

Isn’t this aware no-thingness like a TV screen in the sense that events happen on the screen but leave the screen itself unaffected and undefined? Don’t sounds and sensations come and go but leave awareness unmarked?

Whatever has happened in your past, are you not now empty and clear - capacity for whatever is happening now? The past does not solidify you at centre.

How big is a sensation? Does it define or limit you?

Attend to your right foot. Think of what it looks like. Isn’t the image a memory, since you cannot see your foot at the moment?

But what about the actual sensation of your foot, your experience of it in this present moment, putting aside memory? What colour is that sensation, what shape, what size?

How far away is it? (From where?)

Where exactly are its boundaries – does it have a clear edge?

Is this sensation where your being stops? Are you limited to it, somehow imprisoned inside it?

Isn’t that sensation happening in boundless awareness?

Are you not this awareness, this edgeless being, in which this rather-hard-to-describe, hard-to-pin-down changing sensation is happening?

Just as when you have your eyes open it is face there to space here, isn’t it now, with eyes closed, sensation there to space here? Your being has no boundaries. You are the edgeless space in which body sensations happen.

Pay attention to mental activity – to your thoughts and feelings.

Where are they?

Are they inside something? Or are they inside awareness?

Are they central to you, or are they peripheral?

Do they leave any trace when they have gone? Don’t they come and go on the screen of awareness, just as sounds and sensations come and go, leaving no trace?

We identify with our minds, believing we are our thoughts and feelings. Is your mind contained within anything? Are you contained within anything? 

Think of the name of a city.

Did you know what that name was going to be before you thought it? Where did it come from? Where did it happen? Where did it go?

Think of a planet. A friend. A country. Are these thoughts happening inside any kind of container, or are they happening in the boundless space of awareness?

I find no origin, no container, no destination. For me they emerge out of nowhere – out of my undefinable being – without preview, without effort, and they dissolve back into this ‘nothingness’, leaving no mark on this ‘nothingness’.

Imagine the colour blue. Now the colour orange. Now the shape of a triangle. How do you do that?

I have no idea how I do it. These things appear as if by magic.

How creative this no-thingness is, this no-mind as some Zen Buddhists call it. Without effort thoughts and images emerge from nowhere, without preview, without my knowing how I do it.

Be aware of what you are feeling.

Remember how you were feeling earlier in the day. Or yesterday. The flow of feeling is changing all the time.

Are your feelings central to you? Do your feelings leave any marks on awareness? Do difficult experiences traumatise space?

Not in my experience. Where are my feelings? I find no container here. My mind is at large in the universe.

Quotations from Douglas Harding

The trouble with the mind is its supposed abstraction from the world, its supposed imprisonment, its supposed condensation into a nuclear thing here. The mind goes wrong by misapprehending where it is and to whom it belongs. (1977 Interview)

I am truly broad-minded to the degree that my mind, let go of, alights on and merges with and irradiates the whole scene. There it comes into its own. To be opinionated, narrow-minded, under pressure, depressed, repressed – all such diseases of the mind arise from its displacement and resulting compression. Given back to the world, returned to where it came from, it expands and recovers. At large again, it is infinitely large and generous. (Look For Yourself)

All the complexes and problems of the mind arise from its overcrowding and congestion. The cure isn't to reform it but just let it go where it wants to go. We are now letting it go where it belongs. A tremendous relief! It is not perfecting the mind, because the mind is imperfect in every way. Still one experiences sadness and confusion and anxiety, pain, as well as positive feelings. But they are seen as characterising the world and not as personal hang-ups. This relocation helps a lot, but is no recipe for continuous happiness or any kind of perfection where happiness and perfection don't belong. Only at Centre are you All Right! (1977 Interview)

Continue with another experiment

Quotations

God is the Hearer, and it is by attributing this faculty unto thyself that thou art deaf. Thou hast become blind through attributing sight unto thyself. When He is thy hearing and thy sight, then wilt thou hear only Him and see only Him. Ibn Ashir

To prove your mind is the Buddha mind, notice how all I say here goes into you without your missing a single thing, even though I don't try to push it into you. The Buddha mind is ten thousand times clearer than a mirror, and more inexpressibly marvelous. Bankei

This brightness is so great that the loving contemplative, in the ground wherein he rests, sees and feels nothing but an incomprehensible Light; and through that Simple Nudity which enfolds all things, he finds himself, and feels himself, to be that same Light by which he sees, and nothing else. Ruysbroeck

Of inconceivable power am I; without eyes I see; without ears I hear. Kaivalya Upanishad

How can there be perception when we are confronted by nothing at all? The nature of perception being eternal, we go on perceiving whether objects are present or not. Thereby we come to understand that, whereas objects naturally appear and disappear, the nature of seeing does neither of these things; and it is the same with your other senses. The nature of hearing being eternal, we continue to hear whether sounds are present or not. If that is so, who or what is the hearer? It is your own Nature which hears. Hui-hai

Perception that there is nothing to perceive - that is Nirvana, also known as deliverance. Surangama Sutra

You are like a mirage in the desert, which the thirsty man thinks is water; but when he comes up to it he finds it is nothing. And where he thought it was, there he finds God. Similarly, if you were to examine yourself, you would find it to be nothing, and instead you would find God. That is to say, you would find God instead of yourself, and there would be nothing left of you but a name without a form. Al-Alawi

As rivers lose name and shape in the sea, wise men lose name and shape in God, glittering beyond all distance. Mundaka Upanishad

The notion that a man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do by… melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid. Blake

The outward and the inward man are as different as earth and heaven. Eckhart

Jesus said: What I now seem to be, that am I not… And so speak I, separating off the manhood. Acts of John

Not to know is profound; to know is shallow. Not to know is internal; to know is external. Chuang-tzu

Rejoicing in nothing and knowing nothing are the true rejoicing and the true knowledge. Lao-tzu

Only have no mind of any kind, and this is known as undefiled knowledge. Huang-po

If he had any discriminating mind, do you think he could discriminate anything? Shen-hui

The understanding, the memory and the will are in a fearful void, in nothingness. Love this immense void. Love this nothingness since the infinitude of God is in it. De Caussade

That thou mayest have pleasure in everything, seek pleasure in nothing. That thou mayest know everything, seek to know nothing. That thou mayest possess all things, seek to possess nothing. St. John of the Cross

Those who know Him most perfectly perceive most clearly that He is perfectly incomprehensible. St. John of the Cross

Nothing can be more simple than God, either in reality or in our way of understanding. St. Thomas Aquinas

When the Self is seen, heard, thought of, known, everything is known. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

All-knowledge is what constitutes the essence of Buddhahood. It does not mean that the Buddha knows every individual thing, but that he has grasped the fundamental principle of existence and that he has penetrated deep down into the centre of his own bring. D.T. Suzuki

If I knew myself as intimately as I ought, I should have perfect knowledge of all creatures. Eckhart

If you pass beyond form, O friends, it is Paradise and rose-gardens within rose-gardens.
When thou hast broken and destroyed thine own form, thou hast learned to break the form of everything. Rumi

Continue with another experiment

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