Experiment: A Sense of Embedding

Background: What question or issue motivates this experiment?

This is copied from Piet's chapter 13.

Each moment we are free. There is nothing that binds us. There may be the appearance of a story that has tremendous momentum, but the whole story together with its semblance of momentum is all given in the snapshot of the moment. If we seem totally caught in the story, caught up in it, or even caught by it, all of that is part of the meaning conveyed by the content of the snapshot. The same is true for our sense of identity, our identification with the role we play in the story.

Description: What should experimenters do?

(Also copied from Piet's chapter 13)

Sit quietly for a few minutes, and then go back to the null experiment of chapter 8: `do nothing.' While watching what comes up in your mind, in the form of thoughts or feelings, images, memories, and so on, gently shift your attention away from what comes up to the fact that it comes up and then disappears again.

We normally view ourselves to be part of a time continuum, with the present moment preceded by a long personal history and an even much longer history of the universe. Similarly, we lean into a future that stretches out in front of us, from the next moment to our far future plans to an even further future time when we won't be here any more.

Notice how this sense of being embedded in a time continuum is something that comes as part of the snapshot of the current moment. If this snapshot would be all there is, we would still have the same vivid sense of being bound up in time. Experiment with switching from the story contained in the snapshot to the presence of the snapshot, as a snapshot.

It is good to start with short sessions, perhaps one or two minutes, up to five minutes. After a while, you can make them longer. As before, be careful to take notes after each session. If you do this a few times a day, for a total of a week, it will be interesting to look back through your notes, to see how new insights and news facets of the experiments have come up, and how that has shifted your understanding of the present.

Lab reports

I have been having fun with the snapshot exercise lately. This is where you consider everything as existing right now with an infinite series of past and future nows, all part of the same now. It takes me a moment to relax into it, and then it all seems so tremendously funny and disorienting that I know I am doing something (thinking back to Piet's comment that feeling happy is an indication that something slightly out of the ordinary is going on). I can do this pretty reliably now, and it continues to be very funny when all the sudden RIGHT NOW is so vivid and swollen up with memories of recent nows feeling just as vivid but looking, feeling, sounding (content-wise) so very different.

It is a little hard to explain, but this NOW seems sort of fat, as it is not at all still, but not moving (sheeesh, I am starting to appreciate why so many accounts of this sort sound so incoherent). As I pay close attention the visual details stand out in a kind of brilliance that doesn't involve light shining, but what's really fun is the quality of sound. Although I wouldn't say that sound, music or street noise or whatever, actually slows down, there is this space in it that seemed all compressed before, as if I could get inside of it, but in a different way from the way you would just hear the space between two different notes.

I have found that a fun way to get into this fat space is to look at something, paying attention to as much experience as possible a la the snapshot description, and then quickly turn my head to look at something else and do the same thing. Pay attention to where the experience of the first something "goes." Try it now!

I find this fun because if you pay attention to the experience in the one snapshot, and then fill up the immediate experience with something else, that previous one is still "there," still so very available, and yet it's become a ghost hanging on to the current snapshot. I can look back and see that it's still there, except now it's been multiplied, as if I had a stack of photo prints with doubles mixed in. For me, I always start giggling a little bit when I start gathering all the different times that I have done this experiment together in the same fat now.

-- JL – October 2, 2004

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