Exapanding to Include the Experiencer

(The background to this report – which I fear is too long – is that I have a chronic illness, and my body is almost always in pain. Only in some meditative states do I get relief from the pain. I’ve had this for more than a decade, so it’s no big deal. But, here it has woken me, sometime after midnight, and so I am listening to the Class 1 mp3, again.)

Taking up the suggestion of expanding ‘experiencing’ in some way, I lay there in the night and I wondered: “What might I expand that I don’t usually practice expanding?” Certainly, I could have expanded the senses, but I usually do that. At first I couldn’t think of anything new, something not normally offered up for expansion, and then I realized that this question itself had opened up  ‘experiencing.’  The curiosity about what to expand, a kind of silent questing for a something, was itself an expansion. How lovely!

After a while, it came to me: “I can expand the sense itself of being an experiencer.” So, for a while I did that –  I actively included the ‘experiencer’ of whatever was presenting. This had a marked effect,  and for a while I didn’t have any words for the change. So, I just did it anyway, every-so-often noticing the new quality. Then, the phrase ‘a stopping‘ popped into awareness. Not a ‘stoppage,’ which would (for me, in this moment) be a deadening. This ‘stopping’ was a freeing up.

Let me invite that again, as I write to you… (I have been remembering to include the experiencer, as I write… which makes a difference to the process of writing…. )
I’m checking the body’s experience of this ‘stopping.’ It’s, at the same time, an inclusion….

Is it an inclusion of being the experiencer of it all? No, that’s not it. (I know because my body remains unmoved.) It’s more like… it’s an inclusion of… the ‘more-than-known.’ Let me check that. There’s a stopping, right? My body agrees. And, that’s an availability to the ‘more’? Yes. Where leaving out is inclusion.

An exercise I used to do regularly, comes to mind (from Paul Reps little ‘Zen Bones’ book), which is something like… “Wherever attention alights, there…”  This ‘space’ that comes from the inclusion of the experiencer has the quality of that ‘there.’ No longer putting the experiencer on the outside, there’s that (….), which includes availability for the ‘more than known.’
Amazement. Exactly this stopping reveals a spaciousness that is naturally an opening of a different kind of knowing, and, despite its silence, it’s definitely is not static. Its aliveness might be said to be a species of ‘inquiry.’  I also notice that it has a quality that is unique, precisely related to the entry question. Oh, how sweet is that!
In the writing, new things are coming about it. But, at the time, I enjoyed lying there appreciating the ‘stopping,’ way beyond the end of the class1 mp3, in the expanded silence and intimacy of bedclothes and breathing.
After a while, I began to refine the inclusion of the experiencer. I narrowed down to being an experiencer of bodily pain. With that, the relief that arose showed something more about the ‘stopping.’ The relief from resisting the pain (which I had been doing unaware) was an instance of that ‘stopping’ thing. So, it was clear that it was (and is) the stopping of taking a “position” about experiencing. (In this case, the position was: “I don’t want this.”)
I thought I better write this down. And now, back to… sleep, perchance to not dream, but, to quest silently.

About Christopher

I first read TSK in 1978, and have enjoyed exploring Rinpoche's (printed) work ever since. I'm an insight meditation teacher in Sydney, Australia, and I live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. I'm also a psychotherapist and a Focusing trainer (Gendlin).
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4 Responses to Exapanding to Include the Experiencer

  1. Soudabeh says:

    Thank you Christopher for your post. And your pricise response to Michael’s questions. I appreciate reading and learning from them.

  2. michaelg says:

    Peter, I hope you got some rest eventually. I wonder where the “stopping” you experienced was situated, and why it opened up a sense of relief, inclusion and amazement. By allowing the sense of being the experiencer to expand, did that crowd out your need to focus on discomfort? Did your awareness rise beyond mind’s insistence on interpreting sensations as painful? Did accepting your experience as worthy of expansion puncture the narrow mental space in which the thought of avoiding experience was the only one allowed ?

    • Christopher says:

      >>I hope you got some rest eventually.
      Thanks for your kindness. Being tired when I wrote the post, I didn’t put my name to it – it was Christopher.

      >>I wonder where the “stopping” you experienced was situated, and why it opened up a sense of relief, inclusion and amazement.

      Several strands in this, I think. 1) Let’s see… stopping is situated? As I invite the experience, again, now, it seems to me that ‘stopping’ doesn’t have location. What has stopped is the creation of some kinds of boundedness.

      2) The specific relief was from the cessation of resistance, which is an effort; and, in this case, had been an unconscious efforting. (Now, I think I could say that the relief was ‘situated,’ in that I could feel it in my body.)

      3) Inclusion. Again, if I check in, the falling away of boundedness makes available so much (richness, dynamics, love, presence, etc) that was implicitly there, but now accessible. This ‘accessible’ is what I meant by ‘inclusion.’ Boundedness drops away, and there’s room for bigger experience.

      4) I was amazed. Let’s see. Maybe a better word would be… wonderment. That’s better. It’s awesome, that what appears as nothing findable (boundlessness) is presenting so much richness.

      >>By allowing the sense of being the experiencer to expand, did that crowd out your need to focus on discomfort?

      No, it de-emphasized location-assigning anything, including for the discomfort.

      >>Did your awareness rise beyond mind’s insistence on interpreting sensations as painful?

      Yes, if I had looked at it that way, at the time, I’d have to say that ‘awareness’ wasn’t interpreting, because resistance was a type of interpreting, or they dropped away together.

      >>Did accepting your experience as worthy of expansion puncture the narrow mental space in which the thought of avoiding experience was the only one allowed ?

      If I understand your question correctly, Michael, I do think that what I did, while very close to what you’ve said here ( ‘accepting your experience’) was actually subtly different. I accepted the ‘experiencer’ as worth of expansion.

      Now, did that action puncture something? I wouldn’t use the word puncture, because the opening ‘to’ boundlessness was smooth. I might say ‘boundlessness came into view.’ So, it was more like a dissolving.

      I don’ t know if I’m still in the territory of your question, but if I am, it’d be: Did accepting the experiencer as worthy of expansion dissolve the narrow mental space? Hmm.. let’s see…

      As I remember it, between my initial invitation to expand the experiencer and the recognition of the ‘resistance’ to pain there were several intermediate processes, dropping down layer by layer. So the question doesn’t work for me, because answering it would leave out what happened on the way to the dissolution of the resistance, and each of those layers were something in themselves. Further, answering the question would also seem to suggest that I was aiming for relief from the pain. I wasn’t aiming for that, or anything, of course. All I was doing was seeing what would happen, next, and next, if I stayed for this bit, and this bit, and this bit – inquiring at each turn, each layer. What did the poet Stanley Kunitz say, in his poem ‘Layers’?

      “Live in the layers,
      not on the litter.”

      So, the relief turned up as a pleasant, but unintended, consequence of doing the exercise offered to us by Jack.

      Thanks for your thoughtful questions, Michael.

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