A Shift Into Enlightenment

color equals seeing

I think there were two factors that were paramount to my awakening. First, I spent a lot of time contemplating that color equals seeing, and that sound equals hearing; that thoughts equal thinking and smells equal smelling. I did that every spare moment – checking my experience, confirming that the apparent colors I saw, in fact, were nothing other than seeing, and that the body sensations I felt were nothing other than feeling.

I confirmed to myself over and over, not the inseparability of knowing and known, but the total lack of a ‘known’ altogether.

That’s worth saying again: Over and over, I confirmed to myself the total absence of a ‘known’ altogether.

You don’t see a dog. You’re seeing dogly. There’s no known – there’s just knowing.

I did that for months.

The second thing I did was to pierce through the veil of conceptualization. At least that’s how I like to think of it.

In attempting to induce an awakening, I think that it can be helpful to view ordinary experience in terms of two layers – namely, raw sensory data on top of which there’s another layer of conceptuality. Now, of course, such division is never actually present in our direct experience, but to artificially divide experience in this way can be useful in this kind of endeavor.

The key is to notice that you’re nearly always focused on merely the conceptual aspect of experience. That is, when looking at something, your perceptual focus is on what it is—conceptually—rather then the raw sensory data substratum upon which the concept is based. In other words, looking at a coffee cup, one is mostly focused on its coffee cup-ness (and thus its objectness), rather than the actual colors (which, again, are nothing but seeing) that make up one’s experience of it. Awakening happens when this veil of conceptuality is pierced. That’s when the shift occurs.

Again, I wanna emphasize that I don’t mean to say that there’s an actual veil over experience – just that I think it’s helpful to view experience in such a way in order to guide one’s attention to this raw aspect of experiencing, which I believe is what allows for a shift to occur.

I remember when I started experimenting with this. I used to take an ordinary object, such as a coffee cup, and just look at it very intently – trying to really see the colors that made up its existence in my field of view. And when I did this I would sometimes enter a kind of super-focused state wherein I suddenly could see the colors very, very clearly. And if I kept that kind of concentration for a few seconds I would sometimes experience a shift where the sense of being a subject that’s observing an object, suddenly would collapse into just pure seeing.

The first time that happened, I finally knew what everybody had been talking about – what phrases such as non-dual awareness, enlightenment and sat-chit-ananda actually meant. But then, after a few minutes, I reverted back to ordinary perception. But I could now pretty much enter this super-focused state at will, which would most often induce another shift. Eventually I started to spontaneously shift in and out of non-dual awareness during the day, and after about six months of shifting back and forth, it finally settled into an abiding non-dual awareness that hasn’t left since.

So, that’s what I suggest – to look at ordinary objects very intently, similarly to how one does when trying to read a license plate on a car from far away. In trying to read that license plate, one must concentrate and really try to see, which is very similar to the type of effort required in this excercise. You know you’re doing it right when you suddenly start to see the colors ‘clearly’ – at which point you just keep your attention there and keep your fingers crossed until you shift.

Further reading:

34 Responses to A Shift Into Enlightenment

  1. Joseph Brindley says:

    Goran: Thanks for the advice. Papa Joe

  2. Michael says:

    Hello, Göran:

    Thank you so much for this site and your book! I’ve been consuming and digesting both as of late and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. For half a year now I’ve been gorging on nonduality books, and I your voice has proved the by far the most helpful. It’s clear, philosophical, does not rely on suffering, doesn’t turn away from thinking, and is carefull to avoid paradox. For the first time I’ve got the sense that this really can happen to me. The fact that you have young children (like me), and an appoach that is almost all reason, with a focus on perception, appeals to me beyond measure (as these have seemed like stumbling blocks elsewhere). My other reading has lead to a massive collection of questions, almost all of which you’ve answered in one place or another.

    This latest post is most helpful. But I do have a question. Since reading your book I have, indeed, been doing a lot of staring at coffee mugs. [Often with one eye: helps take the dimension out of it.] Sometimes it seems that I begin to see more of just color, less of the concept. Part of this seeing is the top, or opening, of the mug. According to visual perception alone, there’s no reason to think this opening is there (in fact you can imagine that the colors that appear there are a solid “cap” to that opening). Memory and concept alone tell me that the mug is empty. But, of course, when I stick my finger in it, the opening is always just that. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. One the one hand it seems like a kind of cosmic coincidence that conciousness plays, lining up the senses (in this case the visual and the tactile) so that space, time, and the separatness of objects seem real. On the other hand it seems like there’s some kind of statistical learning going on. Yes, maybe one day I’ll try to stick my finger in and it won’t go in. But after so many successes it’s hard for the mind not to think it’s right about the assumed emptiness.

    Or maybe I’m just on the wrong track.

    I’m not on facebook, or I’d post things there.

    Thanks again!

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Your question boils down to: Why do appearances appear the way they do?

      But any explanation as to why appearances appear the way they do necessarily presupposes an objective reality. A “why-question” is essentially a demand for an account of how something came about in terms of cause and effect; but there are no causes and no effects if there’s no objective reality. In other words, “why-questions” aren’t valid to begin with, since the objective reality they presuppose simply isn’t there.

      There’s no doubt that there’s the illusion of an external world. There’s the commonality between the senses and the bike is still in the garage in the morning. But think about it – if this ‘structure’ of experience weren’t in play; if there were total chaos and incoherence we’d still ask WHY things are the way they are. It wouldn’t make any more sense if things were chaotic. We could still demand an explanation for why things appear the way they do – but the resonse would be the same: Why-questions aren’t valid when there’s no objective reality.

    • If I can chime in on this one: I think what Michael is getting at is simply the sensory basis upon which the concept ‘mug’ is constructed. It’s not that the senses ‘line up’ to give the illusion of an separate mug-object, it’s rather that certain sensory experiences consistently cluster together such that I can predict that when I see the colors my mind associates with ‘mug’, sticking a finger toward the top of this ‘object’ will result in encountering no resistance (i.e. emptiness) and touching the side will result in the touch-experiences ‘hard’ and ‘smooth’. So because these sense-experiences consistently cluster together, and because I can easily move the apparent object ‘mug’ against its background, my mind finds it plausible to believe in ‘separate object called mug’.

      But to say that the senses ‘line up’ to make the object seem real, like a kind of conspiracy of consciousness, is a Panglossian inversion of what’s actually happening.

  3. nancy sutton says:

    Thanks for sharing your ‘spiritual practice’… there are so many, and I don’t think we can have too many of them, considering the ‘infinite variety’ of Consciousness. All leading to the same thing? the ‘realization’ of … the ultimate/only/One reality. It would be interesting to make a list of the many names that the many teachers have used for It 🙂

  4. Cool1 says:

    Dear Goran:

    As you may know from my posts elsewhere, I have found your book and website to be very helpful!

    Most recently I have combined the technique you discuss, focusing on the perceiving of color, sound and feeling with the Kiloby-style question: Where is the “I”? This has consistently proven to cut through the attachments of the moment. As it becomes apparent there is no I and there is nothing beyond perceiving, a space opens up.

    I appreciate your efforts!


  5. Michael E Walker says:

    I love your posts, Göran — think you’re absolutely brilliant. I completely resonate with all that your say!

  6. Tatiana says:

    Thanks for your awakening treasures, dear Goran.

  7. Just another actor says:

    Intently staring at coffee cups and doing mental gymnastics with adverbs is a a lot of fun and all, but I’m going to call bullshit on this as some kind of a sure-fire path to enlightenment. This is the mind creating a new kind of a mental state that you then objectify as an ‘enlightened state’. But it’s only a mental state. Just like millions of other mental states that the mind is capable of producing. Practicing this technique may be helpful, but I suspect for most will only solidify the grip of the ‘doer’ myth and strengthen one’s entanglement in the Maya. This is a clever mental strategy, and as such, will produce an elaborate and diffuse kind of suffering, but suffering none the less.

    • david johnson says:

      it did occurr to m that there is definitely the danger that people will read this, like myself, and start ‘practicing’ staring at coffee cups, for a certain amount of time per day, waiting for that magic moment to happen…it may work though 🙂

    • Ricardo Leclaire says:

      So what do you propose instead?

    • Just another actor says:

      Ricardo Leclaire: I propose questioning everything, including the questioner. Question all mental states and all concepts. Question everything that arises. Once the questions stop, you’re done.

  8. Susitha says:

    Thank you Goran, this is very encouraging.

  9. Tanapong says:

    I just trying to practice seeing dogly. Sometimes there is only seeing. But sometimes, there is a feeling of “I see.” Then a insight comes. What actually happened was not “I see” but experiencing I-ly. There is no I that experience anything.

  10. Mara says:

    This is deep deep understanding…very close to th ultimate truth if not the ultimate truth..
    There is no perceiver…there is only perceiving is what I think you are saying and this makes complete sense..I’d love to know the name of your book and your website…Gracefiore@aol,com

  11. Fabrice says:

    This is kinda reassuring…

    I often feel this sense of quiet when looking at things. After reading on non duality a couple years ago I spent a lot of time “just looking”. I think I experienced one of those “non dual seeing” exactly as you describe, just intently looking at something. It lasted only a second or so, and I remember that a doubt settled in very quickly. It was as if my mind said “it can’t be all there is because of this thought”.. Maybe there was still a duality of senses vs mind.

    But there were afterwards many confusing moments. I remember being at a friend’s place at night looking at the bookcase, and all the little symbols became meaningless and it was as if I was looking at a world that was still physical, but with just a layer of meaning removed from it. A world made of meaningless “stuff”, but still there was “stuff” which I appeared to be looking at. It was freeing a little bit, it was fun, but it seemed to lead nowhere.

    Other times, it was a bit scary. After reading George Berkeley’s “Dialogues” (idealism), I spent a lot of time with perceptions, and came to a point where I felt I was all alone. I felt like nothing existed beyond the walls of my room. It could have been floating in space for all that I know. And yet it does seem to concur with what you are seeing: the sky was just an expanse of color. The universe just images in a book, or words.

    Ever since I feel like a kind of fog. Yet it seemed to be in the right direction. I remember that there was a sense of quiet underlying everything. Even outside, with the cars passing by and all the noise, there was a sense that everything was quiet.

    Have you been through a sort of meaninglessness phase?

    It’s so confusing that it makes it difficult to stay motivated in this search. For example as I write this, it feels as though I imagine you (the author of this blog) potentially reading this, yet I also feel it is just a projection (which it clearly is right now), and so it feels as though it is in vain. Do you exist? I don’t know, because if I go by my perceptions alone, there is no Göran Backlund anywhere.

    It’s very frustrating because I still find the “idealist” view (ie. all is perception) to be fascinating, but somehow this meaninglessness cut my motivation.

    • ilka says:

      Instead of putting it the way ‘I’m alone’, it helped me when Hermann Lehner told me: ‘All this is you, you are every little bit of what exists’. This made it less sad and demotivating for me. It allowed me to not stand in fog, but lovingly ‘relate’ to whatever perception occurred. If there is nothing but me, there is also nothing to achieve and no-one whom I have to prove anything. Everything is already done.
      My biggest shift of perception happened when I found http://www.headless.org and did the experiments in the 8 little videos on the website – perhaps those might also be helpful for you. Moreover, they offer a vivid exchange on their facebook group and also on regular and frequent google+ meetings, very nourishing for motivation.
      I don’t yet abide in nondual consciousness – I’m still sorting things out!
      You’ve found the all-pervading silence – congratulations – isn’t it absolutely astonishing how the world seems the same to all of us? (All of us who don’t exist, of course ;))

  12. Nikolay says:

    I have read your work in translation “Refutation idea of the existence of the external world.” I thought, this is one of the few concise, clear, relevant and affordable books from the read me.
    Thank U! Nicholas. St. Petersburg, Russia

  13. George says:

    Hi. Enjoyed reading your book but you don’t seem to go much beyond the insight that all experience arises within awareness – i.e. that there is no spatially-extended world “outside of experience” somewhere. But isn’t that just the first step?

    Without then exploring that nature of the habits of the world, the “formatting of the dream”, surely you are stopping short?

    You’ve noted the nature of appearances (awareness taking on their “shape”), and that the facts-of-the-world are not laid out as sensory extensions unless attended to, but you’ve then just accepted them without further investigation. Aren’t you tempted to tinker and experiment a little to see what can be done? 😉

    For instance, you might discover that your experience contains more than imaging, hearing, texturing – there is also a background “felt-sense” in which that which is outwith sensory attention is dissolved. A background from which experiential information is/can be sensorily unpacked…

    In fact, “attention” is something you don’t seem to have explored at all…

    I found your aggressive style quite fun to read; I’d really like to see you go the whole distance with this!

  14. Tim says:

    This line of your text is actually what I’ve done my whole life now:

    “And if I kept that kind of concentration for a few seconds I would sometimes experience a shift where the sense of being a subject that’s observing an object, suddenly would collapse into just pure seeing.”

    And all those years, I tried really hard to fit into the boring, normal world…and now I realize, it’s just impossible and would be dumb to change the nature of my being.

    Now I accept it, and this is also the reason why I took all my former blog posts offline. Everything is said in other books and on other pages already.
    I will somehow walk through the world and point just to the right ressources.
    If you like to translate your book into German, as I am originally from Germany, I would love to do it.

    Thanks for your work, and by the way, this is one of maybe five articles I’ve commented on in a year or so.

    Everything is wonderful, amazing and exciting 🙂


  15. Jim Mooney says:

    I would say it’s dual/nondual awareness, otherwise you wouldn’t know to put coffee in the cup ;’)

  16. Javi Gomez says:


    It is me again. I am not pretty far in awakening. I see that there is an awareness ‘seein’g what is happening. I want to know what you know, which is the collapse of the subject and object into only awareness without the world/object. IN this article you said this: ‘ I would sometimes experience a shift where the sense of being a subject that’s observing an object, suddenly would collapse into just pure seeing.’
    So seeing equals awareness, right? cause in my experience all that I am aware of is seeing, hearing, smelling thinking, feeling etc. I see that I see. I see that I ahear. I see that feelings arise spontaneously. I see that thoughts arise spontaneously. BUt I am in 2 man land. Awareness and the seeing/ heaaring, felt, smelled, thoughts off things.

    any advice?

    you seem to be the only one on google that really can help me out. I will do the focusing on the colors of objects intensively.


    • Göran Backlund says:

      Yes, seeing equals awareness. The sense that there’s awareness of seeing is the very division that you want to overcome. That kind of division leaves awareness on one side, and the object of awareness on the other (whether that object is ‘seeing’ as such, or physical object, or subtle object such as a thought). How to do it? Focusing on colors is the best thing I’ve come up with so far.

  17. Javi Gomez says:

    I am confused. I am reading 3 books on uncovering reality as I am a zen student. I understand that colors outthere is ´I see colors´ and music coming out of speakers is ´I hear music out of speakers´. Same. Here is the difficulty. The I (that sees and hears) has now vanished into color and sound. Good. I see that in zazen zen when I don´t make anything. The difficulty is how an I that doesn´t exist can become the sound and tree or color? The subject is now gone, leaving the object alone, but I am not the object as there is no I. HELP me, pelase, goran!

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Being everything and being nothing amounts to the exact same thing, metaphysically speaking. It’s just that one is advaita lingo and the other Buddhist.

  18. Oge says:

    Hey Goran, I thought I’d reply here instead of over email so future visitors can read replies too.

    This post and your book have been the most interesting for me. I had never seen someone describe that coffee cup thing before. I would like to get into a bit more detail on it if I may.

    I would like to test if this aligns with your experience, or whether we’re on different frequencies — I’m doing this in practical language, not using “non dual” etc. because those are only helpful to insiders:
    – I had that feeling for the first time when on psychedelics, but then realized I could still do it when reading a particular book. Now after some training I can get that superfocus feeling very easily with certain objects, mostly ones that are closer are easiest. I am struggling more with a blank wall or the sky.
    – First time it happened I was a bit more afraid, but still it is a relatively subtle effect, really it’s just ‘sharp seeing’, it’s just like there’s the field of focus, and I’m focused on 1 point. It feels a bit zoned out but sharp at the same time
    – Also if I found out that, if I want to, I can think of a sentence and the superfocus doesn’t fully disappear, it just adds another layer to it, as if there is a narrator talking over the plane of focus
    – But then the core of my question: there doesn’t seem to be much more fireworks to it. This effect definitely isn’t a Wow-effect. It’s more a so-what effect. (Btw this is also a response some inexperienced people have to the 8 abovementioned visual pointing exercises of Lang / Harding). I can keep it for a few minutes maybe, it requires effort, but it’s never like there’s something beyond that happening. If there really is a ‘shift’ beyond just this seeing, could you describe that in as much detail as possible, in earthly language if possible? Is that coming suddenly like a lightning strike or gradually? Or alternatively, is that seeing effect everything to this, and should I try to deepen it, as opposed to saying so-what to it?

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