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:

29 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. Göran Backlund says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for commenting. If you read around on the site and my book you’ll see that we’re in complete agreement. It’s the difficulty of conveying this in language that prompts your objections, not confusion on my part regarding the nature of reality. Also, check out my group on facebook wherein I’ve had the chance to clarify in greater detail. Refuting The External World Facebook Group

  17. Göran Backlund says:

    Of course, I could never know if it’s the ‘final thing’, how could I? All I can say is that, on the deepest level, I feel completely ‘Done’, as Jed McKenna would put it.

    And having an objective criteria for enlightenment woud be futile, as enlightenment by its nature is subjective, and widely known as being pretty indescribable.

    But, I could easily see how, what I call non-dual awareness, just as well could be called a ‘perceptionless state’, ‘contentless consciousness’, absolute nothingness, etc – although that, from the perspective of ordinary dualistic perception, sound a lot like there’s just a complete blank, phenomenally speaking. I think that if you asked those guys straight up, “Do you mean a complete blankness,” they would say “no”. They’d say that the field of awareness is rather revealed to be a field of no-thingness; and that ‘contentless’ just means that phenomena isn’t objectified into descreet objects, with a relation to their subject; and that perceptionless simply means that ‘perceptions’ as such are kind of a meaningless term when there’s no perceiver taking them in – as when there’s no ‘receiver’, there can be nothing ‘received’.

    As for the identity issue, then yes, I express an identity. That’s just how the dream unfolds, and as I’ve said before, “An awakening entails that you no longer experience yourself as a subject – not necessarily that the expressions of the dreamstate must unfold in an ego-less fashion. ” (http://www.uncoveringlife.com/questions-answers/)

    In my book, the criteria for whether you have awakened or not has nothing to do with how you act, but whether you perceive dualistically or not.

  18. Göran Backlund says:

    Yes, I pretty much agree with all of that. Well put.

  19. George says:

    Well, that’s fair enough I’d say.

    Any dream content is of the same illusory form, and that doesn’t just mean objects and the like. Absolutely everything.

    Stepping back/around/out of the dream, disconnecting from the dream, changing your perspective to the dreamer – there’s no good way to say it. But anything that arises as an experience of any sort within awareness is immediately a fabrication. Whatever’s left, the not-even-nothingness of being-aware, is all that is.

  20. George says:

    Yeah, sure, not a fabrication – just an imagination, with nothing behind it and nothing it refers to.

    And any experience at all is an imagining, that’s what content it. Which is why there is no nondual perspective – and why for as long as there is any experience at all, you are not just open awareness. Rather, you are ‘taking on the shape of’ something, becoming that something.

    Hypocrisy comes with the territory.

    However – powerless? Not so sure.

  21. George says:

    So, basically what I think – but more mangled and longer. ;-)

  22. Neerav Trivedi says:

    Hi Mark,

    The collection is neither “possible” nor “impossible”…….it simply just is, known as “Suchness” or “Thusness” in Buddhism, in particular, Zen Buddhism. Try to see things without the conceptual overlays of “possible” and “impossible” and see what happens. Namaste!

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