Learn to enter a state of experience-focused perception at will.
As I describe in my article Seven Stages of Spiritual Insight, the fourth stage of insight practice (inverting experience and reality) involves cultivating a new way of perceiving phenomena: experience-focused perception. Alternating between concept-focused and experience-focused perception can be a helpful practice for distinguishing these modes of perception and for building your capacity to enter a state of experience-focused perception at will. This article walks you through an example of how to do this.
- First, invoke concept-focused perception by focusing on objects in reality (for instance, nearby tables and chairs). Notice how you seem to be looking right at reality.
- Now, to switch to experience-focused perception, notice the subjective experiences associated with what you’re looking at. Notice how what you’re looking at is nothing other than subjective experience. Now, you don’t see reality at all; you just see subjective experience. Where did reality go?
- Now, try to see both subjective experience and reality at the same time. For me, when I try to do this, I imagine a ghostly reality that somehow corresponds to my subjective experience. Where is this reality? The subjective experience is clearly right there, but I don’t know where reality is.
- Now, switch back to concept-focused perception. Forget about subjective experience and just notice reality again. Notice how your perception loses some vividness as you return to perceiving subjective experience as just a means to an end (if you perceive it at all). Notice the neat magic trick that you do to perceive reality: concept-focused perception automatically takes your worldview and uses it to translate subjective experience into a conceptual understanding of reality—automatically, involuntarily and unconsciously.
Practice switching between concept-focused and experience-focused perception until you can do so at will.