"I am this flesh and blood body" vs anatta

I had a conversation with Claudiu on another forum, and he suggested moving here; therefore I copy my original question about the notion of “I am this flesh and blood body only” (versus Buddhist no-self):

In order to not make this issue too philosophical or abstract, let’s put it in practical terms: why would the practice of enjoying being alive necessarily depend on being identified with the body? Let’s say I am having a PCE in a beautiful forest - trees, sound of birds, body sensations along with the enjoyment all appearing in experience… If I am really enjoying and appreciating that moment, what is wrong with perceiving the body as not me, why do I need to be identified with it in order to practice Actualism?

We can feel our hand and intentionally create the sense that the hand belongs to “me”, or do the opposite and perceive the hand sensations as a foreign object. It seems obvious to me that our sense of bodily identity is a matter of arbitrary fabrication and not an attribute of supposed objective truth…

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Welcome, Griffin!

I’m glad you brought your questions here, where you can get answers from other practitioners as well, including two actually free persons.


I give you my answer. I don’t want you to take as THE answer; it’s simply based on my experience and also seeks to avoid becoming too philosophical and abstract. Thus, I also want to avoid merely theorizing, i.e., to answer you with other AF quotes on the subject.

So, let me first address this other question of yours:

I have had various PCEs: many for an instant or minutes; quite a few for several or many hours; one for several days.

Except when I am having a PCE, I constantly feel that I am not this flesh and blood body only!

That is to say that even if/when I am really enjoying and appreciating this moment of being alive (i.e. applying the method), if I am not in PCE I feel that I am also something else; I feel that I am really something more than just this body: I feel that I am a someone, that I am an identity, that I am a self/me.

Only if/when I am having a PCE that feeling/sensation disappear. I stop feeling like a somebody, an identity, an I/me. I then perceive myself as something, that is to say, I start to perceive what is left: this body only.

So if I’m having a PCE, there would be nothing wrong (to address your thought) with perceiving the body as not me; it just does not happen because the I/me who usually perceives it as such is deactivated!

So, both things you say here

can be in my experience exactly as you describe them, as long as I am not in a PCE. In a PCE these sensations cannot be created simply because the I/me that can create one or the other is deactivated. So if/when the identity is deactivated, what remains is simply the body perceiving itself.

So, you don’t need to be identified with the body to practice the method. In fact, you will feel identified with the self, with your-self (more precisely, you will feel being that identity, you will feel a self, an I/me) in the same way that happens to me while practicing the method (while enjoying and appreciating!) :smiley:

The question that I think might interest you is why on earth Richard chose as his method “to enjoy and appreciate”, which to many of us at first seemed like nonsense, which can easily be confused with positive psychology, with mere optimism, with just disregarding whatever is unpleasant in life, etc?

What happens by practicing the method is that enjoy and appreciate is the gateway to induce PCEs when accompanied by other elements such as pure intent, etc. This is what happened to me about two weeks after I started the method, when I was still years away from ceasing to long for this identity (that I still feel I am when not in PCEs) to exist forever.

So I assure you that to begin to successfully practice the method (enjoy and appreciate), and even experience PCEs, does not “depend on being identified with the body”.


@Griffin Hi again :metal:

Of course one could enjoy being alive regardless of what one thought of this body or anatta. Millions of people are doing that very thing right this minute - or at least I hope they are :grin: But a pure consciousness experience - the zenith of human enjoyment - is something very specific and really as @Miguel’s post says it really has to be experienced. The revelation that one is this body and its consciousness - and nothing else, comes from the PCE. No amount of thinking or conceptualising can give it to you.

Once you are in a PCE, you yourself can try and see if you can layer an anatta/non-dual experience on top of the PCE. But I’m certain that you would not be able to do so without ‘coming out’ of the PCE.

But until you have a PCE, you can definitely try to intellectually understand the idea of the difference between an idea of human experience rooted in the body vs. the non-dual/anatta ideal where bodily experience is considered an erroneous ‘identification’ or a hallucination caused by some kind of egotistical misperception, just a glitch in the matrix of ultimate reality. But what if ‘matrix’ or ‘ultimate reality’ was simply a glitch in a deluded human body?

That the body is real is clear to anyone who has has burned their finger or cut their arm. No one talks about anatta then. I would say that in a sense actualism follows this logic through to its conclusion. One eventually reaches a point where this flesh and blood body is experienced as a dazzling expression of this material universe.

Even though I had non-dual experiences as.a feeling being they never seemed convincing to me. Yes I could see the logic. I even liked the idea. But I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that it was Mickey Mouse wishful thinking to get me away from my humdrum embodied existence. I would say that seen this way Buddhist anatta can be considered a sleight of hand that has at its core a contempt for material existence.

I’m just lobbing that at you as a thought bomb BTW. Not expecting you to believe it or simply accept any of this. Just mull on it and tell me what you think.


@Miguel @Srinath

Thank you everyone for precise answers.

I have another question also related to comparison between Actualism and Buddhism. What is the difference between Actualist enjoying this moment of being alive and Buddhist cultivation of Samatha in daily life? Let’s use the example of Culadasa’s stage 10 in TMI (sustaining persistent samatha in daily life):

“Practicing mindfulness off the cushion means being aware whenever desire or aversion arise. When that happens, recognize what’s going on: some unconscious sub-minds are in conflict with what is, craving for something to be different. Don’t resist, reject, or suppress the craving. Instead, ignore it. Then, intentionally direct your attention to that inner pleasure and happiness that has nothing to do with what’s occurring externally. Likewise, purposely intend to notice the positive aspects of whatever you perceive. … When we mindfully observe and accept both the situation and our mind’s reaction to it, equanimously and without judgment, then the mind will remain unified.”

This is an excellent question and ripe for comparison between the two systems.

Initially, for grounding, the purpose of ‘enjoying & appreciating this moment of being alive’ is to be as close as a ‘being’ can be to the experience of perfection/PCE/actual freedom. So it is always connected to whatever you have as a connection to PCE (ideally an experiential memory).

This part is essentially the same.

This part is different. The actualism approach would be instead to get back to feeling good, and then to think about what the reasons were for the feelings, take them apart, prod them, until the silliness of feeling that way is clearly seen. It is not productive to rush or fake this step. When something is clearly understood, it is significantly weakened the next time it occurs, or may not occur again at all.

Once some feeling-dynamic has been clearly understood, then (and only then) could one ‘nip it in the bud’ or cut it off without allowing it to play out only further, though I would still characterize this differently than ignoring.

This part is the exact opposite of the actualism approach, as the enjoyment & appreciation of being alive has everything to do with what’s occurring externally… in fact, there is no boundary between the external and the internal, it is all simply happening as it is happening, in this moment. There is no need to direct attention, as the enjoying-appreciating attentiveness is free to go where it will.

In the Pure Consciousness Experience there are no opposites, no good or bad, no negative or positive. As such, to seek out or inflate the positive is only to keep the negative alive… the aim is to exist in the absence of both positive and negative, and reduce them wherever they do appear. With this reduction, space is created for the clarity, pristine nature, and magicality of the actual world to come into view. In fact, actualism is as much about reducing positive ‘being’ as it is reducing negative ‘being.’

Whereas actualism is very much about being attentive to our mind’s reactions to things, taking apart emotional reactions, taking apart ‘being,’ and purposefully getting back to feeling happy & harmless each moment again.


@Griffin what is your preferred definition of mindfulness?

Also are you wishing to …

a) compare a PCE to this Culadasa advice? or
b) compare actualist practice without being in a PCE to this Culadasa advice?

@henryyyyyyyyyy’s intervention spare me some of what I would have said, and at the same time allows me to focus on another difference I have perceived. And taking into account the questions asked by @Srinath, I will compare the actualist practice without being in a PCE to this Culadasa advice.

By the way, I’ll cover with the same answer several of the spiritual and non-spiritual disciplines that I have practiced, which share in my experience similar differences with Culadasa’s advice and AF’s “enjoying and apprecianting every moment of being alive” (I emphasize “in my experience” because I am not relying on the theoretical differences or on the attributional differences -sub-minds, etc.- between these disciplines, but on the pragmatic effect they produced in me about the aspect you are interested in).

A common factor I experienced was that of dissociation/duality (I’m using the terms somewhat loosely) in order to sustain a good state throughout the day (when I was able to do so, of course).

The level of dissociation/duality is what tended to vary with each discipline (in addition, obviously, to the techniques/skills employed by each one to attain that wellness/comfort).

That’s why I find Culadasa’s excerpt very well aligned with what I experienced practicing those disciplines:

Depending on those disciplines, the means to achieve this well-being/comfort could consist of paying attention to heartbeat, breathing, etc.; internally repeating a mantra; activating a certain memory -teaching, prayer, image-; generating positive thoughts about what was being experienced (similar to “purposely intend to notice the positive aspects of whatever you perceive”); etc.

In all cases, the resulting well-being/comfort coexisted to some extent with an underlying unease, with a tension/struggle (however subtle it was) between what was happening (feeling not-good) and what was supposed to happen (feeling good no matter what the circumstances).

So what was ultimately supposed to be achieved was a greater expertise in using those means to feel better and a decrease on my part (the self/ego) in “the craving for something to be different” in the face of “what is” (which would amount to a reduction/weakening of the self/ego itself).

So now follows part (I don’t want to make the answer even longer) of why I felt this dissociation/duality practicing those disciplines.

Could I eliminate the internal conflict and the craving for something to be different, when ultimately what I was doing (“ignore”, “pay attention”, “repeating”, “remembering”, “generating”) were actions that actively and effectively sought to tailor my reactions in order to feel better in the face of “what it was”?

I (the self/ego) was generating a conflict due to craving for something to be different (that a car alarm would cease, for example), but simultaneously I (the self/ego) was working activey to feel different about that (the car alarm), changing my (the self/ego) feelings.

So it was clear that I (the self/ego) was craving to feel different!

What was I supposed to do about this craving that also generated discomfort and conflict? Ignore it? But how could I ignore this craving if, on the contrary, I (the self/ego) was becoming more and more successful in changing what I/it felt thanks to my/its increased expertise using the respective skill? So sometimes I would reapply the techniques to feel better about this craving, but the difficulty was greater and it was easier to deny it…

So in all cases I developed different levels of dissociation/duality to achieve feeling good while not feeling completely good about that feeling, because it not only generated a background of tension but also effort. This is because those techniques tend to base the well-being/comfort on good feelings and not on felicitous feelings (you can look on the AF site about their differences or we can talk about them later) and generating/strengthening good feelings to feel good is inevitably accompanied by bad feelings, so my well-being/comfort was subject to inevitable fluctuations.

That’s why I also find that statements like this are well aligned with the dissociation/duality I felt practicing those disciplines:

In what way I (the self/ego) was accepting the situations (what it was) when in fact I/it was becoming more and more expert at changing how I/it felt about those situations?

Didn’t that expertise succeed in separate/isolate me/it more and more from what it was?

And this growing ability to feel good, in what way weakened the self/ego? Didn’t it actually strengthen it…?

Of course, in most of these disciplines these conflicts were dealt with by attributing to a superior spirit/soul the improvement in these skills; and attributing to this spirit/soul making me feel better by operating on and weakening the ego/self more and more.

When I experimented with AF and managed to feel good/very good/excellent and reach PCEs (basically applying the differences with respect to Culadasa pointed out by @henryyyyyyyyyy -facing the craving instead of ignoring/dismiss it, etc.-) without then feeling that dissociation/duality, but also without having to attribute to a superior spirit/soul the capacity to weaken/eliminate the self/ego, I ended up accepting that also the theoretical proposal of AF as well as its practice had in its favor the principle of parsimony (“Ockham’s razor”).

However, I did not reach this acceptance without much suffering and resistance because of my longing to be precisely a someone who could continue to exist after death…


@claudiu Claudiu made the point of the difference in actualism and Buddhism on the dho and no one seemed to get it: I am this body vs I am not this body. I probably wouldn’t have gotten it if I hadn’t met Richard and had a pce. I have no doubt that I am this flesh and blood body.


Oh sorry @Srinath, I forgot to answer. Mostly b). While I can see how actualism is different from vipassana (“I am body” vs not-self), I still don’t see how actualist method is in contradiction to cultivating samatha off-the-cushion, in terms of just generally cultivating jhanic qualities during the day (sukkha, piti, pasadhi, upekkha - happines, joy, tranquility/relaxation, equanimity/serenity).


EDIT: Maybe samatha is related to states involving focused attention, while actualism goes for more panoramic general whole-experience type of enjoyment…

This is something that is initially very difficult to grasp for someone coming from a spiritual background - and maybe particularly so for someone from a pragmatic dharma background. And I say this from experience :smiley: .

Meditation, in this context, is, how can I put it, a ‘sophisticated’ tool in a sense. The world is divided into “uninstructed, run-of-the-mill” people – and those who know better, those on the spiritual path, that have something special, a technology or tool above what ordinary ‘uninstructed’ people have… and these tools or teachings is what is applied.

What you’ve learned to do, via no doubt the many hours you’ve spend doing it, is how to ‘focus’ or ‘concentrate’ your attention in order to exhibit various changes in your consciousness (whether some perceive meditation as ‘not doing anything at all’ doesn’t change the fact that the clear intent is to change ‘something’ - else why do it at all?)

When you get good enough at it, as I did in the past, then you’re able to, by directing how you focus your attention, cause certain qualities to arise, qualities such as sukkha, piti, pasadhi, upekkha. Please note that, as you rightly put here, these qualities derive from jhanas, which are altered states of consciousness that arise from shutting out the world (closing eyes in a quiet environment), and can be perhaps categorized as ‘trance states’ – although that’s not to say there isn’t sharp attention of a sort during them, just that the focus in a jhana has a certain quality.

It’s not always practical to set aside the time to get into a deep jhana, so, as you’ve found, it’s possible to take those qualities derived from the jhana, and experience them in your daily life even without getting fully into the jhana.

That you are able to do this indicates you have an ability, a skill, that ordinary people simply don’t have and probably don’t even conceive of as possible… either from lack of exposure or lack of interest or lack of success.

All this is to say that, the enjoyment and appreciation of actualism literally is nothing other than the ordinary and regular enjoying and appreciating of daily life that every man, woman, and child experiences, has experienced, or will experience, on occasion, simply by the normal (i.e. “uninstructed, run-of-the-mill”) course of living out their daily lives!

It is nothing other than, essentially, being in a good mood, as in well-disposed, enjoying oneself, being likable and liking, jovial, etc. It is precisely this ordinary and remarkably plain (compared to the jhanic qualities above) enjoyment.

I wasn’t being insincere when I called Terry “percipient” for pointing out that the actualism is “ordinary common sense”… it really is. You don’t need any special meditative technologies or tools to do it… and as you may start to have gathered, the fact that you know and are proficient with those, doesn’t actually help much, or give you a leg-up in terms of actualism, because the enjoyment of actualism is something that you need no training to do, it’s something everyone already does on a regular basis anyway.

The distinguishing feature of actualism, of course, is that one finds ways to prolong this regular and ordinary enjoyment and appreciation, far beyond what normal people usually do – most people are not happy and harmless all day long. But the quality of this enjoyment, does not change – it’s rather the “quantity”* of it :smiley: .


* EDIT: I’ll just add to say that in a sense the quantity is it’s own quality … there is basic feeling good and being in a good mood … then there is feeling great, as in “wow I feel great!”, then there is feeling excellent, eventually going all the way to being blown away by the amazing wonder and fun time one is having. It’s not a lackluster thing at all. But it’s the same basic “ingredient” - basically feeling good - ramped up all the way.

And to cover all the bases, there is a gap from even this to a PCE… but can clarify more later.


In my Buddhist days, my experience was mainly with jhanas. In-fact I was quite the jhana junkie :grin: quite happy to bliss out on the cushion. I reckoned I would do the (boring I thought) vipassana stuff seriously later but never did get around to it. So basically this is coming from a former dabbler.

Going at it super rough and ready without getting into precise jhana factors and factors of enlightenment and how they relate to each other …

Piti - zingy bodily rapture
Sukha - a calmer, smoother quality of contentment, ease
Upekha - equanimity
Passadhi - tranquility

If you look at the actualism method as a scale going from good, great, excellent and perfect (pce). I would say that feeling great and excellent in particular have qualities one could say have some passing resemblance with sukha, upekha and passadhi. But I’m ‘torturing the data’ in order to make that comparison really. In practice I found these states felt quite different as a whole from jhana practice. Jhanas (esp. 1-2) felt much more revved up, intense, blissful and ecstatic - with the actualism states (esp. from great onwards) having more of a quality of purity, magic, lightness, openness, sparkliness and progressive diminishing of self. 3 and 4 Jhana were subtler, muted, more profound than 1/2 but nothing at all like feeling great or excellent - let alone a pce. I did not have much experience with immaterial jhanas.

Rather than mixing systems and trying to find points of comparison, the best way is to try the actualism method as a whole enchilada for a while and make your own conclusions. You’ll have a much better idea experientially then. If you end up choosing actualism that’s fine. If not you can at least be secure that that Buddhism is what you want to stick with and not be distracted by actualism fairies :slightly_smiling_face:

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Great answer! I can now see the essential difference. This reminded me that Daniel Ingram has actually written about this topic and it’s basically the same thing you said:

Thus, there began to be a natural inclination even more to have the volume speak for itself rather than being manipulated or in any way tarnished by anything resembling anything having to do with attention at all. (…) That meant that suddenly anything related to jhanas, which were clearly a manipulation of the field, seemed like something headachy, artificial, and needlessly contrived, when the field itself, when in the mode that seemed untrammeled by any manipulative components (however empty and natural they might have been), was so pristine, so satisfying, so wondrous. (…) ability to sit totally at rest, totally at peace, just like that, and I don’t mean in some stage or state, not in some jhana, just by the field being nice to itself.

I guess that practicing actualism during the day could be benefitial for jhana practice initially, in terms of feeling better in general, but as things progress, they would interfere with one another, as happened to Daniel.

Thanks for the curiosity award on DhO :joy:

Where Terry gets it wrong is in his assumption that actualism is everyday positive thinking of the ‘don’t worry be happy sort’. Not true. And while it starts from common everyday experience, as it progresses it swings up hockey stick curve like quite weirdly and dramatically - in a good way of course :dizzy:


Very helpful, thanks! I have read somewhere in a Buddhist literature that sukha is the “essence” of anything pleasurable, like a basic particle of pleasure. ( So I imagined that actualist states were also a variant of sukha. But I guess you are saying that those are completely different types of pleasure. I guess it may also be partly a terminological issue, how we define what sukha is etc.

whether some perceive meditation as ‘not doing anything at all’ doesn’t change the fact that the clear intent is to change ‘something’ - else why do it at all?

But someone could say the same thing about Actualism, right? And any excuse that can be said in the favor of Actualism is probably something that shikantaza, mahamudra, “do nothing” and “you-are-already-awakened” people already use when talking about their own practice.

So, what is the real difference between Actualism and what Kenneth Folk calls “third gear”?

3rd gear: If you can just let it be, understanding in your heart and in your bones that the happiness and peace you seek are your own true nature, then let it be. This is known as recognizing buddha nature or dwelling in buddha mind.

Third Gear: This is it. It’s over. Surrender to the situation as it is in this moment. Then, go
beyond even surrender, to the simple acknowledgement that this moment is as it is, with or without your approval. Even your effort to surrender is a presumption, a last-ditch effort to control the situation; by agreeing to surrender, you imply that you have a choice, as though you could choose not to surrender. This is not so. You are not in charge. You are the kid in the back seat with the plastic steering wheel. This moment is already here and nothing you can do or not do in this moment will change it.

Third Gear: Surrender entirely. Let it be. Good. Now go beyond even surrender, to the simple
acknowledgement that this moment is as it is, with or without your approval. This does not mean that you must be passive. Surrender also to activity. You are not in charge. You are the little kid in the back seat with the plastic steering wheel. Relax and enjoy the ride.


One is definitely doing something with the actualism method. When you practice the actualism method you are essentially imitating actuality by experiencing the benevolence and benignity of this material universe. Initially this imitation is weak one can say – simply feeling good. But you gradually ramp up to a point where you break through into a pce and ‘you’ go into abeyance. ‘You’ temporarily leave the scene and you as this body experiences actuality for the very first time.

This is not a 3rd gear issue of ‘realise that you are it’ and that there is ‘nothing to do’. There is no surrender in actual freedom.

But there is very much something to do. Ultimately ‘you’ need to make the decision to leave the scene permanently. This is sacrifice rather than surrender. Its called self-immolation. And it will leave you in a permanent state of wonder and delight as this body and its consciousness, without a ‘you’ - actual freedom in other words.

Beautifully explained ( again :slight_smile: ) Claudiu

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Not how I would define or describe anatta at all. What you’re describing sounds more like a jana or trance state. I would describe anatta as the absence of a center locus of experience that takes credit for the rest of experience, and a recognition that every sensation including those of the body are fundamentally of the same experiential status as every other sensation. Of course bodily sensation is still there.

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@being.simon yes, completely agree with your definition.

Rather than a definition I was trying to illustrate in a casual way the difference between ‘I am this flesh and blood body’ [the realisation of actual freedom] vs. the principle of anatman - in response to Griffins question.

Looking at what I wrote now I think it could be improved. And no, I wouldn’t say that those words describe Jhana or trance states accurately either.

There seem to be a number of definitions of Anatman. There are also apparently quite a few disputes with regards to what the Buddha actually meant by it and the relevance to praxis. The biggest dispute seem to be between ‘anatman purists’ and those schools that try and find an essentialised self at the core of it. It seems the very first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on Anatta wades right into that controversy. But let’s just skip the debate say we are both interested in the pure version, that does not try and sneak back in an essentialised self.

Apart from your definition, I like this one by Glen Wallis too: … a perpetually changing psycho-physical or mental-material process, a process, crucially, devoid of any inhering determinate structure or agent.

In actual freedom there is indeed a self - a feeling being, which while fictive has a determinate structure and agency. Rather than seeing the truth of this as one does anatta - one eliminates the self in a move called ‘self immolation’. I then realise that I am this conscious flesh and blood body.

Whereas in relation to Anatta, Collins had this to say: A belief in a (really) existing body" is considered a false belief and a part of the Ten Fetters that must be gradually lost. (Wikipedia)

So while bodily sensation might be there, it is relativised (rather contemptibly in my view) whereas in actual freedom the body is absolutised.

@claudiu might have more to say re: this