“girl making hand gesture on her face” by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

Seeing Is Not What You Think

Duncan Riach
3 min readNov 2, 2018

I sometimes find myself at work, sitting at a table, looking at the edge of it. I am engrossed. I reach out and start running my finger over the edge. I am engaged in a set of scientific experiments which make me behave like a baby. The difference between me and the baby is that the baby is forming concepts, whereas I am letting them go.

Yesterday, I was looking at a salt shaker at the lunch table. Suddenly, I truly saw what was there. It took my breath away. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. There is an actual reality out there, but we never truly see it.

The experiment I’ve been running and re-running is to allow seeing to occur without concepts. You can try this yourself right now.

Pick an object and look at it, allow the seeing to be what it is without concepts. Notice that you think you know what you’re looking at; that’s a concept, so let it drop away.

Notice that you think there is a real object that is being seen; that is a concept, so let it drop away.

Notice that there seems to be a sense that you are over here and that what is being seen is over there. That is also a concept. Let that drop away.

Notice that the seeing seems to be happening in some specific location, but that’s just a concept. Let it go for just a moment.

Notice that there seems to be an object with delineated edges. Notice that the edges are only a concept. Allow that concept to drop away.

Three-dimensionality is a concept. Imaginary parts of the scene that are hidden are concepts. Depth-of-field is a concept. Poor vision is a concept. The idea that you could reach out and reify the concepts you’re supposed to be letting go of by correlating sense channels is also a concept.

Continue to notice any kind of knowledge that may try to assert itself on the seeing. Allow that knowledge to fall away.

You may find that what is left is just seeing. You may discover that there is nothing that is being seen and nothing that is experiencing the seeing. There is just seeing. When the concepts rooted in the idea of separation are set aside, there is a collapse of separation, leaving everything, which is nothing seeing. What is left is simple, meaningless, and totally new. It will take your breath away.

“Nothing seeing:” this description of what is left when there are no concepts sounds like nonsense to the thinking (conceptual) mind, because it is a description of non-conceptual reality.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with concepts. They are also meaningless; just nothing concepting. These words are also meaningless; they are nothing wording.

None of this is difficult or special. I am not some kind of master. Anyone can do it (or rather not do it). On the other hand, it’s actually amazing to me that we’re able to use concepts to create the appearance of so much complexity. We humans truly are masters of delusion.



Duncan Riach

Top Writer. Self-Revealing. Mental Health. Success. Fulfillment. Flow. MS Engineering/Technology. PhD Psychology. duncanriach.com