One of my favorite moments is to linger in the hot tub at the YMCA after a long swim. Yesterday, with my mind on break, and eyes closed, all I could feel was the delightful pressure of the jets against my back, and the joyful sounds of women chatting. A most pleasurable state indeed, very much to my liking. I also noticed how protective I became of 'my' space, right in front of most powerful jet . . . and then the slight tension that followed in my upper chest.
Turning to Ayya Khema, one more time - from Who Is My Self?:
"We can look at the mind and see its four aspects . . . In doing this, we will come nearer to the understanding that in fact there is nobody who owns it. The first aspect is "sense-consciousness", the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. The second aspect is feeling, which arises from sense-contact. This feeling is either pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. The third is perception, which can also be called labeling. For example, when the feeling is unpleasant, the label is "pain". The fourth is mental formation, or reaction. If the mind had said "pain", the reaction is usually "I don't like it", or "I've got to get away from this." It is very useful at this stage in our practice to become clearly aware of these four aspects of mind and of how they follow each other as cause and effect: sense-contact, feeling, perception, and lastly reaction. It is important to get to know this sequence, both during meditation and in our every day life. The Buddha taught that it is through an awareness of these four parts of mind, through the knowledge and vision of the understood experience, that we come to the realization that there is nothing at all within them than constitutes a "me". The "me" is a thought, an idea . . .
This "me," however, is not only an idea, it is also the mechanism that produces greed and hate. We all know these two; they come very easily to us. We all live with them and are familiar with them, but they do not produce happiness. In our practice we need to examine . . . the four parts of mind and how they arise and cease. We can become aware of each sense-contact-a taste, a smell- and how such contact leads to the next step, feeling-pleasant, unpleasant, neutral-and so on.
Most people are only aware of the first and the last step, the sense-contact and the reaction: "It looks nice, I want it", or "It looks awful, I must get rid of it." The reaction follows so quickly that we miss out completely on the two intervening stages. We should practice in the following way: Having noticed our reaction, we go back to the sense-contact that led to it. We then try to become aware again of the feeling that followed the sense-contact, and then of the mind's explanation (dirty, disgusting, delicious, boring). Notice these two missing parts, the feeling and the label. Now, within these four parts - sense-contact, feeling, perception, reaction - try to find the one who senses, feels, perceives, reacts. The mind says, "But its' me doing that," but this is only an idea. Where is the doer? We can actually notice that these four steps are an automatic progression, that there is no one "doing" anything. It all just happens and we can watch it happen.
We can also decide to stop the sequence at any of the four points, particularly at the perception, the labeling. Then we will notice that we are not compelled to react. As we do this, however, the mind will say: "Surely I must be the one who made that decision, who determined to do that." You can now try to find that one. There is only determination, which is a mental factor. It is essential to investigate this not once, but many times. Within these khandhas, these aggregates, lies the illusion. One person will say the determination came from their thinking, another that it came from their feeling, someone else will say: "It was the observer" or "It was my willpower" Then we need to ask ourselves if any of these can really be called "me". Where is that "me" when none of these reactions are taking place, when there is no observer, no willpower, nothing like that going on at all? When any one of these supposed "me's" is not functioning, where is it? What is it doing?"
De-constructing the hot tub experience that way, I can clearly see the sequence:
sense contact of touch between high pressure water and back -> pleasant feeling -> delightful perception/label -> liking reaction -> greed
and I how I got in trouble the minute mind engaged in second and fourth step, as it always does, automatically, if left on its own.