Self-less

Darren Hopes New Scientist

(image by Darren Hopes from NewScientist.com)

Frequent readers of my blog are likely aware that, beyond my creative works, my posts focus mainly on two subjects:

(1) how the world really works, what state our civilization is in and what we can do to prepare for its inevitable collapse, and

(2) what it means to be human, and who ‘we’ as individuals and cultures really are.

As a result of an extremely stressful situation late last year, I have been preoccupied in recent months with the second subject, and in particular with discovering some means of better coping with both chronic and acute stress. For most of my life, depression was my primary coping mechanism; more recently my body has responded with ulcerative colitis outbreaks. These are understandable but obviously maladaptive responses to stress. The epidemics of depression, attention dysfunction and autoimmune diseases in modern western societies suggest that I’m hardly alone in this. I have labeled these, collectively, “Civilization Disease”, and just about everyone I know is afflicted. “The whole earth is our hospital”, TS Eliot wrote, and his prescription for the disease (perhaps consistent with John Gray’s objective of achieving “an attitude of contemplative gratitude”), is stillness:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

One avenue I have been exploring in my search for a means of coping with this existential Dis-ease is the notion of “self-less-ness”, the idea that there is no “self”, no “I”, no autonomous separate being with free will or agency or control over what happens or doesn’t happen to the body or its contents. The idea is that if I can get my body to appreciate this viscerally, to stop furiously trying to do and be what it cannot, then the self-inflicted damage that Civilization Disease wreaks upon me might cease, or at least abate.

But though I can appreciate my self-less-ness intellectually, I seem incapable of the difficult task of feeling it, experiencing it, realizing it, seeing “through” my self, which is constantly asserting its existence and making this body (and at times others’ as well) suffer for it.

I have recently been studying three approaches to overcoming this incapacity, all of which suggest that it may not require 10,000 hours of meditation or other practice:

1. Gary Weber’s free-online book Happiness Beyond Thought. Gary outlines a series of practices, traditional and modern, that he says can lead you to what he calls “awakening”. He writes: “It is the clear recognition that we aren’t our thoughts or the stories that we tell ourselves. We aren’t the bodies that we worry about so much. We aren’t the sensations that we crave and fear. We are the already present happiness, the still awareness beyond thought within which all of this occurs. That awareness is beyond fear, beyond suffering, beyond death itself… There is a knowing of a deep ‘yes’; of acceptance that you are not in charge, in fact that you are not. Rather than seeing that deep stillness as an observer, you dissolve in that deep stillness. You realize that you are that and have always been. There is an unshakable certainty, a knowing of completeness, fullness and limitlessness beyond any doubt. There is also the knowing that this is nothing special, nothing special at all and that no one created it or has it as an achievement. There is the wonderment that it could have been overlooked for so long as it is so clear, intimate and simple.”

2. Thomas Metzinger’s book The Ego Tunnel. Thomas argues that the illusion of self arises because the model of reality (and of self) that the evolved brain creates to function effectively is integrated, coherent and transparent (i.e. it doesn’t seem to be a model at all; it seems to be real). It is a conundrum to try to rationally appreciate that it is a model when the only tools we have to achieve that appreciation function within that model. He writes: “The Ego and the Tunnel (the way we perceive the world and our ‘selves’) are evolved representational phenomena, a result of dynamical self-organization on many levels. Ultimately, subjective experience is a biological data format, a highly specific mode of presenting information about the world by letting it appear as if it were an Ego’s knowledge. But no such things as selves exist in the world. A biological organism, as such, is not a self. An Ego is not a self, either, but merely a form of representational content—namely, the content of a transparent self-model activated in the organism’s brain… We could say that the system as a whole (the Ego Machine), or the organism using this brain-constructed conscious self-model, can be called a ‘self’. A self, then, would simply be a self-organizing and self-sustaining physical system that can represent itself. The self is not a thing but a process.”

3. Experiential Guides using the method of philosopher Ciaran Healy. Healy learned that it is possible to recognize the illusion of self by examining the reality of experience, by just really focusing on ‘looking’ at how we actually experience our ‘self’ until we see that it does not exist. Some iffy groups (like Ruthless Truth) emerged to try to beat down participants’ (perfectly understandable) resistance in order to ‘help’ them in this realization. The group I recently joined is gentler (and completely free, run by volunteers), and is called (a bit hyperbolically) Liberation Unleashed. Its sole purpose is to help others “see through the illusion of the separate self” and then deal with the meaning and consequences of that realization, which they describe (in Zen terms) as “walking through a gateless gate”.

These approaches all have their detractors, from those who warn that the consequence of this realization will be suicidal nihilism, to those who see it as a means of unhealthy detachment from genuine connection and empathy with other humans, to those who hold that such realization is a tautological impossibility and hence can only be self-delusion.

Ilona, one of the founders of, and my ‘guide’ at, Liberation Unleashed, has been helpful in getting me to the following realization, but so far no further; this is my most recent message to her:

In the book Figments of Reality, Stewart & Cohen describe us as ‘complicities’ — self-organizing collections of cells and organs. Organisms, including humans, are just another level of aggregation of this complicity for mutual benefit, up to the highest level, which we call Gaia, an apparent collective consciousness that clearly has no controlling ‘self’. Thinking back downwards from there, if these complicities have no self, is there some fundamental constituent that does? Clearly not. Again, I get this intellectually, but experiencing it as real still eludes me.

So to answer the question about what these seemingly coherent collections of memories and experiences and beliefs ‘are’, if not constituents of a ‘self’, I guess they are analogous to a ‘program’. I often tell people “you cannot be other than who you are”, which I suppose I might restate as “what you think of as you is just a program that has evolved to help your body’s complicity survive and thrive in concert with the rest of life on Earth”. Then we get into the semantic debate about whether that ‘program’ is one’s ‘self’. Hopefully I will be able to work my way through that next.

[So my concept of ‘self’ is that] it is a program (or set of programs), a set of memories, ideas, beliefs, experiences stored in neurons in my brain (and in my gut), that the constituents of my body use to decide and act (e.g. to fight a disease parasite, to run from an attacker, to console a hurt friend) in a way that is optimal for the health and survival of the collective, the complicity that comprises what I self-identify as ‘me’ and the complicity of my community and of all-life-on-Earth. The content of these memories, ideas etc. are all stories, which don’t exist; they are just ‘made up’. But these memories, ideas etc. do exist and collectively they comprise what I might choose to call my ‘self’. There is no ‘I’ in control of them or in control of the process/program that determines how they are drawn upon to produce decisions/actions. But as valid as the description of ‘self’ above seems intellectually, I cannot seem to transcend the intellectualization of it and experience or feel ‘self-less-ness’.

(The concept of ‘presence’ is similarly an illusion, an invention; in fact the entire conception of “now” and “present” and “time” is just a useful modelled representation of apparent phenomena in the ‘real’ world, much as the scenes in a film (and the pixels that display them) are useful and compelling representations of reality. As scientists (even Stephen Hawking) are now realizing, time does not exist either (and formulae about the real world become much simpler and more precise representations of reality when the concept of time is done away with). Somehow it becomes easier to believe the self does not exist when something else (time) that seems to exist is understood to be a fiction. So when I say that I want to learn to be more ‘present’ to cope better in the moment with stress, perhaps what I really want is to appreciate viscerally that there is no me to be ‘present’ and no present to be ‘present’ in. It is hard (but exciting) to imagine what that might feel like.)

One of the veterans of Healy’s experiential guides approach, who calls himself (or herself) GhostVirus2011, has become disenchanted by the high failure rate of the guides and the number of people they have alienated by their rigorous (or some might say obstinate) approach, but is still in the process of trying to formulate a better ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to personal ‘liberation’ from the perception that the self is real.

The key element in the approach that the guides lead you through is called “looking” at your direct experience. As valid as my conception of ‘self’ as a program (as I described above) may be, I am told it will not be of any use in ‘realizing’ self-less-ness. Ilona is clearly impatient with my intellectualization, and I can appreciate why. (It is the same impatience I have experienced from swimming teachers and dancing teachers and music teachers who say I am ‘overthinking’ what I have to do, that I should just let go and do it.)

Ghost has a whole post just on what this “looking” process means, but essentially it is quite similar to the process in meditation of being aware of your thoughts (conceptions) and recognizing them as such and letting them go, so you just focus all your attention on your experienced reality: what you are perceiving, what you are sensing, what you are feeling, what you are doing/moving — until you realize that these perceptions and sensations and feelings and motions (collectively “noticings”) do not require an actor, a self, a noticer, and that the imagined self and ‘its’ thoughts just get in the way of that realization.

This may not require 10,000 hours of practice, and the realization may come in only a few seconds of focused noticing/looking, but it is not an easy or explainable step-by-step process; some have compared it to the struggle you have seeing the ‘hidden’ alternate view in an image or the sense of 3-dimensionality when looking through a two-lens stereoscopic viewer or achieving balance on a bicycle for the first time. Ghost says it takes courage and honesty but perhaps what it takes most is focus, determination and perseverance; Ghost’s own breakthrough came as follows:

I think more than anything, I was tired of having the constant headache from thinking too hard, in some ways I think that the pattern of self became exhausted and when I smashed through the dishonesty to look in real life, it was actually fatigue of the patterns that reinforce self. I think that break allowed me to realise that I was not in fact being honest. That was it… two weeks of fretting and all for the requisite five seconds of honesty to look at real life. That is how long it took me, when in reality five seconds is all that is required.

I have spent many hours over the last month trying to do this, and if as the guides say frustration is an indication you’re on the right track I must be very close. I do sense that I am close. I am skeptical about all this but persuaded by the sheer volume and diversity of people who have succeeded in this realization that there is something to it.

I’ll keep you posted, though if I experience a breakthrough, that in itself will likely be of no use to anyone other than me. If it happens, judging from what others have written, I expect I will not call it enlightenment or awakening, but rather just ‘realization of self-less-ness’. What might change over time as a result, in addition to my capacity to cope with stress, are some of the ways I interact with the world, including my writing (human languages are intractably bound up in this sense of self, beginning with pronouns).

I also appreciate that this ‘realization of self-less-ness’ is probably a one-way trip and a first small step to other changes that will happen in me. After all, the neurons in our brain have self-organized all our lives to reflect and sustain our self-centred worldview, and the sudden realization that there is no self will probably require some gradual rewiring to accommodate. Ghost describes it this way (I have taken the liberty of correcting Ghost’s spelling and grammar):

Suppose I dragged you to a mirror and said ‘you are a monkey, look’. When you looked in to the mirror, you saw the reflection of a monkey. Your whole world view would shatter. You look at your body, it’s covered in hair, you were always quite short, you look at the very primitive opposing thumbs and then at this point the brain will accept that its model of reality needs updating. Of course this would be quite a shock (being turned into a monkey overnight with my genetic transmorpher ray) but this is how the brain works when it comes to accepting an updated view of reality. Once you see there is no self, then reality is updated to incorporate this new fact…

There is further to go after no-self, so it is just one step on a much larger journey. If you have seen it once, that is crossing the gate. It is like taking sunglasses off and noticing the true character of reality. We cannot unknow what we have seen. Nothing changes after the realisation except you get a new angle on suffering and you get a sense of clarity. It is a subtle psychological knowing rather than being something overtly noticeable, so don’t get caught in the trap that there is some seismic shift that happens, or some transition to instant bliss. It is waking up to life as it is, and life is what it is to be experiencing this moment right now. You are still prone to misery, ecstasy, the full range of human emotions, but they cannot consume you in the same way.

This process seems appropriate for me at this moment. Sometimes you reach a stage in your life at which you realize the way you live is not working for you, and something needs to shift. I feel as if I am girding up my strength to walk away from an abuser after many, many years of silent suffering. The only difference is that my abuser is my self.

Walking away now.

This entry was posted in Our Culture / Ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Self-less

  1. Paul Heft says:

    My own recent experience with Liberation Unleashed has also been frustrating, especially for my guide. Here are excerpts from my side of the dialog:

    [I consider] clouds in the sky. The usual clouds come and go rather mysteriously. I know that some people can explain their formation, and I’m vaguely aware that they are natural products of condensation, for example when moist air cools as it rises. I certainly don’t infer that there is a “clouder” who makes the clouds, like a thinker who makes thoughts. But another sort of cloud, a long, straight line of condensation, is made by a high jet plane; I know that from past experience, having seen it happen. Whenever I see that kind of cloud in the sky but no plane, I infer that a jet plane must have passed not too long ago.

    The inference about the existence of the plane is a reasonable one. Is the inference about the thinker also reasonable? The plane leaves its trace as a cloud, a trail of condensation. The thinker leaves its trace as a trail of thoughts. But the plane is something that I have directly seen doing its work, whereas the thinker has never been directly sensed as a thing.

    “I” is the name that I give to the thinker, but I cannot sense the thinker, I can only imagine that the thinker exists. I suppose that the main reason I have taken the inference of the thinker seriously is that everyone has reinforced the idea, so it became believable.

    I can understand that there is no reason to believe in the thinker, it is a fiction like Santa Claus. But can I stop identifying with this imaginary thinker?!

    … [Consider] an emotional situation. For example, I imagine a conversation with a friend, I imagine arriving late to an appointment, I imagine making a mistake at work. In these cases “I” seem to be at risk, I am trying to match [a desired] image of myself that has built up over years. If I am conscious enough, I can notice what is happening and realize it’s just a pattern of thoughts, there is no reason to become excited or to take myself (the thinker) very seriously. If I am not conscious enough, I can easily worry about what will become of “me”, whether I will be “good enough”, whether I will be happy.

    It’s this last category of thoughts [i.e., emotional situations] that poses a problem, that draws me deeper into myself. … I can become caught up in an emotional thought stream whereupon I completely identify as “the thinker” who needs to take care for his welfare.

    … sometimes there is distance from my thoughts, a better perspective. Most times the thought stream is not interrupted. It’s still very hard not to think of my “self” as a real thing.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    We’re so much alike in so many ways, Paul. It was an emotional situation (handling the fallout of unintentionally hurting s friend’s feelings) that I used to question whether my responses could be possible without an agent in charge of them too. I’m going with what Ghost’s advice though for the time being to “just f**king look”, to see if I can be aware of my thoughts, feelings, sensations etc. sufficiently and attentively enough to “park” the thoughts and just realize that everything else about ‘me’ is a collective and uncontrolled inevitability that needs no ‘self’. So many have told me that all it takes is a few seconds to get that sudden ‘aha’ realization that I’m inclined to believe them. I wish you well in your journey.

  3. Poor Richard says:

    Self may not be all its cracked up to be, but if it evolved biologically it has (or had) some utility. The problem is interpretation. The interpretive limitations and failures of individual brains are famous, so we should learn to think cooperatively and collectively, especially about the self. (BTW I don’t think of “guides” and followers as a cooperative relation.)

  4. Siona says:

    From my perspective, the stress you’re going through is just what the experience of waking up to that which you’ve grasped cognitively (i.e. self-lessness) feels like in the beginning. The shift is happening; it’s not up to you; once it starts there’s no going back. Just relax and allow the process to run its course– and remember that your abuser-self is in the same position as one of Albion’s chickadees.

  5. dave says:

    i think that your dilemma can be, at least largely, intellectualized, if that is your natural bent. briefly, one can realize that one is a dissipative structure, or dissipative phenomenon, with boundaries between itself and the larger phenomena in which it is embedded.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for the comments and reassurances, everyone, here and on the several places people have shared this post on FB. And Dick, thanks for the video — interesting way of looking at it.

  7. Jan Steinman says:

    Tulsi is your friend. Or perhaps ginseng. Or perhaps rhodiola. Or perhaps ashwaganda. Or perhaps some combination. Or perhaps in rotation.

    Please, do look into the class of medicinal herbs known as “adaptogens.” Don’t stop your inner path work, but for heaven’s sake, give it some real-world support!

    Another thing comes to mind: the amount of time and effort it’s going to take to get out of a bad situation is generally similar to the amount it took to get into that situation.

    We’ve become a “quick fix” civilization. Take a pill. Fly to Hawaii. Hire a guru.

    You seem to be willing to put in the work. Now, give it time to work.

  8. Philip Kienholz says:

    See the heart sutra, on “squanders,” or “tendencies confused mind has to identify with.”. Also, two Masters of the process on Ego:

    Two Masters, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche describe how we create this seemingly solid and continuous ‘I.’ The cause of all of our suffering.

    “The heart of the confusion is that man has a sense of self
    which seems to him to be continuous and solid. When a thought or
    emotion, or event occurs, there is a sense of someone being conscious
    of what is happening. You sense that you are reading these words.
    This sense of self is actually a transitory, discontinuous event,
    which in our confusion seems to be quite solid and continuous.

    Since we take our confused view as being real, we struggle to
    maintain and enhance this solid self. We try to feed it pleasures
    and shield it from pain. Experience continually threatens to
    reveal our transitoriness to us, so we continually struggle to cover
    up any possibility of discovering our real condition. “But,” we
    might ask, “if our real condition is an awakened state, why are we
    so busy trying to avoid becoming aware of it?” It is because we
    have become so absorbed in our confused view of the world, that we
    consider it real, the only possible world. This struggle to
    maintain the sense of a solid, continuous self is the action of ego.

    Ego, however, is only partially successful in shielding us
    from pain. It is the dissatisfaction that accompanies egos
    struggle that inspires us to examine what we are doing. Since there
    are always gaps in our self-consciousness, some insight is possible.”
    – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

    “Lifetimes of ignorance have brought us to identify the whole of our being with ego. Its triumph is to inveigle us into believing its best interests are our best interests, and even identifying our very survival with its own. That is a savage irony, considering that ego and its grasping, are at the root of all of our suffering. Yet ego is so convincing and we have been its dupe for so long, that the thought that we might even become ego less, terrifies us. To be ego less, ego whispers to us, is to loose all of the rich romance of being human, to be reduced to an empty, colourless robot, or a brain dead vegetable.”
    – Sogyal Rinpoche.

  9. Philip Kienholz says:

    That is: “skandhas,” not the spell-checked interpretation: “squanders.”

  10. Jim Meyers says:

    Hi Dave,

    You have delivered another excellent post. I appreciate the honesty and depth as you share your life journey, experiences and view of the world. Your style of sharing invites of feeling of knowing you personally and creates a connection, which is a very good thing.

    In fact, I think that your style of sharing personal information along with strong views allows people who may not agree with you, on some or all points, to appreciate arguments about “How the World Works.” I have learned much from your writing and enjoyed reflecting on many points. The effort you put into understanding the world and yourself, is an example of what is right in the world—even if it is doomed.

    Now that I am one of your fans who eagerly look forward to every Dave Pollard life saga post, I hope you don’t mind me being so bold as to offer a friendly and heartfelt opinion. I think we are similar in age and have some of the same concerns about the world and self, but I am not as educated and eloquent in expressing thoughts and feelings. However, I can empathize and commiserate, and maybe help add to the conversation in a way that connects with you and your readers.

    Many people have reached the point in their lives where they struggle with “self” and what it means to let go, eliminating the ego, being free from stress, experiencing nirvana, eliminating the fear of death, etc… Then we inundate ourselves with a mountain of articles, books, opinions, “guides” and any other thing we can latch on to that might help deliver a speedy arrival to self-actualization and happiness. I have lost count of how many books and articles I’ve read on meditation. I have spent many hours in meditation sitting alone and in groups, on silent retreats and with Tibetan masters. It was time well spent, but there comes a point of diminishing returns and we miss the point by becoming overloaded with information and trying too hard.

    May I suggest considering a simplification of the process and simply allowing yourself to be who you are? Which, by the way, aint so bad. Maybe accept that you sometime stress about the world and that life causes pain and suffering. Embrace it and find a way to be grateful for the fact that you understand that life is full of suffering and have a talent for communicating. It seems to pull the teeth of suffering once you decide it is part of the deal.

    Go ahead and worry away, but understand that it is part of who you are. Meditate, write, work, exercise or cry if you feel like it. But try not to make it more complicated than it needs to be. You aren’t going to be here long. Embracing pain and suffering is a form of letting go.

    As Billy Joel said:
    Don’t go changing, to try and please me
    You never let me down before
    Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
    And I don’t see you anymore
    I would not leave you in times of trouble
    We never could have come this far
    I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
    I’ll take you just the way you are

    Dave, how about you and I just like you the way you are.
    Jim

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Jim: That’s my Plan B ;-)

  12. Dave: first off you know I love you.

    Second. Your analysis is dead on.

    Third. You continue to amaze me with how many pathways you found to circumnavigate The Work. It is is simple, accessible, profoundly powerful and rooted in good theory and cognitive science. It works intellectually, emotionally and even physically and it has a rational basis for that effect.

    Fourth, I find myself uncomfortable adding yet another practice to your list and don’t wish to become a kind of evangelist for it. I only respond like this because you keep asking.

    Fifth. Looking forward to seeing you and working together and I’m around for the next month or so and I want to climb Mount Gardner several times so I’ll give you a call and we can go hiking together.

    Sixth. :)

  13. Brutus says:

    I am one of the detractors of the notion of selflessness. (I prefer merger and/or immersion.) You seem to already have a good handle on the available counter-arguments, but there are a couple you don’t mention. First, the destination you have settled on is essentially ego death (or annihilation of the self), which is a sensible enough response to distress but not much different from alcohol and drug users who want nothing more than to check out and stop being human (read: stop feeling). Your approach takes a heavily intellectualized form, which is an option only for those not already fully occupied by the normal demands of life and surprisingly may not be a paradox for something intended to render a person insensate. Second, if one were to accept without examination the conclusion that the self is a fiction, it would take some sort of double inverted back flip with a twist for those of us whose minds are too logical/rational to get our heads fully around them. Reminds me of the scene in The Matrix where the spoon-bender instructs Neo that, in fact, there is no spoon (well then, how does one bend something that’s not there?). The lesson is apparent and maybe even admissible in the dark recesses of the mind, but bending the mind toward its own obliteration seems to me an undesirable goal. But then, I don’t know the depths of your distress.

    You made one oblique remark about Zen. Taoism, Buddhism, and Gnosticism also recommend paths to selflessness, which have the advantage of by now ancient tradition and none of the New Age woo. My suspicion, too, is that these loss-of-self programs/movements have an affinity with Transhumanism, where the goal is transcendence/immortality (of biology more than mind) rather than disappearance.

    A further part of the issue is that sensitive types feel the build-up of wrongness in the world rather keenly and take personal responsibility for some portion and umbrage at all of it. But I’ve taken John Gray’s approach (I read Straw Dogs at your recommendation), which is more resignation than guilt.

  14. Dave Pollard says:

    Chris: Responded to you offline.

    Thanks Brutus. Good to hear from you again. It is fascinating how many different ways people have experienced this. I suspect you are right that my courage/willingness for this journey (and its ‘success’) will be a function of the depth of my distress. I hope you are wrong that the result will be insensibility. I guess we’ll see.

  15. Dave Pollard says:

    Philip: Excellent and helpful quotes; thanks.

  16. Liliana says:

    Dear Sir
    I was also subjected to extremely stressful conditions. External conditions. I also am sick, despite my good offices to counteract psychic (and spiritually) suffering, anxiety, moral pain. I’m not selfish and you are not selfish. We are not egocentric.

    I study Buddhism (not just the traditional lines) and I practice Buddhism Zen.
    There are ambiguities in understanding the not-self. And confusion. It is not “to remove”, it is otherwise; briefly: to go beyond Self.

    It’s good to read Secular Buddhist.

    Some links: http://www.lionsroar.com/what-is-enlightenment/
    http://secularbuddhism.org/2013/04/03/gotama-and-parfit-on-the-self/
    http://secularbuddhism.org/2015/03/12/on-conventional-and-ultimate-truth/
    http://www.samharris.org/waking-up
    http://secularbuddhism.org/forum/secular-buddhist-community-group3/buddhism-and-comparative-philosophies-forum13/why-is-there-an-illusion-of-self-to-begin-with-thread732/

  17. Liliana says:

    To visit a Buddhist center to practice and talk to a teacher is a good moving.

  18. Liliana says:

    Thanks for your post, very interesting.

    Always, my appreciation and gratitude. Best,

    L.

  19. Liliana says:

    As I see:

    The self is not a “myth”; is a function of the psychic dimension.
    The psychic dimension is a reality:of interaction of mind (brain/body)-naturally environment-society-culture(s).

    Myths and thoughts about the mental-being has existed throughout history (religions, societies and cultures, philosophies, psychologies, anthropologies, biologies, sociology, etc.).

    What do we mean when we say “Self”? ¿Ego and selfishness; thoughts; subjectivity; self-awareness; the conscience? ¿Or, individual subject of language, or the Subject of social life?

    The “Self” is a function. “I” and “mine” are also functions. “I” and “You” and “We”. ((A certain kind of no-metaphysics entities)). Egocentrism is another matter.

    The mystical experience transcends the self.
    But we in the conventional life, we also go beyond subjectivity, the self-centeredness and Self, on many occasions. Through art, for example, (selfless) love, eroticism, altruism, sports, etc., etc.

    Detachment is a key concept. It refers to/with whole experience of Living.
    Good psychotherapies (or psychoanalysis) and a long and deeply trained buddhist teacher they can contribute with our meditation. One certified buddhist teacher.

    We are more than Self, but it is not a issue to ‘remove Self’.

  20. harryosh says:

    Intellectualising not-self means to focus on not-self but actually still be focusing on self.

    Habits work backwards and forwards in time and place. What we focus on now becomes a habit later.

    It is possible and important for us to contemplate not-self, but it is only over time that the idea manifests itself in constructive ways.

    Lots of patience is needed. There is no quick fix, and not-self can’t be commodified.

    I also suffered with a lot of physical pain during issues with depression. However I don’t think unknowing self-centeredness was ever actually the problem. The problem was that I was blind to my hatred and anger at my own self construct. So the problem is not the self-constructed, but that I hated it and was angry with it, yet didn’t realise that. In that space, we cannot love. It is basically a problem of living in an individualistic culture.

    Thanks for sharing your journey Dave.

    Cheers, Harry Osh

  21. Andrea Niedermann says:

    Incredibly inspiring these texts! (Thanks also by the way to leo.org ..)
    Nurishing for weeks again.
    For me as a HSP stress is an everyday issue. In our small group of HSP women, we discussed and shared different ways how we are coping with. Meditation was mentioned of cause. But we also spoke for quite a long time of the role of hugging. One person mentioned how it “deeply calms” her when she was hugged by her husband. That would help her a great deal to stop the musing at night. And what to do when you live alone? The one working with disabled children mentioned perhaps it would be best for her to go to the hugging machine. They realy have one. It is for autistic persons. It was a joke of course. One I will remember.

  22. Jim W. says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for this beautifully articulated essay. In my long quest to be free from the bondage and illusion of the separate self, this admonishment from Marcus Aurelius always suffices.

    Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.

Comments are closed.