No-Self for Greater Joy & Less Suffering
If you’ve ever wondered who you really are… tried to “find” yourself… or engaged in self help… you may have been barking up the wrong tree.
The self – this character that you play in the game of life – doesn’t exist.
It’s simply not real.
While you might say I’m crazy, what if it’s true? What would this mean for your life? What would it mean for how you experience your life and most importantly, how would it affect your health and wellbeing?
No-Self and Pain
What does pain have to do with a self?
Pain is a signal. A sensation. This sensation is interpreted by the bodymind system as uncomfortable and generally undesirable. The sensation is ostensibly directing your awareness to see if something’s truly wrong, and if so, to do something about it.
What’s the truth about pain? It’s a sensation.
Pain turns into suffering almost immediately when we make pain into a story. Or rather, we weave pain into our story. The self is the story of who you are. This story can be fun and exciting or dark, dreary, and immobilizing. But, it’s still only a story.
Once we feel a sensation in our bodies, it not only causes us to pay attention to the physical process, but causes numerous thoughts about what it might be, questions as to why this is happening, am I actually sick and dying?
I’m sure you’ve thought this before … that when you’ve had some unusual sensation in your body, that you may really have a disease or could have a heart attack, etc.
This kind of catastrophising is an extreme example of how the story (imagined and false) creates more suffering than the signal or sensation was initially meant to convey.
The self, loosely defined here as “the story of [your name]” is a fabrication of the mind that instructs you that you are a separate entity from all that exists and this separate self requires protection at all costs.
This is simply not true. You are not separate from all that exists. In fact, you are that which exists. Just like me. We, the earth, the sky, the universe, are all one movement of consciousness. Nothing more. But nothing less!
Why is this useful?
When you discover that the story you’ve invested in all these years is simply a mirage … a string of thoughts… you free yourself from the layers and layers of suffering that you’ve built up over the years. If “you” are not really there, then who’s suffering?
When you develop practices and discipline to connect with what’s deeper within you, you will realize that what’s at that depth does not suffer. There is no pain there. With practice and discipline, you can move your awareness from identification with the body and it’s sensations to that deeper place within.
If you look deeply, you will realize that there’s no-thing there that’s suffering. There may be the experience of a body with pain sensations, yes. But those sensations do not rise to the level of catastrophe. And even if they do, they’re nothing more than sensations.
How to practice
I recommend that you take up a daily ritualistic meditation practice. ‘
Daily – If you do something every day, it becomes a habit. Habits, once developed, are hard to break. You want to make this practice second-nature and just something that you do.
Ritualistic – Your practice should be done at about the same time and in the same way each day. Rituals are vitally important and we don’t put enough emphasis on them in modern life. A ritual separates the sacred from the secular. A space is created – a container – to remind yourself of who you are (or to discover who you are). A daily ritual will separate what comes before from what comes after. Most people wake up in the morning, drink coffee and get thrown headlong into their day. No pause. This daily ritualistic pause will allow for a clean break to be made between the previous day and this day.
Meditation – Mindfulness practice in daily life is very popular… trying to get into the present moment and see things without judgement, etc. A regular meditation practice takes it much deeper. You will begin to install new software into your mind that allows the system to run more smoothly. You will respond to stress better. You’ll have more energy. And you’ll probably stave off dementia (for at least a few more years!). It’s hard. Don’t expect it to be easy. Don’t expect for it to have miraculous results. But sit – in quiet meditation (no guide) – and watch your thoughts.
Practice – Just focus on the word. It’s a practice. You will never master it… you will always be practicing. Practice, practice, practice.
What you can discover through this practice is that your thoughts – your story – your “self” – are nothing more than thoughts. There is a part of you that is aware of these thoughts. That awareness is pointing to a deeper truth. Most people, most of the time, have no distance between their awareness and their thoughts. This means that you simply see and experience the world through thought and that there’s no awareness of awareness at all. When you spend time looking at your thoughts in meditation, you will discover that there can be quite a distance between the awareness and the thoughts that vie for your attention.
If you have that one realization – that awareness and thought are not one in the same – your life will be changed forever. If you go further, you will realize that the thoughts are simply not true… and more importantly, are not YOU.
This is the stepping stone to realization of no-self.