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If the self doesn’t exist, what am I?

 
Poldano
 
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27 April 2016 21:18
 

If the self doesn’t exist, then you are what the illusion of self is hiding.

 
 
sojourner
 
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28 April 2016 19:12
 
sts86 - 27 April 2016 04:54 PM

Non-self is actually a pretty deep truth with many layers - in mind, in body, in other things in the world, etc. It is probably a universal truth and I believe it is one of the key ideas that Buddhism has to offer the world.

To answer the question in the title - “if the self doesn’t exist, then what am I?” - nothing! There is no self! A thought arises. This thought is “I am.” This is an ephemeral, conditioned phenomenon. The thought ceases. The temporary existence of the thought does not imply that there is an ‘I’ that ‘is.’ This is the ego, and while yes it is experienced, it has no substance, thus it is an illusion. There are just arising and ceasing phenomena, local or otherwise, conditioned by myriad things. One of them is the feeling “I am.”


What I find confusing in the conversations about ‘selflessness’ are the functional levels between being neurotically egoic and being, I dunno, a bright glowing light orb of pure being. Buddhist types always talk about seeing things with more ‘spaciousness’, but as this is entirely subjective, it makes me a bit nervous in the way that truth via revelation does. (In 50 years, I picture the new stereotypical Church Ladies being yogi’s, sitting in cliques at the back of the studio in tons of jewelry going “Well, Irene certainly didn’t speak about that very spaciously at the potluck, did she. That wasn’t a very enlightened vegan meatloaf she brought either. Now, I myself, and my sister Edna, we are incredibly spacious in our thinking, why, when we were planning the last Yogis Guild meeting I was the one who noticed that…”.)


So I’m never sure how to apply this in real life. Today, for example, I was remorseful after being bitchy to someone in a lunch line. I should say here that usually I am extremely soft spoken and easy to get along with IRL, a random exception being human lines of any sort, which tend to trigger a reaction that is maybe the personification of Nietzsche-ian sheepdom (I waited politely and so will you, goddammit!!), maybe a weird pet peeve, maybe relates to being raised in the 80s where every summer you stood in line for two hours to ride a log flume somewhere or other drenched in sweat, maybe relates to the idea I once heard that we are more primally angered when someone obstructs our progress physically than by abstract concerns. I don’t know, but it drives me insane. At this place, you get in line once to order, then stand to the side and wait, then get back in line to pay when they call your order. I was in line, and a woman who was milling around behind me waiting, when her order was called, pushed ahead of me and said “Excuse me! I was in line!” indignantly (which she wasn’t). So I did the only civilized thing a person can do in that situation, made a snippy comment and then stood annoyingly close and glared at her. You know, how grownups handle things.


So later I felt bad so I tried to meditate on it for a few moments, and it occurred to me that in some ways the remorse I felt was actually more ‘self’ centered than my initial reaction. Like, I didn’t care if someone really was being rude, I didn’t care if something really did need attention or needed to be said (she seemed like a nice person, what was going on with her or in her life that she felt the need to randomly act that way towards a stranger), I just wanted enough cool to maintain a ‘nicey-nice’ attitude. And then I actually thought that being a little harsh was kinda called for in that situation, but then I felt like that couldn’t be right, but then I thought that Zen masters of yore were actually not very nice sometimes, but then I thought that Western Buddhist usually are and quite frankly I really like that, but then… No self-evident ‘spacious’ answer appeared to me, just the idea that there were lots and lots of ways to look at the situation and that I couldn’t possibly know, 100%, what the ‘right’ one was without knowing all the facts of the situation, and that in life we simply don’t have access to that. Finally I had a divine revelation that God wants me to spill my soda on anyone who cuts in front of me (oh, I’m kidding, I realized I need to sit quietly with it in meditation tomorrow) but my point is that the idea of seeing things with ‘Big Mind’ or ‘spaciousness’ or away from an ‘egoic self’ is often confusing, as there is often no external reference point for the conclusion one comes to, other than what ‘feels right’.

 
 
Poldano
 
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28 April 2016 23:33
 
NL. - 28 April 2016 07:12 PM
sts86 - 27 April 2016 04:54 PM

Non-self is actually a pretty deep truth with many layers - in mind, in body, in other things in the world, etc. It is probably a universal truth and I believe it is one of the key ideas that Buddhism has to offer the world.

To answer the question in the title - “if the self doesn’t exist, then what am I?” - nothing! There is no self! A thought arises. This thought is “I am.” This is an ephemeral, conditioned phenomenon. The thought ceases. The temporary existence of the thought does not imply that there is an ‘I’ that ‘is.’ This is the ego, and while yes it is experienced, it has no substance, thus it is an illusion. There are just arising and ceasing phenomena, local or otherwise, conditioned by myriad things. One of them is the feeling “I am.”


What I find confusing in the conversations about ‘selflessness’ are the functional levels between being neurotically egoic and being, I dunno, a bright glowing light orb of pure being. Buddhist types always talk about seeing things with more ‘spaciousness’, but as this is entirely subjective, it makes me a bit nervous in the way that truth via revelation does. (In 50 years, I picture the new stereotypical Church Ladies being yogi’s, sitting in cliques at the back of the studio in tons of jewelry going “Well, Irene certainly didn’t speak about that very spaciously at the potluck, did she. That wasn’t a very enlightened vegan meatloaf she brought either. Now, I myself, and my sister Edna, we are incredibly spacious in our thinking, why, when we were planning the last Yogis Guild meeting I was the one who noticed that…”.)


So I’m never sure how to apply this in real life. Today, for example, I was remorseful after being bitchy to someone in a lunch line. I should say here that usually I am extremely soft spoken and easy to get along with IRL, a random exception being human lines of any sort, which tend to trigger a reaction that is maybe the personification of Nietzsche-ian sheepdom (I waited politely and so will you, goddammit!!), maybe a weird pet peeve, maybe relates to being raised in the 80s where every summer you stood in line for two hours to ride a log flume somewhere or other drenched in sweat, maybe relates to the idea I once heard that we are more primally angered when someone obstructs our progress physically than by abstract concerns. I don’t know, but it drives me insane. At this place, you get in line once to order, then stand to the side and wait, then get back in line to pay when they call your order. I was in line, and a woman who was milling around behind me waiting, when her order was called, pushed ahead of me and said “Excuse me! I was in line!” indignantly (which she wasn’t). So I did the only civilized thing a person can do in that situation, made a snippy comment and then stood annoyingly close and glared at her. You know, how grownups handle things.


So later I felt bad so I tried to meditate on it for a few moments, and it occurred to me that in some ways the remorse I felt was actually more ‘self’ centered than my initial reaction. Like, I didn’t care if someone really was being rude, I didn’t care if something really did need attention or needed to be said (she seemed like a nice person, what was going on with her or in her life that she felt the need to randomly act that way towards a stranger), I just wanted enough cool to maintain a ‘nicey-nice’ attitude. And then I actually thought that being a little harsh was kinda called for in that situation, but then I felt like that couldn’t be right, but then I thought that Zen masters of yore were actually not very nice sometimes, but then I thought that Western Buddhist usually are and quite frankly I really like that, but then… No self-evident ‘spacious’ answer appeared to me, just the idea that there were lots and lots of ways to look at the situation and that I couldn’t possibly know, 100%, what the ‘right’ one was without knowing all the facts of the situation, and that in life we simply don’t have access to that. Finally I had a divine revelation that God wants me to spill my soda on anyone who cuts in front of me (oh, I’m kidding, I realized I need to sit quietly with it in meditation tomorrow) but my point is that the idea of seeing things with ‘Big Mind’ or ‘spaciousness’ or away from an ‘egoic self’ is often confusing, as there is often no external reference point for the conclusion one comes to, other than what ‘feels right’.

From your description of the situation, you could have asked the woman if her number had been called. If she said “yes”, let her go ahead. If she said “no”, point out to her that there is no line for payment, that people come to the register in the order their number is called, and that that makes the most sense because people whose order isn’t ready don’t block people whose order is ready.

 
 
sojourner
 
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29 April 2016 06:18
 
Poldano - 28 April 2016 11:33 PM

From your description of the situation, you could have asked the woman if her number had been called. If she said “yes”, let her go ahead. If she said “no”, point out to her that there is no line for payment, that people come to the register in the order their number is called, and that that makes the most sense because people whose order isn’t ready don’t block people whose order is ready.


In this case she just went and then I was looking at the back of her head while she talked to the guys at the counter, so interrupting and questioning her about it, even politely, seemed more confrontational than simply glaring. Maybe I should have, though, I don’t know. In this case there was enough uncertainty that it was ambiguous - she came across as either trying to bulldoze her way to the front or looking for a bit of a fight, but also possible she was just confused about how that place runs. For me that was a little microcosm of thinking I couldn’t really know if I was letting someone be a bit of a bully or adding stress to the day of someone who was already mixed up or both. Or maybe it’s a lesson in how I can overanalyze everything, ha ha!

 
 
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29 April 2016 20:48
 
NL. - 29 April 2016 06:18 AM
Poldano - 28 April 2016 11:33 PM

From your description of the situation, you could have asked the woman if her number had been called. If she said “yes”, let her go ahead. If she said “no”, point out to her that there is no line for payment, that people come to the register in the order their number is called, and that that makes the most sense because people whose order isn’t ready don’t block people whose order is ready.


In this case she just went and then I was looking at the back of her head while she talked to the guys at the counter, so interrupting and questioning her about it, even politely, seemed more confrontational than simply glaring. Maybe I should have, though, I don’t know. In this case there was enough uncertainty that it was ambiguous - she came across as either trying to bulldoze her way to the front or looking for a bit of a fight, but also possible she was just confused about how that place runs. For me that was a little microcosm of thinking I couldn’t really know if I was letting someone be a bit of a bully or adding stress to the day of someone who was already mixed up or both. Or maybe it’s a lesson in how I can overanalyze everything, ha ha!

Aha! Methinks you might have been analyzing something while you waited. If you were truly “in the moment”, you would have been aware of what she intended to do in time to intercept her.

wink

 
 
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30 April 2016 10:07
 
Poldano - 29 April 2016 08:48 PM

Aha! Methinks you might have been analyzing something while you waited. If you were truly “in the moment”, you would have been aware of what she intended to do in time to intercept her.

wink


Ha ha! I need to pull out some stealth ninja moves next time.


After sitting with it a little longer, I realized that maybe I just need to acknowledge that moral uncertainty is kinda painful and be with that discomfort. There’s such a pull toward narrative closure, to say “I know who did what here and why”, but in reality I can’t know that. It reminded me of when I read The Art of Happiness, when Howard Cutler asks the Dalai Lama about one of his difficult cases, why a client is acting a certain way. You get the idea he’s waiting for some kind of mystical wisdom, and the Dalai Lama basically says “Yeah, I dunno, could be any number of things. Heck, it might even be some kind of past life issue, who knows?”, ha ha!

 
 
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30 April 2016 23:27
 

I am the body I inhabit, from the skin of my toes to the scalp on top of my head, all points and extensions in between.  When my little toe is used to locate furniture in a dark room, I am the one who feels the sensation of that act.  When a mosquito dines on the back of my neck, I consciously swat at it with the palm of my hand.  I feel the meeting between the palm of my hand and the back of my neck.

I am the maker of plans.  I am the mapper of routes.  In cities with which I am familiar, routes are selected by the number of stop signs/traffic signals between point A and point B.  If two or more routes have the same number, distance becomes the selecting factor.  The overarching priority is minimum time en route.  I consciously run the numbers, I consciously calculate the distances in increments of city blocks.

I am the filer of data and downloads.  I am the creator of the partition/folder/sub-folder trees that categorize and manage data by type and level of importance.  I create the naming convention used to keep track of what has become 1.5 terabytes of data files and downloads over the past 20 or so years.  The system I consciously created is efficient and simple to use while at the same time being scalable.

I am the composer and editor of this discourse, consciously choosing my words with care, my phrasing with parsimony.  I am a touch typist, resulting in a flow of letters into words with alacrity.  So-called “muscle memory” enhances these movements, but unlike many touch typists, I know where the letters are on the keyboard; writing code makes that somewhat of a requirement.

I am not the observer of these actions, I am the initiator.  I am.

 
 
MrLovingKindness
 
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05 August 2016 06:07
 
jro - 26 March 2016 01:55 PM
EN - 26 March 2016 01:45 PM

I think that “you” are simply consciousness or awareness.  It’s like watching a movie - you are in theater 2 while someone else is in theater 3.  You are seeing what’s running on your screen.  The experience of sitting in that theater is “you.”

Except that I know I am not getting killed when one of the characters on screen is. When I feel that my nose is itching, it is definitely my nose. I don’t have to act on it and scratch it, I can instead examine and observe the sensation (which I incidentally do often in meditation. It is an easy to grasp object) and this changes how I relate to the itch. But still it is my nose, quite definitely so. I cannot choose to feel someone else’s nose itching instead. I am stuck being myself. So the theatre analogy seems to break down at that point.

I had a similar question a few years ago, “Why Do I Always See My Own Face When I Look In the Mirror.”

In retrospect, the answer is pretty straight forward. When I look in the mirror, how do I know that is my face? My brain has a stored memory of that face. If you swapped my brain out for someone else’s and “I” looked in the mirror, “I” wouldn’t see “my” face. The face “I” would see would not be the expected one, because the brain associated with “my” body now would be expecting to see the face from the body it used to belong to before “I” looked in the mirror.

I see my face in the mirror, because the brain containing the memory “my face” is in the body that is attached to the face it calls mine. That is why I don’t see someone else’s face when I look in the mirror. Even if it is a universal self that is looking, in order to determine the face is mine, it looks to the brain associated with that body.

 
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05 August 2016 06:10
 

If you can specifically describe what “you” are referring to by “the self” or “I”, then the question can be answered in some kind of meaningful way.

 
sojourner
 
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31 August 2016 09:52
 
MrLovingKindness - 05 August 2016 06:10 AM

If you can specifically describe what “you” are referring to by “the self” or “I”, then the question can be answered in some kind of meaningful way.


I think this is key. I think eastern philosophies contain a lot of concepts that can be used wisely to highlight the dual-yet-not-dual nature of reality, or passive aggressively in a flip-flop manner so that whatever people who are annoying you are doing is the ‘wrong thing’. (You will know this if you have ever been on a yoga retreat where your friend’s expensive yoga mat got stolen, and they’re all like “OMG, why are you complaining, negativity, bad vibes, it probably means you were too attached to it, you need to learn to let go, the universe is trying to teach you” and, then, if breathe wrong or point your feet in the wrong direction during a class, they’re like “OMG, show some wise discrimination here, you need to get in touch with your natural wisdom which, if you were really and truly in touch with it, would totally agree with whatever my opinion is”. It makes you long for cubicle culture where at least people just straight up say “Our way is right, follow our rules or you’re out. But here, since you’re from the yogi generation we’ll also throw in this cheesy motivational poster with a picture of a mountain on it.”)


Similarly, I think the Buddha himself was actually mute on whether or not a self exists (same thing for God, interestingly) but many schools seem to acknowledge a self that is empty of inherent existence, something like a nominal self. I was thinking about this, this morning - I am not a big crier for the most part, but animals are an exception and I spent the morning crying about a rescue horse when this equine expert was telling me about the possibility of “berserk llama syndrome”, which is rare but does occur in horses. And as much as I bitch when other people do not recognize that “love is all you need” is not always a wise answer in the material world (I’ve talked about this a good bit when it comes to anti-law enforcement sentiment in the liberal community - it’s like there’s an assumption that anarchy would work just swimmingly,) it’s still horrible to get slapped in the face with that reality in areas where one is blind to it. Love, apparently, is not all that a horse needs - in fact that attitude (treating it like a pet) can seemingly damage it for life.


In other words - to see the self as nonexistent leads to the kind of ‘we are all one’ mindset, which I think is vital for love, compassion, and seeing self in other. But seeing no self, at all, would seem to mean no discrimination at all, which in this samsaric world of ours is not always helpful. Treating a cat like a dog like a horse like a human or one human like every other human can ultimately be very destructive for them, in the same way that treating them as 100% separate entities that have nothing to do with you is also extremely destructive.

 
 
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01 September 2016 23:50
 

I would say that the self is fictional but that isn’t the same as non-existent.

 
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02 September 2016 00:02
 

You are all projections of my subconsciousness -

happy now?

 
 
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03 September 2016 21:03
 
Brick Bungalow - 01 September 2016 11:50 PM

I would say that the self is fictional but that isn’t the same as non-existent.


Yes, now that you say this, it occurs to me that to declare something nonexistent is just as reifying as declaring it exists. Nonexistence denotes the absence of a ‘thing’ that could or should exist but simply isn’t present in a given circumstance. I think this is another liminal type state that verbal constructs simply don’t convey very well - it seems to me that at the granular level of reality, the world is full of such paradoxes-not-paradoxes (It occurred to me today, for example, that I probably have the wrong idea about Buddhist ‘attachment’, as I realized that whatever growth I have experienced towards ‘less conditional’ - if not ‘unconditional’ - love has actually been grown from a seed of attachment. When you realize that people inevitably screw up (sometimes in big ways, as in the case of friends with drug problems); crash motorcycles and become entirely different, quadriplegic and nonverbal people; grow old and incoherent; grow up and make horrible choices or develop mental illness, and on and on… if you really care about those people, then to me, that very attachment is the motivation to love unconditionally, to be able to love them no matter what hypothetical space in potentiality they might become. Without some initial attachment, why bother?)


As the saying goes “All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream”... a dream is not an unreality, it’s simply not quite the reality that it appears to be while we’re immersed in it - or that’s my current take on things, anyhow.

 
 
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04 September 2016 11:04
 

One of my many favorite lines from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up; spirituality without religion,”
is where he speaks of going to a teacher/guru in the far east to seek self-enlightenment
and is quickly shown that there is no “self” to enlighten . 
His book also describes Thomas Nagle’s supposition that a fruit bat is conscious IF “there is something that it is like to be a fruit bat.  In other words, if you could swap placed with a fruit bat’s existence for a bit, would you have an experience?

Below is a Sam Harris youtube clip, along with a transcription of some of his words on the topic… in short, the “self” is an illusion… we are actually “the experience” of this moment, the ever changing, ever unfolding process of our consciousness… until we aren’t, I guess.  Somewhere on youtube I saw a Buddhist guru type, in answer to (a “non duality” question, maybe) declare that we speak of individuals as discrete beings as a matter or practicality, to facilitate accomplishing things… “tomorrow at 3 P.M., you are going to bring the tea and I am going to bring the bisquits”… at least that’s the way I heard what he said.

I very much enjoyed the person discussing the challenges of dealing with a bully/line-cutter in a loving/ healthy way and the parable of the jew questioning,  without the guilt and the dread,  who am I?  With road rage or other forms of “righteous anger,” there is a feeling of aliveness within that kind of grand-standing… albeit, not a very palatable one. 

Sometimes when I see a bird soaring or a lizard basking in the sun, I wonder… “is THAT the goal of mediation?” … to just BE the experience?  Does that bird even know how so very kewl what it is doing is?  Does a flower know how beautiful it is (or that for reasons a little unclear to me, humans are attracted to them for none so practical of reasons as the birds and bees.  And then I imagine if I could actually do that 24/7, 100%, and ONLY feel and be and re-act to life… to ALWAYS only “be in the moment” to actually have “me” drop out of the center… then what would I give to ALSO be able to be CONSCIOUS of “me” (aware of my awareness, etc.)?  In other words, perhaps “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” 

It is not at all pretty to get sucked into ego-drama, where just because I perceive of someone as cutting me off in traffic, now I want to devote my entire life to destroying their world, come what may… this mortal enemy, a person I did not even know existed 5 seconds ago.
The reality is that five seconds ago I was a different person and now,  60 seconds later I am a very different person with a destroyed vehicle and compromised rights to freedom.  Of course most instances that needlessly PUFF up my ego (with fears and pride, indignation, etc.) and “jerk” me around are not so drastic, but they all have that potential to do more harm than good… and yet… on the other hand, sometimes they can do “good,”  I think of my anger as an energy that is trying (desperately) to create change… but it is a very blunt and crude instrument that usually results in changes that I was not actually intending.  It seems a bit much to presume that you always have a duty to imagine that someone might be about to walk in your path and need to forewarn them away… but if you can react in a healthy, respectful, but firm (if necessary) way that probably is best… of course…  some people only understand “force.”  I think, a lot of times, people use the “don’t make me get all crazy up in your face threat” as a way of bullying their way through their day… and frankly, most times it probably is “easier” to let them slide by… but it does seem an unjust strategy to condone, and to a degree, even to tolerate.
The most interesting and challenging aspects of “self” are how “I” collide with other components of my universe.  We may all be made of the same star stuff (brotha from another mutha), but that doesn’t mean that everyone is keen to get along “as one.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fajfkO_X0l0  :
the self is an illusion…
most people feel like they are inside their heads
that sense of being…a locus of consciousness inside the head Is an illusion…
There’s no place in the brain for the ego to be hiding…
“we have a changing system, we are a process and there’s not one unitary self that’s carried through from one moment to the next, unchanging,  and yet we feel that we have this self that is the center of experience…
Now it is possible ,,,to lose this feeling…
To have the center drop out of experience…
You can just be identical to this sphere of experience…
no sense of center…
this is classically described as self-transcendence or ego transcendence …
it’s a real experience…that people can have… While it tells you nothing about the cosmos…. It doesn’t make religious dogmas any more plausible…., it does tell you something about the nature of human consciousness…
If you lose your sense of a unitary self… if you lose your sense that there’s a permanent unchanging center to consciousness, your experience of the world actually becomes more faithful to the facts.

 
sojourner
 
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04 September 2016 22:32
 
vastless - 04 September 2016 11:04 AM

One of my many favorite lines from Sam Harris’ “Waking Up; spirituality without religion,”
is where he speaks of going to a teacher/guru in the far east to seek self-enlightenment
and is quickly shown that there is no “self” to enlighten . 
His book also describes Thomas Nagle’s supposition that a fruit bat is conscious IF “there is something that it is like to be a fruit bat.  In other words, if you could swap placed with a fruit bat’s existence for a bit, would you have an experience?

Below is a Sam Harris youtube clip, along with a transcription of some of his words on the topic… in short, the “self” is an illusion… we are actually “the experience” of this moment, the ever changing, ever unfolding process of our consciousness… until we aren’t, I guess.  Somewhere on youtube I saw a Buddhist guru type, in answer to (a “non duality” question, maybe) declare that we speak of individuals as discrete beings as a matter or practicality, to facilitate accomplishing things… “tomorrow at 3 P.M., you are going to bring the tea and I am going to bring the bisquits”… at least that’s the way I heard what he said.

I very much enjoyed the person discussing the challenges of dealing with a bully/line-cutter in a loving/ healthy way and the parable of the jew questioning,  without the guilt and the dread,  who am I?  With road rage or other forms of “righteous anger,” there is a feeling of aliveness within that kind of grand-standing… albeit, not a very palatable one. 

Sometimes when I see a bird soaring or a lizard basking in the sun, I wonder… “is THAT the goal of mediation?” … to just BE the experience?  Does that bird even know how so very kewl what it is doing is?  Does a flower know how beautiful it is (or that for reasons a little unclear to me, humans are attracted to them for none so practical of reasons as the birds and bees.  And then I imagine if I could actually do that 24/7, 100%, and ONLY feel and be and re-act to life… to ALWAYS only “be in the moment” to actually have “me” drop out of the center… then what would I give to ALSO be able to be CONSCIOUS of “me” (aware of my awareness, etc.)?  In other words, perhaps “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” 

It is not at all pretty to get sucked into ego-drama, where just because I perceive of someone as cutting me off in traffic, now I want to devote my entire life to destroying their world, come what may… this mortal enemy, a person I did not even know existed 5 seconds ago.
The reality is that five seconds ago I was a different person and now,  60 seconds later I am a very different person with a destroyed vehicle and compromised rights to freedom.  Of course most instances that needlessly PUFF up my ego (with fears and pride, indignation, etc.) and “jerk” me around are not so drastic, but they all have that potential to do more harm than good… and yet… on the other hand, sometimes they can do “good,”  I think of my anger as an energy that is trying (desperately) to create change… but it is a very blunt and crude instrument that usually results in changes that I was not actually intending.  It seems a bit much to presume that you always have a duty to imagine that someone might be about to walk in your path and need to forewarn them away… but if you can react in a healthy, respectful, but firm (if necessary) way that probably is best… of course…  some people only understand “force.”  I think, a lot of times, people use the “don’t make me get all crazy up in your face threat” as a way of bullying their way through their day… and frankly, most times it probably is “easier” to let them slide by… but it does seem an unjust strategy to condone, and to a degree, even to tolerate.
The most interesting and challenging aspects of “self” are how “I” collide with other components of my universe.  We may all be made of the same star stuff (brotha from another mutha), but that doesn’t mean that everyone is keen to get along “as one.”


Anger is a tricky emotion, I think it can mean all sorts of things (honestly, having worked with kids for awhile, a part of me thinks people read too much into anger - I’ve seen special needs kids with no behavior issues as children develop severe aggression issues once testosterone kicks in - I think to some extent it’s just neurotransmitter / evolutionary cause-effect). Or, for me, I know that often the person I am ostensibly mad at is not actually the problem - the person who cuts in line and makes me want to scream is just the straw that broke the camel’s back when I’m stressed out in general. Or an ‘easy’ person to be angry with, since they’re a random stranger. Easier to be mad at them than the friends or family or boss you’ll actually interact with regularly for years to come, right? I also think there’s a difference between being angry and bossy. To me, at least, being angry actually feels miserable - it’s an extremely unpleasant state. Being bossy often looks like anger, but as you note, it’s really far more self-righteous and calculated, designed to get someone to react in a certain way - to change whatever it is they’re doing that you don’t like or to back off or whatever the case may be. I don’t know that that’s actually anger vs. being controlling. Both problematic, but different phenomenons. The thing is, though, I rarely like the way those concepts are discussed in a ‘spiritual’ sense, because I think half the time they just lead to really passive aggressive behavior. There are some spiritual types who really, fully want to follow through on being gentle and not controlling - if you’re a Tibetan monk peacefully letting people imprison and torture you and your closest friends while sending them compassionate thoughts, well, ok, to a large degree you’re practicing what you preach. But most people are not going to be ‘un-controlling and gentle’ about people stealing their stuff, taking advantage of them, and so on, so then it turns into a battle of “No, my attempts to control are benevolent and wise and firm but without anger, yours suck.” To me that’s just more arguing over whose shit doesn’t stink - if you’re not the Tibetan monk, you’re kinda in the same boat with the rest of us, it’s more a matter of degree.


As for ‘no self’ - I find this topic really interesting, because if ‘just experiencing is just experiencing’, it seems like kind of a “so what?” statement. Everyone is just experiencing whatever they’re experiencing, all the time. Even if it’s experiencing being a shallow, separate, miserable ‘self’ totally identified with thought, you can’t really say they’re not “in the moment experiencing that” - who isn’t in the moment? If it’s truly about being in the Now, why is having a moment of being lost in thought any different than a moment of non-dual awareness, they’re both experiences happening ‘in the now’, right? So it seems to me to be a paradox here, that there would be no point in spiritual practice at all if there wasn’t some ethereal change at some level when meditating… but that raises the question of who or what benefits from meditation that wasn’t benefiting without it?

 
 
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