Whether we have confidence or no confidence we are seeing our world through, a similar belief system. The confidence/no confidence belief system is our answer to knowing who we are. Whether we are abundantly confident, or we lack it completely, the common thread between these two ways of seeing ourselves in the world is that both see the world through the lens of the self.
What if all those beliefs were false? What if both the positive and negative self views were false? What if the whole spectrum of self views were all false? What then? Who would you be? This is something worth contemplating. If you want to contemplate this, the don't forget that question. Ask it again and again:. “who would you be without these beliefs in yourself?” Resting in the unknowable nature of that question is the best way to contemplate it.
Perhaps the next question, once you become comfortable with not knowing who you are, is the more important question. That question is: who is asking and why? Don’t worry about finding an answer to these questions either. Learn to see all answers are just more beliefs about the self.
Why not just stay? Stay in the place of not knowing. Stay in the place of openness to possibilities, openness to change, to anything. This is the place where curiosity is born. This is the place where life truly happens.
Most of us can only live our life fully when we forget the self. We are only truly alive when we forget the self. Holding a newborn in our arms is one way to forget the self. Flying down a mountain on a snowboard in a foot of fresh powder is maybe another way to briefly forget the self. Gazing into the eyes of the one you have just fallen totally in love with is another example. In all these experiences and so many more like them, we probably felt very alive. There is a reason for that.
What a good day it is when we have experienced life while the “self” took a backseat to the
experience. Do you remember what it felt like when you were experiencing life without the burden and anxiety of maintaining or improving the self? The self takes so much of our energy to maintain and protect, not to mention all the ambitions we have that will “define” us in some way. The problem is, that all those things which are used to define the self, and to protect the self, and to maintain the self, limit “our” awareness to a fine point. A point in space and time which invariably misses the big picture.
The drama that can result from the narrow view of the self is apparent to anyone who watches this kind of human plight. Have you ever noticed that during a big drama storm there is often someone quietly watching the whole thing go down? Didn’t it seem that they were the one who were most free of the drama? They weren’t stressed about it because they probably saw that in the long run, it all meant pretty much nothing. Perhaps one could make the argument that those experiences had to be experienced by those involved and so in that sense they had meaning, but not the same meaning that those caught in the drama believed at the time. Think of all the dramas that must have occurred over the vast expanse of history. How many of those still have meaning? Did they ever? This is what it means to see the truth of a thing.
There is relative truth and absolute truth. Those caught in the drama are seeing their world from the lens of the self and through the limited lens of relative truth are caught in that limited understanding. Those who sit in the corner and grin perhaps see the situation from the perspective of absolute truth, or a perspective closer to that. They are free of the drama. Although they experience the same situation, they are free of the suffering and anxiety, and adrenaline. They are also free of the hatred and violence and fear. They have much more peace than those caught in the drama. Those playing out the roles of “their” selves are the ones who are suffering. (I put the possessive pronoun in quotes because who owns who? Do you possess your “self” or does it possess you?)
If you contemplate what it is to know thyself without all the labels and beliefs, you may realize
something incredibly profound. In fact, one day you may realize exactly what the Buddha meant by the term “no-self.” When you see the world through the lens of absolute truth, you will be free of seeing it through the lens of the self because you will see that, like everything which is compounded, it is only real in a limited sense. In other words, you may see someday when you least expect it, that life is not really real. When you see that the self is just another set of beliefs, you may be free of it. As you realize this, you may find that you do not have to take your life and “your” self so seriously. Mistakes take on a whole new meaning when you no longer have to prove your self.
Once you see the flowing, ever changing nature of life, and can feel the true depths of impermanence then you will be close to understanding what the enlightened ones meant when they said there is no self. To realize the nature of self is to be free of it and all suffering. This is what they say, but find out for yourself. Don’t take the Buddha’s word for it, contemplate with the aim of finding the truth for "your"self.
By Karl Rosengrant