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8 World Views

December 13, 2018

8 WORLD-VIEWS AND PRACTICES BY MARK NEPO

by Mark Nepo (syndicated from Parabola, Dec 13, 2018)

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  ~Ram Dass

Since prehistoric hunters had to work together in order to survive, people have had to learn how to share both the workload and the harvest, and the problems and the joys. Through the centuries, traditions have formed and complexities have grown. But the health of all community depends on how we treat each other.

I’d like to explore eight worldviews and the practices they offer. Each can help us stay wholehearted, authentic, and in true relationship to life and each other.

The Native American notion of All My Relations views all of reality and life as related and interconnected. Every aspect of life is seen as part of one intrinsic family. In the Blackfoot tribe, when people meet, they don’t say “How are you” but “Tza Nee Da Bee Wah?” which means, “How are the connections?” If the connections are in place, we must be all right. If the connections are not in place, then we need to tend them first. Inherent in the Native American view is that our well-being is based on how everything goes together. There can be no lasting individual health unless there is a working harmony among all living things. The practice that grows from this worldview is the need to discover, name, and repair the connections that exist between all things. This is considered sacred and necessary work.

The African ethic of ubuntu is often translated as I am because you are, you are because I am. It implies that we find our humanity in each other. Ubuntu literally means a person is a person through other persons. This heartfelt tradition concentrates on the irrevocable connectedness that exists between people. Based on this fundamental commitment to human kinship, there is no word for orphan in the African continent, because each tribe automatically assumes a lost child as part of its larger family.

At work here is the belief that in our very nature, we rely on each other to grow. As quarks combine to form protons and neutrons, which then form atoms, which then form molecules, individuals innately form families, which then form tribes, which then form nations. Our strong need to interact stems from the irreducible nature of love. In fact, all the worldviews I’m discussing are manifestations of our innate need to join. The practice that comes from the notion of ubuntu is the vow to water the common roots by which we all grow and to honor our strong need to join.

The Hindu view takes us through our self and beyond our self into the interdependent mystery, where we find ourselves in each and every living thing. This is what the holy phrase Thou Art That means. The notion comes from the story in the Chandogya Upanishad of a humble father Uddalaka and his precocious son Svetaketu, who at an early age is chosen to study with the holy Brahmins, the priest class in India who study spiritual knowledge. As soon as he begins to study, Svetaketu has no use for his father. He looks down on his simple father and never asks him a question. One day, his father interrupts him, and Svetaketu impatiently asks, “What do you want, Father?”

Uddalaka says, “I want you to come with me.” He leads his son to the foot of the great Nyagrodha tree. He picks a fruit and asks his son to hold it, then asks him, “What do you see?” His son curtly answers, “Nothing. I see nothing.” His father asks him to break open the fruit, which Svetaketu does, and they can see the seeds inside it. Again, his father asks him, “What do you see?” Again, his son says, “I see nothing, Father. Nothing!” Uddalaka takes a seed, which is hollow in the center, and puts it close to his son’s face, and says, “Thou Art That, my son, thou are that nothing.”

More than putting his son in place, Uddalaka jars him to feel the great truth that out of that unseeable center, we all come to be. We all grow from this great nothing, even the massive Nyagrodha tree. And so, the practice we’re compelled to learn here is how to face and feel a life of compassion that honors that we are at heart the same.

The notion of I and Thou, discerned by the philosopher Martin Buber, holds that God only appears in the unrehearsed, authentic dialogue between two living centers. When we see ourselves as the sun and everyone we meet as planets in our world, we are trapped in the I-It relationship, objectifying everyone we meet. But when we can meet others as equal living beings, each with their own center, then we live out the I and Thou relationship, through which the Mystery manifests as a vital life-force between us.

Buber discovered the notion of I and Thou while walking in a field at dusk as a storm was approaching. Leaning on a walking stick, he stopped near a huge oak tree. Lightning appeared, and he could see everything about him clearly. In the darkness that followed, he could only tap his way blindly until his walking stick touched the thick bark of the oak before him. In that moment, he could feel the tree through his walking stick, though he wasn’t directly touching it. The walking stick became a symbol for the authentic dialogue that lets us feel life in the honest speech we offer. The practice that arises from this worldview is to stay committed to the life of honest conversation.

The Lebanese greeting,Ya Ayuni!” literally means, “Oh, my eyes!” or “Oh, my darling!” Implicit in this ancient greeting is the recognition that we need each other to see, that one view is insufficient. Empowered by the presence of each other, the Lebanese people say, “Oh, my eyes! You’re here! Now we can see!” This custom reminds me of how Native American elders meet in a circle, not just for equity, but so that each elder will have a direct view of the Center. The belief at the heart of this worldview is that the Center and the Whole are not comprehensible by any one person alone. Therefore, we need everyone’s view to glimpse the enduring truths of life. And so, we gather meaning, we don’t choose it.

Like the Chien, the mythical bird of ancient China that has only one eye and one wing, we must find each other in order to see and fly. “Ya Ayuni!” “Oh, my eyes! You’re here! Now we can see!” The joyous practice of this custom—that we sorely need to enliven today—is to welcome other views in the belief that we need each other to be complete.

The next notion of connection comes from the early Christian mystics, the desert fathers of the third century, who gave us the metaphor of the Great Spoked Wheel. Imagine that each soul on Earth is a spoke in the Infinite Wheel and that no two spokes are the same. The rim of that Wheel is our living sense of community, and each spoke does its part to hold up the rim. But the common hub where all spokes join is the one Center where all souls come from.

As I become myself out in the world, I discover my unique gifts and find the one particular place on the rim of the Great Wheel that is mine to uphold. And so, as I move into the world, I live out my uniqueness. But when love and suffering cause me to go inward, I discover the common Center where we are all the same. When I dare to look into my own core, I come upon the one common core where all lives meet. In our becoming, which grows outward, and our being, which grows inward, we live out the paradox of being both unique and the same.

The image of the Great Spoked Wheel shows us how we need each other. If any of these parts are removed, the wheel falls apart. Remove any of the spokes, which are the individual souls that make up life, and the wheel doesn’t turn. Remove the Center, which is God, and there is no wheel. The practice offered here is to embody the paradox of our uniqueness and commonness by which the Great Wheel of Humanity turns.

The Danish notion of Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) comes from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being.” The word first appeared in Danish writing in the eighteenth century. The Danish word suggests coziness. As a practice of community, Hygge refers to the atmosphere we create between us. The Danish practice of Hygge invites us to create well-being, connection, warmth, and a sense of belonging. In Denmark and Norway, Hygge refers to “a form of everyday togetherness,” “a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness, and a spontaneous social flow.”

The final worldview comes from a greeting offered by African Bushmen. For centuries, the Bushmen have affirmed each other with resolve. When one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush after hunting or gathering, the one at home exclaims, I See You! and then the one returning rejoices, “I Am Here!”

This timeless gesture of bearing witness is both simple and profound. We all need to be seen and heard, recognized and verified. This is the emotional lifeblood of all relationship, which in our busyness and pain we often forget. The wholehearted acknowledgment of each other’s journey is at the heart of all therapy. The practice enjoined here is to be present and bear witness to each other and other life. Whether someone is filling your glass with water at a restaurant or taking your change at a gas station, no one is invisible. By being alive, we’re enlisted to affirm each other by saying, “I See You!” in whatever way we can.

In summary, the eight worldviews and their practices are:

All My Relations from the Native American tradition.
The Practice: To discover, name, and repair the connections that exist between all things.

Ubuntu from the African tradition.
The Practice: To water the common roots by which we all grow and to honor our strong need to join.

Thou Art That from the Hindu tradition.
The Practice: To face and feel a life of compassion that honors that we are at heart the same.

The I and Thou Relationship from the Jewish tradition.
The Practice: To stay committed to the life of honest conversation.

Ya Ayuni! from the Lebanese tradition.
The Practice: To welcome other views in the belief that we need each other to be complete.

The Great Spoked Wheel from the early Christian mystic tradition.
The Practice: To embody the paradox of our uniqueness and commonness by which the Great Wheel of Humanity turns.

Hygge from the Danish tradition.
The Practice: To create well-being, connection, warmth, and a sense of belonging.

I See You! I Am Here! from the African Bushmen tradition.
The Practice: To be present and bear witness to each other and other life.

How we personalize these ancient worldviews and their vibrant practices is for each of us to discover. What does it mean for you: to repair the connections, to water our common roots, to face a life of compassion, to stay in honest conversation, to welcome other views, to honor our uniqueness and commonness, to create a sense of belonging, and to bear witness to each other? These are not concepts but living tools by which tribes and cultures have sustained human growth on Earth. How can you make good use of these tools today? By figuring out how to enact these practices in our daily life, we can strengthen the human community, one relationship at a time.

The health of all community depends on how we treat each other.

Mark Nepo (1951 to pres., poet and spiritual adviser. Excerpt from More Together than Alone, published by Atria Books)

 

 

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Banish the Darkness

December 13, 2018

For though my faith is not yours

and your faith is not mine,

if we each are free

to light our own flame,

together we can banish

some of the darkness of the world.

~Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

(1948 to pres., rabbi, philosopher,

theologian, author and politician)

Real Journey

December 12, 2018

The only activity the separate self

is really engaged in

is the discovery of peace,

freedom and happiness.

It first tries to do this

by uniting with objects, substances,

states and relationships,

but at some point it gets to the end

of that adventure.

It realizes that it can never

be fully satisfied by objective experience,

and that is when

the real journey back home begins.

~ Rupert Spira

(1960 to pres., treacher of Advaita Vedanta, potter)

 

Gratitude

December 11, 2018

The gratitude

that we encounter

helps us believe

in the goodness of the world,

and strengthens us

thereby to do

what’s good.

~Albert Schweitzer

(1875 – 1965, German Theologian,

Philosopher, Musician, Missionary)

Within

December 10, 2018

In the depth of winter,

I finally learned

that within me

there lay

an invincible summer

~Albert Camus

(1913-1960 French philosopher)

Blessings

December 9, 2018

If we focus our attention

on the many, many, blessings

that we receive in our own lives,

then we will find that they outweigh

many, many, many, many times

more than what would be lacking in our lives.

Gratefulness is a state

in which we need to be.

It is a state of recognizing

that whatever happens to us

is happening for our highest good.

~Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj

(1946 to pres., Author, Scientist, Mystic,

Leader of Science of Spirituality and

International Movements for World Peace)

Smart Selfing

December 8, 2018

SMART-SELFING

By Kate Gustin, Ph.D. (2018)

The truth is we have all been taken over! An identity theft has occurred within our very own heads. The culprit? The self. The voice of our thoughts. The clever mind has generated a thinking process so compelling and seemingly continuous that it has taken on a life and label of its own: “self.”

Humanity has been brainwashed by this inner voice of the mind that accompanies us 24/7 and comments on our every waking moment. The seat of our thoughts has insidiously granted itself such convincing personhood that it seems outrageous to even question the self’s validity in the first place. But, if we look closely, we can see that, other than the conditioned thought-forms out of which it is constructed, the self lacks substance.

The self is like the announcer of a ballgame – announcing each play as it occurs, providing background information about the athletes, speculating about the season’s prospects, creating the overall story of the game. But the story of the game is obviously not the game itself. The game happens independent of whether the announcer is present. The self-commentator has mistaken itself as the ballgame, which is to say that collectively we have mistaken the voice in our heads as our true being.

In buying into the mind’s language-based narrative, bestowing the ether-like entity the privilege of claiming to be who we are, we have come to identify with a mere fraction of the limitless expanse of our spirit, intelligence, and potential.

Mind as Tool

The moment one realizes that the mind is an instrument one can then break free of the artifice of the “self.” Smart-selfing consists of engaging the mind’s commentary in a deliberate way towards this end, towards remembrance of one’s true identity in the present moment.

It’s been a privilege to watch students and clients come to such a revelation. At first, the suggestion to view one’s thinking as a separate and somewhat impersonal process tends to encounter skepticism: Why would I separate myself from the workings of my own mind?! But then, after some inquiry, the insight ripens – that one has a mind, a tool of thought to be used at will rather than the common experience/perception of the self being used as a tool by the mind.

The insight that the mind’s analysis is an optional instrument we can pick up or put down has profound implications; namely, that one no longer has to be at the mercy of the mind’s whims, moods, and motives. Jane can see her depressive thoughts and not be the depression. Bill can watch the anxiety activate his nervous system without taking each anxious thought at face value. And suddenly, the problems that caused one to seek help – the “not-good-enough” beliefs, the “guilty-until-proven-innocent” judgments, the “what-if” worries – have lost their charge. They may still arise in thought, especially if the mind has been conditioned to think in a certain way. But, the products and habits of the mental apparatus are no longer conflated with who one is.

Smart-Selfing Applications

How does this realization change our day-to-day life in a tangible way?

It gives us the power of choice, placing us in the driver’s seat of deciding when to act from our self-story and when to redirect our attention back towards our non-selfing or “no-self” nature. That can make all the difference in how we approach the very routine parts of our lives – waking up in the morning, eating meals, being at work or school, interacting, making decisions. Here are some concrete examples below of how smart-selfing can manifest in the realm of daily functioning:

Waking-up

Waking up happens on its own – the self doesn’t orchestrate it. But, once awake, the self can hit the ground running with a commentary about how you slept, how you’re feeling, the day ahead, the day past, your entire future. So, do you engage with the self’s narrative? Well, ask yourself: Is it helpful? Do these thoughts motivate, inspire, guide me? Do I need or want to be audience to the self as it’s showing up right now? If the answer is “Yes,” then go for it. Continue with the train of thought.

If the answer is “No,” then come back to no-self. What this looks like practically is allowing your field of awareness to widen beyond the thoughts pulling for your attention. You do not need to silence or eradicate the self. Why get into a conflict with an operating system? Just shift your attention so that the system operates at a low hum in the background of your field of awareness rather than commanding the spotlight in the foreground.

Coming back to no-self when the alarm rings is simply waking up and taking stock of what your senses tell you – how the bed feels, how the light looks streaming in through the curtains, the sounds of the squirrels on the roof, the smell of un-refreshed kitty litter wafting in from the bathroom. It’s being present with what’s there without analysis, without engaging in the commentary the self dishes out the moment you open your eyes.

Eating meals

When you’re making breakfast, lunch or dinner, do you want to waltz with the self? Again, to answer this you may need to look at the particular thoughts in question. If the mind, for example, is gently reminding you of culinary hazards in the service of insuring a better oatmeal outcome, you may choose to pay attention. If the mind is raking you through the coals for not having gone grocery shopping, for eating too much the night before or ruminating on how long it will be before someone else will clean the dishes in the sink for goodness’ sake, then maybe you’d prefer to redirect your attention away from the realm of thought.

Coming back to no-self while eating would simply be coming back to the meal – how it looks, tastes, smells. No-self is basically resting in everything consciousness takes note of including, but not limited to, thought content. Check it out: How does it feel to eat without having to give the bulk of your attention over to mind chatter?

If you’re rushed and feel that eating for its own sake is a luxury you can’t afford, you can always return to the self’s multitasking – gulping down your food while making to-do lists in your head or reviewing grievances towards your internalized spouse for the nth time.

If you’re ambivalent about where to rest your attention, just notice how it feels to shift your attention back and forth into and out of selfing. The most important take away here is the knowledge that you have options: you can return to the self/no-self crossroads any time you like.

Being at school or work

When you arrive at the classroom, workroom, boardroom, what is your self telling you? The gold standard question to ask is “Is it helpful?” This can also be directed towards your overall attitude, as selfing includes not only the sentences streaming through your head, but also the conditioned outlook or emotional reaction that arises. For instance, as you sit down to the lecture in economics class, is your self prepping you to “Just get through it”? When walking into the staff meeting, is your self’s attitude a heal-dragging, eye-rolling “Been there, done that”? Such anticipatory irritation, boredom, dread, is also an expression of self – a narrative projection of what the future will entail based upon how the past has played out. If you check in with your self and find that it’s biasing you towards the present experience before it has a chance to even take place, you might want to redirect towards no-self.

No-self at school or at work is the equivalent of a clean slate. It’s a relaxing into what the Zen tradition calls “Beginner’s Mind,” a phrase translated from shoshin meaning an eagerness and openness towards experience; meeting it without preconception. A curiosity accompanies no-self into each unfolding moment; a wide capacity to receive the human common core exactly as it presents itself.

No-self will not make a tedious seminar on estate tax or a grueling performance review with a nit-picking boss other than it is. But it will allow for you to encounter it as it is – without the self’s commentary complicating the experience with an additional layer of resistance, reactivity, denial, avoidance, what have you. And, you might find that, without that extra layer, life can surprise you by not conforming to your expectations.

Transitions

Transitions are the times in-between activities such as standing in line, driving home, waiting for an appointment to begin. The mind tends to be quite chatty during transitions. When selfing occurs, the invitation, yet again, is to check in with the content and inquire “Does it add to my life right now?” If you’re reminiscing about your last beach vacation while you wait for the colonoscopy and it feels like a comforting escape of mind, by all means, carry on. If, instead, your thoughts have you suddenly diagnosed with colon cancer just like your neighbor was last year – who died, by the way, and you find your blood pressure rising, maybe it’d be helpful to visit no-self.

No-self won’t dispute such thoughts. Nor is it a guarantee of any sort. No-self is just expanding your awareness to recognize “Mmm, here I am waiting for this procedure with this flurry of thoughts and knot in my stomach. And I’m breathing, and it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, and that’s a lovely piece of art on the wall in front of me and that lady across from me looks a bit nervous and I’ve gotten through unpleasant medical procedures before and I’m feeling a little warm, I’ll take my jacket off and I smell coffee from somewhere and my left toe itches…”

No-self is the largest context in which awareness of everything arises. The context does not necessarily express itself as a verbal stream as exemplified here. No-self can present as a quiet, silent knowing of all the “ands” listed above. It is a recognition of your largest, most inclusive being, which has practical benefit in broadening one’s perspective when transitioning towards what’s to come.

Interactions

When we relate to others, a distinct personality comes forward. The self on the inside – the sense of who you are as your mind constructs it – can either facilitate the interaction between personalities or problematize it. When on a date, for instance, the inner self may bring unnecessary attention to itself through such thoughts as “What impression am I making? What does she think of me?” If engaging those reflections in the midst of your date works for you, go ahead and answer the self’s queries. If you’d prefer to focus, instead, on the conversation as it’s unfolding, it might be helpful to come back to no-self.

The same is true for simple exchanges or pleasantries. Ask: “Where do I want to rest my attention”? – on what’s happening on the outside or on the inside (e.g., your commentary about what’s happening)? The answer may depend upon how constructive the commentary is. Does it feel constructive, for example, to review a personal history of social blunders as you walk into the holiday party?

The no-self option during interactions entails opening to the connection with the other person as it’s happening. Shifting to no-self enables full awareness of the moment – the range of feelings and ideas and physical responses that get generated during the interaction as well as everything else that’s not necessarily about the interaction. For example, when engaged in a tense exchange with someone, no-self maintains a breadth of observation – aware of the escalating tone of voice, the constriction of throat, the felt-urge to criticize the other or flee the room.

While the self might be wed to externalizing thoughts (“How dare he …” “Why can’t she…”), further activating the mind and body towards conflict, no-self holds the tension in equal measure with everything else that’s true. It notices, for instance, the simultaneous continuation of breathing, one’s enduring intelligence, the solid ground beneath one’s feet, and so on. Thus, turning back to no-self when interpersonally triggered helps one remember that who they are is much more than a person stuck in the crosshairs of conflict. Such remembrance will likely inform a different type of response to the situation.

Decision Making

To self or not to self when making a decision? Decisions vary. Straightforward ones like deciding whether to pull off the road to get gasoline won’t necessarily activate self-referential thought whereas choosing which job to apply for calls for personal reflection on one’s interests and strengths. But, watch out. When anxiety is present, there’s greater susceptibility towards the slippery slope of unhelpful selfing: “Why didn’t I stay longer at my last job? There must be something wrong with me for wanting to be a writer. What if I fail all the course work for nursing school?”

When decision-making thoughts become repetitive, demoralizing, and/or paralyzing, then it might be helpful to come back to no-self. No-self engages all the same capacities towards decision making without investing selfhood into them. For example, when contemplating a budget for monthly spending, no-self can engage the intellect and emotions in sorting through financial and lifestyle choices. No-self won’t take you down because there’s no “you” to become enmeshed with the budget decisions. A more or less frugal plan may get implemented, for example, without extrapolation about what that means about your worth as a person.

Downtime

Does selfing allow you to rest and recover from the day’s demands, to have fun? Check in with the content of your thoughts. Are they telling you to “buck up, be productive, stay busy?” Do you have to make a case with the self-arbitrator in your mind to have twenty minutes of playtime? Or, is the self-talk understanding and supportive: “Of course you need to chillax after such a stressful day. Go ahead and read that magazine, play Plants vs Zombies.”

If you feel conflicted about the whole notion of downtime, why not check-in with no-self? No-self is the sum total of how your being authentically expresses itself in the moment. Sometimes that expression is not subtle: stumbling through the front door at the end of the workday, mentally and physically spent, too tired to properly operate the microwave to heat up a frozen pizza which would taste better in the oven but you don’t have the bandwidth to wait that long. No-self’s intuition about how to proceed with downtime often takes its cue from what’s most obvious in how you feel.

We encounter these and many other opportunities throughout the day to slow down and make a conscious choice to remember who and what we are. Even as we practice smart-selfing, different degrees of re-immersion back into not-so-smart-selfing will still occur. But exclusive identification with the mind’s narrative becomes less likely the more one tastes the freedom of detachment from their thoughts.

A Smart Selfing Society

Collectively, as we practice smart-selfing, we begin to challenge the cultural convention of automatically colluding with the self’s unbridled assumptions: that the self-story exists beyond the mind’s machinations and that it does so without alternative.

Smart-selfing allows people to step out of their trance with the mind’s netherworld: the preoccupation with ether images and ephemeral words that drift by like apparitions. Such preoccupation has veiled us from our most fundamental interconnection with one another; it has misled us into believing that we are each a separate, autonomous “I”, entombed within a separate, autonomous mind-body.

When smart-selfing as a society, we no longer take our I’s story as literal truth. Nor do we have to continue watching everyone else take their “I’s” story literally. Smart-selfing thus enables an evolutionary shift in identity. It halts billions of fictional accounts of separateness from continuing to play off one another like mirrored funhouse reflections contributing to a distorted conventional reality of stark aloneness.

Instead, smart-selfing primes the pivotal insight that consciousness is larger than the thoughts it contains. It prevents people from defaulting back to the mind’s assignment of solitary personhood. People can let go of the illusion of inhabiting a single piece of mind and abide instead within an all-encompassing peace of mind. We can step off our thought-based islands and embrace belonging to one inclusive sea.

The implications are nothing less than revolutionary! Smart-selfing provides a means of bridging division with apparent others, allowing humanity’s prosocial proclivities to more fully come on-line. “Charity” can now be understood as an automatic and humane giving to Oneself, rather than a self-depleting donation to others. Additionally, think of how recognition of such no-self unity might affect the recent trends of reduction in empathy and concerned perspective-taking towards others, how it might impact the current rise in traits of narcissism and materialism.

Smart-selfing engenders an all-embracing worldview without sacrificing our individuality. Every being still continues to enjoy its own thoughts and have its unique imprint upon the larger fabric of creation. That said, what emerges with a smart-selfing culture is more than the sum of the individual parts, just as in jazz, where each performance results in an improvisation that includes and transcends the contributions of the separate musicians. A communal inter-subjectivity emerges that manifests an informed, creative, and beneficial intelligence. This intelligence blossoms as no-self becomes conscious of itself. The more people able to get beyond their personal thought-spheres to practice smart-selfing, the larger the awakened field becomes.

This is how a change in cultural consciousness can occur. As a visual, picture an entire room full of people standing in the dark (of self-identification), holding unlit candles (unrealized no-self). It only takes one “locofoco” – a self-igniting match – to brighten the whole room. Each person only has to light one other person’s candle for exponential luminosity to swell.

Then the momentum sets in. Like a social media wildfire, smart-selfing spreads. More and more people experience resonance of no-self after beholding it in another’s presence. Seeing beyond the veil of the self is no longer limited to a few select teachers and their followings. The center of gravity shifts. Exposure to one’s largest identity becomes accessible, normative, and utterly transformative.

Coming Home

Smart-selfing invites you to come home, to get reacquainted with the unspeakable mystery of what you are underneath the self’s story. This mystery tugs at us, summons us to return and abide as our original, most inclusive nature.

In this way, we are not so different from the salmon, compelled by an instinctual longing to trace the stream of our existence back to its source. But, unlike the salmon, we do not need to wait until the very end of our life cycle to return to no-self, nor have the body die soon thereafter! We do not need to trek through treacherous waters or scale steep falls. We arrive home, not by journey, but by remembrance. No-self is already who we are, revealed when selfing judiciously and no longer believing all the dictates of the mind. It is not some esoteric process or unreachable destination.

What we do as no-self may appear to be the same on the outside as what we do as a self. Washing the car is still washing the car. But, there is a difference on the inside. With the self, a self-conscious referencing of “me” divides the person from the activity. This does not occur with no-self; there is instead a seamless flow to experience. No-self is the undivided state, at one with form and activity.

No-self is not a washed-out spiritual bypass of life. You get to see and hear what else arises within you and around you when your thoughts no longer drown everything out. You begin to notice elements of goodness, beauty and truth in people and situations that the self might not expect. A gut-level recognition of wholeness and wholesomeness begins to quench a soul-thirst the self could never slake.

The bottom line is: you get to decide what’s an effective approach to your peace of mind, to the identity you wish to embrace. Should you practice smart-selfing, leading you towards the homing beacon that is no-self, your self won’t vanish in the process (at least not without your consent!). And you can always re-conjure it whenever you want to.

So, really, what do you have to lose?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Gustin, Ph.D., is a San Francisco Bay Area clinical psychologist and author. She received her education from Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in a variety of settings over the past twenty-five years as a mental health practitioner in outpatient psychiatry, community mental health clinics, VA Hospitals, and in college counseling services. She is currently in private practice in San Rafael, CA. This essay is a reworked excerpt from her book, The No-Self Help Book, which was published in fall 2018 by New Harbinger Press.