Dying Daily #217: The Tyranny of the Self

I mentioned finding a bunch of old journals yesterday, and how overwhelmingly self-absorbed and self-obsessed it all was.

It was odd to be reminded of how much strife and struggle and conflict and misery I lived in for so long, and how all of it was the result of my own thoughts and a deep belief in the importance of my self.

I think this same emphasis on the self underpins a majority of the suffering I see in people around me and in my work.

When we are focuses on this self, we are in a state of constant agitation and fear because the mind is working overtime to ensure that everything goes our way. We slip away from investing in the moment and in others because we are obsessed with taking care of ourselves and making sure everything is the way we want it to be.

This forces us into close relationship with everything we cannot control, while simultaneously walling us off from the best parts of our nature as selfishness takes the reins. There is no way we will be at peace in this state, not with ourselves and certainly not with others.

There is a further problem here too. When we really begin to search for this thing we are protecting so obsessively, we cannot find it.

When we really look, this self that takes up so much of our mental and emotional energy isn’t there.

This really bothered me when I first start realizing it. I was very attached to my self, everything I did was for it.

Then I realized that it was a central part of the problem. The struggles and conflict and misery were all because I believed in and worked very hard to maintain the integrity of this self, and the less and less attached to it I became, the less and less misery and struggle and conflict I had.

Realizing there isn’t really anything there to fight for freed me up in a lot of ways.

Try it.

Recognize everything coming in through the five senses.

Are you what you see?

Are you what you smell?

Are you the sensory recognition of the skin?

Are you what you taste?

Are you what you hear?

Emotions make this al a little more difficult, because we feel them, right? But can you not step back from them and recognize them as emotions? Can you not observe what you are feeling?

Then, the biggest culprit: our thoughts.

Are you what you think?

I, for one, certainly think in terms of “I”. I definitely love thinking. I love my thoughts. They make me smart and give me something to do. Right?

But, I can step back and observe my thoughts as well. I can let them come and go, and not be affected or attached to them. They are not me

With a little bit of work, we can recognize than none of this is “us”, and things start to get a lot easier.

The line between me and everyone else fades, and conflict becomes a little bit harder to get involved in. The distinctions of good and bad get fuzzier and fuzzier, and the relentless push to get ahead and be comfortable disappears. What I want becomes less and less important.

As Pema Chodron says, you are the sky, everything else is just weather.

Have a great day.