Posts Tagged false self
Dance along with me in the Nothing Dance, celebrating Nothing at all:
When one begins the process of looking at oneself, many hitherto unknown facets of personality begin to appear. At first we may wish to think the meditative process itself has created these behavior patterns, but soon enough we come to see that our previous state of sleep was greater than we wished to admit. If we keep at our practice long enough, we will begin to see that certain states of mind are behind the newly discovered patterns, and may be shocked to discover our true motives in day-to-day-life. When these facts come to light, the first reaction may be to sort the behaviors into good and bad categories, and then set ourselves to the grim task of removing the negative while accenting the good. In other words, the ego will start a campaign of behavior-modification meant to bring us closer to ‘perfection’. Actually this is nothing new, having been going on since birth, but the new found level of awareness gives the ego a new sense of cleverness. It’s going to outwit itself this time, for sure.
When we begin to see the underlying motivation for a negative pattern of behavior is, say, pride, we can hardly resist wanting to counter it by creating a projection of humility or altruism. If we are honest, we may see through this, but be left
wondering if there is another solution. Renewed effort in the form of continued self-observation may take us to the next step. The pride itself could be just an effect, a compensation for an underlying state of fear. As we continue with our observing, we may come to wonder if there is ever an end to all this, if the root cause of our aberrant behavior can be found. If we persevere, we eventually come to the root cause of the fear, a feeling of alienation, the battle of the self with the not-self, the mistaken belief that we are a separate thing. This thing, or body/mind, lives in constant opposition with what it sees as other separate things. The universal has become lost in the particular and forgotten itself. This unnatural situation brings about the sense of anxiety and fear underlying most of our lives.
What now? Here we find ourselves head to head with our very sense of survival, where no ego effort can help. By looking within long enough, we may come to the door of awareness, and with grace and luck, find ourselves beyond the mind. From this new awareness, we come to see the former belief in separateness to be, as John Wren-Lewis puts it, ‘some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system’. We will also come to see the futility in putting new and improved patterns of behavior in compensation for any negative ones. The old Zen warning against putting a new head on top of the one we already have comes to mind.
All negative patterns of behavior can be traced back to the ‘I am the body’ idea, the feeling of alienation. Our natural state has no sense of separateness, for it contains all. Trying to fix an ego problem with an ego effort is doomed to failure, for as Wren-Lewis again states, ‘the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out ”. True peace can only come from our true self, or universal awareness. The body/mind will then continue to function, but in a sane manner, without the inflated ego-sense as master.
The effort of self-observation is the revealing of the false. Our true nature will remain, and as such, needs no modification. All we can do is to follow the old adage for crossing a busy road: look and listen. If we can see something, anything, it’s not us. In this manner we can come to see we do not exist, yet Are, and Life can become a wonderful thing.
“Man is the Frankenstein of God.” – Richard Rose
Meditation is the destruction of the sense of ‘self.’ This self has been created by the mind through ignorance, a sort of learned hypnosis, and can be destroyed by the very act of staring it in the face. This is better described as the act of observing ourselves. Thinking we observe ourselves already, we must somehow first become convinced that what we are doing is no such thing, but instead we are blindly creating our own version of the Frankenstein monster, then stepping inside our creation and taking it to be us. This created act of the imagination is never questioned until disaster strikes and the peasants with their torches are banging at the door.
We may actually begin to observe ourselves and find we are a stranger. If we are still intrigued and the intuition awakened, we may be tricked into looking for the problem inside our own head. This revelation that something might be amiss in our own interior, coupled with a bit of intuition and grace, may lead to an interior questioning. Awareness breeds more awareness and soon we may find we have reversed our direction. The creating mind with its compensating imagination may be glimpsed just enough. We may find we are hooked on this self-observation thing. But watch out. The ego and animal nature won’t like this one bit, and will do everything to bring back the good old days of dissipation, drama, and self-created misery. If we are still a tad lucky, we will see through this and have discovered another layer of that which is not us. We place meaning and value on the continual act of observing, the inward listening with attention.
Meditation also involves finding a stable point within. The body/mind is in constant flux; happiness or pleasure are fleeting at best. By sorting through and retreating from this, we eventually go beyond body/mind and find a Place of No Concern, a deep stillness. Thus we find meditation to be a changing process, different at every stage, but final in its result. Eventually we look at the looker, and even look at looking itself.
- Bob Fergeson
The Gnostic’s tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurge’s belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we lose contact with our true Self and become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body as well as our true nature, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought and feeling. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own experienced consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought and feeling formed throughout a person’s life, the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time. (see footnote 1.)
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought and feeling is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world’s ills spring from this illusion.
This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren’t so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of ‘deciding’, the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on. (see footnote 2.)
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. If we start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, stabilizes it in silence, and returns the mystery to awareness. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought and knowing, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought and feeling. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness, the mystery of our being, to come forth. – Bob Fergeson
1. “In The Nature of Consciousness, you can read of an experiment conducted in 1985 by Benjamin Libet. Electrodes of an EEG machine were placed on the scalps of subjects to detect the onset of mental activity. The subjects were then instructed to spontaneously flex their hand, and to note the time of perceiving the urge to do so according to a clock. The results of the data collected showed that the brain began action, referred to as mental potential, about half a second before the subjects experienced the urge to flex, and three quarters of a second before the flex occurred. I have heard of similar experiments which produced the same result. What subjects experience as a conscious urge to act was shown to be an after the fact product of previous, usually unconscious, mental activity. Who is the actor?”
- Mike Connors, Effortless Meditation: Starting with the Goal, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2005-12.htm#5
For more information:
Benjamin Libet, Mind time: The temporal factor in consciousness, Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience. Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01320-4.
The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Consciousness-Philosophical-Debates/dp/0262522101
Ned Block, Editor
2. Why do we seem to have a hard time incorporating Douglas Harding’s experiments or Tolle’s Power of Now into a lasting awareness? If we have an early success with one of Harding’s experiments or realizing the power of the moment, it could be the worst thing that could happen to us, because we can turn these realizations into a fabricated memory, later used in projection. At any point from the moment the realization is turned into a memory, when we think we’re in the power of now or remembering a Harding experiment, we will be referencing that created and stored memory, and fabricating it into a projected ’moment’. That’s our mechanical mind’s way; it’s easier and we’re used to it. Trying to go back into the power of now or the moment, looking at who you really are, is very antagonistic to the ego to say the least. We have to realize this trick; otherwise we just go on looking for the next guru, the next teaching, the next level, since we’ve got that merit badge, and are feeling once again the need to assert our feeling of knowing. The mind is geared to find another problem, and solve that, ad infinitum. No change in being is possible if we do not realize how our mind creates and projects images, and then fools us into thinking they are somehow in real time, rather than after the fact. But the actual seeing of how we create our lives and our moments every moment as we go, this takes being new each moment, rather than an act of projected memory and agreement all taking place unconsciously. It’s hard work, a mystery, to stay a step ahead of our mind. Not only do we create what we’re looking at, objects and things, through this process of creation and projection and then only seeing the finished product, but this created projection is what we are, as individual personalities. Our initial percepts and our reactions to them create a fabricated memory, and eventually a fabricated projection, which is us, as well as our world. – Bob Fergeson
“The path to Truth begins with the self. We cannot properly isolate, identify, or analyze the self, because it is the subject about which we know the least.” – Richard Rose
The conscious attention, or ego, sits on the doorstep between two worlds: that of the outer country of our senses commonly called reality, and the world of the mind, our inner realm, the undiscovered country. While much can be said of the outer world of the senses, little is known by most of us of our inner country, a world of automatic responses and unquestioned beliefs, hidden in darkness, projected onto our hapless neighbors.
Even those of us on the spiritual path, professed seekers of truth, rarely enough venture into the unknown country behind our eyelids. We tend to avoid this inner space, side stepping it in favor of imagination. We create a conceptual idea of ourselves in our head, one which fits our needs and fears, and then believe in it. The true state of our mind and emotions is avoided and exiled, an active but unconscious shadow in the darkness within.
This refusal to look at our inner state is not only because we are cowards, ignorant, and/or blind. It is necessary. The mind could not go on about its business in day-to-day affairs in the hustle of modern life if it questioned itself. Things could come to a halt.
One of the ways we avoid the inner realm is through what I call the game of ‘stay away’. We refuse to look at anything about ourselves that doesn’t fit the script. An extreme example of this is found today in neo-advaita types, while a generation or two ago it was seen in the radical side of Hare Krishna’s, and even earlier with ‘Jesus freaks’. The game is played by having a tight 5-10 minute circle of unbreakable logic which is repeated over and over, both to oneself as well as others. This is a very effective form of self-hypnosis which enables it’s practitioner to stay away from all consciousness of any inner emotional turmoil.
Another trick is that of placing the ego in an intangible form so that it cannot be attacked. These folks have no practical ego to speak of, meaning they have no real skills, no career, no interest which is actually carried out in the world. But to function the ego has to have an object, so if they are unwilling or incapable of identifying with a practical aspect of life, they find a concept, an archetype, or an image with which to identify. These images are invisible and intangible, so there is no risk of failure or success associated with believing in them. The trap is almost fool proof and extremely hard to break free of. Examples are seen often in New Age archetypes, such as the ‘goddess’, the ‘warrior’, the ‘sage’, etc. Even political and religious concepts can be effective shields against our personal truth, such as being politically correct or morally self-righteous. The common thread is an inability to handle tension or resistance. There can be no failure or questioning of an inner goddess, it can’t be seen or corroborated, so the person has an excuse not to face themselves, no matter what.
The trick of transference is seen in those who avoid their inner country by projecting it onto others. They have nothing to work on in themselves (being perfect, the ego’s main characteristic) so they spend their time helping others less fortunate (the rest of us). In this manner, they never have to see themselves as they are, for all imperfection surely lies in others, out there. They feel they are fortunate to be able to spend their time in helping, while their victims, their unlucky friends and acquaintances, must bear the burden of the ‘helpers’ unresolved inner conflicts.
An example of this was driven home to me when I worked at a ski resort. A group of blind cross country skiers came for a week, from the wonderful organization Ski for Light. There were over a hundred of the blind skiers, along with their guides and coaches. I assumed that the skiers, being blind, would be in need of much help, and their guides must be selfless saints to volunteer for such an undertaking. I had it exactly backwards. The skiers were the ones with the greater being, and needed no help traveling freely about their inner country. The guides on the other hand, while sighted in the outer world, were, perhaps unknowingly, being taught humility, faith, patience and wisdom by their unsighted charges.
I’ll never forget this surprising contrast: the guide bragging at dinner how she had been blessed not to have to work so she could give her time to ‘helping’ the less fortunate. The resort staff soon became fully aware of who was helping who. Her blind student was easy to wait on, not at all demanding, while the guide required constant attention, everything had to be prepared to her individual specifications, running us ragged for no real reason other than her inability to act in any way other than self-centered. The blind skier (the true guide) spent the week in infinite patience, a shining example of courage and wisdom, expecting nothing in return.
While these examples may illustrate our ignorance of our own psychology, it also serves to show how our values are reversed by life and its demands. The inner country, the basis for our character, is undiscovered and lacking in meaning, while our outer life of body and ego is given first priority and the highest value. The soul, with its connection to our inner self, is discarded in favor of saving face and ego. Only when the inner atmosphere is clear and quiet can we hear the true message from our Self. A long and hard journey within to clear the air and underbrush may be arduous, but in the long run, worth any price.
How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy: Article on Jaroslav Flegr and his research into a parasite shared by humans and their cats. The research shows how T. gondii “can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator. Even more amazing is how it does this: the organism rewires circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal.”
If a parasite can control the behavior of infected rats, as this one does, could our thoughts be influenced by the same or similar sources? Are all our thoughts our own, or are we just as susceptible to parasitic influences as we are to marketing?
To find a still place within that’s free from the drama of the working world is paramount in our attempt to contact intuition and higher thinking. Once we move out of the patterns of mechanical thinking, we must also leave behind the emotional motivators that cause them, and instead allow the questioning and intent of our spiritual search to come forth. Mechanical thinking will continue to assert itself if we try to solve spiritual problems from the level of mechanical emotions. A vector towards inner truth is the path out of outer reactive tail chasing. We can’t win the battle for control of our thinking if we try from the realm of the battle itself. A higher realm is needed, one of higher emotion than found in the jungle of life.
If we find ourselves afraid to do something because we don’t want to face the emotional reaction the act brings comes up in ourselves, this is a clue that we’re buying into the false world of mechanical reaction. We imagine how we will react when faced with another person or circumstance and cramp up, remembering how we may have mishandled it previously. We become afraid to do what we need to do, for the thoughts of other’s possible offences raises our defences, and avoiding the situation altogether is added to the mix as well. Fight or flight, the law of the jungle, becomes our only mode of thinking, and the residual emotions from it linger throughout the day, long after the events are over. By the time we get home, we’re full of the unconscious but active vibrations our mechanical upset has created, leaving us in a state of inner turmoil. No wonder week after week goes by, and our spiritual vector remains just below the level needed for dynamic action.
A recovering alcoholic learns quickly that he can no longer associate with his former so-called friends and their negative thought patterns, called “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” in AA. The same may be true for us. The circumstances of our karma and lives may not allow us the freedom of the ashram lifestyle with it’s quiet seclusion, but we can find a place within that gives solace and room to think. Just the humble acceptance of the above quandary will bring help into our soul, and show us the path to inner freedom. This calm mind that can allow our vector to assert itself is found when we drop the pattern of the false self and move into neutral territory long enough to let our defences down, and listen. Move within to a place where reaction is no more, and watchful listening prevails. There you may feel a longing for even more stillness, a faint remembrance of something better, whispering a direction home.
One way to spot the emergence of the false self, the sleep walker and its pattern, is by an ache in the heart, by that tender nerve that gets touched, a longing for escape or
relief. This nerve is tender and sensitive from our believing in the world of the false self. Think of a valid action or event you like, that’s natural and healthy, and the negative guilt reaction it may induce, such as a quiet walk in the park. There’s no material or emotional profit from it, it doesn’t put bread on the table, or pump up someone else’s idea of us, but it helps clear our mind and gives us time alone to think. If during our little walk we find our thoughts drifting to duties, to should’s and could’s, to having to make excuses why we aren’t being productive or perfect(why do we need quiet time, to meditate, what’s wrong with us?), we can shift our attention from the inner world of our negative imaginings, and instead focus on what’s going on in the moment. We then leave the false world of manufactured worry and come back to ourselves. We leave the false world, we wake up. The ache is because of our attachment to the world of our worry and imaginings: it’s the knot. Our heart does not ache because things aren’t the way they should be, it aches because we have become attached to our false idea of things, of how we are told we should be. People poke at our life, we get defensive and feel that ache. It’s a sure sign we’re buying into their take, into their false world, it’s hurting our heart because we’re connected to their projections, we believe it, therefore we have to react to it as if it’s real. If we could keep ourselves in our own heart, in ourselves in the moment, then we wouldn’t react to them. When we react, we believe them, for we’ve lost our reason and fallen asleep. This causes the pain, because we come out of ourselves and allowed the world of imagining and projecting, the land of sleep, to touch us through our believe in it; the knot of the heart.
If we buy into the anger, criticism, or praise of others by believing in it, and by believing that their take on events is realer than our actual perception, the innocent perception, if we buy into their criticism by reacting to it defensively, or their praise by getting puffed up, this means that we agree with it, and are fast becoming it. If this agreement causes an emotional reaction inside, this sets up dissonance and the inner conflict. We come to not trust our own take on what we see, and believe instead in the critical or flattering take from outside. We develop our own defensive reaction pattern to this outer offensive pattern. This reaction pattern to the criticism/praise creates a false self in us in order to match the false world that we’ve agreed to through our belief in it. This sets up a reactive little universe of drama in which we are trapped. We say “I” to this false self for so long we come to automatically believe it to be us.
When we get into situations that cause this to be acted out, such as work, social situations, and around certain types who are overly critical or fawning, we defend ourself against this criticism/flattery and start criticizing, flattering, patterning our “I” to be just as they are. We lose track of our innate innocence, most of our reason, and the connection within. We’ve been drawn outward into a false emotionally reactive universe of defensiveness: a fake self. This entire thing has to be dropped, it can’t be improved, it’s a desperate down hill ride through a dark swamp with a messy ending. A clean break, a return to our own direct perception of the world, the acceptance of own capacity to be aware, is the way out. This drama and its pattern forming can never be solved at its own level.
If we make a mistake, can’t do something the way other people insist we should, or find we are planning ways to garner praise, reacting emotionally by believing in the drama, the way out is to stay connected to our own innocent perception of what’s actually taking place, a pure non-judgmental awareness that is not formed from experience, but is aware of and contains our experience. Our reaction pattern, which is a reaction to other reaction patterns, and all entirely in the imaginations of those involved, can by definition only progress along set lines, there is no lasting relief. Some people are almost completely this false self, walking bodies, trouble. Is that all you wish to become?