Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on October 18, 2014

If you really want to understand what the Self is, like your self, just grab a few of old scrapbooks or photobooks and look through them. Of course you will see yourself grow older physically, but probably you can also see yourself grow psychologically and perhaps even spiritually, or at least change. But what I am pointing out here is what you surround yourself with, what we could call your "persona." Our person changes too, and what makes up our persona over the years can give us a glimpse of what the self is like, how it changes as we change not only by years, but by taste and style.

If we could have a stop-motion video of all our self-changes, it would be a kaleidoscopic montage of who thought we were (or wanted to be) over the years. We would see how our self changed with the seasons of our life. It is very instructional. Looking through a couple of old photobooks is enough to give us a picture of how the self is constantly constructed and deconstructed as our interests and whims change.

We can see at a glance who we were or thought we were at various times in our life, but then ask yourself: through all of that, who are you? It may be that you find that you are all those phases and also none of them at the same time. This is what the Buddhist are trying to point out when they say that the Self is not permanent.

The Buddhists say that of course we all have a self, but they also point out that our self has no permanent existence, but just like our old photobooks, it is made up of the all of our attachments, good and bad, and whatever events we identify with as time goes on. And it changes as we change and along with the seasons of our life.

What we identify with, and the process of identification, is key here, and it's a clue to who we are. It is not so much what we identify with or are attached to, but rather the process of identification that we have look at.

The Self is not permanent, but changes as we do. As the Buddhists point out, while it will be left at the doorway of our life like an old coat of many colors, the 'process' of identification will not. Most of us have identified so strongly with ourselves and are caught up in the whole process of animating and reanimating the self. And this is all done through this process of identification. And here is what is interesting:

As we examine and scrutinize our self, we can become aware of our like or love affair with our own self, but we also can begin to see that we have created it out of whole cloth and then personally animated it. As we realize this, we can begin to see through the self like seeing the wizard behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, only it's us back there. We are the wizard behind the curtain of our own self. But there is something else.

As we understand how the self actually works, it begins to wear thin and we gradually lose the attractions that make the self up in the first place, one by one. The things themselves that make up the self don't change or vanish, but our attachment to them does. In some sense the self gradually becomes more and more transparent. We begin to see through it, and what is most important, we begin to not identify with it as strongly as we once did. And here is the key point.

As the self becomes transparent and we see through it more and more, we start to become aware of what is behind and beyond our self, which is the mind itself and its nature. We begin to transfer our identification with our self on to the mind itself in its awareness. As this happens, we become less and less interested in our self, and less selfish as well.

It is a question that we all must ask: if we no longer identify with the Self, what do we identify with, and who are we? What replaces our identification with ourselves? What weakens is our attachment to what we call the self, not our life or even it circumstances. Sure, our self will undergo change as we may select a somewhat new persona or as I have, in my life, kind of try to let my self down easy.

Certainly there is nothing to spurn or be ashamed of in ourselves; I don't feel any. And my innate selfishness has not just up and gone away, but it has weakened and most of all I have developed a sense of humor about it that was never there before. I like myself still, but am not fooled by it as I once was or even very interested in it or its ministerings. Over the course of time I have re-identified with what I can only call my awareness, certainly something beyond my self, and it was always there but just obscured by my attachemt to the self, much like the Moon eclipses the Sun.

I call this re-identification "transmigration" and it is a gradual process. Like the old game of Pick-Up-Sticks, as I increasingly see through parts of my self and they fall away, the true nature of my mind, who or what I actually am comes into focus, and is clearer.

The take-away here, at least for me, is this process of identification that takes place, as we remove handhold after handhold from identification with the self and begin to experience a freedom from attachment never felt before. And, so I am told, that freedom from attachment eventually becomes the realization of the true nature of the mind.

How about them apples? Any comments?

[Image fiddled with by me.]