Removing the Mystery of Losing the Self

Listening to The Limits of Persuasion [NSFW: cussing] reveals the most straightforward and no-kidding way of explaining what it means to lose the illusion of the self. This post highlights certain parts, brings in knowledge from other sources, and shares my experience.

In Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target, I covered why you care about losing the illusion of the self. However, we didn’t go deep into what it really means to lose the self. “What is the self we’re talking about?”, you might ask.

One hour 43 minutes and 20 seconds into The Limits of Persuasion, Sam reveals that there doesn’t have to be a paradoxical mystery around losing the self:

In terms of the self being an illusion, that’s not really a paradox. I feel like I can walk you through how that makes perfect sense in my world and doesn’t entail any paradox.

The various definitions of self throw everything off. Coming from the podcast as well as multiple other sources, here are some key points on the topic of the “self”:

  • People are real.
  • Your body and mind are continuously changing.
  • The subject / object relationship is an illusion.
  • Meditation can help you see that the subject / object relationship is an illusion. There really is no subject.
  • Everything that is noticeable appears in consciousness.

You can see objects. You can hear sounds. Consciousness holds all of these things. You’re not identical to what you see, hear, and think. If you drill down into all the senses and realize that they are just things that become known to consciousness then you just say “OK. It’s all perception that becomes known in consciousness.”

When meditating, you can identify that all things are just appearances. These appearances are just recognitions of stuff existing. When you try to explore who or what is holding consciousness, you realize that what you thought was holding consciousness is really just more stuff that can be observed in consciousness. Sam adds to the five senses proprioception. According to Wikipedia, proprioception is the “sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” It’s all just raw data.

If all five senses plus proprioception are just raw data that can be observed, we’re left with nothing else. As Sam puts it:

There’s just this flux without a center. The center is only implied. When you look for the center, the feeling of there being a center can..drop out. ..everything else remains.

By “everything else remains”, it means that experiences are still known through all the senses. You still see, hear and so on. However, you’ve lost the subject / object sensation. There’s a true sense of complete integration with everything. You also recognize everything changes which includes what you normally would call your body and mind.

So, in short. You have a feeling of self. When you look closely into all the sensations of what it means to be a self, you end up just observing lots of sensations through your senses. There’s nothing beyond what you’re sensing. The sensations continuously change over time. The sensations reveal the world. There’s nothing beyond the senses that you can sense. Thus, you are the world. Meditation helps you see / observe / know all of this.

As I mention in Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target, you can make a difference in life in a more impactful way without as much concern. That’s a huge benefit of dropping the illusion of the self.

You can optimize your actions in life and not be held back by the illusion of the self. You can just focus on giving to the world by being a continuous stream of action. You become just action in motion. With this, I can be a verb as opposed to a noun.

There isn’t anything that is consistently you as an unchanging entity. Just like all of life, all of you is changing over time. You can be free of the feeling of a “self” and reap the benefits for the betterment of all.

Man with camera looking in mirror

2 thoughts on “Removing the Mystery of Losing the Self

  1. says

    Hmmm… nice post Mike! It got me thinking, and I came up with a few questions…

    Re: “If all five senses plus proprioception are just raw data that can be observed”
    Q: How is proprioception observed? Is observing a kind of sensing?

    Re: “When you look closely into all the sensations of what it means to be a self, you end up just observing lots of sensations through your senses.”
    Q: So if (“looking closely” = “observing”) and (“all the sensations” = “lots of sensations”) then does (“what it means to be a self” = “your senses”)?

    Re: “There’s nothing beyond what you’re sensing.”
    Q: So could the self be described as the emergent feeling of the total sensory data stream piped into conscious awareness?

    –Yuri

    • Thank you for the compliment, Yuri! Based on our past conversations and these questions, I can confidently say you’re a wonderfully rational, deep thinking and yet passionate member of our human family. Your questions honor me.

      To address some of what was asked, sensing is synonymous with observing in this context. In the meditation world, when we say “sensing” or “observing”, we actually mean that there is a knowing. To expand on that and more, you may wish to look at the following post which I wrote: http://www.finneycanhelp.com/2017/09/self-in-perspective-meditation/

      In other words, you got me thinking too. 🙂 Thank you so much!

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