The human brain produces more than 70,000 thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are repetitive, meaning that most of them are the same thoughts that ‘we’ have had for decades.
There is a tendency to believe that thoughts are accurate descriptions of reality; however, this could not be further from the truth. A thought is just a label on what IS, never the thing itself. The experience is gone in the moment when thinking about the experience has happened. Thought has ‘replaced’ what IS, and the experience has become the content of the thought.
Thoughts can be artificially divided into two categories: practical or problem solving thoughts and self referencing thoughts. Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts are self referencing thoughts which all our apparent troubles ‘originate’ from, and all these selfing thoughts revolve around one single thought, ‘I’.
After seeing that there is no separate self to be found, Descartes’ most famous existential statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ can be viewed from a different angle.
The ‘me’ exists only in story which is nothing else than a stream of thoughts. So, ‘I exist’ only as a concept in thought. If this thought is taken to be real, the illusion of the sense of ‘I’ emerges with a conclusion that ‘I think, therefore I am’.
But can a thought think?
Can a thought exist as a solid entity in space and time?
Is thinking a proof of the existence of ‘me’?
Thinking happens as a functioning of the organism.
‘I am thinking’ is just another thought.
This is an all-time favourite question; does life have a meaning?
But what is the ‘I’ that wants to know the meaning of life? What wants meaning? Why is there a need to assign any meaning or purpose to life? Why not accept life as it is without putting any interpretation, intention or meaning on it?
Have you ever entertained the possibility that life does not have a meaning?
What comes up, how do you feel or react when you read these lines? Is there resistance? Do ‘you’ want life to have a meaning?
What is this ‘I’ that doesn’t like to hear this?
The ‘I’ desperately wants to find or assign meaning to life because for the ‘I’ life is equal to ‘me’. It says: “I have a life and I want to have a meaning and purpose of my life”. But without life having any meaning ‘my’ life does not have a meaning either. I am nothing.
This is the last thing the ‘egoic mind’ would like to hear because it could lead to the conclusion of its annihilation.
But is there a self in the first place that could own life?
After seeing that there is no ‘I’ to be found, the story of ‘my’ life could still arise. As long as the body-mind organism lives, the multi-dimensional movie goes on. There is no way to ‘step out’ of the movie itself. It is not an option to wake up from the dream but to wake up in the dream.
Waking up in the dream means that the thoughts and the story itself lose their mesmerisation, their stickiness. In the play of life, the appearance of the character still arise but without being taken too seriously. The character is seen for what it is… just another thought which seems to claim ownership of other thoughts.
And yet, wide range of emotions could still arise, like sadness, pain, happiness or satisfaction, but without an owner who would claim to be sad, happy or angry.
However, when the story of ‘me’ is believed, when it is not seen for what it is, the ‘I’ seems to exist continuously as a real living entity, who moves through time and space from a defined beginning, which is called birth, to an unforeseeable end, to death.
But in reality, if you pay close attention to ‘your’ thoughts, not by thinking but by looking, ‘you’ would discover that the character, the ‘I’ is born and dies with each and every thought in each and every moment.
If we view ‘our’ lives as a movie projected onto the screen, which could be watched from the cinema seat with some kind of distance between the happenings of the story of ‘my life’ and ‘me’, then there is an implication of an object (‘my life’ being projected onto the screen) and a subject (‘me’ as an observer). Now, there is another layer of story of ‘me’, the actor with another play, who is observing the happenings of the movements of ‘my’ life. In this way, the ‘I’, which is believed into ‘existence’, stays intact.
To dissolve this confusion, Nathan Gill suggested a bit different movie analogy.
“…it is a multi-dimensional movie, being viewed from within the movie, not being viewed by a viewer from outside.”
“There is nothing outside of the movie. There is only the movie and the present registering of it from ‘within’ the movie.”
In this three-dimensional movie, when the thoughts are seen for what they are and not being lost in their contents, the identification with the character is noticed ‘within’ the movie. All the problems and happenings can be watched, but they are no longer ‘my’ problems. They just appear and disappear as the part of the flow of life. There is no ‘I’ to stick to. Even if the thoughts of ‘my’ problems appear, sooner or later noticing happens, and the ‘me’ disappears from the nothingness where it came from.
There is no ‘me’ at all, not even as an observer, who could step out of the story and watch it from the outside. Watching just happens. And nobody does it.
The dream state is often described by the movie analogy. Imagine that you are sitting in a cinema and watching a very exciting movie. You are so immersed in the story that you even forget that you are in a cinema. It is so entrancing that you totally forget about yourself and ‘become’ the character on the screen. You can feel and sense it as if you were the hero. Emotional responses arise in your body (which is sitting in the cinema but you totally forget about it) when the loved one dies or when the whole universe is saved by ‘you’. This is a dream. A fiction. But you believe it into ‘reality’. At least it becomes ‘your reality’ until you wake up from this mesmerisation when the guy behind you sneezes. But soon, you fall back into believing to be the saviour of the world.
It can be assumed that this dreaming is over when the film ends. You leave the cinema and the reality of everyday life is full blown again. Isn’t it? Or, you just have fallen into another dimension of ‘reality’, dreaming your life story into ‘existence’?
Awakening from the dream is realising that there is a continuous display of movement on the screen with characters coming and going and ‘affecting’ the hero (‘you’), the supposed owner of the story, in many imaginable and sometimes unimaginable ways.
Questions may arise…
Is this story of ‘my’ life real?
What is behind the story?
What am I without the story? Am I without the story?
When we read reviews about new books, we often find those types of comments where the reader / seeker compares a writer’s previous book with the new one and concludes that this second one is not good enough, there isn’t anything new in it, it didn’t give anything to them. Quite often, the seeker finds another ‘spiritual teacher’ whose words can add a bit more to their ‘knowledge’ or beliefs about spirituality or how to achieve ‘enlightenment’ or certain states.
This seeking can be so strong that one could do nothing else than searching for more and more ‘knowledge’ or strategies. ‘This new type of meditation… maybe this is the one. Maybe this will give me what I’m searching for’.
Philosophers and psychologists have tried to define the nature of self for centuries and came up with hundreds of concepts, ideas and definitions about it. However, one theory can be in complete opposition to another and there is a constant criticism around the current definitions and concepts. But what if the answer cannot be found in concepts, definitions or theories?
Does a baby have a self or the self is is just a mental construct that is learnt in early childhood? If you can entertain the possibility that the self is not something that we are born with, then how could we end up believing that we have a separate self, a separate entity, which is so fragile and vulnerable that needs constant protection from everything else which is defined as not the self?
What is the difference between you and a baby? Have you developed a self, a ‘me’ somewhere along the way of growing up from non-existence into existence? How?
My success, my failure, my children, my wife, my country, my life…
What is this ‘I’ who has all of this? Where is it? You could say, here it is, this body. Are you sure about that? Then why do you say ‘my body’?
My self, my body, my mind, my soul… What is this ‘I’ that claims it has a self, a body, a mind, a soul? Where is this ‘I’? Could you show me you?
Have you ever really contemplated who you are? How do you define yourself? Are you a human, a man, a mother, a daughter, a good or respectful member of society? Are you these roles? Are you sure about that? How do you know that?