Noticing that there is no separate self can only ever happen right here now

Q: I saw it in the past that there is no separate self, so why should I look more? I already know that there is none.

OK, so you are referencing back to a memory of a previous looking.

But realization does not exist in the past.
Only here now.

So in essence, it doesn’t really matter what has been seen yesterday, an hour ago, or even a minute ago.

The only thing that matters what is SEEN or NOTICED in this very moment.

Now… and now…. and now…

So the question is: can you see it now that there is no separate self governing life?
Can you see it now? And what about this moment? Is it clear now? And this moment? What about now?

Or is it now just a memory you hold onto?

If I cannot see something in this very moment, then I cannot see it. Then it is just a belief in this very moment, since I rely on a memory, it is not something that I experientially recognize now.

Therefore, looking always has to be afresh. You can never rely on a memory.

What is a memory anyway? Isn’t it just a thought that is appearing now?
So when you rely on the memory of a previous seeing, then is it a present experience, or it is just a thought story in this moment?

Can noticing of what IS happen any other time than now?

Why would you go to dead thoughts, while this moment is presently alive, here now?

Why not notice what is here now?
What do you need those memories for?
To perpetuate the notion that there is someone who saw in the past?
Someone who is searching, and can get awakened sometime in the future?

To keep the notion of an enduring entity who is living through time and space?
Where is this entity, now?

Can you notice here now that this is just a story about a character who is set on a journey towards awakening?

The story is here as the present thought, but where is the character?
Is the character also here?
Or is it just a baseless assumption?

Notice what is here now.
There is nowhere else to go or be.
Just this.

What is ‘my’ identity made of?

What is your identity? Do you have identity or are you the identity?

Are you a human, a man, a mother, a hard worker, a good or respectful member of society? Are you the daughter or son of your father and mother?

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Have you ever really seen your mother or father? Have you ever got real interaction with them or have you just been interacting with your story about them?

What are your parents? Do they really exist independently from your interpretation? Or are they just thought stories appearing in the moment? Are the stories about ‘your parents’ part of ‘your’ identity?

What would you be without the stories of ‘your father’ and ‘your mother’?

‘My father’ is just a story, a mental construct with associated attributes.
My mother is who I believed her to be.
My parents don’t exist without ‘my’ interpretation.
The bodies that are called my parents are real*, but all their attributes and characteristics are projected by ‘me’.

Every time I meet with my father (or just think of him), the whole story about ‘my father’ is projected onto him, and all my reactions and behaviours towards him are the result of reacting to this image of ‘my father’, and not to that body that is called ‘my father’.

And it is not only about my father. I react to everybody – who resembles ‘my father’ even just the slightest (my boss, my neighbour or the high school teacher) – as if they were ‘my father’. When this projection happens and the story is believed, and therefore resulting reactions arise – the sense of ‘me’ emerges.

 The ‘I’ lives through these stories. The ‘I’ lives through projections.

‘My father’ is part of my identity.
My identity is nothing more than a collection of stories appearing as content of thoughts in the present moment.
Without these stories, the ‘me’ don’t exist. The ‘me’ live only in stories.
My parents are ‘my’ faces looking back from the mirror.
I am the story about my parents.
I am ‘my parents’.

Two individuals can never really meet. I cannot see you, I cannot hear you, because I can only see and react to ‘my’ story about you. The whole world is my projection. Nothing exists without me.

There is no ‘you’; I can see only ‘myself’ in ‘you’.
‘You’ are just an image in the mirror reflecting back ‘myself’.
I am both the projector and the projected image.
‘You’ are ‘me’.

* (the body appears real in conventional reality, but not in direct experience)

What is love?

Romantic love is often depicted in moves as a beautiful fairy tale. After many years of lonely nights and bad relationships, finally the beautiful girl finds her ‘soul mate’, who is perfect and special and loves her unconditionally. These stories promise a happy, fulfilling life, where love conquers all. But is this our everyday experience in our relationships?

118“I want you to love me. I need your love. I need you to accept me as I am.” This is what we think what we need. But these words can be translated into these: “I need you to reflect back a positive self-image to fill the hole in me. I need you to accept in me what I cannot accept.”

Relationships are mirrors. They mirror back our ‘selves’. Relationships reflect back our self-image. I am looking in others that seems to be missing in ‘me’.

The feeling that something is lacking is part of the life of almost all humans. We lack love. We lack acceptance. Therefore, we are constantly searching outside, seeking approval to fill the lack and to be complete and whole.

When ‘you’ and ‘me’ fall in love, it seems that we love each other. But actually, I love the story of ‘you’ I have about you, and similarly, you just love your story about ‘me’. We only love the images we have of each other. So we have an unwritten pact that we mutually fortify each others’ self-image; and if you dare to break these rules, I either try to carve you to fit into the image I have of you so I can feel loved again, or I withdraw my love because you have diminished my already frail self-image. The pact is about inflation, not about deflation.

My love is conditional. I love you only when you make me feel happy, whole and secure. My love can easily turn into hatred if you stop fulfilling your designated role. So, I need you to change in order to feel happy again… This is what we normally call love.

But can love be conditional? Is it really love or just a form of attachment? Of course, this is one of last things the ‘egoic mind’ wants to hear, because it shakes its illusory foundation.

Is love an emotion at all, or a state of being?
Can any state be permanent?

Love cannot be found in the seemingly outside world or in the apparent others; love is here and now, in this moment. When there is no resistance to what IS, so called ‘pleasant emotions’ can arise. But love arising from non-resistance is ‘different’ from the love we conventionally refer to. In this sense, love is not something that can be achieved by doing.

Love cannot be gained.
Love is not doing.
Love is non-action.
Love is non-resistance.

Love is acceptance.
Love is peace with what IS.

When there is no resistance, love naturally arises.
Without resistance, love is all there is.

What is resisted is strengthened

One of the natural tendencies of the human ‘mind’ is to label and interpret whatever arises in this moment. This mental narrative is not problematic by itself, and it is not necessary (or even possible) to get rid of it. Wanting the ‘mind’ to stop labelling or thinking is completely futile. It won’t happen, at least not for long.

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There are millions of labels that can be attached to anything that appears in this moment, but in general, these tags are either about approaching or avoiding what has just arisen. It is either put into the category of desired (positive) or undesired (negative). Things are rarely interpreted as neutral, and even when it happens the ‘unimportant’ tag comes with it, so it is ignored and forgotten quickly.

Let’s say, I have an important appointment at 9am, but I have been stuck on the motorway for an hour now because the car has broken down, so it is certain that I cannot be there on time. This situation is definitely labelled as bad and undesirable. As time goes on, the body gets more and more tense and ‘I feel terrible’ due to a mental story that has emerged around the situation. The contraction in the body is uncomfortable, so I want to get rid of it. I try to relax and push my thoughts away, but in vain.

When something ‘unpleasant’ happens, there is a habitual tendency to avoid it. However, the avoidance itself strengthens what was intended to be eliminated. The more ‘I’ want to get rid of something, the better ‘I’ get attached to it.

The ‘reason’ behind this phenomenon is that when I want to get rid of something it means that its ‘reality’ is already approved. I would not want to eliminate something if I had not believed that thing is real and true. And when something is believed to be true, how could it be obliterated?

Thus, the body cannot relax while the labels about the situation is believed and taken seriously. It does not mean that ‘you’ have to love the situation and happily cover it up with a positive affirmation: “How good it is, I have just lost a thousand dollars because I could not get to the meeting. I am so happy”. Overriding resistance with ‘positive thinking’ won’t help either.

The liberation is hidden in the core belief (label) — ‘this is bad’. The current circumstances are completely neutral, only the conditioned thought-tags suggest otherwise. ‘I’ project meaning onto the situation.

The car has broken down. I am stuck on the motorway. I won’t be able to get to the meeting. So, I’ve just lost a thousand dollars. – These are ‘facts’. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I want to redo it or undo it, IT IS AS IT IS.

And even the labelling nature of the ‘mind’ is part of the flow. When the story is seen and not believed, the movie of ‘my’ life is watched without identifying with the main character, ‘I’.

Arguing with what IS, is totally futile.
Arguing with what IS, is a conditioned habit.

What is resisted is strengthened.
Resistance is a guaranty for suffering.

Fear is not fearful

249In order to better understand what fear is, we have to make a distinction between instinctual fear, which is genetically coded into the human organism, and the projection of fear, when a fearful story is projected into the future about what might happen.

Examples for instinctual fear could be a fear of falling from the edge of a cliff, or being frightened by a sudden loud noise. However, humans experience instinctual fear rarely. When it happens, there is an instant adrenalin rush in the body which signals the organism to move away from the danger. Still, the adrenalin surge is not the result of thinking processes. Although, a few seconds later, thoughts may come up interpreting what happened, saying that ‘I am afraid because I almost fell off the cliff’. But the surge of adrenaline works perfectly without thinking, and by itself it does not imply fear.

The same adrenaline rush could be tagged as ‘excitement,’ if I jumped out of an airplane with a parachute fastened to my back. Or, it could be labelled as a ‘sign of love’ when I unexpectedly spot my new lover at the other side of the street. Fear, excitement, love – the sensation is the same, only the label varies.

Even though instinctual fear is rare in our everyday life, we still experience fear quite often, due to mind-made stories being projected into the future: ‘I fear growing old’, ‘I’m afraid of being ridiculed in front of all my colleagues’ or ‘what if she leaves me’; the list is endless.

When my friend tells me that their company decided outsourcing a whole department, thoughts might come up: ‘What if my company will do the same? My job is definitely not indispensable, what if they will fire me? What would I do? I am too old to get a new job. How am I going to pay the mortgage?’ And the fear is set in motion.

But this fear is not caused by an adrenalin rush; it is caused only by believing the story – the story of ‘my’ life. It has no reality, except as a string of thoughts. It is real only as an appearing thought-story, but never its content. Only believing the story creates the emotional response.

When fear arises, is it really fear that is experienced, or is fear just another cover story? When I think ‘I fear that I might lose my job’, would not it be more appropriate to say that ‘there is a resistance to this story’? Do I really feel fear or I just resist what was made up about what might happen?

And what is fear anyway? How is it experienced? When the fear as emotion arises, it is nothing more than felt sensations in the body with the added thought tag ‘fear’. In direct experience, most of the emotions that are labelled as ‘negative’ are experienced quite similarly, as felt contractions in one or more parts of the body.

What is the difference in direct experience between fear, shame, guilt or anger? Is there any apart from the labels as ‘fear’ and ‘shame’? Does the felt sensation contain by itself any innate fearness or angriness?

Is fear real at all? Or is it just a resistance…?
With or without the story, reality is the same – neutral.

Fear is just an artefact, a fabrication. It is nothing more than a sensation in the body plus an attached ‘fear’ label. This is the case with all emotions. The sensations by themselves are not negative, positive, pleasant or unpleasant. They are totally neutral. Only the attached tags differentiate between them.

When this is seen, fear evaporates. It becomes an empty word.
Because fear is NOT real.
There is just a sensation.

I cannot make you feel happy… it’s impossible…

137Can I make you feel happy or sad? Do I have the power to have an effect on your mood or feelings?

Assume that I am on the verge of telling you that I want to end our relationship, but I am not brave enough to bring the topic up because I am afraid of hurting your feelings. But do I really have the power to hurt anybody’s feelings?

If I leave you, you may feel sad, abandoned, angry or unloved. But is it true that I am the cause of your suffering? Can I make you suffer?

If I believe that I can do all of these to you, it means I am believing a story about my omnipotence. In the current version of the story of my life, I am playing god.

I have no power whatsoever on anybody’s feelings. It is literally impossible.

If you think that I am responsible for you feeling unloved and abandoned, it means that you project your own self-image onto me and blame me for your misery.

While the belief in the deficient, unloving self is intact, each person and situation reflect back, in one way or another, some version of this core belief. You cannot see me, you cannot hear me, because you perceive me and the whole world through this lens. No matter whether I treat you lovingly or not, you will see and interpret my actions as unloving.

When I decide to leave you, you find this as a proof of your unlovingness, which in turn, fortifies the core belief of the incomplete, unloving self that is the basis of your identity. Thus, it is projected outward again and again and making others responsible for your own creation.

You cannot see me; you only see your story about me, which is your story about your-self.

Reality is neutral. In the action of leaving you there is no inherent attributes of pain, abandonment or lack of love. Only your story about ‘me leaving you’ hurts you. Your thoughts are hurting you, not me. I cannot do that.

But if I believe that I can hurt you then I create my own suffering by feeling guilty or responsible for your feelings. I do this to myself by projecting the belief of my incomplete self onto you, which will be reflected back to me, and thus the story of the deficient self keeps going.

‘You’ and ‘me’, we are not that special.
‘I have no power to do anything with you.
Only you can hurt yourself by believing your story.
By believing that there is a ‘you’ that could be hurt.

What would you be without your story?
What is left?

Nature of thoughts

149One of the biggest calamities of the human race is that we take our thoughts too seriously and we suffer as a consequence. When there is a tendency to being lost in the content of thoughts, which is the habitual state of humanity, we are at mercy of whatever thoughts might pop-up in our heads. An almost constant flux of thoughts appears on the horizon which can trigger a wide range of conditioned emotional responses.

Let’s say you are working on a home improvement project and try to assemble some furniture what you never did before. At first, some enthusiastic thoughts may come up with images about your beautiful new table and the approving smile on the face of your spouse. This fantasy may trigger some pleasurable emotions with a feeling of contentment which enhances your self-image. Later, when you start working on your project, some disturbing thoughts might arise: ‘This is much harder than I thought. I don’t know how to do it. What if I screw it up?’ – accompanied with images of a badly-built, wobbly table and the face of your wife frowning at you. Feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction go along with this story and your previously inflated self-esteem is now plummeting. What’s going on here?

Thoughts come and go as clouds on the sky but when they are believed they seem to become real for us. There is an emphasis on the word ‘seem’ because in reality – meaning in direct experience – a thought is real, but never its content. Its content is just a dream, a fantasy. When this is seen, the grip of the heaviness of thoughts is gone.

The function of thoughts is to make a mental description or concept about what IS for a later storage in memory, but this doesn’t mean automatically that this concept is accurate or real.

When thoughts are seen for what they are – mere thoughts passing by – their emptiness and powerlessness become apparent. They don’t point to any real thing.

The mind is a labelling machine.
Thoughts pop-up out of the blue, and ‘you’ have no control over them.
‘You’, who think you have control over ‘your’ thoughts, is just another thought.
There is no separate you to have thoughts.
Thoughts are real, but you, as an autonomous self-governed agency, are NOT.

When this is seen, there is freedom.
Freedom from the grasp of thoughts.
Freedom from the constant need to become or to appear as somebody in the eyes of the ‘other’.

What is suffering?

109In order to answer this question, first, we have to make distinction between pain and suffering.

Imagine that you have bought a beautiful framed picture and you are just up to put it on the wall. You position the nail to the marked spot on the wall, lift the hammer, but a sudden sharp noise distracts your attention and you hit your thumb with the hammer instead of the nail. Abruptly, you feel a sharp pain.

Just in a few seconds, a chain of self-referencing thoughts emerges: ‘What a fool I am! I should have been more careful. Oh, it hurts so much! What am I going to do now? What if I am not able to work tomorrow? I won’t be able to type, I’m sure. How will I explain it to my boss?’ – and it goes on and on. This is suffering.

The physical pain is real, but the suffering is optional.

When this string of selfing thoughts, which is a story put onto the experience of pain, is seen for what it is, and not believed or taken seriously, then what is left is just the raw experience of pain in the thumb.

Suffering is the byproduct of a belief in the illusion of the self, who ‘lives’ separately from the rest of the world. When the ‘I’-thought is seen through then there is nobody who could suffer from anything.

From the point of view of the separate individual the suffering seems very vivid and real, because all the thoughts that generate suffering are believed. Like in the movie analogy, when the character identifies with its role, all the happenings in the movie of the flow of life are taken very seriously. As the story of its life plays itself, the character is just tossed around in the endless waves of the ocean being at the mercy of the elements.

When the story is seen through, it becomes translucent and loses its sharpness and seriousness. It becomes lighter and entertaining as a movie intended to be. Even if the story takes a ‘darker’ turn in the form of sickness or some kind of loss – pain, sadness, frustration or anger may arise but they cannot stick to anywhere and linger, since there is no ‘me’ to stick to, who could suffer from them.

Suffering is optional.
Without believing thoughts, there is no suffering.

Being lost in the story of my life

043.1How many hours a day do you spend in storyland? Can you notice thoughts coming and going, or you are just tossed around in the endless ocean of thoughts from one story to the other? In our everyday lives most of us do not recognize thoughts for what they are, just thoughts floating by, but rather spend most of our lives being zoomed into the contents of thoughts, taking them for granted.

Let’s have a look at an everyday scenario. On a sunny afternoon, after work, driving home on the motorway, the focus is mainly on the internal movie about what happened in the meeting earlier that day, instead of noticing what is happening here now. ‘My boss was so unfair with me. He shouldn’t have said that. I’m so pissed off…’ – and the story goes on. Tension and contraction arise in the body due to anger and resentment. Suddenly, a sense of hunger shows up, which triggers another story, a story about being at home eating my favourite pizza. Then, unexpectedly, a driver cuts me off, almost causing an accident, which sets off a new stream of story with images of being in hospital due to severe injuries.

In the meantime, I arrive home, unharmed, but the I hardly remember how I got there because I was mesmerized by the endless dream of thoughts.

And this is how most of us live, almost constantly falling in and out from one story to another hundred or thousand times a day; hardly noticing the blooming trees on the side of the road, the warmth of the sun on the skin, the whispering of the wind and the pleasant tingling sensations in the hands. All this is missed for only one reason: to keep the illusion of the self alive.

But the ‘I’ lives only in stories.
Without story there is no ‘me’.
If the stream of stories stops just for a second, the ‘me’ vanishes.
When there is no ‘me’ then there is peace.

Driving happens, seeing happens, steering the wheel happens but nobody is doing it.

It is not even necessary for the story to stop; it is enough to see the story for what it is, a stream of thoughts passing by.

‘Me’ is just another thought.
‘Me’ is nothing, an empty word.
‘Me’ does not refer to anything.

Seeking

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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’.

But do you know exactly what you are seeking for?

What if the self is searching for itself? What if the ‘I’ desperately wants to find itself? Is it possible? Can a thought find itself? If not, what is searching and what is it searching for?

Fulfilment… can a thought be fulfilled?
Peace… can a thought be at peace?
Love… can a thought love or be loved?
Can a thought attain anything?

Is it really seeking something? Is there really a self that is searching? Or this whole seeking is just a cover up? What if seeking is just a cover story on  behalf on a fictional character, called ‘me’?…

…. in order to not finding out the truth… not seeing what IS and what is not.