My self-concept

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My self-concept

Postby Sighclone » Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:47 pm

Way back in the 70’s people spoke of having “an identity crisis.” Mainly it was about aligning your self-concept with your actions and ambitions, etc… and thereby being happy. It was most definitely not about non-duality; the self-inquiry was not intended to go that far. Not like anything spiritual, that’s for sure. The 70’s was the “me” decade. How do “I” fit in the world, and get this happiness I want?

Sure, ego was there … “I mean we all have them, don’t we??” “Does my “inner self” match my “public self” and my “self under stress.” I remember lots of colored charts and checklists. And then there was astrology, too. That could help you figure out who you really were.

And none of it was “bad.” And perhaps one could refine his or her self-concept and talk about it. The “concept of me.” What is it like to be “me?” Well, we would learn, it’s like “this” and “this” and “that, too.” And so forth. And it also had a relative value. “I’m not as good a person as she is.” Or “I’m not as happy as he is.” And the comparative concept could change, too. For better or worse, depending on lots of things, like how much you weigh. Or where you went to school. Or how much money you have. And religions tell us “how to be a good person.”

From a distance, both physically and in time, I can share with you the concept I have of Francis Lucille or Rupert Spira or my neighbor, Larry. And I could ask them if my concept of them were just like their own “self-concept.” Francis and Rupert would smile and say something like “well, that kind of sounds like my style a bit,” perhaps…and then they would grin and say, “that is, if I were that kind of self, if that were how I defined my “self,” but it’s not.” My conventional friend Larry might say “yeah, that is kind of like who I am.”

Don’t misunderstand me here – having a “self-concept” is fine, so long as you understand what kind of “self” is conceptualized. The Socratic admonition “the unexamined life is not worth living,” is very mind-based, but remains useful, until it isn’t. But all of it is just lots and lots of thoughts. And refining the image keeps us in the thought-vortex. And serves to firm up our identity as “little me.” “Who am I?” never gets past conceptual answers. Understanding our preferences, foibles, habits, triggers, etc. is fine and way better than blind ignorance or resistance to them. And accepting “where we are” in the evolution of personality is also important. My face is different than it was 65 years ago…so is my personality. In the relative world of 7 billion people, I am unique, so are “you.”

But nonduality asserts that there really are no separate selves: Questioner: Bhagvan, how should we treat others? Ramana Maharshi: “There are no others.”

On the path to Self-realization, though, I believe a certain capacity for “little me self” understanding is helpful, and also that being relatively comfortable with that “little me self-concept” is necessary. Does someone need to spend years in therapy to reach a base-level of comfort with “who they are as a person?” Maybe, for some. But I do not believe it is true for everyone. Depending on cultural conditioning, I think that most people can discover Presence and Being and Unity Consciousness by serious practices such as meditation or yoga and reading and maybe a visit or two to a sangha or retreat – all without psychotherapy. But I do not think that people who are trapped in the belief that they are deeply flawed, or even hate themselves can awaken without reaching comfort with their “self-concept,” even if they recognize it is a work in progress. Even conventional therapists can help restore or firm up a “healthy self-image, self-concept” at least to a level that is sturdy enough to be discarded or relegated to the back shelf when kenshos and glimpses start to arise.

“Oh yeah, Andy….let’s see ... as a person he is like ‘this’ and ‘that’ etc.” But, like David Carse reminds us … “Andy” is who you see – what I see is “Andy-ness.”

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Rob X » Tue Jun 28, 2016 4:04 pm

Nice essay, Andy.

Sighclone wrote:But I do not think that people who are trapped in the belief that they are deeply flawed, or even hate themselves can awaken without reaching comfort with their “self-concept,” even if they recognize it is a work in progress.


This bit is tricky. I'm not sure that you need to fix your self before awakening can happen. Ironically, awakening will (by default) help the functional body-mind-ego to overcome and, in some cases, even dissolve certain fixations which simply cannot maintain a foothold in the seeing-through of the delusion of separation.

At the same time many dispositions will remain intact after awakening since they are not conditioned by the belief in separation but are deeply associated with the survival matrix of the organism.
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Mystic » Wed Jun 29, 2016 9:29 pm

The ego is the urge to be in control.

You cannot wake yourself but you can let yourself be wakened.
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Sighclone » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:24 am

Thanks, Rob. I suppose it is certainly possible to have significant dysfunctional and false beliefs, habits and behaviors and awaken. Oops, that would be Eckhart Tolle! But Adya has talked about encouraging people to get some counseling around really obsessive or psychotic conditions before exploring awakening. He has simply sent them away from his sangha, with great kindness. I think a minimum threshold of functionality is necessary...partly also because the event itself can be rather disorienting, and some comfort with "who you were" is helpful.

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Rob X » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:31 pm

Sighclone wrote:I suppose it is certainly possible to have significant dysfunctional and false beliefs, habits and behaviors and awaken. Oops, that would be Eckhart Tolle!


Yes… that kinda was the elephant in the room. :D Dysfunctionality actually seems to have been the catalyst in quite a few tales of awakening.

Sighclone wrote:I think a minimum threshold of functionality is necessary...


Can't really argue with that. I suppose it's a question of degree.
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Mystic » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:19 pm

Eckhart Tolle had a sudden awakening when he discovered he was two. He thought "I can no longer live with myself". Then it struck him, who was this other self that he could no longer live with?

I used to think I was one(ego) then I discovered I was two(ego and spirit) now I am one(spirit)

The ego lives by comparisons. The inner light of awareness observes the ego, so that is all you need to do is live in the now. There is nothing else to do and nowhere else to be.
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Re: My self-concept

Postby snowheight » Sun Jul 03, 2016 3:43 am

Hey Andy, Rob, classic "little blue forum stuff" guys. :)

First off I have to disclaim any notion that an intellectual understanding of self-concepts will be useful to anyone in the grasp of them. It's sort of like the Cassandra myth that way. Second off, the contribution I have to offer here might seem a bit abstract, but after several years of interwebs correspondence I'm pretty sure I've encountered this.

Say someone's limiting self-concept is one of self-sacrifice. This isn't so uncommon as we might think at first glance. An American householder up to their eyeballs in debt to optimize the situation for the family is a common story. Likely more than a few of them, after some years, gets up every morning to suffer the slings and arrows solely for that cause without much hope for themselves any longer.

So if they start to explore that boundary, wouldn't it be natural for them to possibly also re-explore their sense of individuality? If the limiting conceptual identity is one of abnegation, one of a conceptual "no-self", couldn't shedding that involve the emergence of something .. else?
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Re: My self-concept

Postby Sighclone » Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:19 am

Hey snowy!

Good use of the Cassandra myth analogy, which I take to mean that a concept of anything should not be believed (beyond the world of form.) - that simply because it came from the mind, it is not to be believed. Especially the concept "I have no self." But minds have to start somewhere, and, lacking more unitary experiences, concepts and logic are the currency of the mind. Shedding the concept of "no self" is an interesting concept. ( author shoots self - :-)..) Anyone who has done even preliminary reading in nonduality or Buddhism has encountered the concept of "no self." Many have simply stopped right there: "Huh, what is this 'no self' crap? So you think you have 'no self??' Here, take this punch in your 'no self' nose!!" OR, "So if nobody has any 'self' and it takes a 'self' to spend money, why don't you just give me all of your money, and the Jaguar, too -- since you really can't use them...."

But like a good seeker, he or she presses on:

Seeker: "I guess I have a concept of no-self, and I guess I have a concept of enlightenment, too."

Guru: "Tell me about the possessor of these concepts."

Seeker: (...goes on and on to identify himself as an egoic personality...) " ....yada, yada, yada, oh yes, I hate dachshunds, too.")

Guru: "So you have a very clear self-concept, also. What if I told you that anything that distinguishes you from your friend, or from me, is artificial and limiting and false."

Seeker: "Then I would have to stop inviting you over for gin and tonics because you would be insane..."

Guru: " Whew,...I'm glad I didn't say it then! But my point about concepts is that the best they can be is pointers to the Absolute. However, you can have a very good concept of your investment goals, of how to make an omelet, and of your egoic self, and there is nothing wrong with any of that. Indeed clear concepts of the fundamental employment contract, and how to make a fire are essential. But for deeper understanding, 'non-mental' or perhaps 'trans-mental' experiences are needed.

Seeker: "Oh, you mean drugs!"

Guru: "Actually, sort of. There have been some interesting experiments lately. I guess they allow you to peer across the gate."

Seeker: "There you go again with metaphors."

Guru: "Sorry, but at least it's better than those paradoxes like "gateless gate." However, shedding the concept of "no self" is not necessary; it may even be useful to keep it and refine it. Describe your concept of "no self."

Seeker: "Actually it is a pretty scary concept. It's related to something like "I do not exist." My psychiatrist said it is a disorder called "depersonalization" and he billed me $1,600 to lecture me on it and warn me about it.

Guru: "Actually, he has a point, and it is part of what I have been saying, too. It is important to have a resilient sense of a localized personal self...to be a "stable person." That is true for people in general, and also for those who wish to awaken. The awakening process or event is often quite traumatic, because it does indeed expose the isolated egoic self, and you (they are not the same) to a very different depth of understanding that is at once simple and infinite. And that can be a big shock. It actually is the end of the need for the traditional personal self as an identity. Back to your concept of 'no self,' though: it is not a useful concept if it brings paralyzing fear. But if parts of it are "release, or stillness, or home, or comfort, or divine love or grace," then you are ok.

Seeker: "Hmmmm....those are not really part of my concept, but thanks...I will keep pondering."

Guru: "Ponder on who ponders...."

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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