by Kara-Leah Grant
I started this article over two years ago… and never finished it.
But thanks to suggestions from a YLB commenter, I found and read a book by Jed McKenna.
That was enough to give me the missing piece of the puzzle… I finally got what No-Self is.
What follows is that article, written two years ago, with a fresh conclusion.
There’s been a great discussion going on in the comment section of Suggestions on what to do if you’ve had a Kundalini Awakening. It’s been such a great discussion, I had to turn my response into an article.
This discussion been centred around identify, no-identify, ego, mind and not-self.
It’s the kind of thing that can quickly get really confusing.
Our sense of self, or identity is so ingrained, it’s often impossible to tune in on what having no-identity would be like.
Yet many of the different spiritual scriptures, including the yogic texts, speak of this state of being where all sense of self dissolves. There is no ‘I’ left.
But if there’s no ‘I’ left… then who’s driving the car? How does the ‘I-less’ person engage with the world?
After all, our identity is what we use to connect with people.
If we’re no longer attached to any sense of self, where – or what – the hell are we?
Here’s my take on this subject.
First, I thought it would be wise to do some research and reading around this area. Ha! Confusing as all hell people, so after one or two articles… I thought screw it. I’ll reflect on this aspect of reality from my own experience.
That’s yoga at it’s heart after all, experiential. Not rehashed, no regurgitation.
So. Here’s my take on things.
- Many people in this world are sleep-walking through life. Their reactions to the things that happen are completely based on what happened to them in the past, what beliefs they carry and what they think the world is all about. Life happens to them. These kind of people, bless them, are totally identified with their thoughts and feelings.
- Some people in the world are beginning to wake up to life. They realise that they are acting out patterns of behaviour based on beliefs and ideas they carry around with them. They know that they are co-creators with life. These kind of people, bless them, are beginning to observe their thoughts and feelings and question them.
- A few people in this world are Awake. They choose their response to any given circumstance based on what is needed. They no longer have any unconscious beliefs or limiting patterns dictating their reactions. They are Master Creators. These kind of people, bless them, have no fixed identity or sense of self. Who they are in the moment depends on what is needed.
Type 1 are like actors playing a part, only they’ve forgotten they’re acting and have become completely absorbed in the role they’re playing.
Type 2 are beginning to recognise the Play, and if they’ve been playing a suffering role, are looking to choose to play a different role.
Type 3 delight in the Play, and whatever role they are asked to play in what ever circumstance arises.
Practicing yoga helps us shift from Type 1 to Type 2 as we learn how to witness our selves in action.
We notice our habitual reactions to stimuli. We start to become aware.
As we become aware, we become curious. We wonder why certain situations trigger certain emotions or reactions. We may want to change the way we react. We start to become less identified with these reactions and more able to sense ourselves as awareness or presence.
As we become less identified with aspects of ourselves, we may feel less inclined to defend these parts of ourselves. Curiousity and awareness opens us up to change.
We notice when we are defensive, when we do shut down. We sense the different quality within ourselves, we notice how our voice changes and constricts, how our body language changes.
Someone might comment in passing:
“Wow, you get really angry when people criticize you.”
Identified with self, you respond:
“No I don’t!”, or “That’s because they have no right!”
Less identified with self you respond:
“Do I? Wow, I hadn’t noticed. I wonder why that is?” or “Hmmm… you’re right. I wonder why that is?”
What would it feel like if you were in a sense of No-Self? How would you repsond then? Simply this:
“Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. It depends on what’s needed.”
At least, this is what I imagine a person who’s experiencing No-Self would respond. I’m extrapolating… because I don’t know. I may be more conscious than I was ten years ago, or even one year ago, but I still have a sense of self.
And how useful is it to extrapolate what No-Self feels like?
After all, how many people are struggling with a sense of No-Self? Probably very few. Actually, none. What is there left to struggle with? There is no Self.
What’s of real concern to 99.9% of us is the shift from Type A to Type B – and this is the exact journey Yoga takes us on.
Yoga psychology specifically address this shift from a sense of I-ness to the Witness (Atman). It is the journey that yoga takes us on. I-ness, that sense of identifying with the small self, is even described as one of the five afflictions, or kleshas, that keep us bound to “gross apparent reality”.
When we’re stuck in I-ness, which arises out of the first klesha, avidya (ignorance) we get stuck in attraction and aversion, we become victims to our total identification with our likes and dislikes. As we practice, we begin to shift into the Witness and our attachments to our likes and dislikes softens and fades.
To an extent then, any discussion around what No-Self is like and how one attains it is academic.
Or totally pointless. You’re either in it, or you’re not. And if you’re not, you can’t pretend to be in it by learning the appropriate way to be… because there is no appropriate way to be.
That’s about as far as I got two years ago. Then I got stuck. Now what?
Here’s what now.
I leave yoga behind. That’s what. I see that yoga is just another layer of Self to shed.
Another aspect of identify that is not me. It’s another idea and another belief. An incredible useful one that has served me well… until now.
I just stood up and went to get Jed McKenna’s book Spiritual Enlightenment The Damnest Thing from my bedroom so I could find something appropriate and wise to quote. Something that would sum up this article and get across the point I’m trying to make.
The whole point of waking up – moving to No-Self – is that it’s something one does by oneself.
Like Jed McKenna. (Assuming the guy is for real and not just another brilliant story-teller weaving fiction out of fact a-la Carlos Castenada).
It’s not about learning, or knowledge, or understanding. It’s about exactly the opposite of that. it’s un-learning. Un-knowing. And totally letting go of the need to understand anything.
Which is why that discussion that kickstarted this article two years ago is totally academic. You can argue all you like about what No-Self is like or what it’s all about. But in the end, what you actually have to do is go there yourself.
Then you’ll know.
Peel back those layers. Let go of those identities. Toss out the things you think you know and forget about trying to understand.
Just keep questioning.
Is this true?
Is this true?
Is this true?
How do I know it’s true?
Is it really true?