Week 11: Awareness of Self

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This week we explore a really fascinating topic – the experience of self.

We have this distinct impression of ‘being here’. It feels like we are looking out from behind our eyes, and that there is ‘someone home’. The cause and neurological basis of this aspect of our experience is still debated, some theories point to the evolutionary advantage of feeling like these emotions are ours, ie. we are more likely to run when “I feel afraid” instead of “Fear is happening”.

In any case, there’s no doubt there is something it feels like to ‘be you’. In meditation practice, we are less interested in how this comes about – instead we want to simply turn our attention towards the elements of our direct experience that are giving that impression.

That’s the aim: To become aware of the sense of self with an open and warm curiosity.

Why do this?

As we’ve seen already, much of what causes discomfort and disfunction in our experience arises from an over-identification with some limited part of our experience.

For example, when we are experiencing pain, we can feel like we ‘are’ that pain. Our whole world reduces down to that experience and we can become overwhelmed. Or when we are angry, we can get carried away in the emotion and allow it to become who we are in that moment.

Many of the practices we’ve done so far work to ‘decenter’ or ‘defuse’ or ‘dereify’ these sticky parts of our experience which grab us and make us feel like ‘we are that’. For example, a thought that comes through and grabs our attention so strongly that its our whole expereince and being in that moment. With practice we work to create a subject-object separation.

With this week’s practice we are doing the same thing in a more general way, by paying direct attention to the feeling of being identified with anything at all. This is very powerful because it goes straight to the root of so much of our discomfort, by showing your minds that we are much more that some limited aspect of our experience.

Have fun with this and best of luck!