A definition of terms:
“I”: The vast, formless, conscious awareness that looks out of our eyes and permeates all forms. The ‘ground of being,’ ‘fundamental consciousness,’ ‘what’s looking’ or your ‘true nature.’
“She” (and “He”) : The body, including the energy body. The form—the unique shape that awareness sees and feels through. The hands and organs and heart and guts and blood and brain, etc.
“Me”: The separate self. The self concept. The illusory ‘me’ that lives in the body and has a story. The Doer. The Thinker. The apparently separate subject that’s having the experience. The one who is seemingly operating things.
As a psychologist, and as someone on my own healing path, I’ve logged a ton of hours pursuing self improvement strategies. The worlds of psychology, spirituality/religion, healing, self help, meditation, ethics/morality, and much of philosophy are about improving the self, the ‘Me.’
In each of these fields, a better Me, and sometimes a better ‘We,’ is the goal. There is always a goal for the Me to obtain. And we measure ourselves against these goals constantly: Am I happy? Am I healed? Am I breathing deeply enough? Have I become non-judgmental? Are we a happy couple? Am I mindful? Are my relationships in balance? Am I loving enough? Do I know the latest ways to work out/meditate/cook/eat healthy…? Am I a better Me yet?!
Phew. So much to work on, so much to self-improve.
We believe this ‘Me,’ this self we are improving, is who we really are (to the point that people are actually making sure that their Me lives on in-perpetuity, even long after the body dies, believing ‘they’ will still exist: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35786771).
And why wouldn’t we believe that this Me (this story) is who we are? Our entire language, and thus our approach to pretty much everything, is built on the idea of a separate self; there is an implied subject, experiencing the object of the world, and this subject is seen as a a separate object, perceived to be inside our body somewhere (where we tend to think ‘we’ are located).
Back in the day, my fellow grad students and I giggled at the the ’humunculus theory,” which proposed that there is a self inside the self, an operator at the helm (it has been debunked due to inherent logical fallacies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus_argument), but we are actually operating from this fallacy every day.
If I asked you ‘Where are you located?’ you wouldn’t choose your little toe or your lungs—nor would you choose the sky or the ocean—you would likely say somewhere in the center of your head, or maybe the heart, depending on your heritage. You think ‘you’ are located in the body—but we never really get to the bottom of things. We never really challenge this assumption, this idea of a separate little Me somewhere.
I’m just going to say it: There isn’t a separate ‘Me.’ It is only a concept. And in believing that there is a separate self, a doer—well, we are lost, lost, lost. We spend all of our time building up that self concept, projecting it into the future and the past, and thus losing touch with our bodies, our inner life—the actual sensory experience on planet earth (versus the planet of ‘mind’ where Me is center stage). We overlook that this body has been running itself all along. (Are you breathing your breath? Choosing your thoughts? Pumping your blood? Erhm….nope!)
Countless spiritual teachers and regular folks have recognized this—they’ve realized that no one is driving the bus. And many of them teach tools to help us realize it too.
(There are so many folks to check out—my resources page has quite a few—but three masters of no-self are at the bottom of this page).
The tools are utterly simple in a way—they are meant to help us notice this vacancy at the center of things, this Me that was never actually there. However, the separate self has been implied since we were babies, so we need to keep looking behind the curtain on this one. We may need to, over and over, recognize that there is no one home; there is only the ‘I’ of awareness, permeating the form, the He or She.
The ‘I’ of awareness, in realizing the Me is not a real ‘thing,’ can instead attend to the precious body that Life is moving through. That’s what I am learning from my own teachers, and finding much more ease and fulfillment as a result, because the body is actually real and is always signaling exactly what it desires (or doesn’t), were we to pay attention to it. The Me’s (hack!) attempts at happiness (by really just looking the part—smart, thin, good, kind, capable, talented—whatever nonsense concept we are in pursuit of becoming) just tend to exhaust the body.
I propose the only sane thing we can do is to attend to and take care of the one who is really here: our He or our She (or They, if you like non-binary). We can inwardly listen to the body’s signals, not the Me narration. The body is built to take care of and heal itself; it is extremely reliable for self care. Watch children. They are self-fulfilling, sane little creatures—eating exactly as much as they want, cuddling as much as they want, playing with who they want....and not one second longer than what is true for them.
The Me learns to compromise, to lose touch with the inbuilt signals coming from our dynamic, rich, wise and perfect bodies. But the He/She/They knows what is best for itself.
I encourage you to check out embodiment and somatic meditations in all their forms. The Bliss & Grit podcast (blissandgrit.com) interviews several teachers (Kiran Trace, Judith Blackstone, John Prendergast, Jeannie Zandi), all of whom have tools you can access.
Next time I’ll share some of my own self attunement and embodiment practices—how I am learning to take immaculate care of my precious gal, my She. She was neglected for a very long time. The Me got all the attention. Now, I am committed to listening to Her.
Kiran Trace describes how thoughts ‘stick’ to the ‘Mego’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSHmv4Q9cBM
Rupert Spira on the Ego/sense of being separate: https://youtu.be/fpFY0-EhCxs
Douglas Harding’s ‘headless way,’ presented by Richard Lang: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzPlkxMjiz8&t=230s