My Facebook feed has been full of people promising to make me the best I can be – happier, wealthier, fitter, more attractive, more successful, more popular.
They are coming to the right place because a lot of the time I believe I need to be better and have more.
I have all the shelter, food, drink and wifi I need so, according to Maslow’s infamous hierarchy of human needs, my focus is now ‘self actualisation’: affirming my identity, asserting my self, making my mark on the world, celebrating my me-ness, being the best I can be.
And in that self actualisation, so the adverts tell me, is all the security, self worth, confidence and esteem I could ever wish for.
And it is one big fat lie. Or to be more charitable – one big fat misunderstanding.
It is a misunderstanding because the very nature of the self is lack, incompleteness, instability and falsity.
With devastating irony, the more we try to ‘find ourself’, the more effort we put into ‘being someone’, the more we seek to satisfy our needs, the more lacking, incomplete, unstable and false it seems we become.
Because every single aspect of the self is transient, ever-changing, appearing and disappearing. Everything I think about myself is based in thought. Every belief about myself is simply thought believed in that moment.
Even my body which looks like who I am, that seems so solid, real and objective is changing before my eyes. Everything about it, ugliness or beauty, illness or health, pain or pleasure, disability or ability, flaw or perfection can only be experienced through thought in the moment. All of it conjured up by a state of mind that changes like the wind.
So this self that I believe I am is nothing but transient thought. And therefore this self is inherently unstable. It can change in the blink of an eye. It is inherently false because a new thought that looks more true can always appear. It is inherently lacking and incomplete because to exist it has to be observed as separate – believed to be different from others, cut off from the moment.
Every time I consider my self I am looking at incompleteness, instability and falseness. To try to feel better at the level of the self is to embark on a never-ending search for whatever I think I need to find security – approval, love, sex, food, promotions, money, beauty treatments, courses, qualifications, relationships, likes, upvotes, clients, income, purchases, admirers, employees… whatever.
It will never be enough.
Because however much of this I have there is always the potential for a thought of ‘not enough’.
And I can waste an entire lifetime, burn through all my relationships, spend every penny I earn in trying to pin it down, trying to find peace by making this self of mine something it can never ever be – real, fixed, better, secure, worthy, valuable.
This is insanity. This is suffering. This is addiction. This is desperation. This is war and terrorism without even leaving the house. This is the ultimate vicious circle that is at the heart of every misery.
So what is the alternative? To give up? To collapse in a heap of nothingness, indifference and inertia?
Well the alternative is something quite amazing.
The alternative is the answer to everything we have been seeking.
And it comes with the pinnacle of the pyramid that Maslow eventually added that not many people are aware of: self transcendence. Moving beyond the idea of self, realising that there is more to us, more to life. The knowledge that we cannot possibly be what we think we are.
But we know this already. This is ancient information.
When we were fresh from the womb, eyes still closed and we moved our tiny, out of control body, towards our mother’s voice, we knew this.
When we were three years old, leaping up to dance the second the music comes on, life sparkling in every twirl, we knew this.
When we looked up at the night sky or the inside of a rose or a yellow dawn or a butterfly wing and we caught our breath at the beauty and perfection, we knew this.
When we laughed until we cried with a friend, when we made love with our soul mate, when we comforted a child, when we loved with all our heart, we knew this.
When we sat at a page or ran on a pitch or picked up an instrument or spoke in a meeting and allowed life to flow through us from the deepest unknown and appear as a sentence, a goal, a melody or an idea, we knew this.
We were told and we believed that we would find peace, joy, security through self-consciousness, through being distinct from others, through resistance to what is, through acquisition, through trying to control and make better.
How wrong we were.
All we are is a channel for life to flow through, for ideas, magic, love. The only purpose of our self-consciousness is to allow us to realise this.
Freedom for us is the freedom of realising that everything we think about who we are is an illusion. It is the freedom of seeing that every requirement we have, every change we desire is obscuring the perfection of right now.
Joy for us is the joy of seeing that this limited, separated, needy self has only ever been a mirage. It is the sheer joy of no self reference, of expansion, of light-ness and wonder.
Peace is knowing that everything, however apparently unpeaceful, is welcome. We are an experience of all of it whatever it is. The choppiness of the waves on the surface cannot affect the still depth of the ocean.
The only time we get a glimpse of who we are is when we realise we know nothing, never will know anything, about who we are.
And this no-self place of joy, freedom and peace never seeks joy, freedom or peace. There is no search or seeking because there is no self that needs anything to be different.
It is in our disappearance that we become enormous and substantial and magnificent. In our no-self we are every person, every place, every idea. The entire world is created in our awareness.
We are complete because we are everything. We are secure because there is nothing that needs to change. We are stable because there is nothing that can change.
I am you. You are me.
There is no me. There is no you.
And, with or without that knowledge, both of us, you and me, are extraordinary.
Happy 2018 xx