The Difficulty of Upholding a Self

We often hear emphasized the difficulty of letting go of the self.

But the other side of it is equally true: the difficulty of upholding a self.

The difficulty of upholding a self

As Douglas Harding – and many others – points out, our direct and immediate experience of ourselves is of a vast void in which the world appears. On top of this, we can create an idea of a limited and fixed self. But this takes a lot of energy and effort in face of the obvious which we experience in everyday life, that which we are most intimately familiar with – ourselves as vast void in which everything appears.

It takes tremendous effort to think ourselves into such an obviously false impression of ourselves. And it creates tremendous drama and suffering in our lives. When we have a limited, separate and fixed identity, we are at constant war with the rest of Existence. It is a self-created drama.

The difficulty of letting go of the self

And yet, it is also difficult to let go of this false sense of self. It is, after all, what culture and society teaches us we are, in spite of our own immediate experience of ourselves. It is a self-created limitation we gradually become familiar with. And this space – doesn’t that seem just too simple, too naive?

The transition

When we allow ourselves to experience ourselves as this space, it seems very simple – very uneventful. And as we become more familiar with it (again), it can have a tremendous effect on our life.

We see this person, which we previously took ourselves to be, as arising within us – as everything else in the world of phenomena. We see that it is all part of a seamless and fluid whole. The self-created drama gives way to a sense of easy in daily life.

If I no longer take this person so seriously (how can I when I know myself as void?), then where is the need for drama?

We find ourselves gradually living more effortlessly, with more ease, from a view of recognizing everything as emerging from this void. We may find ourselves live with more engagement now, less hindered by the self-created drama. There is more immediacy, more freshness, more intimacy with everything arising. There is no separation between this void and phenomena, no separation between the experiencer and the experienced.

The separation gives way to no separation. Drama gives way to ease. Dullness gives way to freshness. Resistance gives way to intimacy. A need to protect gives way to receptivity. The wave gives way to the ocean.

My experience

I can certainly see both views in myself, although the latter now is far more alive than the former. When I look, it is almost impossible to find even the possibility of a separate and limited self. I can play the game of being a self, of talking about this person as somehow separate, of finding the information about this person – such as age, name, birthplace, current address, biography, daily activities, interests, likes and dislikes. But it doesn’t seem all that real.

I profoundly appreciate this person, for being a vehicle for this space. And still, this person is just a temporary manifestation – a changing, temporary and infinitely small pattern through which (the matter/energy of) this Relative world flows and enlivens.

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