The experience of no-self

In non-dual circles, some talk about no-self.

What does this refer to?


Most of us take ourselves to be this human self, which is not wrong. It’s an assumption that works pretty well in daily life.

Beyond that, we may also take ourselves to most fundamentally be this human self.

When we look more closely, we may find that the reality is different. We may find that, in our own direct experience, we are fundamentally something else.

We may also find that taking ourselves as fundamentally this human being creates stress and is out of alignment with what we already are although may not notice.


What do we find when we look more closely?

We may find that we are capacity for the world, and that our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We may notice that what we most fundamentally are, is what all our sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental representations – happen within and as.

We are not fundamentally anything within our content of experience. It’s all happening within and as what we are, and it all lives its own life.

We may also notice that this field of experience is one. Any distinctions and differentiations come from an overlay of mental images and ideas.

This field of experience is the same whether we notice what we are or not. This human self is here, the wider world is here. It’s just that it all happens within and as what we are, and it all happens within and as oneness.

We know that others will still take us as this human self, and that’s completely fine. We can still live our life as if that’s how it is. And we also notice that our true nature is capacity for all of this, and what it all happens within and as.


It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a human self here. And it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of beings in the world and a lot of selves in that sense.

It just means that what we most fundamentally are, when we look and notice, is capacity for all of this, and what it all happens within and as.

Similarly, it doesn’t mean not taking care of our life. We still need to be a good steward of our own life.

It also doesn’t mean we abandon all conventional views and guidelines. We’ll still strive to live an ordinary good human life.


Some notice what they are without consciously recognizing it as their true nature.

Some notice what they are, recognize what it is, and for whatever reason don’t pursue it.

And some notice what they are, recognize what it is, and are drawn to continuing exploring it.

So what happens if we keep noticing what we are, and explore how it is to live from it?

Mainly, we explore and learn how to live from and as oneness.

And this shift comes with a profound transformation of our human self and our life in the world.

The parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface, sometimes in drips and sometimes in larger chunks, and want to join with the conscious noticing of oneness.

This is a lifelong and ongoing process, and can be both immensely fascinating and rewarding and at times immensely challenging.

I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into more detail here.


When we try to put this into words, it can sound mysterious. Words differentiate and what we try to point to is what all experience happens within and as. So words naturally fall short and are inevitably misleading.

It can also sound mysterious since we may not have a reference for it. We may not have noticed it yet, and we may not have a memory of having noticed it in the past.

Fortunately, it is something we can explore and find for ourselves.

And when we do, we may find it’s not mysterious at all. It’s what’s always been here. It’s what we always have been. It doesn’t require anything special to notice it, apart from perhaps a bit of initial help in noticing it. It’s already very familiar to us, although we may not have consciously recognized it as our true nature.


I have written about this too in other articles, so will only mention it briefly here.

The easiest way may be simple and structured inquiry under guidance by someone familiar with the terrain. The Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are the two that works best for me.

Over time, basic meditation will also help us notice what we are. Here, we notice and allow whatever is here in our experience, and notice that when we intentionally notice and allow, we are one step behind since it’s already noticed and allowed. We may find that all our experiences – including our thoughts – come and go and live their own life. Our identification with any particular content of experience – and really thoughts telling us we are something in particular within this content of experience – soften. We may find that we are not fundamentally any of it.


  • the experience of no-self
    • what it means
      • find ourselves as capacity for the world, what our field of experience happens within and as, all the sense fields happen within and as
      • notice that our field of experience is one, and that we are this oneness
      • our human self is not what we, to ourselves, most fundamentally are
      • we are not fundamentally anything in particular within content of experience – I, me, observer, consciousness, awareness etc., all of this happens within and as what we are
    • what it doesn’t mean
      • doesn’t mean that there is no human self, or that the content of our experience is very different, only that it’s not what we – to ourselves – most fundamentally are
      • still need to live a human life, be a good steward for our life, and so on


Synchronicity: As I wrote “what it is” above, the refrain of the new song I listened to – Rock Steady by David Garfield – repeated “what it is”.

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