How to Find the Self When There is No Self

We have a belief in the idea of “I” and the self as somehow separate from the world instead of connected to it. The belief is that within us we have a pure version of our self, a totemic core that is unique to each individual. We believe that by delving within ourselves we can peel away the layers and find this nugget of “I” that we can then set free.

It is as if to say that by stripping the tree of its leaves, and then removing the branches, and then peeling off the bark, and then stripping the layers of fiber away, we will reveal the essence of a tree.

It is impossible to find the essence of the tree because the tree is. There is nothing at the core of the tree that makes it “tree”. The closest thing to “tree” is the RNA that writes the genetic code, but this RNA is not the essence of the tree. If it were so, each tree from the common RNA would grow identically.

Humanity’s search for self is a deconstruction of the idea of “I”. Just as in stripping a tree to its non-existent core, we search and seek to set this inner self free, but what we miss the understanding is that there is no “I”. We simply are.

THE KEY TO DISCOVERING OUR GENUINE SELF IS ACCEPTING THAT THERE IS NO SELF

Like the RNA of the tree, the only truly unique identifier of “I” is the DNA unique to our human bodies, but like the RNA, the DNA is not you. It is the seed of you that germinates, it is the possibility of you

This is not a cause for despair, nor an undermining of the idea of self. Indeed, to be left holding nothing would be to destroy the very idea of our existence.

Instead, this is a shift, a re-defining of the search for what we think of as self. We still need to unearth this self, but the understanding of it will be very different. Whereas before we were looking for the totemic core, now we will be looking for something else.

WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR IS THE PORTAL WITHIN US THAT CONNECTS US TO THE WORLD

The world around us is the canvas against which we define ourselves. I know this feels contradictory. I have talked about how we cannot let the world define us. This is not about how the world defines us. This is not about accepting the definitions and labels that are put upon us by the world. Rather it is about understanding how we connect with the world.

We have to learn to see that the self and the world are symbiotic. I cannot be defined as an “I” without you or the world around me. Was I born into a void, my DNA alone would not make me the same person that I am today. “I” would not exist because I would have nothing against which to define myself.

It is an understated and beautiful example of what we think of as the inherent goodness of people. But consider that just as I cannot be I without you, the Yakuza cannot exist without Japan and her people. The Yakuza understand this, and I would argue that the Yakuza as a whole are more aware and understanding of the idea of self than many of us individuals are.

The actions the Yakuza are taking in this time of need show the understanding that they hold. The Yakuza respect their country and their people as a whole and realize that without their country and without their people, they can not be. It is a respect that transcends the idea that the Yakuza are “mafia” or “criminals” as we understand those terms to mean and gets to the core of an understanding that there is no Yin without a Yang.

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THERE IS NO ONE WITHOUT AN OTHER

Let us step back a little further though and examine this. The Yakuza are accepted as the bad guys, the mafia, the criminals.

“Of course they’re criminals!” You’re thinking, “They steal and kill and abuse power and break the law. That’s criminal!”

Yes, they are, but only because we have a canvas against which we define the ideas of criminal, mafia, right and wrong. This is why the Yakuza exist and have to exist, this is why Japan and her people need the Yakuza just as much as the Yakuza need Japan.

THERE IS NO GOOD WITHOUT BAD

As such, despite the fact that “…most yakuza are just tribal sociopaths..” as defined by the norms of society, the reality is that the Yakuza simply are. They are as one with the people and society of Japan. They realize that they cannot exist without this canvas of good against which they are defined as bad.

Likewise, Japan realizes that the Yakuza are her counterpoint. Japan is as dependent upon the Yakuza as the Yakuza is of Japan and so there is a dance, a balance that is maintained. The government/police as the force of “good” dance to keep the Yakuza in check. The Yakuza dance as the force of “bad” balancing against and helping to define ideas like “good”.

What does this mean? It doesn’t mean that I condone or support criminal activity that causes innocent people harm.

It does mean that I understand the fundamental truth that there must be a good to define a bad. In another world with another society and another body of humanity, what we think of now as good may not be good.

What does this mean?

AWARENESS IS THE SELF WE SEEK

It means that the sum of your being, your sense of “I” is not a thing, but instead a gateway through which we connect to the world, and through this connection, we see the world.

We have to be aware. This is the essence of humanity. Awareness is the thing we all have in common, it is the core of the self and it is the totemic core of humanity. It is in awareness that we can understand the ideas of good and bad. It is in awareness that we can see colors such as black and white. It is in awareness that we can understand which way is up and which way is down. And it is in awareness that we can understand that I am I and you are you (and we are we).

IF WE ARE DEFINED BY THE WORLD AROUND US HOW DO WE NOT LET THE WORLD DEFINE US?

Recognition of this connection is the difference between being defined by the world and defining the world. The problem is that we don’t see the connection. We don’t acknowledge the connection and so we are missing a critical part of the interplay between the self and the world.

WE ARE MISSING THE AWARENESS

By understanding that we are one with the world and that we are nothing without it, we can finally see the self. With this understanding we can move through the portal we used to think of as “I” and see that it is only in connection and awareness of the world that we exist.

WE HAVE BEEN SEEKING AWARENESS SINCE WE UNDERSTOOD HOW TO SEEK

In the rituals and traditions that span the breadth and depth of humanity, we have sought to raise our awareness and connection with the world. Yoga is a practice to ready the body and mind for meditation. Meditation is a practice that seeks to connect the mind to the greater consciousness and awareness of the world. The seeking of this connection is prevalent in the rituals that span the cultures and time of humanity’s existence.

Always we seek a connection to that which is greater than us. What we don’t often understand is that within each and every one of us we hold the complexity of the world. We hold that greatness and we hold the power to shape and define the existence around us.

Think of the power in the words we use, in the understanding you have of what I am writing here. With this, I change the world. With this, I change myself. This is the fundamental action that shapes the world around us. This is why intent and awareness is so important.

So in understanding that there is no self, it is not to say that we do not exist. I am me, and you are you, but it is only together that we exist in that way. In the silo of the self, in the void of singularity I am nothing, for I have no canvas against which to define myself.

Within that silo, I have all of the potential of the universe contained within myself, and no power to bring it to bear. How can I have an understanding of self without you to contrast myself against? How can I have an understanding of good without the understanding of bad? Within a silo of self, I cannot hold these things.

EQUILIBRIUM IS THE KEY

Again it is the simplicity of Yin and Yang, the balance of contrast that asserts itself naturally in the world. This is evident in the ecosystems that have elements that consume each other for sustenance. Yet in that consumption, no one force eradicates or seeks to eradicate the other. Instinctively they know that they cannot exist without each other. It is not a thought or idea, it just simply is.

When did you last hold this simplicity in your mind and ponder on it? When did you last consider that by eradicating the opposition, whatever it may be, you lose that which defines you?

YOUR OPPOSITE IS WHO YOU ARE

Another beautiful and sad example is the state of politics that exist within the United States. It is horribly divisive and polarizing, tearing apart the community, local, state and country through the wildly swinging pendulum of “mandates of change” and the attitude that the other side, no matter who is in the majority, has no right or bear upon the process by virtue of being the minority.

What the Democrats and Republicans fail to understand, what they have forgotten in their desperate efforts to triumph, is that they can not exist without each other. Were the Republicans to triumph and somehow destroy and disband the Democrats, there would be no more Republicans. Their very existence depends upon the Democrats.

Without a healthy respect for the contrast and balance, totalitarianism is the result. It is here that the potential to be your opposite is realized. This potential is neither good or bad, it is only the potential to be. The balance, the check against you that is your opposite is what keeps you being you. This is not just in politics, though politics is one of the most relevant illustrations of this point.

We as humans bring the power and devastation of consciousness to the world, and we sadly ignore it.

WITH AWARENESS WE CAN SAVE THE WORLD, WITHOUT IT WE WILL DESTROY IT

It is said we use the tiniest fraction of our brain’s capacity, and in that same way, It seems that humanity is using the tiniest fraction of its consciousness to make its way through the world.

In seeking self we have allowed ourselves to become enamored of our egoist nature, imagining that the self is definite and independent.

It is not. We are deeply connected to this earth and to each other. Our feet must rest upon the earth, the very force of gravity demands it. Our bodies cannot function without the air that we breathe. We cannot move without creating a disturbance in that air that will have ramifications that we may never understand.

We are the world, and the self that we seek is the portal to the world, the connection to everything around us.

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