My understanding of “self” and what it is “to exist” is ever-changing and unfolding as everything always is. Although I have recently realized that my spiritual journey has been about coming to cope with emptiness; moving towards this has been one of a gradual letting go of what I have thought myself to be.
Our western conditioning promotes a rigid, static sense of self, more often than not, to varying degrees, rooted in self-absorption, a sense of personal omnipotence and ultimately always in uncertainty. Conditioned, habitual thinking once provided structure and meaning for me; and it has not been easy to go against that collective conditioning and the related perception of the individual. In my early years operating within those parameters, norms and definitions, provided a sense of comfort and reassurance; however, temporary and superficial it may have been, they were a powerful and familiar influence in how I perceived myself and the world to be. However, incomplete and superficial conventional norms were, what I was unconsciously and consciously taught to be became part of my striving and fear. A search for meaning without understanding the social and conceptual influences in this construction of “self” is limited. Yet it seems to be a human tendency to look for meaning without questioning our notion of self regardless of how fragmented and subjective that understanding may be.
I have now come to be quite comfortable going outside my comfort zone. I recently just returned from time spent in Myanmar and Sri Lanka and I am living in Germany and soon to be on my way to Canada for five months. All in my decomposing and aging body. In fact I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to go to places and to have had these new experiences that have not necessarily been comfortable places to be, mentally and physically but it has all been an inseparable part of a wonderful opportunity to come to learn what I am not. To go beyond the conditioned and familiar perception of self has opened me to new possibilities. The undoing and release from how I had been conditioned to be and think in my search for comfort, security and convention has enabled an experience of what I am in a more direct way beyond those concepts and ideas that were once imposed. One doesn’t have to go to Timbuktu to do that but it has been a part of my own journey that has led to self inquiry and a lightness of being that I did not know at earlier times.
To study the Buddha is to study the self
To study the self is to forget the self
To forget the self is to be authenticated by the myriad of things – DOGEN
In the Taoist philosophy it is said that the sage is someone who is liberated from conventional and stereotypical thinking. In discovering the courage to look to my heart I realized that there existed deeper, more authentic ways of relating to life. Opening beyond the accumulated, to the heart that is free of that was a more intuitive way to experience life. In doing so I initiated an unfolding towards confronting and being with the emptiness that comprised a truth beyond those conditioned and conceptual perceptions.