Beyond No Self
with the body and mind. Since identification is simply a movement of thought, dis-identification is simply a
movement away from thought. The ego identification that we experience most of the time is the result of
repeated thoughts about "I", "me," and "mine." That is all there is to it, but while we are thinking these
thoughts the sense of self is contained in them. And since most of our self-referencing thoughts are about our
body, our thoughts, our feelings, and our desires, the sense of self is usually contained in the body and mind.
Dis-identification from the thought form of the ego can occur whenever there is a deep questioning of the
assumption in most of our thoughts that we are this body and this mind. Inquiry using the question, Who am
I? can naturally weaken the assumption that I am the body and the mind. In fact, any deep questioning of our
thoughts and assumptions can loosen our over-identification with thought, since so many of them are not very
true. Experiences of no thought can also weaken the identification because in the absence of thought, there is
an absence of identification. We all experience this when we get so caught up in what we are doing that we
completely "forget ourselves."
Alternatively, directly sensing the presence that is aware of the thoughts can also dis-entangle the tendency to
identify with the thoughts. The second movement of the spiritual journey is this recognition, or realization, of
your true nature as presence or limitless empty awareness. It is a wonderful surprise to discover that
everything that really matters in life, including peace, joy, and love, is found in this empty awareness. This
emptiness is incredibly full and rich. It has intelligence and strength and compassion. Whenever we
experience a deeper quality of Being such as clarity, peace, insight, value, happiness or love, it is coming from
this spacious presence.
The surprising thing is that while these two movements can occur simultaneously, they can also happen apart
from each other. When this happens, the movement from ego identification to our essential nature is not
complete. For example, you can question deeply your own thoughts until the false assumptions in them are
seen through. The over-identification that results from constantly thinking about me and mine and my body
and my problems can't survive closer examination. It can be a shock to see how completely we assume that I
am this body and I am this mind, and an even bigger shock and relief to discover that it is just a thought, and it
is not true. The identification is really just a thought. There is no actual equivalence between you and your
body or your mind. You are that which experiences the body and the mind, but you are not contained in them.
Even though this is a profound insight and a huge relief (after all if I am not my body, then these are not my
aches and pains; and if I am not my mind, then these are not my problems), by itself this insight only reveals
the false assumptions. It does not reveal the underlying truth. And since the underlying truth of your nature is
more of a heart-centered experience, it is possible to dissolve the ego without touching your true nature. In a
sense, you can wake up in your mind, but not in your heart.
When this happens, there is both the sense of relief from all of the grief caused by the over-identification with
the body and mind, and often a deep sense of meaninglessness. If "I" don't exist, then what is the point? It
doesn't matter anymore what the fictional "I" does or what happens to it. In fact, nothing matters at all because
it is so clearly all an illusion.
When seekers are led or just find their own way to a deep experience of no-self, they can then form a new
more subtle belief that this absence of self is all there is. "I am not my body, I am not my mind, I do not exist"
are seen as the final conclusions. From a purely logical perspective, what more is there to say, since there is
no one here to say it or hear it! And while these conclusions are true, they are not the whole truth.
Underlying all of the activity of the mind is the non-conceptual reality of Being, or our true nature.
Underlying the concept of apple, one can experience the reality of a sweet, red piece of fruit. However it is
more subtle when it comes to our true nature, because the reality underlying our false identification with the
ego is not physical. It is a pure empty aware space that is full of the subtle substance of presence in all of its
essential forms: peace, joy, love, clarity, strength, value, and much more.