Tag Archives: no-self

My second intensive Zen retreat


I had decided to keep writing about my exploration into universal truth and the nature of reality but i’m struggling to find the motivation to keep on warbling on about it.
The time is coming where I’m going to loose interest in talking about it and that I will simply be unable to do so anymore. But for now I will try. If I did manage to carry on I’m really not sure how much sense I’m going to be making.

I’ve just returned from my second 4 day intensive koan based Zen retreat.

The experience during the retreat was rather similar to the last, but the experience at the end was mind boggling.

It would seem that when we are young children we are free of responsibly, and thus have no need of control which frees us up to play and experience joy.

As we age we are given responsibility which weighs us down. We start trying to control in order to feel safe.

Just being and playing transforms into the development of this sense of self. Our identity, the constantly building of an archive of who we are and who we take ourselves to be.
The more memories and experiences weigh us down, the more we add to our own burden. The sheer weight makes us feel afraid and less able to meet our responsibilities.

We try to control more and more and by doing so identify with whatever it is we wish to control as and an extension of our sense of self.

We end up reaching a critical mass bogged down by memories and worries that we can no longer function. Constantly plagued by fatigue unable to feel joy or even remember it.
But because this as all happened slowly it becomes normal and is accepted as just the way we are. As we age we accumulate ‘stuff’ which crushes and suffocates us.
And the koan?

The asking of the question repeatedly triggers the bodies relaxation response and fight/flight response simultaneously.
Intense fear arises which for me resulted in shaking, twitching, hot and cold flushes, nausea and the feeling of not being able to breath.
This lead on to a state of calmness and also hallucinations.

The combination of chi gung and walking meditation then re-calmed the body causing memories to po(o)p out.
These memories are the weight, the dirt that clings to the sense of self. The more memories that are released the more the bloated sense of self shrinks.

Perhaps the self is like an ultra clean window. It can only be noticed as existing when dirt clings to it.
And so as more dirt was washed away I became a child again. A child in an adult body.

I just wanted to play, to breath in the cold air and enjoy its sensation because it was amusing to me.
Spending all that time trying to answer and unanswerable question distracts you from yourself, from the future and from the past.
Those concepts are being cleaned off the window.

And then at the end of the retreat you are asked simple questions that are suddenly unanswerable.

A mental lobotomy has taken place. Something has gone into the minds operating system and run havoc deleting files. The file on the self has been deleted, the file of the past has been deleted, the file on the future has been deleted.

Asking questions that require certain thought processes are simply met with silence. The sound of a boom box playing a blank tape.
There is the knowledge that something is missing, but not the knowledge of what exactly is no longer there.

I have no idea whether this effect is permanent or temporary. But right now, all decisions are made with out access the concepts of past and future. Decisions are made without deciding. The flight/flight response currently appears to be off line as well.

Decisions are now made by the child inside, doing so because it might be fun to do so.

There is also joy and an abundance of energy, since no energy is wasted in getting stressed on meaningless mental gymnastics.
I have yet to full understand what is missing and what remains. I don’t know what is temporary and what is permanent.
I don’t know how challenging its going to be to adapt to life with blank spaces where something else used to be.
Time will tell.

Shit…, time…., what exactly is time again?

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No self


I started studying kung fu in 2001 which lead on to tai chi around 2004 and eventually to meditation in 2015. That time was peppered with odd bits of Buddhism, Taoism and Zen.
A phrase that stuck in my mind was ‘There is no self’. I guess it stuck in my mind because it was obviously bollox right? I know who I am, some religion telling me that I don’t really exist was nonsense.

Ever since I stood on a hilltop at dawn in 1991 and just for a second or two my sense of self wasn’t there I’ve been on a personal quest ever since. For that tiny moment I was not only free of me, but also free from anxiety, free from depression and free from fear.

I always assumed that my quest was about curing myself of the effects of trauma but it would turn out that there was more to it than that.

When I started martial arts my heart started glowing, as if to say ‘ping!” correct decision. When I started Meditation my chest expanded and my heart went “Ping!, ping!, Ping!” Yeah you got it, keep going.
When I first got involved in Buddhism my heart went “ping!” yeah, sort of, but not quite.

I felt like there was a hook in my solar plexus pulling me somewhere. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was being pulled forward whether I liked it or not, I just had to steer.
My meditation journey started with an 8 week mindfulness course, then three years with the triratna Buddhists. I also went on a number of Theravada retreats and of course the bonkers Vipassana retreat. Right now I’m making a foray into Zen self-Inquiry.

But I’m still me right? Not exactly.

During Body scan meditation you become aware of the observer and the observed. The ‘I’ of the self identifies with the observer. The observer observes the body and so knows that I am not my body. The observer observes pain and so knows that I am not my pain. The observer observes emotions and so knows that I am not my emotions.

Ah right got it. So I am not my body, my pain or my emotions, so I must be my mind?
And then the question comes “who is thinking?”, “who asked the question?”
Do I have multiple minds acting independently of each other that can watch each other?
So the observer is higher than the mind that watches all but what is it? Who am I?

And then one night after a Zen retreat. Something wakes up in the middle of the night, but it is not me. There is no sense of a self at all. There is no light, no vision, no thoughts, no emotions, no perception of time. There is nothing, just expansive blackness. Awareness of nothingness.

Imagine being in a completely dark sound proof room, floating and a body temperature saline solution of a sensory deprivation chamber, with a completely calm mind with no thoughts or emotions, and you are still nowhere near.

I’ve never really been able to get my head around the concept of infinity but I guess ‘nothing’ has to be infinite since there is nothing available to measure it by.
So is that me? Is that the observer? Empty awareness? Consciousness?

Coming back to the self. If the sense of self is something that can so readily be deactivated by a beautiful dawn or hours of kung fu, or meditation.
Then no. There is no self. No real self. No fixed permanent self. The self is simply a mental process, a construct of the mind. Its impossible to not identify with the self until the self starts disappearing. At that point it gets easier and easier.

So if I’m not my self what am I? Consciousness?

No. Consciousness is just a concept. A finger pointing at the moon.

It is impossible to know intellectually what the self is.

It is only possible to know intellectually what the self is not.

Right now all of the organs in my chest feel like they have been magnetised and a huge magnet is pulling me somewhere. My heart feels like it is in perpetual free fall after jumping over and infinite humpbacked bridge. The air makes me giddy to breathe it filling my lungs with expansiveness.
What is the hook that pulls? What is the magnet that sucks at my chest? Why did the self blip out of existence 27 years ago?

That is the unknown ‘I’

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My mediation journey


So, the insights gained from my 10 day Vipassanā meditation retreat in Aug 2017 allowed my to put my emotional pain from childhood trauma behind me.

As I looked for a new challenge I settled on investigating ‘universal truth and the nature of reality’. So basically the biggest question there is.

I hadn’t realized it at the time but the journey away from suffering, is the same as the journey towards enlightenment, so effectively my methods of exploration, namely reading and mediation, haven’t changed.

So here I am over a year in in my search for ultimate truth, where am i?

I’ve done 6 ayahuasca ceremonies, one intensive zen retreat and have been working with self-inquiry meditation. I’ve also been going through about a book a week.
This is where I am right now. My personal reference point.

There are two realities. The reality in which there is a self and the reality in which there is no-self.

Both realities are completely real when experienced from within that reality.

When within one reality the other reality is not real.
There seams very little point in describing the reality as experienced from the point of view of the no-self.

As regards to the no-self. There is the experience of no-self and the memory of no-self. There is no need to describe the no-self experience to those that are experiencing it or remember it.
There is no point in describing the no-self reality to those that haven’t experienced it, since the no-self is unimaginable.

The biggest change is that suddenly words that made no sense to me 10, 20 years ago all of a sudden make sense.

Dialogue from various past kung fu instructors and tai chi teachers suddenly makes sense. Books on Advaita Vedanta actually makes sense. Even bloody Zen has started to make sense and thats saying something.
So basically the knowledge of ‘universal truth and the nature of reality’ is actually knowable. But it isn’t necessarily communicable.

But since I never set out to be able to communicate anything its all good.

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My personal meditation experiences


By April 2019 i will have been meditating for 4 years.

I thought I write a list of my personal experiences over this time

- decrease in stress
- decrease in fight/flight sensitivity
- decrease in anxiety
- increase in social confidence
- increase in compassion
- sudden urge to cry
- sudden emergence of long forgotten memories
- sudden insights/knowledge
- feelings of bliss
- feelings of rage
- feelings of depression
- feelings of ecstasy
- leaned how to make pain dissipate at will
- seeing white flashes
- seeing Intense visual hallucinations
- Feelings of floating and weightlessness
- Feeling that waves of orgasmic static energy waves were flowing all over my body
- Feeling that the body had dissolved leaving only the face, hands and feet floating in space
- Feeling that my hands were expanding in size.
- Feelings that energy was pulsing, rising and expanding from my abdomen and that I might explode
- Perceiving my body as pure energy
- Uncontrollable laughing and crying
- Uncontrollable violent shaking
- Loss of self and experiencing non-separate everythingness
- Loss of self and experiencing infinite black nothingness
- Loss of self and loss of the past, future and all understanding of the concept of time

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