Posted 6 December 2017 by Sal
Fear of No self
I keep thinking this week about our friend experiencing the sense of self breaking down and the fear that arose from it. I can totally relate. It's amazing how I thought the whole “there is no self” teaching was a kind of tongue in cheek thing. And then, when it actually falls apart it’s like, “Holy shit, there is literally nothing!” It's incredibly scary for the mind. Did you (mind) ever experience fear when coming to this realization? I ask because fear has become a fairly large part of my daily experience. My question is pointless, but I’m still curious about your view of this.
Also, why do you think it is that I am now aware of that sense of self dissolving where it wasn't noticed before, even though it happened many times every day? Is it because of the holidays?
We are so used to knowing who we are, in the egoic-self-person-story-mythical-historical sense, that when that whole story is absent, for a moment or longer, and there is a clear knowing of its absence, it is completely natural to experience fear. It’s like free falling in space with nothing to hold on to. Early, in my seeking days, on a vipassana retreat, I went through five days of abject terror. It was fear of death and insanity. A year or so later, on a different retreat, the ‘self’ fell completely away for a week or so. There was no fear, only peace and relief. Maybe it was because I had already experienced that terror. I don't know.
Now, it is very difficult for me to put into words, but since then my view is different. Is there a sense of self? I honestly cannot say there is and I honestly cannot say there isn't. There seems to be a self here, which of course is ephemeral and never the same from moment to moment, but in my own experience, I cannot find anything to hang my hat on as a self. In my actual knowing, there is no self. So, that question is irrelevant to me at this point; I simply don’t care.
The reason that you are aware of the sense of self dissolving now and not before, is exactly that. You were not aware of it then. Everyone has spontaneous moments of holidays, moments of no self. In fact, many times each day, but there is no knowing, or cognition, of it. That is why I say that a holiday is not about having no thoughts or experiencing peace (even though that happens)—it is about knowing. A holiday is knowing who you are, prior to the thought of a 'self'.
Fortunately, there is nothing you can do about any of it. You didn't choose to want to come to know truth or liberation. You didn't choose to work with me. You didn't choose to have a holiday. And you are not choosing this fear. It will happen (or not happen) for as long as it does (or doesn't).
Sounds like all is well to me.