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When I practice mindfulness meditation I can sometimes become acutely aware of my sense of self. It seems to go from a dull background awareness of self to a feeling that the sense of self is very pervasive and almost invasive into all aspects of experience. Naively I would expect that meditation would have the opposite affect and weaken the sense of self. In fairness sometimes it does but sometimes it appears to have this opposite effect.

Is that a documented result of meditation. Is there advice out there from established teachers (of any schools) about working with this? Is it just me? Has anyone got advice based on their own experience?

  • What is this "sense of self" you refer to? Elements of your personality? Or perhaps the limits of your individuality, made aware by the boundaries of your senses and body? Or something else? – Thiago May 26 '15 at 23:45
  • @ThiagoSilva thank you for the comment. This to me points at something very useful. An opportunity for further examination perhaps. Would you consider a fuller and we so I could have the opportunity to upvote. Many thanks – Crab Bucket May 28 '15 at 12:54
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Just do what you're doing. When you notice your self, don't fight it. Your sense of self is there for a purpose. The purpose is to find out the cause. Once the cause of self is found, the cause is removed. When the cause is removed, self ceases.

When meditation is done gently, spontaneously, peacefully, one becomes absorbed in meditation. When one is absorbed in meditation, thinking ceases. When thinking ceases, self ceases.

  • I like this answer, and I am not differing with it, but I would say that when thinking ceases, ego drops flat, and self is revealed. It is a ways to go to have the self drop also. Perhaps this is what the OP is perceiving - ego down but still a self? This is how I understand the OP's question, in terms of my own experience. – user2341 May 29 '15 at 12:25
  • When thinking ceases, ego ceases. When ego ceases, "the real you" is revealed. When "the real you" is revealed, the perception "oh this is the real me" arises. When the perception "oh this is the real me" ceases, the perception "oh I am everywhere and in everything" arises. When the perception "oh I am everywhere and in everything" ceases, the perception "oh I am infinite and eternal" arises. When the perception "oh I am infinite and eternal" ceases, the perception "oh I perceive nothing" arises. – beginner May 30 '15 at 12:31
  • When the perception "oh I perceive nothing" ceases, the perception "oh there is no perception" arises. When the perception "oh there is no perception" ceases, perception ceases. When perception ceases, there is nothing else to be accomplished - ignorance has come to an end. – beginner May 30 '15 at 12:31
  • Well, I see your point. Just not sure how it directly connects to the OPs question. What I would say is that it is likely to be a long and non-obvious road, and there are people all along it at different stages who wish to be helpful. I am learning to not give advice. So, I gave my experience, as the OP asked. But I have learned that no two people have the same experiences or need the same things. "It is good to say little. Better still to say nothing." – user2341 Jun 1 '15 at 13:24
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This is because you don't notice the senses at their unadulterated state. Seeing is just seeing, hearing is just hearing, feeling is just feeling and so on. Your mind already has Sakkayaditti(the false view of taking the senses as self) which jumps the gun as soon as the sense doors receive Rupa. This is what's meant by Pamada. You have to be Appamada and catch the sense before Sakkayadhitti spoils it and turns you into Alice in the wonderland.:)

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When your sense of self arises it means you're holding on to something. So it's either a craving you're holding onto or a view. Either way your meditation has made you more aware of your sense of self; and that is good!

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If one practices insight meditation correctly then the practice will actually weaken the sense of Self. One will come to realize that the idea/sense of self is merely a mental formation belonging to the 4th aggregate. By diligent and repeated practice one will come to see the 3 signs of existence, i.e. the mental formation is both impermanent, unsatisfactory and uncontrollable/ungovernable meaning it cannot be a Self.

If a Self could exist it would be something that one is in control of, something that is amenable to ones will. Through insight meditation we find that nothing in the conditioned realm is really like that.

Here is a great quote by Mahasi Sayadaw. Unfortunately i cannot find where he said it so there is no reference.

"There is deeds, but no doer.

There is movement, but no mover.

There is no unmoving mover behind the movement."


Ajahn Punnadhammo told in an audio dhamma talk that when he became a monk and did extensive walking meditation he would sometimes get caught up in phenomena and identifying with them. So what he did was to put up a sign at the end of his walking path.

The sign said: NOT ME, NOT MINE. He looked at that everytime he got caught up in phenomena.

Here is an audio dhamma talk on Anatta by Ajahn Punnadhammo. In here he talks about how the Buddha explained the 4 four ways in which we create a Self and the 3 levels of which we create a Self. The talk is highly recommendable.

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Continue your meditation practice and eventually you will come to realise the 3 universal characteristics of impermanance, suffering and non-self, then you will realise the difference between self- ignorance- and non-self- wisdom.

Metta.

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Satipatthana Sutta helps here.

[5] "Furthermore...just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice, having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into pieces, the monk contemplates this very body — however it stands, however it is disposed — in terms of properties: 'In this body there is the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property.'

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or focused externally... unsustained by anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself.

[6] "Furthermore, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground — one day, two days, three days dead — bloated, livid, & festering, he applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate'...

"Or again, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground, picked at by crows, vultures, & hawks, by dogs, hyenas, & various other creatures... a skeleton smeared with flesh & blood, connected with tendons... a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected with tendons... a skeleton without flesh or blood, connected with tendons... bones detached from their tendons, scattered in all directions — here a hand bone, there a foot bone, here a shin bone, there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a breast bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, there a tooth, here a skull... the bones whitened, somewhat like the color of shells... piled up, more than a year old... decomposed into a powder: He applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.'

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or externally on the body in & of itself, or both internally & externally on the body in & of itself. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body. Or his mindfulness that 'There is a body' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html

  • I see this as convincing the ego that it will come to an end, in terms of the body. The Heart Sutra basically says, "and so also with the other four skandas." Convince the ego it cannot control these things. Then the naked self is revealed, which I think is what the OP is experiencing. Then, eventually... the self is also transcended. "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, Bodhi, svaha." I think that you are saying: Be Relentless. I agree. – user2341 May 29 '15 at 12:29

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