"When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished." Mihály Csíkszentmihályi PhD
Our small, egoic self (& it's constant, very loud spokesperson, "ordinary mind's self talk") can only see consensual dualistic relative reality - of adversarial relationships, competition to get to the top, which even includes war (rape, plunder & murder). Small self's / ordinary mind's natural byproduct is dualism & rigid materialism - where ego can, or soon will be able to control everything ("promissory materialism" - a joke for everyone, except materialists).
Our true self, when we don't drown it out by setting off our alarms, experiences ultimate reality. We all experience this occasionally, at least fleetingly. We are most likely to experience our innate authenticity & ultimate reality when we feel relaxed, open to & engaged with the flow of life.
Psychologist Csíkszentmihályi researched the "flow" state & summarized it as: "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, & thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." Mihály Csíkszentmihályi PhD
An important component of "flow" was autotelicity - performing acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than to achieve external goals; learning to enjoy situations that most others mind find miserable; associated with curiosity, persistence, & humility. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi
Despite the formality of scientific language, "flow" seems remarkably similar if not identical to a common experience shared by serious meditators, mystics, saints, extreme adventurers, surgeons, artists of every description, and all who intentionally spend time being intimately engaged with whatever the present moment holds for them. A very impressive real-life example of this is detailed in the book : Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.
Intimacy is a direct, heart-to-heart expression of unconditional love (nothing to do with reward / personal gain ie not transactional.)
The huge practical problem in our lives is that most of us live as if a fire alarm was constantly ringing, resulting in our small, separate mind running & ruining our lives, and completely obscuring our authentic, true self.
“Once I stop shaping reality into a theatrical performance with myself at its center, mindfulness allows the world to surprise me. The universe becomes delightfully open-ended.” Belden C. Lane
"When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears.” Bodhidharma
So our small mind, by way of constant "self talk," is constantly telling us how uncomfortable we are, and reminding us of our preferences: all that we "must have", and all that we "must avoid", in order to survive & be happy. Fixating on these attachments keeps us constantly self-centered, stressed & striving to be somewhere else, do something else, become someone else RATHER THAN be intimately engaged with whatever the present moment presents us.
“By giving up our attachments in life, we open ourselves up to more opportunities, more spontaneity, and more chances to cultivate deeper connections with others.” Lama Tsomo
“The mind is a wonderful gift, but the voice inside our heads ("self-talk") can also be a never-ending source of suffering. That’s the last thing we need when we’ve already got so much of the outside world challenging us. We can spend our lives trying to change those external conditions to ‘be and feel OK’ — when the real problem is what’s going on inside.
The solution? Surrender – the willingness to let go. To realize that ultimately, our thoughts, emotions, & even our body are not who we are. We are the indwelling consciousness witnessing it all.” Michael A. Singer
Much of our repetitive thinking is about escaping discomfort by getting some things & avoiding others. Our life experience has surely taught us by now that no amount of getting & avoiding can lift us out of "ordinary unhappiness." Buddhism teaches that this obsessive self-centered actually causes unnecessary suffering. Surely we're ready to start inhabiting our far more evolved, true self - often just referred to as "Self."
"The thoughts change
but not you.
Let go of the passing thoughts and
hold on to the unchanging Self." Sri Ramana Maharshi
So what am I learning, if ever so slowly? It's ridiculously easy & common to remain overwhelmed by our past traumas & resultant reactivities, which guarantees continuous unnecessary suffering. Though many assume that this is 'just the way life is,' and 'nothing can be done about it,' that's just a 'helplessness & hopelessness' slump we all need to get past, from time to time.
Even in the absolutely most horrible cases of suffering, it's been shown that it's best to let go of our 'hurt child' identity, and instead direct our energies toward embodying our 'wise elder' identity (transpersonal Self or divine identity), and thereby nurture ourselves & others so we may all thrive ie be the best version of ourselves ie true self or Self.
Being authentic is our only way to peace & joy, that is independent of life's constant ups & downs, aging, sickness & death.