Thursday, February 29, 2024

Small separate self and Big Mind

     There are many ways of expressing "separate self": small self, narrative-self, ordinary mind, personal mind, pain body, egocentricity, noisy ego, fearful hurt child, etc. All of these reveal aspects of the common, and for many, the default self-concept / worldview. This worldview is fear-based; conflates survival of the ego with survival of the body; assumes we're all "alone in a competitive, hostile world" where one's external circumstances rigidly, mechanically determine quality of life; where perfect control of one's external environment means everything to the left-hemisphere-dominant mind. But since perfect control is never achievable, "ordinary unhappiness" is as good as it gets. Nevertheless, when anxiety, fear & unhappiness dominate, this ordinary mind rules - much like how during emergencies, the fight, flight, freeze instinct kicks in; and also like how during times of war, right-wing dictators find it easiest to cling to power.

    No one can tell you what awakening is. I could use a lot of words to describe what it’s like. I could say it’s kind of like wakening from a dream. Suddenly you’re not who you think you are. You are not the dream character, the person or personality that you’ve been playing all your life.” Dan Schmidt

    Nevertheless, "Big Mind" has been experienced & pointed towards in many ways & words, such as: Awakening, Awareness, true self, Self, Universal Consciousness, Source, Buddha nature, the Divine, high-plateau experience, enlightenment, Christ consciousness, God, Fundamental Wellbeing, Ongoing Non-Symbolic Experience, Juingong, etc. One of the better books describing how people - whom Martin calls "Finders"- from around the world have experienced this is: Dr. Jeffery A. Martin. “The Finders.” Integration Press, 2019

    “Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.” Anthony de Mello SJ

    "Another name for God is Surprise!"
Brother David Steindl-Rast

    “As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. … That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life… Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.”
Anthony de Mello SJ

    Those who experience higher states of consciousness for sustained periods report extraordinary levels of wellbeing. Regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, spirituality / religiosity, education etc, there is remarkable similarity in "Finders'" descriptions. More & more such people are sharing their experiences in serious, in-depth interviews: and and and etc. 

     Finders “have moved past their moments of doubt & frustration. They have found exactly what everyone else has been seeking their entire life. For them, each moment feels perfectly okay at a deep & fundamental level, regardless of actual life circumstances. There individuals do not dwell on past regrets or glories, nor worries about future hopes & dreams. They live peacefully in the present, while everyone else around them seems intent on trying to escape it. They’ve not only found fulfillment but a deep & fundamental sense of wellbeing.” Dr. Jeffery A. Martin. “The Finders.” Integration Press, 2019.

    As soon as we notice that we're confused & suffering, as if we were alone, struggling to survive in a hostile world, Zen advises that we "take the backward step" and ask ourselves, "Who is confused? Who is suffering? Who is struggling?" This "self-inquiry" practice will increasingly serve to snap us out of the illusion of being this small "separate self" - the pawn in some cruel cosmic game, and back to our true self, ONE with everyone & everything, the Source, Universal Consciousness

    Gradually, as wellbeing becomes stabilized, Finders can opt to shift into a "quiet ego" ("doing mode") to perform certain practical tasks, then effortlessly return to Awareness ("being mode") again. As an aside, Iain McGilchrist's right-hemisphere dominance accommodates both of these (while left-hemisphere dominance is equivalent to "noisy ego" - much higher levels of self-centeredness). Martin's book is quite detailed, providing insight into Finders' profound qualitative change in perspective, self-concept & worldview after which they (other serious meditators, mystics & saints) say / write seemingly opaque, confusing & even paradoxical statements, such as this well-known unequivocal declaration:

    "All shall be well,
     and all shall be well,
     and all manner of things shall be well."
Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416) English Christian mystic

    Just as Bessel Van Der Kolk's excellent book, “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” helps us look back and understand self-compassionately, the effects of past traumas on our lives, Jeffery Martin's valuable book, "The Finders" helps us roughly locate where we are now on our spiritual journey and provides an important map for the joyful trails awaiting us.

        “But by my love and hope I beseech thee:
         cast not away the hero in thy soul!
         Keep sacred thy highest hope!            
Friedrich Nietzsche “Thus spoke Zarathustra”


Molly Hahn

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