Posted 6 December 2017 by Sal
Fear of no self
From a friend on my weekly online group:
I keep thinking this week about C…….’s experience of the sense of self breaking down and the fear that arose from it. As I said I can totally relate. Its amazing how I/we think/thought the whole “there is no self” is kind of a tongue and cheek thing and then when it actually falls apart it’s like, “Holy shit there is literally nothing!”, and how scary that can be 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 on your view of this. Why do you think it is that we are aware of that sense of self dissolving now where as before it would happen many times every day and it wasn’t noticed? Is it because of the holidays?
Sal: 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, and there is a clear knowing of its absence, for a moment or longer, it is completely natural to experience fear, like free falling in space with nothing to hold on to. Early in my seeking days, on a vipassanna retreat, I went through five days of abject terror. It was fear of death and insanity. A year of so later, on a different retreat, the 'self' fell completely away for a week or more. There was no fear, only peace and relief. Maybe because I had experienced that terror already, I don't know. Now it is very difficult for me to put into words, but since then my view has been different. Is there a sense of self? I honestly cannot say there is, and I honestly cannot say there is not. In all appearances, or from ‘outside’, there would seem to be a self, 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. My actual knowing? No self. So, that question is irrelevant for 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, or 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 to about any of it. You didn't choose to want to come to know truth or liberation. You didn't choose to work with Sal. You didn't choose to have a holiday. And you are not choosing this fear, or the fact of it happening or not happening as long as it will or won't.
Sounds like all is well to me.