Functional Noise Generalize Your Mind


What are you? Where is the self?

Are you your body? If you lose a toe or a whole limb do you lose a part of yourself? Have you changed? Worst case, if we take your brain out of your body, dump it in a vat, connect it to the internet, are you no longer yourself? I think you would claim you are still yourself.

Are you your feelings? Are you in the anger? In the joy? In the sadness? Are you the collection of all feelings?

Are you your thoughts? Are you responsible for having a thought? Thoughts are fleeting. If a thought is gone, have you lost a part of yourself?

Or do thoughts and feelings just come and go and you observe them? Are you the observer? Where is this observer? Is it at the center of your world simulation? How big is it? Is it just a mathematical point? Are you infinitesimally small?

Where are you?

Let's look at all possible objects in the entire world. Where could you be?

Let's model every object as a point (let's keep it simple). Around some of these objects we like to draw boundaries that we could classify as ourself. The other parts of the world are then not-self. In this model, the self is just a label we attach to certain objects. (Note that each object is itself an arbitrary classification, but let's not go there, I told you to keep it simple.)

I think the self is a dynamic classification boundary in our internal world simulation. It varies depending on our viewpoint. Sometimes it includes the body. Sometimes the emotions and thoughts. Sometimes you are lost in only thoughts. Sometimes your sense of self feels like nothing at all. Some people can move the sense of self 'outward' and envelop their entire world simulation.

Seeing everything – the entire universe – as yourself is not a false viewpoint. Because everything you experience runs in your mind. You are somewhere between this concept of oneness and nothingness.

As developing meditator I cannot yet fully experience this flexible-self or 'non-duality', but I can intellectually imagine it. Walk outside, look at the sky and think about how the clouds are far away. Yet these clouds are inside your world simulation, so you experience them somewhere in your brain. Imagine what it's like to feel like being all of that, being your body and the clouds and the sky – the entire universe. Surely that must be a great feeling. What could possibly harm the universe? In the opposite extreme, no-self, I can imagine there just is a universe, nothing in there feels different from other parts (zero and infinity can feel a bit similar I imagine). Surely nothing can harm nothing. Every other feeling of self is in between and if you know the extremes, those 'selfs' can probably all be interpreted as okay. Right now you are likely somewhere in between; use your imagination to extrapolate a little bit towards the extremes.

You can also imagine that it's possible to redraw the self around any object in your world simulation. Nothing is physically stopping you from experiencing any of that, it's merely a limitation of your current mind/brain configuration.

How to fully acquire this non-dual / flexible-self view? According to this academic review paper all meditation methods eventually get you to this view. That's the good news. But there are many paths you can take and some can cost a lot of effort. Apparently with Focused Attention Meditation, like focussing on your breath, it might take a bit longer, but it's generally the easier one to start with. Later you can switch to a more open meditation style. Such a path is also recommended by this good r/streamentry beginners guide. I recently enjoyed this nondual meditation video from Michael Taft. And please try Rob Burbea's works, for example see this blog post section called "A Guided Introduction to Rob’s Teachings". I do not claim to know the way, the best we can do is learn from others and our own explorations.