“Me, Me, Me” – ‘Self-Referenting’ vs. Coming Out Into Reality
Once in meditation I had an incredible insight – “it’s all about me. Me, me, me.” I mentioned this to a few other meditators, and they were like, “Well, of course! That’s no great revelation. That’s just you realizing you’ve been seeing everything through the lens of ‘How do I feel?’ and ‘How does this affect me?’ Congratulations on seeing “Mind-Identification 101.” Well I sure felt silly…for a few moments. But it just goes to show everybody on the path has different “blocks” that are obvious to some while being a great “Aha” to others.
For me, this business of being wrapped up in me was a major light bulb, and once I saw it, my meditations and my opening to Awakening shot forward at an accelerated speed, so I share it for all who will get value from it.
I remember meditating on Pure Awareness, alternating with just being with my breathing, and having a nice deep, blissful meditation. As in all my meditations at that stage, I had many intrusions from my mind, many periods of 3 seconds or 3 minutes where my attention shifted away from global Awareness or my breath, to dwell on some thought or other. I was practicing Vipassana-style meditation, and, as in Zen and other forms of meditation, I knew the minute I caught myself thinking these thoughts, I was supposed to gently guide my attention back to Pure Awareness or my breath, which I did. This felt good, and I felt like I was making progress, but I noticed my attention just kept wanting to drift away from Awareness or breath and get caught up in thinking or ruminating about something, over & over. No big insight or surprise, right?…that’s pretty much what early stages of meditation are all about, repeatedly guiding your attention back from thinking, daydreaming and identifying with your mind, to Awareness or Silence or Emptiness, whatever you call it.
But I was a bit flustered this time, that there were so many constant excursions back into the realm of thinking, and I wondered why that was, and if maybe there was even an acceleration or a shortcut to getting beyond the thoughts and staying beyond them. Then it hit me: all these thoughts are about me. I’m totally caught up in how I feel, how this meditation is affecting me, whether I’m going to get more enlightened from it, how my legs feel, what I’m going to eat when I break for lunch, how I’m going appear to my fellow meditators at this retreat (wiser & more enlightened vs. a rank beginner on the path!) Me, me, me, me, me. It’s all about me! Even if I thought about my wife & son, or about a book I studied or a movie I saw, or about doing a good job for somebody else, or something not directly about me, it was still about how I felt about that outer object or activity, how that thing or person made me feel, what am I getting out of this.
Pretty wrapped up in myself, huh? What an ego! Now, I didn’t beat myself up for that, ’cause I knew I was on it’s trail and going to expand beyond that. And when I checked with countless other people, they admitted (when they were being fully honest,) that they, too, always thought about themselves, and even when they thought about others, it was actually about how it referenced back to themselves.
An idea came to me: I inquired when (if ever) were those times during the course of my day when I was least wrapped up in myself, when I truly got out of my own head and what I was getting out of the moment, to just being with something or somebody else, with no thought whatsoever about myself or how it was effecting me. I noticed that I had a particular affinity for green trees and shrubbery. If I was walking on a path with lovely green foliage around me, I could focus on any leaf or branch and immediately feel intensely present with that foliage, almost as if I became one with the living plant and forgot that the plant and I were not one & the same thing. I don’t know why this happens so naturally & so deeply with the greenery around me, but it does, and it’s definitely a moment when I get completely out of my head and “feel” the plant, and how it feels, what it wants.
So I made this into an on-purpose practice. Whenever I walk in nature, which is often, and I catch myself ruminating about me, me, me and what life’s doing to me, I get fully present with some foliage on the path and quickly feel my perception shift, and my self-centeredness drop away. I totally stop thinking about “me.”
To expand on this practice and start right out on the “good foot,” whenever I now get ready to take a walk in nature, I first say, out loud, “OK now, I’m not taking this walk just to rummage & ruminate through all my thoughts, worries and concerns about myself. I’m going to use this walk to come out of my head, to become acutely aware of the air, the light, the vibrations and the beings around me, and behind that, the Pure Awareness that’s present in everything.” Not surprisingly, as I have continued to practice this outside, I find a greater facility for forgetting about me when I go inside; meditations go deeper, quicker, with less rummaging through my vast self-concerns, and less identifying with them.
Of course, there are many ways to stop thinking about yourself and thereby not be so caught up in your own story. The classic ego-diminishing practice throughout centuries of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, is to put others first, think about their needs – not your own, and forget about yourself in the service of others. The Muslims call this Itahr, the Buddhists refer to the practice of Anattaa, Hindus call selfless service Seva and recommend the practice of Karma Yoga, and of course, Christians view Christ’s supreme sacrifice of his own life to serve mankind, as the ultimate spiritual model, so well exemplified by the tireless Christian servant of the poor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One to whom it comes natural totally forget ones own concerns in the service of others, or in complete submission to their teacher or Guru, can often experience that feeling of being Fully Awakened or Enlightened much quicker than those “practicing” for themselves.
I’ve done many years of selfless service and sometimes lost myself – as in, self-concern – in the joy of not thinking about me. Other times, I’ve been thinking about me even as I am doing something for others with no thought of reward. Perhaps I was ill, not feeling well, or just feeling restless & personally unsatisfied in my life, and I couldn’t seem to get my mind off myself, my own thoughts & worries, even while serving others. That seems to be the way I’m wired. So for me the “getting present with nature and Awareness” practice has been a great adjunct.
Either way, the point is…the show’s out here! Meaning, the show, True Reality, is not in our heads. Nothing could be more unreal than our wispy, ephemeral thoughts, worries, judgments and moods. Our thoughts are just nothingness, there’s no “suchness” to them. They come, they go, they change every second. Indeed, the only thing that seems to prove a thought is real, is another thought. How preposterous! So looking in your head for answers, peace, Truth, Reality or whatever is absurd. The only place Truth and Oneness can be found is out of your thoughts, out of your head, and into the Real. So whenever you feel yourself brooding about how you are going to make yourself feel better, or more enlightened, remember that’s a vicious circle, you’re never going to find what you want in there…and come out here into the Real World of Pure Beingness and Eternal Now.
Whatever works best for you to leave your me, me, me behind – getting present in nature, going deep in meditation, focusing on God by chanting holy names over & over, or focusing on others through service, do it often. It’s your golden ticket out of “me,” out of your head, and into Oneness.