The separate self


“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” ― Dogen

What does the above title mean to you?

I mean, there aren’t two of you unless that is (and I’m not being churlish) you believe your life is ordered and controlled by a Homunculus.

In our ordinary, daily pattern of speech we say:

“I feel depressed.”

Not to make light of mental health issues or clinical depression but who or what is the ‘I’ that you’re referring to?

Better still, where is it to be found?

In your head?


Your brain?


Sadly, you’ll never find it because it’s a fiction but a very pervasive one at that.

Let me take a step back for a moment and ask you to consider your earliest memory. I was about three and there was, or as best I now remember, a complete aliveness in every moment. Yes there was sadness too, but I don’t remember ruminating on anything. Life was an endless parade of bliss, happiness and reverie.

Sadly, it didn’t last: growing up, going to school and getting a job made sure of that.

Add into the mix what I was told and the cultural milieu, and there then became a series of word associations whereby even things like emotions, feelings and senses had to be described in order (I assume) that I could try to make sense of the world.

But again, this was all make believe.

What do I mean?

Take something like sadness. Where does it reside? Your head? And I assume you’ll say is driven by your thoughts?

What are thoughts?

(Questions, questions…!)

I’m serious. What are thoughts? Hold them up to the light and now try: a) to find them, b) to describe them and c) to understand why you believe them — any of them.

You might be wondering where this is all going.

Simple, really: if only we could let go of the connection with the duality of the self, perhaps then we might come alive to all that life is, instead of being so heavily influenced by forces outwith our pysche.

To die before you die.

Yes, that’s it. If we could let go of all that we belive to be true, only then might we awaken to the alivesness of life.

There’s a lot I’m leaving out in the post, but one thing you might ask yourself is why you believe that your thoughts are any more important that the rest of your biological make-up when describing the ‘I’?



Photo by Geronimo Giqueaux on Unsplash