What does it feel like when identified as a separate self?



Since it can be so fascinating to attempt to describe what it feels like when one realizes Oneness, let’s go in the opposite direction.

What does it feel like when I’m identified as a separate self?

  1.  It feels like I’m a person in a separate body with separate thoughts and separate feelings.
  2.  It feels like I am the thinker.  A thought flits through the brain and it seems to come from me.
  3. It feels like the sensations which arise are actually mine. They hurt, they please.  They are joyful or angry or sad. And they seem to be mine.
  4. The focus is on the individual.  The barn across the street is something other. So is the dog and my best friend and enemy.  Shapes and forms seem to divide the world into me and otherness.
  5. Wants and aversions arise.  A strong inner energy dictates life along these lines.  Addictions or compulsions often appear.
  6. Issues of control occur regularly.  The separate self thinks it can dictate reality.  Or, conversely, it feels helpless because it can’t quit an addictive habit.  It’s all about attempting to control what arises.
  7. Much of attention identifies with thoughts.  The thought-world is perceived as real.  Awareness of the now comes and goes.  Much of attention relates to the dream-world of mental and emotional activity.
  8. One argues with reality.  Thoughts delineate and attempt to disparage other thoughts.  Things are labeled “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad”.
  9. Love, when it arises, often associates with how it relates to the separate self.  Love is not unconditional.  It seems connected to preconceived perceptions.  It is not universal.
  10. A lot of energy is spent propping up and defending the individual.  It’s easy to feel threatened.  Fear operates often as a background software operating system, sometimes not even consciously.
  11. Doing seems very important.  Not-doing often appears as a threat, an empty hole into which one might disappear.
  12. Life sometimes seems a series of problems which must be solved through thought.  Emotions are seen as reliable indicators of what to do next.  Emotions are sometimes perceived to be what one actually is.
  13. Being is seen as nothing important.  It is often not even noticed.
  14. Drama periodically reigns, either internally or externally.  Emotional, mental and physical pain may arise.  Great delight and happiness also arises, although it’s often attached to an external stimuli.  Something often appears to cause to the joy.
  15. It seems necessary to fix oneself, to make oneself more acceptable to self or others.
  16. One tells a lot of stories about oneself and actually believes them.

Just noticing today how I feel when identified as a separate self. Even though intellectually I might remember or recognize Oneness, it’s still not available as a moment-to-moment recognition. It is available when the I remembers to look. Then it sees that it’s immediate, always here, never inaccessible.

Blue sky



If I could speak to that young girl in the farmhouse, the twenty-two-year-old wearing soft blue pants and matching vest as she drove through snowstorms to her job at the local hospital, the one with the panting pink-tongued black lab who wandered to the Finnish neighbors and possibly ate poison and died, the one who cried on Friday afternoons after work because so-and-so didn’t understand her, love her, treat her properly—what would this fifty-seven-year-old woman say?

What words of comfort and hope might echo across thirty-five years?  How would the sage speak to innocence, knowing all that she must traverse to reach today?

Here is what might be shared on a frigid night when the toilet froze solid, after she scribbled notes wondering “What the heck am I supposed to do with my life?  What am I supposed to DO?”

My dear, my sweetheart, my little self with wood bark in your hair:  I wish I could tell you not to despair, not to weep, not to feel your restless heart so deeply.  To simply relax into the pattern of your days, to let Life guide you whether to turn left or right, whether to stay in the Upper Peninsula or motor down to Texas to make your fortune.

But since despair is part of your path, here is what I will whisper to you.  Honor your frustration, your not-knowing, your suffering words poured out in journal.  These will serve you well.  They will lead you, bit by bit, to where your heart aims like a straight arrow into the marrow of your being.  Let that terrible restlessness—that desire to go who knows where?—and the only answer you can think of is “out for breakfast”—guide you more deeply into your inner world, your deep self.

You may not believe this, but Life is not against you.  It’s leading you, guiding you, showing you the next movement of the dance.  Your sense of separation carries a trail you shall walk until you find the fullness which always existed, never once absent through the despair, the challenges, the dying dog, the frozen toilet.

When the pain arises, it reveals a womb.  Birth sometimes takes a lifetime.  Suffering shall show you what no longer serves, what bracken beliefs and mossy thoughts must wither as winter descends.  As you suffer, my love, I might only advise a little blue sky, as blue as your pant suit that you will remember across a gulf of turning years.  Allow the vista to enlarge, if you can, to envelop the story you tell with your life.  If you can possibly view this unfolding as a story, perhaps a dream, then you might encounter an inner observer who simply witnesses.  This observer shall be your inner guru, your grace, the one who holds your hand through frigid afternoons and daisy mornings.

Trust this inner companion.  Trust that it doesn’t need a story.  Trust perhaps that what’s at the core of you shines.  She lives as the shining.  Some day you shall see that shining, clearer than that weeping willow, stronger than the shimmering shapes of form that rise like mist.  Some fine day you will know that what can’t be seen or touched or tasted or smelled feels more solid than your wood stove.  Lean into that invisible solidity, for it’s true, even if you cannot feel it in the midst of your trials and tribulations, your ragged pain.

The path you travel shall reveal all of this—if you want it.  And you shall want it more than your very own self, your hundreds of penned stories.  Trust your wanting.  Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s shallow, untrue or silly.  Don’t credit the thoughts that slam you into small categories, tough facades, barricaded protections.

If you want to know the truth, you shall. Or you shall want it until the wanting reveals itself as empty, and then it will arise as a gift, a grace.

I love you, little one, and forgive every time you forsook me in your fear.  In fact, there is nothing to forgive.  Every movement, pro and con, for and against, simply danced us together into what can never be separated, and never was unbound for a single second of eternity.

What is truth?

Last night I thought about writing a blog post sharing what Truth might be in these eyes, in this unfolding.

For me, Truth is what is happening now.

It is What Is.

It is not subject to morality, discernment or judgment.

It’s what arises.  It is not an intellectual concept to debate.

Truth is what IS.

For you it might be eating bagels buttered with jam.  It might be drinking a glass of Chardonnay.  It might be laughing with a friend while simultaneously feeling nostalgic.  It might be driving to the North Pole, unable to see the road.  It might be feeling like you’re misunderstood, dying of boredom, frustrated, wanting to punch your partner.


Truth is what is appearing.  Untarnished.  Raw.  Unfiltered.  This, this, this, and now THIS.

It’s a physical feeling, as well as a spiritual knowing.

How to recognize that raw truth and respond from it–rather from the inner thoughts which paint their own picture of how reality should be–is the continual invitation of awareness. It is the place from which response rather than reactivity arises to meet the moment.

Today the Kathy wanted something so much.  She wanted to celebrate her daughter’s birthday in New York City.  That was the wanting, the desiring, the wishing, the impetus.

Truth followed a different agenda.  Truth involves a merging of Life beyond what the Ego wants.  Yet it doesn’t dismiss the ego.  It allows the wanting to arise.

Yet it’s the Truth.

What happened is that Kathy is home in the woods in blowing snow and her daughter is far away.

What I want is the Truth.  What is appearing.  The blowing snow.  The raging wind.  The dashed dreams. The revelation.

Love IS what appears, even though the thoughts so often miss the Present of that realization, the gift of it.

Are we separate from our environment?  Are we separate from what’s appearing?  The Truer Truth is what is arising.  That is what I surrender to.  That is where I bow this head.  What I want is only a small fragment of the jewel.  What appears is the jewel itself.

Shine on, Jewel.  Shine on, even while we humans continue to add our wanting, our vulnerability, our arising.



Who decides?

Just unearthed this blog post written in mid January.  Perhaps now is the appropriate time to share it, even though it still uses terms like “awake” and “asleep”.  (I am still asking the Universe if new language might freshly express the shift which occurs when one’s identity expands beyond primary preoccupation with the personal self.)

*For new readers, this blog addresses non-duality, awareness and self-realization.  For long-time subscribers:  if you are not really interested in these topics, feel free to unsubscribe.  You will not hurt my feelings.  Conversely, if any hurt feelings arise, they will be allowed to rise and dissolve, as all feelings eventually do without a story to hold them together…



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Waking up, round two

As many of you long-time readers know I experienced an awakening three to four years ago.  It blew the socks off this personality temporarily.  One minute a Kathy drove the car and the next minute…something I later called “It” drove the car.

The personality metaphorically took the back seat.  Something so alive and rich and textured and appreciative and responsive took the front seat.  It thrilled in the color of the road signs, the shape of trees, the curve of the creek, the immediacy of the waitress smile.  It sipped wine, it chatted with husband, it laughed, it cried, it did whatever arose.  And it was beyond good.

However, the personality simultaneously protested in the background like a mis-firing engine, “What?  What’s happening?  I’m dying!  Help me!  Nothing is the same!  Help!  Help!”

The identification with personality began to stick and come unglued for the next three weeks, stick and unglue, stick and unglue.  It began to feel like a violent roller-coaster of delight and despair. Over and over again the roller coaster rose and plummeted until suddenly, very definitively, the personality cemented itself back together.

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Garden of raspberry Eden

All our relations

Into deep summer~~ hands sticky with wild raspberry juice and lanced with long scratches from green bristled plants protecting young red mounded berries.  Secret fortressed world where daddy-long-legged spiders scuttle after dining on scarlet globes and chickadees stain feathers blood-red as oozing berries turn to wine in cicada-languishing August paradise.

Chipmunks scatter and squirrels endlessly scold, disturbed, annoyed, as raspberry after raspberry pops into open mouth, past a gate of pearly teeth, here’s one, no, two, for the bucket.  Oh so hot and yet cool if you drop to your scratched knees down in the thicket and pause amidst your raspberry hut to smell sun-baked sweet berry pie and jam and jelly and to let the cool shade shelter your wild desires until suddenly, so suddenly, you’re not longing for ice cream or whipped cream or any other sweetness because it’s all satiated, eternally satiated, and you lay silent against the cool earth, a mountain for ants to explore.  A raspberry plops unbidden from its archipelago high above and you’ll never ever long for anything again, you know it~~

~~except maybe for those ants to quit climbing unto the pinnacle of their own endless desires~~ and you roll over and rise above the chest-high berried paradise and pick another forbidden fruit and another and yet another, singing God’s praises with every sticky sweet bite.

Seek and ye shall find

Seek and ye shall find

I am trying to live on the razor’s edge of this present moment. 

Three hours later, I awake to discover that an entire dream has arisen like a shroud,  like a fog over the lake, with the present moment far in the background, like a corn field obscured by mist. 

You vow with your life to remain in this now, you’ve done it before, you can do it again…

…and six hours later you remember, suddenly remember, and now your footsteps fall quietly on smooth cool wooden floors.  Leaves shimmer in late afternoon sunlight.  Someone knocks on the door.  Your fingers type against the keyboard.  You sip tea.  It’s back, like it never left, your true love, your guru, everything you desired.

In this present moment, in this cusp, it’s very clear.  You look at the spruce tree and no separation exists.  You/spruce/One.  How could it be unlaced, unintertwined, undone?  Perception and other dance together, your true soulmate.

You feel the branches riding the wind–yourself, itself, ever-swaying–and realize that your identification with name cuts, slices and separates you from this precious magic knowing and you–

–wake up two hours later to smell the brocoli sizzling in cast iron skillet, soft sunlight dappling the kitchen counter, hummingbird buzzing the jeweled feeder.  And you are all of it.

And then you’re not as you respond to emails, identifying so fully with Kathy or Laurie or Elisa or Colleen or whoever you are, or aren’t, or maybe you don’t don those self clothes, that self mask, that separate identity that both rises and falls, sings and grows silent, picks morel mushrooms or can’t find them, showers or bathes, calls yourself Democrat or Republican or Independent, or shares on Facebook or deletes your account–

but, oh sweet song, when we lean down to the earth fully seeing rising mushroom, fully present with redwing blackbird eyes and beaver teeth and sun-drenched hair, one movement, one eternity, one everything in the million songs rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling against the eternity of awareness, the All that we always are before we peer under the magnifying glass at that slice called self.