When Awareness plays as a separate self

One vase, two profiles?

All perspective

In the last week–for two full days–Awareness decided to play as a separate self again.  The “I” seemingly forgot everything and slipped into a dream of itself.  It thought it was a separate person in a separate body with a separate mind and separate feelings making separate choices and doing separate actions.

Oh how that little self suffered when it forgot!  The contraction of identifying as a separate self–with thoughts and feelings fused as an identity–can feel so excruciating.  Unlike the wide-open radiant sense of inclusiveness there is a sense of tightness, obligation, worry.  There is a horrible conviction that one must make the right decision, do the right thing, act in a right way, save oneself.  The little self actually contracted into thinking she was in control and needed to–well, she wasn’t sure what she needed to do.  She just wanted to get away from the contraction of her little self and didn’t know how.  So she kept struggling to regain balance, to regain the Absolute knowing.  To fix herself.

After two days of chaotic feelings and thoughts, Awareness seemingly decided to remember itself.  To awaken from the dream of the separate self once again.  It sat on the couch and prompted the small self to look around…to truly see.  Was there a separate self here?  (The separate self shouted YES!  What the heck could you possibly mean?)  Is there a separate doer here?  (The separate self said:  Are you insane?  Of course I’m the doer. Who else is the doer except this person in this body?)

The separate self literally could not see or remember anything other than its own perspective.  I remember thinking that Awareness was literally crazy with its prompts and inquiries.  That there was no other way of viewing reality than as a person in a separate body with separate thoughts and feelings.  This feeling was absolutely sure.  It was as if I had never heard of absolute awareness before, and it was totally impossible to imagine or reach.

I continued to sit on the couch, looking, looking, peering around the edges of the small self who was so conflicted and contracted.  About twenty minutes in physical time passed.  And then–all contractions ceased.  It was utterly clear once again!  Oh my stars.  Only freedom.  No boundaries.  No exclusivity.  No separate self.  No terrible obligation or decisions to be made (or not made). Now contractions could rise and fall naturally and easily without resistance, without identification.

Simply this Oneness.  The little Kathy felt embarrassed.  Really?  How could I fall head-long into this game yet again?  And yet it was seen clearly that it was only awareness playing, playing, playing, no need to fuss.

It’s Awareness choosing to play–a simple thing, really.  And Awareness choosing to return to itself.  This seeing relaxes the body/mind so fully and deeply. And the whole world arises in itself, as it always has.




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.

In celebration of the separate self!



What’s the value of a small self?  (The self that thinks it’s separate from the Universe.)

Oh, I think many things!

A small self gets to play, to create, to sing an individual song, to dance a wild jig between squalling birth and sealed coffin.

A small self gets to experience Life from a seemingly separate viewpoint!  How unique, to see Life from only one angle, one focused view.

A small self gets to discriminate between itself and others.  How fun!  (Except when it’s not.)

A small self gets to wear many different hats, if it likes, or travel to Peru in search of what it thinks it lost.

A small self gets to forget, for a moment, what it truly is.

A small self gets to like and dislike.  It gets to think it can choose.  And choose again, if it doesn’t like the first choice!

It gets to forget about loving everything.  It can discern and judge and alienate and hate and adore and wallow in confusion.  So many opportunities exist!

It can forget about unconditional love for a lifetime or six.  The experience of a separate self is that it experiences other separate selves.  And one can compare, endlessly, analyzing, trying to figure it all out.  (And attempting to figure out things can be fun, I swear it.)

Separate selves get to decide who and what they love.  For example, ice cream.  A separate self can decide she likes ice cream better than chopped liver.  Or that the guy down the road is the one she wants to marry & live with happily ever after.  She gets to create concepts and beliefs.  She gets to think she’s the boss, captain of her own ship, pilot of her own airplane, driver of her own bus.

And oh the stories one can create!  A thousand novellas about this and that.  A million dramas.  One can stay awake all night long wondering how to resolve the latest crisis.  It’s the kind of life that keeps the reader spellbound, trying to figure out whether good will win out over evil.   A good book or play keeps us mesmerized, sometimes–if Life is in agreement–for an entire century.

A separate self gets to smoke cigarettes, drink bottles of wine, gamble at the casino.  It can polish off an entire chocolate cake if it desires!  It can judge itself as bad, oh you naughty devouring demon!  It might even decide to improve its crazy uncontrolled desires and judgments.  It can become a Mother Teresa!  Oh, wait, that role’s taken.  It may even become a villain, oh Snidely Whiplash, because all good stories need saints AND villains, better to keep the plot going. (We don’t want the audience to get bored with too much niceness, do we?)

Some of us also like the opportunity to try and become enlightened, to remember the wholeness that we’ve abandoned in our delight to see the world from a single view.  We try to become an enlightened person, which creates its own drama, as the person can never become enlightened.  (Enlightenment has always existed as the background of the separate self, sweet silly seeker, and it’s not something new to be attained…)

What do you like best about believing you are a separate self?

I think what I like the best–right now–is that it has been fun having adventures and telling stories.  (However, the believing part seems to be getting a little tiresome at times in recent years…)

No spiritual inquiry required

Eye in the sky

Eye in the sky

Yesterday I wrote about the value of spiritual inquiry.  How it’s possible to realize layers of truth.  What was true for us yesterday may not be true today.  When our body contracts it’s often signalling that we’re perhaps following an old truth. The fresh truth waits for us to greet it.

Inquiry helps us explore our conditioning.  It can assist us in seeing more clearly.  It can be helpful at different junctures, assisting us in removing our blinders of limited perception.

On the other hand, inquiry can be conceptualized into a technique which keeps us more identified as a separate self.  I have seen this in my own inquiry.  It can create an effect that the questioning person is actually separate from the whole of flowing life.  It can attempt to cement a belief that “this is my life” or “I am trying to fix my life” or “I need to get rid of my conditioning” or “I need to understand” or “If I just get rid of what I don’t like about myself or others, I will be Okey-Dokey.”

What seems clear–in this moment–is that sometimes Life wants to inquire and sometimes Life has no desire to inquire. Sometimes the Universe wants to explore our conditioning as a separate self, and other times it’s just gobbledygook. Sometimes no intellectual understanding is required.  Sometimes it’s not even helpful.

In another instance, there may be resistance to inquiry.  Sometimes that resistance signals the need for inquiry–what is being resisted and why?  In another instant, no resistance surfaces.  This can be a very subtle art, listening to the winds of the Universe, can’t it?

Sometimes a negative expression comes out from another person.  It’s no big deal.  Ahhh, Life is expressing this negativity through this apparently separate individual.  No contraction from a sense of self that doesn’t want to contract.  The practice of inquiry, as a religion or inclination, does not arise.  It’s simply what it is.  No need to make it into a six-hour search to discover the roots of truth and honesty.  Next moment, please.

It is fascinating to watch this.  If we’re attached to either inquiry or not-inquiry, we may suffer.  If we allow Life to inquire or not-inquire, it’s just endless flow.  One minute we’re exploring depths of what’s true–in this moment.  The next moment we can’t even find the energy to even try.  It doesn’t even make sense.

The Universe doesn’t have anything against the separate self, against conditioning.  It IS expressing itself infinitely in a trillion forms.  It embraces itself unconditionally.

(You can inquire about that or drop it like a hot potato.  Life will do what it wants anyway.  It will say, “This is wrong!” or “This is right!” and wink at itself as it passes by.  A new truth presents itself, or it doesn’t.)

No separate self



So you know how non-dual folks say things like “There is no separate self” and our separate selves wrinkle our noses and try to figure it out logically?  We puzzle and fuss and kick up some dirt and attempt to rationalize what the heck that sentence means.

Then some of our minds set to the task of not only figuring this out–but applying it!  Thus we attempt to figure out how to fix our separate selves and spend the next sixteen years tweaking and changing and attempting to make our separate selves less separate.

Oh-my-goodness, it’s an endless merry-go-round!  (One should not say anything about non-duality to our separate self for so many of us will rush in with ego’s tools to create the latest desire: a non-separate self.)

Seventeen teachers from every walk of existence have uttered:  “It’s not about fixing the separate self” and I would read and hear that sentence and think “Yep, you’re right.  No, you’re wrong.  Yep, you may have a point. Forget you–I HAVE to fix all my compulsions and cravings asap!”

Depending on the day, month or year I would listen respectfully and agree, or assertively and disagree.

The mind continued its agenda of attempting to fix and heal and la-de-da, all the while seemingly knowing, “There is no separate self”.

We all know it’s one thing for the mind to understand non-separation.  (Or think it understands.)  It’s another thing entirely when the understanding hits the little toe.  When it arrives at the gall bladder.  When it informs your next step toward the kitchen, or bathroom, or computer.

When the literal understanding–there is no separate self--finally begins to penetrate through one’s thick skull.  (Some of our skulls may be thicker than others.  Mine has been particularly thick.)


This is huge, folks.  (Hey, there’s no separate YOU, either!)

The minute you type that sentence you see how ridiculous it is.  How the separate self will try to create a new reality from that assertion. A new rigid belief in non-separation.  Or it will fight with it.  How it will attempt to figure it out.  How it will pour the living reality of twinkling movement into a cemented belief and attempt to live from that instead of the twinkles.

And how OK that is!  Because it’s just Life doing what it does.  Life is doing what it does!  (I have typed this sentence eighteen times in the last decade and barely understood it, even though the mind had it wrapped up in Christmas paper ready to eagerly deliver to the next seemingly separate self.  Heck, my separate self may not understand it tomorrow.  And that’s OK!  Because it’s not about you and me.  It’s about us.  And we are the ocean, the Universe, the spinning planets and the tiniest ant crawling beneath sneakers.)  We are about life twinkling and moving and flowing and singing itself into apparently separate shapes when it’s really an unbroken whole, an infinite unspeakable mystery.

This heart is singing in delight and it may be crying in frustration with total by 10 a.m. and it’s all OK–because it’s not what/who I am.