The ‘self’ does not exist, even though we try, ever so hard, to convince ourselves [sic] that we actually are those ever waxing and waning ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’ that parade before us as our consciousness (or 'mental wallpaper') from one moment to the next.
Having said that, it is a paradox of immense proportions that, for something which has no independent reality of its own, the non-existent ‘self’ causes us so much damn trouble – because we let it.
In my many blogs and other writings I have quoted often these immortal words of William Temple (pictured left), a former Archbishop of Canterbury:
‘For the trouble is that we are self-centred, and no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour.’
The ego-self has to be thrown off-centre, and if we wish to be truly happy we must give up all things that stand in the way of our spiritual development – things like bad habits, obsessions, addictions … in fact, all forms of self-obsession or ‘mental furniture.’
In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, who for 32 years was the senior minister of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, each of us must experience ‘a shift in emphasis from self to non-self.’ Each of us needs to find a ‘power-not-oneself,’ but we must be very careful in how we go about this, for as many so-called mystics have found out over the years, the denial of the self tends only to increase one’s obsession with oneself.
The answer is not to be found in trying – for starters, never 'try' – to be ‘self-less.’ The key is ‘self-forgetfulness,’ which has this interesting paradox: you can’t pursue it! Can you think of nothing at all? Only if you forget to think. Now there’s a thought!
I am reminded of something that the great Christian missionary E Stanley Jones (pictured right) wrote on the subject:
‘The only way to get rid of self-consciousness is through God-consciousness. We become so conscious of another Self within us that we lose sight of our own self.’
Years earlier still, Jesus – in one of his memorable so-called ‘Zen sayings’ – said that we must lose our ‘selves’ in order to find ourselves (cf Mk 8:35).
MINDFULNESS IN THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION
MINDFULNESS IN THE BIBLE