The last article that I wrote, about how the concept of No-Self or anatta can empower your dating in a big way, received one of the most vigorous responses from the readers.
Here’s one of them:
“I really loved this article. The way you weave the concept of no-self into the dating pipeline, examining every step of the pipeline separately is nothing short of brilliant.
My only question is how to convince yourself that you have no self. I understand the metaphysical argument with the river molecules and the brain neuron action potentials changing constantly and all that, but how do I lose the emotional attachment? The pride? It would seem that if I don’t have ego, then I can’t be proud of myself for anything.
Is there a mindtrack that deals with this?”
— Michael, Los Angeles
Or this one:
“I like the idea of no-self and how you explained it in the newsletter. It makes sense how it would work for one’s benefit.
BUT how does one get to that no-self. If I just go out and imagine it, it works until the point where I’m actually about to talk to the girl b/c I KNOW that she might be critical (and I have a fear of that judgment or even what she thinks of me but doesn’t tell me). While I’m feeling one thing, my brain is still on…even I’m thinking about being disconnected from ego, my brain reacts instantly and knows that criticism might be a consequence and stops me.
So how do I get to that no-self?”
You guys have proven to be a pretty deep and intelligent bunch, so we’re going to delve further into this material without pulling any punches.
You want to get your self to no-self? Here are some ideas.
There’s an old Zen story about a student who comes to his teacher and asks earnestly, “O master, how can I achieve enlightenment?” The teacher says, “Go in that room and meditate about a cow. Just think about that cow with unwavering attention.”
So the student goes in the room, and meditates. He doesn’t come out all day. And then the next day. And the next. By the third day, the master gets worried, so he asks the student, “Aren’t you going to come out?”
And the student replies, “I would, but my horns won’t fit through the doorway.”
Ah yes. You get what you focus on. So if you concentrate on the idea of no-self diligently, it’s bound to take a toehold on your consciousness.
What we’re going for is to take the concept of no-self from state — something you feel every once in a while — to trait — something you are.
So the first question you want to ask yourself is, What are you already meditating on regularly? Your inadequacies? How you don’t want this one bad thing to happen? Why the world doesn’t bend over backward to suit your whim? Why she won’t like you?
Become aware of that meditation already running in the background, and now replace it with the meditation that will give you better results.
It may not happen overnight. But it’s a good start, my friend. And yes, I get the message — we’ll crank out a Mindtrack for it. In the meantime, you can check out the other 20 Mindtracks.
Intensive meditation can also get you to a visceral understanding of the concept of no-self. There are many organizations who have meditation retreats focused around the principles we just discussed.
2) Do yoga.
I think of yoga as a practice of moving meditation. The more vigorous the practice — such as power yoga or vinyasa styles of yoga — the better. Why? Because you’ll be marshalling all your resources for breathing and balancing, leaving very little energy to attend to such trivial matters as the self.
Once again, the key is to have a regular practice. The more you bathe yourself in this pond, the more of the old notion of self you’ll wash away.
3) Use the reminder technique.
You know how some people tie a string to their pinkie to remember something?
Actually, I’ve only seen that happen in movies and cartoons. But the principle is a useful one: some kind of mnemonic device to get you to do something.
In Muslim cultures, for example, there’s a traditional month of fasting. For your fast to be accepted (by whomever the fast-accepting authority happens to be), you must refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunup to sundown.
But wait! There’s more. You’re also supposed to set an intention to keep your thoughts, words and actions pure as well. Purification of body AND mind is the point of the fast.
It turns out that the gnawing sensation in your empty tummy is a pretty good reminder of your day’s intention — at least as good as a ribbon around your pinkie.
So grab yourself one of those fancy rubber wristbands to get you to the no-self zone. Maybe we’ll even make some for you with ‘no-self’ written in Sanskrit or Pali.
The wristband will be a reminder that today, you won’t take anything — and I mean ANYTHING — personally. Not traffic, not surly people, not your boss who’s yelling at you — none of it is about you, since a fixed version of you does not exist.
4) Get in a flow state.
Celebrated professor of psychology Mihaly Czikszentmihaly (pronounced ‘chick sent me — hi!’) talks about the notion of flow — that optimal state in which the task is matched to the ability. You’re stretching yourself just a little bit, so the task is challenging (vs boring) without being frustrating.
All of us experience have experienced flow at some point or another. For a pianist, it could be the performance of a Brahms prelude. For a basketball player, it could be that perfect behind-the-back pass down the lane. For a surfer, it could be paddling at just the right speed to catch that wave.
Whatever it is, you’ve got to find it for you. And start doing that thing more and more. Why? Because when you’re in flow, you ARE the action. Ego dissolves, and there is no more you — there is only do.
So go ahead and sign yourself up for that thing that makes you feel like you’re in flow.
5) Get out of Dodge.
Of all of the methods listed above, this may very well be the most potent. Much of what you think of as your identity is hooked into your environment: your dwelling, your workplace, the streets you drive, the supermarket you shop at, the drink you usually order, the people you hang out with, the clothes you wear.
Remove all those hooks, and a new version of you, or no-you, has a chance to emerge. The more removed the locale from your everyday experience, the more likely you are to let go of the fixed notion of self.
So go hang out with some Galapagos turtles, Peruvian shamans, African springboks, and Mongolian herdsmen. Then write us back and tell us how it went.
These are just some of the ideas we’ve been exploring in the Metamorphosis Mentorship Program. If you find them useful, we’ll have more of them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the first session of the program is available for you to listen for free. You can find that here:
The power is within you,