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Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

Searching for Myself

Am I the sensation on my forearms? Am I the aching feeling in my toes as I move them? Am I the uncomfortable sensation in my stomach? Am I the tingling in my head? Am I these sensations? Am I these thoughts?

Without examination, there is an assumption that I am somehow inside this body, looking out through the eyes. But everything inside this body keeps changing in awareness. Outside the body, I see a chair. Am I that chair? It feels like that chair is part of me, but when I leave the room, the chair is no longer in my awareness. On the other hand, I’m not always aware of my leg, yet I believe that my leg is always a part of me.

What I see and hear outside of me seems to keep changing, which seems to be mostly because I keep moving to different places. But what happens inside of me keeps changing as well. The interior landscape is completely different from moment to moment. Even the body itself keeps changing, totally replacing almost every part of itself every seven years.

Perhaps I am what I can control. But I cannot control my thoughts, so I cannot be my thoughts. I also cannot control my feelings, so I can’t be those either. I also only seem to be able to control some of the functions of my body. But we know from neuroscience research that the parts of the brain associated with the concept of self only register action after the parts of the brain that initiate action have activated. So I am no more able to control my body than I am able to control objects in my environment, including other people.

So why would I believe that there is a self at all? It seems to be because there is a body, a kind of vehicle, by which there is perception. It seems like I am a passenger in this vehicle looking and hearing and speaking and acting from within. But what is receiving the input and what is producing the output cannot be found. There is a feeling of self, and that feeling, without examination, is assumed to be somehow associated with the body.

As I let go of the belief that I am inside this body, it seems more sensible, and true, to assume that I am everything that seems to be happening. It feels like everything that is being experienced is actually inside of me at the same time as I am inside of it.

This feeling is very familiar … Ah, this is the boundless, indivisible wholeness, that was first revealed seventeen years ago. I am inside of it and it is inside of me. It is both completely empty and completely full. Everything that is appearing in awareness is the non-dual, formless, timeless, boundless absolute and it only seems to be appearing as all of these forms.

What I assumed was a feeling of self is actually all of what seems to be happening, when it is taken as a whole. It is not just the feeling in the forearms; it is not just the pressure on the backs of my feet on the table; it is not just the view out of the window; it is all of it at once.

I started out trying to find myself, and what I discovered is that there is only everything.

Duncan Riach, Ph.D.

Written by

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

Duncan Riach, Ph.D.

Written by

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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