Friday, September 17, 2010

The Lightness of Not Self

Disentangling From the Self's Trappings: Looking at False Humility, Conceit, Shyness, and Fear.

I very much enjoyed Gil Fronsdal's talk this week, about humility, part of his series on self and not self.

Here are my notes:
There are many aspects to humility. 
Humility is not the same as false humility. Some people are upset towards themselves because they have such a low opinion of themselves. This can get reinforced by negative comments from others. 
We don't try to be humble. Instead we try to understand all the ways in which we are conceited or arrogant. And we look at what happens when we let go of arrogance, and the painful feeling of contraction of self. 
Being humble is no longer comparing oneself to anybody.
Being conceited about being less than others is also another form of conceit.
Shyness is a form of conceit. We are getting caught in concern with our self-image, and sense of self. We can work through it by being very mindful so that we don't get pushed around by our shyness, or any other sense of self. We look at it very clearly. The minute we start looking at it, we cease to be it. Who are you? If we are looking at the looker, there is no one left. As we keep looking, in steady and clear fashion, it no longer makes sense to be weighed down by sense of self. All is left is just being. The Buddha refers to himself in very unsubstantial ways. "I am such". "The One who has come thus." A beautiful thing in meditation is to be present, without association to any concept.
Another way is to understand our limitation as a human being. Being mortal, means we are going to die. We doing a great disservice to oneself when we are very successful and capable. Ideas of self we have are magnets for attachments, fear, greed, and hate. This does not mean that we are not important, only that we should not take ourselves as so important. 
You cannot make yourself humble, but you can make yourself honest. 'Humility occurs when love of truth is greater than love of self.'
A great source of inspiration is seeing humility in others.
I resonate with the idea of making oneself honest, not humble. That I can work on, and I do. 

There is also another aspect on conceit, related to Gil's point on shyness, and that I struggle with often. Suffering from an anxious temperament, I have observed many times, the tie between anxious states, and an excessive preoccupation with the self. These are the moments when I experience the inflated idea I have of myself as a huge burden to be rid of. Wise mind steps in, and gets impatient, and wants to get down to the task at hand. 'Get out of the way, self!' Of course, this is not so easy to do, as the self-made idea of the self tends to be rather sticky. One practice that has been helpful is to direct my attention to other people. For instance, when presenting, I will look at people in the room, and take in their energy. The question then no longer becomes, 'How well am I doing?', but rather, 'What do these people need?'

What are some of the ways that you disentangle yourself from yourself? 

PS - Gil's entire talk is available on Audiodharma, under 'Self and Not-Self', 2010-09-13


  1. nice! I especially like your "what do these people need?" trick. Great post.

  2. Thank you!

    I am getting more and more annoyed with interferences from attention starved self. And I am becoming attached to moments without it . . . :)