The Entity Called Me
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
There are several top down strategies we can use to detach from the illusion of thought. Tara Brach's RAIN is one. RAIN is an acronym for:
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
Caveat: investigation can lead to more rumination and entanglement. One can spend a lifetime investigating thought forms. But if you seek transcendence and liberation, divestment (not continued investment) is necessary.
Another strategy is to preface observations with: "I am having the thought that..." or "I recognize that I am having the thought that..." This simple technique affirms thoughts in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental way that creates space between the thought and the witness of the thought.
For example, to say "Life sucks!" is different than to recognize "I am having the thought that life sucks." The first is a declaration which the mind will affirm if the operator of mind accepts it. The heart will constrict and the emotions will confirm, with feeling, the thought such that it sticks and feels to be so. The thinker will embody this thought in posture and carriage. The mind will gate the perceptual data it gathers through this filter of thought, constructing for the thinker a reality in accordance with the thought. If investment in the thought is deep (i.e. it is a familiar trope or the dominant narrative one has accepted for years) actions which threaten the thought will be minimized or dismissed.
To recognize "I am having the thought that life sucks" is more objective and one step removed. The statment: " I recognize I am having the thought that..." is 2 steps removed. The more removed we are from the machinations of thinking, the more equanimous this life. Mind secretes thought moment by moment- some pleasant, some unpleasant; some wholesome, some unwholesome; some virtuous, some vile. Most are memes- discrete units of thought that spread from person to person within a culture. Richard Dawkins, who coined the phrase, writes that memes are to culture what genes are to to life. Accepting that the thought occurred is merely an observation. Noting is the practice. That is all. We do not question the mind's outputs; we do not censor them or entertain them. The liver produces bile and proteins, the kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from the body, the lungs exchange gases, the heart circulates blood... and the mind extrudes thoughts moment by moment. This is simply a function of mind. Sometimes the mind is busy, sometimes the mind is quiet. We simply observe, allow, watch.
Teacher Chogyam Trungpa explained it this way:
"The thoughts that occur during sitting practice are regarded as natural events, but at the same time, they don't carry any credentials. The basic definition of meditation is 'having a steady mind.' In meditation, when your thoughts go up, you don't go up, and you don't go down when your thoughts come down; you just watch as your thoughts go up and down. Whether your thoughts are good or bad, exciting or boring, blissful or miserable, you let them be. You don't accept some and reject others. You have a greater space that encompasses any thought that may arise."
Another technique is to label the activities of the entity called me with detachment using phrases such as "the entity" or "the being" instead of "I" which few truly know. A symbol like x can serve as a placeholder for the unknowable Self.
The being I imagine myself to be writes. The entity called me thinks. x experiences the givens in present tense awareness: a motorcycle passing, the rumble of a plane flying overhead, the hum of an air-conditioner, the press of the keys on the fingertips. The subject remains a mystery. At most, we can say the being seems to feel solid, seems to have an identity, but this is illusory- compliments of a beautiful mind. The I am is that which perceives and, like this, we watch its comings and goings as events unfold moment by moment. We laugh at its conditioned responses, empathize with its travails and self-induced sufferings, its dramas, and the roles it assumes with such sincerity. The ego is the most accomplished method actor and director of the play of life it has co-written.
Beyond ego is the witness, the light by which all else emanates- these ideas, this movement of the fingers typing or the eyes moving across the screen, reading, reflecting, etc.- all come courtesy of beingness. Beingness is just a word, a symbol, a marker pointing one to that which gives the mind and the thoughts we take to be "me" their meaning, the seeming continuity of past into present into future. The entity called me cannot guide you any further with words. The being defers to silence. Return unto thy rest, O my Soul.