We Actually Never Experience 'It'

Culadasa

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Image of the WeekThe "I" of the narrating mind is nothing more than a fictional but convenient construct used to organize all the separate conscious experiences occurring in the mind-system. Our very concept of Self is none other than this narrative "I", the center of gravity that holds the story together. Likewise the "it" is another imaginary construct of the narrating mind, a convenient fiction imputed to exist in order to link the different parts of the story together. The truth is we never actually experience any entity corresponding to "it". All that was experienced were the image, concept, hedonic feeling, and any emotion that arose in consciousness.

The narrating mind uses this "I-It" or "Self-Other" structure to organize the information coming from the many different sub-minds in a meaningful way. But the discriminating mind assumes the "I" and the "it" are actual entities, concretizing the Self-Other construct so it seems real and substantial. Thus, the narrating mind's fictional "I" becomes the discriminating mind's ego-Self, and the "it" is seen as the cause for the hedonic feelings and emotions that arise.

That fundamental mis-perception leads to the generation of intentions rooted in desire and aversion. In the example just given, those intentions might lead to grabbing binoculars to see the bird more clearly -- or to pursuing the bird, capturing the bird, buying another bird to keep in a cage, or even killing and stuffing the bird for future enjoyment! The earlier sequence of causally connected episodes gets extended: "I saw& it, I recognized it, I enjoyed it, I wanted it, I pursued it, I obtained it, and I enjoyed it again? Then of course, inevitably, "I lost it, and grieved."

Drawing on stored information about past experiences and earlier narratives, the discriminating mind also further processes the output of the narrating mind, creating a personal history for the ego-Self, and a description of the world. In the future, perceptions and interpretations based on these complex constructs will trigger desire, aversion, and emotional reactions intended to protect and further enhance the ego-Self's well-being. The narrating mind then integrates those self-oriented thoughts and emotions into a whole new story. And this cyclical process of reinforcing the ego-Self goes on and on.

In summary, the narrating mind just combines separate conscious events from many different sub-minds into a story, which it projects back into consciousness. But our self-awareness -- that ongoing, intuitive sense of being a separate "self" in relationship with a world of objects -- comes from how the discriminating mind interprets those stories.

Culadasa has been a meditation teacher for decades. The excerpt above is from his book 'The Mind Illuminated'.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to 'I' and 'it' as fictional useful constructs? Can you share a personal story of a time you became aware of the creation of desire and aversion from the misperception of the discriminating mind? What helps you break the cyclical process of reinforcing the ego-Self?

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8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 3, 2021 Gururaj wrote:
    One experience of breaking one little construct of the mind was, of late, for me (by the way, that 'me' was convenient for putting in this sentence) in taking cold water baths....It's just a sensation. The belief earlier was that it's a discomfort...
    Now I ( another convenient little letter this 'I') am observing a tendency to subtly boast about this discovery...
    Thanks for this article which has the potential to weaken the constructed self provided the seeing of the dynamics sharpens

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    On Sep 1, 2021 Neha wrote:
    Mind and it's parts - thinking mind, discriminating mind, subconscious mind, intuitive mind.
    I is used as a language, reference point - me as a body, thoughts, feelings. Understanding real I. I am truth, consciousness, bliss.

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    On Aug 31, 2021 Patrick wrote:
    And thus, our true fullness in humanity is not realized until the ego self dies, or to put it in another sense, until we experience emptiness, nothingness. Mystics of perennial tradition and various religions have known this and tried to express it for others, but each must experience it on their own.

    }:- a.m. anonemoose monk

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    On Aug 31, 2021 D wrote:
    It seems I'm not allowed to add a comment linking to Caladusa's sexual misconduct charge. Look it up. Wisdom is wisdom, but careful who you hold up.

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    On Aug 31, 2021 D wrote:
    Also, as confusing as this may sound to some, it's quite a clear representation of what Krishnamurtidoesn't say.

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    On Aug 31, 2021 Tim Dalmau wrote:
    I would comment if I could stop noticing all the deletions, generalizations and uses of universal quantifiers in this description. Unless this explained in better constructed use of the englash langiage then I honestly dont know what I would be responding to, either positively or negatively

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    On Aug 27, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    I agree with Culadasa. For me, the 'I' and 'it' are fictional useful constructs, that is, they are appearances (mirages) that help us get along in the world of apparent separations (a mirage) that we are conditioned into seeing. We human beings are in the fictional usefulworld of separate constructsthough not of it -- we are of oneness (or Oneness). At some point in middle life I became aware that my desires and aversions are from seeing things and persons as being separate from me, and becoming aware that what appears to be separate 'I' and 'them' are really part of one whole. Becoming aware that the ego-self is one more created separate construct makes the ego-self much less important to me and makes it much easier for me to break the cyclical process of protecting and reinforcing it. (Curiously I initially wrote cynical (instead of cyclical) process of reinforcing the ego-self which seems to fit my feeling about that cyclical process.)

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    On Aug 27, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    In all wisdom traditions that I know of, "Who am I" is the fundamentalquestion raised by spiritual seekers. There are two Selves: Ego-self and the Witnessing -self. The ego-self is a convenient construct to organize all the separate experiences occurring in the mind. I is necessary to relate to the ever-changing world. The challenge thatI face in my dailylife is not to be bound or attached to the world created by the mind. This passage authored by Culadasareminds me of thestory of Two Birds narrated in the ancient bookof wisdom Mandukya Upanishad:"Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree. One eats the fruit, the other looks on.The first bird is our individual self feeding the pleasures and pains of the deeds. The other is the universal self, silently witnessing all." To me spiritual growth is a life-long journey with a few ups and downs , pleasures and pains, successes and failures. When my vision is blocked by selfish desires I tumble and I hurt my... [View Full Comment] In all wisdom traditions that I know of, "Who am I" is the fundamentalquestion raised by spiritual seekers. There are two Selves: Ego-self and the Witnessing -self. The ego-self is a convenient construct to organize all the separate experiences occurring in the mind. I is necessary to relate to the ever-changing world. The challenge thatI face in my dailylife is not to be bound or attached to the world created by the mind. This passage authored by Culadasareminds me of thestory of Two Birds narrated in the ancient bookof wisdom Mandukya Upanishad:"Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree. One eats the fruit, the other looks on.The first bird is our individual self feeding the pleasures and pains of the deeds. The other is the universal self, silently witnessing all."
    To me spiritual growth is a life-long journey with a few ups and downs , pleasures and pains, successes and failures. When my vision is blocked by selfish desires I tumble and I hurt myself and hurt others related to me. Such experienceshave taught to me to beaware of inner mental world and not get bound by my self-serving desires. With mindfulness andself-awareness practice
    I have been able to walk on my path without falling down. Like the second bird in the Upanishadic story I relate to the world with witnessing consciousness. This way I live in the world with humilityand gratefulness.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'

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