“Undoing” the Self
This is a meditation technique that I find very powerful and useful in my own life. Feel free to comment if you have experience with any similar methods, or if you try this out and want to share how it goes for you.
This is a way of meditating that lets you temporarily disconnect from the superficial elements of your personality, to experience a purer form of selfhood and perception. When done correctly, for me, it is accompanied by a sense of bliss as the energy spent in maintaining these superficial characteristics is released. With a bit of adaptation, this can be used to alter specific characteristics or behaviors; once you are a “blank slate” you can reform yourself how you wish.
To begin, you need a map of the self: I use the four classical elements. You can substitute another one if you wish, but I find the four elements model to be about the right level of complexity to work for me.
Earth is associated with the physical body, and the legs.
Water is associated with the emotions, and the stomach.
Air is associated with the intellect, and the chest and head.
Fire is associated with the will, and the crown of the head.
- Sit in a comfortable position. Begin with the eyes open.
- Pay attention to your body and your senses. What do you see and hear? Do you have any internal sensations? Acknowledge these as coming from your body and relax completely.
- Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your legs. Let go of your idea of yourself “as” your body, and instead accept your body as something you own.
- Affirm: “I am not my body, my body is part of me.”
- Pay attention now to your emotions. Are you holding on to any anxieties or looping memories from your day, or worries about what might be happening while you’re meditating? Are you happy, sad, frustrated? Allow your feelings to crest and fall. Experience them and let them go.
- Bring your attention to your stomach. Let go of any idea of yourself “as” your emotions. Affirm: “I am not my feelings, my feelings are part of me.”
- Pay attention now to your thoughts. Observe your mental chatter. Are you analyzing or intellectualizing your own experience? Let your thoughts arise and realize that, if you can observe your own thoughts, they are something you own and not your essential self.
- Bring your attention to your chest and head. Let go of your identification with your thoughts. Affirm: “I am not my mind, my mind is part of me.”
- Pay attention now to your goals and desires. What are things you find yourself trying to do, consciously or unconsciously? Realize that the act of focusing on the will is itself an act of will, and that you are not required to “do” anything in this moment.
- Bring your attention to the top of your head. Let go of your identification with your will and affirm: “I am not my will, my will is part of me.”
- Relax completely, knowing that your essential self is more than just your body, feelings, thoughts, or will. Allow yourself to uncritically, simply exist. This state of pure, uncritical consciousness is the point of this meditation. You can float in this state for as long as you want.
- When you’re ready, come back to normal waking consciousness.
The point of this meditation is not to reject yourself, but to allow yourself purely to exist without feeling the need to identify with any constituent parts. I find myself over-identifying with my mind, thinking I need to intellectually “get” everything for it to be valid. This meditation helps me with that. Existing, having the experience of consciousness, is enough.