No Self

waterIn the quiet solitude of morning, the dogs nuzzle my hand for attention and breakfast. All is quiet. I make coffee, one cup, pouring the boiling water over the grounds. The day stretches out ahead.

I’m taken lately with the idea of self. It’s the Buddhist notion that I’m turning over in my mind. Like a stone. Like a worry stone, worn smooth.

I sit and meditate these days, seven minutes in the morning, seven minutes in the evening. It’s a packet of time I can cope with. My iPhone goes off with crickets when my time is up. The dogs have adapted to this well. They no longer pester for attention and ask to play while I’m sitting on a pillow on the floor. They sit with me. I don’t think they need the meditation the way I do, but I appreciate their company.

The Buddihist notion of self is that the notion of self is an illusion. This is generally considered a difficult concept to tangle with. “Of course I exist!” It’s true I exist. But I am always changing. My cells are turning over. My thoughts are turning over. My beliefs are turning over. I am not the same me I was when I was sixteen years old, or twenty. I am not the same me I was yesterday, or this morning, or last year. Who, then, am I? What is this thing I call self?

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said you can’t step in the same river twice. I wonder if I am more or less constant than the river. The river doesn’t worry over change.

The Buddhist notion of self is that self is an illusion, and that grasping at illusion is the source of suffering. The Buddhist notion of purpose is to relieve suffering. I have been turning over my notion of self, like this stone worn smooth now, like a stone turned for miles in the river. I still have no answer. This river stone, carried miles from its source, can ask what it is for miles, and miles, as it becomes something else. There is no self. I can stop worrying now. I’m dancing from thing to thing in this river, and it is beautiful.

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