No Self, No Problem: Exploring Anatta

The writer Emily McDowell isn't a Buddhist, but in today's language she has accurately described one of Buddhism's most difficult and misunderstood concepts - that of no-self, or anatta -- in this short statement:

"Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren't a 10-dollar bill in last winter's coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right here, buried under cultural conditioning, other people's opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. 'Finding yourself' is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you." 

Often, when we first hear the profound teachings of anatta, it can create confusion, anger, and even fear in us. 

We might for instance fear that accepting the truth of this might mean a loss of identity, or ... we might be afraid that we will become completely unmoored, untethered to reality. 

Yet, in truth, and in practice, we don't need to change or get rid of anything. 

Through our practice, what happens is that we start to see through our false and limited ideas of what we call "self," (often called the "small self"), and discover the vast, fluid, awake, loving essence of our being -- ourselves before the world got its hands on us. 

Instead of this being scary, learning to recognize and experience this truth can bring greatly expanded joy, and freedom.

On May 18, I'll be offering a new retreat on this theme, No Self, No Problem: Exploring Anatta -- a full day designed to help us see beyond our small sense of "self," and access more joy, peace, and ease in our lives.

It is the mission of IMCW/The Insight Meditation Community of Washington is to support the awakening of hearts and minds through the direct experience of the Buddhist path, and the integration and manifestation of wisdom and compassion in all aspects of life, for the benefit of all beings.

P.O. Box 3
Cabin John, MD 20818

Phone: 202.986.2922

Email: meditate@imcw.org