The teaching of anattā (“not-self”) points to one of the three fundamental areas of liberating insight taught by the Buddha (along with the teachings on impermanence and on suffering—or dukkha). Yet anattā can be very challenging and confusing for contemporary practitioners. How we make sense of our feelings of individuality and identity, or of our personal wounds and traumas, or experiences of oppression? Do we simply “transcend” all of this? How do we combine attending to our own conditioning with opening to experiences beyond the habitual sense of self?
In this talk, we’ll explore these questions in a primarily practical way by pointing to how we can, both in formal meditation and in daily life, (1) open to a sense of the flow of experience, increasingly “thinning” our sense of self; (2) track the many ways in which there is a “thick” sense of self, sometimes apparent, sometimes more hidden; and (3) open to stable ways of experiencing beyond a fixed sense of self, as awareness and compassion deepen.