SENSE OF SELF
In psychology the Actual self is how we really are and how we appear to others.
On the other hand the Ideal self is how we imagine ourselves to be or how we wish to be.
Are we our bodies? Our brains? Or our minds?
Descartes’s “I think therefore I am” - very much ties our sense of Self to our intellect. Our complex ability to think is what seemingly separates us from other living beings. Our mind and our cognition is what gives us self-awareness, sentience and subjectivity. So it makes perfect sense that our sense of self is heavily identified with our minds. Mindful meditation allows a real shift from this over-identification with the mind.
Buddhism views the mind as the sixth sense of our being, not the whole of our being. With insight meditation we realise that the brain secretes thoughts like a natural phenomenon, and we are the being that experiences them. Buddhist teacher Ahjan Chah describes this mindful observer as- the one who knows. The two most liberating realizations in meditation are that thoughts are not facts and that thoughts are not self, they are emerging mental events that come and go. Overidentification of the self with this phenomenon leads to being trapped in the cognitive aspect of experience, without realising that there are other aspects of being where we can find the Self in a way that is more liberating and healing.
The same with emotions and feelings. Instead of saying “I am angry” if we say “I feel angry” - it shifts our identification from being an angry person to a person who just happens to be feeling angry in this moment. The experience we are having isn’t who we are. The being that we are is having these experiences, we are not this body of fear, body of pain, we are the host, the ground where it all happens.
"You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather" - Pema Chödrön