There is a big pitfall on the contemplative path that I have been lucky enough to have good friends point out to me, some times making me feel a little dumb and by dumb I mean a little more wise.

One of the big ones is what I call, being all in my head. I am sure someone somewhere has come up with a more eloquent way of expressing it, but I am not always so able to be eloquent.

What I mean by this is I think pretty straight forward. We get caught up in the reality of our philosophical theory and can come up with some pretty lofty ideas that sound great!

But they just totally fall apart in practice.

The theory of “No-Self” comes to mind pretty heavily on this, and a lot of wonderful people have gone on and on about No-self. But theory doses not make a law. Practical application is the best way to test a theory. Go out side and find a large rock and drop it on your bare foot, but be careful not to damage your “Non-Self” too badly. That hurts doesn’t it? If there is “No-self” than tell me what it is that is hurting? Ah! There is a self.

Now, pay attention to the pain. From the first moment the pain starts follow it. The pain arises and passes away. That “Self” that existed when that pain began though the time when the pain subsides is also arising and passing away moment to moment and there is only an impression remaining.

Conclusion, there is a self when the self arises, and no-self when it passes away. With a note that this arising and passing away is happening so quickly that to say there is one or the other is impractical.

Now, please stop dropping rocks on your foot. That is just silly behavior.


Barry said...

Note to self: stop it!

SlowZen said...


Barry said...


Yamakoa said...

Hello Jordan,
I think the title "Danger" is an apt description of your post. While I get a sense of where you are going with this post (I think), it seems to me that the majority of your readers here have an understanding of the doctrine of "No-Self" or conditioned genesis.

These doctrines when understood correctly do not deny that your ribs will crack if someone kicks them hard enough. They simply show you the perspective that there is no unchanging, abiding substance that can be called "the self."

Many people think they understand themselves and have a clear concept of self. I think this mis-understanding of the "self" is the cause of many of our so called problems in life. Each dis-ease, has its medicine. Maybe dropping boulders on someone who denies the physical/organic aspect is the right medicine, but for most of us who have a huge attachment to the self (especially physical), feeling the pain of a broken foot and reinforcing the body/pain connection as proof on an existing "I" may not be the most appropriate medicine.

Maybe if I hurt my toe, it is my no-self that will hurt ;-)

Take good care of "yourself"

SlowZen said...

Yes! No unchanging, abiding substance that can be called "the self."

What I am going at is actually knowing this through experience rather than being familiar with doctrine.

The problem with doctrine is that while we might "Know" something in our head, we have not recognized the experience as it is happening. I think that is important.

Take care!

Lauren said...

This turns my mind to The Nightmare Before Christmas, the wonderful Tim Burton claymation (stop action) movie. A bad guy in it was Mr. Oogie Boogie, a sentient being composed of an old burlap bag animated by the moiling throngs of bugs. When scared, the bugs disperse. When that happens where does Oogie Boogie go? When the group of spiders that make up his leg, move to make up his left eye, is he still Oogie Boogie?

This entity we have learned to identify as self and believe has temporal consistency is such a bag of bugs (atoms, proteins, whatever). Clearly "me" with aching foot is significantly different from "me" with fine foot, but still I imagine there is a constant "me" through it all.

That, never changing, always the the same, "me" is a myth, a convenience (or maybe not).

This bag of bugs has an identity for the convenience of Christmas cards and credit checks, but there is no constant 'self' within.

....I think.

P.S. I fully believe this bag of bug will realize pain if a rock was dropped on its foot!

SlowZen said...

Thank you for sharing the Oogie Boogie Zen!

You don't have to use a rock, you could say, step n a thorn? or just watch the pain next time your knee acts up.

The expressions of reality are limitless really, like the bugs that make up Oogie Boogie. Just directly experience phenomenon arising and passing away for yourself.

Anonymous said...

No-Self is not the same as No-physical-existence.

There are plenty of koans about this.

SlowZen said...

Mike H,
Yes there are. I like the one about painted rice cakes myself.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the post. Theory shmeary. Go sit, I say. Intellectual practitioners drive my "self" not "No self", crazy. And yes, that is a reaction. :)

SlowZen said...

Glad you enjoyed the post.

Anonymous said...


"[Picture of rice cake] 5c each"

SlowZen said...


What a bargain!
I here they sell in packs of 300!

Uku said...

Practice, oh yes. Thank you, Jordan!

Peace, Dharmabro!

SlowZen said...

Yes, peace.

Take care,

Mumon K said...

You can't think about playing tennis & play tennis at the same time.

Haven't forgot about meeting you just thinking time/place optimization.

Thanks for looking!