The “Self-Process”

It seems to me that “Self” is a process, and not an identity or a thing, let alone a living thing.

Every now and then, you may have noticed that your mind is filled with “review thoughts,” as in thoughts that revisit/review

  • your likes, your dislikes,
  • people you like, people you hate,
  • stuff that shouldn’t have happened to you,
  • awesome stuff that has happened to you,
  • glorified future that is supposed to come by for you,
  • things you regret, things you wish for,
  • things/people you are supposed to be scared of, proud of etc,
  • moments from your life that’s supposed to have defined you,
  • that girlfriend/boyfriend you wish you had, vivid (glorified?) recollection of the times with your ex,
  • things you wish your family understood about you,
  • scores you are yet to settle with certain people,
  • political and/or religious wishes,
  • things you are supposed to do, things you are supposed to not do,
  • taxes/rents that are to be paid,
  • amounts that are to be recovered from others
  • …. and so on.

When such thoughts show up, you may get “attracted” or “sucked into” to them, and therefore more of such thoughts foment, keeping you in that space, warming up and eventually boiling the embedded emotional current in those thoughts, that may not have anything to do with your immediate situation. Soon, you may notice body sensations that are a match for the emotional current forced in by the thought stream.

I notice this every morning when I wake up and sit on the bed. My mind seems to automatically fill up with thoughts that seem to want to remind me of “who I am supposed to be”.

Having been exposed to software-development, I call this the “boot up” routine. One of the first processes that launches upon boot-up is the self-process. It loads into memory every thing that seems to make up “me”. I suspect the “self-process” or “process-of-self” is desperate to perpetuate the illusion of stable-consistent-self.

Once launched, the “self-process” attaches itself to the experience of every physical or mental sensation that occurs throughout the day. I know this because I have caught this “self-process” personalizing everything that goes on.

For instance: I live in an area where there is a lot of construction going on. Naturally, I hear a lot of construction noise, and when there is a particularly intense noise (like from a Borewell drill), in addition to experiencing the physical sensation of sound and perhaps vibrations on the ground, I also experience mental-talk and mental-image of the owners, who are constructing, in a verbal dual with me as I argue with them about the noise. Thrown into this mix would be mental-talk and mental-images of all the times where I have been bullied, chided, taken for granted, defeated and been victimised. This mental-sensation-stream is constructed by the "self-process" and it sustains for as long, and sometimes longer than the Borewell drill itself.

Left alone, the experience of noise from the Borewell drill would have come and gone, but it got exponentially worse once the “self-process” threw itself into the task of personalizing it with memories, ideas, opinions, and habits (which I call resources) available at its disposal in the immediate vicinity. In this instance, the resources available for the “self-process” were just those in my mind, but you can imagine the “self-process” dipping into a larger resource pool had this kind of ruminating happened along with a bunch of others who are also frustrated with the noise (mob-mentality).

This is precisely what “suffering” looks like, isn’t it?

I often wonder, what would happen if one fine morning the “self-process” refuses to launch? Would “I” be blissfully unaware of who I am, like Jason Bourne?

Is that a bad thing?

In the absence of this “self-process” constantly arising and passing away with each sensation, I would have no way of knowing who I am supposed to be. I might finally be able to let every experience come and go without throwing the idea of an experiencer into the mix. What a liberating relief that would be!

I am increasingly noticing pauses in this “self-process”. I owe it entirely to my practice of meditation. Initially, the pauses came about because my meditation insights (impermanence, dukka, and no-self) would challenge the validity of the world-view generated by the “self-process.” With that kind of skepticism, I would feel internally conflicted, not knowing what to do. Slowly, I am noticing that the “self-process” is getting tired of personalizing things. I can almost see light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like I’m just a hop, skip, and jump away from the self-process running out of gas, no longer launching itself with every sensation.

Am I making sense?


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