Dude there's some really great stuff in what you wrote. I'll try to be concise but probably fail horribly :P. But bear with me, there are some concerns and confusions which I think warrant some attention to clear up. Once those are out of the way, verbosity in subsequent posts should become less of an issue, hehehehe :). Let me address your fear and doubt first.
1. Fear: I already described that semi-dream I had where realizing no-self felt very negative. If realizing no-self means letting go of that habit of holding things together, wouldn't that mean that everything would just fly apart? Somehow I also have the feeling that completely losing the sense of self would equate seeing "my" thoughts as not mine anymore. And if somebody is hearing thoughts in his head, does that not mean that he must be hearing someone elses thought, which basically means insanity to me. Since seeing no-self apparently is a no-way-back road, I feel like I have to make sure not to make any wrong assumptions, and know about possible negative side-effects and dangers if there are any.
This (and that dream) is the fear to lose control or disappear somehow. Now look at what you wrote in an earlier post:
I would say the point is to realize that everyone has the habit of "holding certain things together" and to have certain subliminal mental and physical processes running that cost a lot of energy and can just let go of.
First a little question to ponder... Is it necessary to eradicate that habit in order to realize that it's a completely pointless and superfluous one? Because it sounds to me like you already realize this, even though the habit is still there.
Now then, despite fear, you already know that whatever you're unconsciously trying to hold together, does not need to be held together. It never did, it's just unnecessary contraction, constantly triggered by that very fear. But control is part of the illusion. You're not going to lose control, you never had it, at least not in the way you think. And yet life has gone on fine so far, and it will continue to go on fine whether you try to tense up your whole body and mind into a knot, or not.
Would you say that habit of contraction is actually preventing stuff from flying apart? Is something actually going to disappear? Not even the illusion is going to disappear :). All that will happen is that you can see it as being just an illusion, and only then can stuff start to fall away that aren't needed anymore.
And once you've seen it, there's an aftercare group of over 150 people (and growing fast) who help eachother, and who can attest to the fact that nothing horrible is going to happen. In fact, you might actually be slightly disappointed, and yet totally relieved. So, let the fear be there for now. You already know there's really nothing to be afraid of, it's just a natural conditioned reaction by the body to something which isn't real. Is that not right? If I'm wrong, tell me honestly. So whenever there is fear, don't suppress it, it can not harm you. Look at it, feel it, leave it be.
As for the owner of thoughts... If it's true that there is no actual self in reality, then who owns those thoughts right now? If it's true, then there never was a self, was there? Then thoughts are just thoughts without an owner, always have been. Never someone else's thoughts. It's not like your "self" is going away and someone else's "self" is going to take over :P. There is no self. We're going to find out if that's true. And if it is, well then it was always already the case, so nothing changes except now you know. There will still be thoughts and they won't suddenly belong to a different "self".
2. Doubt: Since I am supposed to see through the illusion of self, I am wondering: If it aint "me" that is experiencing this life, who or what else is it? Am I supposed to see some kind of godly touch or a mystical interconnection between all people and things here (because I clearly don't)?
Who or what is experiencing this life after seeing through the illusion of self will be the same as who or what is experiencing this life right now. I'll probably be asking you in some later post what that is, once you've seen it ;). But becoming clear about reality is not going to change what is already the case.
And no, it's also not going to be fireworks and mystical experiences. Although it's not impossible, but that would at best be a side effect and it will wear off, which does not mean the actual realization itself wears off. But don't bet on anything of that nature to let you know when you "got" it, we're not fishing for altered states here. I'm certainly not in some constant state of mystical union or something. Don't be too concerned about what it's going to be like, because then you'll be fumbling around in imagination instead of looking at what's right in front of you ;). What it's going to be like is the refreshing truth of what has always been right in front of you already.
Another thing that bothers me is the following: I am trying to see that the self is just something that is made up by the ego that is trying to stay in control (or something like that). But I don't really see a difference between the words self,I or ego, which would lead to an interesting question: How can that which isn't supposed to exist at all, try to keep me from seeing that very fact by blinding me with all kinds of fluff? Is this some kind of paradoxon that has to be resolved, or am I just completely besides the point here?
This is such good stuff my friend. It's not a paradox, but other than that, you are hitting the nail right on the head. Don't try to resolve it intellectually, that's again one of those tendencies that will keep attention focussed at anything but reality. When you start looking at what I, ego, self, really is (yeah I'm using those words interchangably here), it will become clear. Insofar as it isn't already!
If after reading the rest of this post, fear or doubt still seems to be a real obstacle for you, please let me know. But as for the grasping at intellectual closure, don't worry about it, and try not to be too drawn into that world of thought. That's exactly what you describe as being blinded by fluff. Thoughts are there, but the content of thoughts is fluff. Attention gets drawn in, mesmerized by fluff, you know how it goes. However if you look AT the thoughts as thoughts, instead of INTO the content of thoughts (as per the usual automatic habit), ploop! You've snapped out of it, at least for a moment. And a moment is really all you need.
Try reading this sentence a couple of times while listening to the voice in your head which is saying these words as you read them...
Voila! :). So that's the difference between looking at something and thinking about something. And while we're at it, try reading that sentence again, listening to that voice in your head, and tell me, is there a self doing the voice? Or is there just the voice?
I cannot see how the concept of self that is always there in the background should be hurting me so much.
That's right, why indeed should it hurt? See if you can look inwards at your own experience, how a mere concept can be turned into such a problem. Don't worry about right or wrong answers, just observe a simple, suitable, everyday example of it as it happens, and see if you can describe it.
The difference between these two seems so subtle to me that I can't even make a real distinction between them. You probably want to point me to the fact that the "sense of self" is just the illusion that is maintained, while the actual self just does not exist.
Yes, exactly. And you already said it bro. The sense of self is a feeling, it's composed of various sensory phenomena. While the self is just a concept, refering to some supposed entity behind the scenes which is operating all this stuff, but which doesn't actually exist. This stuff is all operating itself. If it seems hard to distinguish between thoughts of "me" and the feeling of "me", it's because they're kinda tangled up together in experience and you just haven't really looked at it before. That's the illusion at play! Well, read on, because there's good news in all this.
Like that picture in your avatar: The sense of self would be the bandage and clothing, but that whats underneath - the real self - is just "air". But when I say these things, I don't do so because I can really see it for myself, but because I have read similar descriptions and know that this probably is what i SHOULD be sensing myself.
Here we come to the illusion at play again. You think you can't see it for what it is, because you think you ought to be sensing something differently. You think you ought to be sensing the non-existence of self. Let's rephrase that in order to clarify the basic confusion in this: You're saying that in order to see that no such thing as a self exists, and to see the concept of self for just a concept, and to see the sense of self for just sensations, you need to stop having those sensations, and stop having those thoughts. Now is that really true?
Wait, are you saying that this is NOT about disidentification?? I was under the impression that this whole process is ALL about disidentifying from things (like "my" hand that is reaching for the glass). Am I missing the point here somehow? Maybe I should take back that claim of even having an intellectual grasp of this stuff :D
That's your meditation background speaking. All this is first and foremost about recognizing the way things really are. Consider this: Identification may happen, or it may not happen. Does it change what is real? Does it change what you know to be real? Do people who are strongly identified with what they think is their "self", really have a self?
Identification may gradually start to dissolve, but only as a result of knowing it for what it is. It's just one of those conditioned habits that most likely won't instantly altogether vanish. Luckily, it doesn't need to. Not in order to wake up to the truth about it. And the truth is, identification happens, it's just part of reality, part of the flow of life expressing itself. But it is not self, and there is no actual self doing the identifying. Keep reading, we'll get to where you see this for yourself. And whatever expectations you may have about this, put them aside for the time being.
Yes, they certainly come and go, a thought doesn't stay for long (it may be repeated for quite a while though). I am reluctant to say that they can't have effects on the body though. There seems to be at least a high level of correlation (as opposed to causation, maybe?).
Yes, in the sense that you mean, there is certainly interaction between thoughts and feelings and tensions in the body etc. reacting to eachother in a constant feedback loop. But! If you see a fly on the wall, and you cast a shadow over it, chances are it will fly away. Does that mean there is some kind of force inherent in the shadow that made the fly move? Or was it just a survival reaction originating in the fly itself? A thought is just like a shadow. The body is conditioned to react. It's only the body which gives a thought its felt power, the thought has no more force inherent in it than a wisp of smoke. But that conditioning (that pointless habit of contraction we discussed at the top of this post) gets undermined any time thought is no longer taken at face value.
Now then, to take the analogy of my avatar (excellent observation there), do you think that either removing the bandage, or leaving the bandage on, changes anything about the fact that there's nothing underneath, and that there actually never was? Once you know what to look for, it's not that hard to see it. Just look at it:
- Look at the sense of self (feel it, observe it) and tell me, is there an actual self experiencing those sensations, owning them or making them happen? Or is there just the experience of sensations?
- Look at thoughts about yourself and tell me, is there a "you" having those thoughts, owning those thoughts, making them happen? Or are there just thoughts, coming and going, repeating, etc.?
- If the self exists only as a concept referring to nothing real, i.e. it's just more thoughts, can it have its own thoughts? In other words, can a thought think?
Now check this out...
- Thoughts of self: Exist.
- Feelings of self: Exist.
- Actual self: Does not exist.
Verify this, observe those thoughts about "you", observe that sense of "you". Look at it, take your time. Is it true?