1) Is there a separate entity 'self', 'me' 'I', at all, anywhere, in any way, shape or form?
Was there ever?
No. Self only arises as a thought, it cannot be found in direct experience and therefore doesn’t exist. If it is not real now logic dictates that it never was.
2) Explain in detail what the illusion of separate self is, when it starts and how it works from your own experience.
Describe it fully as you see it now
The separate self is created by thought and language. I guess it starts in early childhood but I have no idea when exactly. The I is believed to be the the thinker of thoughts and/or the physical body and seems to become a centre point through which life is experienced but now I see that this is not the truth and that by looking at direct experience in the “now” there is a wider perspective of which thoughts are just a part.
3) How does it feel to see this?
What is the difference from before you started this dialogue? Please report from the past few days.
It feels good. Realising that thoughts arise by themselves and that it’s possible to let go of the steering wheel, so to speak, has created a sense of liberation. My mind still carries on talking/labelling, as it always did but the thoughts don’t have the same pull as before. They are seen simply as thoughts arising, just another facet of what makes up the moment or “now” Realising this creates a feeling of expansion, a natural oneness with everything.
4) What was the last bit that pushed you over; made you look?
There have been a couple of breakthrough moments which I can point to. The first was during an exercise in which you asked me to sit and close my eyes and feel the sensation of the body against the chair. At first it was just “me” in contact with an object. Thoughts dividing and labelling the experience but then, after a time there was a subtle shift towards noticing that the sensations of the body and the thoughts were all arising in awareness which is always present and always now.
The same experience happened often last weekend when I was walking in the forest with my dog. It feels a bit like taking a couple of steps back to take in a view. It’s all happening now and somehow there’s a sense of being a part of it and all of it. Like the boundary between what was considered to be inside and outside disappears (Hopefully that makes sense)
5) a) Describe decision, intention, free will, choice and control. What makes things happen? How does it work? Give examples from your own recent experiences to how things happen and how things work.
I have no idea what makes things happen. One action or event just leads to another. Everything seems to be in a constant state of flux. Decisions and choices are made but if there is no “I” then “I” can’t be making them. Thoughts proceed actions and thoughts arise by themselves so there is no autonomy there, or sometimes a task will be completed purely by conditioning. Driving home from work for example, or making a cup of tea, these things just happen without an “I”
b) What are you responsible for? Give examples from your own recent experiences to how this works.
I am responsible for nothing. Because I do not exist. Everything is happening and finding it’s level by itself. “I” am responsible x,y or z are just thoughts. Strip the thoughts away and things continue to be taken care of. The I is unnecessary.