Perhaps I'm too quick to take a break here...I apologize for any confusion. It seems you want to be sure, I do too. Can we forget about taking a break and keep working? I want to know if I've actually reached the truth of this, and I really appreciate your diligence.
I spent the past day or two clearly seeing the oneness of everything, how there is just knowing or awareness and it's not here or there. How the “movie” of the world that the senses and mind creates cannot be separated from a “me” somehow. Any line drawn must ultimately be arbitrary and artificial – that is, conceptual. This felt really good.
Now there is a little contraction, but still a lot of equanimity. I wonder if the equanimity is obscuring some attachment still. Now as I write this however the contraction doesn't seem to be a problem, it's okay, it's part of the experience – who can walk around their whole life in a non-dual bliss party? This doesn't seem to be a realistic expectation. Somehow I'm still feeling (knowing!) this connection with everything too, even if it is not so crystal clear in every moment now.
Is there a 'me', at all, anywhere, in any way, shape or form? Was there ever?
No, but there is an ego function which allows action as a human in the world. It's important to respect its needs for dignity, and if we hope to be happy its important for its actions to be in harmony with love – a natural morality or ethics. This is not a rigid code or set of rules, its needs are expressed as each circumstance unfolds. But this is all empty of inherent existence because everything which arises is dependent on some “thing” else. It looks more like a constantly changing pattern of energy to me. Was there ever a “me”? No. This is a memory, a habit. I cannot say what “I” am. I'm everything, the whole world – and absolutely nothing at the same time. This is what it looks like to me now.
Explain in detail what the illusion of separate self is, when it starts and how it works.
The illusion of separate self is painful. It is the belief that the mind's choosing of this over that is deciding something for “me”, or that this function is “me”. It's the belief that in looking there “must be someone looking”.
It starts with discrimination, it starts when a new arising is not embraced with love and acceptance – when it's either grasped as something lasting and wonderful or pushed away as something not acceptable. It begins every moment we forget that what arises is impermanent, not self, and not capable of providing lasting satisfaction, not a place we can stand on.
It works like a closed reinforcement loop. It maintains “itself” through judgment: “this is good”, “this is bad”, “this I don't care about” (or “this I don't even see, let's ignore it”). A lot of it is maintained by an unwillingness to experience unpleasantness or uncertainty. It's also maintained by fear.
How does it feel to see this?
What was the last bit that made you see through the illusion of separate self?
When you asked the question “if that sensation is not labeled, is it then also “sense of me”? Poof! Then it was seen. Calling it the "sense of me" had been keeping me looking there for some kind of secret which I was sure was hidden there. The "secret" turned out to be that my perception of this fabricated sensation was reinforcing the notion that there was actually something there!
May you be well