Hello Dear Kay,
I have no further questions and will answer your questions happily :)
1) Is there a separate entity 'self', 'me' 'I', at all, anywhere, in any way, shape or form?
Was there ever?
There has never been a separate entity called "self", "I" or "me". Only thoughts about thoughts obscuring what really has been going on right "here and now".
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 illusion of a separate self is a thought (or thoughts labelling further thoughts)telling a story about an "individual" "capable" of "changing reality". Thoughts then weave another story of ownership. A division is thus created - "a body" is believed in, "separate others" are "seen", "opinions" begin to "shape" (labelling mechanism) and a "past" and "future" of a "somebody" are believed in. What comes next are ideas of fear, judgement, responsibility, guilt, dream life and all array of illusions follow.
The story of "I" begins when a "body-mind" is very young. Society, family and peers all believe in the same story - which the child is taught day by day. It escalates during - what is called "puberty". A "person" seems to seek "himself/herself" through activities, relationships, material possessions, likes and dislikes, opinions and dreams. Added to the mix are parents expectations and hopes for the future of their child, family problems and influences coming from seeming "outside world".
Finally - when a "person" is thought to be "an adult" - different things are expected of "him/her". Some thoughts change and beliefs change - a "person" seems to "grow" or "go on a wrong path". Trying to fill a void "an individual" grabs on to sources of "pleasure" - alcohol, parties, relationships, job titles, material possessions, fame, even children, religion and a plethora of different activities, states etc. This of course doesn't help in a long run and then the process of searching begins anew. A belief in a "past" and "hopes for a future" seems to come in strongly as a "person" "matures". It even escalates more during - what is called - a "mid-life crisis". A "person" intuitively knows then that what is believed in does not bring any satisfaction. New adventures, affairs, material possessions and "nostalgic activities" are sought after. A life of "walking around a hole" continues 'till the "body-mind" dies.
"I" is just a thought described by further (endless) thoughts. These thoughts create a narrated perspective which brings a lot of suffering and misery. Reality beyond the content of thoughts is rarely looked upon (if ever). Most of the time is spent in a "dream-state" of ideas and separating descriptions.
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 is a "shift in perspective". No longer is experience separated by ideas (thought content is still known but no longer believed in). No longer is there a sense of "something lacking" or "something not understood". Of course some beliefs will still fall away and life will continue - however everything just happens and just is.
At the beginning there were expectations which were obscuring what is. These are known as well now and there is a difference in every aspect of life - yet life goes on as it always does. The true looking at reality has shown a lot of separating ideas still in places. Now - with understanding the mechanics - everything is much clearer and the process of seeing can continue without confusion.
4) What was the last bit that pushed you over; made you look?
If it means joining the forum - it was definitely a sense that the illusion is very deep and a help from a "somebody" who went through it might be helpful. A desire to deeply look at what is and no longer be seemingly bound by the illusion.
If it means - what made me look during our conversation - it was definitely the exercises and showing sentences that contained a false belief.
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.
Actual Experience shows no "decision-maker" "at work". Only thought content creates one. There is no process of decision-making present as reality. If a "coffee" is purchased or "a hand" is moved - it all happens by itself. Thought quickly follows, precedes or shows up during a "decision moment" and claims that "a person did it". Then thought labels it even further and a "sense of making a decision" is believed in.
Intention is just a thought labelled by further thoughts. It is a story of "a person" which has "such and such intent" towards "something" or "someone". If "I" is believed in - such stories follow and are believed in as well.
Word "Free Will" indicates that there is a separate "I" capable of "doing something". That "person" is then believed in to be able to "choose" and "decide" things. Furthermore that "individual" is held responsible for "his/her" actions. Reality shows that no one is even present to have a will. There is no ownership of experience, no separateness.
"Choice" is again a by-product of an "I" thought. Reality shows that there is no "moment of choice" where a "choice-maker" appears and is known to be "deliberating" or "actively going over pros and cons" of "something". Choice as such just happens - as everything happens. It all happens by itself.
A large "chunk" of an "I thought" is comprised of a belief in "having control". Reality shows that there is no one to have control over anything. The best indication of that is a believe in a "thinker". Thoughts just appear - yet to most "people" it is obvious that they are doing the "thinking". Same with "breathing", "seeing", "hearing", "smelling" etc.
It is almost like riding on a roller-coaster - believing that it is under "our control" and the turns it takes are happening because of "our decision". It is simply a label put on experience.
"Walking" - it is simply sensation with colour, sound, taste, smell, perception happening as one. There is no experience of "legs moving" or "body moving". No "person doing the walking" or "separate I moving towards an object in a distance".
Just seamless experience further labelled by thoughts and divided into things. AE shows only one happening occurring.
"Looking at trees" - there is seeing-colour happening. A thought label comes in stating that "I" "see" "an object" "called trees" - thus creating separation. There is only colour happening as Actual Experience. "See-er", "seeing" and "object seen" are one.
"Listening to music" - there is sound and sensation happening. "During the song playing" - there is no "listener" "doing the hearing". There is no "music coming from headphones or speakers". Again - "the hearer", "hearing" and "what is heard" are all one experience.
b) What are you responsible for? Give examples from your own recent experiences to how this works.
It is seen that - with no "I" present as a "doer", "decider" or "choice-maker" - there is no responsibility to speak of.
"Talking to a co-worker and saying something labelled as inadequate" - there is no one that was talking to a seeming "co-worker" and no one who "decided to choose" "specific words". Furthermore every action happened spontaneously and since there is no "right" or "wrong" known as actual experience - no sensation labelled as "guilt", "shame" or "inadequacy" occurred. Even if it did - it is seen purely as a sensation only. Labels are only thought-based stories. It shows that there is no one responsible for actions taken and words spoken and consequently for what was "thought about it" by seeming "other".
"Deciding to eat a cookie at night" - that one is a funny one to tell. Decision to eat a cookie at night happened. During the occurrence thought started weaving a story of a person "that couldn't do it" because of "trying to stay fit" and "cookies being bad for one's health". Afterwards another story came up claiming that "one cookie won't kill you" and "I might even eat some more tomorrow morning". A battle of thought content ensued - all witnessed. A laugh erupted by itself. There was no one responsible for eating "a cookie" and no apparent "chooser" who is able to "stay fit" or "be unhealthy". Without an "individual" with a "responsibility" to "stay fit" - there is no "guilt" or "shame". There is no one to blame or appraise differently for it.
"Being responsible for one's "feelings"" - This is an old one - now there are no such beliefs present - yet those were believed in strongly once (especially in relationships). There was a belief in a "doer" of action - a "speaker of words". What was believed to be said by "Adam" was taken very "seriously". Finally when "somebody else" felt "hurt" or "wronged" by "negative words"- it was believed to be a product of being a "irresponsible person". "Guilt", "shame" and even "blaming others" (parents, past influences, happenings at work etc.) for "behaving such way" seemed to happen - creating suffering and unhappiness.
These are ones of countless stories of story-based belief in responsibility and being able to "choose one's path".
In conclusion - I'd like to thank you very much for this direct pointing conversation Kay. I have no further questions. Your support and help are truly appreciated. Please feel free to point to any inconsistencies you might have stumbled upon.
This has truly helped to see what is truly here and leaves no confusion. Now the pathless path of dissolution of false beliefs will continue without anyone standing in its way.