Hi dear Ilona,
Found the body at the computer, writing writing writing. That "work" stuff, not so important in the moment. :-) So much joy present! So here are the answers:
1) Is there a 'me', at all, anywhere, in any way, shape or form? Was there ever?
No, there is no “me” at all. There never has been ever. There is life living. The “me” is a conditioning, belief that was picked up along the way and subscribed to like a monthly magazine. LOL Funny
2) Explain in detail what the illusion of separate self is, when it starts and how it works.
Illusion of separate self and the when, how of it. Interesting. It starts at some point in babyhood/childhood, the programming begins. As this has been pondered over time, it is noted in the experience that “I” was a happy child-being, living full of joy, just there. Energetic and filled with life! It is clearly remembered the changes in the beings surrounding this little body, Mom, family, friends etc in my experience as this body grew, as some aspect of the being...the mind ...learned. Something was off. There were things that hurt the body for being who "I" always had been. Very very quickly, this life learned how to stop that forceful stuff coming at the body, to mold behavior to get away from the pain, creating this separate self that began to feel so real. Heavy heavy “instruction” came at this “me” who was suddenly there, and it felt like if this body was to survive, it better get with the program. Learned all of this very very quickly and then it continued to get denser and denser. That's how it works. The programming and learning is taken on, it's quickly learned how to manipulate things to get along, and amnesia sets in. However, for this life, there was always this inner sense of things not being right though, in all of this. Something was “off.” A truth was remembered vaguely, and this “I” latched onto what was present at hand in that time in chidlhood. Church, Mass, nuns. I felt that "life" essence again when I would be in church, hearing the music, smelling the incense, feeling a sweet energy come over me again that was so loved. And it was continued from there, the birth of the seeker, the searcher after "truth." Not realizing...it had never been lost.
There is clear memory too of that early awareness, of sitting at the dinner table one night when the body was about 8 or so... telling the parents that “I” wasn’t what was inside this head (and the hands patted the skull to illuminate the point. LOL) This was something that was way beyond what this body was. It was just what was. "I" knew. "I" knew then. (Poor bewildered parents always wondered what planet this child came from. LOL)
3) How does it feel to see this?
Great relief. OH yes, of course! It feels wonderful. Soooooooooo cool. A real “Ah HA!” That’s all it was, programming like the programming of a computer. Somewhat necessary for life to function on the planet, it is supposed, but really all an illusion in terms of this “self” that got manufactured. How ironic. Such joy to see. And a bit of exasperation that arises that...here life was / is ...and simply overlooked it. Compassion for that too. And it all passes through.
4) How would you describe it to somebody who has never heard about this illusion but is curious about it.
This would be gently offered, as occurred here at 8 years of age, “Have you noticed there seems to be something more here than the personality, an essence, an aliveness that lives? Not personality, not the thoughts tripping through, emotions showing up, not this “you” that is believed to exist? Have you noticed that what happens, happens? There is no control? What is breathing the body? What is beating the heart? What is living? Notice what is under all the mind /emotional stuff, under the stories, under the non-stop inner narration. Is there anything at all? There has been much conditioning around this, to believe there is a separate self. But notice. Is there anything there at all but life?”
5.What was the last bit that pushed you over, made you look?
Ahhh. The question about decisions was really the push, really opened the seeing. Oh wow was a wonderful noticing. “...was it you that made all those decisions? How decisions happen? Could you have chosen something else at that time?”
That was the pivotal moment. That day of seeing the truth of what had unfolded in life, it being lived. And the seeing immediately after about the “no experiencer” ... All fell away then. Joy appeared. Gentle joy, delight. SInce then, stuff, emotions arise, but they are not latched onto as what is anymore. They pop in, out. This is all loved beyond words. There is this memory (reading back) of fear that surfaced with the first discussion, and there is none of that at all in this. There is just knowing present, passing through. Absolute delight, gratiitude, amazement. Calm. There had been looking before, but was so simple, was overlooked. LOL Curiosity rises about life continuing on ... there is knowing that this continues on. And love is just so here now.
Thank you thank you for gentle guidance and presence, Ilona. There is simple amazement present. LOL