|The teaching of anattā (“not-self”) points to one of the three fundamental areas of liberating insight taught by the Buddha (along with the teachings on impermanence and on suffering or dukkha). Yet anattā can very challenging and confusing for contemporary practitioners. Is there “no self” (as anattā is sometimes translated)? How do we make sense of our feelings of individuality, identity, ancestry, and vocation? How do we address our own personal experiences of woundedness, trauma, and oppression? Are these all simply to be “transcended”? How is a sense of self actually in many ways important for contemporary spiritual development, and how is working with our own individual conditioning, whether psychological or social in origin, central to our liberation? How do we integrate attending to such conditioning with opening as well to the power and energy of experiences beyond the habitual sense of self?
In this daylong, we will explore these vital questions primarily in a practical way. Using the metaphors of “thinning the self” and working with a “thick” sense of self, we will cover three aspects of practice: (1) cultivating, in several ways, the “thinning” of the self, both in meditation and in everyday life, including working with the Five Skandhas or “aggregates” of experience; (2) tracking and working with different manifestations of a “thick” sense of self, both as appearing in experience and as hidden to awareness; and (3) opening to experiencing beyond a fixed sense of self, as awareness, compassion, and responsiveness deepen.