A Taoist View on the Nature of the self

Adventurers and heros amongst you, in fact anyone anywhere, might be wise to take the time to listen to these words and just consider what they mean to you.

Perspectives on the nature of the self

As mentioned previously, I am delighted to be writing an as and when series of ponderings with Stephen Russell aka Barefoot Doctor. Here we will be letting our creative juices flow on a range of topics taking a view from a Taoist perspective as well as that of the Huna kupua. At times maybe even something of a mash up.

A Hawaiian saying states that ‘all knowledge is not in one school’ and indeed there is much to learn from all philosophies and walks of life. Some may be complementary to your views whilst others may be divergent and that’s the joy of indulging in the rich tapestry of ideas available to you, listening and going with the flow and seeing what’s occurs and taking what’s useful to aid you on your journey. So dear reader, sit back and enjoy what unfolds before you.

Stephen and I, wrote some words on a brief ‘the nature of self’. My writing can be viewed here. Here are some ideas about the nature of the self from a Barefoot Doctor perspective:

Barefoot Doctor: A Taoist perspective

I’m telling you now, these words could be the most important ones you ever read. They may not be. But on the chance they could be, honor yourself enough to take your time and let each concept become real in your mind before progressing to the next.

This is the ancient Taoist notion of the self, expressed in the contemporary idiom after 49 years daily study and practice, 35 of those teaching people and using it to help and heal (over one million one on one sessions under my belt to date, and hundreds if not thousands of events), privileged to be able to observe the human condition from a close-up perspective – people being born, people dying, people in mental wards, people about to kill themselves, people at the pinnacle of fame and fortune, people in prison, people in happy families, and people on the run with nothing – I’ve had the privilege of being an intimate part of the healing process of all these and more. But more crucially still, at the core of it all, 49 years observing my own process of development, in an increasingly disciplined and orderly way as time’s gone by. I say this to imply the significance of what I consider a great gift I’ve been blessed to receive and am now giving you – for your sake, not for the sake of my own importance.

The familar ‘self’

The self you consider to be yourself is not your real self. It’s just a front – a construct you developed to please, gain approval from, be applauded by, or to not be punished, deprived, rejected or abandoned. You developed it to the next level when you started school, now faced with needing to strike the same balance yet in a relatively greatly expanded arena with players you’d not learnt the quirks of yet – teachers, peers, dinner ladies and so on.
It’s what they used to call in the last century, your personality. Personality comes from the Greek, persona, mask. The self you’re familiar with is just your mask.

Of course, I’m not asking you to agree with this, nor to believe it – listen but decide for yourself. Meantime all your sense organs are angled to receive most of their data from in front of you. This causes you to assume life’s going on in front of you – you forget the back and sides, the above and below. And life is nothing if it’s not riveting. I say life, but actually what you’re perceiving is a complex series of descriptions you’ve acquired and invented as you were developing your personality, most of these ungrounded and wrong. This complex of descriptions comprises a story about reality, which you’ve told yourself so effectively, you now totally mistake it for reality itself. One blatant example of convincing storytelling – you probably enjoy watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset. There is no sunrise or sunset – the Earth is spinning on its axis at a 1,000 miles per hour in an easterly direction relative to the sun and as your bit turns towards the light of the sun morning begins. And you evaluate your position, your progress in relation to this story, as if you were evaluating it in relation to reality itself. And you do so without anywhere near the amount of requisite data to make any grounded assumptions. Yet you’re convinced your assumptions are fact.

And as I say, this story of yours, including the theater of you evaluating yourself in relation to it, all of which you mistake for life going on in front of you, is riveting – fascinating, challenging, stimulating, and distracting – it pulls you towards it – you merge with it – and this forward pull into the imaginary realm of your story draws you, your presence into the front sector of your body. This is where all your vital organs are working hard to keep you alive, where your stomach, gall bladder, small intestine, colon and bladder are working hard in support of that endeavor. And it’s where as an animal, you feel the pulse of life with all its underlying tumult and chaos, danger and threat, long with all its unfathomably intricate balance, order, support and nurturing – and the conflict, the yin-yang dance of these – you feel it in your solar plexus, in your belly in your heart.

But with you shoved up front in there with it all, there’s simply not enough room – it overheats from the over-crowdedness, and the ‘steam’ rises energetically all the way into the prefrontal lobes of the brain. There it stimulates the front-brain, which doesn’t know what else to do with all that energy or heat, so it makes up stories. And it does so in the form of a dialogue – an internal dialogue going on in the prefrontal lobes at all times. And it’s this dialogue you’re having with yourself, extended out to others and vice versa, which you and everyone collectively mistakes for the self. You become the story. And you become the noise of the story – the tension in the belly and the debate in the forebrain. And because you’re relatively divorced from your true nature you sense a lack, a gap, a hole to be filled. This puts you in a state of wanting. So you seek to do so externally by achieving things, manifesting things, making things happen – things you want. And yet no matter how many things you get or make happen, you still want more – you’re still in a state of wanting.

Presence -Tao

When you took form in the womb, mysteriously you embodied consciousness in the a priori sense – it was there just as was the life-force you needed to grow into an embryo. This a priori consciousness is what you might call presence or if you like Presence with a respectful uppercase P – the Chinese call it Tao meaning loosely, the Way, for want of a better word. This presence which is found in the nucleus of every subatomic particle as well as in everything bigger – you might call it background presence – is what was bearing witness to you growing in the womb, where you were still more or less entirely free of any external worldly influences. This was and is your true nature – it doesn’t get much more true nature than being an embryo – this is the real self.

It bore witness as you scrunched your skull through the birth canal or were lifted out through a C-section. And it’s borne witness to the whole movie ever since. And it is limitlessly wise, omniscient, equilibrated and basking in a state of perpetual joy simply for experiencing itself alive in you. It knows, it embodies the truth that being here is the greatest gift you could ever possibly be in receipt of – and hence that anything representing a mere aspect of being here – success, status, companionship, you name it, anything external is not to be placed before it in order of priority in terms of appreciation levels. And that by honoring the gift at all times, all the others required to support you will come of themselves anyway.

For this reason it has no need to rush forwards to greet life – it knows that life isn’t that story going on in the front. It knows the story doesn’t exist. It knows life is going on all around and far greater than any story could ever do justice to. So it remains where it always was and as is mete for a background presence – in your back. And whereas the front is relatively vulnerable, hence not strong and secure, as well as noisy, from the workings of all the organs and bowels as well as all the emotional conflict in the solar plexus and mental noise in the forebrain, in the back the atmosphere is far more still and silent, and the sense of strength, stability and safety is as palpable as it’s lacking in the front.

The point of the work – the training – I call it The Method – is to learn to be in your back all the time – to be your true nature, rather than continue in your front. Your mask will still work perfectly well for personal, social and professional interactions – way better in fact for the increase in flexibility and existential suppleness.

But rather than be trapped in the state of wanting and chasing, you’re liberated and delivered into the state of being and hence of having – having the greatest gift of all – being alive.

In your back, there’s nothing alack – you feel complete in each moment, wanting nothing, graciously guiding in whatever you need without stress or static, delighted to be alive rather than looking for things not to enjoy.

And others feel it. They feel complete in your company. Your communication stops being an act, you stop running from scripts, and becomes authentic. And others feel it. And things external go better as a result – the social transactional tendrils are better lubricated.

This is the fundamental key to genuine, as opposed to merely conceptual, enlightenment. With which comes mastery of the constructed self with all its conflict, drama and noise, and of the world of matter and all the countless boons this confers.

And that’s what I teach people to do. If you want to learn more about how, what and what-have-you, you can make a viable start visiting www.barefootdoctorglobal.com

Thanks for reading – for being here to share this with – we’re a family and the more we each are able to access our true natures and acknowledge it the more fun we’ll all have.

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