The Power of "No" and "Self' Recognition
The power of “no” is multifaceted, multidimensional and multilayered, and totally illusory but I’ll only speak about a small part of it. For example, there are those who say, “If I can’t trust your “no,” then I can’t believe your “yes.” Meaning I suppose that if I don’t know how to say “no” convincingly, then my ability to mean “yes” is suspect. An inference is that I may be saying “yes” just to go along with the crowd or to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation. The power of “no,” in this instance, is presumed latently embedded in every nod of the head or mumbled “yes.”
However, that’s not the part of the power of “no” that I want to talk about in this posting. I want to address that aspect of “spiritual practice” (inquiring, mindfulness, bare attention, meditation, concentration), that relates to the “mind created sense of self,” the inquiry into the illusory “ego self,” otherwise known as “me,” and the willingness and ability to let go of this illusory self.
But first, how do I do that? How do I recognize “conditioned self?” And how do I let go of an “illusion?” I mean I know how to put down a heavy suitcase. I know how to pull my hand away from a burning stick or hot iron. But how do I recognize the contours of my conditioned self so I can let it go?
I have this recurring image of a boundary sustained and maintained by “conditioning.” And the “recurring ideas” (conditioned ideas) I have constitute my mind created sense of self. And this conditioned boundary line can be challenged, can be breached, can be stormed, can be attacked by life, circumstance and people and often requires defending.
But to go with the flow of “everchangingness,” to live in impermanence, requires relaxing that "felt" boundary of separation, relaxing those ideas I have of who I think I am, making that sense of “me” more porous, being less attached to “this is who I am and only this way.” This exploration requires opening up the boundary of self to the point of translucence where doubt takes hold and, “I’m not sure I know who I am anymore” is a thought that swims up from the subconscious into my waking dream. And instead of this self doubt being a “negative.” I experience it as a counterintuitive “positive.”
Giving up of identity, even temporarily, as individual self can feel disquieting, as a loss of psychic balance, and at some level as a loss of Self. And the “idea” that I may be losing something that never existed, that is essentially illusory, doesn’t reassure or comfort in that feeling of loss. This experience in fact tosses my “world” upside down. Not only who I thought I was is up for grabs, but how IT was, the World is also atilt. But that’s a temporary by-product of abiding in presence.
For now let me return to my story of the power of “no” as a way of recognizing how one holds on, how I hold on, internally to emotions and feelings, and thoughts and beliefs, impressions and assumptions, and what’s entailed in letting go of them. “Letting go” apparently is a prerequisite to experiencing a meaningful “shift in perception” which is usually experienced differently by different folks.
To let go of a burning stick I simply open my fingers and let the stick fall away. If I carry a heavy load on my shoulders, I let it slip off my shoulders. But how do I know I’m holding on internally and how do I let go internally?
First off, I need to realize I’m holding a “burning ember” internally. What kind of burning ember am I referring to? The kind that generates sufficient smoke to interfere with me seeing what IS.
Whenever “I” say “no” or think “no”, I am saying “no” to what IS. In a very real sense I am "resisting" what IS. And in saying “no” to what IS, I am “holding” onto some “expectation” or “assumption” of how it is supposed to Be. I mean, the only way I know to say “no” is because whatever IS, Reality, is not matching up with my expectation, belief, desire, wishes, or assumption. “No” is a smoking ember in my head.
And that “experience” of “not matching up” is a smoke signal, a starting point, not an end point, in recognizing how “I” hold onto certain ideas, beliefs and assumptions, about who I am, about who you are, about how the world is. I’m holding on with every “no” I utter. No, that’s not right. No, that’s not fair. No, you’re wrong. No, this is the way it is. No. No. No.
How often do “I” say or think “no” in a day about any number of circumstances I find myself in? A lot more than I thought. Of course in life not all “no's” are as significant as other “no’s”, not all “no’s” are of equal weight and gravitas. Saying no to injustice is not the same as saying no to green pants and orange striped clown shirt.
Intellectually speaking I can view all “no’s” as essentially being of equal weight. Two letters n-o, no. But personally speaking, when I live it out in the world of samsara, which is the world I usually inhabit with other folks, some no’s have more emotion and energy behind them than other no’s. Especially those "no's" applied to "me."
And that’s how “I” begin to recognize the “contours” of my “internal boundary” that “sense”of“who I think I am and actually am. This is the process of “conditioned self” recognition, of “self knowing”. Every “no” I say or think is a pencil line on a sketch pad drawing my usually unseen conditioned self portrait.
Learning to see this way starts with the power of “no” - which of course by itself has no power - the recognition of the significance of “no. And as you might have guessed “letting go” of “no”, letting go of the “mind created sense of self,” letting go of “me,” dropping the internal “burning stick,” means, in part, being able to say a heartfelt “yes” to what IS, to whatever presents.
One can explore the possibilities of the power of “no” or the power of “yes” any time of the day and come to appreciate how any numbers of doors open up personally and socially. But the doors I am particularly interested in opening, for you and for me, if I may, are the doors of perception.