The myth of “I”

“Everything I had always thought about myself and about my world – all of my ideas, opinions, thoughts, attitudes, memories, hopes, worries, beliefs – all of it had suddenly revealed itself to be a hopeless tangle of chattering, machine-like voices. All that stuff which had made up ‘me’, suddenly wasn’t me. My view of myself had shifted dramatically. ‘I’ was somehow now the space, or context, or awareness, or Self, within which that old ‘me’ occurred.

This was perhaps the most important teaching from the est training [now, the Landmark Forum] that has stayed with me 30 years later: the incessant voice that lives inside my head, calling itself ‘I’ and ‘me’ and constantly narrating the story of my life, is not who I really am. Rather, that constant mental chattering I normally think of as ‘my mind’ was revealed in the training to be nothing more than an automatic and mechanistic thinking machine. It sometimes has great ideas, but more often than not it simply perpetuates a problem-riddled, grim interpretation of life, and is ill-equipped to be in charge of me and my decisions.”

~ Eliezer Sobel, The 99th Monkey, 2008

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16 thoughts on “The myth of “I”

  1. We seem to begin our early life as the Big Me. It is all about our accomplishments, our jobs, our thinking, and we love to inform everyone about how good we really are. As we age and have nothing to prove, we become nicer people who take the time to be interested in the other person rather than ourselves. I enjoyed this post.

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    • Hi Kayti, I get what you mean. The quote is talking about something different from the growth of empathy that can arise from having experienced more of life. He’s talking about the experience of transformation. The experience is available by many pathways including doing the Landmark Forum. The advantage of the Landmark Forum is that the experience is available in three days and one evening, and is open to all people and ages. I think the record is a participant who was over 100. One final session of a Forum I attended, there was a woman named M who was 89. She was smiling, perfectly at ease, indefatigable, and the Forum leader especially acknowledged her. You’re in San Francisco, the headquarters of Landmark. You can do the Landmark Forum yourself.

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    • Totally agree, sweets. Me, myself, I, so boring. The “I” strutting around, insisting on its specialness, its better-than-ness, its virtue, its doom. Ugh. Shakespeare nailed it:

      “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
      Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
      To the last syllable of recorded time;
      And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
      The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
      Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.”

      And as soon as one gets the “I” as nonsense, one wakes and finds oneself in the Promised Land. Kisses to all in MN xxx

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  2. This part really got to me: “…but more often than not it simply perpetuates a problem-riddled, grim interpretation of life, and is ill-equipped to be in charge of me and my decisions.” That “I” and “me” really is rather bad at navigating a wholesome, serene path. And yet what do I rely on? You got it! ;) Breaking that pattern of automatically relying on the ever-present “I” takes conscious thoughtful determination. The wholesome, serene path is a most difficult one…at least for the first 50 or 60 years! ;)

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