In spirituality, especially in evolutionary spirituality that focuses on growth or self-development as a means to reach enlightenment or transcendence, there is this idea of transcending the self. But often it seems that the practitioners, rather than getting less egoic they tend to get more egoic, either neglecting the world around them focusing only on how self is evolving, or becoming domineering and basically full of themselves. No doubt do some of them possess deep insights into spiritual truths, it just seems like the step of truly transcending the self rather than just cleverly hiding or disguising it is a very hard thing to do.
What does it mean transcend the small self? What takes its place? A bigger self? In the integral version of developmental psychology, the lines of development show an ever increasingly complex self transcending and including the previous versions. That self transcends the contracted and self-centered ego, the voice that screams, “me! me! me!” and replaces it with a different song that is now concerned with not just me, but me + many other things. In a way the me has become decentralized… or has it? Or is it still at the center of everything, just with a wider vision?
There is a practice that might change that, at least temporarily, offering an actually decentralized perspective on things. Right now it’s being used. The practice is that of avoiding the use of any personal reference during all communications, i.e. writing and speaking and in time perhaps thinking as well. Instead of saying: “I believe,” the person wishing to communicate could say something like, “there might be…” Instead of referring to how “I want” the person communicating could say “There is the desire to…”
Basically all sensations, all occurrences, whether external or internal/subjective are seen as arising in the matrix of existence and are not owned or created by this thing that most wisdom traditions conclude is not the author of any experience: the I. Science practices this in a way, but scientific language maintains that all subjective experience is unreal, whereas this technique just maintains the self does not own or experience anything. There exists however subjective experience of many things, including the subjective experience of an “I”, that are all very real.
So how to speak and think without the “I” without repressing the experiences that are generally attributed to it? Perhaps the first exercise when taking up this practice should be to express these feelings, thoughts and images, showing that their experience can be even more intense and clear this way, than when they are seen through the narrow lens of the “I”.
To give a few examples of how this may sound: Confusion settles in, excitement pervades, anxiety vibrates through space, joy rises to the surface and blossoms or is held back and dampened by indecisiveness… There is a sensation of guilt, of anger, of hope. Nervousness and unease are present. The beauty of a situation is appreciated. Awe and love weave into the present moment… An action is performed, a task is accomplished, a goal is achieved.
It sounds like flowery, strange and impractical language in some instances, but it’s not difficult to understand any of these sentence-fragments and it will be even less difficult when put into a context of a general communication. The pattern is very simple: Instead of saying that the self experiences anything, what is expressed is that certain experiences are taking place, i.e. feelings, thoughts, visions exist or are present in some dynamic or static way.
So if that is possible, we encounter the next hurdle: what about practical issues in which there are specific tasks that need to be discussed and handled in the physical world. Instead of saying, “I’m going shopping now,” one could say: “The need/desire for shopping will be fulfilled now.” Instead of saying, “My leg hurts, I think I twisted my ankle,” one could say: “Strong signals of dis-ease are emanating from this leg. A possible twisted ankle?” A phrase like: “Can you help me please?” could be changed to: “Gratitude would arise if assistance could be offered with this.” Or “There is a need for assistance here, if kindness and willingness could come together…?!”
The harder part is talking about things that happened in the past, since without the reference to a self it is difficult to avoid vagueness and generalization. For example – how could the following sentence be expressed without self-reference: “I used to think this practice was too difficult.” Using a scientific-language approach one could say: “previously this practice was found to be too difficult,” but that makes it sound like this perspective was pervasive rather than a partial/limited phenomenon, i.e. everyone thought it was difficult. If the self is to truly be transcended in this practice, the information of the example sentence has to be seen as a form of deception: the self didn’t think anything. But at least in one instance there was, in the past, an experience of “too difficult” with reference to the practice.
Remember, this is an exercise, a practice, like a form of meditation – no one is expected to remain in this I-less state for long, just like no-one meditates non-stop. So if the sentences sound artificial and difficult to produce that’s ok. It’s unlikely that this will turn into anything beyond being a game, but as a game it has enormous potential to teach those that participate in it something incredible about how the psyche works and how it can be altered. The sensation of presence (I am here now) that generally accompanies humans can drastically change when the psyche is trained to make sense of the world in a different way that does not involve referring every occurrence to the self, but rather observing the occurrences as interdependent phenomena arising in the matrix of existence. There arises an awareness of a shared responsibility for all things that occur and are experienced. This does not absolve you of your experiences but it also does not tie you to them. Apart from that it’s quite amusing to find creative ways of saying things without the “I”.
It’s probably easiest to start in written form – this way one can develop certain patterns of speech that express the experience beyond the self. This way there is time to get accustomed to this way of thinking. Speaking to others in this way without them practicing as well, will certainly raise a few eye-brows, plus can be less powerful. But ideally at some point it will be practiced in a dynamic fashion, with two or more people observing and expressing what arises in their shared space, in that part of the matrix of existence that their awareness can access.