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There is something I must dwell on
because I know more than I know and must learn it from myself.

— Marilynne Robinson

On the Beatles’ album, Let It Be, George Harrison sings a beautiful song called I Me Mine. It includes the reflective lyrics “All through the day, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine, All through the night,
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine, Now they’re frightened of leaving it “. It is interesting to find a popular song dealing with the nature of the self. The song was inspired by George Harrison’s exploration of meditation and interest in Indian mysticism. In my own practice of yoga and meditation I have found the Buddha’s teaching on anatman, or Non Self, very helpful and liberating. What the Buddha taught was that all conditioned things are devoid of a permanent unchanging self. This is not a strange form of nihilism: it is not that we do not exist. Rather, it is saying that when we look at our direct experience all we observe are thoughts, feelings, perceptions, volitions, and acts of consciousness. Nothing is found that can be said to be solid and permanent. There is no fixed unchanging self at the centre of our experience. Everything that arises in our life is dependent on conditions. Unfortunately, we suffer because we believe the opposite to be true and spend our days trying to defend or assert a belief in a fixed identity and self.

Teachings such as these can at times seem very complex and bewildering. I have found it helpful to reflect on the basic view that you are not fixed and that you can change. We may have limiting views about ourselves but they do not define us. Maybe, as we explore our yoga practice more deeply, we can glimpse a sense of this, experiencing the fluid nature of ourselves, and trust that we are always so much more than we think we are.

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent,
Of everything you think, and
Of everything you do,
Is for yourself-
And there isn’t one.

Wei Wu Wei Ask the Awakened