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  • John Thomas Dodson

The Habit of Being Me

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Photo by Alexander Gilbertson on Unsplash
The question is, "Which me?"

Awareness: you don't create it, you recognize it....It's like this--the mood is like this, the body is like this, the breath is like this. And the more you reflect in this way then the sense of "myself as a person" is also like this. When I start feeling self-conscious and start creating myself, then the self is like this. "Me" as a person. You have a personality that's conditioned. It has certain good qualities, certain not-so-good qualities. As a person I can be quite rational and reasonable, and at other times I'm totally stubborn and irrational and emotionally a kind of basket case!....

Am I going to take refuge in my personality, which gets me into trouble every time I do something, or take refuge in the awareness? Obviously there's no choice. Every time I take refuge in my personal feeling, views, and opinions, I get myself into all kinds of trouble. I create endless suffering, unnecessary anxiety around me. Why do it? Especially if you know you don't have to. So this is the way--the power of meditation. As you develop confidence in this awareness, you're freeing yourself from being enslaved, from the habits you've acquired. You're no longer a victim of your habits. You're not getting rid of them; you're not trying to be someone with no personality whatsoever. You're recognizing things as they are. So whatever you're thinking or feeling in the present, you receive and recognize it and accept it for what it is. We're patient with it--we receive it--and then we let it just be what it is. Then it can change accordingly. But we're not trying to kill it off....

Now, all that I've said is for reflection, contemplation. I don't expect you to believe it. I'm just sharing what I've learned and hoping that it'll be of use to you. But the encouragement is always toward this awareness. We need encouragement because we're so critical of ourselves. We bind ourselves to such negative perceptions, and we never really trust ourselves at all. We might assume a certain confidence while doing a certain thing, but on a personal level we tend to mistrust or doubt endlessly, or just criticize or disparage ourselves. That's a habit of the mind--that's a habit that you create through thinking and conceiving yourself as this or that. So the transcendence of all that is through awareness. That's what your true nature is; that's peaceful, that's stillness.

Ajahn Sumedho: The Sound of Silence


The practice is to observe, to watch, to reflect, to see things as they are. But if I watch my mind what I see is a thinking process that forms opinions and fortifies them with facts artfully chosen to coincide with its views. The voice espousing those views is loud and really the only one I've ever heard within myself, so I give it a lot of authority as being "me" when it says whatever it says. I tend to believe the voice of "me" without questioning it.

But when I begin to meditate about it, to reflect on it, to become aware of that voice, I notice how variable it is. To use Ahahn Sumedho's description, it can be rational and reasonable or stubborn, irrational and an emotional basket case. Which one of those personalities is the "me" to which I should attach myself?

And then, in a moment of insight, I might notice the awareness itself and realize that it ISN'T any of those things. It isn't the basket case; it's the awareness seeing the basket case, and that is a profound understanding. When we let things be what they are--but become of aware of them in that state--the awareness begins to do its work. Rather than trying to be something "better", we try to see reality instead, and the seeing is enough. Rather than interfering through our personality traits, through self-attack, we just become aware: "It's like this right now."

The effect of this practice is a reappraisal of the personality. We accept that there is one, of course, and that it is just a part of the way the psyche operates. But this unflinching faith that "this is me" begins to weaken. Awareness isn't what you're seeing when you see anger. Awareness isn't ever angry. Nor is it greedy when you see greed. Awareness doesn't crave anything. This is the quality of discrimination rather than judgment that helps define awareness. Awareness doesn't identify AS something or reject something. It simply reveals it. It doesn't get mad because there is anger. It doesn't get lusty because there is desire. It just reflects what is there. It's a mirror that shows whatever it is shown to it.

When we hear about non-self, it's something like this. That personality shouting, "This is me!" isn't really a "me" to anyone. It's a voice; a loud mental habit; a verbal condition that the mind has learned to exhibit. That may seem radical. I don't deny it, but I hope you might begin to notice the voice claiming to be an identity, a personality, a fixed thing that has your name (and even that name isn't really you). And the way to notice that claim to identity is through awareness.

What if, instead of being the personality, you are actually the awareness itself?

Meditate on that for a while....

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