The yoga instructor didn’t show up at the gym this past Saturday morning, prompting some of my classmates to urge me to lead the class in his absence. What happened next was an exercise in self-preservation and denial of the moment that runs so contrary to my practice, I left feeling disappointed in my response. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t wake up every morning, sit on a cushion and engage in mindful cultivation of selflessness. If, at the end of these every morning sessions, I didn’t prostrate myself before the altar and declare “not my will today, but your will be done.” If my daily studies — whether it be Sri Nisargatta, Mooji, or Rumi — do not repeatedly reinforce how freedom from suffering is freedom from self-ing.
Nope. None of these meant a thing to me on Saturday morning…put on the spot to do a thing but feeling too self-conscious to do that thing. No, I’m not qualified to teach a yoga class; but that’s not as much the point. A group of people asked me to help, and I refused. THAT’S the point. Instead of going into the moment, I pivoted, put on a YogabyCandace youtube video and told everyone to follow along. As far as stumbling blocks go, this was a pretty mild example, but it stands out to me because I don’t get many challenges that are so obvious and in which I so obviously (for lack of a better term) fail.
What is selfing? Jon Kabat-Zinn (in his book “Whenever you are, there you are”) describes selfing as
“the inevitable and incorrigible tendency to construct out of almost everything and every situation an “I,” a “me,” and a “mine,” and then to operate in the world from that limited perspective which is mostly fantasy and defense.”
It is the false assumption that there is some person or entity, living inside of and as a part of the body, that needs protecting, entertaining, projecting, and otherwise caring for. On Saturday I did not allow myself to answer the call of the moment because “I can’t do that!” “What if I suck?” “These guys don’t want to watch me do yoga…no really, it’s not a pretty sight.” And all of the other self-doubt thoughts that arise but aren’t necessarily made conscious. I think it would have been fun to try on a different role for a morning; I don’t suck at teaching/leading groups, it is literally one of my greatest talents. And I’m sure I”m not horrendous to watch while doing yoga — That’s Probably Why They Asked! Yup, talked myself out of an adventure.
Anyway, here are some things I learned about selfing:
–selfing is often an unconscious act, we are so used to doing it, so that we don’t notice it, and it becomes the normal state of affairs, just like water for a fish, or the air for us
–It is practically almost impossible to avoid, even when we are aware of it.
We can only be free of selfing for brief moments of time, before we are caught in the act of selfing.
Somehow, in the evolution of man, selfing arises from the our needs to communicate and protect ourselves.
— Selfing is infectious, e.g. seeing something on TV easily make us want something, to posses, to become, or to boost our self image. The advertising agencies are making good use of this.
–In selfing, there is an infinite number of varieties of making comparisons:
I am better, I am worse, I am as good as, I am the best/worst, I can make a better website, I am taller/richer, cleverer, etc. Comparisons also divide the world into good and bad, us and them,
or just indifferent.
— With possessives like mine, yours, ours, his, hers, etc, we build up our sense of belongings, and our self image. Having a fast car, a beautiful home, etc is considered a status which enhances our self image. Possessions lead to conflicts, greediness, and egoism.
–Selfing is dangerous, for we then choose our actions so that the result is propping up our image.
In groups,other people would act to please us, leading to flattery, bribery and conceit
— The cure of selfing lies in continuous mindfulness
So this weekend I learned about a chink in my mindfulness armor. I learned how self-preservation keeps me from being in the moment, spontaneous and ready to meet the challenges and needs of those around me.
How about you? What did you learn this weekend? Are you selfing up your life and relationships?