QUESTIONS ON THE “PATH” is a new, regular series (at least once per month, maybe as often as weekly), examining the questions students bring me about spiritual awakening, and my response based on my own studies and experiences. If you’d like to ask a question that might be featured here, please send it to me via:, and let me know it’s okay to be published. (Your name will not be published unless you request that.)

QUESTION:  Why Go for the Goal of ‘No Self’ in the Mystical/Spiritual Paths?

I was attempting to explain the lack of self-concept to my friend B**** over beers last night and I was noticing a fine line that I can’t explain well. His response was “well then why do anything if you aren’t a self? That’s more depressing than liberating” in my own head I can see the difference but it’s very hard to explain. Do you have some good language for this? Just because there is no self to “gain” from activity doesn’t mean it loses its enjoyment, no less reason to do it.


You ask great questions. The difficulty in you discussing this with B****, or even me writing to you about it is that, until there’s enough purification and/or transformation so that the sense of self disappears, what it will be like to live that way is totally theoretical. I can hypothesize (and you can), and I have read others who talk about what life will be like without a sense of self but, don’t have a full and direct experience of that yet. I have glimpses or tastes of that experience, not the constant state.

I can begin to sense in myself, as I get towards more ego-transparency and less opacity, that there is less to defend against. In other words, if I don’t identify with my ideas of who I am, I don’t have to defend those ideas. If I stop resisting what I feel (anger, jealousy, hatred) because it doesn’t fit my picture of myself, then I can just feel it, track it, learn from it–if it’s from a true source, and let it pass. That makes the emotional life so much easier. Also, if I don’t argue with Reality from my ego, about the ‘way things are’ then I spend less time in resistance/rebellion to the way Reality is showing up. So, in general, I’m guessing that without a sense of self, there will be more flow and less struggle. I do feel that already, though again, I’m not in a condition of ‘no self’ and just have tastes of it from time to time.

Since the ego is a construct of the mind (and of past karmas and sense of separation from the Divine etc.), the body will still derive pleasure from activities that gives it pleasure, whether the mind is involved or not. I can also tell you from experience, that whenever I or any student or client of mine disappears into an activity that we’re doing, (that disappearing meaning that I’ve lost the focus on a ‘self’ having the experience and I’m just being the experience) there is a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. This again might be what is called a ‘flow state.’ Whenever I lose self-consciousness, or self-referencing, I disappear into the experience and that feels wonderful! Ever notice that you can drive down the road without being an ‘ego-self’ constantly ‘staying alive by thinking itself into existence’? You can just drive, be really present in the driving, and it’s enjoyable. Artists and musicians experience this when they’re just painting or drumming and there’s no self-referencing.

Though, obviously, what’s written above isn’t a simple answer to give B****, it may help you to understand some things about what you might look forward to. “Why bother with anything if there is no self?” is a very popular question but, it assumes that all experience is ego-based and mind-centered and without being ego-based will be worthless. This just isn’t true.

Hope that helps….fun to ponder this question this morning.

Follow-up from the Questioner:

You’ve reminded me of a fantastic point, the flow state is exactly it. Like you said, you’re just doing and not thinking about how the doing is affecting you, the “you” isn’t in the picture at all, just experience. That’s exactly what I was trying to describe. Thanks sir, I’ll ponder some more.