“Tat tvam asi” is an ancient Vedic mantra which means: “You are that” or “That you are.”
What does it mean? It means that Universe (Reality) is not inter-personal but intra-personal.
What does that mean? It means that when you look “outside” you are looking “inside.”
What does that mean? That means that you are seamlessly embedded in a beginning-less, bound-less, cosmic Oneness of all that is.
What does “it” mean to “you”?
Same as ‘”it” means to “me” – “it” means peace… from our dualistic illusion of separateness.
In sum: “I” = “It” = “You” = Oneness (of all that right now is)
Only All That Is requires no quotation marks.
image: “Tat Tvam Asi/I = You” by Pavel Somov (circa 2010)
related: Old Vedic Trick by Pavel Somov
Freud once wrote: “The strength of the [...] wishes can [...] be detected behind the prohibition behind them.”
I think this line is essential to understanding the struggle of compulsion.
Abstinence feeds (uncontrolled) desire whereas moderation extinguishes it (through controlled satisfaction).
A caveat (to preempt misunderstanding): socially unacceptable, zero-sum desires and wishes (e.g. to harm another person) must be suppressed for the social contract to work; suppressing the rest of the desire only feeds it.
This is no axiom about human behavior but merely a point to consider and possibly learn from.
Ego is not an anatomical structure. It’s not something that you will see on an X-ray. Ego is an informational structure. That’s what the term ego actually means: it is a Latinized translation of “das Ich,” which is German for “the I.” “The I” is “the information” that you have about you.
The ego-based view of the self is as unstable as a table on three legs. There are three issues with ego we need to examine, and they all start with the letter I. “The I” (ego) balances on identification with impermanent information. Let’s take a closer look.
Ego is Information
Ego is a collection of self-descriptions, just a bunch of words written down on the mirror of your consciousness. Let’s say I point at the moon with my index finger. Is my finger the moon that I am pointing at? Of course not. Now ponder this: are you the information that you have about you or are you that which this information is about? Are you a self-description or that which you are describing?
Ego is Identification (with the External)
Identification is a process of pointing at something external, at something outside of you, and equating yourself with that. We’ve already touched on that earlier in the chapter. Identifying yourself with what you are not is absurd. Identifying yourself with something that you are not is like pointing one finger at yourself and the other finger at something else and then claiming that you are pointing …
Mori Ogai once wrote:
“Neither fearing nor yearning for death, I walk down the descending slope of life.”
Sounds like surrender?
Acceptance is power.
Psychologically speaking, koans are a unique way to inoculate a human mind to the anxiety of uncertainty. When we encounter uncertainty, we are stumped. Uncertainty frustrates us with its enigmatic nonsense. Koans, in their unanswerable quality, effectively simulate such moments of uncertainty.
Author Hee-Jin Kim explains: the koans are “realized, not solved” (1975, 101). Admittedly, this explanation is a bit of a puzzle itself. But here’s how I make sense of it. A koan, once again, is an unanswerable puzzle. If we take it on, we begin banging our dualistic head against the nondual wall of the unknown . At some point, we realize that there is no solution, and we settle into a don’t-know mind.
This realization, of course, comes up pretty early in the koan work. And it serves as the true beginning, not the end of the process. Knowing in advance that you are working with an unanswerable question, you accept your limitations. No longer trying to know the unknowable, you calmly remain with the question in a state of not knowing. Knowingly, you keep chasing the tail of not knowing in a process that, I believe, very much parallels the day-to-day mystery of life.
Thus, the potential therapeutic value of koan work as a kind of one-question-therapy that can help soothe the perfectionistic thirst for answers.
Here are a few of the koans [from the Present Perfect book] that I developed to challenge perfectionistic thinking for my clients and my readers:
Mindful eating moment # 804: “Standing on a city park bench, eating mulberries. A summer treat.”
Mindful Eating Tracker
When we love, we love the fact that we love.
We love to love.
Love is auto-telic* (self-reinforcing).
When we hate, we hate the fact that we hate.
We hate to hate.
Hate is auto-exaleiphic** (self-limiting).
Notice this distinction in yourself.***
* Auto-Telic/autotelic: auto is Greek for “self” and “telos” is Greek for “goal” = self-reinforcing, self-driven, a goal in and of itself
** Auto-Exaleiphic/autoexaleiphic: auto is Greek for “self” and “exaleipho” is Greek for “wipe out, obliterate” = self-limiting (a term that the author of this blogpost coined for the purpose of this blogpost only).
***A caveat: initially we might not mind that we hate, we might hate righteously, with or without awareness, this is a period/phase of anger, when hate is really just fear; but eventually as the limbic/affective side of hate/fear fades away, hate becomes a kind of cognitive residue. Hate turns on itself. In sum, inevitably, hate spoils itself.
Dennis Skley via Compfight
The solution to bad self-esteem is not good self-esteem.
The solution to bad self-esteem is unconditional self-acceptance.
All esteem (good or bad) is a form of situation-specific self-estimation, that is, a form of conditional self-judgment, and, as such, is psychologically self-limiting.
Self-acceptance, on the other hand, is a platform of unconditional wellbeing.
[I have proposed this idea in my 2010 book Present Perfect (Somov, New Harbinger Publications) in Chapter 9 "From Self-Esteem to Self-Acceptance." In my clinical experience, this particular shift (from self-esteem to self-acceptance) has proven to be one of the most powerful ways of breaking through the perfectionistic impasse.]