What is your re­la­tion­ship with your self?

Bear­lamp | Less­wrong | Greaterwrong

I had a very deep and in­tense con­ver­sa­tion with a friend. We talked about “that feel­ing of be­ing alone” and that re­la­tion­ships will come and go and really, “I am all that I can guar­an­tee that I have” at the end of the day. My con­ver­sa­tion part­ner asked me, “How do I be a friend to my­self?”

And I clicked into a real­isa­tion.


Tighten your seat-belt and settle down for an epic dojo ex­er­cises that you weren’t expecting


Non-du­al­ity. Dif­fer­en­ti­ation and in­teg­ra­tion.

One concept that med­it­a­tion books (like: Point­ing Out The Great Way, The At­ten­tion Re­volu­tion, The Mind Il­lu­min­ated, Mas­ter­ing The Core Teach­ings of the Buddha (FREE) ) talk about is the concept of non-du­al­ity (between many things, but this time spe­cific­ally) between the ob­server of the thoughts and the one hav­ing thoughts. There’s a med­it­a­tion path where the in­struc­tions are to point at­ten­tion on at­ten­tion it­self. When I try to watch my­self put­ting at­ten­tion on some­where else I can, but I lose a bit of at­ten­tion when I “watch” my­self. So I can watch my­self hav­ing a thought, and feel the con­fus­ing feel­ing where I try to find who is hav­ing the thought, es­pe­cially if I am busy watch­ing then *oh wait now I’m watch­ing not thought-ing*. The in­struc­tions are to re­peat un­til [spoiler alert] you burn a hole through the idea of du­al­ity and you con­clude on a sen­sa­tion level of real­isa­tion there is a non-du­al­ity of self here.

(Strange and weird so far, that’s fine)


St­ory Time

I am my own guide.
(this story is hard to trans­mit and I’m scared to share it here so I’m leav­ing it out but it’s sig­ni­fic­ant and one day I might write it up)

I have al­ways had my own back.

I par­ti­cip­ated in a holo­tropic breath­work work­shop. In short, the in­struc­tions are to breathe fast, deep and without breaks un­til you start see­ing things. Then breathe into the ex­per­i­ence. Without get­ting tech­nical, there’s some­thing about oxy­gen­a­tion, lack of car­bon di­ox­ide, heart rate, and lower brain ac­cess that causes in­ter­est­ing ex­per­i­ences, some­thing about oxy­gen­a­tion that feels heal­ing and some­thing about ex­ten­ded dur­a­tion and the right them­atic mu­sic to give ex­cit­ing real­isa­tions.

I fol­lowed the in­struc­tions and I found my­self a little too good at breath­ing. I breathed so fast that I missed it. Then I worked out what had happened and de­cided to slow down, breathe lightly and see if I could find the right bal­ance of where ex­per­i­ences happened. As I floated down from “too far” search­ing for my own trippy visu­al­isa­tion “spirit jour­ney”. My aware­ness was on what was hap­pen­ing, the float­ing down ex­per­i­ence. Sud­denly I got an im­age of my­self, not ly­ing on a bed, but on a leaf. Float­ing down in gentle wind, but also a vis­cer­ally strong sen­sa­tion, feel­ing that I am hold­ing my­self. I am pro­tect­ing my­self, “I have al­ways had my own back”.

This cas­u­ally pro­found feel­ing is not one that trans­mits via words. It’s a power­ful and won­der­ful ex­per­i­ence to have and any doubt of my­self was washed away by the feel­ing that I now can re­turn back to any time to the feel­ing that I pro­tect my­self. I have my own back.

There are a few clas­sic pre­cepts that might ring true and com­mon:

  • I am my own hero

  • I put pres­sure on myself

  • I crack the whip

  • I take care of my­self.

  • I am my own god. I am one with the uni­verse. I wor­ship my­self. I am in con­nec­tion to god (people some­times say these)

  • younger levels: I like my­self, I am con­fid­ent.

  • Very young: I want ice-cream for my­self.

  • (mon­key in a cage) (rat on a wheel)

Each of these has a non-du­al­ity of self in it:

  1. I am the self that does the lik­ing; and

  2. I am the self that is be­ing liked.

But when I say that I like my­self I usu­ally ima­gine I am the one do­ing the lik­ing, not the one be­ing liked. To think I am the other one, and to oc­cupy that ex­per­i­ence for a mo­ment is a little jar­ring, a little dis­so­ci­at­ing and a little un­com­fort­able.


Ex­er­cise – Dojo.

Our dojos are run as a group with ~10 people in the room, once a month.

  1. blank pa­per, pen.

  2. Set a 4 minute timer.

  3. Gen­er­ate a list of an­swers to the ques­tion “What is my re­la­tion­ship to my­self?” Look into vari­ous fa­cets of my life, what is the re­la­tion­ship I have to my­self?

For ex­ample: I am the one who earns the pay-cheque for my­self.

Have a brief dis­cus­sion of what we found. This is an op­por­tun­ity to learn from one an­other and steal each other’s ideas for ourselves if they are rel­ev­ant. People don’t have to share, people don’t have to par­ti­cip­ate.


Now take those state­ments and for each of them di­vide them into the two sides. (2mins)

Ex: I am the one earn­ing the paycheque. I am the one be­ing earnt for.

As you do that, ask your­self which one you are, mark them off.

Have a brief dis­cus­sion about what we found, was any­one sur­prised?

Note: some state­ments break into more than two. Example:

  1. I am the one push­ing my­self to go to work, to earn the paycheque

  2. I am the one be­ing pushed to go to work, to earn the paycheque

  3. I am the one do­ing the earning

  4. I am the one be­ing earnt for.

Dis­cus­sion: Anyone hav­ing trouble di­vid­ing the state­ments? How does it feel to you? If you don’t di­vide, that’s fine too. And a learn­ing point.


How does it feel to be the other one?

4 mins. For each of the re­la­tion­ships, ima­gine you are the other half of the du­al­ity. How does it feel to be the other half?

What are the rights of the other half? What were the rights of the first half? Are you treat­ing your­self fairly? Can you strike a new bar­gain?

Is this a bal­anced re­la­tion­ship? Do you want to change the re­la­tion­ship to be more bal­anced?

WaitButWhy de­scribed his re­la­tion­ship with his pro­cras­tin­ator mon­key. A friend of mine once drew up a con­tract between the parts. The rights and re­spons­ib­il­it­ies of the two (or more) In­ternal Fam­ily act­ors in their in­ternal world.

Dis­cus­sion here about what we found.


How does it feel to be the other one?

Ima­gine there are two of you walk­ing down a path. An older you and a younger you. Which one do you as­so­ci­ate with?

What is each one do­ing?

(most people pick one over the other)

Now ima­gine there is a third one of you so that you are the middle one.

Now take away the first of the pair that you star­ted with that you weren’t. (for in­stance if you were the older one, you are now the younger of the two on the path)

How does it feel to be the other one?

What are the two do­ing now?

Dis­cus­sion. How did it feel, what did we find?


2 mins – try to be kind to the other you. Or try to be harsher. What do you want?

This ap­plies to the re­la­tion­ship to ex­ter­ior world too. Are you the one put­ting the pres­sure on or the one be­ing pres­sured? Are you the one giv­ing or the one re­ceiv­ing?


Stand one foot on the other foot.

How does it feel to be the foot be­ing stood on?
How does it feel to be the foot do­ing the stand­ing on?
How do you feel about your abil­ity to bal­ance while stand­ing on your­self in this po­s­i­tion.

Vary the pres­sure between how much you are lean­ing on your­self, ask the above ques­tions again.

This is an ex­plor­a­tion of your in­ter­ac­tions with the rest of the world.

Feel around for the happy me­dium where both feet are happy with this re­la­tion­ship. How does this de­scribe your de­sire to sup­port oth­ers and be sup­por­ted by oth­ers.

(This ex­er­cise has an an­onym­ous feed­back form where you can see other people de­scribe their ex­per­i­ences)


Bal­ance on one foot. Kick the other food wildly to throw your­self off bal­ance.

How does it feel to bal­ance while be­ing at­tached to some­thing chaotic?

How does it feel to be a chaotic force at­tached to some­thing stable and bal­anced?

How does this re­late to the way you in­ter­act with chaotic forces in the rest of your life? How does this re­late to the way that you carry out the un­known or chaotic in your own ac­tions?

Does this sug­gest that you might want more chaos in your life, or less chaos.


Note: These ex­er­cises can seems hard and might not work for every­one. As a gen­eral pre­requis­ite, if you in­tend to find some­thing here, you will need 3 ele­ments:

  1. Willing­ness to try

  2. The feel­ing of be­ing in your body and con­nec­tion to the body, breath or other strong aware­ness of present mo­ment­ary ex­per­i­ence.

  3. some sort of in­struc­tion which give you the method to fol­low. (kindly writ­ten down above)

Once you find some­thing, it’s go­ing to be up to you to work out what to do next, and de­cide how/​if you let it shape your world and the way that you work.


Meta: I ex­pect this ex­er­cise to re­ceive 45% “Yeah duh, also this is amaz­ing” and 45% “I’ve never seen any­thing so dumb” in feed­back, and 10% “I don’t get it”. If you want to talk about why, I’m happy to try to en­gage with these 3 or other opin­ions at length.

In my ex­per­i­ence I have seen people get huge things from this ex­er­cise and seen people act­ively angry about how stu­pid it is.