Being a self, Transcending a self. Spirituality and Success

Transcending self and becoming a  successful and powerful person are mutually empowering endeavors that can, and should be pursued in tandem

Self-transcendence makes effective goal achievement more possible, as it frees one from self-imposed limitations. Similarly, success in the relative world enhances our ability to self by continuously grounding our experience in whatever is most true, and forcing us to confront the many self-imposed limitations therein. 

It is my intent in this article to dispel the idea that these two pursuits are mutually exclusive, and show instead that progress in one actually facilitates progress in the other. The argument and presentation will unfold as follows.

  1. What is self-transcendence?
  2. Why transcend self?
  3. What is success? 
  4. Why be successful?
  5. The apparent contradiction 
  6. Mutually reinforcing pursuits
  7. How to transcend self 
  8. How to be successful
  9. Being a successful nobody

What is self-transcendence?

Self is transcended when there is Consciousness of existing/existence independent from the specified self/persona/character. You are aware that your existence is not dependent on, or the same as your limited identity. Transcendent awareness does not necessarily eliminate the self, but changes the way it is held. What was once real and absolute is seen as illusory and finite.

Transcending self refers to the active effort to become experientially free from the conceptual overlay called ‘me,’ that gives rise to existential ignorance, suffering, and your entire life context. The work involves a process of continuous intentional clear seeing of all that which is existentially false, and subsequent elimination of that material from one’s identity and perception.

To be existentially false means to be constructed, fabricated, or imagined. It is this ‘false’ material that obstructs our ability to effectively relate to what is. Self-transcendence gives us an awareness of the false material as false material. This awareness allows you to let go of and change self.

‘Enlightenment’, as it is defined in many spiritual circles, is an experiential insight into the absolute nature of self and/or world. In this experience, you become conscious of what you are at an existential or absolute level. It is this experience that allows for self-transcendence, as you become aware that your true identity or being is not confined or defined by the self-concept as which you live. You ‘Transcend’ self in that you are not bound by it experientially.

Why transcend self?

  • Reduced suffering– Self is the source of suffering. Suffering is a tool used by the self to ensure you engage a continuous effort towards survival. A reduction in the influence, dominance, and importance of self is the same as a reduction in suffering. They are not just correlated, they are the same.
  • Increased fulfillment– Self is in a perpetual struggle to survive into the future. As a result, our direct perception of things it dominated by conceptual overlays about the past, future, agendas, troubles, neuroses, etc. This overlay takes attention away from the love, beauty, and fulfillment inherent in Being. The reduction of self-generated content allows for an increase in the richness of reality.
  • Increased self-knowledge/consciousness– Understanding is both a prerequisite to and a product of self-transcendence. If you think and experience that you are the self-objects and processes it is impossible to transcend them. Being unidentified allows awareness to see more of the truth. Transcending the false material fosters a mature relationship and familiarity with the Truth. Self perceptions draw attention from the wisdom and intelligence inherent in each moment.
  • Change behavior– The reason we do what we do is that our self is the way or ‘shape’ that it is. As long as the self that we are being a certain way, concomitant behaviors will inevitably flow from it. Transcending and letting go of self allows us to let go of the behaviors that come with it. 
  • Love– It is possible to become aware that the operating mechanism of self is fear, and that fear is the antithesis of love. When self is reduced, fear is reduced and love is allowed to be the motivator of action. When behavior is created and motivated by love, things tend to be more enjoyable and effective. A sense of scarcity, impending doom, fragility, and brokenness follow from the primary self contraction. The elimination of self is the elimination of the source of much suffering.
  • Unconditional happiness– The self is unhappy. In the absence of self, happiness is allowed to shine.
  • Freedom

What is success?

Success is the actualization of intent. We are successful when we make occur that which we want to occur. You set a goal and then accomplish it. 

You are successful if objective conditions reflect your internal intent. Think of success in its most broad meaning here. It is everything from your career and relationships to your ability to remain honest and authentic.

This is a massive dimension of life. Every day you are confronted with endless trials in which you can be more or less successful. Duh. 

There are infinite domains and contexts in which success can occur in the relative world. Regardless of the particulars, success always occurs through a process of relating to and manipulating circumstances toward the desired outcome. 

Success is achieved when you do the right things at the right time.

We strive for success on behalf of survival. Success is the manifestation of the will to stay alive. Every action taken toward success, growth, or mastery can be traced back to this fundamental motivation. 

It is not existentially good or bad.

Why be successful?

It is our aim to have objective reality match or reflect our conception of how it can and should be. This side of existence provides the richness and meaning that make selfhood such an opportunity. We have the ability to create, become, and do. This is very nice 

The basic experiential motivators for success are as follows

  • Pleasure seeking– ‘I Just want to feel good, duh’
  • Pain avoidance– ‘I don’t want to feel bad’
  • Fear- Far too often we are motivated towards relative achievement by a sense of fear. The idea that something is wrong, and it must be avoided or resolves is often behind the action.
  • Basic survival– ‘I don’t want to starve’
  • Social survival– ‘I want people to like me’
  • Identity promotion and maintenance– Success is used as a signifier of capability, worth, power, intelligence, etc. It is used to bolster one’s sense of self by proving the presence of these qualities. This ties back into social survival.
  • Narrative– Your ‘story’ is being played out and this or that success is part of it.
  • Celebration– At their best, relative pursuits are a form of celebration. They are a way to take part in the event of being. Success can be a joyful display of pure intelligence.
  • Ideals– We are driven to success by deeply ingrained ideas about how self, other, and world should be. We act to force reality to conform to those ideals.
  • Meaning- when we create something beautiful, actualize our dreams, or help another our lives are enriched by meaning. The trials and tribulations encountered in the pursuit f success expose your mind to many new challenges and ways of thinking that ultimately form your sense of meaning. 
  • What else?- If you are to be anything, and you must be something, why not be good and powerful?

The apparent contradiction: The result of cultural confusion 

In our culture, we mistakenly imagine that self-transcendence and material success are mutually exclusive pursuits. This stems from a misunderstanding of spiritual insight teachings, and an immature conception of success. Self-transcendence does not mean an end to any life process or a reduction in personal ability. In fact, It does not mean anything other than being aware of what is true, prior to and beyond self-based mentation. What one does with this awareness is always their choice. 

We unknowingly assume that self is necessary for success, and that the reduction or elimination of self leads to inhibitory detachment, aloofness, emptiness, or some caricature of the Zen monk, Sadhu, or a wise fool. Self-transcendence is for ‘those guys’. This is a mistake! You can be a busy bee billionaire while living totally free from self and its suffering. The truth can be expressed in an infinity of ways. Solitude and silence are just one way the absolute can be represented. 

In order to effectively address the apparent contradiction between the truth of no-self and the experience of being (or becoming) a worldly successful and self-actualized person, we must first clarify the dynamic at hand. I’ll do this formulating it as questions that approach the same thing from different angles.

If I am no one, what lives my life?

Life lives. The truth is already true. What lives your life now is what lives your life after self-transcendence. The only difference is in your perspective and the way you hold experience.

What is the relationship between the separate self that I appear to be, and the ultimate reality that I actually am?

Self is just one function among many that appear within ultimate reality. You are that ultimate reality which contains, and is the substance of, all experience. Self is part of you. Self is something you are participating in, but not bound by. 

How do I transcend self while actively participating in the world as one?

By seeing that you are already animated by forces and principles that you do not understand and allowing this to more fully direct your life. Self is traded for a more fundamental organizing principle. 

If I transcend self, what will live my life?

Survival will survive. When self-transcendence is profound, as is the case in great realizers, the experience of being a person can evaporate entirely. In these cases, the individual still expresses, often with more vitality than the average person, a personality. There does not need to be a ‘person’ for there to be a personality. 

In truth, there is no contradiction. Self-transcendence simply makes you aware of something that was already true, and then gives you the opportunity to let go of untrue things.

There is already no separate self. You are already not a person. And life goes on. Once you realize that you are not, and never have been, a self, nothing changes. Life goes on.

Mutually reinforcing pursuits

Freedom from self provides the openness needed for effective interaction. When you are bound to a specific self-identity your responses are limited to whatever is characteristic or familiar for this self. Freedom from self allows you to more readily adopt whatever position is best suited to meet the needs of the moment. One can be deeply involved with the world, in all of its glory and shame, while maintaining a consciousness that transcends it all. The meta-perspectival consciousness afforded by self-transcendence allows for effectiveness in that it gives you an ability to respond more creatively.

Genuinely pursuing success of any kind in the ‘objective world’ promotes the groundedness needed for powerful deep contemplation. When you are grounded in what is most real you are able to more effectively contemplate and transcend self. This is because a keen awareness, powerful mind, discipline, intelligence, intent, focus, and many other principles are trained and embodied through the pursuit of success. The mind is more capable of staying with your task and discerning truth as a result of being trained and exposed to relative conditions.

The following are some of the ways self-transcendence and relative success empower each other. Contemplate each bullet, and try to feel how transcending self might help you be a successful person.

  • You can see things from above. Dualistic thought collapses and wholistic thinking begins to occur.
  • You are emotionally detached so self-preservation has less sway over your ability to think and act clearly.
  • Thinking is not bound by the self’s tendencies. New perspectives, logics, and context that contradict those of the self can be more readily held. when you are dominated by self it is unlikely you will experience anything outside of its typical patterns. 
  • Self causes a contraction of feeling into the sense of me, which is the root of suffering. Suffering causes tension, which impedes your ability to move freely in body and mind. Freedom of movement is necessary for effective interaction. Effective interaction is necessary for success. 
  • By staying grounded in what is most objective, your insights are embodied and brought into reality. The expression of Truth through your being is made possible when you are self-directed, powerful, and masterful in the world
  • Relating to the world (success) forces you to confront many new realities, facets of mind, and challenges. It is through this confrontation that you begin to ask new questions, open your mind to different possibilities, and let go of limitations. 
  • Transcending self means transcending fear, which is the main barrier to worldly success. Fear stops action and disrupts creativity. It is the self’s way of staying safe. 

How to transcend self

Here are some of the major methods

  • Awakening to your true nature, which is an integral aspect of self-transcendence, typically occurs after a concerted effort has been made. The efforts made (spiritual practices) do not cause enlightenment. Enlightenment is not the result of a relative process, rather they seem to increase the likelihood of its occurrence. ‘Enlightenment’ is already everything, so nothing needs to occur to ‘make it happen’. It is already the case. Your job is to be open and intend to become conscious.
  • Yoga is the process of merging your ‘self’ back into pure experiential reality. Mental and Physical yoga is a technology designed to facilitate consciousness’s movement out of self-contained loops of perception, and into an experience of unmodulated being.
  • Contemplation is the act of questing the nature of something with the intent to directly experience whatever is absolutely true. When we contemplate ourselves we ask ‘what am I?’. Eventually, you will experience that you are god. God transcends self. 
  • Meditation is the act of consciously abiding as that which you always and already are. When we meditate we learn to allow the self mind to subside into the experience of simply being. Meditation is also the act of training attentional skills like concentration, clarity, and equanimity, which allow us to more readily experience and embody the truth. 
  • There is no way to transcend the self as a self. It is like trying to hold your breath or choke yourself to death, you just won’t allow it to happen. But it can happen, and it is good, so try. The more conscious you become the more clear the whole dynamic becomes.
  • Adherence to principles that transcend the self’s survival agendas stifle the dominance of self-mind over experience. Honesty is one such principle, as it forces you to tell the truth even when it is undesirable for self to do so. If you were to live life according to these principles, instead of the dictates of self, your experience of self would begin to lose its dominance over experience. An openness and freedom follow when action is dictated by consciously created principles because you no longer need to coordinate lies, weigh pros and cons, or avoid certain outcomes. Your action is determined by honesty.

How to be successful 

I’ll let you know when I know 😉

It seems to have a lot to do with the mind.

Do both, be both.

The message here is that doing spiritual work helps you be more productive and powerful in life.

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