Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 29 – Cutting Through Identification with Consciousness


Joseph talks about the concept of self and what we can do to move past the identification with our consciousness that keeps us stuck in our loop.


The idea of self is the root of much suffering. Through practice, though, we can find ways to free ourselves of the ‘I’ and helps other to do the same.


Show Notes

Suffering from Self (Opening) – The concept of self comes from a superficial perception of our experience; of our mind and body.


“The idea of an enduring self has kept you wandering helplessly in the realms of Samsara for countless lifetimes. . . If you could simply let go of that one thought of ‘I,’ you would find it easy to be free and free others too. “

– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche


Seductive Emotions (03:00) – We also create a strong sense of self when we identify with emotions and moods. This is the strong sense we communicate as, “I’m angry. I am sad. I am happy.”


“Who am I? This is who I am.”


These emotions and states of mind are often the most seductive aspects of our experience. It is what we most easily personalize.


“We take what is non-self to be self.”


Nature of Emotions (6:35) – One way to get rid of this deeply habituated pattern of identification with these emotions is to see their impermanent nature.


” So indeed, these states, not having been, come into being. Having been, they vanish, Regarding these states, all of these emotions abide unattracted, unrepelled, independent, free, not identified with a mind, free of barriers, simple.”

– Buddha

We understand this fleeting nature of emotions, and yet often do not reflect on this truth. So seduced by the story and the feeling, we lose sight of their impermanent nature.


Emotions and Moods (10:05) – We also need to distinguish emotions from moods. Emotions can come and go in seconds or minutes. Moods can last for days and are what activates certain emotions.

It is easy to identify what triggers our emotions. It is more difficult to determine the source of our moods. They are often a background filter of how we see the world. If we are not aware of them, they can shape our experience of the world.


No-Self (17:00) – It is easy to come into the practice thinking that the whole problem is self, that it is something to get rid of. Losing the self is not necessary, you don’t have to get rid of the self because it is not there in the first place.


Identifying with Consciousness (21:20) – The most subtle form of identification happens when we identify with the process of consciousness.

Through growing mindfulness and wisdom, we see that consciousness is dependent on conditions.


Cutting Through Identification (28:50) – How do we cut through the identification with consciousness, so we are not creating and living our lives from this place of being the witness?

If there is a center of knowing anywhere, that is the continuing of Samsara.


Nothing There (42:45) – As long as there is identification at all, we are still in the realm of conventional conditional reality. This problem is the critical point in our practice.


“The not finding is the finding.”


A way to move past this is to look for the knowing mind. When we look for what is knowing, there is nothing to find. The Buddha gave specific and profound teachings to his son Rahula:


“Every aspect of mind and body should be seen with perfect wisdom. This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.”


We can use this teaching as a mantra of liberation. Whatever arise moment to moment, it is just:


“Every aspect of mind and body should be seen with perfect wisdom. This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.”


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Photo via Pheonix is Risen